Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Playing human frogger in Frankfurt

Europe has been quite the adventure so far, then comes Strasbourg and Frankfurt.
Educationally speaking Strasbourg has the European Parliment, which after the tour I realized was the most inefficient and waste of money. The parliment has some 700 odd members who all work in Brussels but then come to Strasbourg once every 3 weeks to vote. So the building sits relatively empty the majority of the time. Our tour guide was boring and didn't add much, overall it was a bust. Then tomorrow we will visit the European bank, hoping for better results this time.
Strasbourg is hard to explain... It is currently a French town but has switched between Germany and France multiple times over the years. It was initially a hospital and is rumored to be the start of syphallis.... Not sure how true that really is. Nevertheless, it has some very pretty German architecture that lines the river. There's not a lot to do in the town and has a quite a few of crazy drunk homeless. We found a local Irish pub that was playing the US/Brazil soccer game. Apparently it was the only place in town that was actually showing it. There may have been a USA flag and USA chants involved, the French weren't too pleased with us...
Frankfurt is dominated by the bank. It has all modern buildings (not surprisingly because everything was bombed in WWII) that are all pretty and whatnot but it lacked soul. There is little to do and there are dirty strip clubs and homeless are all over. A group of guys and I did manage to find a small outdoor festival with a live band that was more like a wedding singer band. Despite a great brat and beer, I am glad we are only spending a day here.
As I am discovering in Europe, I am finding some common themes. I have decided that no matter where in Europe crossing the road can be a bit risky. At times it is like you are playing human frogger and just hope you time it right.
Got a long bus ride to Prague tomorrow. We have a paper due at the end of the week that needs to get written sometime during this time.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

99 bottles of beer on the wall!

You know the song 99 bottles of beer on the wall? And you know how no one ever gets to the end? Well replace 99, with 2,000 and that's this bar in Brussels. Despite my best efforts I didn't make much of a dent. But it was fun choosing beer by flipping through the book and pointing at a random beer.
So Brussels is still a great place and because it isn't a tourist hot spot it's quite nice to not get swarmed here. Tomorrow we leave for Strassbourg. It will be a slow bus ride compared to the 180 mph train we took earlier. According to the itinerary it looks like we're going to blitzkrieg right through, though that might not be the PC term considering it is a French city right on the German boarder.

Friday, June 26, 2009

2,000+ Beers!!!!

Brussels is so far my favorite place! No one really thinks or hears anything about it, but this place is a good time. There may not be tons of sights to see like London or Paris, but the town itself is beaituful. And then the best part! A bar with 2,004 beers!!!! I may not get through all, but I'm going to see how far I can get. Oh and the chocolate and waffles are pretty delicious too. This pretty sums up my diet for while I'm here.
The reason we are here is because the EU is headquartered here. The whole city revolves around it and has such an international pressence here. We made a visit and talked to someone who works there. He was relatively interesting, but it was early, in a hot room and he had a tendency to trail off. Later a previous parliment member and now a current lobbyist. He was super interesting and we had a great open discussion.
I am glad to be out of Paris and into Brussels. The French arogance became pretty obvious towards the end. Paris is an cool city with beautiful sights to see, but the dirtiness/smelliness and some of the people I met on the last day left a bitter taste leaving.
I am super excited about the rest of the trip, especially Prague and Berlin. It doesn't look like I'll be able to post my pictures, so unless something changes I'm sorry about that and I'll show you all when I get back. I've all ready taken about 700...
We have the day off tomorrow and I found their national war museum which has a bunch of airplanes in it, so I'll obvious be there. And for tonight going to take another shot at 2,000 beers.
Hope all is well at home!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

bonjour from across the pond

Paris is a pretty cool place, but it def. has it's ups and downs. So here's my Paris trip in a nut shell... We arrived through the chunnel which is not as cool as you would think. You go fast but theres really nothing too special about it. You go underground for a bit then pop up and bam! you're in France. We took a quick, and pretty poor private bus tour of Paris. But at night there was a music festival that just had thousands of bands playing throughout the city. I heard everything from Southern Baptist, to classical, to techno raves. It was a good time... But we walked around that night ended up eating dinner on the Champs Elysses.
The next day we had class, had a representative from the US Embassy come and talk to us for a bit. Interesting, but pretty diplomatic. That night everyone studied. Yes, you read that correctly, studied for our midterm the next day. Granted abottle of wine was involved, but still. The midterm could have gone better. It was a written exam, 4 questions each 400 words. We had an hour and half, i finished 2 questions in an hour so had to rush the last 2. Oh well.
Yesterday a group of us walked around the Sine river, ate at the Notre Dame, saw the Eiffel Tower again, and Champs Elysses again.
Today was the Louvre. Similar to the British, the Franch stole a bunch of cool looking shit too. The mona lisa is overrated. It was small and super crowded. But there was tons of things of things to see so it was pretty cool and since it is so big its impossible to see everything.
So Paris has tons of great things. The people are actually pretty nice and helpful despite the stereotype. The crepes and wine is delicious! And theres tons of things to see and do. On the other hand it is dirty and smells pretty bad, especially the metro. There is also a higher risk of pickpocketers and mugging. But all in all, I can't say anything bad about Paris.
I'm having a great time and have some great stories and memories already.
On to Brussels!
Au revoir!

Monday, June 22, 2009

the wine is flowing on the Champs Elysse

Arrived in Paris yesterday! It is great here, just a beautiful here! I don't have a whole lot of time, we have a meeting with a US embassy official in a little bit. Last night ate and drank wine on the Champs Elysse, then walked to the Eiffel Tower. It is so so so beautiful. There was a music festival where all across the city cafes would have musicians and djs set up so that there were thousands of people out dancing in the streets. It was pretty neat. Ok, time to go!

Saturday, June 20, 2009


It's been a great time in London but all good things must come to an end... And on to Paris! London has been fun, but so damn expensive! Hopefully it improves a bit by going to the Euro.
So the last few days have been interesting. I can say that I saw everything that I really wanted to see and loads of stuff I hadn't planned but were well worth it. I've been to Churchill's war bunker which still has the maps of the world with pins in it from where the troops are. I saw Picasso, Monet, Michaelangelo, Van Gogh, Raphael and many more at the Tate modern and Natational Gallery. Saw some dinosaurs and rare gems at the National History Museum. I saw Abby road and took an absurd amount of pictures trying to recreate the famous beatles album cover. I just got back from the British Museum which houses a collection from every corner of the world. Pretty much the British just stole a bunch of cool shinny shit when they were conquering people. Now its all on display and "properly preserved" for anyone to see it, rather than giving it back to the original country. It worked out well for me and I got to see Cleopatra, the Rosseta Stone, and countless other priceless artifacts. It was by far the coolest museum I have ever seen.
School/class has actually been very interesting. Our professor is a cool guy and even though classes are 3 hours long, they usually go by relatively fast. But the best part has been the field trips. On Thursday we met with the CFO of Eastern Hemisphere for Conoco Phillips, the big oil company based in Houston. He is probably one of the top 10 people in this multibillion dollar company and he was willing to take a couple hours out of his day and talk to us about what he does and international business. He was very honest and allowed for an open discussion that was great; and although no tough questions were asked like about being a greener company or recording record profits last year it was still very informative.
This is one of the coolest places I've ever been to. You can go anywhere and get anything you need just by hoping on the subway (or the Tube as they call it here). Yesterday we felt like Asain food so went to Chinatown and had the most authentic Chinese food ever and then checked out a Moroco pub! I mean how cool is that! We tried to catch Bruno doing his stunt of walking around in hot pants and one of those fuzzy British hats, but just missed it. But did see some stuff for the Harry Potter premire, as you can imagine, they like their Potter. Whenever I go to a pub or the store I try a new beer. I have only had to try the same beer twice a couple times - and I have made sure to culture myself via beer... I haven't been too disappointed, in fact have been quite happy!
Tomorrow morning (7 am!) we take the chunnel over to Paris, but tonight it is going to be a cheap dinner and drinks in Kensignton Park.
Love hearing from everyone!


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Parliment, Tate, and War Museum

Today was a great day, but loads of walking. We met under Big Ben went into a Parliment meeting room to talk to a member of parliment. He had great insight and talked very openly, candidly, and uncensored. From the way he made it sound, the political pressures involved can make independent thought away from the party's message.
After the meeting we got a tour from a a very knowledgable guide. It was really neat to see everything and hear about the history that is involved. At one point we had to stand, remove our hats as some senior whip leader walked by. They still employ many of their older traditions including silly white wigs. The longer and more rolls in a wig, the higher you rank. It was a great tour and I even saw the Magna Carta!
After Parliment a small group of us went to Tate Modern. Some stuff was really sool including giant furniture, some picasso and other neat works. There is also a handful of very strange "videos" that are considered art. To me these are just the strange works of years of heavy drug use.
Since the Churchill's War Room cost money, no one else wanted to go, but I did, and it was way worth it! Holy history that was neat!
Overall it was a good day. Tomorrow is class lecture (and to turn in my first homework assignement) followed by a visit to Conoco Phillip. So we'll see how that one goes.
Glad to hear the brewers are still in first place and I'm missing out on the whole Favre never ending saga.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Class... Ugh!

Yesterday we had our first class. It was 3 hours on an overview and brief history of the EU. Its actually been really interesting and our professor who is young and pretty cool makes it ok. Today we have a 2, 3 hour classes and are on our lunch break right now. The European perspective on how and why the EU formed is much different than what I would expect to hear from the US.
After class yesterday we took a field trip to the Bank of England. It was actually kind of a disappointment, the tour guide was pretty dull and the movie they played could put anyone to sleep. But I did lift and hold a gold brick worth £277,000!
We had our welcome dinner last night as well. It's like they knew what we would want and brought us to a pub. The food may have been bad, but the beer was good so I'm not complaining.
We got another 3 hour class in about 5 minutes and then it looks like we're going to take a trip on the London Eye.
Tomorrow we visit Parliment and then have the rest of the day free. Tomorrow should be good!

PS. the hell with Favre!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

more fish and chips

Today was another free day. Me and a small group spent it being traditional tourists. We took the tube over to the London Eye, didn't ride it but took lots of pictures. We are saving a trip in that for another day when we have the full group and can get a discount because we're students. We walked over to Big Ben and Westminister Abey. Again, we didn't go in because on one of our school trips we will be doing that as a class. We eventually wound our way to Tate Museum and took a tour there. As it turns out there are actually 2 Tate museums. We went to the British one instead of what we meant to, the modern one. Oh well, we'll save that for another day. Tonight we are just going to go to a local pub for students only and maybe take a stroll in Hyde Park. It stays light till really late here which is really nice.
The people here are great! And Kengsinton, where we are staying is a super nice place, but it makes life a little more expensive.
There's something about class tomorrow...
Take care!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Mind the gap

After much delay I finally made it to London! The trip from Milwaukee was delayed due to weather then the trip from Atlanta was delayed because ground crew needed more time to get all the luggage on (mine). Despite that it went pretty smoothly and maybe managed an hour of sleep. I was actually sleeping but then a woman fainted and everyone started yelling... she was fine but that ended my ability to sleep.
Everyone got here just fine and it seems like it is going to be a great group. Despite all of us being sleep deprived we all explored the best London has to offer... the pubs.
We're staying at a Holiday Inn in one of the nicest districts. Neighboring two bedroom flats cost somewhere around £500,000, super swanky area. I saw more Ferrari's today than I have in years of living in Wisconsin.
Because we have an odd numbered of people on this trip I somehow ended up getting a single room too. This probably won't last in other cities, but atleast for now it is nice.
Today was a sightseeing day. We took a guided bus tour and saw some of the major attractions; Buckingham Palace, St. Paul's, Tower London, Tower Bridge, Hyde Park, Big Ben, The London Eye and drove around the city core. It was awesome! We spent the majority of time at Tower London, and yes Dad I took a picture of your favorite pub, Hung Drawn and Quartered.
Everything is going really well! I am loving it here!
Tomorrow we have another free day and there is talk about going to some of the museums.
Hope all is well at home!

Friday, June 5, 2009


I'm not really sure how well it will work but I also set up a site to post my pictures.  http://www.photoworks.com/members/jcoyne check it out!