A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: drhoades

Enjoy the Journey

all seasons in one day 71 °F

As my trip comes to an end, I can't help but think back on the last two and a half months and smile.

I wanted to take this last entry to reflect on my journey and to thank you all for taking an interest in my life and taking time out of your busy schedules to read this blog.

Even though I may not have spoken to you in a long time, I just want you to know that I miss you and love you and appreciate that you are a part of my life. This trip has been the most incredible adventure of my life, and I have learned more about myself and this world than I would have ever imagined. Now, I can only hope that each of you takes the chance to go abroad and experience another culture.

You've all read about my good times and bad times. My mistakes, embarassments, and revelations. Europe has defenitely left it's mark on me, and, although it may not seem like it to a lot of you, I'm a changed woman.

The phrase that I would use to reflect on this trip is "enjoy the journey." I have a bracelet with that phrase stamped on it that was given to me by one of my best friends, and whenever things got rough or I got homesick and wished I was elsewhere, I studied my simple silver bracelet and smiled. It reminded me not to sweat the small stuff, and reaching your final goal isn't always everything. It's the journey. It's the little mishaps that happen along the way that make your life what it is and make you who you are. This trip, this incredible opportunity, has been one journey that has changed me forever, making it something I will never forget. I wish for you to find your incredible journey. I want each and every one of you to find in yourself the confidence and strength it takes to purposely make yourself uncomfortable. Uncertainty is not always bad. I've been uncertain, uncomfortable, confused, and lost more times than I can count on this trip, but that's how I grew. You learn and adapt and it changes you (in a good way).

Ireland has been a beautiful country. I hope my family realizes that we're planning a trip here ASAP. ;) The people here are so friendly, and they just trust you, which is so refreshing. I am looking forward to sharing all of my experiences with you, and I hope you won't get sick of listening to me blabber after awhile. :)

I fly home on Friday, and my journey abroad will officially be ended. Well, for two days. Then I'm going on a cruise to Cozumel, Mexico with my family. So I guess the true message here is that your journey never really ends. There are just chapters that end. I am so grateful for the opportunity to take this trip, and I'm also grateful for all of the love and support I've received from back home.

I miss you and love you all, and I'll be seeing you all soon!

All my love,

Dana

Posted by drhoades 06:35 Archived in Ireland Comments (1)

The Best Two Days of My Life

all seasons in one day 60 °F

I just lived through the best 48 hours of my life thus far.

Please take a moment to let the gravity of the previous statement sink in.

I know I haven't written in awhile... This is mostly due to the fact that I have been ridiculously busy, and I have lacked Internet access for the past week. So, now I'll quickly bring you up to speed, and then explain why my life has been so blessed for the past two days.

I am attempting to remember all the way back to my last week in London, although I'm having difficulty remembering what I even ate for breakfast this morning. If anything exciting happened in London, I'll just have to tell you about it later, because right not I haven't got a clue! All I know is that this past week has been spent traveling (mostly by bus) through the countryside of England, Wales, and, most recently, Ireland. Right now I am writing to you from Galway (look it up on a map), but by the time I finish this entry, I'll probably be in Dublin (which I'm looking forward to immensely).

Aside: I'm in Dublin. Ha ha.

Let's see.. Ah yes, the best days of my life. We left London early last Saturday morning and boarded a bus that would drive us out to see Stonehenge. It was pretty amazing seeing a structure so old, but it was a little underwhelming because they give you an audio tour and everything while you're on the site, but archaeologists, scientists, and other experts still don't really know why Stonhenge is where it is, or what it was used for, or even exactly when it was built, so I still don't know a whole lot about it. All I know is that I was amazed that ancient people were able to drag those stones so far and then raise them up over each other. We spent our first night in a castle called St. Briavel's. It was kind of cool, but, as I said after staying in that castle in Germany, it's much cooler in theory than it is in real life. The bathroom was across the castle from us, which meant to had to tramp across the grounds looking a fright just to take a shower.

The next morning, we woke up disgustingly early and in foul moods. There were nine of us girls staying in one room in that castle, so, needless to say, we didn't exactly get our full amount of needed beauty sleep. From St. Briavel's, we took a 15 minute ride to Tinturn Abbey, which was erected some 800 years ago and is now missing it's roof and other walls, but it was so beautiful. There is something mystical about standing in a forgotten, crumbling abbey and thinking about how many people worshipped there over the hundreds of years. That was really amazing.. Plus I got some sweet pics that I'll post... umm.. eventually (sorry I haven't been keeping up to date on my photos.. I tend to post them on Facebook before this blog). We spent that day driving toward Bristol, which was a neat little city on the western border of England. We got to tour a replica of an Irish potato famine ship that took Irish citizens overseas to America and Canada, and we spent the night in a hostel along a channel off of the river that ran through the center of the city.

The next stop is where the most incredible 48 hours of my life occurred. We arrived in Broadhaven, Wales and scuttled into our little hostel by the sea. After dumping our luggage, we sprinted down the path and over to the Irish Sea. The beach we stood on was covered in rocks, as the tide was at it's peak, but it made for a beautiful sunset and fabulous picutures. After the sun disappeared behind the horizon, we walked down to the local pub and had a pint in celebration of.. ourselves. On our way home, we passed by the beach again, and the tide had receded over 100 yards.. and that was normal! We played around on the freezing cold, pitch black beach for at least an hour, and took pictures of ourselves jumping up and down like idiots. Overall, it was a successful night.

The next day, we awoke early so we could eat breakfast and board the bus. We had planned a trip to St. David's, which is a small, adorable town about a half hour north of Broadhaven, to go on a speed boat ride around Ramsey Island, which is just off the coast of Wales in the Irish Sea. After waiting for what seemed like a lifetime, we finally got down to the seaside and boarded the brightly colored orange boats. Squishing three into benches made for two, we donned our outrageous lifejackets and held tightly to each other and our cameras as the Irish seaman led us off shore and towards the open sea. When we sat down, I was in the middle of two other friends, but I complained to the one on my left that he was a guy and the TA, so I should get the end seat so I could see better. (Plus that's what a chivalrous gentleman would do, right?). I immediately regretted this decision. In fact, I'm fairly sure I chose THE worst seat on the boat. We went around the left side of the island in a clockwise direction, so I was on the far side of the boat the whole time. In addition, my seat seemed to be the prime spot for getting doused with freezing cold Irish seawater. Even though I was soaked and not able to see much, I still had the time of my life speeding around on that little boat looking at little seals and oystercatchers (birds). (Mom, Dad--we are planning a trip to Wales.)

After that super fun, incredible boat ride, we hopped back on the bus and rode over to a corral and paid good money to ride HORSES on the BEACH! Now, this is a HUGE deal to me because I've wanted to go horseback riding my ENTIRE life, but I had never been before (well, technically I rode one in a circle once while it was attached to a metal turning thing). I even joined girlscouts just because they were going horseback riding the next month, but then I got sick the day before the trip. (In case you're curious, I quit right after that and joined again when they were going to CoSi.. and then quit again after I got sick again and couldn't go on that trip. Guess it serves me right for not sticking with it.) Anywho, we paid our pounds and picked out helmets (Dad, my head it smaller than you think it is), and were told to stand in a line tallest to shortest. When the trainer went down the line, he asked if we had ever ridden before and then assigned us each a horse. I was assigned a mare named Mary. Now, Mary was a little moody when we first started off. I was like a 3 year old that had received a new teddy bear and just wanted to have fun and squeeze and pet her to death. I was afraid to yank on the reins for fear of hurting her, so I was overly gentle and she took advantage of it straight away. The one instruction the trainer gave me was to not let her eat. What she didn't tell me was that we were going to be walking down one lane streets with grassy green hills on both sides for a few miles. My horse was the ass that stopped the ENTIRE line to munch. After about 5 occurrances of this nonsense, a trainer rode up to my side and instructed me to tighten her reins. So I did. And then Mary and I had a mutual understanding that if she doesn't eat, I'll give her more slack on the reins. As we clopped along, we came around the bend and the gleaming Welsh beach came into view. The next half an hour was out of a fairytale. We learned how to trot on our horses and I was experiencing complete bliss as I trotted around the Welsh beach, watching the sun linger over the horizon. The surrounding cliff faces began to glow orange as we made our final turns on the beach and urged our horses homeward.

The next day we awoke at an unholy hour to eat a quick breakfast and hop on our bus that would take us to the ferry that would then float us to IRELAND! Unfortunately, it was one of the roughest days on the sea, and if the waves would have been .4 meters higher, we would not have sailed for safety reason. When we left, the waves were only (psht. only.) 3.1 meters, so we set sail on time. Now, I am extremely fortunate because I don't suffer from motion sickness; however, the rest of our crew wasn’t so lucky. We made our way to the upper deck and the front of the boat (which, as we came to find out, was THE roughest part of the ship to be), and I plopped down on a swivel chair and giggled while the tossing of the boat spun me in circles without me having to do anything. I'm pretty sure I was just pissing everyone around me off, however, because as their faces began to turn green, one by one, my spinning was making the dizzier. To give them a break, I decided to head carefully downstairs and outside to the back of the boat and watch the water. It was so incredible standing in the sun feeling the salty air twist my hair into my face. I watched, mesmerized, as the waves we left in our wake crashed against each other, spraying me with a light layer of brackish seawater. As time wore on, more and more people were crowding the bathrooms trying to get to a toilet in time, and almost all of our group members were sick, save for myself and two others. As I was enjoying my time on the deck, one of my friends comes up beside me and hands me a two-pence coin. I shot him a quizzical glance and he explained, "Make a wish!" I smiled, squeezed my eyes shut, and threw the coin as far as I could into the Irish Sea. I hope that one comes true. As I’m doing this, my friend is chucking coin after coin into the sea. “You’re racking up an awful lot of wishes, there,” I observed. “These aren’t for me,” he explained. “These are for all the people stuck in that bathroom that need wishes a whole lot more than I do right now.” I laughed and clapped him on the shoulder. Kid cracks me up.

Our boat docked 2 hours later, and the passengers wobbled off one by one, practically kissing the land. I skipped off looking like something the cat drug in because of the salt water that crusted my hair and washed away my makeup, another girl was bawling because she was so excited to be in Ireland, and the rest of our group had their heads stuck in a toilet bowl for the last 2 hours, so you can imagine what they looked like, and one guy yells “group photo!” I laughed. Everyone else groaned and flipped him off.  I love these people.

Ireland is beautiful, and I still have so many stories to share with you all, but I feel as if this blog is entirely too long. I’m so excited to see you all soon. 12 weeks is a long time to be away from home, and, while I’ve had the time of my life in Europe, I’m really looking forward to being back home.

I miss you all and love you lots!

Dana

Posted by drhoades 01:51 Archived in Wales Comments (1)

Culture Shock: Everyone Speaks English

Prepare yourself, folks, I think this is going to be a long one.

sunny 78 °F

Cheerio mates!

This week has been absolutely... incredible. Let me just begin by saying: I love London.

I left off last Saturday evening, right before I met my new group, so I haven't gotten the chance to gush about how much I love them yet. I am having the time of my life with these people. We've grown so close in just one short week, so I'm really looking forward to forming long-lasting relationships with these new friends. We went to a pub down the street on our very first night, and we were already cracking jokes about each other and clowning around like we'd been friends for life. I LOVE it. (I'm just in a lovey-dovey sort of mood. Can ya tell yet?)

K. Got that out of my system. Thanks.

Sooooo.. Let's do ALL the things that YOU wanna do. Like read about what I've seen and junk. Right? Ok. I can do that.

On Sunday, we met our professors in the AM to walk 30 minutes to the Big Bus Tours. Our site coordinator handed out tickets, and we all hopped on a double decker bus that took us all over London, so we could get the chance to orient ourselves, not to mention take plenty of touristy pictures (our fave). On the tour I saw Big Ben, Parliament, Trafalgar Square, Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London, the Globe Theater, London Bridge, Tower Bridge, St. Paul's Cathedral, the London Eye, the Thames River, the memorial to the Great London Fire of 1666, and met some Americans from Chicago. All in a day's work. We didn't really go into anything that day, just took pictures as the bus creeped by on the left side of the road. I'm still not accustomed to the whole driving on the wrong side of the road thing. That evening, we took the tube down to Hyde Park where Paul McCartney was giving a concert. It's at least 50 pounds to go in the gates and see the concert, but you can still hear everything and even see the top of the stage if you sit outside the temporary walls and sprawl out on the grass. I think the highlight of my day was laying in the grass in the middle of London with all my new friends listending to Paul serenade us with "Blackbird."

Monday classes started, which was just a joy, but then after class a few of us walked to the British Museum, which is kind of close to where we live, yet much farther than our professors described... We didn't get a whole lot of time in there because it was closing an hour and a half after we arrived, but I did get to see a few key things like the Rosetta Stone and a redheaded mummy and the Jade Axe. (To be honest, I have no idea what the Jade Axe's significance is, but I thought it was going to be this super cool piece of history, and I made everyone walk around searching for it for at least 20 minutes and it was completely anticlimactic. That was the last thing I got to choose for all of us to see.) Afterward, we went to the local grocery to grad some food to keep us satisfied for the next few days. (Now, remember that I have been in many countries by now, and I have not been spoken to in English by a stranger in over a month.) I think I must have gone through culture shock because when I reached the counter with my purchases, I didn't speak to the lady (assuming she wouldn't understand me anyway) and I just stood back and let her scan my groceries. Then, she turned to me and said, in English, "that will be 22.50." And I just stared at her with a blank look on my face. For at least ten seconds. All of the sudden, I remember that we speak the same language as she repeats herself with a funny look on her face. I scrambled to give her my money while trying to explain I had been tired and zoning out, bagged my groceries, and high-tailed it outta there before I could make more of a fool of myself.

Tuesday we had class again, and I can't remember what we did that evening. I think we just went out to the pub and relaxed.

On Wednesday, after class, we gathered in our kitchen for another family dinner. At the beginning of the trip, we eached chucked twenty pounds into a pot, and decided that we would take turns buying food, cooking it, and cleaning up as one big happy family in order to save some cash and strengthen our bond. (Awwwwwww.) We had class from 12-6 that day, so we didn't really have time to go anywhere special. After dinner, some of us took a loooong walk down to Leister Square, which is where many clubs and theaters are located. It is a hopping place every night of the week.

Thursday we had a group field trip to Bletchley Park, which is where the British Army held their Bombe machines and deciphered German codes that helped the British win the Battle of Britain. We walked around all day and had a guided tour. It was awesome seeing all of the enigma machines from the war, and this elderly gentleman had an entire collection of Winston Churchill paraphanalia that we got to see. It was a very long day, but I learned a lot, so it made it interesing.

When we got back from Bletchley Park, three of the girls and I hopped on the tube and rode down to Leister Square, where the London red carpet premiere of the movie Eclipse was being held. Needless to say, the square was teeming with tweenage girls dying to catch a glimpse of their favorite mythological creature. Other than seeing a few minor celebs, it was fairly uneventful. My ears were ringing that night, however, from the hundreds of screaming, crazed Twi-hards that we stood by for two hours or so.

Friday we didn't have class, so a few of us headed out early in the morning to tour St. Paul's Cathedral and the Tower of London. Both were fascinating; however, I will never understand Europe's obsession with creepy, tiny spiral staircases. St. Paul's has a really tall dome on top, and there are three levels, one inside, the others outside, where you can stop and look around and everything. Unfortunately, almost all 537 some steps are in spiral staircases. The first wasn't bad. It was really, really wide and the steps were shallow. But, as we left the first, indoor level in pursuit of the next, the staircases became more narrow and the steps were much bigger. By the time we began our ascent to the third level, we were on metal spirals that seemed to dangle in the middle of nowhere. Plus, they were the kind that don't have the little back board on each step, so I had to stare down the entire time, which meant watching as the solid groud beneath me grew farther and farther away. Heights aren't exactly my forte, so as I was climbing these terrible staircases, I was turning my knuckles white gripping the handrail with both hands. My friends thought it was funny. I did not. But, I made it all the way to the top, and I am so grateful that I did! The views were incredible. Plus, I feel like I don't need to go up in the London Eye now, so that saves me 20 GBP, and I am A-OK with that. The Tower of London was pretty cool, but I had been building it up in my mind so much that I was actually a little disappointed. It would have been cooler if I hadn't visited other castles earlier in my trip, I think. The highlight of the Tower was making one of the those London guards with the big, black, furry hats LAUGH! Well, smile, at least. But I know he was laughing on the inside. All 10 of us had just gotten situated in front of him so a stranger could take our picture, and he did his little stomping thing and marched away to do his rounds. We all started groaning and laughing because he was the sole reason we were sitting to get our picture taken. When the guard turned back around, we could see his nose and mouth and he was plainly smiling, but trying not to. He smiled the entire way back to us and stomped in place to signify his little march was over. Then we asked him if he was going to stay so we could get a pic, and he stomped in response and smiled again! I thought that was impossible to get them to respond to you. Well, folks, it's not! Ha ha we stil get a laugh out of that day. (You know, rereading that story, it doesn't sound so hilarious. Maybe you just had to be there) Later that night, we headed to Hyde Park to listen to P!nk give a concert where Paul McCartney had the weekend before. We were absolutely starving by the time we got there, so three other girls and I wandered along the streets searching for a fast food restaurant (or really anything edible at this point). After an hour of walking (actually it was more like trudging), we realized that we weren't in Kansas anymore. We weren't in a U.S. city where you can expect to find a McD's gracing every street corner. We are in LONDON. Hellooooo. They are skinny here. They don't eat fast food like we do. Feeling defeated (and still starving) we gave up the search for food and just walked back to the park to take our seats in the grass outside the concert walls. Then, about 15 minutes later, our friends walk up with drinks, chips, and sandwiches. Naturally, we were like "what the hell?" And they told us that if we would have walked a half a block further, literally, we would have ran straight into a BP station where they had snacks and the like. DUH. So that was a happy ending.. eventually.

Saturday I visited Westminster Abbey and saw where Geoffery Chaucer, Mary Queen of Scots, Elizabeth I, Sir Isaac Newton, and Charles Darwin were buried. That was pretty sweet. That's not even including the Abbey itself, which is simply incredible on the inside. I figured I wouldn't be surprised considering the number of churches I've entered in the past few months, but I really enjoyed the two hours we spent on our audio-guided tour of the Abbey. After we'd had our fill of learning for the day, we scooted on the Tube down to the Hard Rock Cafe (Yup. I've eaten their overpriced, mediocre cuisine TWICE now on this trip, but I only did it cuz I wanted to eat with everyone else and that's where they wanted to go to dinner. Silly Americans.) to meet up with the rest of our group for dinner. The other girls had bought tickets to see Wicked that night (I decided to go see Chicago this week instead because I've seen Wicked twice already; I do highly recommend that you see it if you get the chance), so as they rushed off to ge to their seats before the curtain rose, Katy and I wandered slowly back to our apartments, stopping and gazing at paintings that artists had out for sale along Piccadilly Street. There were two that I loved so much that I decided to buy them. I can't wait to show you all when I get home. Best. Souvenir. Ever. After Wicked, Katy and I picked the rest of the group up at the theater and we headed down to Leister Square to hit up a three-story club called Sound. We had a really fun night just dancing and being out together.

On the day of rest, I did the most exhausting activity I can think of.

I shopped with the other girls in my group.

It was actually kind of fun. I didn't buy anything except a silly souvenir for Jill, and I think that was because I don't really appreciate the sizing system they use here in the UK. When you're picking through shirts trying to find a size 18 rack after rack, it begins to wear on your self-esteem. By the time the other girls had declared we could go due to thier empty wallets, I was dropping dead from the high levels of estrogen I encountered for such a prolonged period of time. To celebrate the 4th of July, we ate hot dogs, canned corn, and macaroni and cheese on a table adorned with a tattered towel that had a worn picture of the American flag on it. Gotta love it.

Not much has happened this week. Took a test, did some homework, saw the Princess Di memorial fountain, got lost in Hyde Park/Kensington Gardens.. you know. The usual. ;)

I'm missing you all something terrible! I can't wait to be reunited with all of my friends and family back home. I'm blowing you all kisses from across the Atlantic. MUAH.

Dana

Posted by drhoades 15:37 Archived in England Comments (3)

Oh, the Thrill of It All

sunny 78 °F

Ok. Let's take a moment and review my last week in Germany. I drank big, German beers, ate a ton of homecooked, German food, danced the night away, climbed up 265 creepy spiral staircase steps to get to the top of a church in Freiburg, visited Zurich, saw another old church, saw the Rhinefall, drank more German beer, ate more German food, rode on a gondola up through the Swiss Alps, hiked through the Alps, went to a 50th birthday party, soaked up the sun by the Rhine River, visited an ancient castle, breathed fresh mountain air, ate Swiss chocolate, listened to a German band, learned some key German words, watched Germany beat Ghana in the World Cup, got forced into a sort-of Congo line, learned a silly German dance, listened to traditional German music, and, essentially, had the time of my life.

Any questions?

When I left every other location I've been, I was always looking forward to the next place. New sights and scenes always excite me; however, this morning when I left Patrick's house for London, I experienced a deep sadness for the first time on this trip. His family took me in as one of their own, and truly made me feel at home for the entire week. They were constantly doing everything in their power to ensure I was comfortable and happy. I've only been in London for one day, but I'm already missing Germany like crazy. I can't wait to go back.

There are so many details that I could go into about the things I listed above, but I doubt any of you have that kind of time, so I think I'm going to leave the list as it is. That way I'll actually have some stories to tell you upon my return to the States. :) Or, if you really want to know about something, you can just message me, and I'll tell you. Probably.

I woke up at 5 this morning, so Patrick could drive me to the airport for my flight at 7:30 am. Never again. We were up until probably 1:30 the night before at that 50th birthday party, so I'd only had about 3 hours of sleep, and then I had to navigate my way through the airport, and then across London to our dorms. I can't say I was overly concerned about it. Mastering the Tube is nothing because everything's in English. After being immersed in several different languages for so long, I'm almost going through culture shock because I understand everything that's being said around me.

So, anyway, my plane landed in London at 8:30 London time, and I had to find my way to the aboveground train that connects the London City Airport to the Tube. That wasn't too hard. The difficult part came when two different lines shared the same track, and I hopped on the wrong train TWICE before I realized I just need to wait for the next train going on the same tracks. Duh. So that kind of sucked just because I was lugging around my big, fat, green bag. After much strain on my navigational skills, I chose a stop that I thought was pretty close to our dorms and set off on the streets of London. All I had with me was a crappy Google map, so I got a little turned around and walked about 5 blocks out of the way and essentially made a giant, confusing circle when I was really only like two blocks away from the place. However, I still experienced a rush of triumph as I entered the building, knowing I had done it all by myself. (Well, technically I had some help from Patrick, who printed out the Google map and a map of the London Tube and even highlighted the closest stops to my building. Love it.) About an hour after I arrived and got settled in, one of my new roommates showed up with her mother. They've been in London for a week already, and they invited me to go eat at the Hard Rock Cafe with them and then walk around the city a bit. That's right, folks. My first ever meal in the UK: a gargantuan cheeseburger that probably cost the same as a small flat along the Thames. And it was worth every pence. MmmMMmmMMm. America.

After our deliciously overpriced meal of American cuisine, we headed across some park to the Buckingham Palace. Maybe I was just misinformed, but I was kinda expecting something with a little more grandeur. Maybe I'll get that when I go see Parliament. We kept walking and happened upon Westminster Cathedral. Now, let's not get this confused with Westminster Abbey--the really famous one. The Westminster Cathedral may be the largest church in England, but, for some reason, it's just not as well known. It was really pretty inside. Gold mosaics adorned most of the walls, and a giant crucifix hung from the ceiling. That's all I know about it.

We hopped on the Tube and headed "home." (I used quotes because it's temporary. I have had many "homes" this summer.) In like 3 minutes, I'm meeting more people from my group, and our site coordinator is going to show us where our classes will be held starting on Monday. Boo. Vacation's over for me.

I'll probably write again soon, especially if something funny/interesting happens. Or maybe I'll just start telling stories about my beloved Germany. You never know.

Cheers!

Dana

Posted by drhoades 07:15 Archived in Germany Comments (2)

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

overcast 57 °F

To bring you up to date, Angers was boring, classes were long and difficult, and my exams are now over. Woo.

Now for the fun parts:

I was soooo ready to leave Angers by the time Friday rolled around. I had to get up at 5 am to meet my taxi that would take me to the Angers train station at 6. Our friend Paul, the French student who was essentially hired to assist us throughout the two week period in Angers, was kind enough to call the cab company for me the night before. Jenny was supposed to take the taxi with me because her train left around 6:40, like mine did; however, EasyJet cancelled her flight the day before we were supposed to leave, so I ended up taking the taxi by myself. Unfortunately, the driver, who only spoke French, wasn't informed that Ms. Biette would not be riding, and that it was just me. Paul, I'm guessing, had told the driver that it was Ms. Biette and her guest riding in the taxi, so when the driver asked if I was Ms. Biette, I said no, but then tried to explain why she wasn't there. It was difficult because the only words I know in French are practically useless in situations such as these. "Creme brulee, fromage, and je'taime" can't help me tell the driver that I AM the person who ordered the taxi. Anyway, after much bickering in Franglish, he took my luggage, I got in, and he started off by calling his company and I guess asking if I was the right person. Well, I don't know what they figured out about me, but he drove me to the train station anyway.

Nothing too exciting happened at the train station. I had a bit of a freak out moment in the very beginning because the little electronic kiosk that I was supposed to print my ticket out from would not accept my little AAA debit card as proper identification. (I had preordered my ticket online). So I stepped back from the machine, drew a few sharp breaths, and looked for an information desk. I finally found the right room, and this cute little lady who spoke broken English helped me get my ticket. Then I waited at the train stop, got on the train, and sat for two hours. Yay.

The train arrives IN Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, which was so convenient because I didn't have to navigate my way across Paris. Again. Instead, I had to make a 30 minute hike through the train station, into the airport, and across several terminals before I found the right place to get my tickets and check my baggage. Let me tell you, if you are ever in a situation where you are in Europe and you can take a train or a plane for about the same price, take the train. There is no security check, you can bring whatever liquids you want, and the train stations are never as crowded as airports. Apparently, everyone in Europe decided to fly out of the CDG ariport that day, so it was crowded as HELL. People were flying (by that I mean walking quickly) all over the place. Well, everyone except every person that chose to walk directly in front of me at .0025 miles per hour. After dodging a few small children and shoving old ladies out of my way, I was able to get to the British Airways counter and get all my ducks in a row. By the time I got there, I had about an hour and a half before my flight took off. That was fine and dandy since my gate was really close by. Then I saw the line for security/passports. This is when I began to sweat. Not only did it extend far beyond the entrance to the gates, but it snaked back and forth probably fifteen times before you even got your passport checked. So I hopped in line and waited. And waited. Listened to some annoying Americans complain behind me. Waited. Got more annoyed at an American in front of me who wouldn't get the lead out and move whenever the line moved forward. Waited. Began to sweat more heavily than before. Checked my watch. Waited.... Aaaaaaaaaand FINALLY made it to the front of the line, got my passport stamped, and waited (how shocking!) to go through security. I though I had done everything properly as far as security goes, but something I was wearing set off the alarm as a walked through, so I got patted down. Then they gestured to my bag after it went through the x-ray maching, and some guy had to go through all my things. Turns out I'm an idiot. I left a FULL water bottle in the bottom of my bag. Genius. Luckily the guy was really nice and lenient (don't know if that's such a good thing for airport security?), and he even asked me if I wanted a sip before he threw it away! Ha ha. In America I would have been arrested at gunpoint. Anywho, so I made it onto the plane and flew to London Heathrow airport to catch my connecting flight to Zurich, Switzerland. Heathrow was so crowded with incoming flights that day that we had to circle the airport for about 20 extra minutes before we could get permission to land. This put me in quite the pickle. British Airways suggested that you allow at least 1 hour to connect flights. I now had just over 30 minutes. And I had to go through security. Again. (It's as if they don't trust the French to thoroughly check the passengers. Strange.) So I chose a line (wrong move) and waited some more. Oh, and sweated some more as I watched the digital clock on the wall creep closer to 13:15, which is when my ticket claimed that the gate closed. Of course, I picked THE slowest security line in the entire airport. (At least I left my water bottles, sharp knives and heavy artillery in my suitcase this time). It was 13:14 when I finally was able to grab my bag, laptop, passport and such and run, literally RUN, across the terminal, down the escalator, and through the gates searching for the correct gate. All the while, my crappy flip flops were slapping against the unforgiving floors so loudly that others could here me coming from at least 50 yards in front of me. This was both a curse and a blessing because it was embarrassing as hell, but, at the same time, they all adopted the proper look of a strange mixture of fear and pity at my awkward gallop, open backpack, and armfulls of my belongings, and promptly got out of my way. This was also fortunate because no small children were injured during this process. So anyway, I am flying through the terminal (ha. pun INTENDED) and come to a screeching hault at Gate 17 at roughly 13:18 to find about 15 people still waiting in the line to get on the plane. So, to bring the story to it's happy ending: I sweated, ran, and got all freaked out to stand in line and wait some more... to get on a plane... that was delayed for 35 minutes... after we were already on board. Let me just insert here that I was ricidulously tired, and I hadn't eaten anything that day except for the potato crisps and Coke I received on the other plane. (Take a moment here to let this soak in, and please consider my mood. Lovely, right?).

Once I arrived in Zurich, I was practically falling asleep standing up. The only thing keeping me awake was my growling stomach. I was worried because I thought that, for sure, my luggage had been lost. I didn't think they would have had time to transfer it from the one flight to the other. Thank GOD I walked straight over to the baggage claim. Spotted my bag, and heaved it off of the belt in about .2 minutes. Then I saw Patrick flashing me his big, German grin from the other side of the window where all of the drivers must wait to pick up their family members and such. My mood instantly lifting, I wheeled my monstrosity of a suitcase through the doors and had a big reunion hug. It was so nice to finally see a familiar face! We loaded up his little Ford Focus with my luggage and drove the beautiful 20 minute drive to his house in the south of Germany in a tiny town called Geisslingen. It's about 5 minutes from the Swiss border. The town is occupied by about 900 of the nicest people you would ever meet in your life. This weekend they are having a small town festival, so last night I got to meet a lot of Patrick's friends and family. Patrick's family is sooo nice and welcoming. They all speak at least a little English, so they even try to include me in their dinner conversation when possible. I am LOVING it here! I would be content just staying here for the rest of my trip and not go to London and Dublin. :)

Today, Patrick took me to see an ancient castle that overlooks the valley. It was a little cold and rainy, so I couldn't see as far as I would be ablet to on a sunny day, but the view was still breathtaking. I snapped a couple of photos for your personal enjoyment.

I'll write again soon and let you all know how my week is going.

Until next time!

Dana

Posted by drhoades 08:39 Archived in Germany Comments (1)

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