Sunday, March 29

little islands everywhere

Sunday, March 29
March 28. The girls and I are renting a Venetian apartment for our stay here. It's really nice, and somehow I scored a room to myself (in the kitchen, where the fridge is making noises reminiscent of a mouse...surely not really a mouse...).

Anyway, it's a cute place with three rooms and a kitchen with supplies. Cristina, the owner, is young and super nice.

We enjoyed our first day in Venice with sun, masses of people, and of course pigeons. Thankfully, it was warm (for those used to colder weather in Maas). But just to rewind...The rest of the train ride was a little painful (no sleep and a lady making strange noises in her sleep) but waking up to a view of the magnificent Alps shrouded in fog was quite a beginning. Once we arrived, we took a water taxi, which is how you travel anywhere here, it's basically a small boat that can fit oh, maybe 70 people squished together. You can also walk, because Venice is surprisingly compact.

Around every corner is yet another gorgeous view of the canals and the old buildings directly on the water. It is a classy, ancient city on the water and that's what makes it beautiful.

Of course, when you think of Italy you think of delicious food. YES. My first taste of Italy has been delicious so far. We enjoyed some inexpensive pizza on the way to the main city square, Piazza San Marco, which is known for its pigeons.

We really did get assaulted by those little rascals and have some hilarious videos and pictures of their ambushes. The square was absolutely crammed with people and for good reason- the front of St. Mark's is breathtaking.

Inside, the church is literally coated with sparkling gold. Think of gold crushed up into paste, and then spread it all over the walls of an enormous church. We weren't allowed to take pictures but, well, call me a sinner, but I snuck one! (Actually, a surprising number of my museum and church photos were taken secretly!)

We also rode a packed elevator up the Campanile, the tower in the square, for a 360 degree view of the city.

I love how almost every major European city has a vantage point where you can admire the city's grandeur from above. It was beautiful, and the tops of the buildings are a classic brownish-orange color.

After visiting the square, we took a water taxi around the city and through the Grand Canal, the main river that goes through the city, just to see the sights. It really is amazing. I can't believe these buildings are literally two steps up from the water. Sadly, it started to get cold so we hurried to find some shops to go inside.

Venice is a great shopping area- especially for blown glass, jewelry, and masks. The masks are linked to the infamous Carnival festivities every year. And like many places in Italy, gelato abounds. We couldn't wait to accumulate what ended up a list of over 25 gelato flavors. First taste? I tried chocolate mousse...YUM.

Speaking of food, I had the best tortellini of my life at dinner, with ham and cream sauce. I am soooo tired though- after dinner we just headed back to the apartment and went to bed early. There will be plenty of time to explore tomorrow, too! Ciao!

trains, aka how i spend my life

March 27: On a train, on the way to Venice

We're sitting on a plush ICE train in Germany on our way to Munich. (The we, by the way, is me, Rachel, Kathy, Brittany, Caroline, Amanda, and Kaitlyn.) It even has radio stations- you just plug in your headphones! Oldies right now, though we did enjoy a strange Italian song that included the lyrics, "ahh, shuttuppa yo face-a"!

Kathy and I made a friend in the dining car. He thought we were British because we ordered tea but when we revealed our Texan loyalty he wanted to know whether we had ever been bitten by a snake while swimming. Then he mistook my major, psychology, for scientology...noooo. He asked a lot of questions. We have encountered a lot of very nice, helpful people in Europe, especially in Germany.

Anyway, the ride's gone well so far. We had a little confusion when a train switch listed on our schedule actually meant "run all the way to 20 cars ahead of the train so it doesn't take you to Budapest when it splits four ways." But, we made it. Seasoned train veterans by now.

Right now we're laughing at the mountain of candy that Kathy brought: marshmallows, Cadbury know, things that will keep us going, haha. The running joke is using the word "beast" right now. So we listened to songs by Gaston from Beauty and the Beast and laughed for hours. The beast will make off with your children!! Ummm anyway, I am tired and sleep-deprived, so it's time to nap. I can't wait to get to Italy- we have about 8 hours left. Good night!


Buon giorno! I am in Venice, Italy right now. I wanted to let everyone know that I will continue to update the blog- I have a journal that I am writing in, and I will just transfer my entries to the blog when I have internet access. So, the dates may not match up but I will just put a date at the top. It has been a great adventure so far and we have so much left to do! Sadly, I can't find a way to put pictures up yet but when I do I will let you know!

Wednesday, March 25


Wednesday, March 25
Keukenhof Gardens is a flower- and photo- lover's paradise.

Me, Kaitlyn, Kathy, Brittany, Amanda, Rachel

It was essentially an enormous park filled with flowers, trees, ponds, and bridges.

Rachel, Amanda, Kaitlyn, Brittany, Me, Kathy

I enjoyed the challenge of taking shots of some breathtaking flowers!
See more here.

Take note: my new favorite flower is the tulip, hands down!

I know that's no surprise after living in the Netherlands for 2 months. :)

Amanda, Kaitlyn, Brittany

Though not everything was blooming yet, we had a wonderful afternoon there!

museums galore

We visited three museums in Amsterdam...not bad for a day and a half! I loved each one. I think part of the reason was that we were not allowed to take pictures inside. This let us enjoy the paintings and messages more in themselves. We didn't have to worry about getting a good shot and looking at art only through our camera lenses. And I thought the descriptions were well-written and interesting. Another part of this was the Museumkaart we received from the university...not only does it mean free admission, but you cut lines as well. We flashed our cards and sauntered past the huge line at the Van Gogh museum- excellent.

Anne Frank Huis- Worth any wait. We only had to wait a few minutes, but it was still packed. The house was sterile and bare, as Otto Frank requested that it be left as it was, unfurnished, after the Nazis removed everything when the Franks were betrayed. The presentation was moving and respectful. The multi-storied house felt empty, and I think that was a correct feeling. Having read the diary, I was very moved by the quotes on the walls and the photographs.

We were able to climb up the hidden staircase behind the bookshelf and walk through the rooms that the family lived in. It was actually larger than I had expected, but nowhere near large enough for eight confined people over a span of two years. The only thing left was Anne's photographs and magazine clippings on her walls.

However, the most powerful part of the museum for me was reaching Anne's real diary only to see a wall full of translations in different languages, fulfilling her desire to become a writer and publish her thoughts after the war. She is now one of the most famous writers in the world! I will absolutely be reading her diary again sometime soon.

Rijksmuseum Amsterdam- What was best about this museum was the fact that I recognized many paintings here! Naturally, Dutch Art History covered most of the painters represented...from Rembrandt to Rubens, Vermeer to Steen, we enjoyed a little "pre" studying for our art exam (which is tomorrow, yikes).

Some of my favorites:
Vermeer- I am a big fan. His blues and yellows are brighter than I could have imagined, especially on The Milkmaid. That blue color just can't be captured in a picture. The Little Street was gorgeous too. Beautiful.
Night Watch by Rembrandt- it was huge and interesting to see the details up close.
Franz Hals' The Jolly Drinker- love this one.

Van Gogh Museum- This may have been my favorite art museum we have been to. There was a special display on nighttime, and guess what painting was on loan from New York?

Starry Night! It was amazing. But so was everything else. Van Gogh is really an artistic genius and all the more interesting because of his self-analyzation in his letters to his brother Theo. For some reason it strikes me that he signed his paintings with a simple "Vincent." I loved all of the paintings here-- they were beautiful and creative and surprising. The museum was wonderful because it is completely dedicated to one artist. So, the works were displayed in chronological order, with each room providing an overview of his life experiences for a period in his life. It is a tragedy that he was unable to see the impact, influence, and popularity of his amazing paintings.

Collectively, I would say that the museums in Amsterdam were my favorites so far. I know that I am leaving out the Louvre, which was undoubtedly fantastic. But the works in these museums had so much personal significance to me- I thoroughly enjoyed them.

Monday, March 23

fun in the sun!

Monday, March 23
Me, Kathy, Rachel

The six of us (Amanda, Kaitlyn, Rachel, Brittany, Kathy, & me) left for a quick, sunny weekend trip to Amsterdam on Friday morning. Originally, we had planned to wait until the end of our month of travel to visit the top sights in the Netherlands, but the weekend before finals seemed like it would be easier and a nice break. Okay, I know...this whole semester has been about breaks! But anyway... :)

On the train, we met up with a friend of Kathy's friend Francesanne, Daan. He is from the Netherlands and was had an absolute blast with him! He helped us navigate the city and of course could translate things in Dutch for us. (Though it really isn't ever a problem finding English translations or speakers in major European cities).

We stepped out into the warm sun, only to be nearly run over a bike! Take that incident and multiply it by at least ten because there are a billion bikes in Amsterdam. Before coming here I had heard that Maastricht was known for its bikes. No. Amsterdam has many, many more.

B- Brittany, Kaitlyn, Kathy, Me; F- Amanda, Rachel

We found our hostel pretty easily...unfortunately, the sewers in front of the building were being repaired, so we were greeted with the worst smell imaginable. Kathy and Brittany had to switch rooms because it was so bad! Rachel and I shared one of the smallest rooms I have ever been in. It's possible our couchette to Budapest was bigger. And that's saying a LOT. Anyway, though it was smelly, the hostel was gloriously close (a street over) to Museumplein, where two of the major museums are. The view below is the Rijksmuseum.

It is also a nice park area with the "i amsterdam" sign. I had never heard of this thing before but we had a hilarious photo shoot with it. I can't stress enough how much I appreciate warm weather and the sun after living in a country where winter means grey and drizzle (rather than a few days where you might need a jacket, Texas) for two months.

Rachel, Amanda, Kaitlyn

Daan, Kathy, Me

After this, we ate a leisurely lunch of authentic Dutch food outside! Finally it was warm enough to enjoy that European tradition...that wicker chair, flowers on the table, eating outside kind of meal. It was quite nice. Then it started to get cold. We headed to the Anne Frank museum (see next post) and wandered around shopping and buying souvenirs and enjoying canal after canal of the beautiful city.

Brittany, Kaitlyn, Me

I loved the canals, and it was nice to be in a city where we weren't frantically scrambling through a metro to get to all the famous landmarks. Amsterdam reminded me a little of Austin, just because it is so lively and independent and a little quirky and probably both have been influenced by hippies.

And they are both just as busy at night! We ate dinner at an Italian restaurant that was pretty delish, and though we were planning to head to a museum (they don't close until 10:30) we decided to take our time and hit both the next morning.

Sunday, March 22


Sunday, March 22
Hey! I got back from Amsterdam last night-- it was an amazing city! I loved it. It is true about the bikes (insanity) and we were lucky enough to have BEAUTIFUL weather! We also went to Keukenhof, a huge flower park. I have a ton of pictures to show you and a ton of blogging to update...but sadly a gigantic, beastly essay is going to take precedence right now. So, I wanted to say, go HERE to see what I have been up to. I will update ASAP!

This includes you, facebook friends. :)

Saturday, March 21

heir and a half

Saturday, March 21
I bet you're wondering about Kathy and her heritage. Well, here's what we found out. This took trips to multiple palaces and the questioning of many very nice Danish people. Denmark is the oldest kingdom in the there were places aplenty to continue our search. We were thwarted, twice, by none other than her majesty Queen Margrethe of Denmark herself!

Our journey began at Christiansborg Palace, known for its colorful tapestries. We figured this would be a good place to start, as Kathy is supposed to be related to Christian VIII. A lady there knew a ton about the Danish crown, so we told her our story. She was confused at first, because Christian VIII did not have any heirs- his cousin took the throne next.

Our next stop was Amalienborg Palace, the apparent residence of Christian VIII. Yet again...the queen was there! She was visiting a new exhibit that we wanted to see in the museum. So we staked it out and snuck a glimpse of her in her limo. We waited around and saw the changing of the guard, complete with ceremony. Then we finally got to see the museum, which had a tiara exhibit and rooms that Christian VIII inhabited. Here, we discovered that our friend the past king allegedly had an affair with his maid, possibly producing children. Could this be the link?

We decided to confirm the heritage. So we visited Kathy's Danish relatives. They were soo nice, and we went to church with them on Sunday morning. The verdict?? YES. Christian VIII had a relationship with his maid. Kathy is the illegitimate heir to the Danish throne!!

On the metro back to our hotel, we met yet another person...I swear the Wilsons make friends wherever they go. He was Danish, and working on his MD. Ironically he told us he was about to go study a rare muscle disease, in Dallas!

The journey ended with a visit to the treasury of Rosenborg Palace, which houses the crown jewels. It was pretty cool.

Thus ends our saga...I have a semi-royal friend! :)