Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Bitter End

Hello again,

So this will be my last post of my travels; I've come a very long way and had the most amazing experience of my life. I've had highs and lows, times of reckless abandon and times of contemplation, and it's all been incredible and life-changing. I'm sad that it's come to and end, but overjoyed with my experience, and ready to move on into life with confidence. But, before I get to deep on the life stuff, I'll fill you in on the rest of my travel stuff.

I last left you in Edinburgh after having taken the free tour. After I blogged to yall I headed up to catch the last scoth tour of the day at the "Scotch Whiskey Experience" (not as impressive as EMP, but much tastier) on the Royal Mile which stretches fom the castle to the parliment. I learned a lot about scotch, albeit from a pretty silly production, and got to taste quite a few as well. So I left a little bit tipsy and naturally my next stop was the cathedral just down the way. Although the cathedral was pretty unassuming compared to many that I've seen along my way, it was one of the most beautiful on the inside tat I've seen. Inside I bumped into a friend that I had made while on the tour who is a pretty rad artista from Rhode Island and we went to go get some food. As is my custom while traveling, we went looking for food that is unique to the area, and we decided that it would be a great idea to try something that you can't really find anywhere else: deep fried pizza and mars bars. I know what your thinking, "that sounds like a healthy and delicious and reasonable meal", and let me tell you, it really was. Well, not healthy or reasonable, but it actually was really really delicious. There's really no way to explain it, you just have to try it for yourself.

Anyway, that night we went to a hilltop just on the edge of the city and clicked some pictures of the night skyline and then it was off to London the next day. I had booked a bus, which was the cheapest option I could find, but I had a 10 hour haul in front of me. It was a good amount of time to reflect as the countryside rolled by, and I got in some really good thinking. I also wrote what may be the most important thing I'll have written in my life. It had dawned on me that the end of my trip was nigh and that there was still so much I wanted to accomplish personally, so I took thetime and made it happen. I was blessed to be able to have searched out my epiphanies which aren't meant for sharing quite yet, but I did want to share with you that I had them. It was a bus ride of incredible growth haha. I arrived in London's Victoria station and I took the opportunity to stretch my legs and walk across the city to my hostel near the London bridge. I had some nice beers and conversation with the bar tender at The Blue Eyed Maid around the corner and fell asleep content.

The next couple days involved a lot of walking and sight seeing. I saw the London Bridge, the Tower of London, the Tower Bridge (they are incredible creative with names, I know), the design museum, Queens walk on the south bank of the Thames, the OXO tower, Tate modern, the eye of London, Whitehall and Trafalgar square, Covent Garden (where there is no garden), Camden Town, Brick Lane Road and Old Street in Shoreditch, and a lot of walking inbetween (a one way ticket on the metro is 4 pounds, basically $8). I also managed to drink my fair share of English ales, cornish ales, IPAs and Bitters (the last two of which are suprisingly not bitter at all and have lower abv than normal ales (which is wierd if you didn't know)), and eat an english breakfast, shepards pie, and fish and chips. My flight out of London to DC was at 750 in the morning, so I wanted to get there by 550, but the first metro was at 530 and takes an hour so I packed early and took the last metro the night before at half twelve (which is the local and silly way of saying 12:30). I knew that I was going to be going 6 hours back so I stayed up the whole night and made friends with the workers of the 24 coffee shop in the airport.

Then I was in DC! Ah, the mixed emotions of seeing the American flag flying high outside of the airport. I went to go meet up with my childhood and lifelong friend Laura at her work at 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. Sound familiar? Yes, it's only three blocks from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, aka the White House. Washington DC is incredible, there are all of these historical and powerful places that you've seen a million times in movies and in the news and in history books, and they are all right there in front of you. Just standing in the streets I felt that there was a massive amount of power in the air. The people who run our country and change the world are all around you. They exist, they are real, and they are in Washington. Crazy. I made the most of my sightseeing hours and blitzed aroun the city. I saw the White House, Washington monument, WWII memorial, Reflecting pool and Lincoln memorial, Vietnam memorial, the Supreme Court, the Library of congress, the Capitol, the National Archives (including The Decleration of Independance, Constitution, and Bill of Rights), the air and space musuem, and the Jefferson memorial. And we drank a lot and talked about politics (unavoidable here, everyone is involved in some way). It's been a great stay.

So right now it is noon on Sunday and I fly home to Seattle tonight at 550. I get into Seatac at 8 or so pm and then tomorrow morning at 8 am I have orientation for graduate school. The adventure continues =). So that's it from me as far as my travels go. I wrote a lot and left out even more, but thanks for following along. I hope that life's adventures find us all, and when they don't, we find them. Much love,

Monday, September 8, 2008

Double Time

Wow, it's been ten days since my last post, and I feel like it was just yesterday. When I last left you guys I had just gotten into Paris. I ended up extending my stay in Paris from a planned 4 nights to a full 8 nights, and I am extremely pleased that I did. From there I took an excruciatingly slow train to Barcelona where I spent 2 nights, and last night I arrived by air in Edinburgh where I am today (and the internet is 2£/hr so I'm going to type as fast as possible, excuse the poor editing!).

My story about Paris actually begins last summer in Seattle. One night of good fortune, I made my way down to King's Hardware with a great friend of mine, Chris Cushingham, and Chris' friend Anne had met us there as well. At the time, Anne was hosting a cute couple from Paris by the names of Julien and Chloe who were CouchSurfing (.com) their way across Canada and the states. We had a good night of drinking and conversation, and they said if I were ever in Paris to look them up, which I did a while before I arrived. Julien graciously made his couch available to me and I arrived late on a Thursday night after traveling by train from Brussels. As it was a bit late and there was not much going on we ended up spending the night just enjoying some beers, listening to each others music collections, and some online Mario Kart on his Wii. I'm a simple man with simple pleasures, and this way of kicking back I greatly enjoyed; which is great because this soon became our nightly ritual for the rest of my stay. The next day, after Julien had to wake up and be out of the house at a punishing 8:30, I took a nice long sleep in and set about walking the city by foot. I headed up Avenue Kleber to the Arc de Triumph and continued down the Champs-Elysee. Though its a beautiful street, it also has some incredibly expensive restaurants. (Actually, there are about a hundred different districts all smashed together that all have incredibly expensive restaurants. For the entire rest of my visit, I heard several different variations in different places of Julien saying (in his hilariously animated and french way) "this place is so expensive, it is 'orrible, look at that junk, its trash, 700€ shoes? Nooo WAAaaayy! It's so poshy a district, 'orrible.") So I took a side street and tried my best to find some local food of the main way. I happened across a small deli and somehow managed to order some ratatouille (i think I just murdered that spelling, sorry) with ground beef in a to-go box. I sat down in a small park and enjoyed myself immensely. From there I continued down and saw the Grand Palace and the Pettite Palace, the Lourve (from the outside) and the Pyrimide Inversee, and continued down to the Sant Michelle fountain and the Notre Dame.

After the day of light hiking when the sun had gone down, I met up with Julien and his better half Chloe at Odeon (Platz?) where we walked down to the Seine and we sat across from the east side of the beautifully lit Notre Dam and enjoyed a few beers and chatted as more 'orrible and expensive touristy dinner boats cruised by. From there we moved on to Chez Karl for some incredible french food to the lovely melodies of the Beastie Boys. I had an amazing cheese appetizer called Camembert and then I had the beef tartare for my entree. Julien and I returned to his flat and got in a couple more beers and races before crashing again.

The next days involved a bit of the city life around Montmarte, a walking tour of the city, the Orsay, a cute wine bar with a romantic atmosphere and an owner wearing a t-shirt and flip flops, Baguettes and cheese and meats and wine and beers and bourbon and champagne and France v. Austria on the tube, a three and a half hour stab at the inside of the Lourve, Chloe's amazing house and family, sushi, the parisien Pantheon and surrounding environs, and of course the Eiffel tower by night with views of the entire city. By this time, I had already decided to stay a few more nights and cut Nice out of my travel plans. Also, Chloe's friend Sophie from Montreal came into town so I had a sight seeing buddy while Julien and Chloe were at work. We went to the Orangerie museum and saw Monet's water lillies and the Rodin musuem (which was my favorite museum), the basilica on Montmarte and the Montmarte museum, and then finally on my last night, we all got together and went the the France v. Serbia soccer match in the world cup qualifying rounds (Henry and Anelka both put in goals for the 2-1 win).

I had an incredible time in Paris, Sophie was a perfect sightseeing mate and we had great conversation. Chloe is truly a sweetheart, kind and gracious and charming. Julien was an awesome host and friend and is a one of the most animated and hilarious people I know. (love you guys and miss you already, well have to get together again soon!) So I was a bit sad to go, but alast the road awaited me. I hopped a train to barcelona that was supposed to be 8 hours, but turned out to be more like 11. We were stopped for a while near half way because someone had committed suicide on the tracks which was incredibly sobering. Then we we late to the bordercrossing station where we had to wait for a new engine to push us (something about the rails being different in Spain). Eventually I made it to Barcelona though safe and sound.

The first night in I just found a couple beers around the corner from my hostel, and got a good nights rest for my next day of touring. In Barcelona, most of the major sights are buildings by the Barcelonian (?) architect Gaudi. So I started along my way in the morning going from building to building of his... but I hated them. Pretty much all of them. I don't really get it at all, the concepts are very fluid and round and unconventional, but it all came off to me as extremely gaudy (go figure), colorful ceramic tiles were unceremoniously plastered in strange mosaics that had no logic or asthetic. The main cathedral of his is still under construction and will be until 2026, but the 8 euro tour allowed passage to the inner construction site. Awful. Some strange alien looking pillars and strange blobby spires with tacky words protruding from the sides (sancti sancti sancti sancti, Jesus Mary Joseph). Anyhoo, I then made my way to what I thought was the site of my brothers infamous mountain pilgramage (a much longer story that you'll have to ask about if you don't know) on Montjuic. I took the cables to the top and was unimpressed. I made it to a computer and found that he had sent me the name which was actually Montserrat. Dang. After that I found some Paella (Mom, yours is better) and showered up before meeting some young Belgians who invited me to tag along with them and go out.

The next morning, I got up and ready to go to the airport so that I would be there two and a half hours before my flight, but I ended up taking the wrong train which was an express to a beach city an hour to the south. It was pretty horrible, every minute I went south, i knew it was also another minute I had to travel back, so time was moving doubly fast to my deadline. I ended up on a non-express back to the city and missed my flight. Boo. So I basically spent the whole day in the airport before it all got straightened out and I flew to Edinburgh which was last night. When I got in, I helped a nice girl from Minnesota with her massive bags who was in the same dorm room, and after we wandered the streets of Edinbugh and found some cool bars. We finished the night in a the Jazz Club and heard some decent live music to some good local brews. This morning I took the free city tour that is offered through the hostel which is the fourth that I've done so far (Munich, Berlin, Paris, and this one) and they've all been really good. So now I just got back from the tour and finding a sim card for my phone, and I am going to try and get in contact of a friend of a friend for a night of scotch tasting!

So from here, tomorrow morning I catch a bus through the countryside to London where I have three nights, then catch a flight to DC where I have three nights, and then back to Seattle! I think the timing of this trip has worked out well, I'm just about ready to head back, so english speaking UK and DC will be a good transition. Alright yall, I've spent a good amount of time here, and the city awaits, so Cheers! Much love,

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Far Gone

Hello everyone, sorry for the big breqk ze hqd there. (Oh boy, the keyboards in France are wacky. the first two keys are az instead of qw, the m is to the right of the l... this is going to be a hard post) When I last left you I think I had just spent my first night in Berlin. Since then I did 2 more days there, about 4 hours in Cologne on my way to Amsterdam where I did 3 nights, 2 days in Brussels, and I just got into Paris last night. Its been a bit of a whirlwind, and Paris awaits me, so I'll give you a summary.

Berlin was amazing. The next day I took the walking tour through the city to see the major sights and to get a good dose of history. We saw several monuments, the place where WWII ended, Brandenburg Tor, the Berlin wall, buildings still riddled with bullet holes, the parliment building, etc. It was all great to see and very powerful. I met a few people on the tour and we all got together to go out that evening; Rick, Kaisa, and Steven (spelt that way too). We heard of a cool place from our guide so we went to check it out. It turned out that the building had been abandoned in the cold war and had been squatted by artists who are now the legal squatters in the building. It was about 6 stories high and every inch of the hallways was covered in graffiti. We climbed to the top floor of the building where there is a gallery space, and every day a different artist shows an exhibition. Then there was a terrace bar lit by backlight and playing hip hop that overlooked the city. It was an awesome night (even after I had to pull young Steven over my shoulders to carry him to bed). The next day as I was wandering the city I came across the Sony Center which is a massive domed enclosure and business park. They had a large cinema there, and I decided if they were showing The Dark Night in english without subtitles and it strarted in less than twenty minutes, then it would be a sign that I should take a break from walking and see a movie. Really oddly enough, that was exactly what the next show was. I am really glad I went though because I also got the German movie experience. Popcorn ("salty or sweet?") with no butter ("wouldn't that make your fingers sticky?), a half liter of weissbeir in a bottle (cheaper than the popcorn), and assigned seats (extremely overly comfortable).

The next day I took the train to Amsterdam and I stopped in Cologne to see the cathedral and chocolate museum on the way. Cologne was lively and fun and I wish I had more time there. Amsterdam was Amsterdam. Very unique to say the least. I was able to see some cooler aspects of the city thanks to my amazing friend Coco who gave me a deck called Amsterdam- 50 walking tours. I then made my way over to Brussels which I immediately fell in love with. It is a bit dirty and a bit ugly in places, but they like it that way. It actually reminded me a lot of Seattle, with a bit of grit to it (plus it was gray and rainy while I was there). It also has the Delirium Bar, which holds the Guiness World Record for most beers available at 2004 (they actually have nearly 2500, but only guarantee having 2004 in stock at all times). They even played classic rock. Needless to say I was in heaven. Then last night I hopped a train to Paris where I am staying with a friend I met whilst he was couchsurfing through Seattle last year, Julien. He lives right off the Champs-Elysées where I am going to begin my sight seeing for they day right now! Take care everyone, I'll try to get back to you a bit sooner next time.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Like a King with 12 Crown

Hello there!
I've found myself in front of a computer less and less these days, time is precious over here. Right now I am sitting down at an internet cafe in Berlin which is more like an internet mini mart. Good for me, they sell beers from a cooler instead of coffee! I went with the Warsteiner Premium Verum. Ah German beer, how do I love thee... So I guess you may be wondering how I got here. Where did I leave off...

Ah yes, I had just gotten into Munich and had a good meal, then took the day to rest... well, not so much. I signed off the blog and went to the hostel bar for a night cap. The hostel I was staying in is called Wombats. A right proper hostel (I've been spending a lot of time with brits). They did a really good job with the place and they had a nice bar there, clean with cheap beers and good music. I grabbed a half liter of Augustiner Helles and sat down at a table and struck up a conversation with a few guys from Bristol. It turned out that it was their last night of travelling and they were headed out so they invited me to tag along. We found a really really cool bar in the city, low lit with vitage couches and a just a taste of that run down feeling. After a few we headed to another club and eventually ended up back at Wombats where one of the guys Simon and I held the pool table for a while (I had a really mean cut on the 8 my first game that impressed and boosted my confidence). I ended up crashing sometime in the wee hours and woke up just in time to stumble downstairs for the free walking tour that the hostel offered at 11. The tour was actually impressively good.

Munich is a rather odd city when you first see it. Everything is very clean and new but is designed like it is old. It turns out that there were only four buildings in the entire city that were left standing after the second war. However, before the war started someone had the idea that it might be smart to document the city very thouroughly, so when it was rebuilt after, they recreated it almost to a T. So nearly the entire city is under 60 years old, but it has the history of a much older time. For instance, the Hofbrau Haus was first built in the 1500's and has since been the staple beer hall in all of bavaria. Today it is the largest beer hall in the world, at capacity it holds 3500 leiderhosen sporting beer drinkers (and yes the still wear them today. I saw plenty on people and I even saw one of those fashion posing mannequins in a store window sporting a pair). So naturally I went for sausages and beer after the tour. Sausages, kraut, and mashed potatoes. Oh yea, and a Hofbrau Dunkle maß (liter). It really makes you appreciate getting your veggies, eating in bavaria.

On the tour I met a girl named Ruth who was heading out that night with some people and she invited me to tag along. We gathered the group that night and walked all the bloody way across the city to find a small blues club. We had tall dunkelweiss' served by a woman who looked like Bridgette Nielsen in Rocky IV and listened to some New Orleans style jams. Afterwords we found another beerhall before finding some doner kebab and calling it quits. (Doner Kebab is what they use to refer to middle eastern gyros style joints which you can find all across europe at really cheap prices.)

My last day in Munich I went to the Englisher Garten, the largest urban park in the world (twice the size of central park) and saw the local some local nudists (a few of which were playing soccer... interesting) and got a liter with Hendle (half a chicken) and a pretzle (about the size of a small child). I also made it to the BMW museum which was incredible. I have some killer pictures that will do it better justice. I also spent a lot of time staring longingly at some intricate custom steins that I oh so desired to buy and bring back to my favorite bar in Seattle, the Prost. Unfortunately the liter size steins started at about 125 € and the one I wanted was 150 €... so I exercised restraint. I also did some clothes shopping as I lost a shirt in Florence I think brining me down to 3. I only made it out with one shirt (I'm somewhat of a picky shopper) but it is a good mesh nike athletic shirt that was meant to take some abuse and will wash and dry easily. At night, guess what I did! Yup, went to the Augustiner Beirgarten and back to the Hofbrau Haus for more liters, met some crazy french (Bon Jour!), and crashed late.

The next day I booked it to Prague. The train through the countryside was so beautiful, so bohemian... oh yea, I was in Bohemia! I had two nights in Prague, which I think turned out to be just enough. I stayed in a ultra chic hostel called the Czech Inn and toured the city with a couple I met from Glasgow. Having been conditioned to drink beers with lunch, I grabbed a beer and a sandwich while the people I was with opted for water. The Czech Crown (or koruna) converts to about 23 per us dollar. The waters went for 25 crown; a half liter of the local pilz- 12 crown. Oh the joy. Not only that, but pilsners taste so different in Czech. I really feel now that you haven't had a proper pilsner until you get one there. In the states, they take on a sour and metallic note which was blissfully absent from every one that I had while I was there. Pretty much all the beer I had there was fantastic including the original, and aggresively unrelated, Budweiser and Budvar dark. The sights were decent in the city, but they had all been sandwiched into small areas by newer and uglier buildings.

Which brings me to today. I hopped a train to Berlin and found my way to my hostel (stopping at the world sand carving competition along the way... not as exciting as it sounds, but impressive nonetheless. I checked in and wandered around for a bit before finding a good looking bar. I met some nice german fellows who bought me a beer and we talked about genetics, but there was a book reading there in German, so as it began I made my goodbyes before wandering across the street to where I am now.

So, I have three days in Berlin which I am really excited about before moving on to Amsterdam. I think I have the rest of my trip planned out, I just have to cement down the dates and then book everything out; I think I've got some great stuff ahead of me so stay tuned and I'll keep ya up to date. Thanks for reading everyone, much love.

Here's another small sampler of pictures, enjoy!

Trav: So for the rest of the trip, I am thinking a day trip in Cologne, 3 days for Amsterdam, 2 days for Marsielle, 3 days for Barcelona, 3 for Paris, 3 for Edinburgh, and 3 for London. Then 3 in D.C. before bouncing home. I may have to juggle the order a bit according to travel costs, etc., but I think I can make it work.

Friday, August 22, 2008


My goodness, long time no post. When I last left you I was in Sienna, so much has happened since then, it would be impossible to detail and I dont have a whole lot of time, so I think I´m going to lay this one out lecture note style (which will be much to the joy of all of you who have been asking for abbreviated versions).

-In Florence, note to museum goers, almost everything is closed on mondays in Florence!
-Santa Maria Novella
-Went to see Brunelleschi´s Crucifixion, it was the one portion undergoing restoration
-Saw some cool sun dials and an incredible chalk artist outside
-Piazzele Michealangelo
-View of the city at sunset with a beer and some olives (so cheap and amaying). There were guitarists there that were amazing. The sold more beers too, stayed for hours and got drunk and awed. Someone proposed , people clapped.

-Ponte Vecchio bridge
-2.5 hour line for Ufizzi gallery
-Birth of venus among other greats. DiVinci, Raphael, Brunellischi, etc.
-Michealangelo´s David and other rather ingored art.
-Train to Rome
-Broke down, left emergency exit door and walked a small bit on gravel to next station, met some gals from UK

Wednesday\Thursday (can´t find the backslash key, also the z and y keys are switched positions in germany)
-Rome sightseeing that I missed
-I took a forbidden picture of the sistene chapel ceiling
-Drank cheap wine (1 L, 1.43 euro) with friends in square in public (I love Italy!)
-Got tipsy, wandered to see the colosseum at night, got lost, ended up in a field with a circle of people playing guitar and singing in italian to candle light and passing around joints. Score!
-Hungover sightseeing next day.
-Caught overnight train to Munich

-Decided to take day to relax and rest my legs, did a lot of walking in Rome
-Got one of best meal experiences ever. Lunch of Schweinshaxen mit Kartoffelsalat (half of a leg of a pig, dry rubbed and roasted with Bavarian potato salad) and a liter of Augustiner in a biergarten (more gardeny and beery than youd even think). I was so happy after cleaning my pig femur and downing my liter that I was laughing aloud (the alcohol helped that too).
-Cleaned and groomed myself!
-Caught up on internet.
-Signed off blog. See you next time!