Thursday, December 11, 2014

Alyssa's European Adventures: Part 12

Alyssa spent two weeks touring England, France, Switzerland and Italy, visiting  World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts World Centres and famous landmarks she had only seen in history books.  Alyssa worked for two years selling more than 2,000 boxes of Girl Scout cookies to make her dream come true.  She shares her journey with us here: 



Our final morning was an early one. Our wake-up call was for 4:30 a.m.. We had to be on the bus for the airport an hour later.    When we got to the airport, there was a lot of hugging and a few tears as we said goodbye to our friends from North Carolina. 
We checked our luggage and brought a backpack to the gate.  We finally boarded theplane, for our Air Italia flight to the USA.  It took 10 hours for us to arrive at JFK in New York.  We now had to claim our checked bags and clear customs.  Then we took our bags to a different terminal before checking them with Delta for our flight to San Antonio.  During our six hour layover, we again met the women from Austin, TX.  We finally boarded our plane at 7:00 pm.    The final flight was four hours long.  We landed around 11:20 central time.

This trip was amazing!   I had hoped and dreamed of traveling to Europe for many years.   It was better than I thought possible.  I know I won’t forget about it any time soon.  To see in person the things you’ve only heard or read about is just this indescribable feeling that puts a smile on your face.

I learned so many new things about each place we visited.  I tried some very delicious food and desserts.  I learned a little French and Italian.   I grew really close to all the other girls as well.    I hope our friendships continue for many years to come.  I sold more than 2,000 boxes of cookies during each of the 2013 and 2014 cookie sales to help pay for my trip.  It was so worth it!   I’m so thankful to my parents for all their support in helping me to reach my goals. 

I would love to someday return to Our Chalet as short term volunteer.  You must be at least 18 years old, a Girl Scout or Girl Guide and able to speak English.  You can volunteer for one to three months.
Our tour director, Sabrina, was so much fun and so full of energy.  She invited us to come see her in Spain. 

After reading this blog,  I hope you see all of the good things that come from traveling.  Know that it really can be life changing and broaden your view of the world.   Plus it’s nice to get a break every once in a while.  Enjoy your travels!

~Alyssa~



 At the Rome airport




Final goodbyes



My family on the flight home


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Alyssa's European Adventures: Part 11

Alyssa spent two weeks touring England, France, Switzerland and Italy, visiting  World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts World Centres and famous landmarks she had only seen in history books.  Alyssa worked for two years selling more than 2,000 boxes of Girl Scout cookies to make her dream come true.  She shares her journey with us here: 

All of the girls had to make sure their clothes covered their shoulders and knees as we headed to the Vatican!  Our Vatican City guide, Paula, showed us around so we didn’t get lost in the huge building.  We started our tour in the Vatican Museum.

One of the most famous locations we visited was the Sistine Chapel.  We learned that the celling was painted by Michelangelo.  This might be confusing to some since everyone knows him as a famous sculptor.  The first time the Pope asked him to paint the ceiling, he declined, but when the pope asked multiple times Michelangelo couldn’t refuse.

It took him four years to complete the entire ceiling, which is made up of many fresco paintings.  Michelangelo was only 33 when he started the celling in 1508.   After Michelangelo had died, part of the celling fell.  Even though the ceiling has been cleaned, it has never been repainted.  So when you go inside you can still see where part of the ceiling is missing.

Another painting that is very well known is the “Last Judgment.”    Michelangelo returned to the chapel in 1535 to begin work on the “Last Judgment.”   

We also toured St. Peter’s Basilica.  During January 1547, Pope Paul III summoned Michelangelo, then in his 70’s, to oversee construction of the Basilica and its enormous dome.  Michelangelo also painted the dome’s ceiling.  Just for perspective, the letters in the writing at the base of the dome are more than 6 feet tall.

After lunch, Sabrina led us on a walking tour of Rome. We saw the Four Rivers Fountain in Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, and the “Trevi Fountain.”  Unfortunately the fountain was undergoing maintenance.  Even though the water was drained we still made a wish.   We also climbed the “Spanish Steps.”   When we reached the top, there were many artist selling paintings of different places around Italy.

We had salad, lasagna and tiramisu for dessert.  After dinner, the bus took us back to the hotel.

Photos:



Dome of St. Peter’s



Group in front of Four Rivers fountain




Alyssa outside of the Pantheon

Monday, December 1, 2014

Alyssa's European Adventures: Part 10

Alyssa spent two weeks touring England, France, Switzerland and Italy, visiting  World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts World Centres and famous landmarks she had only seen in history books.  Alyssa worked for two years selling more than 2,000 boxes of Girl Scout cookies to make her dream come true.  She shares her journey with us here: 



Our first full day in Florence we met our local tour guide William at the Duomo.  He told us it took 140 years to complete.  We also saw the Florence Baptistery near the Duomo, since back in the day you couldn’t enter a church unless you were baptized.

You enter the baptistery through three sets of doors.   The east doors or “Gates of Paradise” are made of 10 panels, each is a 3D picture of a bible story.  Sadly some of the original panels were washed away in a flood but they were recreated using the same techniques used by the original artist. 

William took us to Palazzo Vecchio.  Here is where the famous statue of David has stood for more than 300 years. The current statue is a replica, since the original has been moved to a museum to preserve it.  Another interesting statue “The Kidnapping of the Sabine Women” has a different view, depending on where you are standing.

As our tour ended, William brought us to a leather making shop where we met Sabrina.  The group watched a presentation about the process of molding leather.  It was actually really interesting to learn the different methods used to make some of our favorite leather goods.

Afterward the leather shop we had lunch at Francesco Vini.  We had bruschetta, pizzas, baked spinach and ricotta.  For dessert we shared tiramisu.

Our group walked to our next activity, a fresco painting class.  We learned the history and painted our own frescos.  This was different from any painting I’ve ever done.  We painted on wet cement.  The man who taught us painted a sample in only a few minutes.

After having pasta, salad, and pork for dinner at Osteria del Baroncelli.   We walked back to our hotel at sunset.  We stopped for gelato.  It wasn’t hard to find since there are gelato shops on practically every street.







Group in front of the Duomo



Alyssa in front of the “Gates of Paradise”




William and the group at Palazzo Vecchio




Painting a fresco

Monday, November 17, 2014

Alyssa's European Adventures: Part 9

Alyssa spent two weeks touring England, France, Switzerland and Italy, visiting  World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts World Centres and famous landmarks she had only seen in history books.  Alyssa worked for two years selling more than 2,000 boxes of Girl Scout cookies to make her dream come true.  She shares her journey with us here: 


With our time in Switzerland at an end, we loaded our luggage on the bus and headed to Italy.  By this time, we could load and unload the bus fairly quickly since we had done it several times and we had all claimed our space on the bus.  We arrived in Pisa several hours later. 

When the bus stopped we found a small train waiting for us.  It was going to drive us closer to the Leaning Tower.  It was really bumpy but we all had a lot of fun riding it.  When we arrived we saw many horse-drawn carriages and souvenir vendors.  Of course, we had to take pictures of us holding up the leaning tower.  We only had a couple hours in the city so we ate lunch and shopped while we were there.

Back on the bus, for another hour or so, we drove to Florence.  We arrived at the restaurant a little early, so we sat and waited.  This was my favorite dinner of the entire trip.  I must have gone back for food at least three times.  They had all-you-can-eat pasta, fruit and chicken served buffet style.

After dinner, we walked along the river and Sabrina told us a little about Florence.


Reaching the hotel we were happily surprised to discover it had air conditioning.  We hadn’t used air conditioning since arriving in Europe.  It was a cool break J


Sabrina & the train



 Alyssa & tower


Our group in Pisa 





All the girls in Florence on the river

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Alyssa's European Adventures: Part 8

Alyssa spent two weeks touring England, France, Switzerland and Italy, visiting  World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts World Centres and famous landmarks she had only seen in history books.  Alyssa worked for two years selling more than 2,000 boxes of Girl Scout cookies to make her dream come true.  She shares her journey with us here: 

For our second full day in Switzerland we were advised to dress in long pants and layers in anticipation of a cool day.  We said goodbye to the staff at Our Chalet and hiked down the road with our luggage.  Luckily, everyone had rolling luggage.  We rode in our charter bus for two hours to the base of Mount Pilatus, near Lucerne. 

Once we were at Mount Pilatus we rode halfway up the mountain in a four-person gondola.  It was really cool to see all of the cows as well as the beautiful scenery.

When we reached the first platform we saw a ropes course, zip line and a toboggan track.  We had fun sledding down the toboggan track!  It was really weird being pulled all to the top while facing backwards.

We went up the rest of the mountain in a 40-person gondola that was really fast but jerky at times.  We ate lunch and took lots of pictures of the summit.

We rode the cogwheel railway down the mountain.    Mount Pilatus has the steepest cogwheel railway in the world.  The train keeps you sitting upright instead of at an angle as you descend or ascend the mountain.  It took us to Lake Lucerne, where we boarded a ferry.  It took about an hour to cross the lake and it started to warm up while we were on the ferry.

After the ferry ride, Sabrina took us on a walking tour of Lucerne.  We went to several different churches, walked across the Chapel Bridge and saw the Lion Monument.

At this time of year they have festival called “Blue Balls Festival.”  Popular and local singers perform outdoor concerts near the river.  There were also many food tents, artisans and street performers.  We also went souvenir shopping.

Later on we went to dinner at a Swiss folk restaurant.  They performed traditional Swiss music while we ate cheese fondue.  Some of the girls learned how to play the instruments and perform the dances.  It was crazy fun!   By the end of the night we were all dancing with the performers.

Photos:
Diego & Shannon, from North Carolina on their sleds

Swiss Folk dinner

 Chapel Bridge


My family at Lion Monument





Friday, October 24, 2014

Alyssa's European Adventures: Part 7


Alyssa spent two weeks touring England, France, Switzerland and Italy, visiting  World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts World Centres and famous landmarks she had only seen in history books.  Alyssa worked for two years selling more than 2,000 boxes of Girl Scout cookies to make her dream come true.  She shares her journey with us here: 


Our first day at Our Chalet we dressed in our uniforms.  Then it came to the point where 10 teenage girls had to share two mirrors.  Once we finally ready we made our way outside to take part in the flag ceremony.

During the ceremony we learned the names of all the staff and where they were from.  We met girls from Italy, Germany, and California.   Sadly our friends from Canada had left early in the morning to continue their trip. We had a pinning ceremony where we received the official Our Chalet pin. 

We had two choices for the morning program.  You could learn traditional Swiss paper cutting or Swiss fire building.  I chose to learn how to build a fire.  Two of the staff members showed us how to cut and place the wood.  They also announced we would be racing in teams of three.  The first team to burn through their sting and drop the rock would win.

It was different from how we would normally build a fire since we had to use a knife to cut all of the kindling and tinder out of logs.  But there was another twist:  you only got one match.  The only way to get another match was to sing a Girl Scout camp fire song to the judges.

After a lot of singing and cutting of wood, my team which consisted of Diego, Shannon and I had a fire going.  After adding more wood to fuel the fire our string burned and the rock fell to the ground.  We won!  All three teams were eventually successful in building a fire.

After a filling lunch of Swiss barbecue, we hiked down the mountain towards the town of Adelboden and then back up the mountain to the wood carver’s shop.  It took about an hour and a half to get there but it was well worth it.  The views were amazing and the wood carvings were very intricate.

We ate yummy lemon pound cake and had a cool drink on the outdoor patio.  When we finished we called for a taxi to take us back to Our Chalet.  Let me tell you it is scary driving on a Swiss mountain.  The road is very narrow; it is only wide enough for one auto.  Thankfully our driver was very skilled.  Some of our group decided to walk back and went to explore the gorge we had passed on the way to the wood carver’s shop.

After dinner we started our Swiss Folk night.  We played Switzerland Jeopardy in order to win a secret prize.  What we didn’t know was that our surprise was chocolate fondue.  It was delicious!




Our group at Our Chalet    


Alyssa with Haley & Teresa of GS USA in Germany & Italy


Shannon, Alyssa, & Diego with Paloma of Our Chalet


Pinning ceremony at Our Chalet




 Exchanged SWAPS with Patricia from GS USA in Germany



Candace, Marisol, and Alyssa on the steps at Our Chalet




Hiking to the Wood Carver’s shop

Monday, October 20, 2014

Alyssa's European Adventures: Part 6


Alyssa spent two weeks touring England, France, Switzerland and Italy, visiting  World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts World Centres and famous landmarks she had only seen in history books.  Alyssa worked for two years selling more than 2,000 boxes of Girl Scout cookies to make her dream come true.  She shares her journey with us here: 


After staying up late to see the Eiffel Tower lit up at night, I was happy to know I’d have some time to nap later on the bus.  After everyone loaded their luggage we took off on our 10 hour bus ride from Paris to Our Chalet.

After a few hours we stopped at a really cool bus stop.   It had a bike that would charge your electronics while you peddled.  There was also a TV lounge for kids.  After the bus departed again, we went through border patrol and stopped for lunch in Switzerland.

A few hours later we made it to Our Chalet.  The road to Our Chalet was narrow and a bit scary but a few hours later we arrived up just fine.  When we arrived we met the staff who would drive our luggage up the rest of the mountain while we hiked up to the chalet.  It had been raining off and on most of day, so the road was slippery.

When we got to the chalet the staff showed us to our rooms.  The rooms were a little different this time – all the girls stayed in the attic together.  We hadn't really had a chance to talk as a group so it was really cool to get to know them.

For dinner we had pizza from a local pizzeria then met some girls from Canada and played cards with them in the game room.  They told us they had been here for the past 10 days doing an adventure challenge. The girls from NC and I said goodnight to our new friends and went to bed. 

Photos:
Hiking up the trail to Our Chalet


Alyssa and Candace  



At the Charging station with Shannon from NC