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!!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Sad Day

Well here it is. A huge milestone in our epic Amazing Race. Two contenders leave. Big stuff. The two contenders left the Race from Berlin and are headed back to the States with their tails between their legs. Ha. Just kidding but T-leave and Patty have officially left the trip.

We got up and the two of them started packing their stuff into two of the sleeping bag bags we had left since obviously we don't have actual backpacks anymore. It was cute so once they packed (or so Patty thought) we headed into city to meet up with Mike and Logan and get some good DSCN0683German food. We did. It was fantastic (even the sauerkraut is good here which I usually hate) and I had possibly the most delicious beer ever. Hefeweisen. Apparently this means Hell Beer but that doesn't matter now. It's amazing. I had a Hofbrau and Paulaner.

After that we went to the entrance point of the wall near the US and British Embassies (which was very modern and cool). Then the big moment came. We took T-train and Patty to the subway station to send them off. Sad day. Good riddance jerks! Leaving us like that. Oh well. We went and drowned our sorrows with a pint of Hefeweisen. Ya. Then we went and checked out Checkpoint Charlie where you would actually pass through the border patrols. So weird. As was the Berlin Wall decorated Embassy (McD’s) there. But the Magnum Brownie McFlurry was sooo good!


We walked along the shopping section of Berlin for a bit to mail some cards and I also stopped by H&M because I needed a sweater since it was getting a bit chilly outside and mine was stolen in ROOOOME! Then we went to the Monument for Murdered Jews and it was very interesting. Basically people wanted a very visible monument to the murdered Jews in WWII. So it’s a huge square area with enormous cement blocks of different sizes all in rows. It’s quite a sight really. And the bunker below it is all about Jews that were murdered in the war. They even read small 3 minute biographies of Jews that they know of that died. Powerful stuff.


Guess who it is!


We headed back to Logan’s hostel but not before finding this really cool found object sculpture gallery in this sketch alley of Berlin and I DSCN0672freaking loved it! Unfortunately my camera is dead at this point but charging so I haven’t snagged many pictures. Stupid crap. After that we grabbed some quick pasta for dinner and a couple more Hefeweisens and wandered around back the the car... 2 men short. And a good laugh was had when we found Patty’s glasses case and contact solution sitting on top of the car. What an idiot!


Monday, August 16, 2010

Knock it down!

Well we only got about 2 hours out of Krakow before we were practically veering off the road so we did. And slept for about 4 hours or so. Then back to it! Pretty smooth sailing until literally the moment we entered Germany we got invaded. No joke. We were just listening to some Vampire Weekend on the car cd player when BAM! It switched over to the radio and said traffic alert. Seriously? Is it necessary to take over my car stereo and tell me about the traffic? Nope. Sheesh. Why did they even put that technology into the car stereo. Kinda scary.

Then once I started driving we hit some huuuge traffic, which I reckon is what that alert was about. And it sucked because that's the first time I've driven a stick in traffic and it was completely miserable. My clutch leg was so tired from keeping the clutch depressed that I wanted to chop it off. Ridiculous! But I finally got us to Berlin and sped on the AutoBahn on the way (although I guess it's not really speeding is it?). We drove around Berlin for a bit looking for a free parking spot and finally found one across the river from the train station. (keep that last bit in mind)



And I thought the US had a roach problem…

Food was next since we hadn't eaten pretty much all day. We searched and searched for a place to get a German sausage and liter mug but we came up with nothing so we grabbed some pizza at a cheap little shop and of course tried some German Pilsner brews. And while walking around we came across a Haagan-Das and being in Germany, it had to happen. It was delicious!! I had chocolate, pralines and caramel. Phewee!


Awesome architecture. And that blue van! Wowee!

Since we had a few hours until Mike and Logan's train got in(actually now a bus since they missed the train. Fools), we went to check out the Berlin Wall. Very interesting and terribly weird to be honest. Having an enormous wall that just splits a country and city like that is totally bizarre. But it's good that it is now fallen. Only a few sections remain for history's sake. We also checked out the “Topology of Terror” Museum right there which talked about Berlin Wall as well as the buildings the Nazis took over and use in the 30s and 40s up until the bombing of Berlin pretty much destroyed them all. Interesting stuff.

On the way to meet Mike and Logan we saw some weird purple pipes running through town. Remnants of communism. I know it! Then we met Mike at the huge TV tower (although dwarfed by Prague's TV tower) and after chillin some it was bedtime. Too bad it took us two hours in the rain to get home. Patrick was dumb and mixed up the local train station and the international train station. Not to mention Booty led us in a huge circle. The fools...

Sunday, August 15, 2010


We got up that morning and after our usual wake up/prep/slash time we started to walk through the ancient city of Krakow. It actually was a little similar to Prague in architecture and atmosphere but still absolutely beautiful in its own way.



Oh is that construction? How unexpected.



prague_mj_thumbThere was a huge town square we walked around in with a cathedral and a ton of street performers including this fantastic marionette who did a super legit dance with a Michael Jackson puppet that he made dance and moonwalk like a pro.

On the outer ring of the square in these long halls was a huge open market of anything traditional Polish arts or touristy things like shirts, jewelry, ornate glass vases and dolls. Very neat. Then we stumbled upon a perogi festival which is kinda like a Polish dumpling. Quite delicious for the most part but some we tried were quite strange.


Nearby the city of Krakow is the infamous concentration camp, Auschwitz or Osweicim in Polish. Unreal. Absolutely unreal. We walked around the smaller, original camp (there was a huge expansion of the camp across town) for at least 3 hours but since it took us forever to get there due to getting super lost, we didn't have as much time as I would've liked. Yet those 3 hours were emotionally intense  and mind boggling. I honestly want to go back and read more. There was far more to read than I could've ever done in a few short hours. (And as a small side note: It would pour down rain while we visit the most depressing place on earth.)
Anyways, once we got back we just decide to grab a couple of kebaps and take a quick nap before leaving Krakow for Berlin, which we did. At MIDNIGHT! AH! I'm so tired!