Day 15, Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Tuesday, 14 Jul 2009
I got up around 6:00 am and went out to explore Rothenburg and take pictures.  I returned to the hotel around 7:30 am when it started raining.

Breakfast was at 8:00 at the hotel.  Afterward, Teagan and I went to one of the Christmas shops a bought a few items.  It took us about 45 minutes just to look through what they had.  It was huge, and many of their displays were quite unique.  The store had multiple levels and some areas looked out over two-story tall rooms that had huge decorations in them.

Then we went to the Criminal Museum.  We got to see many ancient instruments of torture and punishment.  There were pillories, stocks, maces, etc.  There were also lots of documents on display that were several hundred years old.

After the museum, we walked around the city.  We found a music store and spent some time in it.  Then we ate lunch at an Italian gelato cafe.  Teagan got a frusta and I got a foccacia vegitale.

After lunch, it was time to head to the hotel so Teagan could get ready for the concert.  It was at 2:00 pm in the town plaza.

The concert was well attended and appreciated by the town.  After the concert, the choir headed to the church to prepare for their concert at 4:00.  That concert was also well attended.

After the concerts, the directors bought everyone gelatos at the same shop where we ate lunch.  I headed out to do more exploring while Teagan spent time with Rebeca, Alibear, Colton, Kianna, and some other friends.  .She spent a lot of the time in the back of an armour shop watching them fight with swords. She fought with Rebecca once and lost very quickly. Then they headed back to the hotel.

Supper was at the hotel.  It consisted of a salad, followed by soup, then chicken and french fries, and ice cream.

After supper, I went with a group to the cafe call Hell (didn’t buy the tee shirt) while Teagan went with Alex P, Mackenzie, Bradly, and Sam to the tunnels that were in a section of the city wall.

We returned to the hotel area to attend what was billed as a party.  It turned out to just be a meeting with instructions from the direcgtors to go over details about flying back tomorrow, most of which we already knew.  There were some awards given out, then people exchanged e-mail/facebook addresses.

Then the students returned to their rooms to pack.

Day 14, Monday, 13 July 2009

Today was a travel day.  We had breakfast at the hotel at 7:00 and departed at 8:00 for Munich.

The coach ride was along much flatter terrain, although we did pass the highest peak in Germany along the way.

We arrived in Munich about 10:10 at the Munich Opera House.  We had free time to explore old Munich.  Many headed to a Starbucks on the way to the main square for coffee and rest rooms.  Teagan got a Mocha drink of some sort.

Teagan and I visited a few shops, but mostly we were hanging around the square for the glockenspiel tower at the old city hall to do its show at 11:00 am.  From what I heard a guide tell her group, the glockenspiel puts on its display at 11:00 am, 12:00 pm, and 4:00 pm each day.  It has to be started by hand, so a person has to climb the stairs three times a day to start it.

Near 11:00, the other nearby towers started chiming, and at 11:00, the glockenspiel tower started playing its music.  Eventually, the characters started moving around.  They depicted several scenes, the most memorable being a jousting contest between a Bavarian knight and someone else.  When the Bavarian knight de-horsed the intruder, the crowd cheered some slogan, although I couldn’t make out what they were saying.

We rejoined the bus at 11:30 for departure.  We drove by Dachau, which is closed on Monday, and headed to a Bier Garten for lunch.  It was attached to a western-style restaurant, although we ate ourside.  The interior included western decor together with a Confederate flag.  How strange.

The lunch began with a nice salad with many pickled items, the main course was a quarter chicken with French fries, followed by a custard dessert.

We regrouped at the buses for a 1:30 pm departure and headed for Rothenburg.  We arrived there around 4:00 and had a quick orientation.  After that, it was free time until supper.

Rothenburg is a walled city with a long history.  The wall has been restored and has a walking path along the top.  So Teagan and I headed to the wall so we could walk along it.  We started near the hotel and headed clockwise, but we found we had to exit the wall before it brought us back to where we started.  We were a little lost at that point, because we were planning on returning along the wall to where we started.  But we eventually found our way back to the hotel just in time for supper, with a little help from a waiter at an Italian restaurant who helped us with directions.

Supper was ok, but not nearly as good as we became accostomed to in Austria.  It began with a salad, followed by a mediocre broth soup (think Lipton cup-a-soup).  Then we had some beef in sauce with plain pasta and fried potato cylinders, followed by a custard dessert.

After supper, Teagan and I went on the night watchman tour, as did most of the others in the Tennessee Ambassador group.  The tour lasted an hour and was very entertaining.  The tour was very entertaining and informative about the history of Rothenburg.

After the tour, we walked around the town until about 10:00 and headed back to the hotel.

Day 13, Sunday, 12 July 2009

Today we did a day trip to Venice, so we started with an early breakfast at 4:45am  and departed from Seefeld at 5:30.

The early morning light made for great Swiss Alp scenery on the way to Brenner Pass.  The roadside was dotted with small villages, each with its own church, castles, and vineyards.

We arrived at the Troncetto coach park in Venice around 10:30 am and ate a sack lunch there.  At 11:00, we boarded a large water taxi that took us along the San Marcos area of Venice.

Each bus group had its own tour guide beginning near St. John the Baptist Church.  We got an orientation to Venice there, then followed the guide through alleys and across foot bridges to a Greek Orthodox Church, past the Bridge of Sighs, the Doge’s Palace, and on to San Marcos Square.

Since it was Sunday, we couldn’t enter San Marcos Cathedral until after 2:00 pm, so the group went on to the Murano Glass Factory where we had a glass making demonstration followed by a sales pitch.  This was contrary to what the tour directors had told us.  We were expecting to get into the cathedral as part of the guided tour.  They even had everyone wear pants that covered the knees and shirts that covered the shoulders in preparation for the church visit.  I’m sure many would have opted for shorts had they known we wouldn’t be getting into the church.  Since I was wearing convertibles, I just unzipped my legs and continued on.

When we finished the glass factory around 1:30, we had free time until 4:30 when we were to meet at the columns on the square near the Grand Canal.

Teagan and I set out on our own to visit gift shops and take pictures.  We went in many shops looking for Venitian trinkets.  We paused for a gelato at one point.  Teagan also got a brushetta for a snack later.

Eventually, the gift shops began to run together in our minds since they mostly all had the same stuff.  We made our purchases and met the group back in the square, where we walked along the grand canal back to the place where we catch the boat.

We rode the boat back to the coach park, where some of the group made their final Venice purchases, including a shot glass for Teagan.  She had seen it there earlier, but held of on buying it in case she saw one in Venice she liked better.

We boarded the coaches to return to Seefeld, arriving around 10:00 pm.  The evening light on the return trip was almost as dramatic the sunrise light on the way down.

Day 12, Saturday, 11 July 2009

We had an 8:00 am breakfast to get ready for a 9:00 am day trip to Innsbruck.

First, we stopped in downtown Innsbruck at the Basilika Wilten (Wilten’s Parish and Pilgrimage Church) where the choir sang two songs.  The church was originally built in 1259, but was replaced around 1750.  The church interior is in the Rococo style with lavish plasterwork and ceiling murals.  It was very different than the Gothic structures we have seen so far in our trip.

Then we went on the new Bergisel ski jump in Innsbruck.  This was the sight of the famous “agony of defeat” video from “The Wide World of Sports” tv program, although that ski jump has been replaced with this new one.

After that, we moved on to the old part of Innsbruck where we had some free time around lunch.  Teagan and I check out several shops.  We also stopped at a cafe for some warm strudel and cappuccino.  I had apfel (apple) strudel and Teagan had a topfen-fruct strudel (the main fruit being cherry).  We both had our strudels served in warm vanilla sauce (think milk, egg yolks, vanilla extract, and sugar, and you will have a close approximation).  After our snack, we headed to the Swarovski store, which seems to be a main attraction here.  We looked, but didn’t buy.  We tried to tour St Jakob Cathedral in old Innsbruck, but it was closed for lunch when we were there.  It houses the grave of Maximilliam III.

Our entire group met back in front of the Goldenes Dachl (the golden roof) to count heads and return to the buses. The Golden Roof is a roofed balcony built in 1500 with gilded copper tiles to honor Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor.  There was a wedding going on in the square there to add to the charm.

We returned to Seefeld, where we had more free time.  Teagan and I walked around in the light rain.  We went to the church by the lake.  Its the church that is pictured on many of the Seefeld advertisements.  It was very small inside.  An organist and female vocalist were rehearsing while we were there.

We also went into the Olympia Pool to see what was there, we visited several gift shops, and went to the train station.

I left Teagan at the band shell at 4:15 to get ready for the concert while I headed back to the hotel to get the video camera.  On the way back, I stopped by a market to pick up some supplies (apples and salami) for tomorrow’s day trip to Venice.  I also bought a couple of 25 cl bottles of red wine for 1.29 euros apiece.  One was a Bordeaux and was excellent.   The other was a Spanish wine, and was just ok.

The band concert at 5:00 went well.  Afterward, we headed back to the hotel.  Several of the adults shared a drink on the patio outside my room (this is where I put my Bordeaux to good use).  Then it was supper at the hotel.  There was a nice salad, cream of potato soup, pork cutlet and carrots in sauce, and saccer torte for dessert.

The choir left after supper to take a coach to a nearby town for their concert.  They couldn’t sing in the church in Seefeld because of the band music from the festival.

I stayed behind in Seefeld and visited with some of the non-choir members of the tour out on the patio.

Day 11, Friday, 10 July 2009

Today is a travel day, so we had to have our luggage at the coaches at 6:10 am.  Our final Swiss breakfast was at 6:15.  I took advantage of the great variety of dried fruits and grains by building a granola out of the offerings.

We departed at 7:00 am to head to our next destination, Austria, by way of Lichtenstein.  We zig-zagged down the mountainside as we had done several times before into the Rhone valley.  The road followed the Rhone River through the valley.

Once we were in the town of Sierre, we noticed one of the other buses pulled off the road.  Our bus stopped to see what the problem was.  Apparently, one of the students on the bus had fallen out of his seat and hit his head and was bleeding.  His injury was serious enough to require further attention, so we waited for the city coordinator from Crans-Montana to come to retrieve him and get him to the hospital.

Once that was taken care of, we resumed our trip.  We passed through Bern and Zurich along the way.  At some point, we stopped at a rest stop, which was more like a mall, for lunch.  We arrived in Lichtenstein around 1:30 pm.

We didn’t have much time there since the medical emergency had taken up some of our travel time.  Teagan and I went in pursuit of a shot glass for her collection.  Beyond that, we just looked around a bit and rejoined the group on the bus.

We arrived in Seefeld, Austria around 4:30.  After we were checked in, I went to town to get oriented to walk around and get oriented.  Each coach was in a different hotel, like in Switzerland, and ours was a little further away from downtown than the others.  The trade-off was supposed to be that ours had better food.

Supper was at 7:00.  We had a good salad with several different lettuces, cream of zucchini soup which was outstanding, Viener snitzel and a vegetable I can’t remember, and ice cream for dessert.

After supper, it was back to town (5 minute walk) for shopping.  A festival with live music was getting underway, so we got to hear a band play on an outdoor stage that was set up downtown.  Several of the Tennessee Ambassadors gathered near the stage and provided an audience for the band.  The lead singer came out to the group and sang briefly.

The stores were open quite late, perhaps for the festival, so we were able to continue shopping/browsing until we headed back to the hotel around 10:00 pm.

Day 10, Thursday, 9 July 2009

Breakfast was in the hotel this morning at 7:15 am to get ready for our trip to the Matterhorn.

We departed at 8:00 and headed by coach to the town of Tasch – about 75 km away.  There, we boarded a train to take us to Zermatt.  This is a small town in the Swiss Alps that serves as the gateway to the Matterhorn. It is auto-free to cut down on pollution.

Teagan and I went shopping in Zermatt for about two hours.  Then the entire group met at 11:30 for instructions about taking the cog railway to Gornergrat.  We walked over to the station to catch the train.  It works on a rack and pinion system since the angle of ascent is too steep for a traditional railway.  It travels through a tunnel in the mountain and exits at Gornergrat at 3089 meters elevation, where there is an excellent view of the Matterhorn.

When we got there, the Matterhorn was mostly engulfed by a cloud that seemed to just move back and forth.

After getting our pictures taken, we headed to the lunch area, where we got a sausage that was very good.  After lunch, we went for a short walk on a mountain trail.  The cloud stayed around the Matterhorn the whole time we were there.  We took lots of pictures of neighboring peaks and several of the Matterhorn, as well.

We headed back down to Zermatt at 2:00 pm to pick up a dessert and to pick up an item we purchased earlier in the day (can’t give away what it is).  Teagan got an Apfel Strudel and I got a Nuss (nut) pastry of some kind.  They were both very good.

We returned to the meeting area around 2:45 to pick up an item at the gift shop and to look at our pictures in front of the Matterhorn.  Then the chorus sang an inpromptu song in the square.

We headed to the train back to Tasch where we boarded the coach to head back to Crans-Montana.  Once there, we had free time until the fondue party at 7:30.

Teagan and I headed to a grocery store to lay in supplies for our lunch tomorrow in Lichtenstein.  Then we went shopping in the village.

We returned to the hotel to get ready for the party.  Then we each headed over to the town tent a little after 7:00 pm.

The fondue was a blend of seven Swiss cheeses.  Mostly I tasted gruyere.  There was a three accordian polka band.  There were dancers performing traditional dances.  The dances looked like a swiss version of square dancing.  Then there was a horn player who played one of those long swiss horns (think Ricola commercial).  He invited audience members to come up and try to play the horn, also.

The dancers also invited prople to dance with them.  Then there were dances that everyone participated in.

The party wrapped up around 9:30 and we returned to the hotel to pack for our travel day tomorrow.

Day 9, Wednesday, 8 July 2009

I got up at 6:30 am and was out the door around 7:00 to explore the town before breakfast.  I walked past Lac Grenon, a small lake near the hotel.  Then I headed to the center of Crans and walked around.

I was back at the hotel around 8:00 for breakfast.  It was a buffet breakfast with a wide variety.  The most intersting items for me were the many grains that were placed around a mill.  You could mix whatever grains you wanted and grind them in the mill.  I picked bulgar wheat and some type of resoto creal and added a little milk.  There was also an array of cheese and what we would call artisan breads in the U.S.  I selected four cheeses to sample with a couple of breads.  There were several other items to try at breakfast, but that’s all I got around to.

After breakfast, I headed to the cable car that runs up the mountain with a group of adults and students.  Teagan headed off with a group of students who were going into town to look at the stores.

As my group rode the cable car up, we passed over a heard of cows.  They were all wearing cow bells so there was a constant clanging of bells.

At the first platform, the attendant told us to stay on the cars and go on to the end of the lower cable.  When we got there, we were in a cloud that was dropping snow.  We walked around a little to see if we could find someplace with good visibility.  The clouds cleared a bit, and we could see some of the valley before long.

After several pictures, we took the cable car back down to the first stop and got off.  The visibility was even better there, and we took more pictures.  Then we returned to Crans.

We walked around the town and went into a grocery store to lay in supplies for lunch.  After more walking, we headed back to the hotel for a noon departure on the coach.

We headed to the Castle of Chillon near Montreaux.  This castle is mostly know as the setting of Lord Byron’s poem “The Prisoner of Chillon.”  We had a guided tour that started at about 1:30.  The tour guide was very knowledgable and spoke excellent english.  After the tour was over, we had free time until 3:00, when we met to walk along Lake Geneva to Montreaux.

The walk took about 30 minutes.  There was flowers planted all along the walkway which enhanced the picturesque view of the Lake and the mountains.

The Montreaux Jazz Festival was going on in the town, but there wasn’t much music when we were there.  There were lots of vendor tents set up that we could look at.

Our red bus group met back at the statue of Freddie Mercury (lead singer for Cream) at 4:25 for a 4:30 departure back to the hotel.  We arrived at the hotel around 6:00 for our 6:30 supper.

The meal tonight consisted of a buffet salad (greens, corn, carrots, and beets), foccacia, beef with brown gravy, and ice cream cake.  Once again, the food was excellent.

After supper, it was concert time.  The concert began at 8:30 in the town tent.  There was a good crowd of locals there as the choir began its part of the concert.  As the concert went on, more and more showed up.

Once the choir finished, it was the bands turn.  The crowd especially like the marches, and the Dixieland piece “Just a closer walk with thee.”  They went crazy over “Stars and Stripes Forever,” which was the finale.

This was, by far, the most successful concert.  The performing groups appreciated having such a large audience.

Day 8, Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Today was a travel day, so breakfast was at 7:00 am.  By 8:00, we were off to Switzerland.

We headed southwest out of Paris and passed through Troyes, Dijon, and Besancon before entering Switzerland.  Along the way, we made a couple of rest stops in France, the second one being for lunch.  We also made a rest stop shortly after entering Switzerland.

We arrived in Crans-Montana about 8:00 pm.  Rain along the way, plus a detour around a tunnel, made us about an hour late. We met the local Voyager International people for an orientation in the town tent (where the concert will be held).  After that, we moved on to the hotel for supper.

Each bus was assigned a different hotel this time.  The one for the red bus was the Hotel Eldorado.  Most of the rooms had a view over the vast valley (the Rhone valley, I think).  The elevation of Crans-Montana is about 1,500 meters, which is about 1,000 meters above the valey floor.

Supper provided a pleasant surprise in the quality of food.  While the food in London and Paris was perfectly adequate, the food here was excellent.  The first course was a salad buffee; the second was pasta with marinara sauce; the entree was a chicken fillet in mushroom sauce served with french fries; and the dessert was (I forget).  The hotel is family-run and the level of service was exceptional.

Since we were late getting to Crans-Montana, there wasn’t much time to explore the town after supper.  The town has quiet time beginning at 10:00 pm, so the students had to be in their rooms by then anyway. Most of us just got unpacked and went to bed early.

Day 7, Monday, 6 July 2009

Today was an early day with breakfast from 7:00 to 7:45.  The coaches left the hotel at 8:00.

After experiencing the fabulous Monday morning traffic, we arrived at the Eiffel Tower about 9:15.  We had about two hours of free time in the tower area.  Our small group went to the tower first, stopping for pictures along the way, of course.  After looking around at the trinkets for a few minutes, we bought tickets to climb the stairs.

We decided to go only to the first level so that we’d have time to explore the area around the tower and get lunch.  We spend some time looking around the first level to see the different views.  Then we went down.

We picked a random direction to walk, and proceeded until we found a fruit shop and also a panini shop.  We were looking for food we could take with us, so we passed up on the restaurants we saw.

Then we headed back to the coach area.  Some of the ones in our group needed a rest room (a toilette), but the lines at the tower were too long, so we skipped that.

We, along with everyone else, were back at the coach at 11:20.  A French guide joined us and narrated a tour of Paris.  We ended up at Luxembourg Gardens at 1:30 to set up for the band concert.

I walked around the area to see the gardens while the band set up and got ready.  The concert started at 2:00.  I videotaped the concert.  There was a pretty good crowd there.  The longer the band played, the more people migrated over to hear what was going on.

The concert wrapped up at about 2:55.  The people in the band who also sing in the chorus left quickly so they could go on to Notre Dame before the choir concert.  The rest of the choir had already left.

After the band equipment was put away, the band headed to Notre Dame.  We got there about 3:25, took about 30 minutes for a quick look, then proceeded to the choir concert.

We arrived at the St. Severin Church after the concert was underway.  That was the original plan – there just wasn’t enough time to see Notre Dame and make it to the concert on time.  The choir sounded great in the stone church. Having to replace the choir director caused a little confusion on their first concert, but this time everything was just right.  [We got a report Mr. Clark was diagnosed with dehydration and mononucleosis when he got back to the states.  So even if he had been correctly diagnosed in London, he and Mrs. Clark (original choir director) would have had to return home anyway.]

After the concert, we headed to supper, again, at Restaurant Le Saulnier.  Tonight it was a first course of, perhaps, Welsh Rarebit (just my guess), beef Bourgonon, and for dessert, it was a custard-filled puff pastry with a sweet sauce drizzled over.

Then it was back to the hotel for an early night since we have a very early morning tomorrow.

Day 6, Sunday, 5 July 2009

Since it is Sunday, we had a later start today.  Breakfast was from 8:30 to 9:30.  There was cereal, croissants, and coffee.  The coffee came out of a machine where you just push a button for what you want – any of about 8 coffees drinks (most of which I’ve not heard of).  I tried coffee long, coffee short, and cappuccino.

We left the hotel at 10:00.  The first stop for the day the Paris Opera House, the Palais Garnier.  Two of the box seats were open for viewing.  From the seats, we could see the entire spectacular house, including the famous chandelier.  The lobby areas and stairways were beautiful as well.

The next stop was Mantmartre, the former Bohemian artist community and highest point in Paris.  Teagan and I climbed to the top of the Sacre Coeur, the church that sits atop the hill.  From the dome, there were spectacular views of Paris and surrounds.  We tried to identify as many landmarks as we could from the top.

After we descended, we toured the crypt.  There were many small chapels there with ornate sculptures.

Once we exited the church, we headed to the neighborhood to find some lunch.  Everyone in our group of four had crepes.  Teagan and I split a savory crepe and a dessert crepe.

After lunch, we stopped in a gift shop so Teagan could buy a shot glass souvenir.

The next stop was the Louvre.  We were set free about 3:15 for a two-hour visit.  We started by trying to find the Mona Lisa.  It turned out that today was a free ticket day and the crowd there was huge.  So they had closed off some of the hallways to redirect traffic.  This made finding the Mona Lisa a little trickier for us since we were all first-timers.

Eventually, we found the correct section and fought through the crowd for a look.  There was a lot of shoving and pushing, so the viewing situation wasn’t ideal.

After the Mona Lisa, we headed to the second on our list of the big three, the Winged Victory of Samothrace.  Using our map, we actually walked right past it and didn’t realize it.  Kind of embarassing.  But when we couldn’t find it where we thought the map showed it, we backtracked and found it.

Third on our list was Venus de Milo (Aphrodite).  We found it with no problem.

Once were were done with the big three, Teagan wanted to go outside to see the famous I.M. Pei pyramid entrance.  So we took an escalator to the main entrance and exited.

We walked around outside, taking pictures, for a few minutes.  We saw an arc across the street which we thought might be the Arc de Triumph.  We walked over to look at it, but it was another, smaller, arc.  The Arc de Triumph, it turned out, is a pretty good walk away.

Then we went back into the Louvre and used our final half hour to look at one of the sculpture galleries.  At about 5:05, we headed back to the carousel to meet the group.  We were about 3 minutes late and the last ones back, so everyone else was very punctual.

We headed for supper at Restaurant Le Saulnier.  Tonight it was salad, chicken cordon blu, and chocolate mousse.  The salad was really good, the chicken dish had a manufactured quality about it (how else can you feed 147 people?), and the mousse was good.

After supper, we went on a cruise on the Seine.  The huge double-decked boat left at 8:05 and returned at 9:15.  It went as far as Notre Dame in one direction, and past the Eiffel Tower to the Statue of Liberty in th eother.  The narration was given in several different languages sequentially.

After the cruise, we all returned to the hotel, arriving about 10:00.