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Leaving Wonderland August 9, 2011

Posted by Lucy Hensley in Travel Log.
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Hanging out in a tree by the Worcester lake

It is odd to be coming home. After 5 weeks at Worcester College in Oxford, I am finally feeling settled. I have my room organized, personalized and adequately messy. I have a daily routine, and I am finally getting used to Wendy, my Scout, (house keeper) waking me up every morning at 8:30.

I feel like this is Thanksgiving of Freshman year. It took a while to adapt to life at Worcester, but now I am settled and it will be weird to go home. The difference between Thanksgiving Freshman year and this particular adventure is that I know I will never come back. I may be able to visit Oxford, but I will not get to climb the stairs of  Staircase 1. I will not get to speak to Wendy about her young daughters and I will not fight my way to the front of the dinner line for a large glass of apple juice.

It is even more difficult to imagine that the friends I have made here will be split up. Some members of our group are graduating and moving away. Others will be co-oping away from Atlanta, and the rest will once again be split off into the responsibilities and circles of “the real world.” We have made many plans for reunions- concerts, Braves games, tailgates, but it will not quite be the same. I feel so close to these people. We helped each other survive a summer traipsing across Europe and hunting for hostels but we know nothing of each other’s life’s back home. We joke that we have been inseparable for 2.5 months, but don’t have each other’s cell pone numbers. It really is hard to imagine not eating 3 meals a day with these guys or spending odd hours climbing trees by the lake.

Looking out over the Irish Coast

It has been an amazing summer in Wonderland, but I guess it is time to go home.

Death to the Planner July 23, 2011

Posted by Lucy Hensley in Travel Log.
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My A-type personality is taking a beating this summer. Mostly for the better, I am learning that things don’t always have to go as planned. In fact, 3 of the best memories I have so far of this trip have been things that were wholly unplanned and didn’t exactly fit my schedule.

 

The first was our third night in Florence. It was a Sunday, so the entire city shut down early. Being at a loss of what to do, we managed to find a supermarket open. We bought the makings for an Italian feast- bread, ham, cheese, pesto, wine and the most delicious cherry tomatoes I have ever eaten. Then, nearly 35 of our 50 person group trekked to the top of Michelangelo’s Plaza to watch the sunset over Florence. I am not sure if I have ever had a more perfect evening. We ate, talked, took an ungodly amount of pictures and laughed. There was so much happiness in the air as we all relaxed for the first time on the trip. I think it was the longest we stayed in any place all summer. For hours and hours we sat on the hill listening to music and truly getting to know each other. All the cliques merged as we sang “Wagon Wheel” to a nighttime view of the Duomo.

 

A view of FLorence at sunset

The second spontaneous venture was during our whirlwind stay in Venice. We had an entire day free and instead of exploring the city and filling yet another day with map reading and sightseeing, we went to the beach. I originally was against the idea. We were only in Venice for two days and they wanted to waste one of them on a beach? Well, I ate my words. It was a fabulous day; one my mother would call a “mental health day.” Half of our group ended up on the beach sharing paprika Pringles and 2 bottles of sunscreen. We swam in the Adriatic Sea and napped on the brown sugar sand. It was a relief to have absolutely nowhere to be until nine that evening for our final concert. Not once all day did I check my watch.

some Group 3 girls in our team uniform tanks

My third surprise was during my second weekend in London. Much to my dismay, we had no plans for the day. No one knew what we should do or where to go first. All that we had agreed upon was dinner in China-town. After meeting with some friends for lunch, we stumbled upon a local food festival.  A unanimous decision was to meet back for dinner. We broke up- girls to the WWII museum, boys to Harrods and four hours later met back at the festival. We had local cider, fresh lamb burgers, grilled corn on the cob, homemade cookies and countless free samples. We took our feast to the lawn of the London Eye and sat and people watched for an hour. It was time that could have been spent in line for the giant Ferris wheel, or pushing through crowds at Buckingham Palace, but where would the memories be in that?

My roommate, Olivia, and I playing in front of the London Eye

 

Universal Truths July 7, 2011

Posted by Lucy Hensley in Travel Log.
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As many cultural differences as we have encountered over the last few weeks, I have been comforted by a few universal truths. We have learned to live without free water and have learned that pedestrians do NOT have the right-of-way. We have learned that public displays of affection are acceptable on a public bus, but talking is not. There was no doubt a learning curve arriving in Europe, but over the weeks we learned that parts of our lives seem to be the same across the countries- a fact that is very comforting.

Early in our trip, we came to know a little girl in our Paris hotel. This little girl, maybe 6 or 7 was a French girl traveling with her family. In the four days we are in the hotel, I never saw her in any outfit but her Tinkerbell costume. This childhood obsession with one dress-up costume is one that any older sibling or nanny knows all to well. This girls costume and her brother’s unrelenting teasing proved that children are the same everywhere.

Somewhere in Italy we learned that “Dad Jokes” are universal as well. Walking down a busy street full of vendors and cheap souvenirs, we heard a man yelling to his wife and teenage daughter. A few of us stopped to see a plump, blading, 55 year old man wearing an apron made to look like an Italian speedo model. Even though the man was speaking Italian, it was easy to tell that he was telling his less than amused wife that “They used me as the model!” Dad jokes, gotta love ‘em.

There have been dozens of these small flashes of our relations back home that have reminded us that even though we are painfully out of place here, we are still amongst people who have and build relationships like the ones we have.  When we have taken the time to get to  know a waiter or tour guide on our trip, it has been more rewarding than if we had simply rushed through another meal of split pizza and rationed a coke lite. The time we have spent trying to understand these cities and the people within them have been more than enlightening.

Do Re Mi Fa So pretty! June 28, 2011

Posted by Lucy Hensley in Travel Log.
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The view from the mountains in Salzburg

On our first day in Munich we traveled two hours into Austria. Salzburg is the city where Mozart lived and worked, but more importantly, it is where all of the outdoor scenes from The Sound of Music were filmed. You may not know that I lived for Rogers and Hammerstein musicals when I was a kid, so seeing the house, gazebo, gardens and other buildings where Julie Andrews and the rest of the cast filmed was a dream come true. Seeing the Do Re Mi gardens was very cool (of course I ran around singing) but the highlight of the day was the amazing views climbing the mountain. Austria is the most beautiful country in the world.

"I am 16 going on 17"

We took the bus over the border to Austria and spent the first part of the day exploring the city a bit. We saw Mozart’s house, climbed to the city fortress and had a delicious bowl of tomato soup (It was rainy and dreary in the valley.) Around two, we met at a bus stop designated for the Sound of Music Tour. The next four hours were devoted to location visits, sing-alongs, deleted scenes and behind the scenes stories from the production of one of the most successful movies of all time.

I know it is a far cry from the many cultural experiences we have had this trip, but I was like a kid in a candy store in Salzburg.  I have watched the movie countless times since my childhood and have even seen it on stage a few times. I absolutely love the story and this tour allowed me to earn even more about the real VanTrapp family.

An Italian opera in Prague June 26, 2011

Posted by Lucy Hensley in Travel Log.
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An Italian Opera in Prague

Well, I promise I am having a few cultural experiences while I am gallivanting across Europe. On our last night in Prague, we went to see an Italian Opera titled Aida. It was an amazing experience.  I am no stranger to the theater, but this was my first opera. The entire evening was fascinating. The night began with all 50 of us changing from our grungy travel clothes into semiformal attire and walking to the National Theater in Prague. It was fun seeing everyone all cleaned up and looking nice after two weeks of walking clothes and cramped bus rides. So far, we have toured an opera house in Paris and Vienna, but this was our first times as patrons.

By today’s standards, I didn’t have the best seats in the house, but had this been the 19th century when the opera house was built, I would have been quite the trendy girl. I was second row box seats 3 from the front. Every member of the audience could see me and I could see the entire orchestra. This made it difficult to see the action on stage, but the acoustics were wonderful and my required paper was on the music and orchestral performance. I was set.

The story was interesting (thanks to the subtitles!) and I have never heard such beautiful singing. The opera is about Radames, commander of the Egyptian Army. Radames must pick between his love of country and his love of Aida. To complicate things, the Pharaoh’s daughter is in love with Radames and Aida is the princess of Egypt’s rival, Ethiopia. The story ends in true Romeo and Juliet Fashion with self-sacrifice by the two lovers so that they may remain together always.

A slight damper was put on the experience by being assigned one of the most difficult papers I have written since starting college, but it was worth it. Fingers crossed for a good grade? After the opera we wandered the city a bit and bought a lot of snacks for the long bus ride ahead of us. I really enjoyed the opera and am glad I had the chance to go see it. An opera is an event we don’t get to experience in Atlanta and it truly was extraordinary.

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