Thursday, July 21, 2011

There is so much to reflect on...

It would be impossible to sit, reflect and write about the entire trip in just one entry. Guess what? I am not even going to try... I think I will begin with all the things I learned during our adventure. :0)

It is funny, really, but it is hard to plan just what you will gain, learn and understand from an experience you have never had. Most people ask, "What was your favorite part?" It is the hardest question of all because it is hard to pick just one thing. The truth is, I embraced the culture... from the people, to the language to the food. It isn't America and you can't expect it to be. That is the true beauty of foreign travel...learning to live and appreciate somewhere besides your own home.

So, what did I learn...

~Less is more... in relation to luggage, clothes, stuff, etc but not in relation to $... you will need a lot of $$ if you travel in Europe. I am beyond thankful that I only took a backpack and a carry on. I would never have made it otherwise. Thanks Marla for REQUIRING that of me! :)

~You need to REALLY live in the moment, embrace all of the differences instead of trying to "fix" them or work around them. I am one crazy ironing woman (for those folks who don't know me well) and we had access to an iron for 4 of 17 days. Guess what? IT WAS ALL GOOD!!!! I truly just went with it! You smile and spray some wrinkle release...Life is GOOD! Why spend time complaining about it... it is so not important.

~England is tidy, BUSY, SO much traffic, beautiful, full of history, it is a mix of old and new, loved the pubs with fish and chips (I had that 3 times), Harrod's is huge, afternoon tea was a dream come true for me, the underground is overwhelming at first but really not so bad, loved the open bus tour, Big Ben is not by the Tower Bridge... I so thought it was, everything is "brilliant"... this word is used often to describe everything wonderful, you should try hot tea with milk... it is very British! Most of all, I learned that there is so much to see in 5 days in England that you can't possibly see it all so choose carefully. Go to Windsor is so beautiful and I loved watching Changing of the Guard without the HUGE crowds. Travel the English countryside... it is like a storybook and so peaceful. If you have an extra day, visit Bath. It looks like a postcard. It is neat to see the Roman Bath and there are many cute little shops to enjoy. England really is BRILLIANT! :)

~France is full of amazing monuments, churches and experiences. Look past the dirty streets and find the beauty of the city! I can't lie... the Metro (subway) scared me silly. The people are not as posh as you think so just be yourself and they are really quite charming. Be sure to stop at a cafe`... my favorite was right across from Sainte Chapelle. We did the Open Bus Tour in Paris too... so worth it and a GREAT way to see all the highlights. The Louvre is totally huge... which I had heard but no really... IT IS HUGE! Pick your favorites and see those or you will spend 5 days there! The Eiffel Tower is beautiful... I think even more magical from far away. Don't hesitate to try as many sweet treats as you can... you will walk off the calories! My favorite treat was a waffle with dark chocolate on top AND chocolate mousse. Both were amazing! My highlight of Paris was hands down, the Arc de Triomphe. I climbed all 284 stairs without complaining... um, that is why I trained for this trip by walking at least 12 miles a week before going. GREAT plan and I highly recommend it! :)

~Germany is a breath of fresh air. It is incredibly beautiful, pristine, friendly and welcoming. The people are precious and helpful. We did 3 tours while in Germany and all were wonderful! We did the Dachau Memorial Tour... very heavy but so meaningful and educational. I learned a ton and I thought I already knew a lot. Castle tour was fabulous! We met a fun travel buddy named Jon who made our day a lot of fun! :) The scenery on the way was just amazing... mountains, huge trees and postcard cottages! It was breath-taking! We traveled on the Autobahn which was a complete surprise and it was TOTALLY AWESOME! I think I need my own BMW to drive next time! On our final day, we traveled by train to Salzburg, Austria. It is a beautiful place as well. We learned about history from our witty tour guide, Ian. We had lunch at Demel... a fabulous chocolate cafe`! I tried several German dishes, including pork sausages in sauerkraut. I am not a sausage girl but what Mom always said is TRUE... you don't know if you like or don't until you try it! I loved it!!! Lots of pretzels... of many shapes, sizes and a variety of different toppings can be found all over Germany. We visited a German school while there and learned so much about their approach to education... so different from the US. PS... in first grade, students still have and hour and a half of recess!!!! Hum... I would take just a third of that for my students! :)

So... what was my favorite thing? This is really not such a tough question after all. Annette Langen... meeting my favorite author and creating a lifetime friendship with her was, without question, the most meaningful part of my journey. It was a magical day, full of delightful and heartfelt conversation. I loved it! :)

I am so thankful for all of the learning experiences, personal experiences and eye-opening moments of this adventure. Fund For Teachers made all of this possible and I will always be so grateful.


Julie said...

Thank you for taking us along on your journey. You've blessed a lot of people!

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