Living a Fairytale

I’m pretty sure every girl has gone through that phase at some point in their life when they dreamed of being a fairytale princess. (Sorry guys, this post probably isn’t for you.) We’ve all seen the Disney movies and admired all the Disney princesses.

Before we went to London, we spent the day touring two different castles. The first one was Dover Castle. Dover Castle, called the “Key to England” because of its defensive role throughout history, is the largest castle in England. Most of our time there was spent touring the secret underground wartime tunnels. After WWII started, the tunnels were used as an air-raid shelter and then later as a military command center and underground hospital. This was particularly special to me because my grandfather served in the U.S. Army and did several tours Europe in WWII where he was wounded twice (once in Italy.) U.S. troops didn’t go through Dover as far as I know, but I still thought it was a really interesting experience to see what soldiers experienced during the war.

After Dover Castle, we went to Leeds Castle. This is the type of fairytale castle girls dream about. It was so beautiful!! The castle grounds are absolutely incredible. We walked through all the gardens, and it seriously felt like the beginning of Alice in Wonderland to me. Set on over 500 acres, the castle and its grounds feature a maze, a grotto, golf course, and probably the world’s only dog collar museum. When we first got there, a group of the girls went with Mom to the maze. That was the funniest experience of the whole trip. Every time we thought we were going the right way, we would run into another dead end! It probably took us about 20 minutes to make it through the maze. We were definitely happy to find the exit.

After a short break, we toured the interior of the castle. Leeds Castle has been used as a variety of things over many centuries. It has been a Norman stronghold, the private property of six of England’s medieval  queens, a palace used by Henry  VIII and his first wife Catherine of Aragon, a Jacobean country  house, a Georgian mansion, an early 20th-century retreat for the influential and famous, and, now in the 21st century, it is one of the most visited places in Britain. All of the rooms were beautifully decorated with detailed tapestries and furniture. There was an awesome library, a wine cellar, and tons of fancy bedrooms. It really was like walking through a fairytale!!

 

June 30, 2012.     Category: Uncategorized.   22 Comments.

Musicals galore

I love love love musicals. I’m such a Broadway junkie. If that makes me a nerd, then I am totally okay with it. 🙂 When I found out that we would be going to a play on the West End of London, I was just a liiittle excited. The whole group went to Les Miserables on Tuesday. Let me just tell you, it blew. my. mind. And I’m not going to lie, it definitely made me cry. I had heard mixed reviews from friends, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Well, I can definitely add this musical to my top five. The theater was smaller than most, so you could really feel the energy from the audience throughout the performance. Literally after every single song, the performers practically received a standing ovation. Just thinking about it is giving me goosebumps.

It’s not every day that you can say you’ve seen a play on the West End, much less with some of your best friends. I was able to experience a lot of ‘firsts’ on this trip, including seeing Les Mis. These experiences are something I will never forget, and I’m so thankful for a place like Ouachita that gives its students the opportunity to participate in a trip like this.

June 30, 2012.     Category: Uncategorized.   14 Comments.

La Saint Chapelle

One of the most beautiful places we saw was none other than La Sainte-Chapelle, The Holy Chapel, in Paris. The interior walls are massive stained glass windows around the entire chapel. These amazing windows make the surrounding stone walls of the actual chapel look like nothing more than just an elegant frame for the stained glass.

  

We also had the opportunity to go to a concert featuring an orchestra performing Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons,” as well as other pieces, in this chapel. It was absolutely incredible. I have always loved classical music, and this was unlike any other concert or performance I’ve ever been to. One thing that was so great about this trip was we got to experience such a broad spectrum of things in just three short weeks. We saw art, and lots of it, sculptures, so much amazing architecture, an orchestra concert, and Evensong worship service, the ruins of the center of old Rome, castles filled with history, all sorts of relics everywhere… We experienced centuries of history firsthand. Talk about being liberally educated! Even though I’m sure we were all exhausted and a little tired of art by the time we got to the 12th museum (or however many we went to…) but you can’t experience Europe if you don’t dive in 100% and see the things that made Europe what it is today.

June 30, 2012.     Category: Uncategorized.   94 Comments.

The Charming City of Canterbury

So, this blog is supposed to be about lasting impressions from the trip. Well one place we visited certainly left a lasting impression on me. Canterbury. Canterbury. Canterbury. I am so infatuated with this city, and I just couldn’t get enough of it.

My project during the semester was on Canterbury. At first I wasn’t exactly thrilled about this because I thought it was just a boring historic city that none of us would enjoy. Fortunately, I was completely wrong! I think I speak for most of my fellow ESTers when I say that Canterbury pleasantly surprised all of us. We were only there for one night, and we all kept saying how we wanted to stay longer!

Favorite Canterbury memories:
1. Our hotel was amazing. Kelli, Brittney, and I had the family suite or something, it was so huge. Not to mention, right when we checked into our room, we turned on the tv and The Hunchback of Notre Dame was on, in English! (We were probably a little too excited about this.)

2. We had dinner at the hotel, and it was our first fish and chips experience! I’m not a fish (or any seafood really) person, but I made myself try it just so I could say I had fish and chips in England. 🙂

3. I got to hold an OWL! I am obsessed with owls. It sounds strange, but I was seriously so excited about it.

How beautiful is he??

4. The Canterbury Cathedral. I really don’t need to say much else. This cathedral is the most beautiful and breathtaking place I have ever seen. (Not to mention it kind of reminds me of Hogwarts…) We were given audio tours to walk around the cathedral with. I was quite proud of myself because I remembered a lot of the history, already having done the research for my project. So, thank you Miss Eurich and Dr. Brune! 🙂

5. The Evensong Service we attended Sunday night at the cathedral, complete with an all boys choir. It was AMAZING. Christians have worshiped at this cathedral for sixteen centuries, so just getting to experience a service there literally brought me to tears.

I have already told my parents that if we ever end up in England for vacation, we HAVE to go back to Canterbury and stay longer than one day. The day we were there was easily one of the best days of the trip!

 

June 29, 2012.     Category: Uncategorized.   17 Comments.

Top 10 Culture Shock moments

1. Ice is a rare commodity in Europe. There were only a few of times when we were served drinks with ice in them. That’s when you knew it was a good day.

2. Apparently, it’s impossible for restaurants to split the check. We ran into this problem everywhere we went and were constantly trying to collect all our euros to pay…

3. Pedestrians most certainly do not have the right of way. Even if the little green man is telling you it’s okay to cross, you still better be watching for cars that come out of nowhere. If you want to cross the street, you better find a quick gap in the traffic and make a run for it!

4. Profanity is used much more freely in England than in the US…

5. In some public places you had to pay to use the bathroom.

6. Italian and French men are very forward. My buddy Ryleigh Salmon can tell you all about that. 🙂

7. Even some nice places like the hotels we stayed in didn’t have air conditioning. Windows and shutters stayed open at all times, which made for a very noisy night (especially in Rome)…

8. In many restaurants we went to, the men’s and women’s restrooms were usually one bathroom instead of being separate. This wasn’t that big of a deal, but it is definitely not something we are used to in America!

9. Southern hospitality exists only in, well, the South. While this is rather obvious, we are all still accustomed to the friendliness and hospitality of the South, so it was very hard to get used to the different behavior in Europe.

10. Public transportation is a little intimidating, cramped and stressful. As Americans we all have our “bubble.” In Europe that definitely does not exist! Buses and the metros can get very crowded, and you’ll get really close to the people you’re traveling with, or some strangers, really fast.

June 29, 2012.     Category: Uncategorized.   10 Comments.

Monet, Renoir, and Degas, Oh my!

I honestly never thought I would say that a museum was my favorite thing on this trip, but the Musée d’Orsay in Paris was seriously just like a little slice of heaven for me.

First of all, the museum used to be a train station. How cool is that? I love trains to begin with, so that just made me love it even more. Secondly, the Orsay has an AMAZING Impressionism collection, including my two favorites artists, Monet and Renoir. I’m pretty sure my buddy Ryleigh was ready to claim a new buddy by the time we finished looking through this museum. 🙂 I just couldn’t get enough of all the Monet and Renoir art. I got to see Monet’s Poppies Blooming, Rouen Cathedral series, and Blue Water Lilies; Renoir’s Girls at the Piano and Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette and so much more. I also loved Degas’ The Absinthe Drinker! I was just so amazed at the beauty of those pieces of art!  Impressionist art has always been my favorite, so to have the opportunity to see some of the most famous pieces by some of the most famous artists literally left me completely speechless.

Impressionism is considered a reaction to the art of photography. Artists were inspired to represent momentary action and their perception, or impression, of nature. Impressionism is taking inspiration directly from nature and trusting your senses, rather than what you think you know. While I’ve known this, it really comes to life when you are face to face with a piece of Impressionist art.

Monet’s Impression, Sunrise

Monet’s Water Lily Pond

Amazing clock at the Musee D’Orsay

 

June 28, 2012.     Category: Uncategorized.   43 Comments.

Old friends, new friends

A few days after we got back from Europe, I ran in to some friends of my parents and we talked for a while. Of course the conversation immediately went to my trip. So many times I have been asked “How was Europe??” My first response is always to say, “Oh it was amazing!!!” because I could talk for hours about the trip, and I’m sure the person asking doesn’t want to hear every little detail of the trip. But just saying it was amazing simply does not do it justice. In fact, it’s really hard to find words to even describe how the trip was.

But, not only do I have over 2000 pictures from the trip, multiple pages of funny quotes and inside jokes, plenty of new nicknames for EST (for example, European Stair Tour,) I also have some of the best memories of my life that I will keep with me forever. That sounds really cheesy writing it like that, but it’s more than true. I knew several of the students on the trip beforehand, and I was good friends with many of them as well, including my Tri Chi sisters. But what I am so grateful for is the chance to develop new friendships with people I wouldn’t have gotten to know as well outside of EST. There’s just something about spending three weeks in a foreign country that immediately bonds you together. To me, one of the best parts of the trip was just how awesome our whole group was! I really couldn’t have asked for 24 better people to share this once in a lifetime opportunity with.

Friends at the Eiffel Tower!

EST family at the Colosseum

June 28, 2012.     Category: Uncategorized.   12 Comments.

Serenity in Siena

After our adventure in Rome ended, we hopped on a bus to Florence. On the way, we stopped in a city in Tuscany called Siena. After the loud, busy streets of Rome, it’s safe to say Siena was definitely a breath of fresh air. The heart of Siena is its central piazza known as Piazza del Campo. Siena is home to the world-reknown and famous Palio, a festival and horse race that takes place in the piazza in the summer.

Let me just say, Siena is absolutely beautiful. When I think of a city in Italy,  Siena is exactly what I imagine it would look like!

       

We basically had a free afternoon to explore and get lost in the city. After lunch, we went inside the Basilica of San Domenico, also known as the Basilica Cateriniana, because it contains several relics of Saint Catherine of Siena.

 

Set in a detailed reliquary in the Basilica is the dismembered, mummified head of the esteemed St. Catherine. Yes, you read that right. Her head is there! How strange is that? I was walking through the church with Katelyn, Caroline, Brittney, Kelli and Ryleigh looking at all the relics, altars, and art. One of us wandered over to the right side of the church where the altar containing the head was. I heard someone saying something like, “is it really her actual head??” And then we suddenly realized what we were looking at… It was a little creepy to say the least!

I did some research to see how only a part of St. Catherine’s body was in the altar at the church. It’s actually an interesting story. Catherine died in Rome, but the people of Siena wanted to have her body. They realized they could not smuggle her whole body out of Rome, so they took only her head, hidden in a paper bag. They were stopped by the Roman guards and prayed to St. Catherine to help them, believing she would want her body, or at least some of it, in Siena. When the guards looked in the bag, they only saw a bag full of rose petals. Once they got back to Siena they reopened the bag and her head had re-materialized. So, St. Catherine’s head remains in Siena along with many other relics.

Later we decided to just wander around and see what the rest of Siena was like. We managed to make it to the Siena Cathedral, or the Duomo, which was incredible! The detail of the architecture was so fascinating. It towers over everything in Siena too, just like all the other Duomos we saw on this trip! 🙂

The Siena Cathedral towering over the city of Siena.

Facade of Siena Cathedral

We also ended up wandering right into the Piazza del Campo! It’s definitely a sight to see while in Siena. I didn’t realize how big it was until I saw it in person!

Overall, I really loved Siena! It was a peaceful, relaxing break after being in a big city like Rome for five days. I definitely would go back to Siena and spend more time there just strolling through the streets.

June 26, 2012.     Category: Uncategorized.   21 Comments.

When in Rome!

“Traveling is the ruin of all happiness! There’s no looking at a building after seeing Italy.” –Fanny Burney

Obviously I don’t think traveling ruins anyone’s happiness, but I do think there is some truth to the second part of Burney’s statement. Everywhere we went in Italy I caught myself gasping and freaking out about how amazingly beautiful everything was. These pictures are a very brief summary of some of the places we went in Italy and some of the things we saw.

    

    

  

Particularly, in Rome I was simply speechless every time we turned a corner. I have been obsessed with the city of Rome since the seventh grade, so finally getting to go there was, to be very cliche, a dream come true. The ruins of the Roman Forum, The Colosseum, the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain. All of these famous attractions have been on my list of things to see for several years now, and in just a few days, I saw all of them! The Colosseum and the Roman Forum are hands down my favorite things we saw on the trip!

The Roman Forum was the political, religious, legal, and administrative center of the ancient city. As we were walking down the Via Sacra, the main street of ancient Rome, I was thinking of what it would’ve been like to be in that same spot 2,000 years ago. We could see all of the ruins of the buildings, temples and arches, but to see all of that before it was all damaged or destroyed would just be incredible!

Ruins of the the Temple of Saturn (left) and the Temple of Vespasian

Pictures of the Colosseum really do not do it justice. It is HUGE. and just amazing. When we were standing in the inside, we briefly discussed what a day at the Colosseum would’ve been like, and it’s very similar to how our stadiums today run. While the purpose of the Colosseum was rather grotesque and brutal, its architecture is truly amazing.

      

Interesting fact: There is a cross in the Colosseum as a symbol of the sufferings of all the Christian martyrs who were believed to have died in the arena.

I absolutely loved Rome, and I would go back in a heartbeat! I know we barely scratched the surface of all there is to do and see in Rome. We did, however, have a great week seeing all the main attractions, exploring on our own, and even getting away from tourist filled areas and eating dinner at a local family owned restaurant. As the saying goes, we did as the Romans do! 🙂

 

 

 

June 21, 2012.     Category: Uncategorized.   31 Comments.

Where to begin?

Ever since I attended the study abroad chapel my freshman year, I knew I wanted to go Europe in some capacity. I didn’t know how or when, but I knew I just had to go. During the study abroad chapel last fall, after hearing students speak about their experience on the European Study Tour, I tweeted something along the lines of “I am so going on this trip. Who’s with me?” That’s when I found out several of my good friends were planning on going too. Needless to say, I was beyond thrilled at the idea of spending three weeks in Europe with some really awesome people. I applied and next thing I know, I’m sitting in a meeting with 24 other students discussing our trip.

So. Here I am, five weeks after our journey started, writing about my experience on the European Study Tour, or EST. Honestly, it’s difficult to find words to describe how amazing the trip truly was! I have never laughed more, climbed more steps, ate more gelato, seen more art and sculptures, ridden more subways, gone to more Hard Rock Cafes, or seen so many interesting people and beautiful places than on this trip. And that’s just a glimpse of what this trip was. 🙂

Unfortunately I had a bit of a rough start on the trip. The week before we left, which also happened to be finals week, was a hard time for my family. On Tuesday I found out that my uncle, my dad’s brother, passed away unexpectedly. My dad went to Lubbock immediately to be with his family and for the funeral. We were leaving that Sunday for Europe, and I was stuck at school with exams to take and couldn’t do anything. I started feeling so guilty that I was leaving for basically a three week vacation while my dad was dealing with the loss of his brother.

That first week in Rome was a challenge. But, at one point my eyes were opened, and I just sort of had a peace about what my family was going through. God created all of us and has a perfect plan for each and everyone of us. We may not see or understand what He is doing in our lives right now, but God is fully aware of us and is working moment-by-moment to guide us along His chosen path for our lives.

I was SO blessed on this trip by Dr. Brune and Miss Eurich, our “parents,” my close friends, and the new friends I made as well. I simply couldn’t have asked for a better three weeks, and I hope this blog will tell just how amazing the experience was! So, enjoy!

And we’re off! Let the adventures begin:)

-Lara

 

June 18, 2012.     Category: Uncategorized.   6 Comments.