July 4, 2011

Posted by Amy O. , Monday, July 4, 2011 10:57 AM

Hooray for American independence and three-day weekends!  We celebrated our own personal holiday, Independence from Pasadena Noise, by escaping to the mountains.  We spent two and a half very relaxing, quiet days at Mom & Pop Oden's home in Lake Arrowhead, mostly just sitting on the deck and enjoying the birds, the trees and the cool breeze. 


Saturday afternoon we were pleasantly surprised by some entertainment:  fire scouting planes and WWII planes above our heads!  That evening we also enjoyed the audio version (and a few flashes of light from over the ridge) of the Lake Arrowhead fireworks show, which echoes like gunfire around the valley.


On Monday, we descended back down from our happy place, to La Verne, another happy place, which reminds me a lot of Canby, though it's about 3 times the population.  We had a fabulous meal thanks to Jon (Patrick's brother), inside out burgers (the cheese is on the inside!!).


Delicious!

...and then joined up with Rachelle and Brian - very cool people - to enjoy the fireworks show from Las Flores Park.  It was a very impressive show and a very fun time!

European Adventure 2011 - Day Eighteen through Twenty-Two: Prague to Leipzig and back to Paris...and back to LA

Posted by Amy O. , Sunday, July 3, 2011 1:10 PM

Well, like any good scrapbook, it's taken me forever to finish posting about our trip.  So, to assure I conclude, I'm consolidating the last few days of the trip into one final post. Which actually works well, since it seems our camera (or was it our cameraman?) began to get a bit tired at this point in the journey, as evidenced from a drastically reduced number of photos from here on out.  But, nonetheless, just enough to trigger the memories :-).

We awoke on Wednesday to wish a happy birthday to dear Becky.  We had a late morning train so we had time for a little fun before leaving - Czech pastries & a trip to the sandbox!





After the inevitably painful goodbye (something Becky & I are a little bit too accustomed to), we boarded another train to head back to Leipzig.  Pictured below, this may have been the best ride yet: our very own Harry Potter car all to ourselves.  This is me, enjoying the space & a Czech treat.


Highlights of the next couple days in East Germany include:
1) Patrick bonding with the local stork...





2) A tasty meal of döner, which is a Middle Eastern thing if you're in Europe and a German thing if in the Middle East...

3) A visit to the Stasi Museum, which was fascinating in the disturbing sense of the term. This is a museum in Leipzig housed in the former headquarters of the Stasi, the East German secret police, which details the paranoid and mind-boggling tactics used to keep watch on/dehumanize/terrorize people on that side of communist lines.  We learned about how they watched people throughout town, monitored borders, disguised secret agents, detained prisoners, searched and raided (and stole from) all letters and packages sent to East Germany, covertly demoralized people who were showing signs of being a problem for them, recruited even youngsters as spies, among other chilling facts.  More here, if you're interested: http://www.gadling.com/2010/12/10/stasi-museum-in-leipzig-40-years-of-spying-and-terror/

Stasi office
 Disguises for agents



 

4) Below, the second oldest coffee house in Europe - apparently, there's one older in Paris.  There'd be a fun place to book a gig ;-) !
 5) Dinner at the Schnitzel House - which boasted something incredible like 100 different kinds of schnitzel! 


Saturday, we boarded (yet) another train - the last day of our Eurail passes! - and headed back to Paris.  This time, at our first stop, we solicited the help of a wonderfully helpful Deutsche-Bahn employee, who kindly rerouted our trip for us, which got us into Paris about 3 hours earlier than planned, and avoided that tricky & expensive Belgian detour.  Hooray for the helpfulness of Germans!

We arrived at Gare de l'Est (which is very, very close to Gare du Nord, for anyone trying to figure Paris out) and Patrick snapped this crazy cool shot...The bird totally looks photoshopped, does it not?  But it is not!

I love these Metro signs...
 Paris: where even the train stations are amazing.  The majestic Gare du Nord!
We had booked a hotel for one night in Paris at the Hotel Gerando, which had kind, helpful staff (the French pull through!) but a troubled internet connection and the room was not in fact soundproof as the website had boasted.  Still, it was clean and the bed was comfortable, and that's what we needed.  And, despite the noise, it was fun to be, for just one more day, in the whir of it all...

The view from our balcony


The hotel was close to Sacre Cœur and Montmartre, which we were going to see on Sunday before our flight home, but since we got in so much earlier than planned, we saw it all that night!

Views from the hill...



Ahhhh, the incredible ambiance of Montmartre...I love this place!


And, because we were nearby...
After an amusing-only-in-retrospect search for a completely different restaurant (in which Patrick uttered the now-classic phrase "I need you to not be crazy right now" as my blood sugar plummeted from no real meals yet that day), we ended up at this delightful brasserie, which is aptly named Au Bout En Train.  There is most likely a play on words happening here, the literal translation is "at the end [of the] train" (I'm not sure that's entirely accurate, the "en" there trips me up), but being the day of our last train ride, well, it seemed to fit.
Our appetizer: Grilled Camembert...oh la la!


The next day - our last day - we took a morning jaunt and soaked in a bit more of Paris...

St. Jacques Tower
 This cute shop caught my eye...
 Only had time to peek at the outside of the Centre Georges Pompidou...


For lunch, we met up with Traci, a friend of mine from Canby, though neither of us could recall the last time we'd actually seen each other.  We've been in touch grâce à facebook and she's spent the last year in Paris, teaching English.  It was so fun to see her again - she's a delightful lady with a shared love of French, Mustangs, and SCC, and a shared distaste of small talk - and she took us on a walk through some of her favorite parts of the city.









Me & Traci, very surprised and pleased to find ourselves together in France :-)

And then, after three weeks of wonder, we got on one last train to CDG, to catch a flight to Amsterdam. We wish that our trip had ended there, but before boarding another plane to LAX, we had a 12 hour layover at the Amsterdam airport, 9pm to 9am. We learned all sorts of things we never wanted to know, like that 2am is the time when airport floors are sanded and any construction is carried out, the only eatery you can find open is going to charge you $30.00 for two sandwiches, chips, and drinks, and that if you're trying to sleep in the lounge with comfortable chairs, inevitably a family with children who have no intention of sleeping will come and sit right next to you. But the most important lesson we learned is that before you click "purchase" on the cheapest flights to Paris from LAX, make sure you've made note of any 12 hour layovers...and then spend a bit more money for a different option.

Lest I end on a negative note, we are still pinching ourselves about this whole amazing adventure and it really all feels like a dream now, a month later. We are so grateful and we look at our pictures in awe. This trip serves (and will continue to serve) as a reminder of God's very great goodness to us, even when we face less pleasant times now and ahead, when we experience frustrations and wonder what we are to do. We have this reminder that sometimes God just completely blows your mind and exceeds even the highest expectation that you've set before Him.