Friday, July 29, 2011

You’d Think a Person Could Travel Lighter Than This


We departed from Dillingen on Thursday, July 14th at around 4:00 pm Paris bound for a flight the next morning.  Before leaving, however, I was able to get a picture with Carole and our lovely host family:

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Even though he wasn’t able to join us for the farewell I feel it necessary to represent our host brother, Leopold:

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No really, don’t bother getting up to say goodbye!


The bus ride to Paris took twelve hours (!) and as we were crossing the border from Germany to France we were able to see some final fireworks in the French countryside in celebration of Bastille Day (yes, that’s how far behind I am on the blog…) In fact, we got into the City of Lights around 4:00 am, and as we didn’t need to be at the airport until 7:30 we did a bit of sightseeing.  No, seriously though… with 70 children at the break of dawn the day after a huge national celebration in the capitol city we decided to visit the Eiffel Tower.  To be more succinct, the campers got to sightsee while all of the staff were on drunken, skeevy French guy patrol.  I took one picture in the whole process:

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That’s all you get!


The whole endeavor went off basically without a hitch.  Well, except for the fact that when leaving the tower I heard a loud bang followed by some mild yelling from our driver, Peter.  I looked forward and saw an extremely inebriated reveler swaying in front of the bus and a large hand print on the windshield.  So… maybe he walked in front of the bus and maybe Peter maybe maybe hit him with said bus.  Maybe.  He just kinda stood there stunned and stumbled off after a couple of seconds.  I couldn’t help but laugh because the hand print stayed there for the remainder of our trip to the airport, reminiscent of that scene in Titanic when Jack and Rose get it on in the old timey car.


Get it little Frenchy!


Everything at the airport went smoothly and I took the opportunity to get a final group shot of the choir staff before we got back to the States.  Even though we still have a couple of more concerts together one of the counselors, Seth, won’t be joining us… he’s being all selfish and moving to South Korea to teach English.  Pfffft, whatever.

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Zack, Jessie, Ed, Carole, Seth, Joseph, Kate, Sabrina, Josh, Zach!


If you would have passed me in the aisle on the plane you would have seen the following view.  I was a bit paranoid about dropping my glasses or putting them somewhere where they might get crushed so I found what I would consider an elegant solution to the problem:

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It’s always a bit nerve-wracking when taking a large group of inexperienced international travelers through customs and security but there were no problems to speak of.  It wasn’t until catching my flight from Chicago to Dallas that I personally had a bit of a snafu.   I mentioned previously in my birthday post about the glory that is Speculoos spread and how I received a jar of “crunchy” from Sabrina and purchased some “creamy” for Mallory.  Now, being classy and European they were kept in glass jars; as such I decided to pack them into one of my carry-ons so they didn’t break in transit.  Stupid me, apparently… sure, it got through French security and American customs, but they were not having it when I went through security for the domestic flight. 

TSA Agent: I’m sorry, sir, but this liquid is over the allotted number of ounces.

Me: Wait, this counts as a liquid… it’s like peanut butter.

TSA Agent: Yes, sir, it’s considered a liquid.

Me: But you can only get this in Europe.  Did I mention it was my birthday present?

TSA Agent: You are either going to have to exit security, check it and re-enter security or throw it away right now.

Sabrina: Wait, since one of them is crunchy and has a higher ratio of cookie chunks can we just count that one as a solid?

TSA Agent: *not amused by Sabrina’s logic*… … … Sir, you are either going to have to exit security, check it and re-enter security or throw it away right now.


So… I took the former option and did some major re-vamping of my other carry-on bag and checked the spread.  Yes, that’s how delicious it is and how determined I was to get it back to the States for myself and Mallory.  I made sure that they knew it was special property when I went back the second time as is evident below:

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After about 36 hours of travel I arrived in Dallas and was picked up by my brother, Matt.  That weekend was my granddaddy Dan’s 85th birthday party and then it was back to Michigan for the Blue Lake homecoming portion of our tour!!  Obviously more on that later…


Artist: Dominick Argento/ Album: Postcards from Morocco

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Fire and Rain


In addition to touring the lovely Augsburg, one of the reasons for going to to the city was to see an open-air performance of Verdi’s Il trovatore in the evening.  Unfoooortunately Mutter Erde had other plans in mind and the opera was rained out. 

Sarah called her mother and informed her that we would be returning to Dillingen for the evening instead and when we got back there was an amazing dinner all set up for us!  Apparently this type of service is genuinely done during the winter months as, well, it tends to get a little steamy.

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Choose your meat (turkey shown here), cheese and/or vegetables; grill


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Place in empty skillet-y thing


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Finish cooking underneath the grill


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Remove when cheese is BUBBLY and devour!


It also doesn’t hurt (when in Bavaria, of course) to pair a delicious meal like this with some beeeeer.  And, since we’re on the subject, can I just put it out there that this case of 20 was only 10 euros!!!!

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Artist: James Taylor/ Album: One Man Band

Friday, July 22, 2011

I Say a Little Prayer


Before heading back to the glorious United States of America we had a full free day in Germany and our host sister, Sarah and her boyfriend, Andreas, took Carole and I to the city of Augsburg!  Andreas is actually from the city and his mother (with impeccable English) was our tour guide for the day!!

Our first stop was the world’s oldest—and still operational, mind you—social housing complex in the world, the Fuggerei.  According to Wikipedia’s page on the subject:

The rent was and is still one Rheinischer Gulden per year (equivalent to 0.88 euros), as well as three daily prayers for the current owners of the Fuggerei - the Lord's Prayer, Hail Mary, and the Nicene Creed. The conditions to live there remain the same as they were 480 years ago: one must have lived at least two years in Augsburg, be of the Catholic faith and have become indigent without debt. The five gates are still locked every day at 10 PM.  The doorbells have elaborate shapes, each being unique, dating back to before the installation of streetlights when residents could identify their unit by feeling the handle in the dark.

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One of the community’s most notable residents was that of Franz Mozart, grandfather of Wolfy and father of Leopold, another resident of Augsburg for a spell.  The Fuggerei has left his old place much like it would have been in his day as a part of the museum.

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Andreas and Sarah in front of #14!


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Kitchen (duh)


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Living room… don’t forget to pray for Herr Fugger or you’ll be EVICTED!!!


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Bedroom and entry way.  Why is ALL of Europe too small for me!?!?!


And now for some other buildings that are important but I can’t exactly remember what they are for:

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Those cow skull motifs are right out of the Texas national architecture playbook!!! That’s right I said national!


Besides being home to some of ol’ Mozart’s relatives, Augsburg is also the birthplace of poet and playwright Bertolt Brecht. 

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Name not necessarily ringing a bell?  He collaborated with Kurt Weill on The Three Penny Opera, which provided the world with the song “Mack The Knife.”  And now my favorite version, dedicated to my friend Jeremy!!

It’s a surprise hit!!


Artist: Aretha Franklin/ Album: 30 Greatest Hits

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Lazy Bones


As I mentioned in an earlier post, this leg of the tour was host to two different performances of the Brahms’ Requiem (perhaps to make up for the fact that we didn’t do one when in France).  I failed to get any pictures from the first concert, however there was a nice review in the paper about it:

With a warm timbre, he [Joseph Roberts] sang the humble selection ("Lord, teach me yet"), he was powerful in proclaiming ("Behold, I unfold to you a mystery"). Sabrina Laney Warren's soprano solo was a soft-lined, expressive consolation song full of vocal grace.

~from the Augsburger Allgemeine (full article here)

The second one, in the nearby town of Donauworth, was held in a very beautiful baroque Catholic church—it’s certainly been a while since you’ve seen any pictures of a church so here’s your last installment for Europe!

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Exterior and interior shots


Apparently it is a Bavarian tradition to display the bones of long passed saints in the church proper with the notion that, while one is good, two is certainly more saintly.

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Saints Stephanus et Benedictus (I think?)  Stephanus has quite the sassy pose going on— I mean, if you’re going to rest for eternity for all the world to see you might as well be photo-ready, right?!?!


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As this was the last evar performance in Europe I had the luxury of actually going home and enjoying a couple “one glass of wine/beer” with dinner… and Sarah and Mamma D. didn’t disappoint! There is a type of beer sold in Bavaria (only during the weekdays according to Sarah) called stark beer that is very very strong and they managed to procured some for us! Apparently it is so strong that before we were allowed to drink it our host mother told us we would need to eat a lot of protein in order to counteract some of the effects—HUZZAH!!

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DE-LECKER!!! (to be fair, one of the beers is Carole’s!)

Artist: Harry Connick, Jr./ Album: Oh, My Nola

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

When in Rome (I Do As the Romans)


When driving us to the nearby town of Gandolf’s-finger (truth be told I can’t for the life of me remember what it was really called but it sounded something like that) our host mother took us by an ancient Roman temple built for the god Apollo.  Edith Hamilton would be so proud!!

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Me: Pretending I’m hiding from a camper.  Carole: Pretending the column is her husband (she got married the week before going on tour!!)


Artist: Barbra Streisand/ Album: People

Monday, July 18, 2011

Get It Get It


(I realize I haven’t posted in a bit but the last couple of days have been a bit busy what with all of the traveling back to the US and a quick stop back in Texas for my granddaddy Dan’s 85th birthday party.  More on all that later, though… still have a couple of more posts from my last stop in Germany to catch up on!)

The last leg of our European tour led us to Dillingen, Germany for a much longer duration than all of our other stops (we had two Brahms performances instead of the usual one).  Throughout the trip some of the choir staff had been using “Get It” as our go-to phrase whenever something good would happen and over the course of the tour it transformed into DillinGETIT the closer we got to our last stop. 

I was lucky enough to share a family with the choir director, Carole, and on one of our first days our host mother took us on a tour of the town.

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View of the city and statue of a submarine built by 19th century engineer and resident of Dillingen, Wilhelm Bauer


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I don’t remember what this was but it reminds me of my trip to Heidelberg last year!


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Apparently this tower is where the German equivalent of Robin Hood was imprisoned before he was executed by being pulled apart by two horses.  At least I think that’s what I heard— Is that even right, Carole?!?


We also stumbled across one of our favorite things about Germany: A vending machine that sells BEER!!!

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Can we also comment that it is 1,00 and 1,20 Euro please?!


And finally, Carole and I enjoying a delicious cup of coffee at home after the fabelhaft tour of the village!

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Artist: Scissor Sisters/ Album: Scissor Sisters

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Climb Every Mountain


For my birthday this last Friday the chairman decided to celebrate by taking the group on a hiking tour of the French Alps.  Okay, so maybe it was just happenstance that those two things occurred on the same day, but it sounds muuuuuch more flattering the way I put it.

As far as birthday cakes are concerned, I was fortunate enough to have TWO!  The day before during a rehearsal break I was walking around with some of the orchestra counselors and we stopped in a bakery to get some coffee.  Now, you must know that one of my favorite things in the world is merengue cookies, and this particular establishment had a, shall we say, birthday sized merengue I just couldn’t pass up.

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Following are several pictures from the hike.  There’s not a whole lot to explain except that it was extraordinarily beautiful and a fantastic way to celebrate my 27th.

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Orchestra staff member (and dear friend) Brian Dunbar taking in the scenery


We came across this shelter at one point during the hike:

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Brian: What is this, Frodo Baggin’s house? When did the Shire move to the Alps?!?!


We stopped at a rest area for lunch and enjoyed this view while picnicking:

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The rest area… we have the same birth year!!!


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We also managed to find some fresh (albeit tiny) strawberries


On one of the trails there was a tree trunk that had been carved into a "throne” of sorts.  Now how could I pass a chance to sit in it…

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Birthday King!


I mentioned earlier that I had two birthday “cakes,” the first being my ginormous merengue and the second when we got back to Villard-Bonnot for dinner:

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Bon Anniversaire, indeed!!!


Artist: Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein II/ Album: The Sound of Music