Tag Archives: Travel

Fairy Tale Town

 

It took some wicked ninja computer skills, but I finally got Windows Live Writer to get over itself and let me post a billion photos without automatically lumping them into an album! I don’t know about you, but I never sit and scroll through a blogger’s album. It just doesn’t happen. None of the computers I use can handle that much action.

That being said, I hope your computer can handle loading this post. I’m praying mine can! I can tell you know that photographing Prague requires a high quality wide-angle lens and unlimited time. Oh, and if you’re really trying to capture the intense beauty and essence of Prague, well, you’ll fail. You just have to go there. I really had to whittle down the number of photos I decided to post here. Here’s to hoping I can go again!

 

Here’re some Czech Crowns, or Korunas. They’re so pretty!

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Our first stop in the city was the Prague Castle (the largest ancient castle in the world) grounds and St. Vitus Cathedral. The outside of the grounds reminded me of something that should be used as a setting for a live-action Beauty and the Beast film!

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I mean, it’s so fairy tale-like!

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Epic view. When international diplomats come to Prague to speak, it’s usually right here. Looks good for the press, the tour guide told us. Winking smile

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And then we got to the cathedral.

Oh. My. Gosh.

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I spent a great deal of time lying on the ground just hoping to capture the enormity of it.

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I didn’t even scratch the surface.

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OH. MY. GOOOOOOOOSSSSSHH. *Clicks camera*

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*click* *click* *click* *click*….

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*CLIIIIICCCCCKKKKK!!!!!!*

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Construction on the St. Vitus Cathedral began in the 1300s and was finally completed in the 1920s. The section you see here in the following picture was part of the earlier construction.

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The castle grounds contain several different historical architectural styles, including baroque, Gothic, Romanesque, etc.

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Haha, a blacksmith….

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The view of Prague from the castle walls…

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Walking to the Charles Bridge…

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The Charles Bridge reaches over the Vltava River and is studded with various sculptures depicting important historical and sacred figures.

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This is St Wenceslas (of the Christmas Carol, “Good King Wenceslas”). He is the patron saint of the Czech Republic.

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If you look directly under St. Wenceslas, you’ll see an engraving with several figures rubbed shiny. The figure on the left is a dog. You rub him if you want to come back to Prague again. You rub the figures on the right for good luck. I rubbed both. In love

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The Astronomical Clock. Aka, the coolest cookoo clock there ever was! I wish I had a video of this thing in action!

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One of the things I loved most about the Czech Republic was the AMAZING sculpture art. I always say that the art that I really find appealing is the art that “breathes.” It pulls you in and moves you. It makes you feel what the image is meant to portray, as if you are a part of it. Every sculpture I found everywhere in the Czech Republic gave me that feeling. I’d love to visit Prague again just for the architecture and art!

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After our morning sight-seeing tour, it was time for our choir concert at the St. Nicholas Church in Old Town Square

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And after that, it was finally time to eat! It was about 3pm and we hadn’t eaten lunch! We hit up the square and I found me some Nutella crepes!

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Yes. Absolutely, incandescently yes.

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Kris, Jake, and several others got bratwursts in French baguettes.

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How genius is that?!?!

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Oh yeah, and don’t forget the trdelnik!

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After eating we had several hours to kill, and a couple of us found this seriously hole-in-the-wall joint to grab some coffee (which I spent a lot of time drinking on this trip!)

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I was slightly reminded of the Leaky Cauldron. Just a little.

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I ordered a Vienna Coffee (in Prague. Strange, I know. This actually happened quite a bit. Ordering things that are popular elsewhere), and officially discovered that in Europe, coffee is always served with dairy, and also always served with two packets of sugar. Often, it is also served with a small glass of water and a shortbread cookie, but this particular place didn’t participate in that latter habit.

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Old Town Square at dusk.

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Before long we were all escorted off to dinner at this restaurant in the area. I honestly have no idea what this place was since it was dark, but we enjoyed the chance to sit and relax. I mean, more than we were in the previous 3 hours? Hehe.

We had our dinner pre-ordered for us, but that didn’t bother me too much. In fact, I spent most the evening chatting about world views, faith, and art with Michelle (another one!), Justin, and Kris, so I honestly didn’t pay all that much attention to my food. In fact, by this day on our trip, my appetite sort of threw me for a loop. I’d be FAMISHED then wait five minutes, get to food, and suddenly lose all appetite. My stomach would suddenly shrink to the size of a peanut. I have no idea why. The food was great!

Noodle soup!

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Sparkling water. I became obsessed with this stuff over the trip. Well, not this particular stuff. This one wasn’t so good, but all the other sparkling waters I had were awesome!

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A pasta dish. I overheard a lot of “where’s the meat?!”

 

Argh.

 

It was good. I was quite full after half a plate of this, but then again, my stomach was the size of a peanut.

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LIVE MUSIC!!! The best part about this guy was his contagious SMILE!

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Ah, yes. The picture of Mr Black, the Wayland Singers director would sadly had to opt out of the trip at the last minute. We took him everywhere!

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Dessert! Another yummy crepe!

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*Exhale!* I hope you enjoyed that! I have to say that my previous impression of Prague did change with that day. Instead of it feeling “depressingly beautiful,” it felt more like a fairy tale, which I love!

I’ll leave you with a fun moment of the other Michelle and me at dinner that night!

 

Bohemian Evening

When I first decided to go on this trip to Europe, I figured the Czech Republic would be sort of an afterthought. However, my time in Prague turned out to be my absolutely favorite part of the trip!

What I love about Prague is that of the three major cities we visited, Prague was definitely the more “Old World” and least modernized. I also realized later that we were in the very heart of Bohemia. Why didn’t I think of this at the time?! That’s why Prague is so awesome!

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On the day we arrived in Prague, we immediately had to get ready for the band’s concert at the Church of St. Simon and Judah. Us choir folk had the blessed chance to roam around the town square, scour for something to eat, and take pictures of everything we saw.

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After roaming around a few blocks, we stumbled upon the town square, where there seemed to be some sort of festival going on.

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I was starved, so after scoping out my options (and gosh, do I love European street food options. No deep fried Twinkies-on-a-stick here!), I decided on jacket potatoes, which really just looked like an awesome hash!

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Oooh so good. I know there’s ham and potatoes in this. Mariah told me there was sauerkraut in it, but I don’t know. I didn’t care. I didn’t ask questions, I just ATE!

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Somebody (I think Kris) ended up buying a trdelnik. I have no idea how to pronounce that, but it’s this Slavic pastry that’s cooked over coals and dusted with big sugar chunks. I think it tastes somewhere between a cinnamon roll and a soft pretzel, and it was AWESOME. I’ll show more pictures of it later when I go over the next day, since you know we went back for more…

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It wasn’t long before we needed to be back at the church for the band concert.

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Oh yeah, people! Winking smile Jake, Mariah, and David. Smile

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Oh. My. Gosh.

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Our first evening in Prague felt rather otherworldly. It may have been in part to our tour of Terezin earlier in the day paired with a mentally exhausting several hours of bus travel that day. But it was a truly unforgettable experience standing in the middle of the city square the day before the tourists really came out, eating street food with friends, listening to local musicians playing with all the passion they could muster, surrounded by brooding, breathing Gothic cathedrals. The stones really did feel alive around us. We went back to our hotel with our first impression of the city: depressingly beautiful. At least, it that was the impression we got that evening. We did modify that interpretation a bit the next day, but that’s another post. Winking smile

Works Makes You Free

 

Disclaimer: This is a post covering very serious subject matter and having nothing to do with food.

 

Ahhh, after a crazy week at school and my blog getting HACKED, I’m finally back online.

Here’s a recap of Terezin, Czech Republic. It itself is fairly small and we really experienced far more than I can really put into words, but there’s no way I’d be able to fit Prague in with it, so I’ll dedicate posts to each of them.

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Driving into the Czech Republic after being in Germany for a few days really was something of a minor culture shock. Both countries were rolling and green, but the Czech Republic had a more brooding presence looming in the air. Instead of cute little gingerbread house-like farmhouses speckling the hills (as in Germany), the Czech countryside held the dilapidated remains of a former Communist regime. The homes and apartments were all identical, equally plain in architecture and poor in maintenance. Seeing these depressed (and sometimes abandoned) communities added to the heaviness of our destination.

Terezin was an 18th century fortress that was transformed into a Nazi transit concentration camp during World War II. The camp imprisoned not only Jews but also POWs and other enemies of state. About a third of the 150,000+ prisoners sent to Terezin died there of illness from poor living conditions. Most of the rest were sent to Auschwitz.

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Through this door, prisoners would come in and “register.” They would come in with a name and leave with a number.

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“Work makes you free.” This is the motto found in many concentration camps. This particular camp was a work camp, where prisoners were encouraged to work until they dropped. Those unable to work would be immediately deported to an extermination camp. Some propaganda films of the time painted Terezin as a ghetto were Jews could come and live, govern, and work in peace. We obviously know now that this was not the case.

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Approximately 100 men were stuffed into this room. There was one sink and no running water. The walls made the conditions inside colder (below freezing) in the winter and hotter in the summer.

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Jews were often forced to spend days at a time cramped and trapped within this room as punishment.

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The showers. Every once and a while (once a week at the beginning of the war, maybe several times a year by the end of the war), prisoners were ordered to strip, have their clothes run through a steam washer (to kill the lice), take ice cold showers in this room while their clothes were steaming, and immediately put the dripping wet clothes back on and return back outside to work. I’ll remind you that it was typically below freezing in the winter.

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Unfortunately at this point my camera battery died.

 

The visit to Terezin was definitely insightful. It brought to heart the reality of what Europe has had to face in the past century. It makes me feel both blessed and disgusted to think about how easy we as American have had it in the past 100 years. We are so spoiled, and we must not forget that there is a much bigger world outside of our selfish, consumer-driven bubble.

Here’s a short YouTube video depicted a bit of what we saw and the poetry and music inspired by the tragedy at Terezin.

A Teaser

Quick post. I’m back in the states (boo!), and I’ve got some significantly more comprehensive posts coming this weekend. Things got behind when I took a whopping 1130 photos in ONE DAY while in Prague, so I’m working on getting those filtered through so I can show you the incredible things I’ve experienced this week.

Meanwhile…

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And two videos. Both were taken over dinner on our last night in Prague. We (the entire music department) ate at a restaurant in the town square, and this guy with an accordion came in an played a number of songs with the most sincere, jovial look on his face!

Stay tuned! More to come!

Auf Wiedersehen, Germany!

As I write this, I’m on a bus heading to the German/Czech border. Does anyone know when Czechoslovakia became the Czech Republic?

Fun fact: When I was in 4th grade, I was assigned to share where I would like to visit in my life. Since my mom had recently taken us on a family trip to West, Texas, a town inhabited by Czech immigrants, I decided I wanted to go to Czechoslovakia! Of course, part of why I chose that country was the fact that I was in fourth grade and could actually spell and pronounce it, so I admit there was a bit of showing off there. Winking smile

 

I will say that one of the things I want to do while in the Czech Republic is find a kolache. A real one. By the way, it really irks me when people call a sausage wrapped in pastry dough a kolache. A kolache is a danish pastry filled with fruit or cream cheese. The sausage thing is a pig-in-a-blanket. THANKYOUVERYMUCH.

/rant.

Anyway. We had a fantastic time exploring Leipzig yesterday. After our breakfast feast, we went on a morning bus tour around some of the major areas of Leipzig. We visited the city hall, and the Battle of Leipzig memorial (the battle being sometime during the Napoleonic wars). Then we visited the Bach Museum, the Thomaskirche and the Nikolaikirche. They are both churches where Johannes Sebastian Bach served as the music director for some time. We were also blessed with the great privilege of singing concerts in both churches!!

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During the afternoon we were able to explore the inner city on around own, eating and shopping at whim.

 

Mariah and I bought some chocolate! I’ve been nursing this 70% dark chocolate with crystallized ginger for about three days now.

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The statues depicting the story of Faust…

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Rubbing the foot of Faust for good luck. Not sure why. Faust wasn’t a very lucky fellow…

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We pwn. I know.

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Proof I was here!

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We found American street performers singing I’ll Fly Away. Kris, being Kris, joined in.

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More proof!

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Mariah, David, Kris and I decided to eat lunch at this Italian joint. The waitress was rather frustrated since there was already a group of Americans (from our groups) upstairs, and she her English wasn’t very good. We didn’t want to perpetuate the stereotype of the “stupid, loud Americans,” so we made sure to be extra kind to her. She did seem to warm up to us after a while!

As for the food, I ordered a bottle of San Pellegrino. I’ve never had unflavored sparkling water before yesterday. Actually, that’s not entirely true. I had some bottled seltzer water from Walmart once and found it disgusting and akin to Alka-Seltzer. I don’t know if it’s simply because my tastes have changed since then or if San Pellegrino legitimately tastes better, but I was in love!

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For my meal, I ordered the grilled seabass with rice. The waitress actually had to ask me whether I wanted to filet it myself or if she should. (!!!!!!!!!) I felt like Julia Child right there! But yes, I let her do it, because if I left it to myself, there was a good chance that I would have died from choking on a bone. Just sayin’

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Soooooo yumm!! Everything was wonderful and we tipped the waitress a good 20%, even though apparently the suggested tip is somewhere between 8-10%. Ah well. She deserved it. Smile

After a few hours of wandering around the shops and sipping my first European cappuccino, we held our first official concert at the Nikolaikirche, one of the churches were Bach was staffed at some point. I let a friend use my camera to take pictures. He did a pretty good job!

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Our first concert was a great success and we sounded amazing! I’m hoping to get some video feed of us sometime this week so I can share what it is we apparently do best. Winking smile

 

So that wraps up Saturday and our final day in Leipzig. Coming soon… Terezin and Prague!

Eisenach

 

We have arrived in Leipzig, Germany! And for the first time in three days, we’ll finally be able to take a legitimate shower and sleep on a soft, horizontal surface! I couldn’t be more thrilled!

The flight from Chicago to Frankfurt was almost dreamlike. Not in the actual comfort sense. My long legs only had so many places to go, and I can’t for the life of me sleep sitting straight up. But we found out soon after we lifted off that we were going to be traveling over Canada! It was amazing to think of how far north we were flying! In fact, we almost hit the southern tip of Greenland, and after many hours soaring over the North Atlantic, we drifted over Ireland, England, France, and Belgium in the very early morning hours. It was dark, but we were able to see city lights starting at London.

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As for the flight itself, despite the inevitably cramped leg room and impossibility of rest, we were well taken care of. When it came to dinner, I didn’t have high expectation, but was surprised when I was asked, “chicken or vegetarian?” Feeling adventurous, I went with vegetarian. I really think I got the better deal! I got a sort of Indian Curry tofu with rice and some other mixture (YUM), greek yogurt, a salad of chickpea and what I believe to be cubed boiled potatoes, fresh fruit, and a roll. I’m glad to see that they took some care and offering a respectful vegetarian meal instead of simply replacing the animal protein in the original meal (roast chicken, sugar snap peas, caesar salad, and cake) with tofu, or worse… simply removing it.

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Just a few hours later, we were served breakfast (my how time flies!), and included in our package was Monterey Jack cheese, a 100% whole grain roll, fruit, jam, butter, and a granola bar. I saved the granola bar for later and went ahead and ate my banana and almond butter in addition to the rest of my breakfast.

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Then, after several hours of waiting/sleeping/messing around in the bus waiting for the last flight of our people to come in…

 

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…and picking up something to eat in the airport…

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Serrano ham, cream cheese, bell pepper, and frisee…  YUM.

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…we headed our weary selves off to Eisenach, where J.S. Bach and Martin Luther both lived when they were young! We visited the Bachhaus and the Lutherhaus. Smile

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Can you spot the “J S B” ?

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“…Do not underestimate what you as free people can achieve with your dreams.”

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Because you can take the students out of Plainview, but the Plainview fiberglass cows will follow you anywhere.

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Now, we are checked into our hotel in Leipzig. I’ll share photos of our wonderful dinner tonight and our amazing hotel later. I will say, though, that I am very clean now, and am headed to bed.

 

Meanwhile, try to pronounce this. I dare you.
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A Band (and choir) of Gypsies

 

Hey everyone! It’s almost noon here at Chicago O’Hare.

We left Plainview at around 9PM last night and arrived at DFW airport a little after 3AM. My trip was spent watching The Phantom of the Opera on a classmate’s laptop while the rest of the bus watched the fifth season of The Office. After a while, though, it was “lights out” and I attempted (unsuccessfully) to sleep.

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We arrived at DFW at around 3, but we had to wait around for the airport to actually open at 4:45. My mom and sisters were gracious enough to meet me at the airport to give me my shoes I accidentally left at their house over the holidays! Now I won’t be walking around Europe in flip flops!

By the time I got through security, it was 5:45 and our flight was scheduled to board at 6:05! Not many things were open for breakfast, so I grabbed some kind of peanut butter+banana protein smoothie. It was good and filling, but after all the dried and fresh fruit I brought, I was kinda tired of all the sweets!

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The flight to Chicago was fairly pleasant. I managed to half-sleep most the way, which is significantly more than I can say about the bus ride. Maybe I was just that tired. But when I woke up I looked out the window and saw what looked like we were flying over the Arctic. Nope! It was clouds!

 

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I’ve never been to Chicago! This airport is pretty awesome! Where else do you find psychedelic hallways and toilet seats that replace your toilet seat covers for you??

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I went to Washington D.C. in 2002, and until today, that was the farthest north I ever traveled. I’m sort of excited! I was walking through the terminals looking for food and turned to Justin and noted that once one gets out of the South, the food options apparently get a lot healthier. Every food place pretty much served the same stuff! Fresh fruit, yogurt, granola, cold cut sandwiches and wraps, salads, etc. I was pretty excited at the thought!

 

And what did we end up getting? Deep Dish Pizza.

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I got a spinach and tomato pizza, which was alright. The sauce needed more flavor, and it could have afforded more cheese.

Justin got a pepperoni+Italian sausage pizza. I had a bite of it and the meat had enough spice that the flavorlessness of the sauce wasn’t noticed. His was pretty good!

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Sure, it’s not “real” Chicago Deep Dish Pizza, but it’s the best we can do during a 6 hour layover.

And no worries, I plan on getting an overpriced banana later so I can eat my almond butter on the plane.

Meanwhile, I need to change clothes. I’ve already given myself a wet wipe bath and refreshed my deodorant and makeup. I don’t get to take a real shower until tomorrow night, so I guess we’ll be living like gypsies for a few days!

Europe-Bound

 

I’m sitting in the band hall getting ready to leave on a bus headed to DFW. Here’s what I packed for snacks!

 

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Unsweetened dried mango, a Larabar, some Justin’s nut butter, some 72% dark chocolate, and bananas. Let’s see how much of this actually makes it onto the plane!

 

Wish me luck! I’m not sure when I’ll get internet service, so I guess we’ll see when this pops up!

Fat Tuesday, what?

 

I swear, I’d never know what month it was unless you bloggers talked about it. Since I don’t really observe Lent, I really have no idea what’s going on this time of year. But some talk about Fat Tuesday and New Orleans got me thinking about some shrimp for dinner, especially paired with some Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning I just happen to have in my possession. Worked out well, because I came home and found that Edgar had taken both of the last two servings of Shepherd’s Pie for his dinner.

It’s been forever since I’ve had shrimp! I once attempted to save some money by purchasing a cheaper bag of frozen shell-on shrimp. It ended up being a complete waste of $8; I never have the energy to shell and devein hundreds of tiny little raw shrimp. Never again. I’ll pay the extra money for convenience, thank you!

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I sauteed some shrimp in butter, olive oil, salt, and creole seasoning. On the side I served some Lundberg Wild+Brown rice mix (tasted great with the buttery shrimp juices mixed in!), and what was originally going to be sauteed red kale. Since it was pretty old and I only used a very little bit of oil spray, it ended up being pan-baked kale chips. Eh, whatever works!

By the way, that’s a salad plate. Since when did dinner plates get so HUGE?!

Right now I’m sitting on my bed, using my suitcase as back support. I leave for Europe in less than 24 hours!!!!!

Just so you know, I’m packing the laptop and my CAMERA and will hopefully remember to be trigger-happy with it! I’m going to do my best to blog every day, and some days I may end up blogging more than once (I have a six hour layover at Chicago O’Hare and four hours of NOTHING TO DO in the Frankfurt airport as I wait for our second plane to arrive!). I do plan on blogging once more before I officially leave tomorrow night, so stay tuned!

 

Have you ever been out of the country? Where did you go?

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