Tag Archives: Europe 2007

Day 4 – Belfast

Started today chilling with the Devin’s, my roommates. Cool people with a lot of useful suggestions about Europe and travel.

After breakfast I headed over to the bus terminal. Got a bus to Belfast for 14 euro, and JUST missed the one leaving so waited another hour with a cup of coffee.

The bus ride was calm and nice. Took some photos here and there. Saw a fire in the distance. There was a crash somewhere as well. Finally got to Belfast. This town is much nicer than Dublin… has a much more authentic feel, and I think thats because it’s less touristy. Found my hostel and checked in. My roommates are also from CA, San Diego to be exact. The room smells weird…

I went out into the world, deciding to go to Dublin Castle… err… Belfast Castle. When I got on the bus I mistook the names and felt a bit embarrassed. Oh on the way there I got a ham and cheese bagel melt. It was alright. I got off the stop, and walked up to the castle. At first I had no idea where the castle was. I just kept walking and walking and I thought the castle was invisible. Then I saw it. It wasn’t that impressive, but it was nice to see a visible castle. Walked around it. Had lunch in the courtyard. Snapped a couple pictures. Went to the visitor’s center. Apparently this castle is used for weddings a lot, and there was one that day. Instead of peeking in on that, I decided to take the hike up to Cavehill. This was a fairly arduous hike since I’ve been walking all day. During the first woodsy part I felt like I was in one of the old adventure games I played, Monkey Island. It was kind of exciting because a few things reminded me of the game… Anyhow, got up to a cave and it had started raining so I took shelter for a bit. Then it stopped and I continued up a really steep and slippery slope. Some other guys were also climbing it at the same time. Got to the top all exhausted, and started talking to these guys who were locals. Pretty awesome people so we hung out. I suddenly remembered my kite and so we flew it off of Napoleon’s Nose. They were awesome, so they asked if I needed a ride back to the city center. YES. Of course. So they gave me a miniature shit tour, which was better than probably anything else I could have paid for. They gave me a “Humbug” which is a curious local candy.

After they dropped me off I went back to the hostel to try to figure out how to get to the Giant’s Causeway tomorrow. Met some girl who also wanted to go and so we started talking. Went out for some drinks at The Crown, which was just a bunch of old men and one hot woman who was very drunk and 5 old guys surrounding her. Then went to Lyvery (sp?), which was a really great bar and I wish I had more nights there.

Came back to the hostel. Grabbed some Naan across the way. Talked to some other cool people in the hostel. And now I’m about to retire.

Day 5 – Belfast

Got up and on the tour bus with DD. She fell asleep pretty fast, but kind of acted as that person who I say random thoughts to. Otherwise I would have just been asking them to myself in my head. Ireland has a lovely countryside, but everyone knows that. Lots of sheep and cattle. Lots of greenery. We stopped in a small town for a break and I ran around their small harbor taking pictures. Also got a very delicious apple. I think I’ve learned how good apples are when you’re traveling. Cheap and delicious.

We finally got to the rope bridge, our first stop on the tour. There was a short walk and then some really nice multicolored islands off the mainland. I was talking to someone later about how beautiful that area is. Got to the bridge and crossed it valiantly. I even jumped a bit, which was exciting. The island that the rope bridge went to was covered in grass and flowers. When I was coming back across the rope bridge I jumped a bit more. There was a guy crossing my way but at that time I was kind of sick of waiting for people coming the other way to hold up, and I headed across. I jumped a bit more, and the guy crossing made some comment about gladiators which we chuckled about. Then (I think he was off the bridge) I really jumped high, which was just amazing. It’s like a horizontal trampoline. Anyhow, went up the steps and the woman attending the bridge kind of lectured me on not crossing the bridge while other people were going the other way, and I should have waited for the next group of people to cross. I said something along the lines of “Oh sorry I didn’t know there was a system” and shuffled on. I was very surprised that she didn’t yell at me for jumping!

Anyhow, started to rain so luckily had my umbrella and walked back. Stopped at their tea shop for some vegetable soup. Got some bread with it that I kept for later and it was so good…

We stopped in another small town for other people to have lunch. I explored the back streets, originally looking for some sculpture workshop, but then realized it was a sign pointing to a sculpture/statue. But I saw a bit of the residential area of the small town which was interesting. Saw two murals which were interesting. Walked along the town’s main road. Almost bought a pool cue for 5 pounds.

We were on our way again. I decided to skip the Bushmills Distillery because I had already been to the Guinness Storehouse and Jameson Distillery. We travelled for a little while and then got to the Giant’s Causeway. Walked a bit of a hike to get there, which was a relaxing walk. The Giant’s Causeway is a surreal natural formation of rocks that are mostly hexagonal and in columns. Upon thinking about it, it wasn’t the most surreal place I’d ever been (that would be the Salt Flats of Utah), but it was strange. I walked along the stones counting the sides of each of them. I found a few 3 sided ones, some 4, more 5, many 6, some 7, and, after a long time of searching, only found two 8 sided stones in the whole area. I took a picture of each of them.

Walked back to the shop and bought some honeycomb chocolate candy. It was really good. Left the place and briefly stopped at some castle ruins for a photo opportunity before heading back to Belfast.

Said bye to DD, and headed to my other hostel a bit farther away from the center of town. The other hostel turned out to be much cooler. The people were more chill, the staff were much more friendly, it seemed a lot more casual. I put down my stuff and asked where the best food was, and I was told to go to this Thai place called “Thai Tanic” (because Belfast is where the Titanic was built). The food was awesome and I came back and chilled outside with the smokers. This guy gave me two Carlsburg beers, and we had a chat about Ireland and various other things. Then this Canadian girl, Dana, a guy, Matt, and I went out to this club called Lime Light. It was kind of a Goth/Punk club, and very interesting. They played something I recognized, but can’t remember what. We drank. A lot. Matt was acting a bit sketchy, and really hitting on Dana. Finally he left because he didn’t want to walk home with us. But he didn’t really leave and spied on us instead. Anyhow, Dana and I chilled and talked. Left and walked home, with that weird instinctual drunken amazing sense of direction. Met some guy celebrating his birthday on the way home, and congratted him.

And went to bed.

Day 6 – Belfast to Edinburgh

This day wasn’t as exciting as the others.
I started the day getting up early… … Got some tea and toast for breakfast to deal with the lack of nourishment in my system. Got some water for Dana too, who needed it. She didn’t remember my name, which when hanging out with people in a hostel environment that happens. Chilled a bit before heading out.

Got to the bus station and bought a ticket. Met a guy from California and we made the trip together. Went from the bus to the ferry, the ferry to the bus, the bus to the bus, and that bus to Edinburgh. I remember taking the ferry from 7 years ago, which was interesting.

After getting off the bus I was so lost and confused. I didn’t have a phone and my computer was out of battery so I couldn’t check where the shuttle was that I needed to pick up. The train station people didn’t know where it was but luckily gave me the phone number for the Globetrotter Inn Hostel I was staying at. I called them (and the phone ate a pound of mine), and the lady gave me some really confusing directions. I had to go towards the castle, then she said not to. She said to find Waverly, Waterloo place, and these things which I should have written down. I got out of the bus station and walked down to Princes street, but I got confused with bus stations and ended up walking up and down Princes street for a while trying to figure out where the right bus station was. Finally found the right one, and got on the shuttle to the hostel. The hostel was about 2 or 3 miles away from the city, which was really strange… And apparently it cost £1.50 to use it. Wouldn’t that discourage people from going into the city? Anyhow, I was tired so I stayed at the hostel. I tried doing laundry, which failed miserably because I didn’t press the white button when it got to the dryer stage. So my clothes smelled pretty funky, which sucked. But there was a nice sunset which I took pictures of. Got some Curry and Beer at the hostel’s bar, and watched a football (and I mean soccer) match on TV. Worked a bit on my laptop formatting pictures from Belfast. Then while waiting for the laundry I watched TV with the staff of the hostel. I don’t understand TV by the way.

Then it was off to get some sleep.

Day 7 – Edinburgh

Got up and eventually made my way over to the other hostel. The Globetrotter Inn has this system where you have to load money onto your card and then you can spend that money on stuff at the hostel. This is annoying, and I had 61 pence left to use before leaving so I bought a juice box. How long has it been since I drank one of those???

Anyhow, the other hostel didn’t have check in until around 2 o’clock, so I left my stuff there and headed out. Walked down the Royal Mile towards the Queen’s place. I got on a hiking trail (in my sandals) and hiked up to King Arthur’s Seat. This was a long long and steep hike, but I made it. Very nice view of the whole city. I went back down and around so that I walked down Regal street. The hostel wasn’t ready for check in at that point so I decided to get lunch at a place they recommended. Went to The Castle Arms, which was nice and tasty. I didn’t get the 10% discount because I forgot to show my hostel card beforehand. Oh well. Came back and checked in. Got to talking to one of the girls in the main lounge area named Amy, and we decided to go see Edinburgh Castle.

It was weird seeing the place again. As I’ve mentioned, I went here 7 years ago, and I remember bits and parts of it. It’s like reading a book with a sheet of paper covering the next line from where you are reading, except it’s remembering for me. The castle itself wasn’t that exciting. Maybe worth £7 but not the £11 that I paid.

After the castle we walked around the Old Town section of Edinburgh. Saw a hill infested with rabbits. Saw a guy carrying a whip. Saw all sorts of shops.

For food we got this really gross fast food kind fish and chips place. I wanted to get something interesting, so got a Tuna Pizza along with fish and chips. Both were extremely gross, and I don’t think I’ll be ordering that anymore. Oh well.

And another day was over.

Day 8 – Edinburgh

Got up, got tea, got lost. Meaning that Amy and I set out to find the famed Royal Botanical Gardens, and completely went the wrong direction. We walked and walked and walked, maybe somewhere around 5 miles before we somehow miraculously found our destination. On the way I thought out loud “I could really go for some fresh bread from a bakery” and by some magical spell a bakery appeared a few blocks later! With fresh bread! FOR 10 PENCE!!! Which was awesome.

Got to the park, and bought a map for 50 pence. Sat down and planned out our route while relaxing our feet from the long lost walk. Then slowly made our ways around the gardens, looking at all the flowers and trees and green stuff. There were some really interesting ones, and some really boring ones.

About halfway through we had a small lunch at the cafe in the center. I got an apple, another juice box, a caramel shortbread sweet, and a caramel muffin. SO much sugar. It hurt my brain it was so sweet! Especially the caramel shortbread. Wow. But the apple was great. Continued our journey around. Saw plants from around the world. Took a short relaxing break in the expanse of grass after the foresty area.

We didn’t get as lost on our way back, and walked straight back to the hostel. I took a nap on the couch, and worked on my computer a bit. Relaxed in the small room past the kitchen which is a bit hidden.

I introduced Amy to Eddie Izzard, which she thought was great. After a bit we went to get food at the local food mart, at where I got some Indian snacks which were delicious. Hung out with this German guy who was really friendly. He gave me two Fosters beers.

And then went to bed.

Day 9 – Edinburgh

I’m writing this from day 14, and so much has happened since this day so I’ll probably not remember the small stuff, but here it goes.

I got up and had tea. One thing I really liked about that hostel was it had free tea/hot chocolate/coffee. Brilliant.

Today we decided to go see the Museum of Scotland/Royal Museum. This was me, Amy, and that German guy. We left for the Museum and walked around. And around. And around. It was a lot of walking. We saw all of these taxedermed (?) animals, which Amy didn’t really like. Some of them were fake too. I thought it was really cool, and I wish I hadn’t been with them so I could have spent more time in that part of the exhibit. Later we got to a rock formation/type part of the museum and I found that really interesting, so I did slow down and forced them to semi-wait for me. The museum had this really weird clock at one end of their large hall that chimed on the hour, and did this whole moving musical number. But it was creepy because it was all statues of hellish fiends and tortured people. Actually in retrospect that museum was a lot more interesting than I thought it was at the time… They had this kind of cool history of design room, where they had different objects from specific types of designs (like Art Deco, Victorian, etc).

After getting through with that half of the building we made our way into the other side, which was Scottish history. First went to the roof and found that there are millions of chimneys in Edinburgh. We then went through all the exhibits, which weren’t too exciting… I don’t exactly find the old Scottish history that fascinating, though there are lots of dramatic moments.

So then we left that Museum and looked for something to eat. I brought us to the Castle Arms, the place I went a few days beforehand and though I had a good meal before, this one wasn’t that great. Apparently the beer in Scotland is flat, and warm (that’s actually how they have it). And I also got haggis for the second time in my life. Amazingly I had the same reaction. It tasted good, but the texture wasn’t great at all.

After getting filled with food, we headed off to another Museum. This time it was the National Gallery of Scotland. It was a lot of the usual old paintings. Maybe if I knew more Art History I would appreciate it more. I’ll talk more about art on day 13 (When I went to the Tate Modern).

So after that adventure, we walked a bit on Princes St, and Amy and I parted ways with the German (I wish I remembered his name). Amy and I went back to the hostel and just hung out, drinking with other people. Not any important specifics. I think I went to Tesco and got some gross lasagna (recommended by that Wisconsin guy).

Oh right, “HAVE IT!” That’s a phrase from a guy at Belfast. I like it.

Day 10 – Edinburgh to London

Got up and checked out of the hostel, which was a little awkward since I stayed at the hostel for the rest of the day sorta. I ventured out into the world where I bought a bus ticket, which was a not-so-interesting back and forth, trying to figure out what would be cheapest. I went to the Library to research hostels for later in the trip and booked some, and also looked at prices for other things. Eventually, when back at the bus station I saw a flyer that advertised a bus service that was cheaper than the normal one. Got the ticket for £20 from some really tall tall cool looking guy. But the bus was at 9:30 at night so I had to stick around Edinburgh for a whole day.

So I came back and did a bit of journaling, sat around. Amy came by and was bored with me. Made a house of cards, or that is several of them. They said it was daft to build a card castle on a smooth table. But I built it all the same. That one fell down. The second one collapsed and burned into ash. etc etc it’s a Monty Python reference, pay no attention to me.

Anyhow, I got really sick of all that sitting around, so I got up and took another walk around Edinburgh with Amy. Went inside a few shops. Took a secret picture of the Douglas kilt pattern. Bought some shortbread.

OH! That’s right. We were walking along and police were restricting people from crossing North Bridge. We tried to see what was going on, but after a while decided to move on. We tried going a few ways around but it was all cut off. A little while later we saw some people pointing over at the bridge. At this point we were at the next bridge down the way and could see over and saw a person who had climbed over the railing and was sitting on the side of one of the pillars. I guess it was a suicide attempt, and there were two people on the bridge talking to him/her. That was a little surreal and weird… Kind of mellowed the mood of the rest of the day.

Explored a bit more. Went over to the Observation tower. It cost money to get in, which I wasn’t going to pay, so we just sat on a bench overlooking the city for a spell.

Anyhow, had a very good and cheap dinner at the Tron. Then said goodbyes and got on the bus. Transfered in Glasgow. Slept all the way to London.

Day 11 – London

In the early early morning I arrived at the Victoria station. I had no idea where I was staying, or if Jo was going to be able to accommodate me. I kind of like that last minute planning. I went to an internet cafe where I got Jo’s number, and made a couple posts to this journal. Called Jo and found that I did not have a place, and that we’d meet at 12:30 at the Bond Street station. Then the phone call ran out. Unfortunately I didn’t remember what specifics of WHERE at the Bond Street station she said. That would come into play later. Anyhow, the phone ate an entire pound of mine, which is 2 dollars US. I then went to Waterloo and reserved a train ticket for Brussels on the 10th. Went to Bond street and hung around. Got a bagel and butter, and some tea, and it was so much more expensive than it should have been. I realized that it was a bit sketchy to be hanging around the station for another hour, so I decided to take the Circle Line all around.

Which I did. I thought it would have been faster, but it wasn’t. As I was getting on, I met this cute stereotypical british grandmother and she said she didn’t know, it might take me as much as three quarters of an hour to go around. But she said it in that great British way. Anyhow, got about halfway through and decided that was enough time wasting and came back. Then met with Jo, and we went to her friend’s place. Her friend had moved out, but the room was still rented so I used the wireless there, reserved a hostel for the night, and we hung out with Jo’s other friend (who’s name I forget).

We then went out walking, and got some fish and chips. Jo got the fish and chips, and I got a meat pie and chips. They didn’t give me a fork! Yeah, anyhow, we went to the London Bridge area and walked around. Reserved tickets at the Globe theater. Walked along the river. Then we got to the Eye of London, which we didn’t go on because it was expensive. Then went to Big Ben and Parliament, which was touristy. Then we walked through miles and miles of park. Saw people skating, saw lots of bird poop, and relaxed. I was having difficulty with my knee, but it was alright after a while.

Then we went to Chinatown, which isn’t anything up to the standards of Chinatowns set by the US. But it was pretty good none the less. Except the food we had wasn’t that great. The meet wasn’t really warm and the sauce was pretty… meh. But it was cheap.

We had some time to kill so we made our way to the hostel and checked me in. That was a little confusing but we made it. After that we went out to meet Jo’s friends at a club in SoHo. That was a bit fun except it was very difficult for me to hear things there. When Jo got up to leave I followed suit and went back to the hostel.

At the hostel I put my stuff down and headed to the bar to meet people. And of course I did. I met a guy named Eric(k) who was from north north Canada, like an island up in the really cold part. He was half Innuit and half Norwegian. Fun guy, and we were joined by Wade and Lisa from Australia. They were pretty drunk, but we wanted to find more alcohol since the bar had closed.

We went out on a trip to find said alcohol, and ran into a 24 hour store where this Indian guy said his brother who owned a store down the street could get us stuff if we told him Roger sent us. I found a great small bottle of Jameson for 9 pounds, which is cheap for London. We hung out in an alleyway, and then went down to find anywhere else open. We found a gambling center and went in. We were the only people there so we hung out with the staff. Eric made a ton of money, but everyone else lost a bunch. I sacrificed 5 pounds for the hell of it. They had free food so I took advantage of that.

Eventually started heading back. We ran into this girl who asked Eric for some money, and he, being innocent and from a place where people don’t get cheated that often, decided to give her some, but he didn’t have change, only a 20. So she followed him to a store where he got some change, and accidentally gave her a lot more money than he meant to. When he asked for it back she said to piss off and some accomplice of hers came along and also joined in telling him off. I wasn’t there, I had continued walking to the hostel trying to avoid all this, and only heard about it later. Ugh, early morning what nots.

Got back and went to sleep

Day 12 – London

Woke up a lot later than I wanted to. But that’s always fine. I got on the internet and checked messages, so I found out where Eileen lived and decided to go there and knock on the door instead of calling her first. Unfortunately she couldn’t hear the buzzer so I called her anyway. The telephones in London always eat a pound.
We hung out, went down the street to the T, and then went to this park area to have a bit of food. I had a Lentil and Bacon soup, with a piece of bread. It was really good actually. Kinda weird. But good.
Then went to Trafalgar Square. Went to the National Gallery and walked around looking at as much as we could, but then we were ushered out because they’re mean, and they close at 5. I just got a glimpse at one of Van Gogh’s Sunflower paintings before an old man creeped up behind me and scared the hell out of me saying “We’re closing! Get out!” (basically).

Then we went to Liecester Square and Covent Gardens. Looked around at the shops. Walked through Malaysia week. That was fun, and we relaxed a bit cause my knee hurt so much. But eventually got up and got some pizza. Then back to her place where we drank Becks and watched TV with her roommates. This show, Big Brother, is just absolutely weird. I don’t really see the appeal. Anyhow, we then decided to go out on the town to find things to do with one of her roommates. We went down this really creepy street and was almost attacked by a homeless person, but thankfully I was there to fend him off! Actually we just walked by him and he stared at us. Eventually found our way back to life, and took a break at McDonalds. Then I walked them home, and quickly went back to the tube station because it was past midnight. I actually got the last last LAST train back to the hostel, which was amazingly lucky since it came just 2 minutes after I got to the station.

I went back to the hostel and hung out at the bar with more people. I think that night I hung out with the Irish kids. They were fun people.

And then night.

Day 13 – London

Up and auuuugh knee. I don’t really know why, but it hurts so much in the mornings. This was probably the worst day of my knee hurting. Anyhow, I got organized and went out to the Tate Modern. I walked around the surrealist artwork and thought a lot about meta artwork and I think about now I understand it. Modern art is something you love to hate. You can act like you understand it, but so often artists are trying to challenge the idea of what art is that the meer act of modern art is so repeated and lame. What I see is people (around my age) walking around the museum making fun of the art. They poke fun at the pieces of art and do things like pretending that gallery furniture are also pieces of art, or claim that they could make artwork like that. But that’s the whole point of the art, it’s to make people joke about it, and talk about it. So in being terrible, it achieves its purpose. Capisce?

Anyhow, got some snacks (forgetting I had bought a cheap plain bagel before getting there) and ate that. Then I remembered hearing from the Irish kids the previous night I should check out the Camden area (I had written in large letters on my arm “CAMDEN”, which helped in remembering…). So I went over there and wow, punk as fuck. Never before have I seen so much black clothing in one area, not even in the Harvard Square Pit. That was kind of cool to walk around, and I bought myself a black patrol hat since my green one was too big and this one was adjustable. I also bought a really really cheap and fun watch with this cartoon football (soccer) guy and he’s kicking a ball. 2 pounds, which was a rip off, but it was alright. They had a nice square with a river going through and a bridge and I chilled there for a bit.

Then I went off to meet Jo for our Shakespeare adventure. We met at Bond Street and left for London Bridge. Walked around looking for cheap good food and found this really amazing middle eastern place. I can’t remember the name of the place, but it was right next to the theater. I got Kiymali? Fantastic, and reasonable pricing. After that we went over to the nearby Gelateria and got some amazing ice cream. So good.

Headed into the Globe Theater, and it was amazing. Everything is rebuilt to look like the original Globe Theater used in Shakespeare time. We were sitting on the very left of the theater, so we watched the whole play horizontally, which was different. Apparently the show was delayed a bit because one of the actors had an accident and they were getting someone to stand in for them. Oh, the show we saw was Merchant of Venice. Basically, I had an amazing time. This was a completely different experience than any other sort of theatrical performance I’ve been to. They did stuff with minimal props, I couldn’t see the background, the actors were so much more lively, two of the actors were reading from scripts (to make up for those that were not there), and it was all just so reliant on the imagination of the viewer that it turned out being great. I wish theater was more like this in fact. Well done.

Ok, so we left, Jo and I parted ways, and I went back to the hostel. That night I believe I hung out with these Estonians, who were very friendly, and we asked all about each others’ cultures.

Day 14 – London

By this day my knee really didn’t hurt as much, which was awesome. That day I went on the Free Tour of London. I had to do something at the hostel, can’t remember exactly what, but I headed off to the meeting place pretty early. But because the Tube was shut down in some places I had to take the long way and just barely made it. Also my camera didn’t have batteries for the first part of the tour so I couldn’t take pictures.

The Free Tour was amazing. The guide knew so much about the place and was so enthusiastic. I feel like this free tour idea is great because the guides have to work that much harder to guilt trip you into giving them a lot of money. So we went from monument to monument talking about each thing. Apparently London is full of fires. Everything has burned to the ground a few times and more. But the weirdest thing about our tour was that EVERYTHING was happening in London that day. We ran into a protest of the Isreal Palestine conflict, which was huge and a bit strange for me. In terms of that thing, I believe too many people don’t realize how absolutely complicated the situation is. Anyhow, after that we had lunch and Malaysia week was going on. There was some good Malaysian music there which I listened in on. Then in Trafalgar Square we ran into the protest again, but right after that we were about to cross the road when a huge parade of nude bicyclists rode by! Hundreds of naked people on bikes passing by us. That was entertaining. But we couldn’t cross. We waited and waited and naked people just kept on riding by without end. Then one guy fell down, so we took that as a chance to get by, as bad as that may have been. A few blocks later we saw a wedding couple getting photos taken, and a block or two later we saw the changing of the horse guards. The queen was in apparently and something was happening there, but we missed that. Then ANOTHER parade was just leaving Westminster Church as we got there. We got to hear the drum club making the exit. So all in all a lot happened on that tour. I gave a good tip.

After that I was a bit tired so I went to Green Park and hung out. Then went back to the hostel after picking up some small souvenirs and meat pastries. I had called Jo and she said she and some friends were going to see a movie that night, but looking at the situation I decided it wouldn’t be easy for me to go. It was out of the zones covered by my pass, and it would have gotten out later than the underground ran, so it would have been a lot of work to get back, and I was also pretty tired already. Oh well. Movies can be seen everywhere.

Back at the hostel I hung out with a guy from Denmark and another from Australia, and we were soon joined by another Australian and a New Zealander. That was a good time where I learned “SkoolforDenmark” which is like Cheers to Denmark, which actually has become a very useful phrase since then…
I also hung out with the Estonians some more that night. Different ones from the same group. And it got late, and we all went to bed.

I’ve gotten the feeling that Europe is made for lovers. Walking around that day, and walking around over the past few days, there have been so many locations, so many events, so many things that are made for couples. Maybe I should bookmark some of these locations in my mind, and maybe someday I’ll go on a world-wide honeymoon.

Day 15 – London to Brussels

I got up and left the hostel. Got onto the train without too much trouble, although since I wasn’t going to be using the UK money anymore I tried to spend as much of it as possible. I bought my dad some “Tube” socks (with the Underground map on them), and some other trinkets.

I got on the train, and lucky me had a family sitting with me. On these trains they have two sets of seats facing each other over a table, and this young couple with their child decided to sit next to me. Of course the kid was sitting across from me, and for the next hour and a half he was kicking my legs. The mother of the family kept on telling him to mind his feet, he’s kicking that man’s legs. He had a bit of an attitude, but was mostly sedated the first half of the trip with a gameboy. The father also was sedated with another gameboy. For the second half of that part of the trip, the kid was coloring in a cat. Then the kid got really upset over something and tore up the picture. The mother hit the kid, which was a bit awkward for me to be right across from. Turns out they were going to Euro-Disney. Luckily they got off in Lille Paris, which was halfway to Brussels.

I got off the train into Brussels and almost immediately got lost. I soon found out I started walking about 90 degrees to the right of the direction I needed to be walking. This was hinted to me by the prominent smell of piss and abundance of graffiti, and probably also by the guy in front of me suddenly moving to the side of the sidewalk and taking a piss on the building. Well eventually got back on course, and I walked in the right direction. Maybe got a little bit lost some more, but thats because Brussels is an amazingly complicated city where roads change names every block or so. And they’re in two different languages. There was less piss in the main area of the city, but still an amazing amount of graffiti. I take this as a sign of a strong presence of ideologies among the youth here, which is good. Some was creative, some wasn’t so much. (A side note: I later found out that the rest of Europe is COVERED with much much better graffiti. Brussels was only impressive at the time.)

I got to the hostel and checked in to put my bags down, then went back out to get some food. I found a kabob place, of which there are thousands all around Europe. Ordered one thing and got another (typical) but that was ok, it was very filling and tasted great. I then wandered around, trying to stay not lost, and found myself at a skate park. I sat down and took a few pictures, watching a guy do some pretty amazing bike tricks, and some other guys doing awesome skateboard tricks. Pretty well decorated too. Wandered some more and ran into a church, so sat there for a bit figuring out where I was. Then went back to the hostel.

At the hostel I had a drink at the bar, and started playing snooker. A Lebonese guy wanted to join, so we played a few games. I won two and he won one I believe… But they were well played games. We talked a little but it was difficult since his English was bad. He had stayed in Italy a while so I tried talking to him in Italian, but my Italian wasn’t as good as his English so we went back to that.

After that I might have gone out to eat again, but I can’t exactly remember right now (I’m writing this on day 27). And then went to sleep.

Day 16 – Brussels

Unfortunately, it was Monday. If you’ve been to Brussels, you might know what that means: everything is closed on Monday. No museums, no attractions, not too many shops, nothing except for monuments.
I got up and set out walking. Picked up some chocolate from a small store, which was the cheapest chocolate they had. Even so, it was the most amazing chocolate I’ve had in a long long time. I wonder what the expensive stuff tastes like. There were some interesting shops I saw. Lots of chocolate, lots of lace, lots of toys/puppets.

I went into the famous Brussels square with all the large buildings and shops everywhere. It was kind of nice and a bit of a change from the rest of the city. Lots of good pictures. Very touristy. I walked into a lace store and bought a small thing for my mom for a belated Mother’s Day present.

Then meandered about until I found the Manequin Pis. This famous statue was a lot smaller than I first thought it was going to be, but it was what it was, which is a fountain of a pissing boy. I guess this small little joke is a huge deal there, and it’s admittedly a bit funny, and I did buy a stupid miniature statue of it. I also bought a really, really good wafel from nearby. Belgium is also known for its waffles (they call them “wafels”). It was absolutely delicious. I got it plain (which I think it all it needs, anything more would just be distracting).

Walking around some more. Some kid with a toy gun was shooting people passing by and he shot me, so I smiled and did the “‘sup” nod. He shot me again and that time I played out an extremely dramatic dying scene. I think he and his friend found it hilarious, which was great. As I was walking I noticed a lot of shops along this one street that had ancient artifacts from different cultures. Egyptian, African, Asian, what not. I could hear in my head the words of Indiana “This belongs in a museum!” Oh and I also continued to see graffiti everywhere.

Somehow I got to the southernmost point of the city, which didn’t make any sense to me because I definitely did not walk the same amount that I did the day before going the other direction. I was at this giant palace with a pretty good view of the city, and also could barely make out that Atomium (a statue of an Atom a couple miles away). I walked up the city, and then through a park which was a nice stroll. Sat down for a while and watched a fountain go on and off a couple times.

Then went back to the hostel, where I did some laundry and went to the post office. For the life of me I could not find that post office. I walked up and down the street about three times, and then had to ask the guy at the hostel to point and show me where it was. I now know the symbol that Belgium uses to mark their post offices. I shipped off a lot of papers and souvenirs I had gained from the trip to my parents. A funny story: The package was ready to be shipped, and the lady told me how much it was, which sounded a lot like Ninety euros. I figured that was a mistake and she meant Nine euros. I gave her a ten and she said again Ninety. I was pretty surprised, but alright… umm… ok, and asked if I could pay with my Visa card. She said I couldn’t, but she had noticed I had a Twenty bill in my wallet, and said I could use that. OH! Nineteen! Nineteen Euro. I wiped the imaginary sweat from my head and she got a laugh out of that. I’m glad I can make a joke over the language barrier.

Then went back and hung out with some people at the hostel. Met a guy from Denmark who gave me a lot of suggestions on where to go when we get there. Then started talking to Nicole and Karaline from Canada. Told all sorts of stories. I went out briefly to get some kind of pizza, which tasted like an omelet pizza. We drank a bunch, buying each other drinks, and it was fun times. Then we went out at night to explore. We didn’t really find anything, but walked a lot. Came back, and went to bed.

Day 17 – Brussels to Brugge

I got up and packed for another travel day. Downstairs I got some bread and butter with some tea, and eventually met up with Nicole and Karaline. We went out to the Comics Museum, which wasn’t open yesterday but it sounded somewhat interesting. How wrong we were. We went there and walked around, but really it was a bunch of comics that I did not know at all, all in French, and nothing too exciting. There was a lot of Tin Tin, and some Smurfs, and then some other slightly familiar stuff. I kind of want to read this one comic with this cool looking guy wearing a captains hat. Forgot what the name was.

Anyhow, left for Brugge at the train station. I just missed the last train, so I was waiting for the next one. But I didn’t really understand the train situation, this being the first time taking an actual continental train. So I missed that train too. And also apparently it was on a different platform. So I finally caught the right train and got to Brugge.

Brugge is a really cute place. Very traditional cobblestone and small alleyway Europe. This is the small town one might dream of when thinking of “small European town”. I walked for a while to get to the hostel, but not too long since it only takes about 30 minutes to cross the entire town. I got into my room and immediately this girl asks where I’m from. When I said “California” she said “I called it!”, which makes me wonder how recognizable it is. Maybe it’s the long hair curling out of my hat? Maybe its the extremely relaxed disposition and countenance? Who knows. Anyhow, we both had just arrived so we decided to go explore.

First we went to the Belfry, which is a large clock-tower in the center of town. We walked up the 366 steps, which were all in a spiral so it was a little bit dizzying. Up at the top there was all the clock mechanisms and chimes and such, and it looked like one of those miniature song playing wind up toys where you have a central cylinder with bumps and some metal keys which it pushes when the cylinder rotates. While we were up there it actually started to play, which was exciting and really cool to watch. There was also a great view of the city.

Went back down and walked to the other side of town where we tried to find the happiest street in town. Supposedly there had been some suicides there (which doesn’t make any sense because it’s such a beautiful place), so they put up a couple signs telling people to have a good day and smile. We only saw one, and I forgot to get a picture. Walked a little past that and found some really cool windmills. Thats when I realized I had no idea what the girl’s name was. It was Celine. Anyhow, the windmills were cool.

We went back to the plaza with the Belfry because our map talked a bit about two competing stands at the foot of the Belfry. These stands sold amazing “fritkok”, or fries. Since there were two of us, we decided to buy one from each and try them to test what was better. We sat down in the square, one fries with ketchup (so touristy american) and one with special sauce (A mix of mayonais, ketchup and mustard). Both fries were absolutely amazing. We couldn’t really decide at first, but eventually I decided I liked mine better. Celine of course thought hers was better. Mine was crispier (though she didn’t think so). Either way, we ate a lot of dust since all this grit blew into the fries while we were eating them.

We then went back to the hostel to chill some more. I took a shower and Celine read Angels and Demons. Eventually happy hour came around and we went down to enjoy beers for 1 euro each. We met up with some others and all ordered two beers each. We got to the table, and while I was sitting down my knee bumped the table and EVERYTHING shook. Each person managed to quickly grab both of their beers except for me, who could only grab one while the other tipped over and poured itself all out into the ash tray and a bit onto the table. So that was quite an amazing party foul and we then had an ash tray full of beer.

Despite that, we had a pretty good time. Played a drinking game called “Fuck You” where it was something with cards and a bit like the card game Asshole. It was also a good way to learn people’s names. After drinking a lot, we went out into the night. Some went to bed, but the rest of us went with the bartender to this other bar across town. It was still open, but when I got there I didn’t really find much enjoyment, and talked in italian with some spanish people for a bit before heading back. I was really tired.

Day 18 – Brugge

We got up and went to the Chocolate Museum with Celine, Alex and Daryl. Alex and Daryl were kind of acting like asses in the museum, but it was interesting. We saw this demonstration on how they make chocolates filled with caramel centers. Then they gave them to us and they tasted absolutely amazing. We walked around the exhibit, up several floors with the various information about the chocolate world. I was kind of hoping for more of a Willy Wonka type experience, but oh well.

We went back to the central plaza where there happened to be a great market with all sorts of meat and cheese and vegetables and fruits. I got a nectarine and some sort of meat/spring roll patty. Good but could have been hotter. We went back to the hostel and chilled there while Alex and Daryl ate their food and Celine finished Angels and Demons. Then Alex and Daryl left for their train to somewhere, and Celine’s sister came some time after. Celine and I wanted to go on this pub tour, so we all went to that area and got some beers to drink. Her sister was pretty cool, and those two had split up earlier in their trip. Lots of interesting stories.

Her sister left and we went on the tour. The guide had a very wry sense of humor and it was quite hilarious. Pretty standard beer tour otherwise, with a short view of the city. It was nice. We got our free beers at the end, and met with some other people traveling. Some people near us left their table without even drinking all of their beers, one of which was completely untouched, so we decided to take it for ourselves.

On the way back we got some spaghetti and other materials for dinner, which we were making with this other guy from California. Got back to the hostel, which had a pretty good kitchen, and started making a huge spaghetti dinner. We needed butter so I went on a long trip to get some. On the way back I saw a store right nearby the hostel I could have gone to, but whatever. We made some buttered white asparagus, spaghetti with a sauce made with all sorts of vegetables, and bread (dipped into the leftover butter in the asparagus pan). It was a feast. So amazing. We hung out for a while, and the other people from the pub joined us, and another guy from Scotland, and suddenly it was happy hour again, and we all drank some more.

After the hostel bar closed we went out to try to find another bar. We were trying to get to a jazz club, but they had just closed when we got there. We went to the other hostel and had a few drinks there. Chilled a lot. Then we came back and chilled at our hostel again, and then eventually retired.

Day 19 – Brugge to Amsterdam

I got up and packed and left for the train station. Not too much of a problem with all that, except I think I missed one of the trains because I was a bit confused. They run all the time though.

I got to Amsterdam and made my way to the hostel where I put my stuff down. I then decided to walk around, and found a lot of shops with smoking paraphernalia, sex shops, food shops, and all sorts of places. Didn’t explore the red light district just yet, but went back to get more of an idea of what I wanted to do. I met these two guys in the hostel who were a bit… typical fraternity guy personality, and when I was trying to talk to them they were glued to the television. They mentioned a sex show that was really interesting, and so I decided to go see that.

I headed out again and this time wandered around the red light district. This is probably one of two things that make Amsterdam completely unique from the rest of the cities I’ve been to. Basically, for those who don’t know, protitutism is legal in Amsterdam. The prostitutes are self employed, and they rent out these booths lit by red lights along certain streets and alleyways in a general area of Amsterdam. The booths cost about 80 to 130 euros for an 8 hour shift. The prostitutes generally charge 50 euros for 15 minutes with them. As you can see, they can get a lot of money from this… Anyhow, because this is such a completely strange and unique thing, people find themselves walking around the red light district for a while. It’s an entertainment in itself, just casually strolling by these booths where prostitutes tap on the windows and what not trying to get you to choose them.

Anyhow, I went to this sex show at Casa Rosso (which now that I think about it… shouldn’t it be Casa Rossa?). The show came with 5 free drinks, which I took advantage of. It was a bit strange but because I’m weird I saw it more as something intriguing. They had weird acts, fun acts, humorous stuff, and things that tried to be very sexy but weren’t really that much. And then after 9 acts they repeated them, which was also strange… How does the same guy/girl do the same performance however many times a night, each night? I mean, the acts were repeated the same way. Use your imagination.

Anyhow, after that I was hungry, and then I stumbled upon a treasure which several others I’ve talked to have found: Wok to Walk. The most amazing delicious food to have when you’ve been walking around a red light district for hours with alcohol and not much else in your stomach. Amazing.

And then went back to the hostel to bed.

Day 20 – Amsterdam

That day in Amsterdam I went on the free tour (same company as the one that provides the free tours in London, Paris, Berlin, etc). Oh but before I go into that, before the tour I was walking to the meeting point and someone behind me yelled out “Ben!”. I turned around and it was a semi-familiar looking face of someone I had met in some hostel in one of the cities I’d been to. I don’t even know her name. Anyhow, we talked a little bit, and she was going off for some guide or something so as quickly as we met we parted. I still have no idea who she is. I have terrible memory.

Anyhow, this free tour was given by a Portuguese woman who was very enthusiastic and great. Unfortunately at the beginning of the tour it started raining really hard. She didn’t seem to mind too much. Although there were tons of things making noise around us, which she was a little perturbed about. Saw all sorts of things, including the thinnest house in Amsterdam. Also got some good pictures. After the tour the guide sat down with me and told me all of the million things to do in Lisbon.

After that I walked off towards the Heineken Experience. If you talk to people who have visited Amsterdam, chances are they went to this. You walk around to various different rooms, like most brewery tours, but this one was pretty modernized and they put a lot of design into it. They had these two rides which were absolutely hilarious. The first was what it was like to be a Heineken bottle. You got into the moving chairs and had a television in front of you which showed you getting washed, filled, capped, labeled, and shipped. It had all this dramatic music and was absolutely hilariously cheesy. The second ride was going from the Heineken factory to somewhere else by horse drawn carriage, which was kind of stupid but also had hilarious overly dramatic music. Other rooms at the factory had video games and places where you could take pictures of yourself and send it to other people (though I didn’t really think it was worth it). There was also a place where you could try unfermented beer, which was very warm, wheaty and sweet. I thought it was pretty good actually. Maybe if it was watered down a tiny bit and offered as a drink in cafes I would buy it. In the entire tour I was given three beers, all which I awkwardly drank alone. Heineken is alright, but I believe it’s missing pizzazz.

After that I walked over to the Van Gogh Museum, but it was 30 minutes before closing time so I decided to do it the next day instead.

So after that I walked around a lot. Amsterdam seems to be a place where you have to be with someone else to experience the true fun of the place. And the hostel/hotel I was staying at was really not very sociable, so I couldn’t easily make friends. I did talk to my roommates, who were lesbians from Stockholm, but they were going out to a lesbian bar where they didn’t think guys were allowed. So I ended up just wandering around a lot and watching TV with some others back at the hotel.

Day 21 – Amsterdam

Got up early and headed out to the Van Gogh Museum. Read all about his life and saw many different paintings by him. Some things I didn’t know about him: He was a missionary for a time; he started painting at the age of 26; He had a brother who he sent letters to all the time; The painting with the ravens over the field was NOT his last painting. Anyhow, the museum actually was a bit more disappointing than I expected. Not as many paintings as I expected.

I walked back, and in the room I met with two new roommates. Mohammad is a journalist from Jordan, working as a correspondent for multiple media companies. And Brandon plays World of Warcraft, and not too much else. These two characters and I went to find a football (soccer) game that Mohammad claimed was showing, which was one of the biggest games of the season. Except after walking all the way to a sports bar, not finding it, then walking to the Irish pub, and not finding it, I noticed the television advertising the game for TOMORROW. I pointed it out to Mohammad and he felt very ashamed since he’s a big soccer fan. We sat down at the Irish pub to have a bit of dinner anyway. We told each other jokes, which were a bit hard to remember. I need to memorize jokes for those moments.

Walked around a bit more, found some other people for a short while to hang out with, and then went back to the hotel. But before going to sleep I went back out to get a really good kebob.

Day 22 – Amsterdam

Woke up briefly at early morning so that Mohammad could give me his email, then went back to sleep.

So after waking up a bit later I spent a lot of the day in the room updating my journal. I didn’t get too far, but I was able to leech internet off of some neglecting or generous neighbor. Eventually I realized that I should reserve a ticket for the train and I went out to make that, which was interesting since the only train that was available for Paris left at 6:56 a.m. and there was only first class available. This was a bit of an issue since I was planning on going on a pub crawl that night, and I’d probably be up for quite a while. Reserved it anyway since it was my only choice so that I could meet up with Mode and not have him wait a couple hours.

I was not going to back down on drinking on the pub crawl so instead of drinking less I decided to eat more. Seems like a good idea. So Brandon and I went to the Wok to Walk (have I ranted about this before? Yes on day 19). Had an amazing dinner/lunch, got really full, and headed off to the Pub Crawl while Brandon headed off somewhere else.

At the pub crawl I found two Canadians to talk to, and then we found two girls (one from South Africa and one from Hong Kong I think) and we chatted. And then guess who I ran into again? Daryl from Brugge! Which was a bit strange, but we were all sorts of pumped to go Party Makken (as we have termed it). The catch about the pub crawl is that if you get your free drink at every bar the price is worth it, but they keep you at those bars for an hour each, meaning you get a small drink and then you’re dry for 45 minutes. So many people are pressured into buying more drinks from the bars, which were absurdly priced. I was determined not to do that, and only took the free drinks. The pub crawl was alright, but like I kind of expected they just played pop and rap music and that kind of sucked. I danced a bit anyway, trying to rely on the drinks to remove self consciousness in dancing which is always the difficult hurdle.

The night went on, and I witnessed a true subversive fight for male dominance. The South African girl was really putting herself out onto the dance floor, and she seemed to be the only girl really worth hitting on there (there were some other cute girls, but they were fairly generic looking). So I witnessed about five different guys all taking turns dancing with her and trying to make out with her. And all of them succeeded. One after the other they all got a turn with her trying to get the others to go away. I felt sorry for her because I had been talking to her earlier and she seemed like a completely awesome and mature person, yet she got really drunk and just seemed to be going with the flow of the night. Amsterdam will be Amsterdam. And everything that happens in Amsterdam stays in Amsterdam. (Good thing I don’t know her name). Meanwhile, at some point I found a box mostly full of cigarettes on the floor. Thinking it would come in handy, I pocketed it.

The party was ending and Daryl and I thought to go find something else to do. We walked down to the red light district and hung around. Got some food and headed back uptown to Daryl’s hostel which despite it’s curfew, he was able to get in. On the way we ran into some other folks who were just walking along, and we chatted with them. After Daryl left we walked a bit more and eventually ran into some Scottish kids I had also seen at the pub crawl. We sat on a bench somewhere and just talked a lot. One of the Scottish guys had found a bike handle, and this seeming like such an awesome souvenir, I offered to trade him two cigarettes for it. He agreed, and I now have a rubber bike handle. Awesome.

Oh speaking of trading, now that I remember… In London I found a box of matches somewhere, and one of the Estonian girls really wanted it since her mother or someone wanted a box of matched for some weird reason. She gave me in return a very nice lighter. Later in the trip, I lent this lighter to Mode and he managed to lose it. He said that he left it on my bed in Paris and I guess I missed it. Later Mode bought me a lighter from a 99 cent store and as of now (on the ferry from Civitavechia to Barcelona) it is lost again.

Day 23 – Amsterdam to Paris

What. A. Morning.
So after getting back to the hostel at 5 a.m., I decided I would take an hour nap before going to my train. Luckily, I had packed everything before leaving on the pub crawl the night before. So here’s what happened:
I got up at 6:00, with my iPod playing it’s alarm very well. Alright, time to get up, but maybe I’ll just rest a bit longer. I went back to bed. Then suddenly I woke up again. Oh shit, what time is it. I looked at my watch I got in London and it was 7:00. My train left at 6:56. Oh noooooooooo. I had missed my train. It was the only train to Paris that was available so that I could meet up with Mode at a reasonable time. I had no way of contacting him to tell him I had missed the train. Either way, I decided it was a good idea to run to the station anyway. I was very panicked and not thinking straight, so every person I talked to must have thought I was crazy. Anyway, got to the ticket station and told them the situation, and the lady there was very helpful and luckily managed to find me a train that would get me there. Leaving in 8 minutes. So after buying the ticket quickly and rushing to the platform, I managed to get on and we just started moving about 3 minutes later. Whew.

Slowly but surely I got to Paris. Land of baguettes, wine, and cheese (although most of Western Europe is that). After getting out of the station I instantly was confused about where to go to, and spent a good 30 minutes just getting my sense of direction and my concept of the transportation system settled. Eventually figured it out and finally got to the hostel. And look who was waiting for me! Mode! Alright, awesomeness!

We checked in and put our stuff down. We were in this hotel double, which was such a nice change from the things I had been used to. Really nice showers and everything was well taken care of. The beds were also so nice.

Anyhow, we decided it was time to go out into the world. We left to go to a park and got settled. We walked around fairly unguided. We saw the infamous Royal with Cheese (Pulp Fiction). One thing I really liked about Paris is how Napoleon set up the streets so that you could see monuments lined up down them. That was really kind of cool and picturesque. Also, the buildings are enormous. Everything they had there was built on such a larger scale than the rest of Europe it felt like. We sat down and had some slushies. And when we walked to the Louvre (which I still can’t figure out how to pronounce) some guys conned Mode into buying a bracelet that would make him a “Sex Machine” (which then became one of the many inside jokes of the trip). Went to the big Arch thing. That was a big arch thing.

Eventually we decided to go to the Eiffel Tower. And then headed to the Eiffel Tower. And then we headed to the Eiffel Tower. It took a while to get there, but we got there (by foot). This monument which represents Paris was pretty big, and pretty pretty. Although I had never seen a picture of the Eiffel tower looking from below it, which was strange. The whole structure was very ornate and beautiful. We meandered a bit and had some crappy crepes which were too expensive, and then stood in line for the tower. While standing in line the tower started to sparkle like those guys in Dublin told me it would. That was cool for about 5 minutes but then it just was a bit annoying. We finally got on the ride up and walked the steps, waited in a million lines, and got to the top. Very nice, especially since we got there right at sunset, and all of Paris was lighting up. Took a few pictures, chilled for a bit. And then we headed back down.

It was really late and the trains were about to stop, but we managed to get the last train back to our hotel. Lucky us.

Day 24 – Paris

Got up and got Mode up, as the rest of the trip seems like it will be. Mode sleeps a lot longer than I do. Eventually we got out and looked for food on the way to the metro. Found a fruit/vegetable store where I got an orange and Mode got baby tomatoes. Then found a good baguette shop where we got some really great baguettes for cheap. Headed off on the metro to Notre Dame while eating our baguettes.

Walked to Notre Dame, where there was a long but quick moving line to get in. Lots of nice stained glass and very ornate decorations. It was really an in and out experience which didn’t take too long. Afterwards we went over to the Saint Chappelle which was another line, but a whole lot more worth it because you get out of a small stairwell and into this giant room surrounded by stained glass. It was really cool and beautiful, except for the construction going on the altar at the end of the room. Either way it was quite an experience. Pink and blue floors.

After that experience we walked to the Musee d’Orsay but it was closed (can’t remember the reason because it couldn’t have been that late). Anyhow, we walked around some more and found a supermarket to get some food. But the supermarket was weird and wouldn’t let us both go in at the same time so Mode went in and bought some water, fruit juice things, and a six pack of wine (yes, a six pack of wine, but these were small bottles). We went to a bridge nearby to drink the fruit juices, and then went to a park near the Eiffel Tower to start drinking the wine. After chilling there for a bit we went down closer to the Eiffel Tower and had more wine, and then it started raining. I think that night we managed to find a pretty good kebab place to eat dinner. Then just headed back to the hotel after that.

Day 25 – Paris

We got up early to get to the Paris Free Tour at Saint Michel square, which is apparently a big hang out spot. On the way we passed by the fruit shop and the bread shop again. That would make a good routine if we were staying there for longer. Started the free tour and went around seeing all sorts of sights that we would have missed if we didn’t take the tour, but at the same time this tour wasn’t as good as the one in London or Amsterdam because the guy spent more time cracking jokes and going on tangents than actually talking about the city. Not that I didn’t enjoy that, but I felt like a good tour would have an equal amount of both. So we saw the oldest bridge in Paris with strange heads, saw a bunch of palaces and heard about structures of different sorts. Obelisks are everywhere in Europe it seems. Saw some art installations here and there, most of which didn’t make that much sense. After the tour ended we walked to the Musee d’Orsay.

The Musee d’Orsay was set up really interestingly. Lots of natural light, and very open. You didn’t get anything of a claustrophobic stuffy museum sense in there. I also really enjoyed the plethora of statues all over the place. It was very well done and organized, but the only problem was there wasn’t a clear path of viewing. You would go in one room but then have to trek across a couple you’d already seen to get to another exhibit. Most museums are like this (with the exception of the Vatican so far) and that bothers me a bit, but whatever. I got a really cool picture of two people looking at a Van Gogh painting and they were wearing the same colors as the painting.

After the museum we went to go find another supermarket and get some bread, wine and cheese. Then we brought it to the Pont Neuf (something like that) which is a really really awesome bridge where people hang out and eat bread and cheese and wine. We stayed there for a long long time, but it was all so cool. We met a guy named Joe (short for Jonathan), and Mode made friends with one of the Indian guys selling beer on the bridge. We must have stayed there for something like 2 or 3 hours. Then we figured it was getting late and we headed back to the hotel for the final night.

Day 26 – Paris to Interlaken

Well to appease the masses, I will continue updating this journal. I have about 27 days to update now, 20 of which have completed outlines. There are three days which are not outlined in the middle of Rome, but hopefully I can remember them when the time comes.

In Paris, so long ago, we got up and packed and checked out of the hotel. We then took the public transportation to Gare de Lyon, the train station. We checked our bags in because we didn’t want to carry them around. Oddly enough, right outside the locker storage there was some dog shit on the ground, in the station… Very strange, and unsanitary, but whatever. We decided to go out for a stroll. Picked up some food at a close by supermarket, and mailed postcards out to people. The machine I was using to buy stamps was a bit French, and I say this meaning I tried to get rid of a lot of my change by putting small coins in, but because of poor planning I went over and it spit back a million tiny one cent change things at me. The machine obviously could tell what I was doing and decided to give me an even larger pocket of coins to deal with.

Anyhow, we walked to a Jardin. Walked in the sun, ate our food, developed the “Cheeks System” a bit more, a secret language that only we can understand. A lot of people around the garden were eating McDonalds, in fact, almost everyone was eating McDonalds, which was so weird. For the longest time we couldn’t find the mothership of the so-called-morsels, and then we saw it across the street. I don’t understand how people can stand that stuff.

Anyhow, headed back to the train station the long way. Walked around a hospital. Saw an amazing gorgeous girl riding on a bike straight towards us and we both become completely speechless as she passed and left forever never to be seen again. Happened in an instant, but oh wow.

As we were taking luggage out of the storage place, I noticed there were dog shit footsteps leading too and from the previously mentioned monument. We got on the train, switched trains in Bern, and finally got to Interlaken fairly late. We got off at the stop we thought we were supposed to get off at… but then realized it was the wrong stop. We made friends with two canadian girls who were also headed to our hostel, and started walking in a direction we thought it was. Asked for some directions from some people having dinner and a guy, who spoke very poor english, tried to direct us. We walked for a long ways along the river, and oddly enough found it. It was right there suddenly, and hurray! Soon afterwards we were sleeping.

Day 27 – Interlaken

I got up and showered, and Mode soon got up and we both went over to the semi-close supermarket called Coop (coop? co-op? pronunciation questionable). Got some food and stuff for hiking. Came back and had a bit of breakfast and then set out into the cloudy day. It had been slightly showering here and there, but that wasn’t going to stop us from hiking.

The path we set out on was what I like to call Heidi Klum. Actually it was called Hardy Klum or something. So we hiked up Heidi Klum. It was a long hike, and I think I took it better than Mode did. I was always a few couples of steps ahead of him. But he made it, and we progressed our way up the mountain stopping at various points to enjoy the fresh air and beautiful scenery. The day got sunnier as it went along. We saw black slugs, butterflies, nature, and all sorts of stuff. At one stop there was a nice shack with tons upon tons of graffiti in it. One of them said that this couple got engaged there, which was cute. Mode and I left our small marks, and continued up. There was a field of flowers that reminded me a LOT of Sound of Music, except it was at an extreme angle. So I had to do the Julie Andrews dance while Mode took a picture. Finally we got to the top and there was a lovely restaurant there just waiting for us. Expensive, but so worth it, and had a large meatloaf hearty meal, accompanied by a well earned large beer and followed by dessert. Mode had a treasure box ice cream thing, and got a terydactyl toy thing in the secret compartment at the bottom! Awesomeness. After filling up I had to go down the slide at the nearby childrens’ playground. It was exciting for about 3 seconds and then slowed down to a stop because of the rain on the slide. Psh. Oh well.

Took the tram down and rested back at the hostel. Mode took a nap. I worked on the journal, read some Moby Dick, and since I didn’t think Mode would be up for a while I left a note and took a really nice walk. I went down along the length of the river to the big lake at the mouth, and then crossed a railroad bridge to come back along the opposite side. Along the way I saw a lot of slugs, some cute girls, and a couple that was holding hands while bike riding. It was very relaxing.

After I got back Mode was up, and we were ready to make the extra pasta that I had kept in my bag since Brugge. We used the kitchen at the hostel and had an amazing dinner. Then we sat out in the patio chilling with people and talking about music. It got late and we went to bed.

Day 28 – Interlaken to Milan

I got up and once again Mode was not, so I packed a bit and eventually shook him awake. He had accidentally left his laundry in the washer the previous night and had not woken up to move it to the dryer, and then when he check it it was all messed up because the washer hadn’t finished draining. Basically his clothes were all messed up, and then when he tried to use the dryer, it broke down. So because of all this we missed a train or two to Milan… it was a bit annoying since I was completely ready to make those trains. At that point I definitely felt that main issue of traveling with another person. You have to accommodate for their habits and also for twice the amount of mistakes a single journeyer would encounter.

Anyhow, as he was working with that I went off to get some breakfast at the supermarket and also picked up a really awesome swiss army knife. I felt that if I was going to get anything in Switzerland, that would be it. I got the Camper model which cost me about 23 euros. It included: Big knife, small knife, can opener, weird thing, toothpick, tweezer, and a SAW. The saw was what made me buy the Camper instead of the model below it.

Anyhow, came back and eventually got on the train. Switched trains in Bern. And finally arrived in Milan. When we arrived there I took a look at the map and decided, in my brilliancy, that it wouldn’t be unreasonable to walk to our hostel instead of paying money for the metro. So we set off, and soon I realized that the scale of the map was a lot lot larger than I had anticipated. So we continued walking. And walking. And walking. As I said, accommodate for two times the amount of mistakes. We must have walked about 2 or 3 miles to the hostel, and after making it we were exhausted. Our clothes were drenched with sweat. Put our bags down and took showers.

Despite being tired, we went out into the world. We got on the bus that the nice receptionist told us to take, and we planned to get off to see the famous Milan Duomo (the cathedral). Unfortunately, we did not see a clear stop to get off for the church, so we kept on waiting, and waiting, and waiting for the bus to get there, and eventually after clearly leaving the main section of town we decided to stay on the bus until it looped back around. And we waited, and waited, and waited and the bus just went into an entirely different section of the city. We had to get off and get back on the next bus, and once again travelled down to the main downtown area and got off at a reasonable place. Once again, mistakes.

By this time the church was closed, but we took some pictures and planned to go back the next day. We walked around and got some gelato, and then somehow found ourselves at a festival… a strange festival, something was a bit odd… oh, it was a gay festival. Anyhow, not really our scene so we turned around and found the bus again, and went back to the hostel.

There was an accident in front of the bus on the way back so we got off and walked a few blocks to the hotel. After getting back I hung around waiting for Mode to finish writing to his parents. They wanted a lot of information and he needed a lot of time to give it to them. In the meantime I looked through magazines and sort of watched this movie the kid of the owner’s was watching.

Finally Mode was ready to go get dinner, and we walked a while looking for this place just to find out it was a bit more pricey than we wanted, and found a nice pizza place instead named “I <3 Pizza". This was the first time having REAL traditional italian pizza. It was very flat and had a much lighter feel than American pizza. Much more raw and true ingredients. And then came back to sleep.

Day 29 – Milan to Florence

We got up and went out to do Mode’s laundry. That is, to throw it in the dryer to try to get it dryer. We encountered a crazy old lady who was trying to help us with the laundry, and I barely understood her italian. She told us to come back a lot sooner since the dryer’s time was a bit messed up. While we were waiting for that we went to the grocery store and got some food there. Then came back and the clothes were still a little damp. Whatever, we came back to the hostel, packed up and left. But first we kept our bags at the hostel while we went out to explore more of Milan.

We took the bus to the Duomo again, and this time it was open so we walked up the many flights of stairs to the top and walked along the roof. There was a lot of nice gothic details on the church which made nice pictures. After that we went over to the old castle, which was pretty much in ruins, and walked around the small park behind it. Interestingly, walking around we saw some anti-gay graffiti which must have been made in response to the festival we had seen the previous day.

We came back to the hostel and got our bags, got on the other bus and headed to the station. We weren’t sure what stop to get off at, but luckily this girl sitting on the bus helped us out. We started talking to her and it turns out she was from Brazil, traveling around doing menial jobs like working in fast food places. She was very nice, but soon left and we got on the train to Florence.

The ride from Milan to Florence was pretty scenic, but I napped a lot. We finally got off the train and made our way to the hostel. It was a pretty low key informal hostel, but nice. Marco helped us with places to go see and we put down our stuff. In the common area we met this girl who we soon regretted meeting. She was a chatterbox and would not. shut. up. She would go on and on and on about herself and her sorority and brother’s fraternity. It was a bit amusing because her huge obnoxious glasses had left a tan line across her eyes so she looked like an inverted raccoon. Well at the time we weren’t sick of her so she tagged along when we decided to go to the bridge to see some rumored fireworks.

Got to the bridge, Ponte Vechia, and there were all sorts of peoples, a musician playing various qualities of music, and it was all chill. We waited there for a while and it got dark and crowded. Suddenly there were fireworks! and everyone ooohed and aaahhed at them. It was pretty awesome. We also met this guy Isaac, who became an iconic figure for the rest of the trip. A legend, shall we say. Isaac was a guy from Austria who spoke pretty good English and Italian. He had a very Austrian accent, but not like the Arnold type accent. He was also a bit… weird. Some of his more famous quotes would be “Oh Ben, you’re so funny, iz so good to meet you” or “That’s amaizing!” He was a character. He also was kind of hitting on me, though claiming he wasn’t. I knew he didn’t mean anything negative and he really was a very nice guy, just a little weird. But we like weird people and told him we should hang out the next day.

We started walking back to the hostel but stopped to hang out in the Piazza di Republica for a bit. I got my white shirt a bit dirty and for some reason the stain hasn’t come out. We headed back, but unfortunately Isaac’s hostel was a mile or two from where our place was, so I tried to give him the easiest directions back to his place and he set off to find his way back.

Then we knocked out.

Day 30 – Florence

In the morning we went out and got patches at a nearby alternative store. I finally found something I liked and I didn’t even know what it meant, which was a Ducks Unlimited patch. Apparently, as I learned later, Ducks Unlimited is a hunting club of some sort. Even so, the name Ducks Unlimited, and then a picture of a duck, it’s just so cool. I put it on my bag sometime later, and did a pretty poor job at it too, but it fit alright.

After that we went out to the Duomo, which was large. Very large in fact. While waiting in line to go up the million stairs (million equalling 566 I believe), we saw some police pull up next to the line, a police man jumping out and running, and at the same time all the street venders immediately packing up and bolting out of there. It was a nice cops and robbers chase without guns and stuff, but pretty cool. Short lived, and no real action-like moment, but whatever.

Going up the stairs of the church there was a lot and a lot of graffiti. All over the place people had made their marks. But we eventually got to the top and it was quite beautiful. We could see almost all of Florence and got some great pictures. We were a bit tired so we just chilled up there at the top for a long time. Also at this time we saw a character named Dan-O who we would meet later on that day.

After deciding we were thoroughly chilled, we went back down. Then we walked around and eventually got back to the Ponte Vechia where we got some gelato and hung out eating our extremely delicious ice cream.

Then we came back to the hostel to find that Isaac (the Austrian from the previous night) had left us a letter! I wish I could transcribe it but I sent the letter home in a package a couple days later. It went something like this:
Dear Ben,
Hallo, something something sorry I slept in and couldn’t meet you guys at somewhere something something I went to your hostel and you weren’t there so I am leaving this message. I will stay here (scratch out) I will come back here later to see if you are here yet, something something, – Isaac

What was weird is he didn’t really know exactly where our hostel was, so he must have looked around for a while trying to find it. Not sure how he did that, but it was kind of a funny letter with broken English everywhere. We had missed the time we were going to meet him in some place anyway because we were across the city at that time. Anyhow, we laid around the hostel hanging out with Marco and also met these two girls from somewhere. And all of a sudden who shows up but Isaac and PSTFU girl! We then encountered two more guys who were actors in the US. So we had a full entourage ready to go to dinner and we had heard about an amaizing restaurant near the central station, so we went there. Unfortunately the two girls said they would meet up with us later and never did, but it sounded like they had a good time.

So we went to this restaurant, which all I can remember name wise is that it had a vertical green neon Ristorante sign and underneath said Pizza al Legno (wood oven pizza). We went in and were greeted by this very friendly older man, and soon seated deep into the restaurant. The food there was absolutely amazing. Delicious times a million. True Italian food at its finest. We filled up and decided afterwards that Mode had to pay rent by a certain time and so we decided to meet back in front of the station in a little bit.

Did just that, and when we got to the station who was there but Dan-O! Interesting guy with some Nightmare Before Christmas tattoos and a few interesting stories. We all got up and went over to a bar in a plaza a few blocks away.

Strangest thing happened at this bar. One of those weird cosmic coincidences that you find every now and then, and more often while traveling. We were standing in line for a pint, and a guy behind us in line started talking to Mode. He asked him how much the price was, and then they both noticed the looked a bit familiar… “Is your named Pramodh?” “YEAH IS YOUR NAME PRAMODH!” wtf? wtf! wtf. They loudly and excitedly had found each other, and the whole bar witnessed this momentous event (though few understood what exactly was going on). The story here is that these two, freshman year of college, were searching on the social network Facebook. Apparently the only other person of the 2008 class named Pramodh was this guy who went to school in Ohio. Of course they friended each other because the name Pramodh (with that spelling) was pretty rare and a good thing to friend someone for. Three years later, these two people meet in a bar, in Florence, halfway around the world. Crazy right? Right.

So we chilled outside the bar. They talked. Hit on some girls. Mode gave a girl his terydactyl toy from Interlaken. We stayed in the plaza for a long time but started getting hungry, and the bar closed, so our group of people (of which many had left but some had stayed) left in search of another bar or some food, whichever came first. We then proceeded to walk around Florence for a long long time. We finally found a bar that was open, but by that time Mode, Dan-O and I decided we cared about food more, and luckily the bartender girl from the other bar was kind enough to tell us where (the only) kebab place was. We went there and got some amaizing kebab. Everything tastes amazing late at night and with an extreme appetite. We took our freshly made wraps to the nearby plaza with statues and sat down right in the middle of the square and ate. Not too many people there, but oddly enough it was the crossroad of Florence because the other guys soon joined us and left, and Isaac wandered there very drunkenly and left, and a really hot girl on a bicycle rode by and asked for cigs, but left when we had none.

Dan-O wanted to try to get into his hostel, which had a curfew so we didn’t have high hopes, so we walked over to where he was staying and luckily he got in. Said our farewells and headed off to our place to fall asleep ourselves.

Day 31 – Florence to Rome

It is always so hard to write a few of these entries in a row. After finishing one it seems like such an accomplishment than I want to sit back and take a break before starting another, but I know that break will expand into another day of writing. Really what I have to do is not look at anything and just start typing. Once I’ve started typing up one of these, I get on “The Roll” and it just flows out. It’s like drawing a continuous line on a piece of paper, but not looking at the paper so when you finish drawing one bit and pick up the pen, you have to look back at the paper to put the pen down at the end of the last line. Makes sense? Capisce? Yes.

Anyhow. We left the hostel with our stuff and went to the supermarket. I stood outside holding Mode’s water while he got some stuff, and then he went to the 1 euro store to get me a new lighter. Not that I smoke, I just use the lighter when people ask for a light because you would not believe how useful it is. Also Mode had lost the last lighter which was traded for a box of matches in London to the Estonians.

We went to the station, and decided that because we had a Eurail pass, we didn’t need to make a reservation. Which was a bad idea because apparently, even if there are seats available on a train, you NEED to make a reservation on some trains. So we were oppressed for not having tickets and had to pay more than usual to cover that. Anyway anyhow we got to Rome, got on the metro and went to our hostel. But the hostel had a lock out until 4 and we had got there at 2:30 or something, so we waited outside the front door playing was. An odd side note – We were sitting there minding our own business when all of a sudden, a bag of trash flew out some window and crashed behind me. I say crashed because there was glass in there as well. Just a bag of trash, flying out of nowhere, and landing there. A bit startling.

We finally got in when someone opened the door and asked why we didn’t ring the bell. We said because they were closed, but apparently there were still people there. We got in, took showers, and rested. The ladies who owned this hostel were really friendly and almost acted like surrogate mothers. They gave out popsicles to their guests and really tried to help us find places on the map.

We went out to do our laundry at a nearby laundromat. When we bought soap to put in the washer it exploded in my hands and got all over, but most was salvaged. While that was running we explored the area. It was strangely quiet, and we found some crappy pizza for lunch. Went back briefly to move the laundry to the dryer, got some drinks, and then chilled at the laundromat. I took a small snooze in the chair there, and then it was done so came back to the hostel.

When we came back our two other roommates had arrived. One was named something, and he was from Brazil, and the other was named Cristobal, and he was from somewhere. The Brazilian guy knew very sketchy English and I tried to talk to him as well as I could, but it was very difficult. But I think we got along and that was all fine. Mode and I then decided to try to get to a restaurant named Cico’s and Pepe’s (not sure on the spelling), but when we got there it was completely full, and there was a mob of people hawking free tables. So we walked back looking for another option and found another Pizza al Legno place. This one had a few celebrity pictures and had a friendly atmosphere, and the food wasn’t too bad. We then walked back to the hostel.

Here is where we disagree, but Mode thinks it was this night that we met the friendly Mexican girl. I think it was the next night. Nothing too significant or a story to tell about that, but she was there at some point.

Day 32 – Rome

I guess I should mention for the record that we had a LOT of ice cream in Italy. It’s all over the place, and it’s so good everywhere you go, so it is a necessary evil that you subscribe to the whole time you are there. Some people might think pasta and pizza when they think of Italy, but they really should be thinking ice cream.

We got up and took the metro to the Colosseum. The huge arena where gladiators fought things and people got killed by animals. Arena means sand, and there was sand on the floor! That’s a bit of trivia for you guys. Anyhow, we found an excellent deal, which is all around Rome, which is 1 euro for 20 postcards. A fine tourist trinket I can agree with on price and value. We then stood in the Colosseum line to get tickets, which was a long line. There were many lines in Rome actually, and this was the first of those many. We walked around the Colosseum, explored its ins and outs, read the few plaques around with information, and took pictures.

Then we went over to the nearby ruins. Viewed the ruins, walked around, took pictures, tourist stuff. There were some really nice redone marble columns. And real olive trees! We found a headless statue, and I climbed up the back and we took a picture with my head replacing the statue’s head. It was grand. We went to a small museum where there was large artifacts. A short funny incident was when we walked into this one room and this Korean woman saw us and immediately grasped her bags which were sitting next to her. I guess we’re intimidating. Anyhow, we also walked by the large area where Ben Hur was supposed to have taken place.

Then we got some food, sat down and ate it. We then rode the metro to the one of the few fountains in Rome, and it was very crowded with tourists. We found a place to sit down and chilled there for a long time. Took a funny picture. Then got up again and walked down a very large street, stopping in a music store, and then got to a large square. We sat down in front of a statue of these three people (can’t exactly remember the story of that statue, but it’s a famous one), and some guy approached us saying he was taking photos of himself recreating the scene in statues around Europe and asked if we could pose for this one. So we did, and it was quite funny.

After that we headed back to the hostel, and decided we would try again to go to Cicio e Pepe’s. Fortunately we got there early enough to grab a table. I had some really great Risotto and Mode had the Spaghetti Carbonara. The second part of the meal, which I think I had a salad for, was really not that great and I wish I had ordered something more substantial, but money is money. We walked back to the hostel with full stomachs. When we got back, a few people decided to watch a movie so we all watched The Prestige, which was an interesting movie with a big twist at the end. It’s a bit interesting to think about how the movie would have been different if they revealed the twist at the beginning. One way or other we went to sleep soon after that.

Day 33 – Rome

I’m not in the mood to write the journal right now… but I will write it anyway. That’s your dedicated journalist right there. There is a cause, and no matter what mood I’m in, I must strive to help that cause, and the cause in this case is bringing stories of my travels to those less fortunate. That whole paragraph was filled with interesting word matches. Except for maybe the second sentence and this last self-referential part.

We got up and headed to Holy Country, a.k.a. Vatican City. But apparently immigration lines are extremely long, even in the small countries. So we stood in a line that stretched at least 5 city blocks, and not single file. It was kind of like standing in line for Disney rides, except Disney lines are longer because people care about Mickey Mouse more than Jesus these days. This topic was noted at the time. So after what seems like years we got into the Vatican, which was strange because I half expected them to check passports. Not quite that kind of country I guess. Bought our “visas” (tickets) and went into the museum area. Walked around looking at all the cool pictures and statues. There were lots of statues. In the middle of one courtyard there was a strange decomposing brass sphere. I claim it’s a time machine that the Vatican built so they could control the world. Then went into a hall of statues where we could obviously tell the statues’ guitars had been taken away.

There were lots of pretty things we saw along the way to the Sistine Chapel, some that were actually more impressive. But the signs that pointed to the Sistine Chapel kept on going, and going, and going. Finally we got to the giant hall, flooded with tourists, all trying to take pictures of the ceiling. It was not lit very well, so of course everyone’s pictures probably came out as blurry as ours, but there it was, the magnificent paintings we all have seen all over the world. There was even that small crack that you notice. It really does exist!

Exited the chapel and headed off to the extremely overpriced cafe. Bought some cheap things and sat down next to some other Americans. But oddly enough, when they got up to leave they left a lot of leftover food. So much was wasted! So we decided to be activists and eat some of their leftover food. How could they buy stuff that expensive and leave it all? Psh, Americans.

Next we went to the San Pietro, a giant cathedral with light coming in at very cool places and interesting designs here and there. Went up to the top to see around Rome from a heighted perspective and then went down into the actual cathedral. Kind of a flood of tourists roaming around. We heard some choir people singing too. After that we left the Vatican and chilled at another large fountain of Rome. This fountain had a fish like things. Got some food. Also, there were these guys selling magnet noise makers. I’ve seen these annoying little dohickeys (the technical name) at my mom’s office before, but here they were being sold all over the place and made such a pervasive and terrible noise. It got old. Fast. We went to the other fountain and they were there too.

The other fountain was the one we went to the day before; the one with Poseidon. When we were there we randomly met up with our brazilian roommate, and another guy who was Kenyan. The Kenyan guy talked a lot to us, and I didn’t really understand all the stuff he was saying, but I think it was in English. He was nice though, and apparently knew a lot of people everywhere. Told us some history about the fountain. We had a good time.

After a while we decided to walk back to the hostel. It was a long walk, but we did it. Along the way we stopped at a restaurant for a small bite to eat, and talked to the owner a lot about various things. Then walked the rest of the distance back to the hostel.

Day 34 – Rome to Naples

Unfortunately there was a period of three days which we never outlines, and those three start at Rome to Naples, Naples, and Naples to Biassa. I’ll try to recount them as much as possible, but there’s probably a few (more) little things missed in these next three journal entries.

We got on the train from Rome to Naples. Pretty self explanatory. It was a train to sleep on mostly as I remember. When we got to Naples we got the subway to the station we needed to get to, got off and found our way to the hostel. As soon as we got out of the station you could tell it was Naples. The street were trashed, there was crazy traffic, and people conversing everywhere. It wasn’t that bad when we first saw it, and I still was quite impressed. But don’t let this translate into me saying I had a bad impression of Naples. On the contrary I loved the atmosphere. It was so lively, so active and exciting. It almost seemed like you could film a good action/drama movie just by shooting real life there.

The hostel was completely different. Lazy, clean, seemingly slow paced and completely relaxed. It was completely different just a few meters away. But it was amazing. Really nice, very well designed and they even had a concert that night.

We decided that we would go out and get dinner to cook. We bought some pasta, meat, and wine and made a wonderful pasta with hamburgers on the side. It was very good, and filling, and the wine (though cheap) was a great friend to the other food.

After that we sat around talking to people at the hostel and listened to the musician that came to play, Mr. Milk. I was tired (and the guy’s music was really sleepy to me) so I went to bed, but Mode stayed up and chilled with people a bit more before retiring.

Day 35 – Naples

This day we decided to go find somewhere other than Naples to go to because a few people told us Naples was not worth exploring, and also I had a real desire to go to a beach. So we decided to get to Salerno. Had a bit of trouble finding out which train to get on at the station, which caused me to get in a bit of a bad mood, but we eventually found it.

The coast wasn’t too hard to find, and we had to decide between going to the beach on our left and going to the beach on our right. We decided left at random, and headed down there. We stopped to get some food, and got a pretty bad sandwich… or was it a bad pizza square. Either way, we continued down and eventually made it to this small-ish beach with some kind of volleyball tournament happening. We picked up some cold slushies and watched the games a bit. Then walked along the beach and experimented with the suction power of the sand on our feet. As we were leaving Mode ran into some guy he had met the previous night and they had a moment. Got some gelato… Then we walked up and down the main dock area and relaxed there for a bit too.

Back on the train, everyone was putting their hands and heads out the windows, which no one had done anywhere else we had been so I was excited and also stuck my head out the window. It was really refreshing and I pretty much did it the whole way back. Also there was a billowing curtain next to me and when I sat back in my chair it flew on top of my head and just kind of waved on top of my face, which Mode and I found to be absolutely hilarious for some reason.

When we got back we walked around Naples a bit. We headed down some really small streets and experienced that absolutely crazy personality of Naples that was so interesting. Scooters plowed through people, and you couldn’t quite tell if people were having arguments or talking normally. One of the small things that happened was there was a kid with a watergun and he was shooting at things, and he pretended to shoot at me but his mom wouldn’t let him, but I was waited for Mode to check something out and told him to shoot at my feet. He seemed pretty surprised about it, but did anyway. Anyhow. We checked out two food places and went to the second, who’s name I forget but it supposedly had been around for 30 generation. The food was amazing. Truly good and not that expensive either.

We headed back to the hostel and found a group of people there to hang out with in a circle talking about various things. Soon enough we went to sleep.

Day 36 – Naples to Cinque Terre

I’ve been stuck at this day for a while. Simply because I don’t feel like updating it, but I know I should since at the moment I am behind about… 32 days. Most of which are outlined, so the events shouldn’t be that hard to recall. It’s just putting them in story format which should be that bit of work. And I wonder what I’m on vacation for if I’m just working again.

We left the hostel and got on the metro to the train. We couldn’t use the ticket machine for some reason so the nice guy just let us go through without it. Got to the train station, and got the train from Naples to Rome. Went to switch trains, but as we got to the platform a guy wearing a blue shirt and a cap came up to us and asked to look at our tickets. He looked very much like a conductor or official train person on first sight, and after glancing at our tickets he said “Oh your train is about to leave!” or something like that. He told us to follow him and started running off. At first I thought it was a bit strange because everyone else was just kind of walking to the train, but it all happened so fast and we were like “What the hell?” and just went off after him, half jogging to keep up. After a little while I started to get the idea it was a scam, but still went along with it. The guy got us to our exact room, and the people in there kind of looked at us oddly, and could tell what was going on. We put our stuff down and kind of sat down, and the guy held out his hand. We didn’t really do anything, and he said “Tip?” and so I grabbed into my back pocket and pulled out all of the small change I had, which was maybe around 1.40 something euros. Handed that over and told him that was all we had. “No no no, five euros.” We reiterated that was all we had, sorry. He looked a bit pissed off and left.

And that was just our morning!

The train ride was fairly uneventful, but nice scenery. Just almost dropped and messed up the laptop, which would have been a bit tragic. Anyhow, on the train we had a few discussions about Blues Brothers. This will be important later on.

We got to La Spezia, and had a little difficulty finding the bus stop to Biassa, where our hostel was, but we found it. The bus though was a bit late, so we started talking to this other girl who coincidentally was waiting for the same bus to go to the same hostel. Her name was Amar and she was from Jordan. We got on the bus and easily got to the hostel, which seemed to be very pleasant and in the middle of a small town which was equally as pleasant. Took showers and decided to go out for food, and we brought along two other girls we had met, Natalie and Angela from Ohio. We went to a local pizza joint, but it was absolutely busy and we had to wait forever to get pizzas. We met two other guys who were fun to talk to but they never really entered in the story again. After eating some pizza we went to a nearby bar where we got something to drink, and went over to the town’s plaza area to attend a concert/festival they were setting up. It was really cool because this small little town had put together a few vendors with crafts made, and some musicians of the town got together and started to play rockabilly music. All the youngsters of the town (and probably some from the nearby areas) were dancing in the middle of the square and having a great time. These kids were probably from around 2 to 9 years old. Mode, Amar and I stood and listened to the first band which was really great. And they played Blues Brothers music! The second band had something wrong with the microphone and it wasn’t as great, so we left. But it was a really great time.

At the hostel we hung out some more, and we learned that they had Blues Brothers on tape! We got all excited but found out the VHS was broken, so instead watched the rest of the Borne Identity which some other people had put on. After that we went outside to play Ping Pong, which I relearned my fine tuned skills fairly fast and could beat Amar easily. She had even played semi-professionally as a kid! Mode seemed to be more evenly matched with her, and the night followed being very chill. Then we all retired to bed.

Day 37 – Cinque Terre

And now for the day with Cinque Terre. This is a string of five small villages along the coastline of North-Western Italy. So many people told me to go to this place, and here was my impression.

We got up early to reserve bikes, because I thought they might be all rented out if we did that later. The bikes seemed alright, but maybe needed a bit more air in the tires and some work on the gears. After reserving them went and took a shower, and then decided we’d all go out for breakfast in Biassa. So Amar, Angela, Natalie, Mode and I went out, found a market with some fruit, and also found a little hidden bakery where we got some amazing bread. Oh, and at the fruit market I got an orange and peeled my amazing Orange Man. It’s something I do with oranges every now and then. We went back and got the bikes, although Angela and Natalie took the bus to Cinque Terre. We said we might meet up later.

We started to ride off, but the gears on Amar’s didn’t work so well, so I took it back and replaced it. While biking back the chain on that one slipped off, so I had to fix it. Finally we were all set and started off. It was a bit slow, because Mode hadn’t ridden a bike in years and was having a bit of difficulty figuring out the gears and biking uphill, but we made it to a long tunnel and got a pace down. After the tunnel it started to go downhill and it was a lot more relaxing. The cool sea breeze flowing through our hair, and the nice vineyards covering the hills. It was really relaxing and we stopped for a few pictures. A short ride later and we were already in the first town, Riomaggiore. At that point we decided that we couldn’t really successfully explore Cinque Terre on bikes, so we locked them up and decided to walk.

We went down into the town, which was a really nice multi-colored small village with loads of personality, but the issue was the tourists. Tourists were scattered over this place like flies. It was a bit annoying, but I guess when everyone is told about Italy’s secret jewel, it doesn’t become a secret anymore.

I almost bought some wine but the shipping costs were far above my price range. We decided to move on down the first and most famous path, the Via Dell’Amore. There was lots of graffiti everywhere, but it was a really relaxing and beautiful walk along the coast. We got to the next village fairly fast too. It had some good looking restaurants so we bookmarked it in our minds for somewhere to get dinner. Each of the towns looked fairly similar, but had a unique layout and maybe some specific sights to see.

We again walked to the next one, which after a short hike required walking back and forth up a really steep hill. The third town was very touristy, and also higher up than the rest. There was a place to get some pizza snacks, of which Mode got a lot, and after eating that we decided to take the train to the next town. A train line connects all five towns, which is convenient for when you’re tired of walking. We went down to the station by a shuttle (so we didn’t have to go down the back and forth path). The train was very late, but while we were waiting we saw some kind of even where a helicopter was lowering something onto the nearby hill. We took a couple guesses about rich people needing specific fruits from a rare plant, or maybe someone got stuck on the hillside. Not sure, but by the time the train came the helicopter was still going between the hillside and some far away base of some sort with a pole-rope thing hanging from it.

Took the train to the next down and walked down to the wharf. Surprise surprise we found Natalie and Angela there! And also another guy which Mode had met the night before, I think he was from Seattle but Mode says he was from San Diego. I’m right of course. I don’t remember his name being
Asher, but supposedly it was. We got some gelato and walked around the town a little before decided to head off on the hike to the next town.

This was a long, long arduous hike involving ups and downs and stairs and stairs. We talked a whole lot the entire way, which was really nice and in retrospect it seemed to fly by. We got to a lookout point where I saw some people walking across a valley and said we’d be there in about an hour from then. It really took us about 20 minutes. The whole hike lasted around 2 hours, maybe a bit less. As we were walking down some steps near the end, a dog came the other way and just casually was walking up the steps like he was just another person. Anyhow, it was all good times and good conversations and we eventually made it to the fifth town. Lucky for us, the sweating hot exhausted hikers, this town had a beach and water to go with that beach! We went down to the waters edge, and me (being my usual self) just jumped into the water with all my clothes on. It was so worth it, but let me just point out I was wearing pants and a shirt. So I came out of the water soaking wet, put my shirt out to dry and waited for my pants to drain out. Surprisingly no one else went fully into the water. Maybe just stuck their feet in a bit but that was all.

After chilling on the beach for a while, we went back to the second city via the train. And though I was still a bit moist in the pants, we had an amazing dinner with all sorts of seafood dishes. I ordered the Seafood Pasta, and it came with all sorts of fun and interesting things like clams, shrimp, calamari, and full miniature octopuses! Very delicious and interesting to eat. After that we decided to go back, but we had to get to the bikes in the first town so we walked back along the Via Dell’Amore. We got our bikes, but Mode and Amar didn’t want to bike uphill all the way back so they decided to take the bus with Angela, Natalie and Asher. I decided I would race them back! Smart thinking!

What then followed was about an hour, maybe two hours, riding all the way back to Biassa. Uphill. On a bike that was a bit crappy, but usable. I rode my bike… the entire way… the entire. way. back. All the way. Yes, it was long. Very long. And yes, I made it. I got back completely exhausted and tired, but I was feeling good, and relaxed outside talking with people for a couple minutes before falling into bed.

Day 38 – Cinque Terre to Ferry

We got up a bit later than I wanted to, so we missed the shuttle to La Spezia. After calculating it out, I figured that we would also miss the train if we waited for the next bus, so instead we called a taxi. The taxi driver was really extreme in his driving, which was exciting and thrilling. We got there pretty spedily. We also paid a lot more than what the guy at the hostel said, but it was alright. We got on the train to Civitavechia, and that took a long while. There weren’t any available seats at first glance so we sat in the aisle. There were some German girls playing with some Italian kids in the compartment next to us. That was cute. Also the mother did this really cool trick with a dry pen where she huffed on the ball point and rolled it around in her hands and it magically worked. I’ve tried this trick on dry pens ever since and it has worked really well. Not sure why… magic probably.

The train stopped for a while, something like an hour. Supposedly there was an incident, but I couldn’t really understand fully what was going on. After we started moving we sat for a while and then the ticket guy told us there were free compartments further down the train, so we grabbed that and played music. Eventually we got to Civitavechia. It was a little bit difficult to find the ferry but we eventually did after asking at deserted station. Got on a bus and got to the station. After a small bite to eat we waited for what seemed like forever to board the ferry. There was a few interesting people to watch while waiting though, and I ate a bag of candy which was really hard to stop.

It was pretty chill at first, and there were lots of levels. Up at the top there was a nice wind, and we got some drinks to sip up on the top while watching the sun go down. We stood/sat on some metal compartments and chilled. We got a small bite to eat… I think… oh, some really terrible microwaved pizza square. After a bit we headed back down into the sleeping area, stretched out on a few seats and went to sleep.

Day 39 – Ferry to Barcelona

I’ve had a bit of rest back in Boston now. I’m about 50 days behind on the journal, but all of the days are completely outlined so I just need to expand them all. This might take a complete month to finish, but I will attempt to remember as many details as I can from all the stories.

Where was I. We got onto a ferry from Civitavechia in Italy to Barcelona. This day was a bit eventful.

I woke up on the ferry several times and was having a lousy sleep on the row of chairs I had seized for myself. Finally I got up and walked around the boat. I went up to the top deck and it was absolutely windy beyond belief. I really had to struggle to walk because the wind was so forceful. It was a bit fun too. Almost pushed me into some walls.

I went and got a crossaint, which was terrible, and took my computer to the lounge where I relaxed and updated the journal a bit. Mode joined me and we decided we were really hungry so we went around the boat looking for food. At the bar they only had two sandwiches left, and so we decided to get them. This is what I later remembered as the absolute worst moment of the trip. I say this not because something terrible happened, but because this was the absolute worst meal I have ever had. It was a panini (italian for sandwich), which had tough condensed manufactured bread, a piece of cold cheese, and a piece of raw ham (?) meat. They had “toasted” the sandwich, but by toasted I mean they put it in a microwave until the very edges of the cheese were slightly melted. Despite this effort, the sandwich was cold as a 7-11 slurpee made in Antarctica. It tasted absolutely terrible, but we were so hungry that we ate it anyway. I usually have the saying that “hunger is the best spice”, but that spice was not enough to mask the absolute horror which was that sandwich.

Enough about that, we landed! And walked to the hostel we had reserved. Now in prior planning, we had accidentally assumed that the ferry ride would not be a complete day. When leaving Cinque Terre, we realized this, but were unable to contact the hostel we were going to so to tell them we were going to miss our first day. This was a mistake. When we got to our hostel (which luckily wasn’t too far from the port, even though we had a bit of difficulty finding it), we found they had cancelled our reservation because we missed the first day! So suddenly we were homeless in Barcelona. Abandoned and hopeful, we set off looking for other hostels. Found one with some room, but it seemed really really sketchy. Then I looked in the Let’s Go recommendations (the book we were using), and they suggested the Hostel Levante. We went there and luckily they had something available! It was an apartment outside of the hostel, but it turned out to be really nice! We were pretty excited about it all, and I started to do laundry and Mode started to take a shower…

And then the lights went out. The power was suddenly cut from the room. Damn. So Mode got dressed and out and we walked all the way back to the hostel to ask what was up. They said we just had to reset the circuit breaker, and they loaned us a candle to find it. Came back and did that and everything worked again. So I worked a bit on updating the journal while Mode finished his shower and stuff. Then we went out for food.

Because we had had such a terrible meal on the ship, I decided we needed something amazing, despite costs. We went the the Plaza Reina (?) and found the recommended “Les Quinze Nutz”. That isn’t its real name, but it was something very similar. Now because of our tragic experience prior, this turned out to be some of the most amazing food ever. I think I got a very nice lamb dish, and I can’t remember what Mode had. We washed it down with the delicious local ambrosia known as Sangria, and were satisfied.

Afterwards we went over to the square to chill out. There were guys going around selling beer by cans, which I thought was a genius crap job, though very illegal and sketchy. So we were hanging out by this lamp post and all of a sudden some girls sitting on the center fountain motioned for us to come over. I looked around behind us but there wasn’t anyone there, so they must have meant us. So got up and went over there, and with a bit of difficult communication, they explained that this one girl thought I was cute, and wanted to know if I could be her boyfriend for 3 or 4 nights.

… Well that’s never happened before, and it was the easiest chase I’d ever made to get a girlfriend considering I didn’t even have to. I agreed, she seemed to be cute and alright, and it was a done deal. Suddenly I was in a “relationship” with a girl named Michela. They were some girls from Rome Italy actually, so I could practice my Italian with them too. We hung out for a while, decided on where to have our first date the next day, and Mode and I went back to the apartment to sleep.

Day 42 – Barcelona

Started the day chilling at the Sant Jordi Hostel. We went up onto the roof and talked about dreams we had and what not. I apparently had a dream about some weird bird in fruit juice. And Mode had a dream about the devil and his rivalry with him.

We went out to buy some food and made some amazing spaghetti with wine and I think we had a meat sauce. Sat around some more enjoying our meal, and could not finish it by any means. Then we headed out to see the Magic Fountain, which I had heard about from the guys in Dublin. Got there by subway and got a good seat. Met a girl from North Carolina and talked about music and what not. Her favorite band was Fleetwood Mac I think. Anyhow, the fountain show was really cool with all sorts of lights and music and special water effects. It started to get really crowded too and people were piling all over the steps.

We then headed to the Plaza we liked so much, Reale? Something like that. We found another Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra poster in much better condition which I put into my bag. Then got some drinks at Glacier, which were pretty good. Then met up with Micela, and mode split off for his own adventure.

Went back to her hostel briefly and met her friends. We all hung out and I think we played some cards. Then started walking out to the beach. One of Micela’s friends then called and said she got her stuff stolen, and so we sidetracked to the police station. Since I was over 18 I could act as someone to confirm their story, so I did. Then we went back to her place to sort out the deal. Finally Micela and I headed out to the beach for her friends to meet up with us later. The next day got a bit interesting…

Day 43 – Barcelona to Madrid

So there we were, chilling on the Barcelonita beach. Me and Micela, my Italian 3 day girlfriend, and spending our last night together watching the stars. It was very nice, and I was not paying attention to where I had put my bag, which was something like a foot behind my head.

This was around 5:30.

Suddenly someone from another group on the beach walked over to us, and in poor English asked me if I knew the person who had just came by and taken my bag. I had no idea what he was talking about, but sure enough to my horror I looked around and my bag was gone. I asked the guy how long ago it happened and which direction the person went in. It all happened about 2 minutes before then and as soon as the guy pointed off into a certain direction I started running (without shoes) and asking people if they saw a person with a green bag. I ran and ran and ran, getting into a bit of hysteria, but could not find anyone. There was a handful of people who all looked suspicious, and I kept on running trying to find out where he could have gone. I found a security guard and told him the situation, but he wasn’t able to help me. I went to a pay-phone and called the police’s number, and tried to explain everything that had happened. There wasn’t much they could do. I came back to Micela who by that time her friends had come by. They also helped search the beach with me, but to no avail. So in all futile exhaustion I walked back to the police station I had ironically been to earlier that night. Micela came with me and little was said, but I was really appreciative of all the support she was giving me. I kept on telling her that she didn’t have to go with me but she insisted on going. On the walk to the police station there was an absolutely gorgeous sunset, just kind of plainly showing that despite tragedy life will move on. I was pretty calm and over it by the time we reached the police station. I filled out all the necessary forms, and tried to be as precise as possible. Left there feeling exhausted.

This was around 8:30.

The main contents of the bag were the following: My US Passport, My $500 camera, my 3 year old iPod, my Swiss Army knife I had bought in Switzerland, the Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra patch I really liked, the cool poster from the bar last evening, the trip notebook and some information, various receipts, the hostel key, and to become the next part of the story: The train ticket for Madrid that day.

Micela and I headed to the subway station. We said our goodbyes, and said to keep in contact. Goodbyes never seem good enough.

Anyhow, headed back to the hostel. Made some emails. Then woke Mode up and gave him the bad news. This was a pretty tragic tale, but we did what we had to.

We then went to train station and tried forever to figure out how in the world I was going to get on the train. I was sent from department to department, and no one could help me. Finally I just got so pissed off that I got onto the train and just showed the conductor my police report when it was asked of me. He said that was fine.

Finally we got to Madrid and went to the hostel to check in. It was a bit of a walk but nothing too strenuous. After checking in I went immediately to the embassy to find they were closed, and I would have to come back the next day to start the application for my new passport. So we walked down this large street and there wasn’t very many people in Madrid. We saw this creepy Brady type family. We went back to the station to figure out the Eurail stuff. That was also closed. Walked back to the hostel but picked up some amazing Doner Kebab on the way.

Then we headed out to this monument in a park. There was a pretty awesome drum circle happening and this extremely gorgeous girl we tried to keep an eye on. After a while we got bored and headed out to try to see some Flamenco.

Found a restaurant and just barely squeezed in before the show started. It was quite amaizing, and a really nice cultural entertainment. We had some really amaizing sangria too. (Amaizing in reference to Isaac in Florence). I actually almost fell asleep during the show, considering I had had almost no sleep. Anyhow, the show was amazing.

We walked back to the hostel after a long day, and finally got some sleep.

Day 44 – Madrid

In the morning I went to U.S. embassy. I got a number and stood in the waiting room with the hundreds of other people waiting for whatever. It seemed most of them were immigrants, waiting to be approved to move to the U.S. Then again, they could have just been travelers. I’m not sure. Several hours later I got out of the embassy. They told me they would either have a permanent passport in 4 days when we left or they would provide me with a temporary one.

After that I headed over to the station to try and get my Eurail pass replacement. They told me that I needed to go to the other train station to get the replacement. Afterwards I went back to the hostel, met up with Mode and we walked around the city.

We tried to go to the market – El Rastro – but it was closed. We went to the supermarket and I picked up some chocolate eggs that had toys in them. I think I got a helicopter, and mode got some sort of chicken. And there was some sort of weird robot as far as I remember. Those were great to play with for a while, and then we decided to head over to the Palace Royal.

While walking down the street we saw some people on the side waiting for some sort of show, so we stopped and watched a royal procession go by. One of the horses decided to crap right in front of us, but amusingly the car with what looked very much like the King rode by right afterwards waving to us. I’ve seen the King of Spain!

We then continued walking to this ancient temple place. It wasn’t all that impressive, and I think it was closed because it was a Sunday or something. We sat down on a bench just relaxing while watching some dogs fighting/sexing it up.

Walked back to the hostel briefly and headed back out to get some tapas. Tapas, which I’ve never had before, is really really strange. In theory, this is the kind of food I would love because it’s small snacks that make up an entire meal. Kind of like a European sushi. But like sushi, and unlike what I would consider good, it was cold. I’d think that miniature sandwiches would at least be grilled and warm when served, but apparently not. There was a little confusion with the order as well, but whatever.

We headed back and then played a couple rounds of chess before heading to sleep. The hostel had some amazing sangria, but I don’t remember if we ordered any that day.

Day 45 – Madrid

Started out the day chilling at the hostel and then got some Doner Kebab for lunch. We realized there wasn’t very much to do in Madrid, and I think there was a vast expanse of not doing anything for a while.

After that we went out to find a cheap place to eat, though didn’t find one. Then we went to meet Dana in the main square, right next to the bear statue. Dana is the girl that I had met in Belfast, and we had spoken over email and found that we were both in Madrid at the same time.

So we met with her and then continued to go find a place to eat. Found some hole in the wall type place and they had AMAZING gazpacho, and just ok steak. We went back to the square to meet more of Dana’s friends. While we were hanging out there some kind of religious guy came over to us and started asking us about heaven and hell. For our own amusement we got into this large conversation with him. He kept on insisting we were all going to hell, and I kept on replying that I thought hell was a bit illogical. Accompanying him was some woman and also this cute young girl about our age. Her and I talked about it on a more on-the-level way, and had a very long conversation about it which was interesting. Anyhow, Dana’s friends had shown up and we needed to leave.

We first went out to a bar they knew of. It was an irish bar of some sort and we bought two sets of buckets of beer. Drank a lot and a lot more. Then we left and went to another place with live music.

It says in my notes that we went back to the hostel, but I don’t remember that. We did go out to another bar and danced a bit.

Then we were exhausted and went back. Dana had to go back to her hostel on the other side of the city and it was kind of meh neighborhood so I walked her back.

Eventually got back to the hostel and slept.