Saturday, April 30, 2011

La Rambla

Warning: This post is more adult themed than usual; it also only chronicles about five hours of my trip, so you won’t miss much if you skip it.

Background: La Rambla is a pedestrian walkway in the middle of a boulevard in Barcelona. It runs in a straight line for about a kilometer from the docks area into the heart of the city. The walkway is made of masonry laid in such a way as to give an optical illusion of a sort of wavey pathway if you look at it at just the right angle. La Rambla never sleeps; you will soon understand why I know this.

I left Madrid (Madrid post soon to come) late in the evening Friday and decided that I would simply stay up all night Friday night in Barcelona rather than book a hostel to simply sleep in for six hours before catching my train to Montpellier. Like most of my trip, I had no plan for when I got to Barcelona. I checked my bag into a locker at the train station and set out for La Rambla as it was already eleven at night and I figured I would go someplace where other people would be--also the train station closes from 2 AM to 5 AM (as does the Metro--why? I don’t know). I ate a gyro, drank a San Miguel, and set out for La Rambla.

The first thing of note besides the tourists, was the vendors and peddlers. I suppose maybe this happens in some large cities in the US, but I can’t imagine it happens on nearly the same level as it does here in Europe. Basically middle aged men, usually of Southern Asian decent, peddle just about anything and everything. It starts with these incredibly annoying almost like turkey calls that you put on your tongue. They make a really loud shrill noise, and for some reason unbeknownst to me, everyone sells these things by blowing on them until they must be deaf. When the sun goes down, the whistles go away and are replaced with these sort of cool helicopter like thingies that glow in the dark. You sling them into the air with a rubber band, they go up about fifty feet, and spin to the ground gracefully. I actually kind of want one of these things. The funny thing about this particular merchandise though is that La Rambla is surrounded by trees. I saw at least a dozen of these thingies stuck in the branches of the trees. The activity for the next two hours of course becomes trying to shoot the stuck thingies down with other thingies. I did not witness a successful thingy rescue. Around midnight, the thingies go away (as most people out at this point are over the age of someone who would actually want to buy a thingy, except for apparently me) and are replaced with cold beer (specifically six packs of Estrella), the only thing that I’ve bought from a peddler. This is when the peddling takes on a stroke of genius. It is not exactly legal to drink on the streets of Spain, but when you are caught, you simply need to throw away your drink. This of course means that it is not exactly legal to sell beers on the street either. I seriously wondered how they kept the beer cold and hidden when the police walked by. The answer is that they hide the beer in manholes, the sides of trashcans, and other Easter egg like hiding spots. It sort of reminds me a bit of the stash houses in The Wire. Speaking of The Wire and stash houses, beer peddlers also indiscriminately peddle hashish, marijuana, and cocaine when they hold the beer out in front of you. We’ll say that beer peddling begins around ten or so and overlaps by about an hour and a half with glow in the dark helicopter thingy peddling. Around three, the beer peddlers dwindles by about half and are replaced by suppliers of meat filled pastries--okay, so I may have bought one of these also.

Overlapping with the beer peddling time (not with thingy peddling time though), the prostitutes appear on La Rambla. There are probably somewhere between one and two hundred, 99% are from West Africa. I guess it was my Irish rugby jersey that gave it away, but they only propositioned me in English. They are also very aggressive about it. First they make clicking noises, then they try to walk arm in arm with you, while discussing activities and rates and what not. There is no way to avoid them. Even if you are in a group or with a girl, they still come up to you. That is unless you’ve refused them on several occasions (I was in La Rambla a long time last night). One came up to me and literally just held a normal conversation for about ten minutes with me in between propositioning about a dozen other guys and girls. She was actually really nice. Eventually she walked off.

The last group of native people on La Rambla are the pickpockets. I met one of them as well around five as I was walking back to the metro. He was initially very nice, and then he almost grabbed my wallet before I realized what he was doing. I made fun of him for being a bad pickpocket. He was somewhat sheepish about it, but then he asked where I was from. I told him the states (he didn’t speak any English, so apparently my accent in Spanish isn’t too horrible). He accepted that for about a minute, and then he turned. He asked if I liked killing Iraqi babies. Then he began to slap me, starting jokingly and eventually becoming almost full-on slaps, while his friends got closer and laughed. He very much wanted me to throw a punch. Instead I threw a few Spanish curses at him and walked into the metro station while getting showered with Estrella cans by his friends.

There are many great things about Spain--I love the laid back culture, the food, the fact that everything (lunch, dinner, bedtime) is pushed back about five hours from typical American times, the public transportation (they have free rideshare bikes!!!), most of the people in general, but I have several grievances as well. The one example I have is that there is an entire industry of cleaning the streets and sidewalks every night. EVERY night they wash EVERY street and sidewalk with fire hoses because people pee anywhere and everywhere. There are also thousands of street sweepers--people with brooms and dustpans--because people drop their trash everywhere. Don’t get me wrong, I love that they realize how important city beautification is to tourism, but the fact that it is in their culture to simply accept this as a fact of life dumbfounds me. Do they not realize that they are paying an incredible amount of taxes because they can’t hold it until they find a real urinal or trashcan (which are everywhere)? It also has to kill the economy. I’m certainly not a neocon or anything, but having tens of thousands of government street-cleaning jobs has to be one of the least economically efficient things I have ever heard of (except maybe our handwritten census).

OK, so I’m on a train going though Western Spain and Southern France and I haven’t slept yet (it’s 8 AM). Thanks for reading my tirade, and I promise happier posts to come about Madrid and France.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Spain Part 1

On my flight from Dublin to Barcelona, I made friends with a very, very Irish couple and a Canadian girl. We were probably the youngest people on the plane, and the Irish couple were easily the most fun. We exchanged phone numbers and promised to meet up. Alas, only the Canadian girl and I ended up out later. We walked around the streets of Barcelona aimlessly for about five hours. The parks in Barcelona at night are really incredible, and I’m pretty sure most of the people there do not sleep, ever. We strolled through las ramblas until about five in the morning, Easter morning. This was a mistake as I wanted to wake up and go to mass at la Sagrada Familia. Turns out, as it’s still being built for the next fifteen years, they don’t hold mass there, so I had to go to the old cathedral instead in the gothic quarter of town and listen to a mass in Catalan (not Spanish).

My hostel in Barcelona was pretty nice and pretty far from the city, so I ended up spending a lot of time there (also there was free internet for the first time in a long time--so I caught up on the office and how I met your mother). I also had a room to myself, so (shocker) I slept a lot. When I did make it out in the city, I saw Park Guel, a park designed by Gaudi with a couple of houses in it--one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. I also eventually made it to La Sagrada Familia. While the outside is probably what it’s famous for, I think the inside puts every church (probably every building) in the world to shame including St. Peter’s in Rome. It’s designed like a forest on the inside with each of the columns being like a tree. The column then breaks off at the capital (the capitals are made to look like knots) into several branches to support the ceiling which (you guessed it) looks like palm fronds. The whole building is filled with the perfect amount of light, and the colors are simply amazing. If you ever make it to Barcelona, you have to, have to go here.

One bummer about Spain is that they take la sagrada semana seriously. So, since I arrived here at the end/ after holy week, not a whole lot was going on. Most people are still recovering from what I can tell. This means that this is probably among the least exciting times to be out at night in Spain. Take for instance Zaragosa where I went after Barcelona--the place was literally dead on Tuesday night. I went out to grab a beer with a couple of English guys that I met at the hostel (cleanest, best hostel ever). Nothing was open except a couple of Irish pubs and this one place with a lot of music and dancing. We decide to immerse ourselves in the Spanish culture and went to the one with music and dancing. Turns out, it’s the Colombian bar in Zaragosa. So, we immersed ourselves in Colombian culture for a night. It was pretty ridiculous.

Zaragosa is a pretty neat town. It has nothing on Barcelona, but it is far enough off the beaten path that nobody speaks English there. Not even the information person at the tourist desk. Not even the train ticket salesman. Nobody. From what I could tell, the city has been around since Ancient Rome. There are a ton of preserved Roman ruins all over the place including an almost entirely intact amphitheater. Then, there are a ton of castles, palaces and churches from the middle ages. Then there are a ton of ridiculously modern buildings to boot. The patchwork give the city a very ADD feel, but it’s still a beautiful city regardless of even if it has trouble deciding who it is.

Now I am in Madrid. I came for el clasico and to see my friends Brooke and Gerald. More to come on Madrid.

Side note on the pictures. The cathedral with the bridge is in Zaragosa as is the pig head. The market in Zaragosa was out of control awesome. There were about a thousand meat/fish/vegetable vendors. It was the best farmers market ever, well not for the pig...

Saturday, April 23, 2011


As you may have surmised from my last post, I didn’t sleep a whole lot in London. Thus, when I arrived in Dublin, I was pretty exhausted and looking forward to a good nap or two. I will leave Dublin tomorrow a much more rested man. I took naps pretty much every day, sometimes out on the quad while attempting to read A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man (I’m sure my mom is scoffing at me, but it’s actually not too bad, I’m a third of the way into it so far), sometimes in the morning, sometimes on a train. Ireland really is a good country to sleep in.

In Dublin, I’m staying with my friend Stephen (we’ll call him Steve from now on, as that’s what he’s called in Ireland). He’s getting a masters at Trinity College which makes him kind of a big deal. He’s also a good connection to have, because besides his being a “baller” (a term they don’t know here), he has some legit digs at Trinity, in the heart of Dublin. Trinity is where the Queen is coming next month and Obama the month after. In addition, Steve also has some okay friends (even in their names are spelled really weirdly, Aoife and Niamh--just try to pronounce those and then look them up on google), and aside from writing his thesis which he hasn’t started yet, he doesn’t have that much work to do and can instead spend all of his time showing me around the city. As if that weren’t enough, he gave me an old phone and, perhaps more crucially, a much needed, much forgotten towel.

The days and nights have kind of run together here in Dublin, but I’ll try my best to give a semblance of a chronological account of what I’ve done here. After a long nap, the first night Steve and I ate a very Irish meal (think sausage, potatoes, gravy, and cabbage) and then went to Temple Bar, a really touristy bar in the Temple Bar area of Dublin. The place was packed with tourists and a pretty good Irish band was playing drinking songs and ballads. We met a few people there, including a naval officer who bought us drinks (American servicemen and women are the best people ever to run into abroad).

The next day we went to the Guinness storehouse, where Arthur Guinness took out a 9000 year lease on the property, 250 years ago. It’s a very cool spot, and I’d highly recommend it to anyone if you make it to Dublin. We learned that the Irish government recommends “21 drinks a week with a few days off.” I’m pretty sure in America, it’s more like ten…Steve and I also took in the Kilhearney Gaol where most of the rebellions in Irish history were quelled, and the Book of Kells which is housed here at Trinity and has been for the last 400 years.

Trinity is a pretty great place. Aside from the Book of Kells, the really old, protestant university (yeah most of the nice things in Ireland are actually protestant--a lasting effect of so many years of English rules) is beautifully organized around the quads that you’re not supposed to walk on, but everyone apparently does anyways. At the back of the university, is the university pub, called “the pav” that has a plaque of all the captains of the soccer team for the last couple hundred years. The pav is situated around a massive cricket pitch and a rugby field. At the front of the university, there is a giant oak front door that you have to knock on after hours to be let in after midnight.

A side note on rugby, since I mentioned it’s one of the two fields that they have at the Trinity campus. It is so well loved that when we congratulated one guy who had just passed his final boards to get his medical degree, he said “expletive that, did you hear that we beat UCD (University College Dublin) by nine points today? I hate those expletives.” Granted, he may have been a bit “pissed” (drunk), but you get the idea. On my last day in Dublin, I went to visit Lansdowne Road, one of the oldest rugby fields in the world. It was the home to the Irish rugby and soccer teams but was demolished a couple of years ago to make way for a 400 million Euro--Aviva stadium. I decided to take a tour of the stadium, which was pretty cool, and I made my first big purchase of the trip, an Irish rugby jersey.

My second to last day, I decided to let Steve get some work done, and I jetted off to the coast. Specifically I went to Don Lougharie, a port town, just outside of Dublin. The weather was perfect and has been for my entire trip, typical. The weather was so perfect in fact that people were swimming in the North Sea. Not just jumping in but swimming for awhile. Don Lougharie is a pretty small town, but it has a small castle like tower at the end of it where Joyce spent a weekend with some friends and based the opening scene of Ulysses. Now it’s a museum.

Alright enough of the boring stuff--the nightlife in Dublin is a blast. The Irish really know how to throw down (note the 21 drinks a week). We frequented a bar called Dicey’s because of the deals, which pretty much reminds me of a really nice and several acre Bourbon Street (mostly because of the clientele). We also had a night at temple Bar, and a night with the continentals for a birthday party which was pretty epic. We even took our night off for the Lord (everything closes at midnight on Holy Thursday and stays closed through Good Friday, I suppose so that you can “let him in”).

Like every place I go, I am going to attempt to over generalize about an entire culture and country based on an infinitesimally small sample size (my science teachers are disowning me right now). The Irish are many things, but here are a few that I’ve noted and been told. In an attempt to regain their Irishness, the Irish are trying to bring back Gaelic (this has been going on for 100 years now). They are also not as religious as I thought they would be, although everything shut down for Good Friday. Dublin is incredibly expensive. Other than that, I loved Ireland and the Irish. They look like Americans for the most part, but their self-deprecating humor and laid back attitude are fantastic. Also the weather was pretty epic (n.b. the fact that it rained only once on my road trip through the US, and has rained for no more than an hour so far on this trip). My last humorous observation is that there are so many phrases here that we don’t have in the US. I can’t understand most of the slang, and that combined with the accent, makes it remarkably difficult to understand the language. For example, Steve and I were walking back to trinity one night and we came across a scene in which a bunch of teenagers were crowded around an ambulance and some cop cars. We asked somebody what was going on, she pointed to some blood on her shirt and said that there had been “murders.” Steve and I were shocked to find out that “murders” doesn’t in fact mean murders but rather just beating someone up. I’m a little relieved that’s the case though. More to come.

Monday, April 18, 2011


Emirates Stadium



King's College

King's College

Let’s see, I left you all on the train to Cambridge. Well Cambridge is really cool. It’s like a really, really dressed up college town crossed with a medieval walled city crossed with a Disney World ride. After I arrived and checked into the hostel, I went to a pub called the Eagle. A few notes on the Eagle. 1) It is located about half a block from King’s College (possibly the single most famous school in the world--think John Maynard Keynes, Alan Turing, and Salman Rushdie). 2) It is more than twice as old as the United States and has been in continuous operation since 1525 (that’s not a typo). 3) During WWII, RAF and USAF squads on R&R would meet here and write the names of their fallen comrades on the ceiling in the back room. You can still see the names today. 4) And the only thing I knew about it--Watson and Crick went therefore lunch six days a week for two years as they hashed out the structure of DNA, and it was in the Eagle where they first announced that they “had discovered the secret of life”.

I talked for a couple of hours with some air force pilots in the back room, and turned in relatively early, as all of the pubs close around 11, whereas the “social clubs” stay open later. Most of the students appeared to be dressed up in ridiculous costumes for I guess socials or something.

In the morning, I alit from my hostel to see the college and town. The town is nothing too special--a couple of plazas here and there--but the university is amazing. It’s located on what seriously looks like a fake river (the river Cam). The river is incredibly picturesque, maybe because it was actually sunny for once. It runs through most of the colleges, and I guess provides a large source of income for the students as everywhere you go, you are accosted by them to see if you want to go “punting.” I did not “punt” the river, and instead, I just walked around and took a nap in a quad (I am incredibly sleep deprived--hostels have been somewhat hostile to my sleep patterns--I think every night so far I have been woken up at 3 or later by either a neighbor or a roommate).

I rode the train back to London and by the time I got back to King’s Cross, I had roughly 13 hours to kill. I decided to go to Arsenal, and see if I could catch any of the “football match” (you’re welcome Billy). Note: soccer talk begins here, read at your own risk if you don’t know anything about soccer or just skip to the next paragraph. The fixture was level at nil-nil deep into the second half when I got to the stadium. I walked around the stadium and found a pub about a block away, where you could hear the stadium noise at about the same time in real life as on the tv. I hadn’t realized that this was kind of an important game for Arsenal. They are in second place in the league, down seven points to United with six games left. They basically had to win the game, but if they did, they would only be down four points with five games left including one with Manchester at the Emirates. So, there was a big injury in the second half which set up for 8 minutes of stoppage time (preposterous). Then in the 7th minute of stoppage time, Arsenal got a penalty kick after one of their forward was tripped in the box. Place is going bonkers. They take about a minute and a half to set up the shot and eventually score. Place is going more bonkers. 9 minutes into stoppage time at this point. Liverpool are desperate. They drill the kickoff at the goal almost goes in. They get the ball back, drill it in one last time. They draw a free kick on the edge of the box--last kick of the game. It get deflected by the wall, and in the scramble for the ball, an Arsenal player falls on top of a Liverpool player--PK. Liverpool score and the full time whistle is blown. Tie. It’s as though the queen just died. People begin to file outside the bar, all in shock and dismay. Let’s hope that Madrid-Barcelona is this exciting next Tuesday when I’m in Barcelona.

I spent the night in the Luton airport as my check-in time for my flight to Dublin was 5 AM. A miserable night, and I am even more sleep-deprived than I was yesterday. I am in Dublin now though awaiting the first friendly face in a week in my friend Stephen. More to come.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Day 3/4 (Let’s see how long I can remember the day count)

Letter from George VI to Churchill about their Presence on the Beaches at D-Day

London Eye--explaining how to use my camera

Reflection of Tower Bridge in Modern Building

Big Ben/London Eye

Cabinet Room

I’m really glad that I am traveling by myself because if I weren’t, any traveling companion would have surely killed me by now. Ill start by telling you where I am now. I am literally departing from Platform 9 at King’s Cross. Wait for it…yep, not quite 9¾, but pretty close. Where am I going you might ask? Cambridge is the answer to that. What’s in Cambridge? Other than a school, I have no idea. Why am I going to Cambridge then? That is a good question. Basically it boils down to me being an idiot and thinking that I was leaving for Dublin tomorrow, when in fact I don’t leave till Monday morning. I only had three nights booked in hostels though, and by the time I realized that fact this morning when I checked my flight time, there were no more hostel rooms available in all of London (thank you London marathon and apparently all of Europe that gets two weeks off for Easter and decides to go to London). So, I decided to think about other places in England I might want to see. Oxford came to mind--no hostels available. Stonehenge, too difficult to get to my ridiculously small airport tomorrow. So, I settled on Cambridge.

I’m going to backtrack now to talk about what I did today/yesterday. Yesterday, I woke up pretty early and Geva, my Israeli friend, and I decided to do a bit of a walkabout. We set out for The Tower of London. Then we saw the price of admission to the tower and quickly scrapped that idea. Everything in London costs an exorbitant amount except for the two most impressive things, the British Museum and the National Gallery which are naturally free. So, Geva and I just walked another two hours or so through London, got lunch at Dominoes, and went back to the hostel. The rest of the day was also pretty chill, more simply walking around, but this time with the Basque girls (they corrected me from Spanish). Turns out I didn’t need my sister’s surely excellent wingman skills (thanks for offering though, Court).

Today was a little more adventurous, even aside from my spontaneous trip to Cambridge. After checking out of my hostel, I decided to go to the cabinet war rooms. This is where Churchill held his cabinet meetings during WWII especially during the Battle for London and the subsequent V2 shelling. It’s faithfully restored with a lot of the original furniture and gizmos including a map with what must be millions if not tens of millions of holes from pins tracking the movement of allied ships and troops. Adjacent to the War Rooms is a Churchill museum which is really just as cool. Pretty much every event of Churchill’s life is chronicled in excruciating detail--from where he took tea on a given day during the war to letters between himself and King George VI, who apparently wrote better than he spoke.

After the War Rooms, I decided to do the London Eye, which unbeknownst to me, is an all-afternoon affair. From the time I bought my ticket to the time I got off of the Eye, three hours had passed, i.e. people who go in tomorrow morning will have gone about 60 yards through the “queue” in the same amount of time that it’ll take the winner of the London Marathon to go 46,112 yards. The view from the top is pretty cool though, and I’d say it’s worth the money if not the time.

Now, I’m traversing the English countryside as the sun is about to set. The scenery is pretty incredible. Also, for the football fans in the house, I just passed by Emirates Stadium. More to come.

Friday, April 15, 2011

London Continued

Easter Island

Rosetta Stone

Rosetta Stone


Wedding Preperations

Changing of the Guard

Double Decker Bus, Telephone booth, and Ron Paul
Day 2

Every tube stop, the voice over the loudspeaker tells you to alight for this or that at this stop. I really like that word, so I’m going to start using it more in these posts. So, I awoke and alit for I didn’t know what, but I had the ultimate goal of making it to the British Museum. I got off at a pretty random tube stop and decided to try to find my way to Buckingham Palace. When I got there, there was a really large crowd--I didn’t know why they were there, but I figured I would file into the crowd as well. After about fifteen minutes of standing and looking aimlessly about, I overheard someone talking about the changing of the guard, which apparently only happens once every other day at exactly 11:30. I had gotten to the palace at about 11:10. Ten minutes earlier and there might not have been a crowd to stop me.

The changing of the guard takes place in several stages, and if you don’t know what is going to happen, it can be kind of stressful. First the bugle and fife corps comes in--I thought that was going to be it, so I moved in to watch the action. As soon as I found a good place to stand in the crowd, the large band came down the street, which I missed because I was watching the first action that consisted of a flag-bearer and a man with a sword walking back and forth (pretty boring). Then on top of it, the horse-guards trotted by. Finally the elaborate ceremony started to happen for real. The band played a few songs, the guards changed and everyone marched out. It was pretty neat, but it looks like they were building a grandstand, which will be great, to perhaps watch it in the future (or maybe it’s for some wedding). Speaking of the wedding, you can already see preparations being made all around London. Flags are going up, flowers are being planted, it seems like it might be a big deal.

After the changing of the guard, I alit for the museum. I didn’t really know what was in the British museum, but I had a sneaking suspicion that the Rosetta Stone and the sarcophagus of King Tut might be there. Well, I was one for two. As soon as you walk into the Egyptian room, there’s a small crowd gathered around this big black thing about the size of my torso or so. It was incredible. The writing is so clear that it sort of makes you lose appreciation for the translators. In addition to the Rosetta Stone, there’s also this thing called the Parthenon which is there. Who knew? I thought it was in Greece. The entire frieze (another great word except that Yankee fans use it way too much) is housed in the British museum is a room shaped like the Parthenon. I’m thinking about doing something on this later. All in all the British museum is incredible, I think that I’m going to go back tomorrow.

After the museum, I made my way to a new hostel in Piccadilly Circus. This area of town reminds me a lot of Times Square, except much like the rest of London, it’s not as crowded or tight as New York. You don’t get the feeling of claustrophobia that you do in New York. I met one of my roommates, an Israeli who was only here for a night, and we decided to go grab some dinner and a beer. We found what seriously looks like the quintessential British pub. Like, if there were a bar that Cheers and every other tv show based in a bar in America was made, this would be the equivalent in England. Everybody looked British, they all spoke British, and the food was very British (you guessed it, fish ’n chips). We went back to the hostel and plotted our night, which consisted of a couple of clubs, where we met some Spanish girls who were very cute but spoke incredibly little English (why oh why don’t I remember any Spanish). We hung out with them most of the night as well as a few folks from our hostel who were from all over the world (New Zealand, Texas, and…Lesotho?). A good day. More to come.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Day 1
The jet stream that makes the trip from San Francisco to Atlanta about an hour and a half shorter than the opposite trip affects flights across the Atlantic as well. I’ve never really noticed this phenomenon before because normally I sleep on these trans-Atlantic voyages. I don’t know if it was excitement mixed with a twinge of homesickness that kept me awake, or if it was simply being in the middle seat that did it to me, but I stayed awake for the whole seven hour flight (it seriously only takes seven hours). It was morning when I arrived in London (6:30 to be exact--two hours before I would normally wake up or 7 hours if I were stateside). I didn’t quite realize what a bad thing this was at the time.

I navigated the tube (I love the tube by the way--I love most public transportation, but seriously, the tube might be even better than the NYC subway system for going anywhere and everywhere you want to be) to the hostel that I booked about ten minutes before I left home. When I arrived at the desk, they told me that I couldn’t check in until 2 PM, but that I could leave my bag, so I set out on my first completely blind adventure of the trip. I found a Starbucks and a free map of stuff to do. The map navigated me to the National Gallery. The art was seriously amazing. The art was organized by century’s. So on one wing, you had Giotto and Cimabue while in another Turner and van Gogh clashed. There were about ten or so paintings that I had seen in books, that I just happened to walk into. Including the van Eyck’s Arnolfini whatever it's called, van Gogh’s Sunflower, and Turner’s Rain, Steam and Speed. I lost track of time, but my body did not. I almost fell asleep on my feet a couple of times. Unfortunately it was only noon. I walked around London for another couple of hours and returned to my hostel at 2 to crash not knowing that a tube or something runs right by my window. Regardless, I was able to sleep about an hour.

I woke up and met one of my roommates, a Lithuanian girl who was interning at a hotel in advertising and hated her job. I began to feel self-conscious about my language skills as she spoke six languages fluently and routinely used words like cliché and chutzpah that she had no use knowing in her non native tongue. I went downstairs to the dining room and met some Danes who invited me to play Risk with them, since I was the only person with dice (thank you Settlers of Catan). They were pretty hilarious and pretty bad at Risk (after the first turn around the board everyone had a continent and about eight men total). They kept critiquing the game--Denmark is in Northern Europe in the game instead of Scandinavia--and my Risk skills, by saying that obviously I would beat them at a game based on war since I was American ( I did, probably because I am).

After the game I went to supermarket down the street from us, which is seriously almost the size of a Walmart Supercenter. I bought some sandwich fixings and some beer at the advice of the Danes. After dinner, one of the Danes bought some cards so that we could play drinking games. Suffice it to say that we did some damage, but they apparently held back since they had gone out the night before. We taught each other games (I learned an awesome version of ride the bus--get ready friends who know what I‘m talking about), but surprisingly the games were remarkably similar although the numbers meant something different in circle of death as the rhymes don’t quite translate the same.

My only overarching observation so far is that Americanization is alive and well. I’m writing this while listening to a local radio station which has already played REM and Rebecca Black’s Friday (it’s Thursday), and I’ve heard Justin Bieber mentioned at least ten times so far (granted he’s Canadian, but come on). Also, within two blocks of me, there is a KFC, a Starbucks, and several SCRE4M billboards--at least they picked out the highlights of our culture.
More to come.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Prepping for Europe and beyond

As of today, I have exactly seven full days left in the town that I have called home my entire life--shoot, the house I have called home my entire life. For those of you that don't already know, I will be taking off on "the grand tour" of Europe as a neighbor called it, in about a week. As part of my deal with myself when I deferred entering med school for a year, I decided that I would travel both in the US and abroad. I did the US part last year, and now it is time for the abroad part. My plans are certainly not in place yet, but what I do have so far is...

1) A plane ticket to London (April 12)
2) A return plane ticket from London (June 1)
3) A Eurail pass (including a map of European railroads) good for 1 month (hopefully that means 31 days...)
4) A place to crash in Dublin
5) 1000 Places to See before You Die (World Edition)
That's about it.

Now the much longer list of things that I need to do in a week to prepare for a trip to Europe and a subsequent move to Virginia.

1) Pack?
2) Find a place for a really big couch and chair that I sort of want to keep, but my mom understandably wants out of the garage
3) Teach a postdoc how to run the computer program I'm running in lab
4) About 60 hours of labwork
5) Probably about 20 hours of tutoring
6) Say goodbye to many good friends (sort of awkwardly, because I don't really know if I will see them in June or not till some undetermined time in the future)
7) Plan a trip to Europe?
8) Paperwork for med school

That's all I can think of right now, but I'm sure there should be much much more on that list.

In addition, to fill my readers in on what I've done since my last post. I have visited a bunch of civil war battlefields, I went to New York, I went to Hawaii for two weeks (nbd), and I bought a ticket to Bonnaroo.

Sorry, this is a pretty boring post with no pictures and really no substance, but I wanted to make sure I remembered my blogspot password and how to post blogs, as well as get your appetite whetted for what hopefully will be the ensuing epicness. "But that will be when our program continues. Stay with us."