Sunday, May 3, 2009

Europe, part 7 (Rome, then home)

Wednesday, July 9

On this day, we rode in our bus to Rome. We had lunch at a highway stop thingy, and arrived in Rome in the afternoon.

Rome is perhaps the most amazing city I've ever seen. There are old buildings and ruins everywhere. And the trees are incredible! There are lots of umbrella pines and palm trees along the streets. I was enthralled.

pines, palms

The Pines of Rome, as captured by my disposable camers from the bus window.


More pines. (Photo by a friend.)

When we got to Rome, we had a tour in the bus, then we had a walking tour. In the bus tour, we saw the Colosseum. On the walking tour, we saw the Pantheon and threw coins into a fountain. The walking tour was fun, but the streets were extremely crowded with tourists.

Fountain of Rome

Fountain of Rome (photo by a friend)

Pantheon and tourists

Daniel and I hanging out at the Pantheon

After our tours, we went to our hotel. Then we went to a nearby restaurant for our farewell dinner, where speeches were given about how great the trip was and how much we all enjoyed it!


In the entrance of our hotel.

Farewell dinner. (photo by a friend)

After the dinner, I sat in the lobby. Someone said that there was a party going on in one of the orchestra members' hotel rooms. So I went to that room, and sure enough, there were several bottles of wine in there, and several orchestra members drinking wine.

The Wines of Rome! (Photo by a friend.)

Then a bunch of us went to the Colosseum on the metro. It was beautiful at night.

Me at the Colosseum at night. Photo by a friend.

We ended up singing Happy Birthday to some strangers at the Colosseum. Then we walked around for a little while, and looked at some more old buildings. Then we went back to the hotel on a city bus. The driver let us get on for free!

Thursday, July 10

We packed up all our bags and loaded them onto the bus. For the first time on the trip, everyone was on time. I was kind of sad that I had only spent about half a day in Rome. I was kind of sad that the trip was over. It had been such an awesome trip.

Rome airport...

We arrived at the airport. While we were waiting for our flight, I was talking to our conductor. I asked if I should learn to play bassoon, and he suggested that I learn to play viola. This idea had never occurred to me before, but it sounded pretty neat.

From Italy, we had a short flight to the Paris airport. I was a bit scared, but I was sitting next to my conductor and he was holding my hand, so it wasn't too bad. From Paris, we had a longer flight to Montreal. During that flight, I read a book. I was happy. I was coming home from the best trip ever.

And now you know the story of the best trip ever. (And now you know why I play the viola.)

The End

Europe, part 6 (Tuscany)

Before my travel diaries about can see a video of my orchestra (and other groups at the Salzburg festival) here: . The infamous Song of Peace comes in at 6:40 or so in the video. Enjoy!

Sunday July 6

It was the day of the long bus ride. The all-day bus ride from Austria to Italy.

We rode through the Alps. I played a funny paper game with friends. It was hilarious! We stopped off at a small road stop and I saw a lizard.

We eventually reached Italy. We stopped off at a restaurant place for lunch. I had some really good chicken. I think I may have bought some Kinder chocolate there too. It was so hot outside! Luckily, our bus was air-conditioned.

On the way to our hotel in Italy, we played a game in the bus. Our travel guide (the one we had for the whole trip) organized it. It was a trivia game about Italy. I didn't know a lot about Italy though.

We arrived in Montecatini in the late afternoon. My goodness, what a beautiful city! It was quite unlike Austria.

A friend took this photo of Montecatini from the bus window.

Our hotel (named "Tuscany Inn") was nice, and had some balconies. The view from the balcony was spectacular. As I was out on my balcony, I heard an orchestra member playing his trumpet from his balcony.


View from my balcony


A friend photographed this view from his balcony


I photographed my friends on their balcony, from my balcony.

After we got settled into our rooms, we had dinner in the dining room at the hotel. After dinner, our travel guide took us out for gelato. I saw one of the most beautiful sunsets I've ever seen. I also saw several palm trees in the town.


Sunset in Montecatini. (Photo by a friend)

Then some of us went with the travel guide to the funicular station to take the funicular (cable car) into the higher part of the town (Montecatini Alto) that was on a hill. We had a spectacular view of the nighttime city lights in Montecatini and surrounding areas. We wandered around the village there. We saw some people sculptures made from plants, and we saw a cat. I think the coolest thing in Montecatini Alto was the castle courtyard. Some of us came across a building that looked like a castle. An opening in the wall led to some stairs, which led to a big unlit courtyard. The view of the stard from there was amazing. I ran out of the courtyard, found some of my friends, and told them to go into the courtyard. I ran back into the courtyard before them, and when they arrived there, I jumped out and shouted "Boo!" and scared them!

Back in the hotel that night, I was telling my roommates that I'd had a silly idea. I said that it was so warm outside, I wanted to sleep on the balcony. So, my roommates and another orchestra member helped me move my mattress outside to the balcony! They were worried about me getting cold, but I didn't get cold once all night.

Monday, July 7

We spent most of the day in Florence. It took about an hour to drive there in the bus.

In the morning, we had a tour of Florence. We got to see the Duomo, which I'd learned about in art class! We also went inside the church where Rossini and other famous Italians were buried. We saw lots of sculptures, including a copy of Michelangelo's David and some lions that an orchestra member thought were scary.


The Tevere river in Florence. Photo by a friend.

We could go wherever we wanted for lunch. A bunch of us went to a pizza restaurant that our travel guide recommended. The pizza was great! Some people had pizza with pine nuts on it, but I stuck to the salami pizza. After lunch, we went shopping and wandered around. Most of the museums were closed on Mondays, unfortunately. A lot of people bought leather things. We saw some screevers (pavement artists.) I bought some postcards and bookmarks. A friend made up a song about pay toilets in Italy. All the tourist shops and stands had numerous things with Michelangelo's David's penis on them -- bookmarks, boxer shorts, magnets, etc.

A screever (pavement artist). Photo by a friend.

Later on that afternoon we had a rehearsal in a church. I was so tired that I kept falling asleep during rehearsal. After rehearsal we had dinner in a restaurant, and after dinner we played a concert (which was part of a youth orchestra festival) in the same church. It was an extrememly successful concert and the audience loved us and we played two encores, but I was extremely tired and had an incredibly difficult time staying awake for the whole thing. I fell asleep in the bus on the way back to Montecatini. So did a lot of people.

Tuesday, July 8

We visited two cities on this day, Lucca and Pisa.

Lucca (where Puccini was born) is a charming town with a wall that goes all the way around the city. The wall has a road on it that you can walk or ride a bike on.


Lucca seen from the wall. Photo by a friend.

Lucca wall

The wall around Lucca. (my own photo)

When we arrived there, many of us decided to rent bicycles. I was a bit nervous riding a bike, since it had been so long since the last time I'd ridden one. But Davide, the guy from the youth orchestra festival who was staying with my orchestra for our time in Tuscany, encouraged me. I lost the rest of the group of orchestra members that I'd started out with, because I was so slow, but I stayed with Davide. I had a great time. We stopped off at a pizza restaurant for lunch, and talked for a while. It turned out that he used to go to a university in Montreal.


Davide at the pizza place. My mom says he's good-looking :)

After that, we all went in the bus to Pisa. It was rather nice, but a very touristy place. I bought some souvenirs and took some pictures.


Building in Pisa.


Orchestra members doing touristy things.

After our short stay in Pisa, we rode the bus back to the Tuscany Inn. After supper, we walked to the place where we'd play in that night's concert, a hotel/spa thing I think, called Terme Tettuccio. I have never played in a more fascinating and beautiful concert place! I'll post some photos of it here. (We played in a sort-of outdoor place/courtyard , so it was a sort-of outdoor concert, I guess.)

terme tettuccio

(photo by a friend)

We played a concert there with a youth orchestra from Spain. We each played some music on our own, and then we teamed up and played some pieces together. After the concert, the Spanish orchestra musicians had a crazy jam session where they played Spanish music, and people danced. Everyone was excited, and everyone really enjoyed it!

People dancing to the Spanish orchestra's music session. Photo by a friend.

We went back to the hotel, and then a bunch of us walked to a disco. I danced there for a while, but I was very tired. Fun times!

In the next entry, we enter a land of ancient ruins, modern-day tourists, pines, wines, and fascination.

Europe, part 5 (Salzburg)

Friday, July 4

Salzburg hotel

Our hotel in Salzburg. Photo by a friend.

We had breakfast at the hotel. After breakfast, we got into our bus for the Sound of Music Tour. We drove around in the mountains near Salzburg and saw many places where the Sound of Music was filmed. Some orchestra members sang songs from the movie and re-enacted movie scenes. We saw lots of beautiful mountains and lakes. We also passed by the Red Bull mansion.

Red Bull house

The guy who invented Red Bull lives here. (Photo by a friend)

The Alps near Salzburg, on the tour.

The Alps near Salzburg, on the tour.

Me and Jordan

The Sound of Music was filmed near here.

All of us, in front of the thingy that appeared in the Sound of Music film. (Photo by a friend)

We had lunch in the little town of Mondsee. I think the wedding in the film took place in the church there. We went inside the church, and then went wherever we wnated for lunch. I found a supermarket and bought some more Kaiser rolls. Maybe some Kinder chocolate too.




Heading toward the church at Mondsee

After lunch we had a rehearsal with everyone in the Cantus Festival. All the choirs gathered together to sing a song called "Song of Peace", and our orchestra played the orchestral accompaniment part. The orchestra part didn't require many musicians, so some orchestra members sang with the choirs instead. I was one of the singing people.

No orchestra member I talked to actually liked the "Song of Peace". The music was kind of dull and commonplace and cliched. An orchestra member described it as "Pachelbel's Canon meets the Beatles" (and when I told this to my conductor, he said, "But the Beatles are good!" He does have a point there.) And the lyrics were stupid and didn't always fit the music well. As well, it had the word "floading" in it (a typo for "flooding", I guess. But whenever I came across it when I was singing the song, I had to try hard not to laugh.) Everyone in the orchestra enjoyed making fun of the song. After rehearsal, we were standing outside and singing the song and making fun of it. Even though we were just joking around, I was grateful for this impromptu chance to rehearse the song. :P

We went back to the hotel. In the hotel room I was in, our mirror broke. But it wasn't anyone's fault, so we decided that the mirror had committed suicide and that nobody was going to get bad luck. We had dinner at the hotel. Some musicians tried to play tunes by hitting the dinner glasses.

Then we went out to perform in the big concert that night. Each group performed some pieces on their own (I think we played some Smetana and other things), and then we all got together to play and sing the Song of Peace. They were selling chocolate, so I bought some Alps chocolate. Afterwards, we went to a cafe for dessert. Most people got ice cream. I got beer. Then we went back to the hotel. I fooled around with some friends in my hotel room for a while before going to bed.

Saturday, July 5

After breakfast, we went to Salzburg Cathedral. Mozart used to play the organ there. We played Handel's Hallelujah Chorus in a Mass service, and some choirs sang songs. The acoustics were unbelievable. The echo in that church is the longest echo I ever heard. I swear, it lasted a full five seconds!


In Salzburg cathedral. (Photos by friends)


We had an amazing lunch (kaiser roll sandwiches!) that had been packed for us by our hotel, and then we performed in a concert at Mirabell Gardens, where some more of the Sound of Music was filmed. We weren't originally planning to play "Jumba Jambala", the piece written by our conductor, but the orchestra insisted, so we did. :) I play maracas in that piece.


Mirabell Gardens


Then we had a bit of free time, then we had a walking tour. My feet hurt because I was still wearing my concert shoes. On the upside, I saw a cute cat. A friend got a photo of me petting the cat. After the tour, a bunch of us saw a busker playing Vivaldi on musical wine glasses!


Glass playing. (Photo by a friend)

That night, we had a Cantus Festival dinner party. They had a little Austrian band playing various instruments, one of which was a cimbasso! I was amazed, and so happy! The dinner was great. During the dinner, Harry, our trumpet player, was making up songs about mushrooms, involving the word "floading", and I laughed so much I almost choked! After the dinner, there was dancing. I didn't want to dance at first, but one of the trip leaders got me into it. Once or twice, a conga line formed. We all had great fun.


The band. (photo by a friend)

At the dinner party.

What a great way to spend our last night in Salzburg!

The next entry contains palm trees, gelato, leather, and a certain part of Michelangelo's David's anatomy.

Europe, Part 4 (Alps, Salzburg)

Thursday, July 3

On this day, we went from Vienna to Salzburg. I was amazed at the Alps. I don't think I'd ever seen anything more beautiful!

We drove to the Alps from Vienna. For lunch, we crossed the border into Germany and went into a small mountain town of Berchtesgaden. I remember, when we were in the bus going to the town, someone shouted, "Hey, look! A man wearing lederhosen!"

Some people went to restaurants for lunch, and some went to the grocery store. The grocery store was an A&P!! I wish they had those at home. They have A&P's in Ontario, and in little Bavarian mountain towns, but not in Montreal! I bought some kaiser rolls. I wish we could get good kaiser rolls at home too! I think I might've gotten my Kinder chocolate there too, but maybe I got it at Mondsee in Austria.


Town where we had lunch.

After lunch, we went to the Berchtesgaden Salt Mine. I never knew a tour of a salt mine could be so exciting! We had to put on mining suits. Then, we rode in a train to another part of the salt mine. I don't like fast rides, so I was a bit scared at first, but the train wasn't too fast and wasn't scary at all. Nevertheless, some of us screamed anyway so we'd trick the people behind us into thinking it was scary. :P

We got a tour of the salt mines. At one point, we had to slide down some long slides. I was a bit scared to do that, but our German guide assured me that it was "funny", so I went down the slides. They were fun! We all rode a boat across an underground lake, and saw a light show while we were in the boat. Various coloured lines appeared on the walls, and music played. It was fascinating. (That light show video I linked to wasn't taken by an orchestra member, I just found it on YouTube.) Then we went in a neat elevator, and then we each got a little container of salt to take home.


Outside the salt mine.


Inside the saltmine. (Photo by a friend)

After the saltmine tour, we went back to Austria, and arrived in Salzburg! I loved our hotel there. We dropped off our stuff in the hotel rooms, and then we went in the bus to a building where we attended the opening of the Cantus Music Festival. Nobody much enjoyed the actual food at the supper, and I was very tired, but otherwise we had a good time. We had water in wine glasses, so we tried wetting our fingers and rubbing the rims of the wine glasses. This was the first time I managed to make a sound with a wine glass! The Cantus Festival was mostly a choir festival. Some of the choirs sang songs at the supper. Some orchestra members suggested we sing one of our orchestra pieces, but most of us weren't keen on that idea.

After supper, we went outside. It was raining. We did various things and wandered around town. Karlo, one of our double bass payers, was trying to teach us to perform Steve Reich's Clapping Music.


Clapping Music. Photo by a friend. Karlo's the one in the orange shirt. I'm the one in the white visor.

The bus drove us back to our hotel. I heard news that some orchestra musicians and monitors were going down the street to a pub. I never miss out on a trip to a pub if I can help it! The rules of the trip stated that people of legal drinking age were allowed to have 2 drinks in a day. So, I ordered a beer. I wasn't expecting to get a HUGE glass of beer, but I did! Stiegl, they call the local beer. It was quite good. I ordered a second big glass after the first. After I finished the second glass, I was feeling tired, and it was about time to go to bed anyway. We all went back to the hotel. I was exhausted.

In the next entry, we find the Red Bull mansion, something happens to a mirror, and I encounter the rare Cimbasso.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Europe, Part 3 (Vienna)

Tuesday, July 1 (continued)

When we arrived in Vienna, we went on a walking tour right away. I was very tired and got lots of blisters, but I enjoyed the tour.

We saw and photographed lots of old buildings on the tour. I don't remember the names of most of them.

Building in Vienna

A building in Vienna


Closeup of the horses on that building

The Austrian National Library:

As we were walking around on the tour, we saw a bit of a crowd gathering. Some members of our group yelled, "Hey look! Streakers!" Sure enough, there was a group of people taking their clothes off as a part of some protest.


In this photo, you can see the streakers before they took off their clothes. Photobucket wouldn't let me post any of my more close-up photos that showed the streakers completely naked. ;)

As we were walking through Vienna, we saw a famous composer! Some orchestra members posed for a photo with him. We also saw St. Stephens Cathedral, and got to go inside it. It's one of the most impressive churches I've ever seen.


It's Mozart!


A statue in Vienna

Same Statue

The same statue, photographed from a different angle to show an awesome sunlight effect.


St. Stephen's Cathedral. I don't know what the round building on the left is.


The organ inside the cathedral. My friend Jordan took this picture.


In the cathedral


The Mozarthaus in Vienna.

For supper that day, we went to a cafe called Einstein Cafe. It had many pictures of Einstein inside it. One of our orchestra members had a birthday that day, so she got a cake with a sparkler on it.


Some smart people outside the Einstein Cafe.


In the caf


Happy birthday!

After supper, some people went downtown, but I stayed at the hotel because I was exhausted and had sore feet. I bought some potato chips at the hotel. For some weird reason, they were kept in a fridge. I shared the cold potato chips with some friends.

Wednesday, July 2

I woke up later than I was supposed to. We had a good breakfast in our rooms in the hotel. Our breakfast was hung in bags on our doorknobs in the morning! We got several things for breakfast, including croissants and kaiser rolls!

We rode our bus to Schoenbrunn Palace. I was excited to go there! I'd learned about that place in an art history class, and never dreamed I'd get to go there!


Me in front of Schoenbrunn Palace.


A Schoenbrunn Palace eagle.

We had a tour of Schoenbrunn palace, and saw lots of beautiful old rooms, paintings, and furniture. After the tour was over, I bought a hat at the gift shop. Then we played a concert outside in the back of the Palace. We played pieces like Radetzky March, and I think we played Wagner's Meistersinger prelude too, and some other pieces. During (and even after!) our concert, we were filmed and photographed by random tourists!

Schoenbrunn Palace backyard

Outside, in back of Schoenbrunn Palace.


Setting up for our Palace concert.

Orchestra guys

Orchestra guys in back of the palace.

All of us, on the Schoenbrunn Palace stairs.


We went downtown to buy lunch wherever we wanted. Some of us bought food from a roadside stand. I bought a slice of cheese pizza there. It was amazing pizza! It was some of the best pizza I'd ever had! I'd go back to Vienna just for the pizza.

Unfortunately, my camera broke after lunch. I bought and used disposable cameras for the rest of the trip.

After lunch we went to the House of Music, which is a music museum. They had all sorts of interactive displays, games, and activities. Many of us tried out the game where you held a baton and conducted an orchestra! I also found a display where you could make music pieces out of everyday sounds. I made a music piece entirely out of farting noises. I bought postcards of Mahler, Schoenberg, Webern, and Shostakovich in the gift shop.

We had supper at a sort of buffet/cafeteria place. I didn't get a chance to try the wiener schnitzel, but those who tried it said it was good.

That night after supper, we went to a concert by the Vienna Mozart orchestra. It was in a famous concert hall that I forget the name of (Musikverein maybe?) It was a well-played concert, but it was mostly Mozart's best-known pieces, which I'm a little tired of.

When we got back to the hotel, I was really excited. The night before, an orchestra member had said he'd gone swimming in the Danube river! So this night, he was going to take a bunch of us down to the place he'd gone the previous night, so we could go swimming. It was so much fun!! It was definitely one of the highlights of the trip, and something I'll always remember.


One of my orchestra friends said I looked like a mermaid. :)

In the next entry, we go for rides on slides, I find an A&P store in a little German mountain village, we experience a bit of Steve Reich, and we pretend to be in a musical.