Wow! I had a great time touring in Austria and Switzerland! I’m a staff pianist at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church and was asked to join the church’s Chancel Choir on the farewell tour with long time music director, Doug Lawrence. I was utterly thrilled at the opportunity that I’d have to play and sing in some historic and beautiful sacred spaces.
I arrived at the SF International Airport Monday morning, June 18, at 11am. Several choir members were already there, including my assigned roommate, Brenda, and her aunt and uncle. They were what we referred to as “choir groupies”, people who don’t sing with the choir but provide the BEST enthusiasm and applause during the concerts! The tour directors could not have chosen a better roommate for me! Brenda is energetic, adorable, friendly, spunky, brilliant, beautiful and fun! Furthermore, she’s an experienced traveler and sleeps quietly! All good! lol The choir members and choir groupies, 82 people in total, were divided into two groups: Blue and Red. I was assigned to the Blue group, which included our fearless leader, Doug and his family.
We all boarded the Lufthansa airplane and took off for Frankfurt. During the flight, I intermittently watched and slept through 3 movies: Catch and Release, Freedom Writers (my kind of movie; I love that inspirational, real life, positive kind of movie) and Music and Lyrics. As usual, I chose the vegan meals in-flight. I have found that the vegan meal is generally more tasty and edible than the standard fare.
On Tuesday, 6/19/07, we arrived at the Frankfurt airport. It’s not exactly aesthetically pleasing. It was ugly and smelled bad. But we weren’t there long. We boarded a pretty new plane (yes, that’s my description; don’t ask me what type of plane it was), which I didn’t appreciate for long because I passed out again. I, thankfully, have no trouble at all sleeping on airplanes.
After a couple of hours, we landed in Munich (a very nice, clean airport). We boarded a tour bus and drove from the Munich Airport to Castle Neuschwanstein in Bayern. I have never in my life suffered as much from intense heat as I did during that drive. It was a hot, sunny day and the bus that the Blue group was assigned had no air conditioning AND the windows barely opened. We were nearly suffocating on that bus. We couldn’t get to the castle soon enough.
The castle was built for King Ludwig II (also know as Mad King Ludwig), and is incredibly beautiful. In fact, it’s the inspiration for the Cinderella’s Castle at Disneyland. As we toured the castle, Doug decided to have the choir sing in the Throne Room. I gave the pitch on the pitch pipe and we began to sing one of the pieces of our repertoire (“Sing and Rejoice” I believe). The acoustics in the room were stunning! We sounded so good that we all broke into smiles immediately! After leaving the castle, it was back onto the HOT bus for the ride to our hotel in Salzburg. Upon arriving at the hotel, I had dinner and quickly passed out!
On Wednesday, 6/20/07, I woke up, practiced yoga in the hotel gym, ate breakfast, dressed and headed with the group to downtown Salzburg. We met our very knowledgeable and friendly tour guide, Inga, and toured several notable locations: Mirabelle Gardens (simply beautiful), the old town, St. Peter’s Cloisters, Salzburg Dom and courtyard, and Mozart’s birth home, to name a few. It was quite sobering to walk on cobblestones in the old town and realize that people had traversed those actual stones for hundreds of years; perhaps even Mozart himself! The city of Salzburg is beautiful, very clean and full of botanical sights.
Once our tour guide finished the city tour, we were free to explore the city on our own for a couple of hours before heading back to the hotel to dress for the night’s event: dinner and a concert at the St. Peterskeller, one of the oldest restaurants in Europe (serving since circa 800 AD)! The food was decent, but the concert was lots of fun. A few students from the local conservatory performed scenes from a couple of Mozart operas. I was even serenaded by Don Giovanni, who bent before me on one knee as I blushed!