Saturday, June 18, 2011

Welcome to Italia: Padova and Parma

There is not much to report about my first day in Italy. We spent most of the day on the bus from Vienna to Padova. We did make a rest stop near the border of Austria and Italy that was eventful. I’ve been avoiding paying to use the restroom because that seems so dumb to me, but I didn’t have much choice at this rest stop. So I did it! I paid to use the “WC.” It was also a nice stop because the store looked out over a lake and it was absolutely beautiful! Other than that it was a highly uneventful day.

My first full day in Italy was good though! We attended a local Italian ward. They were so sweet and accommodating. It was probably really annoying to have to translate everything into English for us, but they were all so patient with it.

After church we stopped in the city of Berona for lunch. We got to see the Romeo and Juliet balcony, eat some real Italian pizza, and happily consume our first Italian gelatos. I loved all of it! We then drove the rest of the way to Parma. Our hotel was practically in the middle of nowhere so we spent our evening playing cards and relaxing. On a happy note, I spent three rounds as “king” when we were playing scum.

The next day was our full day with Barilla. It was a really interesting business visit. We started out at their Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese plant, then went to their Prosciutto di Parma plant, and finished at their pasta plant. It was really cool to learn about how Parmesan cheese is made and compare it to the Gruyere cheese plant we visited in Switzerland. Cheese making is intense! The Prosciutto plant was pretty disturbing. It was gross to walk through rows and rows of pig legs, but you should all be impressed that I tried a bite of it even after experiencing that disturbing sight and smell. The pasta plant was my favorite part of the tour. It was so cool to see them work at their core competency. I was highly impressed with their quality control and the marketing they showed us. They definitely make the best pasta they can and then sell the experience of eating true Italian pasta.

It was a great, informative day but I was highly anticipating Florence!

Vienna: Revival from Apathy

On our way from Munich to Vienna we stopped in Salzburg. Salzburg was picture-perfect! I loved seeing the Sound of Music sites and then watching the movie on the bus. We even sang “Do a Deer” on the famous steps. The people there thought we were hilarious. I would have laughed too at a group of 30 American, University students singing Sound of Music songs all through Salzburg.

Our second stop on our journey to Vienna was the Mauthausen Concentration Camp. Needless to say, it was a rather sobering experience. We had a phenomenal tour guide though who tried to help us view the situation of the time period and the emotions of all parties involved. It was interesting to think from the perspective of the townspeople, the guards, and the prisoners. There were times during the tour when I was physically ill and it hurt me to know such horrific things could happen in such a beautiful place. It is definitely an experience I will not forget.

For our first day in Vienna we started out at the palace. We walked around the beautiful gardens and had a lot of fun taking pictures and enjoying the sunshine. After some time there we headed to downtown Vienna.

We ended up touring the Vienna Opera House and then deciding to attend the opera that was being performed that night. We quickly purchased tickets, ran back to the hotel and changed into our best attire, ate bratwurst from a street vendor, and went to the opera. It seriously was such a cool experience that I was at an opera in Vienna. I could not get rid of the butterflies! In fact, I didn’t want to get rid of them because it was a revival from the European apathy I had been feeling the last few days. I had just been overwhelmed with seeing so many spectacular things that I had forgotten the feeling I had started the trip with – pure giddiness about being here. Anyway, the opera was wonderful!

We only stayed through the first intermission because we had plans to go to the concert at the palace. It was Ascension Day, a national holiday in Europe, so the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra was playing a concert on the hill behind the palace. It was literally the coolest thing! We sat on the hill behind the Orchestra where we had the most beautiful view of the city, the palace, and the tens of thousands of people who were in attendance. I absolutely loved it! They finished the night off with fireworks and I thought I was in heaven.

Day two in Vienna started out with two business visits. The first visit was to Joseph Brodmann piano. It was incredible to see such beautiful pianos and listen to such precise speakers. I also loved learning about dealing with extremely wealthy customers. Our second visit was to the United Nations. It was interesting to learn more about the processes they use to accomplish their goals. The rest of our day was spent walking around Vienna, eating kebabs at an open air market, visiting the St. Stephan’s Cathedral, and having two gelatos.

I absolutely loved Vienna! It surprised me how much I actually liked it, but I would definitely come back. I’ll have to time it though so I come back on Ascension Day. That was too cool and I’d love to experience it again!

Munich: “Velcome to za Neuschwanstein Castle”

On our way from Wengen to Munich we stopped at the Neuschwanstein Castle. It is the castle that inspired Disney. The view from and of the castle were incredible and I felt happy to be there. On top of all that, we had a tour guide that was incredibly hilarious. He made the visit that much more funny and will definitely go down as the most awkward, quoted times of our trip to Europe. Don’t worry, we have actual video footage of the tour and many clips of us impersonating the tour.

We got into Munich late, so we only had a little while to walk around the city. We ended up eating at a pub where I experienced my first wiener schnitzel. It was surprisingly good! It reminded me a lot of country fried steak. We also went and saw the world’s largest pub (they couldn’t grasp the fact that we didn’t want beer) and the famous Glockenspiel.

The next day we had two business visits. Our morning visit was to BMW and I absolutely LOVED it! We were able to get in some super sleek cars and hop on some super sexy motorcycles. After feeling rather gluttonous, we sat down to a Q&A with a BMW employee. I absolutely loved it because he worked in brand management for BMW. My favorite thing he said was “You don’t sell the product, you sell the experience.” It definitely made me consider brand management as a career path. The second visit was to KPMG. It was about audit and accounting. Enough said.

I’m sad that we did not have more time in Germany, because I’m sure I would have loved every minute of it. I’ll just have to come back!

Switzerland: The Most Beautiful Place On Earth

Words and pictures can’t even begin to explain or show the beauty of Switzerland. I’ll do my best though to explain the events and feelings I had during the weekend we spent in Switzerland.

I loved the mountains and trees that reminded me so much of home. It was so peaceful to get away from the busy cities and relax in such a beautiful place. The sun rays through the clouds only added to the effect. The only way to explain why I loved it so much is to say that it reminded me of a combined version of so many of my favorite places—Alpine, Midway, Jackson Hole, Glacier National Park, and Park City.

The first night in Switzerland we stayed in Murten. It was a beautiful small town with buildings that looked exactly like classic Swiss architecture. We grabbed a quick dinner then walked along the shore of the lake behind our hotel.

The next day we had two business visits at the La Maison du Gruyere Cheese Factory and the Callier Chocolate Factory. It was cool to see how cheese is traditionally made, but I really loved the chocolate tour. I couldn’t help myself! I’m female. I ended up buying 12 chocolate bars in the store after our tour. I can’t promise they will all make it home, but if you’re lucky I’ll share.

We ate lunch in Bern, which was especially cool for me because that is where my Grandpa Clegg was stationed for the U.S. Army. I ended up buying a whole chicken for lunch and practically ate the whole thing myself. The European diet is very different from the American diet and I had a serious meat craving. I definitely felt much better after that!

From Bern we drove to Interlaken, a city at the base of the Swiss Alps. I spent the whole time there trying to keep my mouth closed, but I was simply in awe and couldn’t help expressing it. From the rock face fell the most beautiful waterfalls. No picture could begin to do them justice. All I know is that everyone should have the opportunity to see something that majestic in their lifetime. It makes you think about how insignificant you are in the world, and yet, that there is a God who knows you personally.

In Interlaken we boarded a cog train that took us up the mountain into the city of Wengen. We spent the whole weekend staying in a resort like hotel with a Jacuzzi, sauna, steam room, and massage area. We definitely took advantage of the facilities, especially the outdoor Jacuzzi with the spectacular view of the Alps. That first night we walked around the little town to familiarize ourselves. My favorite parts of our walk were watching the adorable calves run around with bells on their necks and then getting caught in a rainstorm.

I was so happy to wake up the next day in such a beautiful, serene place. We spent most of our day doing the Manlichen hike – which literally means straight up the mountain behind our hotel. The hike nearly kicked my butt, but it was worth it when I finally made it to the top. There were a few people in the group who were sick with head colds, so part of us split off and did the hike at a pace that was reasonable for them. Our method was simple: someone would climb a few hundred steps ahead then turn back to the group and say, “It’s even more beautiful from up here.” It was a simple motivation that kept us going the whole way. The cool thing is, the person who led off constantly rotated, but the motivating statement remained the same. There are so many gospel applications to this situation, but it made me grateful for the people in my life who set an example for me and then turn back happily to tell me that life is even better when you come a little closer to the Savior. I am also grateful for the times when I get to be that example. Even further, the hike was never easy – and neither is life – but you can most definitely “find joy in the journey.”

These topics and applications were discussed in our informal “sacrament meeting” we held in our hotel the next day. There was not a church nearby that we could attend, so we held our own meeting. It was a very powerful meeting and the Spirit was strong. The rest of the day was spent relaxing and enjoying the sweet experience of being in the Alps.

Our next stop was Munich, which I was incredibly excited for, but it was hard to leave the most beautiful place on earth!

Monday, May 30, 2011


I'm sorry about the lack of pictures on the blog. I'm lacking in patience for the slow internet when there are too many fun things to do in Europe!

Check Facebook for pictures. Thanks for reading!!!

Paris: The Land of Changed Expectations

I can honestly say I loved Paris. I heard mixed reviews from people who had been there before, but overall I had a great experience and loved the city.

After a long day of travel from Amsterdam, we finally arrived in Paris late in the evening. We had not eaten dinner so our first task was to find a place to eat. The problem is…everything closes early in Paris due to the labor laws. We did find food eventually, but the start of my Paris experience was a little frustrating. This was also the first time that I was scared of the language barrier. This first night made for an interesting first impression of Paris. Luckily, that impression changed the next day.

Our first full day in Paris was a Sunday, so we attended the Paris ward. They often have visitors, so the missionaries provide an English translation through headsets. Before getting to my row they ran out of headsets though, so a few of the other girls and I listened to the whole first hour of church (Combined Priesthood and Relief Society) in French. It was a great experience despite the language barrier because I had to listen by the Spirit. We were tired though from our travels and listening in a language you do not understand can only keep you interested for so long, so the second and third hours we went into a separate room where the English translation was playing over the surround sound. It was beautiful though to recognize how the gospel and the church are multi-lingual and multi-cultural; they are essential for everyone in the world.

After church we went to Notre Dame, toured the cathedral, and climbed the tower. It was absolutely beautiful! It felt completely surreal to be there. Multiple times on this trip I have tried to make where I am seem real by repeating things like, “I’m standing at the base of Notre Dame.” It helps a little, but this whole experience is so surreal. I feel so lucky to be here!

Sunday afternoon we also toured Sainte Chapelle and saw the incredible stained glass windows, ate sorbet on the shores of the Sienne, and walked through the Luxemburg gardens. I especially loved the fountain with the sailboats at the Luxemburg gardens. I could have sat there for hours watching the adorable children run around the fountain and push the sailboats. Plus, the weather was perfect! For dinner we had our first crepes. I had a egg-cheese crepe and a Nutella-banana crepe. Yum! We finished off the night with a walk along the bridge by Notre Dame at sunset. A wonderful first day in Paris!

Day two in Paris was also wonderful, but slightly overwhelming. We started out our morning at the Pantheon and then headed to Louvre. I absolutely loved architectural wonder of the Pantheon, but the Louvre overwhelmed me. It was so big with so much to see. On a positive note, I saw the Mona Lisa. From the Louvre we walked down the famous Avenue Des Champs Elysees. Thanks to some really good advice, I had to stop at the famous La Duree bakery and buy some expensive, but delicious macaroons. At the end of the Avenue Des Champs Elysees we finally reached the Arc de Triomphe. It was incredible to be there and the view from the top was spectacular. To finish off the night we went to the Eiffel Tower, watched the sunset, and watched it light up and sparkle. Once again, it was so surreal and beautiful that someone almost needed to pinch me. By the way, sorry to disappoint some of you dreamers, but there was no kissing done at the Eiffel tower – at least by me. I witnessed plenty of it though!

Day three in Paris we had a business visit with Mercer in the morning. It was very interesting to learn about the French business culture and the mandatory vacation weeks. It made me wonder how any company could survive there. The rest of our day and evening was spent in Versailles. I loved Versailles! The chateau was so extravagant and the Marie Antoinette village was an extreme contrast; both very beautiful, but completely different lifestyles. My favorite part of Versailles though was the gardens. They were so expansive and incredible that I could hardly believe it.

Our last day in Paris began with a much needed visit to the Laundromat. This process was a lot more difficult than expected, but I laughed through the whole thing. We got directions from the front desk at our hotel and started on our way. The directions led us to a clothing store. I laughed thinking that through the language barrier they may have misunderstood that we wanted to wash our clothes, not buy clothes. After wandering up and down that street we found a dry cleaner and once again had thoughts about the problems involved with a language barrier. After a quick prayer I turned the next corner and found the Laundromat. Then the laughter continued again as we tried to follow the directions in French. Anyway, it all worked out in the end.

That afternoon we had a business visit with Brinks. It was really interesting and I loved learning about their different business development models. We quickly changed from our business clothes to our street clothes and headed back to the Eiffel Tower. This time, we were going to climb it! After a few hundred steps and a cramped elevator ride, we finally made it to the top. Again, my surreal feeling returned and I was overcome with gratitude. Following the Eiffel Tower we took a boat tour of the Sienne with our entire group. To finish off our last night in Paris we bought a ridiculously overpriced crepe by the Eiffel Tower. It was by far the best crepe I had in Paris though – Nutella, strawberries, and whipped creme. We ate our crepes and watched the Eiffel Tower sparkle at 10. Then we hurried and caught the underground towards Sacre Coure (the dome on the hill). After passing through a really sketchy part of town and realizing how grateful I was to have overprotective guys with me, we made it just in time to watch the Eiffel Tower sparkle again at 11. It was a wonderful end to a great adventure in Paris!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Amsterdam: The City of Bikes

When I first thought of Amsterdam my mind immediately went to the canals and the architecture. Little did I know that I would leave simply amazed at the number of bikes.

We left London and drove down to the white cliffs of Dover. They were spectacular! From there we caught a ferry across the English Channel. Once we hit the mainland my cultural experience hit a new level. For the first time, I couldn’t speak the language or read the signs. I was so excited though! This is going to be one heck of a learning experience. Fortunately, most of the people speak English and they often have the English translation on signs and pamphlets.

After a long bus ride from France through Belgium and on to the Netherlands, we arrived in Amsterdam. Fortunately for me the bus rides don’t seem very long because the bus is always so entertaining. It was pretty late when we got there, so we quickly grabbed some dinner at the little Italian restaurant down the street from our hotel and headed to bed. We definitely didn’t want to be out too late in Amsterdam and we knew we had an early business visit in the morning.

Our business visit was to FloraHolland. It is the flower auction that Holland is so famous for. It was way cool to see and I left amazed at the logistics. I honestly don’t know how they do it! Plus, I really loved the flowers.

Our bus driver dropped us off at the central station of Amsterdam. From there we walked down into the Red Light District. It was an eye opening experience during the day, but I hate imagining what it turns into at night. What a sad life. It made me incredibly grateful for the life I have.

We walked through some very beautiful cathedrals and then ventured through the city. We took a break to get our next McFlurry…Rolo! It was so good! After a few hours of wandering, we started back in the direction we thought was the Anne Frank house. Little did we know that we were walking in entirely the wrong direction. That was our first funny, lost experience and I’m sure there will be more to come.

We finally made it to the Anne Frank house and had a really good experience. It was interesting to walk through the house she hid in for so many years. I cannot imagine living in those conditions of constant fear. It made me want to go back and read her diary again. I also left with a renewed desire to never let such horrible discrimination happen again.

After the Anne Frank house we went down to the Van Gough Museum. I actually really liked this museum. I have a new found appreciation for Van Gough. I especially loved his paintings of landscapes. There were also paintings from artists who influenced him. I really liked the Monet paintings.

For dinner we ate at the Hard Rock CafĂ©. It was nice to eat a hearty American meal and to be loud. I didn’t have to worry about all of us being loud and obnoxious Americans – which is especially easy to do when you have a group of college students together. And my food was wonderful! I had a delicious barbeque pulled pork sandwich.

After dinner we went on a sunset canal tour, which was really awesome! The tour gave us a good overview of the city and I really loved seeing all of the bridges lit up. It made for a good end of our trip to Amsterdam.