Day 14 - Salzburg
Today was a day that we took easy around Salzburg. We went and had our laundry done and enjoyed some coffee at a local cafe while waiting for our laundry to get done.
After our laundry we just spent a day exploring other parts that were filmed for the Sound of Music and seeing the Salzburg Cathedral.
Not much to report for these next few days so I'm going to skip to day 16 from here.
Day 16 - Salzburg
Today was a day that Ben and I had been looking forward to. It was a clear, sunny day and there was still snow everywhere. We were on our way to the top of the Untersberg mountain, which is the same mountain Maria Von Trapp can't stay away from when it's calling her name to go sing in the hills.
We were up early and took a bus all the way to the bottom of the mountain. Then the part I was most afraid of was next. We had to take a gondola ride from the bottom to nearly 2,500 meters high. Safe to say I never looked up or down on the way up and in 9 minutes, we were at the top of the mountain.
The view was absolutely breathtaking and unlike anything I had ever seen before. There was snow everywhere and the sun was shining incredibly bright. We walked out of the lodge area and saw that there were hiking paths that lead to the summit of the mountain. Being terrified of heights, I was terrified to try and climb to the top but Ben wanted to more than anything, so I knew I had to overcome my fear.
The hiking trail was filled with steep hills going down and up but as we approached the summit, there was no trail anymore. We had to free climb to the top, walking over trees and rocks that were hidden feet beneath the snow. It was scary but when we made it to the actual summit of the mountain, it was absolutely stunning. Nothing could replace seeing the villages below us on one side and gorgeous mountain ranges on the other. Although it was a tad windy, it was beyond beautiful.
We headed back down the mountain after an incredible morning and we drove to the Schloss Frohnburg. This was the palace where they filmed the exterior of the Von Trapp house in the movie. I approached the house along the side wall just as Maria does and I couldn't believe I was walking the same steps. It was truly a dream come true and a great way to continue a perfect day.
The rest of the day was taking it easy and getting ready to head to London the next day. I knew this day how much I was going to miss Salzburg. It had quickly been one of my most favorite cities in the world.
Day 17 - Salzburg - London
This evening we flew from Salzburg to London where we met Jennifer at the London-Gatwick Airport. Jennifer is one of the most amazing ladies I have ever met. She was my tour guide when I sang with choral Union in Italy back in 2014. She is hilarious and kind and incredibly generous. I have been so grateful that he has been so flexible with letting Ben and I stay at her house.
She drove us to the house and it is beautiful. It is in a beautiful neighborhood in Walten-on-Thames and it is huge! It was amazing to be enriched in the actual culture of someone that lives their life in the heart of England. We settled in and called it an early night to get adjusted to yet another place on our trip.
Day 18 - London
This was our first full day and Ben was going to get to accomplish a dream he has had since he was a kid: going to an EPL match! We were going to the Emirates stadium to see Arsenal play Chelsea in a 60,000 person stadium. The whole day trip was truly an experience. You couldn't drink alcohol in the actual stadium, the fans were the most passionate fans I had ever witnessed, and there was added security in the boundary between the visiting teams fans and the home teams fans.
Unfortunately the visiting team, Chelsea, won and the police were on horses as we were exiting the stadium to keep the visiting fans segregated from the home team fans. It was quite a scene to witness and I'm so glad Ben got to live out his dream.
Day 19 - Cambridge
Today was a long day of traveling, but I got to see a town and university that any musician would dream of attending. I was going to get to meet the King's College voices and the St. John's College voices and their conductors through Cambridge University. Ben and I made the long trek up there, and it was obvious that this was a huge college town. The bars and restaurants all had a great vibe and after grabbing some lunch, I was on my way to my first rehearsal with King's College voices and their choral evensong service.
The King's College had a beautiful pure sound, with an incredibly strong men's section. The women's sections were light and pure, with a countertenor in the alto section. Under the direction of Ben Parry, Ben focuses a lot on diction and momentum. He believes too keep the purity of the sound and tone, there must be momentum in the breath, phrasing, and energy behind the note. That works so well with his group and I was impressed with how quick they picked up on the technique in that rehearsal.
The service was beautiful and the chapel was stunning! So much detail to the architecture and the stain glass was so bright. Definitely the best chapel in Cambridge.
St. John's evensong was beautiful as well, and the service was very similar. The choir had a big sound, a and the women had a lot darker tone with a lot of color. The men were also very strong, with a very dominant chest voice sound, especially in the tenor section. Both choirs were very small but had incredible tone, support, and work ethic.
Day 20 - WB Studio Tour - Harry Potter
Today was an absolutely awesome day! We were going to witness the actual sets used in the filming of the Harry Potter movies - ALL 8 OF THEM! After traveling a ways to the studio, we were able to see original artifacts used in the movies including all the horcruxes, original costumes, the tri-wizard cup, the goblet of fire, buck beak, and so much more! We even got to see Dumbledore's office, the Gryffindor common room, the boys dorm, the Great Hall and multiple other sets. We drank butter beer and took home a few small souvenirs to celebrate visiting our 2nd Harry Potter themed park! The coolest part was seeing the actual model of Hogwarts school and castle. It was so elaborate and detailed and truly gorgeous, especially with the winter snow feature on the model. Truly a dream come true! Ben and I had a fabulous time nerding out on such an incredible movie series!
Day 21-22 - London
These 2 days we took to go into the center of London. We saw Parliament, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, the London Eye, London Bridge, the aquarium, the Bond in Motion exhibit, and some shopping centers where we did some awesome shopping and ate and drank at some awesome restaurants and bars. It was nice to have the freedom to we and do what we would like. London is a beautiful place and we even got a gorgeous clear day to go to the top of the London Eye and see all of London. It was the perfect way to end the last 2 1/2 weeks in Europe together. I didn't want it to end.
Day 23 - London/Walton-on-Thames
Unfortunately, Ben had to leave and it was becoming very clear how homesick I was getting. Always experience new and unknown regions and now I didn't have my one constant to share everything with. It was hitting me harder emotionally than I thought it would. So I took this day to relax and get used to being alone again. Fortunately, Jennifer was not doing anything that evening so we went into the city together and attended a choir concert at the St. James Sussex Church. They were mostly doing music by Karl Jenkins and some pieces by John Rutter. The music was beautiful but the choir, unfortunately, was less than mediocre. Jennifer and I ended up leaving at intermission and she showed me all the different center districts of London. It was filled with life, light, and so many people!
Jennifer and I returned home and engaged in some wonderful conversation as well as had a delicious meal made of pork goulash, rice, purple sprout, red bell peppers, and fennel. Jennifer did a wonderful job of getting me out of the house and keeping me occupied in my first night without Ben in 2 1/2 weeks.
Day 24 - Walton-on-Thames
Today is a relaxing day doing laundry, catching up on my blog, and getting ready to go to Cambridge tomorrow and then onto Riga on Monday. Thank you all so much for your support and love in all of this. My homesickness is definitely evident now and although I plan to savor every moment of this experience, I also am looking forward to being home again with my friends and family. They mean more to me than anything in the world!
Love you all! Until next time!