Travels in Foreign Lands

This will be my opportunity to share some of my thoughts and experiences in Switzerland with my friends and family back home. I hope you enjoy reading about my adventures.

Location: Japan

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Coming Home

We got up early yesterday, and headed for the train station, to catch a train back to Geneva. I don't know why I always insist on being early. The trains are always late. We ended up having to switch trains in Paris before ours had even left the station. We didn't leave until about an hour after schedule.

But other than that we made it safely to Geneva. We repacked all of our stuff and tried to get to bed early, for our long day of coming home.

This morning I got up at 3:30 AM, I couldn't sleep, and we had to be ready to go at 5:00 AM. We had breakfast, said goodbye to some of my French Bible Study friends and headed for the airport. Pierre from the Bible Study drove us. If he hadn't taken us, we would have had to take a taxi, because the trams don't go that early.

At the airport, true to form, our flight to London was delayed. It didn't really matter, becaus we had a four hour layover in London anyway.

We eventually got to London. Our flight to Atlanta was, thankfully, on time. The flight was uneventful, just like I like it. We touched down on American soil at 4:30 PM. It is so very good to be home again.

I had an amazing time in Europe, but there is no place like home. Thank you to everyone who kept up with my blog and prayed for me during the difficult times. I really needed it. I can't wait to be able to hear your voices again and speak with you regularly.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Versailles and Church

Yesterday, we took a day trip to Versailles and mostly wandered around and looked at the gardens. They were beautiful. Unfortunately, all the fountains were off. Sad day, the fountains are my favorite part. We had planned to rent some bikes and really explore the gardens. But instead we just found a place to sit and read. It was very relaxing.

Today was Sunday, and we went down to the American Church in Paris. I heard a sermon in English for the first time in weeks; it was great.

For lunch we were going to to Dans le Nuit (In the Dark). Dans le Nuit is a restaurant where you eat the entire meal in complete darkness, and your servers are all blind. I had heard of this place before leaving for Europe and found the idea intriguing. But even though the hours on the door said they were open, they were closed. Crazy French people.

So we ended up down in Pompideau Center and bought some sandwhiches for lunch. There was this street performer doing a really good improv act. So we had some cheap entertainment with our lunch.

Then we went back to the American Church in Paris for a free concert. Then back to the hostel for our last evening in Paris.

Friday, October 20, 2006

The Date

I had told Tim one day that I missed being able to get all dressed up and go on a date with him. So tonight, Tim took me out. We went to a cute little place on Montartre called Poulbot. It had beautiful flowers all around the entrance. And inside they had crammed as many tables as would fit. But it was beautifully decorated. It was like something from the 1930's. So cute.

We both had appetizers of escargot (snails). I have been wanting to try escargot since high school. Even still, I was a bit nervous to put them in my mouth. When I did, I discovered that they were really good. They were served with this amazing pesto butter sauce. The rest of the meal was good as well, but the escargot was the highlight for me.

Then we were going to go to a concert at Notre Dame, but when we got there the sign said free concerts except Friday. We had missed the "except Friday" part before. Oh well.

Instead we watched these guys playing with fire. It was impressive. Then we went for a walk down the Seine. It was very nice.

The Catacombs

We slept in a little today. We were both so exhausted after all of our non-stop activity. When we did finally get our lazy selves out of the hostel, we wandered down to the Catacombs. At the entrance to the Catacombs "Stop! This is the empire of the dead."

It was the strangest thing. A couple hundred years ago disease was rampant in the city of Paris because of all of the cemeteries in such close proximity to the living quarters. So they ended up digging up about 6,000,000 graves and dumping them into these abandoned mine passageways under the city. The mines had been dug to gather rocks for building, but eventually this had to be stopped because one of the river banks was about to collapse into the mines.

After some time the Parisian leaders decided it would be a good idea to go down into the Catacombs and organize the bones so they could charge people admission to come and see. Thus the Catacombs as we know them today were born.

The walls were covered in stacks and stacks of bones. They were very artfully arranged as well. The skulls were placed in various geometric shapes, even hearts and crosses.

We also came across many plaques with various French sayings referencing death. We also say many Biblical quotes.

We were strongly warned to keep to the marked path, because in the 1850s a Frenchman ignored this advice and ended up a permanent resident of the Catacombs. I wonder if they ever found his body. Needless to say, we stuck to the path.

The passageways underground mimicked the roads above and the rooms underground mimicked the houses above. It was very well thought out. When we finally did get out of the Catacombs, we popped out on some random street a few blocks from where we started. The whole experience was very interesting.

Then we ventured down to the Pantheon. This is the home of Foucalt's Pendulum. That was the coolest science experiement I had ever seen. It tells time by the rotation of the Earth. There is a pendulum suspended above the floor with a dial and hours on the floor. As the pendulum swings and the Earth rotates, it tells time. This works on the same principle as rotating a glass of iced tea. The ice does not rotate in relation to the glass. As the Earth rotates, the "clock" on the floor does not appear to move while the pendulum does. This allows the pendulum to tell time. It is fascinating to me.

There was also this really weird art exhibit inside. That is what is obstructing your view in the picture.

We wanted to have crepes for lunch. We got the ham, cheese and eggs which had been so good our first day in Paris. But the guy didn't know what he was doing and the eggs weren't cooked at all. It was gross.

We went back to the Pantheon to take the tour up to the top. There were a lot of stairs to climb, but the view was great. Afterwards we wandered around the Latin Quarter, then went back to the hostel to get ready for our date.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Views of the City

We started our day by going up to the Arc de Triumphe. Getting to the Arc looks very difficult, because it is in the middle of an intersection with about 8 roads coming together. I don't understand how the drivers get through there without running into each other. We hiked up to the top and were rewarded by amazing views of the city and down the Champs Elysees.
While we were up there, I marveled as the cars zipped around the traffic circle and didn't run into each other. If I lived here, I would avoid driving there at all costs. Prior to the building of the Arc by Napolean to commemorate his victories in battle, an architect had proposed a giant elephant in the center of the traffic circle. That idea didn't go over very well, thankfully. It wouldn't have been nearly as impressive.

Then we took the Metro the Louvre. The Metro in Paris works so well, I love it. At the museum we saw the Mona Lisa, what is the big draw with her anyway? I don't get it. We saw Winged Victory, which I love.
The way she is displayed it looks like she is going to come flying down the stairs. We found the very elaborately decorated Napolean's Quarters.

For dinner tonight we decided to get some bread, cheese and wine for dinner. But had a lot of difficulty finding a grocery store. We ended up getting everything at different shops, and paying way too much. And of course after we bought our food, we found two grocery stores, figures.

After dinner, we decided to go up to the top of the Eiffel Tower. It was very windy, but very beatiful. The city is magnificent at night.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Museum Day

Since it was rainy today, we decided it would be best to entertain ourselves in-doors. We started out at the Wine Museum. This gave us a peak into the wine making industry throughout the generations in France. These people are serious about wine.

At the end we were supposed to get a free taste of wine. When we asked about it, the atttendant said it didn't come with our tickets. Then she said she was just kidding. Tim was very surprised at finding sarcasm in the service industry. It would be very inappropriate in the States. But I have found it to be normal here. It is just a different culture.

The next stop was the Musee d'Orsay which was built to be a train station. It was a very beautiful building with a lot of art.

We thought about goint to the Louvre, but were too tired and went for naps instead. Apparently, we didn't do a good enough job being bums yesterday.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Bums in Paris

We have been traveling pretty much non-stop for over two weeks now, and the pace is beginning to get to us. So we decided we needed to try and take a day off. We just wandered around and went into a lot of tourist shops. I don't think Paris has enough of those, maybe I should go open some more, just kidding.

We visited Notre Dame. Tim and I had both seen it before, on previous trips, but it was covered in scaffolding for cleaning. This time the scaffolding was gone. The cathedral was a beautiful white, and we were able to see the elaborate detailing on the statues. It was amazing.

The Rose Window inside the cathedral. It is about 50 feet in diameter.

Another stop we made was at Centre Pompidou, which is this building with all of the internal plumbing, electrical wires, heating ducts and such on the outside and color coded. It was a stark contrast to the ancient architecture surrounding it. Like many monuments in Paris and Europe in general, the natives hate it.

For dinner, we tried to cook at the hostel, but there is only one hot plate for the entire hostel. So that was an interesting experience.

Paris At Last

Yesterday, we arrived in Paris. I love Paris. I have been here once before in high school, but I was with a group and couldn't really go where I wanted. So this will be a new experience.

Last night we mostly relaxed and wandered around. We went up to Montmartre, which is very close to our hostel. There is a beautiful view of the city up there. We could even see the Eiffel Tower. I had to go visit the Tower. So we went. It is beautiful at night. Every hour they make it look like it is sparkling, by flashing lights all over it, for about ten minutes. That was really neat to see.

That evening as we were heading back to the hostel, Tim saw Jackie Chan. They are filming Rush Hour III in Paris. I'll have to watch it when it comes out now.

Monday, October 16, 2006


So, I have this one pair of sandals that I have been wearing pretty much constantly since July. I have probably put a few hundred miles on those shoes. All this walking has really worn out the traction on the bottom. So if the ground I am walking on is the least bit wet, I have to be very careful not to fall on my face. Unfortunately, this has happened a few times. While we were in the Vatican Museums, Tim saw this sign with a little man falling and made me pose in front of it. I think he is making fun of me. :)

Me and the slippery sign


Seeing the Colluseum was so amazing. It is incredible to think how advanced the Roman society was all those thousands of years ago. The colluseum is very similar to "modern" stadiums we use today. The really neat feature that they had, was that they could flood the stage to be able to perform sea battles. I have never been to a modern arena that could do that.

Sistine Chapel

I actually got in trouble for taking this picture. Apparently, you aren't allowed to take any photos in the Chapel. They must want you to buy their ridiculously overpriced posters and postcards. No, thanks.


When I first began this journey, everyone warned me of the dangers of pickpockets. Quite honestly, I didn't think much about it, because I have always been warned to be wary of pickpockets, but I have never had a problem in the past. But people said it was really bad in Rome, and they were right.

The problem with Rome, is that people have such a disregard for the laws. Everywhere we go, we see people breaking the law, sometimes directly in front of the police. As we walked down the streets, we saw vendors selling purses, belts, scarves and other little things. Apparently, this is illegal in some way, because one day we saw about 10 vendors all pick up their wares very quickly and cross to the other side of the street. When we stopped to see what all the commotion was, we saw a group of police officers walking towards the vendors. As soon as the officers were gone, the vendors began setting up shop in exactly the same place they had occupied before. The police had to have known that the vendors were doing this, but they did not care. They only needed to turn around and arrest them, but they kept on going.

Then when we went to the Colluseum, we had to go through metal detactors. After we got through we heard the beep, beep, beep from other people setting it off, but the guards didn't do anything. Again we saw the police and guards with a completely uncaring attitude about people obeying the law. So very strange.

All this breeds an atmosphere for thievery and pickpockets. So this brings me to the point. Yesterday, Tim and I were getting on an overly crowded bus, to go to the only park in this whole city. Everywhere is crowded, and there is hardly any green space to just sit down in. I think it is more crowded than Atlanta. So Tim pushes his way on and I am trying to stay behind him, but this group of three girls, probably about 13 or 14, pushes in front of me. When I finally, get on the bus. The girls turn around and get off. How strange. Who shoves their way onto a bus, only to get off before it leaves? As the doors are closing and the bus is pulling away, Tim looks at me and says, "They took my wallet."

"What, how is that possible?" I asked. His wallet was in a zippered pocket of his pants. Sure enough it was gone along with 50 Euros (about $75). Fortunatel, there were no credit cars or passports insied, only cash. We couldn't believe this had happened. We had been so careful to put a lock on the backpack and keep everything closed tightly and zipped up. But they did it. And they were good.

Tim handled the whole situation very well; I thought. A lot of people would have gotten really mad, but he stayed very calm. And wasn't really upset about the money, but the fact that he had been taken advantage of. Its really ironic, because just before that happened, we had been praying that God would help us to be content in any situation that He put us in. And that we could trust in Him no matter what, because we would still have His love. God always answers prayer, just not always in the way we expect it.

Needless to say, Rome is our least favorite city so far. And we are ready to leave.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

When in Rome. . .

So now we have made it to Rome. As we expected, the train to Rome was delayed; every day we have traveled we have encountered some sort of delay. Although this time it was only fifteen minutes, but still. We got here and found the hostel. Before we even walked in the door, I knew this was going to be a party hostel. The sounds of music and people laughing escaped out onto the street. We got checked in and found our rooms and crashed; we were both exhausted after 12 hours on the train.

Our first full day in Rome, we decided to head down to Vatican City, the smallest sovereign state in the world. It was really cool to be in a place that I had seen on television so many times during the funeral of Pope John Paul II. The place was immense.

After much work we finally found the Vatican Museums which lead to the Sistine Chapel. We stood in line for about 90 minutes waiting to get inside. There is so much to see inside that it is overkill on the senses. Just walking around looking at it was exhausting for me. There were probably about 12 museums dedicated to everything from relics to maps to miniature mosaics and religious art.

We saw the Sistine Chapel. The room is kind of small and completely crowded with people. And when they all start talking it can get pretty loud. So there is this one guard whose only job is to "shhh" people. It made me fell like I was in the 5th grade again. That would be a horrible job to have. The chapel was much smaller than I had expected. It was entirely covered with amazingly beautiful paintings. I felt like I had been there before, because I had seen it all before in books and in art classes I had taken, but it was amazing to see it in person. Then we walked through this immensely long hallway to get out and about every five feet there was some sort of souvenir shop, all selling the same thing, in case you missed it the first 12 times.

Then we decided that we wanted to see some Catacombs. We have seen the original Ghetto in Venice and I wanted to see the Catacombs. I said then we needed to try and see places like Rivendell and Blackwatch. That will only make sense if you went to Covenant. Sorry non-Covenant friends.

We never did get to the Catacombs after all. They were too far. So we decided to skip it for now and see them later in Paris. We went back to Vatican City and visited St. Peter's Basilica. It was beautiful. Its kind of funny how they spent all this money to build a building whose *soul* purpose is to house dead people, kind of a waste, if you ask me.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

A day in Aix en Provence

Today our hostess, Patty, graciously offered to take Tim and me into the town of Aix for the day. She showed us some little shops where we could get soap and lavender, two of the specialities of the area. Then we wandered around to find a few of the 100+ fountains in the city. I have developed a fetish for fountains.

Cours Mirabeau

We walked down Cours Mirabeau where plane trees adorn the streets and create a leafy canopy overhead. The two best fountains are here. Fontaine de la Rotunda, which was built in 1860. It is probably the largest fountain in the city. It personifies Justice, Agriculture and the Fine Arts at the very top. My other favorite is called the Fontaine d'Eau Chaude (Fountain of Hot Water). It is covered in moss and shoots out 34 degree Celsius water. We stuck our hands in, and sure enough it was warm.

Fontaine de la Rotunda

Fontaine d'Eau Chaude

On the way back to the city we made a pitstop at the thumb of Cezanne. He was from the Aix area and they take great pride in that here. I guess that is why they have a statue of his thumb in the middle of one of their roundabouts. I could not resist the urge to get my picture taken in front of his thumb. So Tim and I took pictures of each other, with our thumbs and Cezannne's thumb. I know I am a crazy tourist.

Tim and the thumb
Me and the thumb

Then we headed back to Marsaille to meet one of my friends from Covenant and her husband for an appertif (drinks). We got together after much difficulty trying to figure out where the other person was. It turns out that they were at the church that Keith and Patty go to. And we just missed them on Sunday. Crazy. It was cool to hang out with a friend from Covenant.

Then we headed back to the Moores to have dinner and pack before heading to Rome tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Lost in the Colanques

Colanques (pronounced ka-lonks) are basically inlets of water where little villages have sprouted up in the area. We planned on taking a trail to one with a swimming hole and then swimming for a bit before hiking back. But somehow we got really lost. The trails had blazes on them to help hikers, but we didn't have a map that corresponded to those blazes, so they were pretty useless. We hiked up and down this one trail that was all loose rocks and really quite dangerous. At times we weren't really hiking but sliding downhill. It was kind of fun. Unfortunately, the trail was a dead end to a 200 foot drop. Woops.

Just one of the magnificent views we saw from the colanques area.

So we had to hike back up the hill of loose rocks. I don't know which one was harder up or down. Thankfully, Tim had noticed this group of about 30 hikers (how could he have missed them) coming up from the village that we wanted to get down to. So we got on that trail and were finally able to get down. If God had not sent that group for us to see, I don't know how we would have gotten out of that area.

One of the many paths we took that day.

We bought some water, which we desperately needed at that point and ate some lunch. Then we decided to go for a dip in the Mediterranean Sea, for the second time on our journey. It was cool, but you got used to it. And we were hot after our long, arduous hike.

The colanqes at last.

Then we decided it was time to find a way out of this place. We did not want to go back the same way we had come, so we decided to take the road. We hiked uphill and uphill and uphill some more. After a while this group of about 10 French people caught up with us. So we followed them, thinking they would know where they were going. We were wrong; they were just as lost as we were. But as the saying goes, "Misery loves company".

We finally got to a place that was familiar and parted ways with our new French friends. Evenutally we even made it back to the bus stop that would take us back to Marsaille. I had never been so happy to see a bus before. All in all we probably hiked about 10 miles on less than desirable trails, but the view was magnificent.

Monday, October 09, 2006


Saturday moring we packed our bags and headed to the train station to go to France. We were worried that we might miss the train, but it ended up being 30 minutes late, so we were fine. Good thing we had an hour and half wait at our next connection.

The last leg of our trip from Nice to Marsaille left on time but arrived at the final destination about 2 hours late. There was some sort of accident on the track, and we sat in the middle of no-where for a while before continuing on. We never did find out exactly what happened, because all of the explanations were in French. But we finally did make it. But I did decide that I like the trains in Switzerland much better. They are exactly where they say they are going to be, when they say they are going to be there.

Keith and Patty Moore met us at the station. They are friends of Tim's from Mission to the World, where he works. They have graciously allowed us to stay with them while we visit the area.

The next day, Sunday, we got up and went to the church that they attend. The service was all in French, but a lot of the songs were the same as ones we sing in the States. It was neat to sing songs in French, that I knew in English.
After church we took a drive to Cassis, a little touristy village by the sea. We had a lunch of moules (mussels) at a sidewalk cafe. They were delicious.

Then we took a beautiful drive up to the cliffs surrounding Cassis. It was magnificent. The cool thing was there weren't any houses or developments of any kind on the mountain. The government has protected this land to maintain the natural beauty. It was amazing. The view of the Mediterranean Sea was spectacular.

Cassis as seen from the cliffs.

Then we drove back down to the city and had an appertif. The French find any reason to eat or drink. Patty introduced me to a Tango which is beer with a shot of grenadine. It was sweet and didn't really taste like beer at all. Which is good, because I don't like beer.

On Monday, Tim and I explored Marsaille. We went up to the Notre Dame de la Garde. It is up on a huge hill and gives you an amazing view of Marsaille. The church was orginally built to be a fortress of some kind. This makes sense in light of the fact that there is a draw brigde at the entrance, which is quite odd for a church.

Notre Dame de la Garde

View of the city from the church.

Then we wandered down to the Jardin de Pharo, where we sat and watched the boats in the port. It was nice and relaxing.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Cinque Terre- Five Villages

After Venice, we headed to the other side of Italy to visit the Cinque Terre. This is a collection of five villages right on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. We stayed in Manarola, which is village #4. There is a 12 km (8 mile) trail that connects them all. It is supposed to take about 6 hours to do it all. This seems like a lot of time for this distance, but it is very difficult in places, with steep steps.

Our first full day in the Cinque Terre we relaxed and took it easy. We did one small hike, but mostly hung around the hostel and played board games. I needed that day to rest.

The next day we decided to hike the trail through the villages. We started in Manarola and headed to Monterosso. It was a long, hard, exhausting trail. But well worth the effort. It was beautiful. We explored each village as we passed though and really tried to take in the beautiful scenery.

For dinner on a couple of occassions we went to the grocery store and picked up some wine, cheese, meat and bread and ate it overlooking the ocean.

This was the view we got to admire while we ate our dinner.

Our last day in the villages we took the train to Monterosso, which has a "beach". I use quotes because it is not your typical sandy beach. There were smooth rocks on the beach and in the water, which made walking difficult. That didn't stop us from taking a dip in the Mediterranean. It was my first time in this body of water. The water was cool, but bearable.

Next stop: France.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Layover in Milan

The cathedral
On the way from Venice to Cinque Terre we had a few hours in Milan. So we decided to go out and explore the city. I am glad we did. It was a beautiful city. They have an absolutely amazing cathedral that seats 40,000 people. The place was enormous. And words can not describe its beatuy. The outside is decorated with all of these sculptures of different people, about 1,000 all together. . . No I did not count; I read it in a book.

While we were outside admiring how magnificent the cathedral was, this guy walks up and starts putting one of those friendship type bracelets on my wrist. You know the kind you make in fifth grade. Then he proceeds to put one on Tim's wrist. The whole time he is making small talk, being all friendly. But then he asks us for a donation to I don't even know what. And we were just like, "Woah, there buddy we didn't even want your silly bracelet to begin with." Finally we just walked away. They try really hard around here to get your money.

Inside the crypt

There was a crypt that you could go and visit, with a glass coffin, which I suppose holds somebody important. It was the most elaborately decorated crypt I had ever seen.

The glass coffin in the crypt.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The city of canals

Venice was absolutely beatiful. My favorite part is their public transportation. I know that sounds ridiculous, but everybody rides these boats called, vaporetto. They are incridibly crowded, but very cool nontheless. The whole city was crowded, with tourists, which can be quite annoying at times. There was evidence of the fact that we irritated the locals. One morning when we went to buy fruit at one of the little fruit stands. The vendor had a sign that read "No Tourists" quite odd in a city of tourists.

One day we went down to Piazza San Marco. This huge square in front of the Basilica di San Marco. Which is a huge church that was built to house the remains of what they believe is the apostle Mark. How they acquired these remains is quite interesting. In 828 AD two Venetian merchants pursuaded the guardians of Mark's tomb in Alexandria to let them take him. So the loaded his body and took him to Venice. Why? You might ask. Well the patron saint Venice already had was not famous enough for them. Go figure.

An evening view of the Piazza

The Piazza was really quite beautiful if you can overlook the tourists and the pigeons running around everywhere. We went back in the evening and happily, found the place quite deserted of both.

Venice is a city of islands. Some are only a bridge away and others require a boat ride to get to. One of these islands is Murano, the glass blowing island. Tim really wanted to see it, so we hopped on a boat and went over there. They have furnaces set up where you can go and watch the artisans at work. We found one of these furnaces and sat down to watch. The workers were very entertaining. It was amazing to watch them turn glass rods into works of art. They take glass blowing very seriously, to the extent that if someone learned the trade of glass blowing on the island, it was considered treason for them to move away. Serious stuff.

And of course who can go to Venice and not take a gondola ride. We found a guy who was willing to do it for a reasonable rate and went. It was so great. Our driver's name was Diego and he was quite entertaining. He sang and pointed out all the interesting landmarks. It was wonderful.