Sunday, July 19, 2009

looking for a pot of gold

So Fran and I arrived into Dublin yesterday afternoon and was collected from the airport by his Aunt. Aunt Mary gave us a quick driving tour of the city and pointed out some of the cool things to see and do while here. The hospitality here has been awesome! After lunch we went out to see the Guinness tour with cousin Michael only to come back to a delicious steak dinner. There is no doubt I have had some good food on this trip, but nothing beats home cooking. By the way, Guiness in Ireland tastes different, and way better here. I thought the recipe was pretty standard but this was so smooth.
Today Fran and I are heading out to the Cliff's of Moor, Doolin, and Gallway (I think thats how you spell it) on the west coast just as a couple day trip. We don't really know what to expect, but it will be a fun short adventure.
I'm excited to come home and see everyone in a couple days!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

cervesa grande y patas bravas

Our last couple days in Rome were as good as the first. We saw all the sights and did all the things you do in Rome but met some cool people at our hostel and hung out with them. Rome has delicioous food and amazing gelato (ice cream) with sights and ancient treasures around every corner. We got a recommendation from someone in our hostel to go see this church that you can go down through the layers of foundations. Apparently this more modern church was build directly on top of old pagan worshipping alters, original christian alters, and some guys room dating back to the first centruy. Kinda wild!
So Fran had a phone interview so we bumped back our original flight out of Rome 2 hours later. We mapped it out and decided that we would have enough time. So the phone interview goes well and we head off about 10 minutes ahead of schedule. Start taking the metro to where it connects. I meet a guy along the way that says there is a faster way. Ok. Ill go with it. We get off with him and twist and turn and sure enough he brings us to the right place in a much easier and faster way than we would have. Things are looking up. We just miss the first train, but no worries there is a second one and we will be just fine. So we sit play some cards and as planned the train comes. This is where it starts to take a turn... We have our first experience with a grifter, and let me tell you he was good and had us fooled for a second. He tried to charge us for our bringing our bags on. But have no fear, were on the train and will be just fine. The devil himself would hate this train. It is about 90 outside and they are pumping in heat! On top of that it moves at about 10 mph!? So what should take 20-30 minutes takes 40+. Things arent loking good. We run into the terminal only to find that unlike American airports, not a damn thing is labeled. We run in circles, stand in the wrong line for a minute, ask someone quick realize we are in the wrong line sprint over to the correct line only to be told we are a minute too late. SHIT! We meet a nice guy named Roberto that worked for the airline who is going to try to get us through quickly but since we have to check our baggage were out of luck despite our despirate pleading. So we find the new line to stand in to find the next flight at 10. It is a short line but with only 1 attendant who is working at a snails pace. A couple of people in line have been waiting for and hour and a half. We patiently wait while the attendant lady (who is quite good looking, but dumb as rocks) putzes around on the computer, shouts back to her colleauge in the other room, and meets and chats it up with friends she knows passing by. We finally get to her and explain the situation and discover why it takes her so long. She finger types with ONE hand! This is your job and you dont know how to type?! She putzes around on the computer and after about 30 minutes she copy and pastes whatever screen into word presses print and low and behold we our on the new flight. Oh, but of course for a heafty penalty. Our original flight has now quadruppeled in price and we still have to add 20€ for checking baggage. We find our way to our new line to get our boarding pass. Roberto finds us and we explain the situation of how and why we missed the flight. He feels for us and pulls some strings to get us the exit row on the plane. So we payed loads extra money for 3+ inches of leg room, not much but its better than nothing. We make our way to the front of the line and like before the attendants are beautiful, but saddly slow. After a bit of time and many questions later we get our boarding passes and only need to check our luggage. Luggage doesnt in fact get checked there but some dude off in the corner. We find the guy, our bags get scanned and he says just to leave them there. Ok? We didnt pay for it and now its just sitting in some random corner. We cross our fingers and venture to our gate. Our gate gets delayed an hour and the only way to our hostel other than cab is by bus, which closes at 1. The flight takes off at 11 and like before all the attendants are beautiful. I tell you, whoever does the hiring for this company has one of the best jobs in the world. So the flight lands at 12:20 we make our way to luggage claim and BINGO! our bags make it and we get one over on our airline. Its 12:45 we find the bus and yes! are on our way to and thin mattress and a deflated pillow. Once we pull in to the hostel it is about 2 and any bed and pillow will do. Success! We have survived Rome's airport!
The hostel here is pretty barebones. But somehow Fran and I have the room to ourselves AND more importantly each have a fan to blow directly on us as we sleep! So far we hit the beach and just came back to shower before heading out again to find cervesa grande and patatas bravas!

Monday, July 13, 2009

When in Rome

The last day or so in Berlin was pretty fun. We rented some bikes and took our own tour of Berlin. Within about 5 minutes of renting it started raining. We wandered to the Berlin wall and some guy was shoveling some into a wheelbarrow so I leaned over and asked for a piece. He found a good size chunk and handed it to me. Sweet! Shops throughout Berlin are selling bits and pieces of it for about €15.
Trying to leave Berlin was a bit of an adventure... We thought we had figured out which line would take us to the airport only to be disapointed. The stop we thought was incorrect, so we scrambled a bit to figure out which one. Once we did we had the wrong ticket and while trying to buy the correct one the train came and went leaving us to wait about 30 minutes for the next one. No worrying yet, we left with plenty of time. So we hop on the train fully believing that it will take us directly to the airport. NOPE! Just kidding, it stops at some random stop with no explanation. We chat it up with some German who didnt speak a word of English and determine that we need to take a bus to the airport. Well the lot of busses is horribly marked and luckily we jump on the correct one. We got about an hour and 15 or so till our flight leaves and a and 20 minute bus ride. The worry level is starting to creep up. As soon as the bus parks we hop off sprint to the counter get our boarding passes, but wait! Our bags our too big and have to check them, what I have to go over to that other counter and pay for it there and come back to you? That doesnt make sense but, ok. 45 minutes and counting... Woo! got it! Again hurry through security only to find that our doesnt have a gate assigned yet. Once it is and we get there it is more or less a free for all to pick out whatever seat you want. People literally ran to the plane. Whew! On the plane and peacing out of Berlin.
Hello Rome!
First night in Rome we met up with my friend that I met on the study abroad portion. We meandered through the streets found a local fair at the Roman castle. Food, music, and drinks. We were pretty tired and it was late by then so we just settled for dinner. Made our way to Piazza Novara with a big oblisque/fountain.
The next day was the tour of all of Rome. We saw just about everything and walked SO much! We would just be walking along and then boom! Trevi fountain or Spanish Steps. It doesnt matter where you wander there is so much cool stuff in the city. Saw the Colleseum, the Pantheon, the Roman Forum, and whatever else that was highlighted on the map. We walked for about 8 hours straight... But totally worth it! Today we had went to the Vatican and took a private tour under the vatican. Unbelievable is the only way to describe it. St. Peters remains are there so got to see that along with other tombs and foundations there. The bonus was that got us to cut through the hour plus long line that everyone else waited in to see the bascillica. The bascillica is not just enormous and incredibly imposing but the ornate decorations are just unreal. I know none of the pictures I took will do it justice.
Time to go find some food/wine and mingle with the other people here.
I love Rome! We got a couple more days here, I cant wait to see what else there is!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Walked a marathon

So Fran has arrived and shenanigans have ensued. So I met up with Fran at the airport and found our way to the hostel. Not too bad of a hostel, we're in a room of 6, 2 Australian girls, 1 guy who is from Germany, but lived in California and talked with a British accent (I didn't get it, but he was cool so it was ok), and one ninja girl who doesn't talk and hides under the covers and pretends to be sleeping as soon as people walk in.
So the first night we walked around aimlessly for a bit in search of a market with beer. After a long and barely successful beer mission, we made our way back to the hostel met up with our roommates and another Aussie and played cards. they loved the games and all was well. Finished off the night with a late night run for a doner kebab, which is basically a gyro but they eat them like we eat Taco Bell here.
The next day we walked and walked and walked all over the city. We saw prettz much all the sights, Brandenburg gate, Check Point Charlie, the Hollucaust Memorial (which was the most sobering museum I have ever been to). Along the way we came across a church that had been bombed during WWII that still has part standing and Mike Tyson and his pose of street break dancers. Later on we found some great authentic german food and beer and met some cool people at the bar.
Today we are moving a little slow going to find the Berlin Wall and try not to walk so damn far.
Hope all is well at home! Miss everyone!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

School's out for the summer!

I am officialy done with school after a pleasant 2 hour essay exam. What fun it was! Tonight we have a good-bye dinner followed by good-bye beers!
Meeting Fran tomorrow at the airport then onto phase 2 of my trip. Yeah... phase 2 should be quite different than phase 1, wish me luck!

Monday, July 6, 2009

beer, brats, berlin

So in a land where delicious beer flows like water, I have yet to have a drop... Surprising I know, but I got a small bug so have been trying to get healthy quick. Nevertheless, Berlin has been pretty cool place. First night here I walked around for a couple hours with one other guy, just exploring the sights. We came across some remarkable buildings, including Brandenburg gate, some large imposing church, and a memorial to the individuals who fought against nazi's and for communism.
Today we had our last class (yay!) but it was a review scession for tomorrow's final (boo!). Afterwards we had a guided tour of Berlin seeing the Berlin wall (I got a piece), checkpoint Charlie, and just a bunch of other random stuff. There is loads to see here and the overlapping history as it has been a war torn nation for so long is interesting.
Berlin is prettz much 2 cities still, east and west with the west still far richer and better off than the east.
I was sad to miss out on all the 4th of July celeebrations but we threw our own celebration in Prague with dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe. It was as close to American as we were going to get. They had a cover band playing all kinds of American songs so it was pretty fun. It was no beer and brats poolside but it worked.
Got to go do my laundry. Hope all is well at home! Miss everyone!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

City planners 1,200 years ago didn't think about how confusing their roads are for American tourists

As I am finding out it doesn't matter where you go in Europe, everyone is obsessed with Michael Jackson. Yes, Michael Jackson was a great musician and all, I get that his death made news but with only a couple channels in English it is pretty much all Michael Jackson. Both in Strasbourg and Frankfurt there was a channel running 24/7 as a Michael Jackson montage. Then we met some local who in broken English claimed to have cried for 3 days over his death! Seriuosly? He may have been on drugs and a bit crazy and not the best representative of other Europeans but still. And then we get to Prague and sure enough, more Michael... I can only assume the continuous coverage is worse in the States. Anyways! Yesterday was a long day. We had a presentation at the European Union Bank in Frankfurt. The presenter was a press secretary and was smart and knowledgable, but incredibly dry. After the first hour it was a struggle just to keep my eyes open. So I resorted to what any good student would do, I doodled; and made quite the kick ass flip book if I do say so myself. So after the less than inspriring presentation we piled onto the bus and took off for an 8ish hour ride to Prague. Low and Behold our bus breaks down in the middle of Timbuktu, Germany leaving us stranded for 4 hours until the repair men come and fix us up within 15 minutes. So we hit the road again, and pull into Prague around 11:00. So we got some local tip that there was a club within walking distance, but people were feeling lazy so we climbed into a cab which is good because not only was it a 15 minute drive (crossing the same river twice, perhaps not the most direct route) but Prague doesn't know what a straight road is. Every single road zigs and zags, some on cobble stone, some not, some with trains passing by, some not, some one way, some not. Whoever the city planner was some 1,200 odd years ago when this city was build clearly didn't take into account that American tourists could easily become lost. But if nothing else, we got an early tour of the city via a crazy speeding cabbie.
We had class this morning then followed up with a proper tour of the city. It is a beautiful place with so much history. We saw all kinds of interesting things and although I took a ton of pictures I fear they will hardly do it justice. It got its independence back in the early 1900 but since then has been under both Nazi and Soviet control until about 20 years ago. It is by far the most Westernized city and since freedom from the Soviets they have been trying to catch up on everything Westernized (there are a ton of McDonald's here).
That's all for now!