Wednesday, July 15, 2015

It's not up to date, but it's an update.

So I'm sitting in the floor of Rome Termini Train Station. Soaked in sweat waiting in line to make a reservation for a 1 hour train ride to Naples. They are on ticket number 678. We are ticket number 752. It's going to be a long night. 

So, once again a bunch has happened since I last blogged. But mostly, it's been a sweaty ride.   

I believe I left you hanging in Prague. Prague was...interesting. Trav was feeling super crappy so we basically took a vacation from our adventuring. We did a small walking tour to which we ditched half way through due to heat exhaustion and stomach pains. We tried to rent a paddleboat but literally no one in Prague takes cash and nearly every currency change is a scam. So we ate from grocery store food. Which is preferred anyway. Oh boy, I miss my kitchen back home. Overall, Prague was gorgeous but the people we encountered were pretty rude. We were honked at multiple time for walking across the cross walk when we had a "green man." We got scoffed at for trying to pay with a credit card and talked down to when we tried to make a train reservation. I wasn't sad to leave. But hey, it's gorgeous and I'm just one person. Please judge Prague for yourself! 

Next stop, Budapest. Turns out everyone and their mother goes to Budapest from Prague on the weekend so we didn't take the night train. We took the 15:42-22:30 train. With no air conditioning. In 90 degree weather. Aka after about 4 hours I thought I was going to die. Until some random kid took a wrench to the windows and opened them, saving us all. Budapest was awesome. By awesome, I mean incredibly cheap. We stayed at an awesome airbnb owned by a kid named, Daniel. If you're ever going to Budapest, let us know and we'll give you his contact info. Day 1 in Budapest, we went to the thermal baths for a little r&r. It was so nice! Cold waters, hot saunas. We definitely needed the detox. We left the baths and stumbled upon the Redbull air race on the Danube River. So that was awesome. Day 2, we attempted to go to church (a Hillsong plant called Budapest Connect) and failed because apparently they meet on Saturdays despite their website's information. That night we splurged with a drink boat tour along the Danube where we got to see some awesome buildings lit up at night but we mostly talked to the Americans behind us and the Canadians in front of us. We ended up hanging with Joel and Heather Alexis (Canadians - who do in fact say 'ey' frequently) til 2am, spending our time talking about Crohn's Disease and a quick run through a ruin bar (a bar literally made from garbage and the like) which was much to crowded and loud for us all. We shopped a bit the next day and headed off to Salzburg, Austria mid-morning. 

Salzburg. Apparently the hills are alive with the sound of music or something. Or alive with euros. We tried to hike to the castle but failed when we were told to pay 8€ per person to continue on the gravel path. So we marched back to the station and went to Wallersee. A beautiful small lake surrounded by small mountains. The water was clear and cold. The old man speedos were a plenty. And the sun was hot. After a day in the sun, we shopped a bit more and took the night train to Rome. Praise moment: our train from Salzburg to Innsbruck (where we would connect to the night train to Rome) was running 20 minutes behind and we only had a 5 minute layover to begin with. Aka we had missed our train (with our $70 reservation) BUT that train was running behind as well and we made it on to our crowded 6-person sleeper cabin with time to spare. Amen. 

Note: when I say "shopped" I usually mean walk around in air conditioning which just happens to be in malls with the occasional purchase of something small on sale. 

Rome was hot and crowded. I'm not saying this in a bad connotation, just as a fact. Seeing ruins from BC was astonishing. Walking 15-20 miles in two days was exhausting. But we loved it! Vatican City was so cool. The walls were incredibly impressive (we walked the entire way around them.) we pulled a classic "us" and definitely cut in line instead of waiting 2 hours to get into Saint Peters Basilica. We waited about 12 minutes, oops sorry guys.  We enjoyed a very classic Roman Apertivo in which you order a drink and the bar has a buffet of snacks. Did someone say free food? We love free food. So Rome treated us well and we headed off to Napoli. After a long, sweaty wait in the Train Station. 

Napoli, Italy. I honestly don't want to write much about Napoli. It was dirty. I was sort of sick. It was incredulously hot. I'm sure it has its perks, I just didn't manage to find them. Instead of deluging into my struggle with Napoli, I will just brag on my husband. I was a hot mess, crying and wanting to go home. Travie stood by my side. Wiped away my tears. Held my hands. Hugged me. As unfortunate as it was that Napoli didn't meet my expectations, I truly believe God wanted us to go there for me to learn something. To learn that Travis is as full of grace for me as is humanly possible. He has seen me at my worst and hugged me and loved me still the same. Tears still threaten my eyes as I think about how blessed I am to have Travis by my side. As my travel partner, best friend and lover. I've seen utter, undeserved grace only given to me by the grace he is filled with by the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

We are out of Italy and back in France. We love France. More to come soon! 

Much love all,

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Professional Blogger? Nope, not me.

Professional blogger: I will never be 

So, correct me if I'm wrong, I left you hanging in the north of France a week or so ago. Crap, I have so much to write. And you have so much to read. 

Here's the short for the people who don't really care. Brittany > Normandy > Paris > Brussels, Belgium > Amsterdam, Netherlands > Copenhagen, Denmark > Malmö, Sweden > Berlin, Germany > Warsaw, Poland > Prague, Czech Republic 

You're still with me? Great! Here we go. 

We returned from our northern France road trip with the lovely Antoine and spent a few days in Paris. We "saw the sights." You know...the Louve, Arch de Triumph, Eiffel Tower, etc. We've begun a rather interesting game of "napping in monumental places." So far: Notre Dam, Normandy Beach, Eiffel Tower. To be continued. 

We bid farewell to Antoine and Paris after an amazing few days staying at his mom's house. Who is the best French mom we've ever had. And headed off to Brussels. 

We arrived in Brussels in a dreary drizzle without a place to sleep. So what do we do? Find a bar with wifi, obviously. Drank some house-made violet vodka and some Belgian beer. After a bit of Jesus' handiwork, we were graced with a place to stay with Fred and Janet : missionary friends of the Wentworths. They are absolutely amazing people doing absolutely amazing things. It was glorious to hear about The goal is to make the bible understandable and less intimidating! (Oh how I need this). Check out his webpage for more info! Day 2 in Brussels was sunny and beautiful. So naturally, we walked around to every chocolate shop and ate their free samples. If you want to gain some weight and enjoy doing it, go to Brussels. 

Next, off to Amsterdam. Or how I like to say, Hamsterdam. No particular reason, just sounds nice. This was a city of perpetual nearly running someone over with a bike or nearly being run over by someone else on a bike. Also, the Vespas drive 35mph in the bike lane. Not safe. We decided not to pay €20 and wait in line for 4+ hours to go into the Anne Frank house. So we went into a cheese museum next door and ate some free cheese. Classic. 

After Amsterdam we took a rather long and horrible journey to Copenhagen on the overnight train. I only say over night because the trains ran through the night. It looked a bit like this. Amsterdam > Duisburg, Germany (3hrs. 6pm to 9pm). Layover in Duisburg (6hrs. 9pm to 3am). This consisted of a few hours in McDonalds, an hour or so hammocking in a park until a sketchy man whistling with a flashlight began wandering the park [horror film, I know] and 3 hours in an ibis hotel lobby where I'm pretty sure the lobby man didn't want us there but couldn't speak English so it worked out and there was free wifi. Then we got on a train and headed somewhere in between Duisburg and Copenhagen. Then we got on another train and landed in Copenhagen around noon. So, that happened. We got some rather expensive coffee and bread at a bakery and set off. To a garden outside of a palace. Where guessed it, napped. You can add Copenhagen Palace to the game of "napping in monumental places."
After a day in the rather expensive and gorgeous city of Copenhagen, we took a 30 min train over bridge and under sea to Malmö, Sweden. Where we stayed at an incredible sketchy airbnb in which we had one pullout couch, another airbnb-er (whom we actually met at the bus stop because we commented on her yummy-looking Popsicle) had another pullout couch 3 feet from us and the apartment owner sleeping on the floor. All in a space probably the size of your living room. So awkward. It was $19 so whatever. 

Next stop, Berlin. We night-trained from Malmö to Berlin on a one way train that has a 4 hour leg of the journey in which the train literally drives onto a ferry and then the ferry drives across the Baltic Sea. What? So, we met a cool girl from Russia who was in the same 6-person cabin as us. WHY DOES IPHONE INSIST ON AUTOCORRECTING US TO U.S.?!?! Apple, if you're reading this - fix that. Us is a real word. 

So Berlin. We rented bikes and biked to almost every tourist attraction in the city. Went to a super cool Hillsong Church plant called Berlin Connect (B/C). If you are ever in Berlin, I highly recommend. Service is in English, it's small and personal, the worship is awesome, and the people love Jesus a whole lot. The Holocaust memorial is also something worth seeing. It was a beautiful picture of redemption: a country with so much painful history honoring those who were pained most by the past. After some German beer, We slept in a non-sketchy airbnb and headed off to Warsaw the next morning. 

Warsaw. In the land of my ancestors. I felt at home. Not really because I'm Polish (though it was really powerful for me to learn a bit about Polish history and think that people I'm related to experienced it all first hand) Rather, because everything was so incredibly cheap!! Example: 1 pint of strawberries, 3 bananas, 1 liter of berry kiefer, 1 loaf of fresh bread, 2 polish pastries, 1 bottle of fresh squeezed OJ (from the machine that mashes oranges when you pull the lever), and a pack of 18 plain rice cakes for $6.20. Do that in the states and I will give you $100. Seriously. Other than the prices, Warsaw was beautiful. The new architecture was gorgeous, the old buildings were incredibly charming and we just had a really enjoyable time! However, finding someone to speak English was an incredible daunting task. Free wifi and google translate was the only way getting a bus pass was remotely possible. In the train station you will find signs in English, but no one at those stations who can understand you. I'm realizing how spoiled I am to live in America where my voice is heard and my requests and questions are easily answered by nearly anyone. 

After a bit in Warsaw, we jumped on the night train to Prague. Which was next to impossible to find someone who spoke English to get a reservation for. We finally got one for a 6-person cabin. Which turned out to be a 3 person cabin. That didn't have a 3rd person. Praise the lord. 2 sleeping pills and Harry Potter on audio books = 9 hours of sleep for Monica. Now we are in Prague, a rather old and beautiful city. We're taking a rest day this afternoon and night. We have an amazing airbnb, some healthy food from the grocery store that I cooked, a comfy bed, and a TV with Wimbledon playing. We're relaxed, clean and full. Thank you Jesus. 

I have to take a moment to brag on the Lord. He has provided for us each and every step of the way. Even when our "plans" failed, his prevailed even greater. Every mistake, wrong turn, and frustration has eventually pointed to his control and his glory. Once I surrender my own desire for control and stubbornness. We are learning that Jesus holds us so preciously, even more than we ever realized before. We need not worry or fear, for Jesus loves us (and you) and protects us. 

We love you all. We will be back in the states in less than a month! (Gasp) CANT WAIT TO SEE YOU SOON FAM (first Wentworths then Antons!)

I swear I won't go this long without blogging again. Oops.