"Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagnination, and life to everything." ~ Plato

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

169 - Au revoir ~ Europe Day 12!

June 12th, 2011 – HOME!

                We left the hotel around 10AM to get to the airport around 11 to leave France for London around 1:30PM.  We left about a quarter to a third of our choir behind – those who were deviating anywhere from a week or two to a month or more.  We hope we see them again!  Haha.  But really.
                The most exciting part of our travel day was Amanda reading to us while we waited in the French airport.  J  She is the best reader ever. 


Ever.  :)
Our second flight left London at about 3:30 and we got into Seattle around 6:30PM on the same day, after being in the air for 9 hours … that was a weird feeling.  Haha.  It was exciting to see my home-sweet-home Cascade mountains out the plane window. 

Yay mountains!!!
It was even more exciting meeting my family with Kelvin, Lauren, and Steph’s near the luggage carousels in the SeaTac airport.  It had seriously been forever!  Thank goodness for my choir family, or things might have been a lot lonelier.  J  Mom, Dad, Em, and I celebrated with a trip to Kent’s Azteca – yum yum yum!
                Happy to be home, looking forward to a little time off and then a week of camp!


168 - Paris ~ Europe Day 11!

June 11th, 2011 – Our Last Day in Paris!

                Steph, Jessie, and I all opted to take a guided tour of Paris with Jenny and Dr. Nance.  Kelvin, Lauren, and Megan were among the group that was with us (about a third of the choir).  We started out at 9AM by boarding the metro and learning how to navigate it.  The system wasn’t really that difficult – I was more nervous about it than I needed to be, though my more-traveled friends were saying how the metro in places like Italy is much more efficient and easy to use.  Oh well, we managed! 

On le metro.  :)
                Our first stop was the Museum d’Orsay, which is famous for its collection of impressionist painters’ work, particularly that of Monet and van Gogh.  It was interesting and exciting to say we saw the more famous pieces, but wandering around an art museum (which I usually like to do) kind of gave me a headache and seemed to make everyone a little tired. 

I only got a picture of the back of the museum as we were walking by it, as there were no pictures allowed inside... "Paris Orleans" (the words on the building) refers to the street we were on. 
We all woke up on our walk to the next stop, though – the Notre Dame Cathedral!  It was thrilling to see it up close and, yes, everyone was singing “The Bells of Notre Dame” from the Disney movie.  Haha.  The most amazing part to me was the outside architecture and, of course, the famous rose window.  
*cue epic choir music*
The eyes of Notre Dame.  :)

Rose window!

Artsy candle shot.
After seeing other cathedrals throughout France, I realized they all have similar elements and even tend to mirror each other, which makes sense as most are based off of the famous Notre Dame, or were reconstructed with similar elements.  Because of that, I walked through the cathedral a little more speedily than I maybe should have, but a lot of it was like what we had seen before. 

From there the group split up a bit.  Steph, Lauren, Kelvin, Andrew, Abby, Jessie, and I went along with Jenny and Dr. Nance to Sainte Chapelle.  It was built by King Louis IX to house his collection of holy relics from the Passion.  The building is small and narrow, but every inch is beautiful.  The downstairs is elaborately painted with rich reds, blues, and golds.  It also has the gift shop, where I got postcards and a Christmas ornament for Mom.  If the downstairs is gorgeous, the upstairs is mind-blowing.  The walls are literally all stained glass panels – the light up there is dream-like and magnificent.  I’m so glad we went there!

The downstairs ceiling, all painted.
The upstairs walls of stained glass.

The Crown of Thorns relic (I'm pretty sure).
The top of the grand chest for other relics - I was really going for a closer look at the glass.  :P
The tour/lunch group!
The students of our group split off for lunch, as it was already 3pm and we were starving!  We all grabbed paninis at a corner stand and they were super yummy.  Then Abby and Andrew headed off to the shopping district and the rest of us stopped by a little souvenir shop to round out our gift shopping for our friends and family back home.  Somehow Jessie and I managed to get separated from Steph, Lauren, and Kelvin even though we were in the same store, so they left before we did.  That was okay, as she and I had a good time taking about 45 minutes to shop.  I got a pair of paintings of the Eiffel Tower (one day, one night) for Dad, scarves for Becky and Joanna, a poster of Le Chat Noir to go with Haley’s chocolate, a Paris/Eiffel Tower keychain and a pair of tin wall decorations that I just had to have for some reason.  I think that was everything… haha.  Jessie and I finished up our business by 4pm, as we had to be back at the hotel by 5pm, and managed to find our way back underground to the right metro station after a small bit of confusion.  Once we were on, we just had to wait until the end of the line! 

The evening was shared by the choir and orchestra on a private boat cruise on the Seine.  It was a fun way to end the trip, or it started that way, at least.  Dinner was 5 courses and delicious, with intermittent trips out to the bow for sight-seeing pictures.  I got some great sunset pictures of Paris sights, including the Eiffel Tower (like I didn’t have enough of those) and of the bridge where lovers write their names on padlocks and attach it to the wire as a token of their affection. 

We had a few extras aboard (student family members), so Steph and Kelvin ended up at a table for two instead of six, much to everyone's amusement.

Boating down the Seine - it was a lovely evening!
The padlock bridge - I love this picture.  :)
It was great for a while, but the wine was basically free-flowing however … which led to raucous behavior starting after about 2 hours into the trip.  From there on it got exponentially less enjoyable for those of us drinking just a little or none at all (aka my group of friends).  The bus ride back was stressful, with the threat of vomit in the back of our minds and people tipsily not staying in their seats for the 10 minute trip.  Kelvin, Lauren, and Kirsten came and stayed in our room until about 1AM to avoid potentially unpleasant roommate situations *sigh*.  Oh well, it was fun while it lasted, and at least we had each other! 

All in all, a marvelous day!

Je t'aime, Paris!


167 - Chartres ~ Europe Day 10!

June 10th, 2011 – Chartres Cathedral

                The main stop of the day was the historic Chartres Cathedral, where the choir sang our final concert of the year.  We drove for what seemed like quite a while from Honfleur to Chartres … I have no pictures of the ride, so it must not have been that exciting.  The only significant thing I remember was listening to Julian’s iPod and being fairly impressed with his band from high school – fun times were had, indeed (what sarcasm?). 
                Chartres was gorgeous of course!  We had very little time to get some food before having to go into the cathedral.  Luckily, I had saved some food from breakfast, so I got a chance for some quick souvenir shopping, which ended up being some postcards and a rosary.  J

Outside of the cathedral - flying buttresses!

Some architecture close up ... amazing.
Hey!  That's us!  "Friday the 10th of June at 5pm ... Free entry"

We were given a tour by a very old man who I think is one of the leading historians of the cathedral – he has his own book! 
Our guide and expert on all things Chartres.
The most exquisite part of the building, to me, is the stained glass, which shines so brightly in the dark stone interior. 
One of their famous rose windows.  All of the glass in the cathedral was removed by hand during WWII to save it.  The cathedral itself, suspected of being a Nazi meeting point, was almost the victim of a bombing by the Allies.

Over one of the side doors, representing the coming of the Lord.

One of the walls that has been restored.  Someday the entire building will be white like this, as it was many, many years ago - absolutely stunning.
I also got to walk the labyrinth, which was profound, both historically and spiritually.  People have been paying pilgrimage to the cathedral for centuries to visit the labyrinth and the holy relic – a piece of cloth thought to be worn by Mary when she gave birth to Jesus.  In reflecting on the relic, I felt like it is not a matter of being “real” or “fake” (as our 21st century minds naturally ponder); what makes it matter is the fact that it serve(d)(s) as a source of belief and faith for so many people.  That’s what makes its power real. 
The relic, behind gates.

People walking the labyrinth, taken before I had done so.
          In terms of music and our concert, I preferred St. Severin’s in terms of coziness and sound clarity; Chartres is so much bigger that our sound felt quite small because it took longer to reverberate back to us.  But it was a magical concert.  Tears were held back until our last few songs together, where the emotion swelled, both literally and musically.  I didn’t end up crying (I usually don’t), but hugs were necessary all around.  COW has been such an amazing experience this year and I have grown tremendously as a musician and a person.  Some of my closest friends were discovered through choir this year and the significance of the group in my life for this year will never be forgotten.  SO MUCH CHOIR LOVE.
Dinner was at a restaurant in Chartres.  We overcrowded it a bit, and half of us were sent upstairs to a rooftop room … the 5 flights of stairs were worth the light and great view ... that I didn't take a picture of.  The only Steph food scare of the entire trip happened here (of course).  Fortunately, it was minor and nothing happened, but she felt too uncomfortable to eat after it.  Of course, it happened during the appetizer.  :/  <3 
Finally, another long drive back to another Paris hotel, the Novotel, was spent listening to more of Julian’s iPod.  It was probably only an hour or so, but it seemed like forever. 

A beautiful sunset accompanied our drive back to Paris.  :)
Jessie tripled with us again (hooray!) and she and I spent some time with our friends Brendan and Jo before bed.  The rooms there were nice, but nothing extraordinary.  In fact, there was hardly room to maneuver around the bed and the two pull-outs, which were very spring-y.  These minor details were fairly easy to overlook however, as we anticipated a full day in Paris on our own for Saturday!


166 - Honfleur ~ Europe Day 10!

June 9th, 2011

                Today was spent in Honfleur!  We were up around 8AM to be in town by 10:30.  The first hour or so was rehearsal in the oldest wooden church in France – it was really gorgeous.  The inside was designed to look like the hull of a ship.  A second half had to be added when the congregation grew too large. 
The inside of the church.
After a walking tour of the town, we got lunch and had an afternoon free in Honfleur, as the concert wasn’t until 7:30pm. 

The main restaurant area of Honfleur ... it's prettier in the sunshine, but this was my best picture from this angle.

From the other side of the harbor.

The other side of Honfleur - more restaurants and touristy shops.
           I spent my time with Lauren, Steph, and Kelvin – yay choir family!  Lunch was along the main food avenue of Honfleur, at a sort of Italian place.  Had what was essentially a crepe with egg, ham, spinach, tomato, mushroom, and cheese in it.  Tasty! 

Yay family!  Good camera work, Kelvin!
"Salty pancake" yummy yummy!  :)
We walked around and shopped (poor Kelvin) for the next couple of hours.  I found a scarf for me and a pretty, handmade, one-of-a-kind bracelet for Emily.  Kelvin was rewarded with a visit to 2 different gelato shops for his endurance!  Good boy, Kelvin!  :P  

Sneaky picture - yes, Kelvin is actually happy to have his gelato!
In the meantime, Julian led a varying group of gentlemen from our choir around  and they made about 42 euro singing various men’s repertoire from our program on the streets.  We caught up with them outside the shop where I got my scarf and enjoyed the spectacle, as well as seeing Dr. Nance join in!
Pan handling at its finest.
After getting back to the hotel around 6 for a quick change, we hurried to the church to sing.  Despite a slightly awkward set up – choir in one half of the church, orchestra on the other – things worked out.  I felt like it was one of our most successful concerts in France, based on audience reception!  I ended up with Adam, Jenny (our tour guide), Kelli (the tour photographer for PLU), Dr. Nance, Jason, and Sam for dinner at a seafood place … might be missing one or two people in my head… sorry!  It was a yummy 3-course deal for 16 euro!  We were last to catch the bus, but oh well.  Plenty of people had an intent to party back at the hotel, including Kelvin’s roommate, so he ended up hanging out again with Steph and myself, as well as Lauren, Megan, and Kirsten K for a while. 

All in all, it was a great day and wonderful evening!


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

165 - Normandy ~ Europe Day 9!

June 8th, 2011 – Normandy Region

                We escaped the dirt and chaos of the city – which was all we had really seen of Paris so far, unfortunately – for the beautiful countryside-meets-ocean region of Normandy.  It was about a two hour drive with a snack purchase/bathroom break about an hour in.  Peach rings, Orangina, and a postcard were in order.  J 
More sleeping pictures... heheh.
Our first stop was the Museum of Peace.  We ended up being a little late (surprise, surprise) and our ticket reservation was invalid.  We waited for new tickets for about 30 to 40 minutes.  By the time the tickets were sorted out, we had time to catch a short film on the Omaha Beach landing and then had about 45 minutes of less to grab lunch in the museum.  I spent most of my time in an exhibit – the whole point of our visit wasn’t lost on me.  I didn’t really know that much about the landings and it was extremely thought provoking. 

The flags outside the museum.
                From there, we picked up a tour guide, Jeffery, who took us to the American Cemetery, Omaha Beach, and a German bunker.  He was … eccentric, bless his heart.  “Observe the hedgerows” and “Prepare to step down” were his most common phrases – the first jokes of COW for next year have already been established.  Each place inspired different thoughts for me.  The cemetery was fairly haunting, of course. 

Graves at the American Cemetery.
While I respect and value the decision of men to fight for our country in war, I cannot reconcile the necessity of such devastation in my heart for many reasons.  People are too complex and too numerous for death to be the simplest solution to end conflict or what is regarded as evil.  Omaha Beach was also thought provoking, completely changed from a bloody battleground, the carnage of 60 years ago, to a peaceful shoreline with the only reminder being a small wooden backbone of some tool of war and a somewhat gaudy 21st century monument probably erected at the 50 year anniversary…  The sight makes you stop and think.

The 21st century monument.

Remains of war.
A part of an older monument erected just off the beach... I liked it better than the new one.
                We also visited German WWII bunkers located underground high on a cliff that overlooks the beach and ocean.  It was eerily beautiful.  Nature’s beauty – grass, hills, wind, sand, and water – mixed with eroding slabs of grey concrete, made only as a product of war, meant to aid in the destruction of life. 

One of the decaying above-ground structures.

The view from the edge of the cliff we were on.
The whole place left me bothered for a while after we were on our way to the next town we stayed in: Honfleur.  We had dinner at the restaurant Les Deux Ponts (The Two Bridges) in the town itself. 

The restaurant, in case you were wondering.  :P
Honfleur is considered a seaside or port town and is absolutely breathtaking.  The buildings are all stacked next to each other, seeming to lean unevenly with the umbrellas of restaurants’ outdoor seating forming a patchwork of bright colors below.  There are numerous cafés, restaurants, and art galleries, with other shops mixed in between (clothing, chocolate, gelato, etc.)  The area is known for its hard cider, so Julian and I shared a pitcher of it at dinner.  Dinner was also my first time having mussels.  They were … different, but not bad. 

Julian wasn't too sure about the mussels either.

Honfleur rooftops at sunset.
                After dinner, it was off to the hotel.  We were under the impression that it was about a 10-minute walk from town.  In reality, it was at least a 15 minute bus ride and kind of in the middle of nowhere.  The main positive point of the whole hotel was the pool.  After getting into our rooms and hanging for a bit with Lauren and Megan A. (it was back to a double with Steph), Megan and I popped over to the pool.  About 12 other COW people were there.  It was quite cold, but fun overall.  After getting back, Kelvin and Lauren stayed in our room until about midnight – then, bed!


164 - Versailles ~ Europe Day 8!

June 7th, 2011 – Versailles and St. Severin’s

                After a breakfast of chocolate au pain (chocolate in bread/pastry), croissants, baguettes, juice, ham, and fruit, we headed out to the Palace of Versailles!  It ended up being a longer drive than planned, due to traffic, but we still had about 1.5 hours to view the building.  Talk about ridiculous extravagance!  It was beautiful, despite the intense crowds.  Lots of great pictures were taken. 
Entering the gates!  So many people!

Shiny gold everywhere...
Yay roommates!
View from inside the gates.
Louis XIV, the Sun King in all his glory.
Napolean Bonaparte.
We could only view the gardens through the windows... but they were lovely!
The famous Hall of Mirrors.
                I ended up navigating the building with Adam and Jessie.  We escaped for lunch at about 12:10 and found sandwiches à emporter (to go) at a small café called “Le Bleu Roi” – The Blue King.  The bus left at about 1pm for St. Severin’s Church where COW had a sacred music concert.  This church was beautiful – exquisite stained glass and gothic architecture.  We sang really well, much better than yesterday, and we all felt it.  J  Love those magical music moments!

St. Severin's ceiling.
Some of the stained glass.
The altar area where we stood to sing.
                From the church, we met our city tour guide, who told us a lot about Paris as we sight-saw from the bus.  The tour culminated in a stop at the best view of the Eiffel Tower (besides being directly under it) … cue pictures! 
Whee!  Family photo!  haha.
We were freed from the bus for dinner on our own in the area around the Opera House.  Steph, Lauren, Kelvin, Megan and I went to a pizza place – a lot of pizza for not being in Italy on this trip!  As the sole sort-of French speaker, I was in charge of talking … my friends had a lot of faith in me!  Haha.  Luckily, the waiter was pretty good with English, though I think he found us very amusing.  Oh well, we ate!  The food was good – I had a vegetarian pizza. 
I guess they trust me, guys!

Outside the restaurant where we ate.
On our way back to the bus, we stopped in a souvenir shop; I almost bought something, but we’ll have more time on Saturday and the less to carry around, the better.
                Back at the hotel, we were pooped and ready to sleep, but we ended up inviting Kelvin over, and later Amanda, to play some Phase 10 while we packed up to head to the next hotel.  Then, bed!

Our view at night, Eiffel Tower lit up right of center in the photo.  :)