Europe Study Tour News Updates
March 23, 2008
It is Sunday night, 5 p.m. your time. Happy Easter! Hope you had a good day. We are fine.
We traveled from Vienna to Florence on Friday. It rained a lot in Florence. That was not great for the kids, but we still got to
see a lot of things.
We took the night train to Paris. That was pretty rough – small compartments, long trip. It wore us all out but went fine. Saturday
it rained it the morning, cleared up, then hailed a little, and rained some more -- strange day weather wise, but we got to see a lot.
Sunday was beautiful until 2 p.m. We went to the Louvre. All are going up the Eiffel Tower right now. It has started to rain again;
otherwise, everything is going great. Kids are doing really well; we had a wonderful tour.
We leave early in the morning and shall be home tomorrow night. We shall arrive in Tampa at 10:30 p.m. as scheduled and will see you soon.
March 20, 2008
I finally have internet access and wanted to write a quick update on the Clearwater Europe 2008 tour.
We have had an incredible time so far and God has blessed us with the most amazing weather overall. The forecast said rain every day
for every city, but this has not proven to be true. Our time in the Alps and then today in Venice has been filled with blue skies,
40s-50s and light winds. Amazing!
We have had safety and ease with all of our travels.
With 66 on this tour it is no easy thing to transport all of us from planes to buses to trains simply. But we have been thrilled with
our 2 European tour directors, Christian and Michaela. They are both from Heidelburg, Germany and are kind, knowledgeable and very
calm in all they do (a huge contrast to our last tour directors for the Italy 2006 trip). This has really made the trip that much
more enjoyable and easy for me as leader.
Our flights over on Saturday, arriving Sunday, went fairly uneventfully with only 2 bags being lost upon arrival. Our first day in
Vienna began with a walking tour of the major sites in the city. What impressed us most (for those who have been in Europe before) is
that Vienna is not as intense and busy as most capitals. It is as beautiful as we imagined but certainly not as crowded or as dirty as
While there was some light drizzle on this arrival day, it was not enough to dampen our spirits and we enjoyed eating street food and,
for some of us, rushing to Starbucks to buy our city mugs. Christian quickly extolled the downfalls of the quality of coffee at this
American coffee-house. We still enjoyed some lattes and macchiatos. We drove to our hotel and checked in before leaving for dinner
back in the city. We did manage to find out that there was an opera that evening at the VolksOpera, so a group of us skipped dinner and
went to hear Puccini's Turandot.
The staging was not traditional Asian but 20th century Sci-Fi with the oddest assortment of bugs, butterflies and ants
It was interesting to watch this modern staging -- incredible costumes. The orchestra was large and a little loud and the singing somewhat
average but good. As with all European buildings, no cool air, so most
of us nodded off at different times as the warm air and jet-lag started to set in. While the rest of the students ate traditional
Austrian crepes, we found a small Italian restaurant after the show and enjoyed a great first meal.
Monday was a fast-paced day as we visited the Schonbrun Palace, home of the Hapsburgs who reigned for over 600 years. A lovely Baroque
palace -- we stood in the room that Mozart performed in at age 5 -- a neat happening for us music folk. The gardens were pretty and
starting to bloom and the view from the hillside atrium/gazebo gave us a view of the city. We split up for free time in the afternoon
and groups went different ways. Lunch at Rosenbergers found many of us eating schnitzel and fried potatoes followed by apfelstrudel.
I think I got the students hooked on the strudel. Delicious! Many went to visit the museums and some went to an organ concert. The
music majors and I went on a tour of the opera house and found out that there was to be an opera that night.
Donizetti's Elixir of Love.
We then boarded a tram to travel 20 minutes outside of the city to the main cemetary of Vienna. There we were
able to see Beethoven, Schubert and Mendelssohn's graves and a grave marker for Mozart (his body was never marked when he died in poverty).
The cemetary is filled with amazing headstones and vaults and with the cloudy, cold weather it was a perfect afternoon.
We met the rest of
the group back in town and split again -- the main group to go to an Asian dinner, about 15 of us to go to the opera. The students were able
to get into the standing area for just £3.50 while some of us paid a lot more to sit close to the orchestra. The production was stunning --
both visually and musically. Well-worth the time and funds. Even male students who do not care for classical music commented that they
enjoyed it throughly. After the Asian dinner, most of the main group went to a Strauss-style variety concert. They enjoyed it greatly too.
So, a wonderful cultural time in this city of the arts.
Tuesday we left early for Salzburg and took many pictures of the Alps and snow along the way. It snowed a few times on our drive but it
didn't slow us down. We had a great afternoon sightseeing -- Mozart's birthplace, Sound of Music tour, etc. The sun shone brightly despite
the cold wind and we all loved being in this Alpine town. The new Mozart University sparked some interest for the music majors since the
university is free to all Europeans and for Americans that pass the German proficiency speaking exam.
We continued our journey to Innsbruck and climbed from the valley into the mountains to stay in the small ski town of Natters.
We stayed in
2 ski lodges and settled quickly into the warmth and friendliness of the goulash dinner and fellowship of the innkeepers and wives. I think
we could have stayed a week with ease.
Early Wednesday morning we opened our windows to see the majesty of the Alps before us -- pink hues turning brighter as the sun rose --
we thought we were in the book Heidi. Our morning sightseeing and shopping in Innsbruck went far too quickly and this town became an instant
favorite with most students. We then spent a long 7 hours in the buses traveling through the Alps into Italy and finally arrived in
Lido de Ysolo -- a beach resort town on
the Adriatic, that is close to Venice.
This morning we got up early and eager for our day in Venice. We boarded a ferry and in 25 minutes were in Piazza San Marco, the main
of Venice. The students had heard some of us talk about the city, but they were blown away with the beauty and mystery of this jewel of the
Adriatic. After a glass-blowing demonstration and a short walking tour, the students set off to enjoy the city, see the Doges' Palace and visit
2 of the main museums. A group took gondola rides and TG proposed to Ashley. What a great place to get engaged! Most ascended
the bell tower to get a full picture from above of the Venice islands. The water is a luminous green and the city was very clean (as opposed
to the usual warnings).
The sun shone all day, and even though there was a cold wind blowing, the day was practically perfect.
Shopping bags abounded as we all found neat gifts to bring back to you all. A group of us again stayed back from the group, who left at 6 p.m.
for our hotels in Ysolo. We had found a concert of Vivaldìs 4 Seasons, and we were not going to miss it. I also came across a church
concert that was to start at 6 p.m., so I dragged the group through the winding streets to hear the Musica Antiqua society perform vocal and
music from the Renaissance and Baroque eras on harpsichord, recorder and viola da gamba. It was a treat as the musicians were first-class.
Plus this church concert only cost £5! We then went to the Vivaldi concert by the Interpreti Veneziani -- a male string group, who were
outstanding. The Seasons was perfection and they went on to play a Rossini sonata and Faure Elegia. Amazing! All in all,
an incredible day.
Tomorrow we leave for Florence and then our final 2 days in Paris.
This is a very brief sketch of the trip so far. There will be much more to tell on our return and, of course, the pictures will speak louder
The students have had great attitudes and have been on time to most everything so far. We all have formed new relationships and are enjoying
this great experience together.
Thank you for your prayers -- we know God has supplied safety, weather and an amazing experience for us all.
Please pray that the last few days will be as smooth and that we will return on time Monday.
March 17, 2008
Everyone arrived safely in Vienna. (Colleen is coming a day late and is not there yet. They expect to meet up with her at the hotel later.)
Only a couple of bags were lost, and those are expected shortly.
When they arrived yesterday, they toured the city and last night attended an opera. Today they are touring Vienna again.
Many of them are headed to the graves of Beethoven and Schubert. Later tonight they are going in two groups: one to an opera,
Elixir of Love, and another group is headed to a genuine Vienna concert with singing, ballet, etc.
Alisha was sick last night with a terrible stomach flu. She is resting in the hotel today, and she should be joining them tonight.
The weather is cold, sprinkles of rain and then sun, but altogether it is good.