Last Bit of Euro 2009 Trip

In October 2009, for my 16th birthday I went on a 3 week European guided bus tour with my mother with Insight Vacations, a very generous present from my grandmother and uncle (whining and persistent “I want to go to Europe” does actually get you somewhere sometimes :-) )It was amazing, and during our trip I write a journal. I have finally transcribed it, at least some of it, so I have decided to put it on the Internet so it is here forever! This is the second journal.

I have tried to keep as much of the spelling and sentence structure the same, so there are inconsistencies, which I would hope that I do not do anymore. I was 16, and tired when I was writing, so if anything doesn’t make sense, I really can’t help it now. It will just be interesting to see how my writing on this exchange to Wales differs from then.

Europe 2009 Journal Entry Second book Purple Velvet:

European Tour Book 2 2009

October 13th, 2009

9am

New book! And it is a very pretty one too. Well right now we are driving to Venice, through mountains. It is raining and snowing, and we do go through the mountains, lots and lots of tunnels, many km long. In one right now, hard to write with this light, dark, light, dark, light, but super fast. Now out of it, and that was the fourth one I think. Left Vienna only an hour and a half ago, not even. It kinda looks like home, the trees covering the mountains that you see everywhere in the distance. The snow and houses are different, but very green. Very tired, and I want a new pen, this is a BC Hydro pen, but I shall have to keep writing with this pen until tomorrow, as I alternate colours each day.

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10:24am

Just had a very nice rest stop in Austria, ate a pear strudel and hot chocolate, both quite nice. And in the shop there was the cutest white tiger, it was very big, but too big to bring home, and expensive [I assume that this is a stuffed plushie toy, I don’t appear to have specified]. To pay for the food, you order at a counter and it is brought to your table, and then when you’re done pay at the shop. Driving to there passed many signs for Salzburg, but it was 200km away. Now driving to a lunch spot through really lovely scenery, snow on mountain and a strange shade of green grass, little houses and also ferns all along. Listening to mountain music, quite nice. It is raining now, and we are sitting right at the front of the bus, but the windshield wipers don’t reach the top of the windows. ——————————————–

10:46am and the Sound of Music soundtrack is on. But scenery is beautiful. Well most of it, road work going on and holding up traffic. Ah, now driving clear. ———–Almost 12:30 and could go to Slovenia, it is so close. But we shall make do with Italy. The mountains here are really like in BC. Ooh! Car from Slovenia in front, passing over a town, water, trees, mountains. Very pleasant drive, saw a few castles, and it stopped raining, so it is very clear. Almost at 30 min lunch stop.

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3:21pm

In Italy! Have been for a while, but decided to look at the gorgeous scenery and have a micro nap, just closed my eyes. But we plugged up the iPhone bus’s sound system, so everyone could hear Muse! [I don’t think this was my idea…] City of Delusion on now. Very un-readable writing, but it is a moving bus and can be bumpy. No cars ever signal changing lanes. Saw 2 Turkish trucks, but did not manage to take a picture. And the music is off as we are close to Venezia. ————————————————-

3:45 and not really that close to Venice, our hotel is on the Lido Island, so we need a permit for the bus, and the ferry leaves in 1 minute, so we won’t make it. But that’s okay, I’m really not that tired, just closing your eyes a few minutes does a difference. And just a few minutes ago saw 3 cars smashed up, so the road was slower but not as bad as Canada’s. Then there was a car on the bicycle lane, or something.

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6:30pm

While waiting for the ferry we walked to a market nearby which was interesting. Mostly the same merchandise, masks and glass jewelry, but the shopkeepers were all so hovery. Or they would just stare at you, but they would walk up and offer you discounts, and I did buy a matching glass snake necklace and earrings for 5 Euros, marked as 6, and a postcard. But pretty cheap prices already. Then the boat was so nice, chairs everywhere, even outside, although it was very annoying the door that kept closing with a bang. It had fantastic views, and then onto the hotel. And wow, it is fantastic! Quite old, it is one of those grand hotels as seen in movies. High ceilings everywhere, even in the room. I went around taking pictures of everything I could, it is just so freakin gorgeous! We have an awesome balcony that you can actually step out on, and it is just so wonderful. Creaky floors and some stained things, but that just makes it more real as an awesomely old hotel. Real keys too, we are in room 130, pinkish hallways, and it is just so cool. Right now in a restaurant, waiting for food to arrive. Already have crispy packaged breadsticks, and real bread, but am very hungry now. For lunch I just had chocolate and sweet cake, apparently a sachertorte, and Maman just had goulash and bread, it was expensive for what it was. But lasagna as first course just came———-Well that was really quite delicious, and the bread is really good too.——–Been waiting a bit now, not the fastest service. —-food just came, our Thanksgiving meal, it is just a slice of turkey with potatoes and salad. ——-It was okay, the turkey had a sauce on top but was rather tasteless, potatoes were better and rosemaryed, but the endive salad was very bitter. So not the greatest Thanksgiving meal, but the bread is really good. Now Maman is taking a picture of me writing. Now waiting for dessert to arrive. It is ice cream, and looks pretty good. Piped nicely, but in a plastic bowl. Actually, I think these are very pre-made desserts, the ‘chocolate sauce’ on top is frozen. Now I would be eating it, but Maman has just left, and she wants to take pictures of everything. I’ll have to now I suppose. Pictures done, will eat! ———————Well it is not real ice cream, like I said, pre-made packaged stuff. The ice cream in Prague, Budapest, and Vienna were delicious. And this was not. Vanilla is awful, in this little cup, and the chocolate is only just edible.

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9:22pmish

This has – and is – a fantastically wonderful evening. Took taxi boat around the water, I sat outside the 9 seater and it was so cool, but not cold. Arrived at St Mark’s Square and got ‘attacked’ by a rose vendor who kept insisting on giving me his last rose, had to be very firm to refuse, but others were not so lucky, 3 people from Insight got one. Got it on tape too! Right now we are sitting in a café listening to Jazz music and just finished the most wonderful hot chocolate ever, it was really like a soup, so thick like in the mousse chocolate. It is absolutely terrific being here, Venice and having very expensive drinks. Well 1 drink is included in this 46 Euro boat + music + drink combo, and if you wanted extra wine for example, the people sitting next to me got a glass, just 1 and I think I saw that it was 13.80 Euros. It did come with a little snack mix, but it is the location you pay for. So this would be the third concert on this trip. Prague, Vienna, and now here! I did film a little, but you really have to be here to enjoy this amazing atmosphere. Really very awesomeJ

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6:30pm

We just had an absolutely fantastic day. First of all the hotel is awesome, huge room and then the breakfast in the grand dining room with chandeliers was spectacular. Then we walked to a boat that brought us to the main Venezia Island, I stayed outside and enjoyed the wind. Once we arrived we walked over a few bridges to go to St Mark’s Square, then onto a glass blowing demonstration, which was awesome, I filmed it and I hope that it turns out. Then onto the store with all the finished products, actually it is huge inside, like a whole bunch of stores in one many many rooms filled with exquisite Murano glass. So many sparkly chandeliers everywhere, and they were only between 2000-40 000 Euros. The jewelry was so expensive, cheapest thing was a tiny, and I mean tiny pendant, 31 Euros. But everything was so beautiful, vases and glasses and animals, all so well made. Alas we did not get anything there, but did buy quite a lot today. So after the glass we just walked around, the street just outside the demonstration had so many stores all selling pretty much the same thing, as it is all over Venice glass jewelry and masks. Today we did buy jewelry, glass snakes, necklace + earrings, but in different shops. On the Rialto Bridge got a snow globe for 3 Euros. Had a gondola ride which was so cool, in Venice. Like a canoe really, but without the work and with the scenery of Venice. Of course the buildings are not in great shape, hundreds of years of standing there has taken its toll, but that just adds to the atmosphere, anywhere else in the world with buildings in that shape would be awful, almost everywhere it looks like little narrow alleyways in the most dangerous part of the city, but here it is beautiful. It really is a water city, no cars in Venice main, but lots of dogs with no leashes. It was so ncie just walking around[,] the streets make no sense, no idea where we were, but we walked very far, it took a very long time to find our way after wandering, but a very enjoyable afternoon. Didn’t run into rose vendors today, but saw purse vendors and overheard some haggling going on, this lady would only pay 10 Euros, he wanted 20. But kept walking so don’t know how it finished. Also was this guy selling little plastic shower kid toys, mouldable, but obviously illegal as when the police approached he just ran off. Next time we saw him Maman did take a look at the toys, but a policeman came while Maman had a toy in her hand, the guy ran off but Maman still had the toy and the policeman just said keep it, so did not pay the 1 Euro. In a restaurant now, apparently good seafood on the Lido Island. Had some very good ice cream twice in Venice, first time delicious chocolate, the second was just like Nutella, not bad at all. Not great lunch, but won’t dwell on that. Tomorrow is my birthday, and have to get up at 6am to go to Rome. So bad and awesomely good. Lots and lots of jewelry everywhere, all the same kind too, glass pendants on a thick string. Hot chocolate has just arrived, looks very good, thick and creamy. —-Yup, it is so good.——–Well supper was quite good, a nice selection of fried fish. Quite simple, North America probably would have had a huge plate with lots of dipping sauce. This was just lemon juice and a piece of grilled polenta, so very delicious. And a very nice salad, same exact vinaigrette we put on at home. I don’t really like this green pen so I shall wait until tomorrow to write again when I can return to a black pen.

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8am October 15th!

It is my birthday! And the people are so nice in this tour, got lots of hugs and when I walked down to the lobby they all sang Happy Birthday. Then onto breakfast in the grand dining room, and now waiting to board the ferry. It is really cold, went up to the water for pictures, but it is really very cold. Last night while the food was good, it took over 20 minutes to get the bill. When we got back to the hotel there was a conference or something so I didn’t get to take my night pictures. And even earlier that day when we got to San Marco something quite cool happened, for us at least. The water started to rise up from the drains, so in front of St Mark’s Basilica there was water. They put up things like table as a walkway, sometimes the water can get knee high. But it was quite low when we were there. On boat now.

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5pm

Today had a very lovely drive through Italian countryside, saw so many little hilltop villages. Stopped at a very mediocre lunch stop, but was hungry so didn’t really care. But next to the cafeteria there as quite a large shop, and they had lots of cheeses and salami type meats, and wine, all very Italian. Just kept on driving till Rome, where we are now, I am in hotel room, porter just brought in the luggage and left in quite a hurry, the porter in Budapest was actually nice. The driving here is absolutely crazy, people drive and park, especially park however they want. So not like in Victoria. The hotel room is small, and a nice window, overlooking not very pretty buildings. Got a phone call that there was a fax for us, so that is a fax for every single hotel we have stayed at [My uncle sent us faxes so every time we booked into a hotel something was waiting for us]. Rickety tiny elevator, but pretty tiled floor. So so far today has been tiring, fun, awesome. Oh I got a very nice card, signed by everybody in this tour group, and another notebook, pink with a painting of Venice on its cover, it is so awesome, given to me by Ruth [tour director]. Have to leave soon for walking tour, then onto my party!

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3:48pm

Haven’t written in a while, and where to start… the walking tour brought us to the Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain, both places I really wanted to go. SO many people at both, and the fountain is huge. Threw a coin in the fountain, .10 Euros. Then walked to the restaurant, and it was really good. Lots and lots of different things, just the appetizer was a bowl of different things, the waiters just kept bringing more and more. Baskets of salami was at the table, as was wine, which I had a tiny bit of white. The main course wasn’t spectacular, just meats, turkey being one of them, with potatoes. Before that it was pasta, 2 out of 3 were really good. The chocolate cake I had for dessert was pretty good, as were the after meal drinks, Amaretto, and a lemony thing. There was a guitar player/singer, filmed some of it. It was really fun, but so exhausting, so did not write anything last night. Will write about today a different time, will go walking now.—————Maybe not quite now, waiting for Maman to come back from bank. So this morning had breakfast, and along with the usual stuff, spinach quiche that was cut into very pretty diamondy shaped pieces. Now Maman is back, so now will go.

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5:26pm

Back from walk around hotel, bought a ring off street vendor, 2 Euros. But today, what we did: drove to the Vatican, went through security, and finally got to the old part of it. Filmed quite a bit, and even snuck a few pictures from inside the Sistine Chapel, of Michelangelo’s ceiling which is quite impressive when you think about it. Also went in St Peter’s, really very large, then onto the main square where everybody comes to see the pope. A lot of people, but according to the local guide, a quiet day. Then sent 4 postcards from the big souvenir shop, where a rosary made with very cheap beads cost 23 Euros. Then the ‘restaurant’ cafeteria right beside had the most outrageous prices [hahaha how self entitled do I sound?] for its quality, so we had a very thick, yummy hot chocolate, made from a machine, so good. Then we rove to the very grand, very impressive Pantheon. But just driving through you see so many things that are so old. And we went to the Coliseum for an hour, super expensive gift shop, but just being there was amazing. Drove back to the hotel, then walked around. The driving is so crazy here, and they park just wherever they want, however they can. Didn’t buy much souvenirs, just this ring and a couple magnets from the Coliseum, were going to just get 1 for 3 Euros, then the vendor said it was 2 for 5 Euros, so got another [Now 2012, and those are the only 2 magnets that broke so we can’t use them anymore-the magnets fell off. I don’t think they even lasted a year]. It was actually quite rush rush at all these sights, it was very nice to see them, but we really need to stay much longer. Italy has the most awesome ice cream, just had some on the walk and it was so delicious, also had a very mini 3 bite sandwich with a slice of ham and an artichoke in it, very good. Now off to included supper.

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9:58am Oct 17

So this is really multitasking, sitting in a bus looking at Italian scenery, listening to Muse on iPhone, writing in this book, and watching Gladiator. And doing all that so tired. Last night’s supper was interesting, first we walked to Piazza Navona, which has 3 awesome fountains, and used to be used for chariot races, I bought a clock for 5 Euros showing the Spanish Steps. Then off to the restaurant, which looked quite pleasant, red and white checkered table cloths. Sat at one long table, and as there was bread, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, made the dipping sauce. It was really good vinegar. Then pasta came, rigatoni with a tomatoy sauce with probably bits of bacon or something, then parmesan cheese came a couple minutes later. But the people sitting in front of us, one of them put chilli flakes on her pasta and found 3 little bugs in it. So told a waiter, took away her plate and 7 minutes later, after asking after 5, finally brought a new plate. Then the main course was not very good, very thinly shaved ‘beef’ with the occasional piece of tomato, t was just very odd tasting. Served with arugula leaves on top. Then a side of salad, and French fries, which were good with the balsamic vinegar. Ice cream wasn’t great, was not terrible either. The service was not the best, but it was an included meal. It was nice to see more of Rome at night, haven’t really had a chance to walk around like in other cities. Now just passed a whole field of drooping sunflowers, now other farms, and trees, and houses, and road signs. Everybody in the bus is so tried, they are either sleeping or watching the movie. Rome was exhausting, early wakeup calls and just a very hectic city. Went to two grocery stores yesterday. I shall fill up the rest of this page, then try to sleep a bit before Florence, and in tunnels, so not my fault if my writing gets worse, I can’t really see what I am doing [and yes in the journal it is blatantly obvious that my writing for a few sentences drastically changed for the worse]. It looks cold outside, still early in the morning – cows on a hill – but not as warm-looking as in all the pictures. Breakfast this monring was good, and very crowded. There were a few other tour groups staying in hotel. But as Maman left the room earlier than me I did not stand in line very long. They had a good croissant that was filled with Nutella, and many other pastries. Good ham, had a sandwich with a slice of cheese that was very good. So Rome was very crazy, wish we had had more time on our own to explore, but that shall be for next time! [yes, hopefully very soonJ ]

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5:52pm

I really don’t really feel like writing, but I know I shall regret it if I don’t. But Maman writes what we do in an email anyway, so this is just rambling. Arrived in Florence, but before that stopped for an early lunch, 11:15am at rest stop which also had Burger King, so we went there, same prices but in Euros, for the meals. Tasted like BK. Then to Florence, went straight to the old part and had a walking tour, first in front of the Duomo, a couple more streets and then a very nice piazza. Went inside the church where the tombs of Galileo and Michelangelo are. Then onto a leather store, really very expensive, but some nice things. Then ice cream, rather gelato. Maman had 2 big scoops, pistachio and something else I can’t remember, and as we are at the hotel now and she has gone out for money, can’t ask her. But it was very huge. —Just came in and it was choco hazelnut, so Nutella. And I had chocolate and a scoop of Crème Caramel. So creamy, so delicious and yummy. The as Maman was standing in front of a store using their free wi-fi, I walked around the piazza and shopped, I got a clock for 5 Euros. O’ right, when we first got here we went to a viewing point for a group photo, and I also got a clock and a spoon, all together 9 Euros. Then it was off to the old part, so very good ice cream, nice square, I sat on the stairs for half an hour with a couple people from this tour, then came to this very modern hotel with not well lit hallways, but a flat screen TV!

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11:07am

Standing in line for the Uffizi Gallery, so decided to write a bit. Left the hotel at 9:45, an hour later than the rest of the tour as they went to Pisa. So we got to sleep in till 8:30. Breakfast wasn’t great, very little, had some choco cereal, meh. Then onto the bus as we were far from the city centre. Wanted to pay, but different system and not helpful driver, so did not pay. Walked for a bit in a couple piazzas and little streets. Bought some nice bookmarks, then looking for this gallery, found it quite easily, but very long line, so just writing. But not very comfortably, nowhere to rest the book.

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7:46pm

The gallery was so awesome, so huge. Lots and lots of gorgeous paintings, a whole bunch were of Madonna and Child, and another popular one was Jesus, usually after he was dead. But so many others, couldn’t take pictures so didn’t but maybe snuck one or two. Two long hallways adorned with sculptures and portrait paintings with many other rooms leading off, each with many huge paintings. It was really fantastic going, even with the almost 2 hour waiting line. Then when we wanted to leave, many exit signs but still took a long time to leave, more very expensive gift shops, galleries, hallways. But did manage to leave and wanted pizza, saw some people eating very-good looking pizza so we asked where they got it from and went there and wasn’t disappointed. Very good different pizza, delicious mushroom and pink meatballs on melted white cheese, and for dessert a super yummy delicious little thing, a tiny chocolate cookie tube filled with a superb whiteish cream. Now for supper eating stuff bought at ‘Wal-Mart’, a superstore with everything, we got some pancetta, sliced cheese, bruschetta, choco milk, and a seafood mix, all for less than 8 Euros and it is so good. Oh and panna cotta but haven’t tried it yet. The other things we did today: walked around, I bought a foldable leather garbage, sparkly butterfly earrings, and Maman got be a purple and very light pink pashmina, from one of dozens and dozens outdoor market stalls, some – many – with very very pushy vendors, but not this pashmina lady. Watching weather on BBC being given by an Irish accented person, sound like a leprechaun [sorry, might not be politically correct or whatever, but yes, a strong Irish accent is pretty amusing to listen to, especially if you are very tired as I was then. In Wales I hope to speak to real Irish people, but I will not mock their accent. I really do like it!]. Right, Florence. Walked around a lot, found a 99 cent store, did not get anything but they do exist here, then super delicious gelato. The ice cream here is really fantastic, don’t think can go back to the ones at home. Walked into quite a few jewelry shops, some very similar, but not too pricy if you think in Euros. The Duomo was closed when we got to it, but would have been too painful to go up the 463 steps. This city is very nice, lots of old buildings and alleys, kind of like Venice but without the water and with all the cars. When it was getting darker we looked for the bus stop, finally found it, but had to wait at least 20 minutes, if not longer for the right bus to come. Because there were some many people, the first bus that we could have taken we didn’t, it was really really packed in there, people just piling into it and falling out of the doors. And while they were doing that another bus came so we went on that one, still extremely crowded, but not as much. This time we had tickets, but too squished to show or put them anywhere. It was really crowded. Then made it back here to the hotel, but just before got this before, delicious. Have to get up at 6am, so will get ready for bed.

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12:21pm

In Switzerland now! Been driving for a very long time, only a half hour break since 7:45. Passing a very nice lake, Lugano, mountains and houses surround it, now in tunnels, so hard so see and write. Very dark, lights are really not very good. Passing Ikea, H&M. Sunny weather, McDonalds, back in tunnel, out of tunnel, trees, houses and buildings at top of mountains, earlier passed lake Como, black cows, farms, vineyards. It is quite warm in the coach bus, and the movie Gladiator finished not too long ago. Going to stop for lunch soon.

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2:10pm

In the longest tunnel is Switzerland, one of the longest in the world. It is quite well lit, so that is why I am writing, as there are 13 km to go. So lunch was pretty good, if a bit expensive, it is a Movenpick [the hotel chain in Amsterdam] restaurant cafeteria. We just had a plate filled with a whole bunch of different vegetables, pretty good. Then choco milk, of course. The scenery is really lovely, snow capped mountains, houses way up high. But now just in the tunnel and listening to Swiss music, can’t help but laugh otherwise I would be crying, it is so…something…[yodelling!]

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6:51pm

Sitting in a Starbucks in Lucerne, and the prices are really amazing. Pretty much exactly double than anywhere else, especially considering the exchange rate, which is practically on par. At least in London and other European cities it is the same numbers, but the exchange makes it double. Here it is 7, 8SF [Swiss Francs] for a drink, just an espresso 4SF. The city itself is so beautiful, walked on the famous bridge with the paintings, and also many spider webs, coating practically all of it. But still nice to go on. When we first got here, went to the Crying Lion statue, lots of coins in the water in front of it. Then onto ‘Happy Hour’ cruise, all – well many of them – Australians drinking and getting very loud and drunk. The water though was absolutely fantastic, so glad we went. Kind of cold but so worth it, the mountains topped with snow and houses are gorgeous, everywhere you look it was beautiful. Well most of it, there were a few very boring buildings, looking just like boxes. There was also a statue of Jesus with 3 people sitting on a bench in front out onto the mainland, so some people couldn’t get a clear picture. It was really SO awesome. Just before that had a really good, pretty cheap pastry, and a souvenir store nearby had a cat sleeping in the window. Nice people here so far, it is dark now and the water looks so nice, this SB [Starbucks] is right on the river. [We] Were going to eat in a restaurant but they were smoking everywhere, and it is 3 times the price, over 20 for a plate of pasta, so maybe just double for some places. Maman doesn’t like our hotel room, and yes it isn’t the best, but not too bad, at least the 5 minutes I saw of it. Will look for a supermarket for supper, Maman having a good hot chocolate here, but it isn’t custardy like in Italy.

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9:07pm

Lucerne is very pretty, and cold, and so expensive. We just walked for a bit more, looking for food, did not find anything really spectacular, so went to McDonalds. Don’t know if I really want that on record, but there you go. But it was higher-quality McD, if that is possible. Chicken, bacon, and little pieces fried onion on a bread with a few specks of bacon along with the sesame, and not the most plasticy cheese ever. And Maman had Chinese tasting chicken nuggets, because of the way that they were over-fried. Then just went back to hotel, with the awful short shower curtain. Looking for food earlier, went to a railway station, the underground part where there were a bunch of stores, including a Claire’s. Don’t know if we will buy anything here, lots of $. A store in front of the hotel has 70% discounts, over 800 down to 100 and some. So really not worth it, now just watching a TV show about disorganized organized people, [maybe Hoarders. At least it was a show where people had so much stuff, like a lot, but in kind of an organized fashion] showing how messy [ie not bare] their houses are. Nothing wrong with thatJ

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7 something am

Woke up 6:45 to be able to go down for breakfast and have enough time to eat before leaving for the mountain at 8:15, so right now sitting in breakfast room, to get here had to walk outside and then back in here, just apparently easier, the hotel seems really big. And it looked freezing outside, but the 10 second walk wasn’t cold at all, so hopefully the mountain I won’t be either, all the Australians even on the boat yesterday were bundled up like they were at the North Pole, we certainly weren’t. This hotel’s breakfast is really not the greatest, not a lot of choice, and it is pretty dark in here. That is according to Maman, I shall go get food. 7:22 am. —–Wow these are not a lot of choices, ham, cheese, ketchup, scrambled eggs, and bacon and a bun. And tea that is already made in a coffee server jug thingy.——–Well it wasn’t that bad, quite good actually. Just a very small selection, but good [This was after being at many hotels where there were dozens of different things to choose from, but sometimes yes, less is more. Germany, biggest buffet, was not the best].

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6:20pm

Had an absolutely fantastic day, right now I am back in the hotel room, watching the Simpsons in German, the episode when they go to London. So hilarious, can’t understand anything, but am laughing a lot. Maman is just standing by a coffee shop in the hotel because of free wi-fi, and I went up to room to charge my camera in the only provided plug. Will now go down for supper that is included, we (hopefully, if it is good enough) won’t have to spend 60SF for a meal, as is the prices for a supper!

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7:53pm

That food was so good, mushrooms soup, chicken breast with potato pancakey things, and a mix of vegetables in a sauce. With warm apple strudel for dessert. It was delicious! Now back in hotel room with the tiny tv, but is actually the easiest to change the channels. Not all of them have a signal, no BBC, but still. It changes quickly. But back to the beginning of the day; drove to a train, almost everybody already very bundled up, and some shivering. Waited a bit for the train, which is the steepest in the world. It was so fun, went through a couple tunnels that had many icicles all over, saw some really amazing scenery, a lake, mountains, trees, and snow. Also clouds, just added so many postcardy feel to it. Then we reached the top and it was spectacular, just wonderful. We weren’t completely at the top, there were about 150 very slippery – as they were coated with ice – steps. When we went up, – well first of all it was early in the morning and we were the first people there – so when I did go up the stairs were pretty much empty, just a bit of ice on some stairs. Gorgeous views, just so wonderful. On the ay down it seemed slipperier, and there were so many people coming up – side note as I hear one now, police sirens here are French, “pen-pon, pen, pon,” Italians ones were short-short-long, short-short-long. Anyway, the railways were just wood, so I was holding on pretty tightly, hard with so many people coming up. Did finally reach the bottom, and had so many splinters in my gloves, but it was worth it. Well anywhere it was amazing views, but it was really nice to go to the tippytop. There is a whole souvenir store and restaurant, had pretty good hot chocolate looking at mountain scenery. It was not Italian hot choco, not custardy, but good regular. Before that though, I walked through the tunnel passage that goes through to the other side, which was so cool. You really did go inside the mountain, so ice all over the rocky walls. When you first go in, there isn’t any lights, so it seems as if it will be a cave, but there are many windows carved out. Very nice view from the other side too, I filmed almost the entire walk to the other side. It was eventually time to leave unfortunately, only one hour at the top. But to go down it was super fun, first a 40 person cable car, so squished in it, I somehow managed to be at the front, but squashed into the window. That was only 5 minutes, then went into a 4 person 35 minute cable car, which was fantastic. So cool and awesome, and also very peaceful. You could here cow bells, and see them too, little houses, many trees, snow. I filmed some of this too. Then it was onto the Swiss countryside, running out of adjectives, it was superb. Horse drawn carriage, a very wonderful 45 minutes. Then to the farmer’s house for lunch [the guy who was driving the horse carriage], fresh bread, ham, butter, cheese, and a very good pastry. Also hot [mulled] wine and fresh apple juice. The country is so awesome, so fresh and cool, in both sense of the word. Then just came back to the city, had a couple vouchers, 1 for a free spoon, the other a keychain. Took a while to find a keychain, but it was worth it, it is very beautiful. The spoon was in the 7 floor very famous Swiss watch store, however you spell it. It is also very nice, they sell them 6 spoons for 19SF, so we have 2 free ones, not too bad [can’t remember where the vouchers came from, nor the store I’m talking about, nor even what these things looked like!]. It is a very good thing, because it is very very expensive, we did get some chocolate as souvenirs, Maman spent 50SF on all of it, but they were very cutely wrapped up like ladybugs and fish, for the little sisters. Then others for Mamie and Laurent. Walked a lot around this small city, it is so beautiful, all surrounded by snowy mountains. Everywhere it is a postcard.

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8:19am

Bad timing to start writing, soon as my pen touched down we drive into a tunnel. Still in it, it is a long one, but pretty well lit with white light, so I can write. The sun the last time I saw was just rising over the mountains, a very yellow glow. Out of tunnel, and sun too far away to see. But it is light now, just half an hour ago dark and cloudy. We left at 7:30, woke up just before 6. Yesterday we did a lot, and I just wrote it all at once, so today I shall keep the book open all day, we are travelling over 600 km to Paris! Jessica is on the plane to London right now, it left at 8:31pm, ours left an hour later than that when we took it. It is mostly Swiss license plates, a couple for NL, and a few for D. Cows on the left on a hill that – in a tunnel again, now out – has a lot of trees, passing a town, hills and trees are everywhere, so are cable lines. Ikea! It is really bumpy – tunnel again, still in tunnel, still in tunnel, still in tunnel, still in tunnel, just came out of tunnel. – As I was assaying, not really my fault that this is all very unreadable writing, but coach keeps moving [yes it is pretty unreadable, thank you to little sister for reading it!]. Perhaps I shall try in France.

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2:56pm

In France! Have been for hours, but the scenery is really very beautiful. Have stopped twice, once for coffee, or white hot chocolate for me, quite good. Then for lunch, I had ham with rice and ratatouille, and a brown sauce that was just like butter. French food is delicious! In the mustard packet beside the ketchup it was Dijon, only in France. We will have travelled 5871 km, or rather the bus, we didn’t go on all the excursions. In Paris in a few hours, and not that much easier to write here, moving bus.

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Thursday 22 Oct

Well even though I have time to write now, we are on Paris metro, I will just type it out on the computer, even if the keyboard is screwy. SO I will just email it and it will be much easier. [No, I never did end up writing what we did in Paris. Perhaps one day, but not now, and besides, my sister did write her own stuff in Paris, and more pictures were taken, so I think that’s enough. For now, thanks for reading the Insight Tour portion of my trip! It was soooooooooooooooooo fun, thank you so much to my uncle and grandmother for giving me a trip as a present. I loved it so much!]