Monday, July 30, 2012

Home sweet home

Ahhhh . . . . .the joy of being home. I didn't write since before Switzerland, Germany, Amsterdam, and Paris. Each was unique in it's own way. Switzerland was full of scenic mountains and lakes, fresh mint glacial water, kayaking on the Interlaken current, and an untimely yet positive job opportunity back home. I emailed letters, references, and scheduled a phone interview while in Switzerland and started the process of a potential career change. The end result is still unclear, but the possibility of something new is as fresh as the Swiss green water.

Germany was full of bikes and nice people. On the train to Heidelberg, I chatted with an old lady. She was friendly and pleasant, but she was also something more. I kept thinking of my conversation with her later. It'd odd how you can connect with someone in such a rare way and not realize it until later. We talked about traveling, las vegas, family, the loss of a husband, careers, teaching, fashion, art, and love, in a matter of minutes. She understood me and I understood her despite living on different continents and being two generations apart. Is she that easy to know and talk to? Or did we really have an unordinary connection? All I know is that she stuck with me in a very good way. She wasn't the only person that was warm and kind in Germany, there was the married couple we sat with at the Irish pub in Frieburg while the singer rapped Jayz and played the guitar. In Germany we also spent a day with friends partying, drinking beer on the streets of a German town festival and climbing, wheezing, to the top of a castle. Germany was wonderful. It was filled with locks of love on the Koln bridge and so many fun memories.

Amsterdam, well. . . . . . . Amsterdam is for tourists. You can't walk the streets with a beer and party, yet you can stop in a coffee shop and buy a magic muffin or special brownie or joint or red light special. It wasn't my city. Very similar to Venice with it's canals and tourists, however it lacked the local touch. Where were the Dutch people in Amsterdam? I dont know, it seemed like I never saw one. At least Venice was full of Italians, singing, celebrating, pushing around, eating or steering boats. I liked Venice.

And last but not least: Paris. My last day in Europe was spent solo as Kelly sailed off to the Blue Lagoon. I heeded all the warnings about pickpocketers and strapped my money belt around my waist under my clothes and walked to Montmartre, the artsy and wealthy district and highest point of Paris. As I entered the most touristic church and beautiful sight, I was swarmed by a group of African hecklers. They stepped in my way, grabbed my arms, and started putting cheap string bracelets on my wrist. Being solo I was already in my self-defense mode that I perfected in my college days, so I did what a solo female should do, and started yelling. No!! No!!! Stay here!! Don't touch me!! If I had a bag their hands may have been in it. It's such an odd experience to be surrounded by tourists and hecklers at the exact same time. After I passed through the mob, I sat with all the other tourists in the shade, watching the spectacle, and fuming with anger. Where were the Paris police??? Why do they let this happen??? Why do they sit back, in this case not even physically present, and let tourists get attacked? A guy in our hostel had a swollen face and purple eye from walking on the wrong street. I was warned repeatedly when making a purchase or eating to not set my phone down or watch my back. It was completely out of control. Let me just say I hope Paris never gets the Olympics, because it would be like a piranha feeding frenzy.

It didn't ruin my day or my view of Paris, although you may find that hard to believe. Paris was kind of like an unruly young sibling that the parents have given up on disciplining. I still loved it. It was gorgeous at night. The thrift stores were my dream come true and the people that I spoke with were good humored. I'd love to go back and collect some more clothing, visit some more art museums, taste more food, and meet more travelers and Parisians. However, New York City is much, much, safer.

Now I'm on the plane over Missouri, looking at the most rainbowed sky I have ever seen, and can't wait to smell home again. I know it's been in a drought and heat wave and things aren't so green, but I have a feeling none of that will matter. I will kiss Darrin, see my family, meet our new little kitten, and prepare for the fall with new pets and new possibilities. Maybe even some new ducks? Who knows.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Veni vidi vici

Veni viddi vicci

In one day. We conquered Rome by spending a full day walking to the sights. We visited the Coliseum, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, and Piazza Navona. We drank Italian beer and wine, tasted Gelato, and even had time to relax. I did not like the Italian food, at least not yet. Kelly and I must be really, really, hooked on Greece still. We skipped pasta for some fresh market veggies and made our very own Greek salad. Then we even skipped our second day in Rome and went to the beach.

It's neat, there is a beach only thirty minutes away from the center of Rome. We took a train straight there. The locals go often, so most on the train were doing the same thing. Kelly and I found a not so crowded spot, got Italian drinks, and tanned. This beach reminded me of California coast, wavy, rough, and surfy. Far from the turquoise calm water of Greece, but still enjoyable. We stayed until ten pm, and even got massages on the beach for cheap.

Next stop: Venice.

Adventures in Greece

Adventures in Greece

I usually get inspired to visit a place when I see a movie that was filmed there. My trip to Cuba was inspired by Dirty Dancing 2. My desire to visit greece was spurred by an even more embarrassing movie: Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2. Yep. I saw scenes of stair stepped cliffside white and blue buildings surrounded by cobblestone and blue ocean. It was the most beautiful film set, and I will be honest me and my college roomies enjoyed the traveling pants too, ha. Interesting they are both sequels, hmmm.

Greece turned out to be exactly as I hoped. As soon as we arrived I was high on everything, the language, the way people look, the Acropolis, the food. I drank Mythos beer, ate gyros, swam in the ocean, shopped, and met people.

Kelly and I stayed our first two nights in Athens, our third night in Mykonos town, and fourth and fifth nights by the beach. I want to go back big time. We had spats with the post office lady, I got heat rash on the Acropolis, and we partied a little too hard, but it was all worth it.

A couple things we enjoyed: never getting carded anywhere in Europe when buying a drink and walking around town with your drink in your hand. Sometimes, adults are treated like adults and everything is just fine isn't it?

Sunday, July 8, 2012

A day in London

A day in London

After our grueling road trip across the U.K., my dad and I checked into our hostel in London where we met up with my travel pal Kelly. We arrived at 11 pm. The hostel is the cutest building, narrow, white, three stories, with a downstairs bar and restaurant that played a lot of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I ordered a bloody Mary and chatted with Kelly before bed. When you stay in hostels, you store your belongings in a locker, sleep on bunk beds (this hostel had three decked beds), share coed rooms and a coed bathroom/shower. The two so far have been very nice, clean, safe, convenient, and London's is a great atmosphere. I definitely recommend hostels.

Kelly and I set out on our only full day together in London to watch the "Changing of the guards" at Buckingham Palace. The queen lives there. We were late and they only do it once per day, so we had to run full speed a few blocks. We arrived panting and sweaty, and laughing but just in time. The crowd that had already gathered must have been at least two thousand strong. The guards stand at attention in their fancy red uniforms and bear fur hats, some new guards march in on horseback and they have a group of soldiers playing band instruments. What was also very entertaining, during the ceremony traffic flows by, and we saw another wreck. A guy on a motorcycle and a car collided, he was able to hop right up but looked like he would be banged up under his leather jacket. The security made sure to move the wreck out of the way so the soldiers could still march through, the show must go on you know :)

I should describe the wreck that dad and I saw in southeast London the day before while driving. We were on wet pavement, a pretty road lined with trees and curvy, and came upon a fresh accident. It was an overturned car, wheels in the air, and two people still inside, strapped in upside down. Dad helped and they climbed out through broken glass windows. It was very shocking, and made me fear I would see something gruesome, but fortunately they were okay. We drove on to our castle.

The rest of the next day with Kelly was filled with walking thru sights, biking through Hyde Park, where we saw another wreck! This one two bicyclists were laying on the ground with injuries and bandages, and bleeding from the collision. After our bike ride we bought wine for a lovely friend that took us in for our first night and she met us for dinner, and always made sure we had easy travel in the city.

London was full of polite, friendly people. We were often asked if we were there for the Olympics. I'm glad I went, and very happy that none of the accidents involved us! Unfortunately my dad got sick this morning, a severe migraine, and had to miss our flight to Athens. Kelly and I pushed on to Athens and hope that dad can catch a flight the next day. He flies home from Athens back to Missouri, while Kelly and I begin our Greek Island adventure. Let the real party begin!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Driving in London

Yesterday was the most stressful day I've experienced in a long time. I drove in London. Yes, I was sitting in the right side of the car, what would be the passenger seat in the states, but that's only the beginning. I was driving a manual, and shifting with my LEFT hand. And then the most challenging part of course, driving on the left side of the road, in tons of traffic, trying to decipher foreign road signs, going on huge roundabouts. I did it.

Doing something so challenging for the first time requires an exhausting amount of concentration. Once you get tired or mentally bogged, you turn into oncoming traffic, or down a one way street. And unfortunately, I had planned a trip with six hours of driving! (And it took us seven hours).

But, I got to see the Raglan Castle! In wales, England. It was beautiful. I climbed stairs up towers, walked through stone tunnels, crossed a drawbridge, and Raglan Castle is officially the coolest Castle in the world because it actually has a MOAT!

We signed a couple Ragland descendent books, on the fourth of July of all days, met some very neat people, had a true English tea in a descendants large historic English home, and set off driving once again. On a journey like that, I have ten other stories that could be told, such as a wreck we came upon, a brief moment of road rage and my defensive response, the story of the English tea, our proudest moment of navigating an hour through central London, etc. My dad and I took turns driving versus navigating, and we survived the day. It really was dangerous and exhausting, but I'm proud that we still did it.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

An Irish Pub

So we walked into an Irish pub. . . . . . . Or should I say, "two American girls walked into a pub." haha. Okay, on with the story. So Kelly and I walked into an Irish Pub. We had picked the joint out earlier while jogging through a castle, yes, jogging through Dublin Castle. Anyway, the sign out front said they had corned beef, and it was our only full day in Dublin, so I donned my one green shirt and green scarf and we were excited about corned beef and fish and chips. As soon as we entered, we saw smiling faces everywhere. Smiling Irish drunks, singing, drinking, raising their glasses to us! One very drunk gentleman shouted for all to hear: American Girls! I love American Girls! How did he know we were American? Apparently we had it written all over us, although we had yet to speak a word. We smiled politely and walked straight to the empty table at the back of the bar, waiting for my slow old dad yet to enter the bar. A middle aged Irish couple near us smiled warmly, the woman looking at us with extra friendliness and saying hello. The drunk gentleman with culture sense begged us to join him and the four guys at his table, saying there was plenty of room.

Kelly and I laughed, in shock, in hilarity, in enjoyment of the jolly, yet drunken, mood. It was unreal. I said to her, let's just wait and see what reaction they have to my dad when he finally enters the bar. . . . . . . .even more hilarity! He came in his matching khaki shorts and khaki collared top, gray hair, grinning, and taking pictures with his giant canon camera! I recorded the event with my phone, as they sang and as my dad took their pictures, while an attractive waiter informed us of the worst of all news: the cook was gone, they had no food.

No!!!! No corned beef? No fish and chips? What of our traditional meal?? We knew at that hour, the surprisingly small entity of Dublin Ireland was quickly running out of pubs that still served food. Food is exactly what they call it, not entrees or dinner menu, just food. Like the toilet, you don't see signs for a restroom, they call it what it is, and they know what people need. Anyway, that's a side note. The waiter didn't expect us to stay and drink beer on an empty stomach out of politeness. We gathered our belongings and left waiving goodbye and smiling to all present in an uproar fashion, just as we had been greeted as we entered.

Outside, Kelly and I waited for my dad once again. What was taking him so damn long? Minutes passed . . . .and I finally went back in out of worry to meet him at the door. He was thrilled, shaking hands, and they had stopped their singing to ask him where he was from. "Missouri? Sing us a Missouri song!!!" alas, he could think of nothing besides the Mizzou fight song, which thankfully he didn't sing. Haha. Ohhh, the memories. We ended up eating smoked salmon at the touristy Temple Bar, surrounded by non locals but still a huge impressive bar and good atmosphere. Nothing as good as a drunken Irish pub though. Cheers! And I wish we sang at the bars back in the U.S. The way they sing.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

First stop: Dublin

I'm in Dublin! It's our first day here. We flew overnight, walked to our hostel in south Dublin, ate sandwiches and chips with garlic mayonnaise, drank a guinness in an old Irish pub, and napped already. Dublin is chilly, cloudy, quaint, small (compared to New York), and historic. It's full of Europeans. It also feels Extremely safe. Just leaving New York City, I look at this quaint town full of tourists and youth, and feel no threat from strangers. I like that. I don't like the cool temperatures.

My dad, he is around 57 years old, joined us for the first leg of this trip. He is well traveled and helped us along with currency exchange, postage stamps, and ground transportation. It's nice having him, and his polite demeanor makes so happy. What's funny about him is that he is already kicking our butts (Kelly and I) in terms of experiences. He went straight to his first destination, St. Patrick's Cathedral, for mass, while Kelly and I lumbered around in an exhausted condition looking for beer and food. After that, Kelly and I spent two hours sleeping in our room while my dad has already made friends with some lads and joined them for beer and soccer at a nearby pub. Ha! Way to show us up pops. We may join him soon.