Day One - Graham
The time is now. The day is HEEEEEEERE!! EY is going to Europe! Today we all met at FSPA at 4:30 to begin our departure. There was a Bon Voyage celebration in one of the downstairs studios with lots of cake that turned our mouths purple. Lots of family and friends were there to send us off. We loaded our bags and got on the bus to go to the airport. Our flight left on time for Switzerland. We had one more short plane ride from Zurich to Vienna. Shortly after leaving the airport, we arrived at our first hotel: Hotel de France. We showered and got all nice looking and then went to our first dinner together. We were very tired but all so excited to finally be here!!
Day 2- Ali
When we landed in Zurich we only had a few minutes to grab a snack and get in the plane to Vienna. The group all had seats together so it was a fun hour flight. When we got to the airport our friend Verena, bus driver Franz and tour guide Karl-Heinz were there to greet us. We got on our tour bus to find that we have a super cool back seat that fits all of EY! We drove about half an hour into the city and checked into the beautiful Hotel de France. We got our room assignments and had a couple hours to rest and get ready for our first dinner! We walked to Cafe Leupold where we met up with Karl-Heinz, Verena, and Raye Lynn's college piano teacher Regina. I had delicious Wiener schnitzel! On the way back to the hotel we stopped for the first gelato of the tour!!! We then went to sleep to prepare for the walking tour of Vienna tomorrow.
Day 3 - Shaina
Today we woke up in the beautiful Hotel de France. We had a lovely selection for breakfast which consisted of fruit, eggs, Nutella crepes, yogurt and coffee. We headed out of the hotel to go sightseeing with our tour guide, Karl-Heinz. We saw Beethoven's house, the Hofburg, the Spanish Riding School and St. Stephen's Cathedral. After viewing the amazing city we went to lunch at a vegetarian buffet. The seating was very hip an colorful. We went back to the hotel to get ready for our first show. On our way to Murstetten, we stopped and had some delicious gelato! We arrived at Franz's sisters house because we were performing for her birthday. The house was surrounded with miles of corn fields. We wandered down a narrow pathway exploring for about an hour. It was so cool! Our show had a very enthusiastic and excited audience! We did one long set and got two encores. We ate delicious fresh pork for dinner. We later discovered that there were slugs all over the stage. Some were 6 inches long!! We had a great first show but it was very late so we went straight to bed.
Day 4 - Jocelyn
Today we woke up at Hotel de France to enjoy an awesome breakfast including coffee, potatoes, fruit and more coffee. We needed this energy because we were going sight seeing and we had a show. The boys forgot to set an alarm, so that was scary. Hungry confused boys are not pleasant to be around. Anyway, we stopped at a wicked cool place called the Hundert Wasserhaus. Skipping forward to lunch, it was AMAZING! It was definitely the best food I've ever eaten! It was like a healthy person's candy store. There was everything you could think of from waffles to pasta. While eating we enjoyed a crazy view. It is very pretty in Austria. There are many cows and plains. Our hotel is also gorgeous. While the staff set up for sound check we all sat in the grass and played with rocks and these little beetles we found. It was fun. Speaking of fun, the show was awesome! The audience was amazing and enthusiastic and we ended up doing 3 encores. It was cool to see how positive their response was to our performance.
Day 7 - Sam
Today we started off in the morning by heading to the Amadeus School, to meet the kids who we would be working and performing with. We had lunch in the school cafeteria which was really nice and much better than the lunches at our schools in America. We worked with nine students who's ages varied from 13-19. To get to know each other better, Nick led the group in a few theater games which were really fun. After this, Hallie warmed up our voices with some vocal exercises so we could begin singing. We learned the song "We go together" from the musical, Grease, which we all really enjoyed. Raye Lynn choreographed our dance with some fun dance moves. Once we finished, we rode to the Odeon theater with all the kids, then set up and got ready for the show. The Odeon was an old corn exchange building that was turned into a theater, but the building still looked old. Inside there were giant, ancient-looking stone pillars and stone windows with a purple glow behind them to make it look like night time. The show was really fun and the kids said they had a great time. After we said our farewells to the students, we went to a great Chinese restaurant and enjoyed some tasty food. After a fun day we headed back to the hotel to get some sleep. We all had a great day and had an awesome time interacting with the kids from the Amadeus school!
Day 8 - Jenna
On Thursday morning Shaina and I woke up early and walked down to the wonderful breakfast from Hotel de France. We stuffed our faces with crepes, rolls and jam, fruit bowls, yogurt, boiled eggs, scrambled eggs and drank a variety of different coffees and teas. Once we felt like we could never eat again, we were all ready for an adventure. We saw the Opera House and City Hall. Even though Karl-Heinz still had bad allergies, he gave us a great tour of Schönbrunn Palace (summer palace). After Schönbrunn we toured the Carriage Museum! We learned about all different types of carriages and when they were used. Next we grabbed sandwiches to eat on the bus before our scavenger hunt in the square of Vienna. My group was the "stars" which consisted of Jocelyn, Maddy and me. We were so excited we ran away as soon as Nick said we could and immediately got lost because our excitement messed with our sense of direction. We ended up bumping into a group of Austrian kids our age! We quickly tried to explain to them that we were doing a scavenger hunt and that they had to do exactly as we said as we tried to recreate the final pose of "Bohemian" to complete the hunt and win. We thanked our new friends and frantically ran away to accomplish our other tasks like recreating the "High School Musical" pose in front of the Opera House, finding a picture of Empress Elizabeth, a person dressed as Mozart to sing opera with, and to find someone with improper English. While we ran around to some of these destinations we were on the lookout for "a Kellie look alike", composers name in a star, a word with the letters FSPA in it, unnaturally colored hair, someone with questionable fashion, be part of a tour group (our group took a selfie with people touring the opera house) and finally find a treble clef. After creatively taking pictures to complete each task, we met near a Fossil store. As we met back up with our group our Austrian friends already met the rest of the group including Nick and Kellie. We all enjoyed gelato while we found out Kendra, Madi, Graham and Shaina won! We headed to St. Michael's Church where we entered the crypts for a very special tour!! We saw bones on bones on bones!! I have never seen so many femur bones stacked up like that, not to mention most of us saw our first MUMMIFIED BODY!! After visiting the crypts, we headed back to the hotel to get dressed up for a fancy dinner in Vienna's wine district called Grinzing! All the girls put on their nice clothes and wedges and the guys wore collared shirts. Dinner was outside where we celebrated our last night in Vienna! At dinner we met more Austrian friends our age and socialized and exchanged our cultural differences After a long exciting day we went back to Hotel de France packed up and were ready to leave the city and head to Steiermark for our last stop in Austria!
Day 9 - Madi A.
We woke up this morning in Hotel de France for the last time. We ate a quick breakfast and then brought our luggage down to the bus. It was very early and we were very tired so we slept most of the way there, but then we took a bathroom break and everyone woke up. The road to the Zotter Chocolate Factory (by the way that's where we went!!) was very twisty and windy so a few of us got pretty nauseous, but it all passed after we got to the factory. The first room we went in had pure cacao paste which tasted EXTREMELY bitter. The next room had chocolate that had different levels of cocoa (I like 70%). The few rooms had crazy flavors of chocolate including fish! After we finished the tour of the chocolate factory we watched a short 20 minute movie on how the chocolate is made and where it comes from. Finally we left the chocolate factory and drove the final leg to the Loisium Spa Hotel in Ehrenhausen. The hotel itself was gorgeous. From our room we had a beautiful view of rolling hills, a castle, a small town and the pool. Due to some complications the night before, our show got a little nip-tuck and we played a "lounge gig". The band played jazz and occasionally we sang a few songs. We did the show in short sets that went on periodically from 5:30-10:00. In between the sets we ate a wonderful 4 course gourmet meal. After the shows and dinner we went to bed to prepare for another early morning and a long day of travel to Italy!!!
Day 10 - Maddy W.
Today we woke up to the beautiful view from our windows of the gorgeous Austrian landscape. We had breakfast at the hotel before we got on the bus for a long day of travel. Everyone slept for the first 3 hours of the ride, so the bus was unusually quiet. At 12:00 we stopped for lunch at another "rest stop". This was basically an enormous buffet with any type of food you could ever want from potatoes to fruit to sandwiches. If only truck stops in America had this good of food! After lunch, EY was a little more awake and energetic so we marveled at the Dolomite Mountains and the tunnels that we drove through that were under mountains! We also sang many many Disney songs right up to our arrival at the hotel. At 15:00 we arrived in Lignano, Italy and were very happy to settle into The Hotel American for a 5 night stay! EY unpacked as quickly as possible and then ran over to the gorgeous beach. The water was warm like bathwater - it felt amazing! We also jumped in the pool for a little bit but it was very cold so we did not stay there for that long. Then we went out to dinner at an EY favorite restaurant called Granseola. We were all eating our delicious pastas or pizzas when an unexpected guest arrived. Isidoro, an amazing friend of EY, made an exciting appearance yelling "weila" and giving us Italian flags. We finished dinner, got our first Italian gelato and headed back to the hotel for some late night swimming. The pool was very cold so only Shaina, Graham, Jocelyn and I went in. We raced each other until we couldn't move and then everyone went to bed and slept well after our first day in Italy!!
Day 11 - Graham
Today we had a day off! We all slept in and got breakfast at the hotel. We checked out the beach and the pool before going to lunch at a pizzeria. After, we all went back to enjoy a fun filled day at the beach! The sun was out and the water was perfect! When we had our share of the sun and saltwater, we showered and went to dinner. Everyone was looking forward to pizza and pasta and it was delicious!!
Day 13 - Shaina
Today was another beautiful morning in Lignano. We slept in and got ready for the day. We were invited to the City Hall and met the mayor. He gave us stuffed seagulls and a book about Lignano for the school. We went to a very cool restaurant on the pier and we saw the stage we would be performing on later that night. We went swimming at the pool and played catch with a football. Most of us also took a nap before the show. We all met at 6:00 and went to the stage which was actually on the beach! Isadoro arranged for us to ride a train all around town to promote the show, jamming to our cd and staring people down. It was very fun even though most people were confused. Our show was very exciting and we attracted people from all over town! Franz showed up after leaving for a couple of days. It was a great show! After, we went to dinner at another EY favorite restaurant called Banino and then went to bed right away.
Day 14 - Jocelyn
Today we woke up and got ready to swim, but it started to rain so we had to wait until after lunch. We went to the beach and relaxed while a man tried to sell us coconuts. The show tonight was at a campground which meant hundreds of little children and their parents to accompany them. It ended up being an amazing show despite the smaller stage, and the audience seemed to love it! They stayed to talk to us after and gave many compliments. For dinner we ate at a school styled cafeteria buffet. It was pretty good. Isidoro presented us packets with a picture of him on a postcard. We crashed on the bus while the parents, staff and band had a gelato stop. Finally, we went to bed to get ready for the FSPA Summer Games!!!!
Day 15 - Michael
Today the boys and i woke up to the girls all at our door in italian flag bandanas and eyeliner on their faces and stomachs. Today was the day of the summer games. We would play a 2 match game of volleyball against the staff. We ended up losing by 16-14 in the first match we ever played together. And from there it got progressively worse. But, it was the closest student staff volleyball match by far. Then we rented paddleboats and went out to the middle of the Adriatic. It was at this moment in time that i figured out jocelyn couldn't swim very well. I'll just leave it at that. We went to our final lunch in Lignano which was delicious. Then we started preparing for our show in Bibione. The show had a HUGE audience full of people of all ages. Then, we went to dinner with Isidoro and he gave us each a picture of us with the mayor that we took the day before. After dinner we packed up for load out to aviano the next morning.
Day 16 - Kendra
HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY!! Today was the day that we traveled to Aviano Air Force Base for our exciting show for the troops and their families. We woke up at the American Hotel for our final breakfast before departure. After loading the Datzinger with all of our luggage, we prepared for an hour-and-a-half drive to Aviano. When we arrived, a man in uniform asked our names as a security precaution, which they take very seriously there. We finally reached the base and saw the stage for our show that night. It was an outdoor stage set up in the center of the July 4th festivities, so it was exciting to imagine how many people would see or hear us! We were welcomed by some extremely kind and generous staff members who have boxes and boxes full of snacks and drinks to us! In our festive red, white and blue outfits, we did set up and sound check before heading over to an American-style lunch buffet. For the rest of the afternoon, we had plenty of hotel time, which we used to finally do some laundry and get a quick nap in before the show. We all dressed into costume and walked back over to the carnival area, where hundreds of people had gathered to climb the rock wall, play baseball, or enjoy some classic American food. It was really cool to see so much American culture that we are all familiar with while knowing we were still in Italy! The show started soon after our arrival at the stage and we got to perform two sets of music for an enthusiastic audience of troops and their families, which was an impactful and surreal experience for all of us. Afterwards, we even got to speak and take pictures with the Base Commander Brigadier General Seguin, who was extremely grateful for our performance and the entertainment that we provided for his and many other families in the audience. To top off an amazing day, we gathered in the field next to the stage and enjoyed an elaborate and beautiful fireworks show! Despite being away from home for this Independence Day, the experience of spending it at Aviano Air Force Base allowed us all to value the importance of the holiday even more. For those of us who had never been on this tour, especially, the experience of seeing men and women in uniform enjoying the festivities to celebrate the country they work to protect was impactful. It really allowed us to see firsthand how those in the service around the world care for and value America. It put a new meaning to the Fourth of July through an experience I'm sure none of us will ever want to, nor will be able to, forget.
Day 17 - Sam
We started the day with a breakfast buffet at the Air Force base and sat outside on the golf course, with a great view of the Alps. Once we were finished, we got onto the bus for the long ride to Montecatini. The bus ride was about four and a half hours long. We slept for half the ride and the during the second half, nick continued the EY tradition of giving us each a set of questions and superlatives for EY! Some examples of these questions are "which member would win the hunger games and who would die first?", "which band member do you think had the best grades in school?", "if EY 2014 was a movie which actor would play Derek?", "which EY member will be president?", and many more questions. After this long but fun bus ride, we finally arrived at our hotel in Montecatini and ate some lunch. We ate a three course meal then went to our rooms to get some rest and get ready for the show. We walked over to the venue which was in a square surrounded by stores and restaurants. The stage was the smallest stage we've had to perform on and it was a square, so we had to make a lot of adjustments to the numbers in the show. However, it turned out to be a great show! There were people all around us listening and singing along! After the show we even found out that some of the people watching were from New York. They told us that they really enjoyed all the music and that a lot of the songs were from their generation so they were dancing and singing along. After the show we cleared out for the soccer game and ate at a restaurant right next to the stage. It was a cool restaurant and had tasty food. We got some gelato after dinner which was really good. We headed back to the hotel after the long day so we could get some sleep for the next day. We had an awesome show and an amazing day!
Day 18 - Jenna
We woke up in Montecatini and ate a quick breakfast and loaded the bus. We took a long ride headed to Todi with one stop for a snack. The view of Tuscany from the bus was amazing!! When we arrived in Todi we were so happy to be back! We all ate lunch at our beautiful Fonte Cesia Hotel, went shopping and got gelato! Then we got ready for our show! We had an awesome show in the ancient Todi Square with a full audience. This was our third year performing in Todi. We performed across from a beautiful church. The lights in the show were awesome especially before it got dark. After the show we had dinner at a restaurant called Mulinella and the food was cooked by our friend Imna who stayed up past midnight to cook our delicious meal! This dinner we switched it up and sat with someone different from a different group. So EY kids were split up between staff, band, and parents. We sang as a thank you before we left to go back up the hill to Todi.
Day 19 - Madi A.
Today we woke up in Todi, had breakfast, and then the girls walked around town while the boys continued to sleep. We found this really long staircase while we were walking in the back area of the town so we decided to go down them. At the end of the stairs was this small village. The houses were so small and we guess that they were at least 300 years old. We walked back up all the stairs, which was very painful, and went to visit the church. The church was beautiful and full of very old paintings. After we had taken in the upper level of the church, we bought tickets to go into the crypts. To get into the crypt you have to go down these really steep and creepy stairs. Once you get down there it's really cold. You could go on the actual tour with no real crypts and actual lighting, or you could climb into a small hole in the wall into a pitch black room that you are probably not supposed to go into. We chose the hole and went exploring. It was very dark and very cold. Along a small path there were more holes in the wall with really old gravestones in them. We walked to the end of the hallway and found a door that led to the actual tour. We knew we couldn't go in through that door so we walked back through the hallway and walked over to the actual room. We walked through that room and them walked back to the hotel. We packed up the bus and started in a 5 hour bus ride to Modena. Once we got to the hotel we settled in and changed for "little black dress night". We hopped on the bus and headed towards the restaurant /winery. Hallie said that she read online that the lasagna at this place made people cry, so we were all pretty excited. The dinner was amazing! After dinner we sang for the chef, Madeline, while Gianni tried to book EY a concert in 2016. Then we went back to the hotel and went to bed.