My Mission Trip to France=$3800

I have raised $3,857.00 to date. My support raising is complete! Thank you!

Friday, October 30, 2009

[guest blogger: sarah tilley]

Friends, chocolate, mint tea, and Sheena make the best Thursday night a homesick girl could ask for in Bilbao. Thursday night is a huge going out night around here. Half off caƱas (mini beers) and pintxos (basque tapas) bring out the crowds. My roommate Mi could not believe that we were not going to go out and take advantage of the deals. But I got all I could ask for with having a best friend in town. Earlier that night we did get to do what was on my list of "Bilbao with Sheena" priorities. We went to my favorite cerveceria in Casco Viejo to split delicious bocadillos and croquetas. I crave food from this place at least twice a week- so I thought Sheen deserved to share in this dining experience. Afterward we walked along the river that divides Bibao and enjoyed the sight of the Guggenheim at night. We also took some pictures under the giant, Tim Burtonesque spider that hangs out by the Guggenheim. Hopefully sheena will post some of those soon :-)

Most importantly, I was blessed with good conversation by someone that really knows me. And after you get that, you don't really need to go out and experience the Thurday night drink deals. Falling asleep while watching Friends suits you just fine.

Thank you for coming to Bilbao Sheena!! Agur!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Oh friends.

Maintenant, je suis a Bilbao avec mon meilleur amie, Sarah!

It's so hard to believe that Sarah lives here. In Europe. In Spain. For good.
When I leave here she is not coming home with me, because she is home.
This is so weird.

But Sarah's life here is so lovely, and Bilbao is a really cute city. It's pretty artsy and industrial at the same time, which is very interesting.
The train ride in was so beautiful, riding through the Spanish countryside. The hills were fire red and covered in vineyards for miles and miles.

Sarah met me at the train station when my train got in - it was such a romantic scene lol! I got off my train and was looking around for her on the platform and in the distance I see this girl in a (cute!) dress running through the crowds towards me. It was Sarah and then we ran towards each other and collided in a big hug!
Isn't that so funny? We laughed about what a scene it was later.
So after Sarah picked me up from the train we got on the metro, which is really beautiful and new and well lit and awesome, and got off at Indauxten, where she lives!
We went to her cute little apartment, which honestly is not that little, and then made a carrot cake for her auxilliare friend Deidre, who's birthday was yesterday. It was such a scene baking in Spain, lol, because they don't bake here! It's so sad really. Sarah had to buy baking soda in the cleaning aisle (whaaat?!).
Anyways, we made carrot cake from scratch that was AWESOME and figured out how to use the oven and everything (because it only has numbers 1-6, as opposed to degrees or even celsius). Thank you google, you were very helpful.

Then we met Deidre and her roommate and her roommate's boyfriend and went to the beach, which was so gorgeous! There were a lot of surfers out and the water was freezing, but it was SO BEAUTIFUL. I'm so happy that this will be Sarah's beach. We put our feet in the water and played and took pictures. It's hard to believe that ocean is the same one as home. After sunset we went to this bar on top of a cliff that overlooked the beach and I drank some great red wine.

Then we went home and changed and met Deidre for dinner and cake. We walked around Downtown Bilbao and the old city area, which was suprisingly really extensive, until we finally found a cute little bar that had pinxtos. I got one covered in honeyglazed ham and another one with some other meat on it-it was really good. We also had this white wine that apparently is the pride and joy of the Basque Country. It was pretty delish.

Then Sarah and I walked home and crashed.
Now I'm here getting ready to do some MUCH NEEDED laundry and maybe try to sleep more. There is construction going on downstairs that's making it kind of hard to so though. Sarah is working all day today but I think I will get a free bike rental and check out Bilbao, maybe make it to the Guggenheim, etc etc. Then tonight I'm not sure what we will do!
Life is grand.

Oh that city. It's so funny because James told me on our second or third day there that on the train ride in he thought this was going to be a city that contested with Paris for MY favorite city. ON THE TRAIN RIDE. But he was right.
Barcelona is unlike anything I've ever experienced before. It's the most creative and passionate city I've ever been in, that's for sure. It's my favorite city along WITH Paris because I love them in two different ways. Yes, that's right, I can have two favorites.

Today I am going to try to upload some pictures to the site. Perhaps then I will write a little recap about Barcelona.

The jackhammering seems to have ceased for a few minutes. Off to chase some sleep!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A little bit of Italy, Monaco, France, and Spain in two days. And the worst day yet. Oy vey.

Friends, this makes me happy right now.

Yes, that's right, I am with Sarah Tilley in Barcelona. Life is just lovely and grand, I can't believe how amazing it is that we are all here right now.

We live in a loft in an amazing hostel. It's really grand.

Today was actually really great, compared to yesterday (the day from hell).
Basically what happened yesterday was James and I left from Florence at 1:30am, got into Milan at 7:00am left Milan at 9 and got into Nice at 2 where we found out we couldn't get to Barcelona until the next day (today) at night because France had a holiday.
Oh lordy, so then we took a train at 6:30om (after fighting with desk people all day, or basically James doing that all day) to Montpellier, which we arrived at around midnite. This was where we had to wait until 3pm to take a five hour train to Barcelona. So we spent the night in the train station (which was loads of fun) and then took a 6am train to Avignon.

This is where it gets good because Avignon was actually really gorgeous and we had the most lovely time just walking around and exploring the city. The pope used to live here and had a really beautiful castle that we got to explore. I also got a lovely French pastry. I love France. I just love that country, have I said that yet?! I love France.

Well then we got on the train and got into Barcelona.

Here we got to see the newlywed Vandermolens for a hot second and then walked around Gotica and the Las Ramblas area with Sarah after getting an amazingly cheap dinner.
Tomorrow Sarah and I are getting breakfast at the hostel and then getting coffee after.
For reals? Hanging out with my bff in Spain.

life is so lovely.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Italy, again.

Dear friends,

Switzerland had perhaps the most lovely landscape I have ever seen, but boy am I glad to get out of that country. Literally sucking our wallets dry.
I had a hard time with it honestly, poor James had to deal with a Sheena breakdown, lol.
But we had a lovely time in Switzerland though, and in Lausanne, which is just a beautiful city. We met the most wonderful couch surfers who made us awesome Swiss food.
We had raclettes and some amazing fondue (which swiss people would argue is not french, its a mini war, i guess this is what's important when you're a neutral country, lol).
Also, we went out to this realy great Chinese restaurant with some of our new friends and then finally went out to a club in the Lausanne Flon district which is apparently pretty famous.
It was a good time although Europe has still disappointed with its crappy music.
However, I could not get over how in Lausanne at this club they were broadcasting the Gator game! CRAZY! It made me feel a little homesick honestly.
We finally were able to get out of Switzerland yesterday, after is costing an arm and a leg to do so, but now we are in lovely Florence with Lindsay and Ross Stowers and their lovely family. We're only here till Wednesday night thought because then we are going to BARCELONA.
I am super stoked about Florence though and getting the best gelato I've ever had and seeing the Duomo.

Today will be a day of walking and love I'm sure.

Friday, October 16, 2009


Switzerland is so expensive! Just as an example, the dollar is about equivalent to the Swiss franc, but a McDonald's meal (not that I would get one) is 14 swiss francs! CRAZY!

Anyways, the last couple of days I've been at L'Abri in a small little village up in the Swiss Alps.

Go here for more info about L'Abri.

It's been so good. I read an amazing book that God just used to kill me, in a good way of course. The wound is open, scraped out, and being treated. Perhaps some real healing can begin. The week before I felt on the verge of emotional burnout, some days thinking I really was going crazy. Four days in the Swiss Alps has brought me sanity. God has given me clarity, hope, and love.
I feel refreshed and refocused. I feel healthy.

Thank you all for your prayers over this part of my journey.

I ate some wonderful food at L'Abri, but mostly just enjoyed the pace of life that allowed me five hours of reading and drinking tea in a cabin overlooking the snowcapped Swiss Alps everyday. In the evenings before dinner I would take walks along the edge of the valley and meet some Swiss cows along the way. Swiss cows have bells around their necks; you could hear them all the time at L'Abri. One cow even came up and licked me. Weird, but really cute.

Now I'm couchsurfing in Lausanne. James and I are reunited.
Tonight we are going to check out the cinema portion of this awesome music and art festival, and then we are going to check out some house/techno clubs.
Lausanne is so beautiful. They have a really gorgeous gothic cathedral here that reminds me of Notre Dame.

I miss Paris.

Also, Lausanne is on this huge lake, nestled between the Swiss Alps. The town of Evian (like the water) is right around the corner. The water is awesome here.

It's almost too cold, but it's kinda nice.
We leave to Florence on Sunday night. It will be nice to be in Italy again. I wonder if I will be able to afford Italy. I can't afford Switzerland, but it's nice to just sit outside and look at how pretty everything is and be hungry and homeless and still absolutely lovely.

I might be back in Orlando later than I thought. But if you know me, you probably knew that would happen.

We'll see.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Four days is not enough

This is my last day in Rome. I'm so sad about this. Tonight at 11pm I take the night train to L'Abri. I'm going alone because James is going to stay in Rome and then meet me in Lausanne later this week.

I really like Rome. Not as much as I like Paris, but maybe I haven't spent enough time here. It's so beautiful. The weather is steamy but it almost makes everything feel more ancient...I dont know how that works.

Vatican City today. Apparently there's a pope party. Should be fun. :)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

I hitchhiked in Germany yesterday. Imma big girl now.

I am in Rome! Ahh! I dont have much time at ths internet cafe but I just wanted to give God so much praise for my day yesterday it was beautiful and lovely. I cant wait to tell everyone more! Mwah!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Berlin has been so lovely to us. I wish I had more time to write, but I want to get a small nap in before our train at 4:30, so I will be leaving two hours or so. AHH!

Well Paris was so amazing.
Nuit Blanche was everything I thought it would be and so much more. I just love that city.
James and I were the only ones of the group we went with that made it through the night. We're so insane sometimes!

The metro not working wasn't even an issue for us because by the time we got on the metro ride home it was 7:00am.
My favorite thing I saw at Nuit Blanche was this huge disco ball suspended by crane over the Luxembourg gardens. The artist wanted to bring stars to the city of light so the ball reflected stars everywhere. It was so beautiful.

We finally went to bed at 8am and got up at 2. We got out the house by 4pm and were able to go to the Louvre for about an hour (FOR FREE!) which, ya know, is INCREDIBLE.
We then went back, got our things and took the metro to our train. We took the overnight train to Berlin.

Two years ago one of the students involved in the high school ministry I worked with, Student Venture, hosted a German foreign exchange student who was also a Christian and is amazing. I contacted him a few weeks ago about staying with him when we were in Germany. Well we were actually able to meet up here in Berlin! It was the sweetest thing ever and so awesome to see him after two years. We stayed with two of his friends from church, a recently married couple who are our exact ages, Frank and Janette, and they were such AMAZING BLESSINGS to us. Frank and Janette are vegans and they made us the most amazing vegan dinner last night and then Frank had school off today and toured us all around Berlin. In addition, Thomas gave us a tour yesterday.

Today we saw it all, the Reichstag, the Jewish Memorial, Checkpoint Charlie, Postdamer Platz (we saw a movie in the sony center tonight!) the Berlin Wall, the art/graffiti district in East Germany, we got amazing doner kababs, an awesome german pastry that I can't pronounce lol, we saw the old kaiser church that had a bomb dropped in it, walked and used the oldest UBahn station in Berlin, walked through the most expensive mall in day and night.
Yesterday we saw Bradenburger Tor and walked through Tiergarten for a bit. Then we went to Alexander Platz and saw the TV Tower (Frank and Janette live 5 min walk from it) and then walked to the Berlin Dome and the fountain of Neptune and the surrounding areas.
It was such and incredible night. Frank is so awesome and lived in Minnesota for a summer, so was able to communicate with us flawlessly. He also loves history and his city and politics and was really a wonderful tour guide.
I just feel so incredibly blessed and loved and taken care of.

Tomorrow (today, in an hour) I board a train to Frankfurt, where I will stop for a bit, put my luggage in a locker, and then take another train to Darmstadt, where my mother used to live.
I think tomorrow is going to be a really hard day for me, so please pray.
Also, tomorrow I am going alone. James needs another day on his railpass so he's going to drop me off in Frankfurt and then his train continues to Rome. It will be a very long (16hr) train ride for him and he will arrive in Rome at midnite. So pray for his travels as well.
I will play in Darmstadt for a bit and then continue to Rome on an overnight train that will put me in Rome by 9am Friday morning.

Oy I am so tired I can hardly see straight, but I love and miss you all. Please pray for me, I'm scared about the things I will encounter but can sense that God really wanted me to encounter them alone without James. I know the power of meeting alone, intimately with God, but pray that I would crave and really be able to do that tomorrow.

Love you.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

How do I describe this goodbye...

Sitting in Paris with another headache/beginning of a migraine=no fun.
However, I'm still sitting in Paris. I love love love this city. So very much. Je t'aime Paris.

To recap on the last couple of days though...
After mountain day on Sunday we spent the next Monday doing literally nothing around the house in Plascassier. We were very productive and did our laundry, finally, and then when Emilie got home from school she walked us around Ville de Grasse, an itty bitty village on top of a hill nearby. It was were the elementary school was and some cute parks whose swings and other playground toys we played with for awhile. Afterwards we went back to the house, ate some dinner...and I think James and I watched a movie, I honestly can't remember.
The next day we called "Tomoraco" because we were planning on going to Monaco, but alas, we woke up too late and missed the bus from Valbonne Village. After sitting around at home, again, Julien, a boy who rents a room downstairs, came home from work and was able to take us to Moans-Sartoux, where we were able to catch a bus into Cannes. We just went to the beach in Cannes and then decided that we wanted crepes from this Fenocchi stand that we like in Nice, so we hopped on the bus to Nice for 30 minutes, grabbed ice cream and crepes, walked along the beach promenade, then caught our bus back to Valbonne.
We called Wednesday "Tomoraco" again, but then we missed the bus, AGAIN. So we ended up figuring out a way to get to Nice even though we missed the bus. It took us twice as long, but we worked out the connections like pros, and were in Nice by 2pm. However, we decided it was too late to go to Monaco, so we just had another day in Nice, where we went to our favorite crepe and ice cream stand, our favorite boulangerie, and our favorite overlook of Nice, at the top of the Chateau.
That night we had to most amazing dinner of our lives.
Lisiane had invited some people over, and made rice with shrimp and fish and chicken and corn and veggies and it was so yummy. It was served with some yummy rose wine as well. In addition, we had AMAZING crepes for dessert, with nutella and jelly and whipped cream and brown sugar and confectioner's sugar and lemon juice as choices for toppings. I actually got to make majority of the crepes, which was awesome! (So roomies, watch out). James and I passed out that night, and tried to make it through a movie after our sugar coma, lol, but we were just so happy and overwhelmed we literally sat rubbing our tummies and sighing. It was the most perfect send off dinner.

We called Thursday "Tomoraco" and we actually got up in time, made the bus, and finally made it to Nice and then took the connection to Monaco. This was not before going to our favorite boulangerie, then our favorite crepe/glace shop, then our favorite glace vendor. We're crazy, I know.

So we ended up only getting about 2 hours in Monaco, but it was just beautiful. We walked through the Monte Carlo Casino picture and took pictures through our fingers that will be permanent only in our minds because we didn't bring our cameras. We sat at an overlook in front of the Casino that looked out over the cruise ships and the yachts in the harbor. We ate another pastry and made up stories about the lives we would lead as rich people with boats. We walked along the coast line and then up some random stairway that actually were steps along a cliff near a Grace Kelly monument. Monaco was so beautiful, but way too expensive and flashy for us. Lol.

After taking the bus home we had to rush to pack because our bus connections were late and got us home at 8:00 and we had an 8:30 train. Oy vey! So we rushed and said hurried goodbyes (which was so sad) and Jack drove us to the next stop on the line, in Cannes, so we could be sure to make our train.
After getting some food in Cannes, we finally got on our eleven hour train to Paris. It didn't seem so bad this time around, although my neck issues have only progressed through the days (please pray, it's been so painful lately).
But we woke up in Paris, which is just a beautiful thing to behold.
Oh city, how I love thee.

Today, after getting back in to Jessica's apartment in Courbevoie (with our French Canadien and Indonesian friends, again! Yay!) and after doing some grocery shopping, I left with Alessa and Michelle (the canadiens) to do some thrift shopping.
Oh. Em. Gee.

I found the jackpot of thrift shopping in Marais today. Places like Freepstar just littered the streets of Marais. I was actually overwhelmed because it was like every single store was vintage heaven. I settled on a black scarf and a white scarf that I got for a euro each, but I'm definetly going back tomorrow and hardcore sifting until I find the pieces I want (Dana, Whitney, Jess B., Kate, Crystal, Angela, and all my other vintage store owning friends, this store would make you joyfully cry, I'm sure).

Tomorrow Paris explodes.

I really need to get rest for it because tomorrow will be non-stop until 7am in the morning. Please pray I am physically able to do it, because Nuit Blanche is going to be so sick.

After shopping at Marais today we walked around the Louvre and then walked around the Montparnasse area and then back to the Latin Quarter for a bit. I got to take the girls to Shakespeare and Co and this really awesome used bookstore/cd store/vinyl shop that I love (Boulinier). While walking through the streets you can just see that the city is ready, stages are set, screens are prepped and ready to go; tomorrow night Paris is gonna be crazy.
The guides for the night are in every Metro stop, everyone's talking about it...EEE I can not wait.

So until then...bonne nuit!

I will try to write tomorrow...the day after tomorrow morning...but perhaps the next time I write will be in Berlin. On Sunday after hitting up all the museums for free (first Sundays, woo), James and I will hop on another night train to Berlin, where we will be staying with my friend Thomas' friend. I think next week will be the start of the insanity.
Bring it. :)

Friday, October 2, 2009

McDonald's in Paris made me happy today.

No, not because I'm an America craving junk food.
Because today, McDonald's was warm, had free bathrooms, and free WIFI.
Things we all take for granted in America, seriously.

After getting off an eleven hour train to Paris the last thing I wanted to do was use a cold, dirty bathroom and have to pay euros to do so.
McDonalds had such a lovely bathroom, it was clean and warm, and they had free WIFI. And James and I are at our second home in Paris, in Courbevoie.
It's so great to kind of have a handle on this city.
Today we tackled the metro like pros, I'm so proud of us.

And today off I go to Marche Aux Puces in Saint-Ouen, then maybe some time alone in the Luxembourg Gardens, and maybe I'll meet James for dinner in Montemartre or something lovely like that.

Paris, je t'aime.

We're here only for the weekend because of Nuit Blanche 2009. You gotta check it out.

OHHH I'm so excited.
And then, Berlin, and then Rome and then Switzerland and then Florence and then Barcelona and then Bilbao and then Paris and then London and then NY and then...

Oh this is going to be the craziest month of my life, I know it.

*Short little post, will write more about what it was like to visit Monaco (which is another country, who knew?) and say goodbye to Cannes and Nice and Plascassier and Jack Roquemore and fam)*