Monday, August 23, 2010

I’m a Ramblin’ Man

2 measly hours later Mike and I woke up because a) we had to find the bus station that took us to the airport over an hour away and b) we didn’t print out our boarding passes and c) didn’t have internet to figure out any of this the easy way. Of course we wandered around Paris for 30 minutes and eventually stumble upon our bus station magically due to some very limited directions from our dear friend Leigh.

Once we arrived at the Airport, the lady at the front desk says it’s 40€ to print the boarding passes but Mike and I weren’t having that DSCN0890so we sweet talked the guy at the central check in desk and got it fo’ FREE! Woo! Ya! So we got in our little plane to Dublin and when we arrived, we headed to another type of Embassy of course, and the to the USIT office (the people who gave us the work visas in the first place) to get our bags which Leigh so nicely left there for us.

So we have some savage craic with our buddy and helpful friend, Gillian, there and headed out to eat. We went to this restaurant called Elephant and Castle and it was absolutely to die for. Steak sandwich… so good you can’t believe it. Afterwards I just went around Dublin and explored some of the shops and what not since we had some time to kill.

Then the final ceremony. A pint of Guinness at an Irish Pub. It had to happen. And it did. We walked to the Temple Bar in Dublin and got a Guinness as well as our other favorites that won’t be as delicious DSCN0889back in the States like Heineken and Mike’s fave, Carlsburg. And let’s not forget Bulmers, that delicious nectar that is a hard cider). To top it off we watched a traditional Irish band to end our final night in this great land of Ireland. Twas a good choice indeed.

Farewell Ireland it’s been some savagely mental craic here.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A night in Paris

Another day, another country and city… and language… and friend. What I’m getting at is that today is the day we left Belgium and went to Paris, France where we unfortunately had to return my baby, whom I now deem Maureen, to the Peugeot dealership.

So we cleaned up a bit in Ghent and said our goodbyes to ElisaDSCN0879, our most generous and wonderful host in Belgium and we spent a little time getting lost in Ghent trying to get out and finally got on track to Paris. Phew. Last leg. The homestretch of the road trip here. So weird. IT rook a few hours to get to Paris due to the stupid traffic that is absolutely killer using a clutch, let me tell you, but we listened to Studio Brussels for the most part which is seriously the most legit radio station ever. They played stuff American radio would never play. Sweet!


Those two bags are all of my belongings… haha how sad.

Once we got to the Charles De Gaulle Airport things got really interesting since no one seemed to know (or care) where the Peugeot parking lot was. Jerks. It only took us like 30 mins to find but we finally did and return our broken baby which still had a bent and cracked front key lock mechanism. We then took a shuttle to a metro train to the middle of town to meet our old friend Laura who couchsurfed with us several times in Galway along with her friend Anies. They are both from the lovely town Brest in west France.




We met them and wandered around Paris for a bit before we headed back to Laura’s Grandma’s flat on the outskirts of city centre. Laura packed some wine and bread for some “a” DSCN0881named thing that basically means you eat and drink a little before actual dinner time. Only this was at 9:30pm at night. So late for food! Apparently not for the French. We climbed this giant hill (where we happened to spot a Hummer. A hummer! in Paris! Imagine that!!) and we got to the top and saw the Moulin Rouge and looked at the amazing skyline of Paris for a while before it started to rain. Figures.


We went back and the girl’s cooked rice and curry and well all chatted about cultural differences as this seems to be a a popular discussion to have with Americans. We did that for a while before getting to bed around 3 am. Phew. Last day of the road trip!!

Just a small town girl!

DSCN0865After seeing all the sights of Brussels, Elisa really wanted to show us around her lovely hometown of Ghen today so we dedicated this day to Ghent. But not before waking up, having cereal and meeting her lovely twin sister, Jana, who just come back from Pukkelpop. Pukkelpop (which apparently literally means zit pop or something weird) is Belgium’s big annual music festival a la Oxegen or Bonnaroo. And the lineup was awesome and it sold out or else I would’ve gone. Stupid. It was basically all over the news and radio. Salt in the wound. Also some crazy stuff happened like 3 people died including a band member. But anyways, it was wonderful talking to Jana even though she was super tired from her 7am train home.


DSCN0867Now was our your with our wonderful tour guide Elisa (who has a sister than didn’t believe she would be a very good tour guide… haha) But it was great. It consisted of statues, cathedrals (of course) and old building. And we took a boat tour through the canals of Ghent which was very cool. We saw some castles, another Manneken Pis and some quite peculiar painting on some walls.




Peculiar indeed…


Afterwards we got a drink at this literal hole in the wall café jammed between two building and it was swell. On the way home we saw a few more cathedrals as well as this really sick alley where they allow people to do graffiti freely and we even spotting some tagging in action. Nice.


Look at how little the hole is! How cute!

Dinna time! Elisa made spaghetti! Everyone ghent graffitiincluding her friend Zlotz came over for it. I brought the baguette and some wine I had been toting around since Italy. It was worth the wait. Delicious stuff all around. Then we all chatted about crazy cultural differences and music for a while before Zlotz went home and Jana left to take care of her dog. So after hanging out with Elisa a bit longer, all three of us went to bed.


My crazy European summer is almost over. This was the last stop…

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Day of Discovery

This day was our day to see Brussels, Belgium’s sort of capital (seeing as they don’t currently have any government). And it is about 45 mins away rom Ghent where my friend Elisa lives so we ate some fantastic cereal and took a bus to Ghent’s main train station. After working her Dutch magic, we all got round-trip tickets to Brussels on the train for 9€. Not bad. The bad is that our train got delayed and we missed the other train to Brussels. Dang. Needless to say, we did finally make it there via the slowest train ever. Also by taking the Brussels metro, which I may or may not have paid for.


Then Mike and I enacted Plan Wander (which is what we do in every city) which means we find a free map somehow and slowly wander around the city centre and stumble across famous landmarks and places. And let me tell you it worked swimmingly. We stumbled upon the city market, Manneken Pis (which, believe it or not is a 1 foot tall statue that pees and gets dressed up daily in one of over 800 different outfits. Ya. Really.)


Wearing his grad gown… and pissing. Real classy.

DSCN0812We got some amazing Belgian waffles and chocolate and went to find some cathedrals and find we did. Little known fact. Belgium has more cathedrals than people! Amazing, no!!? Ok, maybe a small exaggeration but they are like Starbucks in the States. One on every street corner, baby. But they are quite pretty so it’s worth it seeing them. We also stumbled upon Parc du Bruxelles as well as the palace for the King.



How cool is this cinema?!?

Needing a bit of refreshment, we wandered around this restaurant filled street until what do we find except for Delirium, the pub we had actually been wanting to check out. The reason for this is that this place has over 2004 beers available and most of them are Belgian or German. Those two countries love their beer. They also love their “heavy” beers which to them means a high alcohol content. Now in the States around 5% is normal but they have beers with up to 11%. It goes to 11, man!! Crazy. That’s almost as much as wine.



This is a Belgian taxi cab.

DSCN0842After that we decided to go to this place called Atomium, which Elisa really wanted to see. We took a subway probably 15 stops to go see it and there was this huge “Love Parade” party happening but it cost money to get it so we just looked at it from afar and Elisa was happy. We went back through all the cool subway station they have in Brussels. Every stop is a different theme! Legit!





This eye doctor looks a little sketchy.

We then proceeded to take our train then bus back to Ghent and stopped of at an Embassy to try the food there. We relaxed for a bit back at Elisa’s crib and wanted to check out the nightlife in Ghent which surprisingly is dead during the summer. So much so that many of the bars actually close down. But it was still pretty lively and we saw a ton of this café’s with outdoor seating where people just sit and drink delicious red cherry beer. We stopped at one and hit up a club for a little bit. Good stuff.


I just love all the beautiful European… scaffolding.

Bed time! Belgium has worn me out completely.

Friday, August 20, 2010

A Tale of Two Countries

DSCN0788Well we awoke around 9 in our super expensive parking garage and headed into the city centre rested. Stepped in a BK Lounge (aka Burger King) and got some delicious breakfast and went to Dam Square for a free tour.

We had this guy from New Zealand take us around town and show us the sights as well as talk about the history of the city. Very cool. He was goofy but I liked it. We went to canals, “coffeeshops”, red light district, churches and tons of other things like the art district with lots of awesome graffiti. Worth the 4 hour tour. So much walking. Phewee.


It’s an entire Roy Lichtenstein building!

Our time in the most tolerant city in the world was over. We paid our 41.50€ parking lot fee and set off. But once again my navigator failed me. We went through tons of traffic then despite my questioning and doubts, Navigator Mike assured me he knew a shortcut. Isn’t that always a bad idea in the movies? Well. Failure ensued. It was then up to me to figure out the way. Fool. And figure it out I did! Ya!


What a lovely façade… oh wait!! CONSTRUCTION!

So we got into Ghent, Belgium which is about an hour from Brussels and met up with my friend Elisa who lives there and went over to her apartment and had some mac and cheese while chatting it up. Good way to end the night. Free bed and first shower since Roma. Yay!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Tired Mile

We got up at like 7 the next day and proceeded to drive five more hours to get to Amsterdam in time for Mike the Second’s bus to Brussels so he could get home. We parked for the ridiculous price of 5€/hr and found his station as well as got some parking tips. So we got back in the car and drove to the airport but parking was definitely no cheaper there so we drove back into city centre.


Apparently there are like 75,000 bikes in there…

Meanwhile there are hills ALL OVER town so I’ve stalled the car a few times at this point... including right on the tram tracks in front of an oncoming tram. And that’s where my story ends.... Just kidding! Just like in the movies I got it started just in time and speed away. Ok kidding again. The tram stopped and loudly honked at me while I stalled 2 more times panicking and finally got out of the way. We finally found parking for stupid 38€ a day! A DAY!!! Ouch! But that’s how it is here.


It’s like Las Ramblas all over again. Vader!!

Since we could explore now we walked to Central Station and saw some awesome and squished architecture. And we grabbed a pint of delicious Heineken because it’s brewed here in Amsterdam and is definitely one of my favorite beers right next to Hefeweisen.


DSCN0780We, of course, walked through the madness that is the red light district for a few minutes (no pictures there!) and then went and walked to Amsterdam’s first “coffeeshop” to check it out. I think you can take a guess as to what they sell there. It ain’t coffee. It’s souvenir t-shirts!!

Then we stopped at the most expensive Embassy so far and got McFlurries. We looked in a huge record shop for a moment and then searched for a pub for like 30 mins. And wouldn’t you know it, we accidentally got some pints at the most manly, traditional looking gay bar ever. Whoops...

DSCN0785Seriously look at this pub! So manly.

Then we slept. Phew what a day. So tired.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Angie, Darling!

The three of us left decided to sleep in some since we didn’t have an itinerary for the day. Wonderful. Although it only lasted until like 10:30. Oh well. Good enough.

DSCN0690We met up with Logan and got some lunch at this little place nearby. Too bad it was lame. And ridiculous. How could it not be? The dished took at least 30 mins to come out. Terrible. And 2 bees flew in the Mike the Second’s shake. haha.


So we went to the ancient art museum in Berlin called Pergamemon or something like that but there was a humongous line so we took the subway to the business district (where some of the Berlin Wall still stands) because I wanted to go to this Salvador Dali exhibit. Only I went but it was worth it. That man has an insane imagination.


Afterwards Mike told me he was a few blocks away waiting for Angelina Jolie at this hotel. So on my way to go to the subway to meet him, I ran across the actual premiere of her new movie, Salt. Legit!! So I told him to get his butt over to me and we waited for likeDSCN0736 2 hours and saw a bunch of famous German actors we didn’t know (except for one dude from Inglorious Basterds). Until... the moment came! ANGELINA! Woo! So much prettier in person. Honestly. That was pretty darn cool to stumble across that.




We got some cheap food (bratwurst for me) after that and chilled at the hostel for a few hours before leaving for Amsterdam. Sweet. We took some wrong turns but made it out of the city and took a few hour nap at a rest stop. Phew. Bye Berlin!!