Europe

31 Days-Day 4-Learn

A water taxi in Venice.

A water taxi in Venice.

When I learned we would be going to Venice, Italy on our tour with Globus Tours, I really didn’t know what to look forward to.  I’d heard of the carnivals and gondola rides before.  Upon entering this wonderful place, the lessons began immediately. 

I learned of a new way to travel.  We entered the city by private water taxi.  It was a wooden boat that looked like a coveted antique.  How we could have entered in any more style is completely unknown to me.

Gondola ride in Venice, Italy

Gondola ride in Venice, Italy

I learned that we can (almost) walk on water; okay, not really!  The city is built on water and is an island off the coast of Italy.  There are small drains throughout the walkways in the city, thus water can seep in during high tide.  One evening while we were there the sea level rose so much that everyone who returned to our hotel was soaked from the knees down.  Flooding like this was very unexpected for this time of year.

Venice, Italy 2014

Venice, Italy 2014

I learned that Venice is rich in history.  It was established between 400-500 A.D. and the canals that run throughout the city developed over many years.

Making Carnival masks.

Making Carnival masks.

I learned how to make a carnival mask.  One of the best things we did while we were there (other than eating the wonderful food) was to make carnival masks.  The young lady told us of the rich history of carnival masks and how they would use this as a means of courting, or for just plain being mischievous. 

St. Mark's Clocktower, Venice, Italy

St. Mark’s Clocktower, Venice, Italy

Going to the top of the clock tower provided for some amazing photos around Venice. 

A view of Venice from St. Mark's Clocktower.

A view of Venice from St. Mark’s Clocktower.

31 Days – Day 2 – View

View of the mountains as we travelled through Switzerland 2014

View of the mountains as we travelled through Switzerland 2014

 

What is your view of your vacation destinations?  When I think of Switzerland, I see images like those in “The Sound of Music”.  I think of a majestic mountain views and cows with bells around their necks.  This summer I saw just that and more while traveling through the Swiss Alps with our Globus Tour.

The information from our tour guide gave me a view of the Swiss in which I wasn’t familiar.  They appear to be seen as a very protected country—protective of their land, their people and their security.  I think I’ll run to Switzerland if the security of the US should every be in question.  Every Swiss male is required to serve time in the military after high school and also are required to serve two weeks a year in what is much like our Reserves.  There is a gun for national protection in every household. They are a very loyal people when it comes to security and protection and it is for this reason that they are among the only ones to be guards of the Vatican.

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The day we were traveling through Switzerland, the temperatures began in the 60s and quickly fell to the 50s as we arrived in Zermatt and again fell to the 30s as we neared the top of Gornergrat by cog railway.  It was a foggy day so we didn’t get a good view of the Matterhorn, but it was all beautiful none-the-less.  We enjoyed hot chocolate and shopped for some Swiss made gear—who doesn’t like a Swiss knife? 

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Upon my arrival in Switzerland, I imagined souvenirs like dolls in plaid dresses and chocolate, and I came away from there with a view of a protected fortress and some of the best craftsmen in the world.  This is a place I hope to return to one day.

31 Days of Been There, Done That

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Today starts a challenge by 5-Minute Friday and The Nester to write a blog post every day for 31 days in October.  The 5-Minute Friday page goes even further to encourage us to write each post in just five minutes.  I gladly accept the challenge and will be writing my posts entitled “31 Days of Been There, Done That”.  On each post I will have pictures from our travels, highlight a specific place each day, and each post will be written in precisely five minutes.  One reason writing for just five minutes attracts me is because I figure if you’re going to tell someone about a neat place you’ve visited, you’ll give them your best impression within the first five minutes.  So here goes…

Our most recent vacation was this past summer when we took our family on an 11-day family tour with Globus Travels to Europe.  This is a tour that is made up of 40 people on average and they are all families with children from ages 8-17.  On this tour we had families from Canada, Mexico, Australia and all over the United States.  Any time we travel to a foreign country we will probably travel with a touring group.  This was very fast paced and fully packed with information and history. This was a wonderful memory maker!

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The Eiffel Tower

One of our favorite places and the last city we toured was Paris, France.  Our group went up the elevator to the top of the Eiffel Tower.  With it being the tallest structure in Paris, we were able to see an amazing view of the city.

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The Flame of Liberty

Like many around the world, I was mesmerized by Princess Diana.  As we were driving by the gold-leafed Flame of Liberty memorial that was erected above the tunnel in which she died, our tour guide mentioned the location as almost an afterthought.  She had no idea how special that memorial was for me.  I was one of those who held vigil around the television when Princess Diana died and mourned with the world that such a beloved ambassador was lost too early.

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Parisians celebrate Bastille Day

While we were there, the Parisians celebrated Bastille Day, similar to an American’s Fourth of July Celebration.  We were enjoying a boat ride down the Seine River in the afternoon and were surprised to see a flyover.  The planes flew so low it was though they were right over the buildings!

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This was as close as we could get to the Mona Lisa

We also went to the Louvre Museum and enjoyed a private tour with an interpreter. As everyone else was casually viewing all of the artwork, our interpreter knew we had limited time and asked how fast we wanted to go.  We told her our vacations were sometimes fast and furious and that is exactly how we saw the Louvre today (my apologies to art museum enthusiasts).  She took us to the top exhibits to be sure we didn’t miss anything especially noteworthy and she was so wonderful that strangers continually tried to listen in—she was quick to let them know we were on a private tour!

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On our private tour of The Louvre.

Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France

Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France

Notre Dame Cathedral was breathtaking!  The history in this city was highlighted throughout our tour here.  Our interpreter told us nuggets of information that we simply could not have gotten by reading and touring on our own.  After our tour we enjoyed coffee and freshly made crepes with Nutella at a corner eatery.

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Haagen Dazs, a wonderful ending to our City of Lights visit

We finished off our visit to the City of Lights with a shopping trip down the Champs-Elysees.  Who could pass up a visit to a Haagen Dazs Ice Cream Restaurant?  The servings were true works of art that were quickly devoured.

As I continue 31 Days of Been There, Done That, you may click on the following links to read more:

31 Days – Day 2 – View

For more information about the Five-Minute Friday you can click on the following button:

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When in Rome…

 

 

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We’re not sure if we conquered Rome or if it conquered us.  We’re traveling with a touring group in Europe and this trip is not for sissies…but it’s wonderful!    We booked  an extra day before the official tour began and that was the best thing we could have done. It gave us an opportunity to see the Pope on Sunday–along with thousands of other people!  Our tour guide, Freda, told us Pope Francis would be speaking and encouraged us to use that time to visit the Vatican.  Freda has already won us over with her efforts.  Wifi is spotty and weak when available here. I wanted to share a few highlights, though.  This is only working to post from my iPhone so please be patient with me. What a wonderful history lesson this has been!  Check out my Instagram for more photos.

 

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Happy Family Photo!

We’re on our way to the vacation of our lifetime!  Bonjour!

 

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And We’re Off!

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The Trip that was Never Supposed to Happen

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“We write to taste life twice…in the moment and in introspection.” -Anais Nin

We set our mind on things we will and will not do in life…and then life happens.  My husband was recently sent to Europe for a business conference and I was grateful to go with him; but this was never supposed to happen because Europe was not on the grid for us.  Our life plan or bucket list didn’t call for a European trip.  Many other trips, maybe, but not this one.  When we returned a friend asked me to write about my adventure; thus, the quote above from Anais Nin.  I’d be overjoyed to live this trip again…because it was never supposed to happen!

In Psalm 37:4 we read “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.”  This trip was a gift from God I didn’t ask for and my question time and again during my trip was, “God, what am I supposed to do with this?”  From the moment we boarded the plane, the life lessons began.

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Less is more.  I’m not an amateur at flying, but there are just some things an airline should not divulge to their passengers.  When traveling at 644 mph at 6.25 miles in altitude, the air temperature becomes -57 degrees F.  Upon learning this news from the onboard television, my relationship with our Lord deepened significantly and I began to nervously eye the emergency exit THAT IS DIRECTLY TO MY RIGHT for the next eight hours.  Less is more when it comes to this kind of information.    Really, God, what was I supposed to do with that?

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Amsterdam Central Station

Don’t forget to look back and remember.  To my pleasant surprise, my husband’s boss, Naomi, asked me to sightsee with her while the others were beginning meetings.  I was excited about this because I was the only spouse that came along and I knew the rest of the week I would be sightseeing all by myself.  As we started out on foot from the majestic Amsterdam Central Station, she startled me as she suddenly stopped, turned around and said, “Wait!  When I’m in a foreign land, I always turn around and look back so that I don’t get lost and I’m reminded from where I came.  That way, I’ll always be able to find my way back when I need to.”  Yes, Naomi, some times we just need to look back and remember how far God has brought us, and sometimes we need to backtrack to get on the right footing again.  Yes, Lord, thanks for the reminder.  I know what to do with that one.

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Look for the “i”.  Naomi, being a wealth of information, also told me (as we were in need of information), “Look for the ‘i’.”  Universally, when traveling and in need of help, you look for the “i” and there should be someone there who can assist you.  I likened this to the Word of God.  Read the directions.  It will save you so much trouble when you seek it out.  Yes, Lord, I’m listening and continually looking to the “i”.

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Cathedral of Our Lady, Antwerp, Belgium

Relish every moment and then pay it forward.  As I walked into buildings older than my country, I was in awe at the number of people who may have walked this path before me.  At home, I take so much in life for granted; things I think of as mundane or mediocre.  I’ll do it tomorrow…I’ll see to it later.  On this journey, I knew ‘later’ would not happen, so I relished every moment.  In the Cathedral of Our Lady, which took 169 years to build and was completed in 1521 A.D., I found myself touching the columns and bannisters, wondering who had passed this way before me.  How many families had made it their life goal to see this church completed so that I could stand here today?  What if the builders had not considered the importance of solid construction of this building (or their faith) to be passed down many generations? We are so very small in this big world.  I especially sense this when standing somewhere that generations of families worked together to build and in which people have worshipped for almost 600 years before me.  This was a reminder for me to take a deep breath and relish each God-given moment–and then share my faith with the next generation.  “Be still and know that I am God.”  Psalm 46:10 NIV.  Praise you, Father, that I’m learning to be still in your presence and relish every moment.  Give me the building blocks (words and actions) to share Jesus with the generations to come.

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In Front of the Anne Frank House and Museum

Write like Anne.  Anne Frank received a diary for her 13th birthday and on the first page dated June 12, 1942, she writes, “I hope I will be able to confide everything to you, as I have never been able to confide in anyone, and I hope you will be a great source of comfort and support.”  Visiting Anne Frank’s House was the highlight of my trip.  Unlike most American museums, you could personally touch the walls, doors and yes, even the book case that hid the secret annex.  I cannot fathom why the Holocaust had to happen, but I’m so grateful Anne had the foresight to write about it.  I know it helped to keep her sane in an insane world.  I have to agree with Anne as she writes on March 15, 1944, “Yet, what’s nicest of all is that at least I can still write down my thoughts and feelings, otherwise I’d just totally suffocate.” God gifts us with thoughts, feelings and words.  He wants us to share them and to pass them on to generations, whether they be happy, painful or just mediocre.  Yes, Lord, yes!  That’s what you want me to do with this!