Just call us "Seasoned Travelers"

Saturday, August 9th: We had a lot of things planned for today! Our goal was to be out the door by 8:45, but we ended up leaving the hostel at 9:45 – not a problem. We knew that the “Changing of the Guard” at Buckingham Palace happened every other day in August and September and were hoping that it was going to take place today. We hopped on the metro and headed over to our first stop – Buckingham Palace. We got to Buckingham Palace around 10:45 to wait for the Changing of the Guard to occur. Our travel book said that it was a “40 minute spectacle” and we were excited.

We got a spot right in front of the palace and waited… and waited… and waited. Callie asked Brittany what time it was, and she looked at her watch and at the man’s watch next to her and told Callie the time – 11:37. It was supposed to start at 11:30, but we thought maybe they were running late. At 12:00 we began to hear music and saw the guards walking through the street, making their way to the palace. At 12:30, the spectacle began.

It was great to be able to watch the Changing of the Guard, but by this point, we have been there for almost 2 hours, have swarms of people sticking their arm above our heads trying to get a picture, people pushing and stepping on our feet, and it’s raining – so we were a little over it. We left the palace at 1:00 and headed to a small cafe for lunch. After lunch we walked over to the theatre to pick up our tickets for the 2:30 showing of the musical Wicked. We got there around 1:45, the doors to the lobby were still locked so we just decided to wait in an outside area. We thought it was weird that the doors were still locked at 2:00 and that there weren’t many people waiting in line to get in. We were sure that they would open the doors at any moment. 2:15 rolls around and there are more people in the waiting area, but the doors are still locked. There is a shop in the area that we are standing in that has programs and t-shirts and CDs for the musical for sale with a sign on the counter that says “The shop will open at 1:30”, but it’s way past 1:30. Callie says, “Are you sure your watch is right?” Brittany says, “Yeah, I’m pretty sure… I looked at that man’s watch and my watch while we were at the palace and they both said the same time…” We soon found out that Brittany forgot to set her watch back an hour (London is one hour behind Paris and Munich) and apparently the man next to us at Buckingham Palace didn’t change his watch either! So basically, we had been an hour off all morning (we really did leave the hostel at 8:45). So it’s really only 1:15, but it’s raining outside and we just decided to wait a little while longer because the doors would open at 2:00. Wicked was well worth the wait. It was one of the best, if not the best musical either of us have seen!
We left the musical at 5:45 and went back to the hostel to change clothes and back out for dinner at Anexo for paella and tapas. After dinner we went to a bar called 22 Below to celebrate our graduation. Oh yeah, we graduated today. Our commencement was at 5:00pm CST, so we decided to have our own commencement over drinks. No more school. That’s weird.

Sunday, August 10th: We love museums! Today we got up and headed over to Buckingham Palace once again, but this time to purchase tickets to get inside to see the State Rooms. This is was a special time to go because one of the rooms is decorated for a party that will take place in September when the Queen gets back from vacation. We were a little turned around when we got off the metro and weren’t really sure where to go. We pulled out our map and were staring at it for a little while until a nice old man approached us and asked if he could help us find something. We told him we wanted to go to Buckingham Palace and he pulled out his map which was a little more detailed than ours. He told us the best way to get there was to take a stroll through St. James’ Park; from the bridge in the middle of the park, we’d be able to see Buckingham Palace in view on the left and Westminster Palace to the right.

It was such a beautiful view and we were so glad to be able to walk through a park like that. It’s nothing like the parks in Texas, that’s for sure.
After we bought our tickets for a tour at the palace later in the day, we went over to the Victoria and Albert Museum, the largest museum of decorative (and not so decorative) arts in the world showcasing an exhaustive collection of fashion from the 16th century through today among many other art collections. Afterwards, we went over to Knightsbridge and Belgravia to visit a store called Pandora. If you have ever heard of the store Buffalo Exchange, it is an up-scale version of this store. Pandora resells clothes and accessories on behalf of wealthy women and celebrities whose designer garments have become too voluminous to house. The items were definitely cheaper than those at the designer stores, but still a little too expensive for us – it was fun to look though! Before returning for our tour at Buckingham Palace we stopped by a store called Hotel Chocolat (http://www.hotelchocolat.com/ -they deliver to the US!) to load up on some goodies! Who knew you would need a shopping basket in a chocolate store? After we got our fix and a free chocolate lollipop for our “qualifying purchases” we headed back to the palace to see where Queen Elizabeth plays. The tour was just over an hour (sorry, we weren’t allowed to take any pictures) and simply amazing! We were able to see where guests enter for dinners with the Queen, where the dinners take place and all of the preparation that goes on before and during the dinner, and where the guests have coffee after dinner! We also walked through the room where Prince Harry and William were baptized. It was a fun time and a great experience. After the tour we went over to Picadilly Circus which was a little overrated. We took our pictures and were over it in about 10 minutes. Then we took the metro over to Tower Bridge for some more pictures. We stopped by Horniman at Hays for dinner, a huge pub with great fish and chips! After dinner, we took the metro over to Big Ben and Westminster Abbey for some pictures. Big Ben certainly lives up to his name.
We came back to the hostel and looked at our train tickets for the next day to make sure we had everything squared away. This is when our trip really took a turn – for the better or worse, we weren’t really sure at this point.

Monday, August 11th: Our train from London left this morning at 6:55 and arrived in Paris at 10:15. Our plans were to take the 1:00 train to Nice and arrive by 8:00 tonight, but when we looked at our tickets last night, we realized they were for the 9:30pm train tonight instead of the afternoon train that we really wanted. We were on our way to the train station we would leave from when Brittany picked up her bag and the strap broke. The frustration was weighing on both of us and Brittany’s tears began to fall. Callie held it together and was encouraging all the way to the train station. When we got to our departure station, Callie went to the ticket counter to see if we could change our tickets, but the afternoon train was full and we’d have to wait. We had a lot of time to think about our options and decide what we wanted to do. We could wait at the train station for the next 11 hours or Callie said, “I’m just throwing this out there, but we could always try to catch an earlier flight home…” Brittany quickly responded with, “Callie, that is not an option. We paid for our Eurail pass, we’ll have to pay for our first night in Nice if we don’t show, and it will cost money to change our flight. It’s not an option.” Callie said, “That’s fine, I just wanted to throw it out there.” The longer we waited, the more Brittany was thinking about the cost of staying versus going home early. We thought about how much we’d each be willing to pay to go home early and Brittany began to think of the comfort of her bed. Brittany said, “Callie, let’s go home.” So Callie called her mom, the great Amy Cuppett! We didn’t really think of the time difference and woke Mrs. Cuppett up, but she was a trooper and did everything she could to book us a flight home early. The greatest words we had heard all day were “I got you on a flight tomorrow afternoon at 1:30”. We headed to the airport, dragging all of our luggage behind us and finally arrived to Charles de Gaulle, our home for the next 20 hours. McDonald’s was good to us, and we are grateful for the inventor of playing cards.

Tuesday, August 12th: The thought of our comfortable beds was dancing through our minds all night as we slept on the the hardwood floor at the airport. We woke up when everyone started arriving at the airport and got some strange looks. Sure it was a little dirty and very uncomfortable, but we really didn’t have another option. We checked in at 10:30am and dropped off our bags and were thankful that we didn’t have to deal with them for the next 14 hours. We waited patiently for our flight to start boarding and the time finally came to head back to DFW, stopping first in Boston. Our flight from Paris to Boston had a lot of children on it. 6 of them were right next to us. We are thankful that they weren’t annoying, and were just plain cute.

We were supposed to arrive in Boston at 3:20 pm and catch our connecting flight to Dallas at 5:35 – we thought we had this in the bag. We sat on the runway in Paris for over an hour, delaying our arrival in Boston until 4:05 pm. We waited in multiple lines, and in each line Brittany said to an American Airlines employee or a TSA employee “Our flight leaves in ___ minutes, is there any way to bypass the line and get to the front so we can catch our flight?” The response was pretty much the same “I can’t do anything for you; you’ll have to wait just like everyone else; No.” We both prayed that we would catch our flight. We’ve said before that we know that the Lord is in control and His plans are better than ours, and we knew everything would work out the way it was supposed to – we were just hoping it would be the way we imagined. We got to the final line at 5:25, 10 minutes before our flight was supposed to leave. Brittany said to three different people “Our flight leaves in 10/7/4 minutes. I just need to get through security to tell them that we are here, can I please get to the front of the line, our gate is right on the other side!” One man responded with, “Ma’am, there is nothing we can do. If American feels like you need to be expedited through the line, they’ll let us know. For now, you will have to wait just like everyone else. We could read on the board at our gate that our flight was boarding, but security was in our way and there was obviously nothing we could do or say about it without getting arrested. With 2 minutes until our flight left, we finally got to the other side and sprinted to the counter. Brittany said in a panic, “We are supposed to be on this flight and did everything we could to get here on time. Can we still get on?” The AA rep sighed and said, “You were the two we were waiting for. The doors are closed and it’s not possible to get on this flight. You’ll have to wait for the 9:00 flight this evening.” Let the cry fest begin. We were both just emotionally and physically drained and called our parents to let them know we wouldn’t be in Dallas at 8:45 anymore. Brittany was doing one of those cries where she was gasping for air and couldn’t really breathe and her Dad was trying really hard to understand what she was saying. He calmed her down and reassured her that everything would be okay. He said, “There is not a thing you can do. I know it’s frustrating, but you just have to deal with it and know that you’ll get home tonight. Just go get yourself a burger and a drink and cool off. Or how about you get you some baked beans? They have great baked beans in Boston!” Brittany said, “Dad, I’m pretty sure they don’t have any baked beans at the airport.” He said, “I know what you can do! Get you a bunch of baked beans and eat them all. And when you’re on the flight you just start farting and after each fart you say ‘That’s for that shuttle driver. That’s for the lady at the ticket counter. That’s for the rude employees.” This made us both laugh. Our parents always have a way of making us laugh during frustrating times. We got a bite to eat and sat down when a mom walked up with 4 kids, ages 7,5,3 and 1. You could tell that she had a long day and her kids were still energetic and sleep was not on their minds yet. We started talking to them and soon found ourselves reading to them, coloring with them and racing them down the aisle. The mom, Sharon, informed us that her husband had been with them at the beginning of the trip to visit family, but had to go back early for work. They were supposed to catch an 8:00am flight to Dallas that morning, but were on standby and the only flight they could get on was the same flight as ours. Her children were precious, and very well behaved so we decided to give her our numbers so she could call us when she wanted a much needed night out with her husband. She was overcome with joy and was so thankful that we were serious about our offer. We understand now that the Lord kept us in Boston to give Sharon a little break, and to add some joy to our frustrating day. With Callie being a nanny, and Brittany working with 2 year olds each Sunday, we’ve both learned that children always have a way of making you smile, no matter how bad your day has been. We are thankful for the spirit of those children and the joy they brought to the end of our emotional day. We finally arrived to DFW at midnight and were greeted by Callie’s family and Kristen, Brittany’s oldest sister. We are thankful for them and were so excited to see their smiling faces holding up “Welcome Home!” signs.
Being overseas experiencing different cultures has made us realize how thankful we are to be Americans and how thankful we are for the American culture. We are thankful for readily available tap water and free public toilets. We are thankful for cheap food and our cars and much, much more!
The Lord has taught us so many things on this trip and it has been exciting to share our joys, frustrations and life lessons with you. If you remember one thing from your experience of living vicariously through us over the past month, we hope it is this: There is a blessing in every situation. It may be obvious, you might have to search for it, or you may never know what it is, but it is there. We hope you always know that the Lord is in control and is constantly providing for you. He knows how much you can handle and he will continue to encourage you to trust in Him and to remind you that He has much more wisdom than you will ever have. Be in awe of our King who created the world and everything in it. Be overcome with joy that this same King loves you and has intricately woven every detail of your life, past, present and future, and will continue to love you, provide for you, comfort, and encourage you for the rest of your life.
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