So I recently got back from a 5 day, 4 night stay at Rome. I went with my, well um, you see its kinda like, a domestic partnership? How can you can a girl a girlfriend, if the titles never established? Yet at the same time, thats what she is to me. Her name is Tegan.
She’s a study abroad from the Webster St. Louis campus (and as a refresher, I am at the Leiden, Netherlands Webster campus). To give you an idea, she is the type of girl who falls backwards into a canal, gets robbed on the way out, but had a good friend jump in after her (it wasn’t me I wasn’t there). Yes, she does like to tell that story too.
So given the opportunity we have in Europe to travel, and given the fact that this girl is awesome, we planned a trip for the two of us to Rome, Italy.
Rome is easy to navigate, once you realize where everything is. For this reason I strongly suggest a map there, because before your knowledge of the subway system is started, it can be a pain in the area just below the lower back. This is because there roads are old. Before the grid system of towns was established, and you could walk around in circles before actually making any progress. So the first few hours was slightly frustrating. But the rest of the trip was…
Have you ever seen an old building and thought it looked strange with all the contemporary objects surrounding it? Its like surreal, “this feels like a google image blown up 500 times in front of my face” feeling. Well that was like the whole trip. Especially starting with the Colosseum. It was stop number 1 for us, and the station stop is called colosseum for a good reason. Once you step 1 foot outside the subway staircase, this monstrous old piece of architecture is staring you in the face. Once I picked my jaw up from the ground i burst into laugher at all the smart cars filling the road ways around it. So we cross the street and head on in.
Classy, I know.
This would be the only major stop of day one, because we knew that there would be 2 more full days, and that morning we had a late start. We did walk around the Forum directly in front of the colosseum afterwards however. We ended the night with some dinner and a movie, watching Angels and Demons, because of its appropriate film location.
Oh, and before I forget, we had the nicest Italian mother-like host at our B&B. She offered us another night free, (we think- there was a large language barrier). But regardless, she made us coffee the morning we left, even though for the fourth morning in a row, we missed breakfast. Its vacation. I am going to sleep in. Who ends breakfast at 10? Whatever. It was still an awesome stay!
Day 2! We planned on seeing a castle, the one in Angles in Demons, and then the Pantheon. So we make it out to the castle by about 2 and walked around it for a good hour and a half. Then things got interesting. Leaving there, we found out that the Vatican would be closed tomorrow, given that its Sunday. So we went down to the Vatican directly after. As it turns out it wasn’t opening till 4, and with 40 minutes to kill, we got some lunch.
Leaving there we were unsure as to why there was a line forming in St. Peters square, but our hunger got the best of us and we ignored it. Upon returning we notice the line several thousand people longer and still growing. We hop on the band wagon. Five minutes later, a security man walking the outside of the line announces to us that there, “ARE NO MORE TICKETS LEFT!” What! I was going to be so, irked (trying to keep talking about the Vatican PG) considering it was going to be closed tomorrow too. But then, as if a miricle by god, I notice a small man with yellow papers and he seems to be offering out. I made myself known real quick, snagging up both extra tickets he had. Tickets to what you ask?
Well just so happens that about once a month the Sistine chapel opens its doors to the public for a special mass ceremony with a special guest, The Freakin’ Pope man. My only regret was not capturing the look on Tegans face, completely overwhelmed by the majestic nature of the chapel and presence of the pope. It was I dare say, glorious.
Day three, our final touristy day we set two things one the adgenda, the first being the Trevi Fountain. It was pretty cool, but super touristy. Which is surprising because we went during a very non-tourist time, the start of december. Still it was difficult to get a clear shot of ones-self posed in front of it. Cool, but moving on…
To the Pantheon. The oldest non-reinforced structure of Rome. With an unknown architect this magnificent construction is a modern day mystery. In person there is a large arc type structure on top of its square base. The stranger than fiction part is that the center of the arc/dome, is hollow.The an empty space makes its dome stability very confusing to figure out. I’ll admit it, I was impressed.
Leaving the pantheon, we decided to go see what was the closest next feature of rome, the square of four fountains. It would seem as though fate had it in for us again because it just so happened to be the location of the Rome christmas market. There was food, we had donuts and nutella; there were games, I played an airsoft shooting game (won Tegan a 14-ball key chain- oh yeahh brownie points ); and there were gifts everywhere, got a few trinkets myself.
After circling the place for a a bit we found a comfy spot to photo-bomb the tourist. Stilling on the less popular side of the center fountain we had many picture victims. The best, in my opinion came when a man tried to take a picture of his girlfriend. Tegan and I sat in the background and I three, I raised my hand high in the air and she gave scared eyes, like a domestic dispute. It didn’t take them long to pick us out of the background. So he asked me to take a picture of the two of them. I did, laughing the whole time.
Next we found a place to eat. We got the Tourist deal 2, at a small restaurant near the pantheon. It came with a bottle of wine and two course meal for both of us for a set price of 24 euros (Steal!). THREE hours later, we left and stopped at a wine store where one of the employees was excited to give us free samples, of everything! Feeling buzzed, we decided we had to buy something from them. Yet while at the ATM we had a change of heart, but felt we should tell them “thanks anyway” considering they got us drunk for free. So we did. And it took no more than about 20 seconds. However, I think we pissed off the same universe force that got us into the Vatican and by the time we stepped outside, a downpour commenced.
Umbrellaless, we burst into laugher, thinking of course, we deserve this for not buying the bottle of wine. But you know, when in Rome… So we start jogging in the rain back toward the station. And on our way we must have encountered 15 or 20 umbrella dealers. But it was too much fun to blow past the very eager street dealers and instead blatantly ask ”Does anyone know where I can find a 3-euro umbrella!?” Good times.
It was awesome in the same way the DMV isn’t.
Yes, these blogs were written a significant amount of time ago. I have no real excuses for not posting them until now, except for the fact that school got a lot harder. I am now enrolled in my first law class and two challenging psychology classes. Altogeather I am speding a lot more time with my face in a book, and any time I am not, I am out exploring Hollands flat lands.
So with out further a due, please enjoy the rest of my spring breaks stories.
“While everyone else is trying to hold it up, your putting it down,” said Greg Demaio to me as I stood posing for a picture, shaking my fist at the leaning tower of Pisa! “But its definitely thinking outside the box.” Then of course I took some regular pictures of me trying too hold it up too. Just one of those things you do when you find yourself in Pisa, Italy.
Pisa was Day 4 and 5 of the world tour. We arrived in late Teusday night and crash as soon as we arrived in our hostal. The next morning we wore up early and rented bikes again. According to google maps photos, the distance between Pisa and its Marina, looks very close. But contrary to looks, is the effort needed to make it there and back. 25 Kilometers was the days total. But the beach was worth it.
Barcelona I believe had the upper sand in weather and atmosphere. Whereas Pisa could be appreciated for its quiet, peaceful touch. The waves were a symphony of symbols that crashed sweetly on the soft ground. Children laughed with their parents playing in the shallow deeps of the worlds pool. All while tiny fish wreaked havok, attacking the inside of our ankles. Yet they remained too quick to be caught by the swift hands reaching for them.
The next day the real adventure came. After a well deserved sleep in, Greg and I traveled outside of Pisa. Taking the train to the tallest parts of Tuscony. Famous for their beautiful mountin range and we decided to see just how high we could hike up.
Several steep miles later, we found ourself in a new unknown city known as none other than Capriglia. It was a town a top a BIG hill. And just off its main street lead to a small park, with a trail leading out into unknown mountin mysteries. Following its tail deep into the trail, I found my self cursing my camera for not being able to properly do justice to views its natural balcony over looked. With the best of the “worst” photos below.
Our third day stay was spent mostly relaxing by the tower, watching the tourists do the same thing over and over. Everyonce in a while one might catch some one trying to look like their kicking it down too! But other wise it was a chill time spent recuperating from the extreme physical tests we put on out bodies the two days prior.
At this point we were suting up for what would be a wild time in Budapest.
What can I say about Budapest, Hungry? Well for starters, the exchange rate is awesome! Its not that everything is “free” but is the fact that their money is regurlarly echanged by the thousands. So when you drop 2 G’s on dinner at Burger Kings. You feel something like a king yourself.
The city was easy to navigate, and has pleanty to offer. First we made our way across the stand-out stylized bridge, to a hill just off the outter limit south-side of the city, that had large beautiful statues one could admire up close, which overlooked the city from a very ascetically pleasing point of view. From there we made out way to the castel.
This was my first castel experience, and it was turned into a musem. I am not sure if it was students day, or our irresistible charm, but we got in for free. It was alright for a musem experience, nothing too special. Had your paintings and artifacts, but the truth is, the real fun was in visiting the House of Terror. The old gothic Parliament building was filled to the max for tour that day, we decided to drop a few “thow” on the House of Terror.
When you first get close to the builing there is a line of young faces staring at you. These were only a few of the victims of Nazi and solviet occupations of Hungry durring the days of world war two. They would take advantage of a secret police, that would arrest people on faluse accusations and use tourture methods too make new people falsely accuse others. There were said to have affected one in every three families durring that time. The tour started on the third floor with old Nazi invasion video with appropriate mood setting music, and ended in the basement of the actual location where captives were held and tortured One room stuck out to me. It was deep enough for one body. Wide enough for maybe two. But the conditions to look and be a part of were absolutely sicking.
The final room had the faces of the men in power at the time. Details of which men were caught and when others died. It was a very a justifying end, one that left you with a sense of justice. Yes, human capability is grand in all aspect, but some more disturbing than others.
That night we went out to a bar in the ruins, as the Hungarians would say. Or a Ruin bar. They are unrenovated ruins from the world war 2 days, and is most situations just a re-decorated broken down artifacts of the little that stood standing. Who wouldn’t want to drink there? It was pretty cool though, and got better when we found some highly competitive foosball players. They were the dirtiest (hip-lingo for “skilled”) I have ever seen.
The second night I met up with some friends also attending the webster campus in leiden because they also chose to go to Hungry during the break too. So after getting lost in the rain, we dry off in their hostel before heading out. This was a very fun night, filled with adventure (losing the pub crawl group), mayhem, (re-finding the pub crawl) and great stories, (like the drinks they didn’t charge us for at the final bar).
Before we left, we wanted one good meal. Because the exchange rate was so impressive, Greg and I went to a small restaurant down a main street in Budapest and pigged out. The bill, which was less than 20 euros, was around 4500 Huf! With a 500 Huf left too. Which in total is a great deal for a big piece of veal and a large personal pizza. We also did a little shopping at H and M before out plane home that day.
Today I am hard at work in my books. I had a simple semester last term, only taking two classes left me with a lot of free time. But now I am in three challenging classes, one of them being my first law class. Yeah, it’s a lot of fun but the text book is a piece of work to work though. So my face is in the books until this weekend approaching when I will be traveling to Rome, with my close friend here, Tegan. More to come about that after it happens. However, do keep an eye out for my next post before then, I will be commenting on my friends birthday weekend, and my experience at the Van Gogh museum. Both were great times.
First of all, YES. I know that sunburn is cause by the angle of sun rays and not heat alone. And too actually say I got “sunburnt” is a bit of an exaggeration. Its much more of a light shading. The point of the title is though, that Spain, Baracalona in particular, has the most amazing beach I have been been too, in both October and ever.
About 3 weeks ago began the planning for the “World Tour 2012″. Greg and I sat down and looked up flights all across Europe. There is a very efficient airline called “Ryan Air” that is, as my friend Tegan would say, “is the Mcdonalds of airplanes.” Cheep but the quality is noticeably lacking. To put it in context, you could fly from Budapest (Hungry) to Brussels (Belgium) for 14 Euros after all fees.
With prices like that we were able to hit 3 major cities in only 7 days. We started our trip in Baraclona, but getting there was an adventure in itself. We left Holland at 7 AM for a 1 pm Flight, and barely made it because of a 3-min-layover missed train. It was scary to think we might have planned so much and then not made it, but Gregs persistence helped a lot and we made it.
Stepping off the bus in the center square of Barcalona was an intense moment. Even after being awake for about 20 hours, we felt alive just observing the busy streets in fast paced momentum. One thing leads to another and we find ourselfs at our hostal.
Greg and I joke a lot that he has very good luck. But there was no denying it this time when we walked in the front doors and learned that the hostal was but only a month old. The luck is in the fact that that night and the next night, the only two nights were staying there, just happens to be the investors party nights. In other words free food, free booz and a ska band blasting music, open to all guests. Cha-ching.
So we enjoyed the party and met two Romanian girls. They were sweethearts. One happened to be a semi-professional dancer that once danced to a crowd of 15,000! So after a few drinks the current accountant proved it at an irish bar. When the beat was turned up, she was turned on and danced like it was the last time she might ever. She danced so well that an irish man gave her a 5 Euro tip! The bar tender brought us all shots! AND they played a special song for her shortly after for an encore! It was ridiculous.
The next day Greg and I would run into them randomly while bike riding around. It was funny to meet in a random spot in Barclona but there was some real fun in renting bikes for the day. We were able to hit all the major spots, like the Arc La Rambla.
It would be this night however that we met our friends from Belfast Ireland. Kyle “yolo” and his boys were out front our hostal upon us returning in that night, at say, I dont know, 1 am? They were on our level, and dressed to kill in their Celtic jerseys. Literally dressed to kill, I would see a lot of rambunctious Irish men these two nights, but none so crazy as Kyle. So after our heated soccer debates on “whos the greatest” and who will take home the win in the Celtic V Barcalona game the next dat we decided to split ways. Ironically they were in the same hostal, so we walked in together and headed for the elevator. On its way up we foundout that they were on the same floor. We laughed a bit, until we got to the same door. Yup they were our roommates for the night. We spent the entire night talking! The funniest coincidence being our random child hood connection of Spyro the dragon.
The night hit a brick wall, however, at 7 30 am. When our tired eyes realized that breakfast was being served. So we took a trip down, and Mr. Kyle “Yolo” decided to make new friends. “Why you looking at me?” he said to the only other person at breakfast. Then a string of hilarity pulled from his mouth until we were knocked out about 15 minutess later in our dorm.
When will I be getting to sunburn you wonder? Right now. About 2 hours after breakfast greg and I wake up and peace out. Checkout was at 11 and we exited the building but had about 10 hours to kill before our flight. So was walked down to the beach and wow. Just wow. Never before have i seen such an amazing beach. So i rolled up my pant leg, and took off my shirt, ladies, and took a nice long stroll across Barcalonas beach, shin deep in water. It was clear. It was beautiful and there were tinyfish swimming all around me as if they were trying to play or something. I took 2 small rocks from this beach but one was tossed away at airport security. Jerk.
Overall this would be my favorite of the three locations visited last week. The following two posts, over the next two days will describe how the rest of the trip went. Oh, and one last thing. The beach on Barcalona was top-optional. Winky face.
The year is 1574. The day is October third. Its been over a year now that your city has been under spanish siege. The city wall is looking weaker every day. The supplied are quickly dwindling. Your close to starvation. And your only hope lies in the fact that it hasn’t stopped raining is months. When it finally happens.
The spanish retreat! The ”Geuzen” protestants fighting King Philip the second help liberate Leiden with the assistance of accumulating waters around Leiden to their advantage. Beer, hotch-potch and herring circulated around the town in rejoice. It was a glorious battle that is remembered and celebrated by all Leiden residence. And others from all around Holland too!
Over night the town turned into an amusement park. With rides and a roller coaster set up in the town center or where ever there was enough room! Stand after stand of the most alluring foods one could imagine. My favorite being a funnel cake like snack, thats rolled into a ball. Then drenched in sugar. There was also plenty of places to try one’s luck too, with carnival games set at every angle. But it wouldn’t be a festival without the beer stands that flooded the street down every major road. Oh, and how could I forget the stages set in is separate parts of the canal! Some rave-like with big lights and loud beats, others more rock playing all the Dutch and English classics! I am not going to lie, I was excited to hear them rocking some Billy Joel at one very special moment of the night!
Like Penn-state on game day, the streets were packed forcing one to move slowly to get from one end of a major road to another. Hundreds of thousands flooded Leiden and a strong portion making it out to the fireworks on the bay late on the third. 20 minutes of none-stop explosions left my eyes dry from forgetting to blink. It was freakin’ spectacular. Plus I had awesome friends there to enjoy it with. Also, I I captured a few minutes on an Iphone and will attempt to share with you, my very good looking blog followers.
Holland, known for their ability to DJ, has the crowd to follow it up. Strongly talented in their ability to give honor to the past and their independence today! On-set is a festival I am envious I don’t get to experince every fourth of July.
The moment opportunity and luck combine for a beautiful mixture in the seemly impossible to create a euphoria scenario that pushes the belief of mere coincidence. Its obvious, I am referencing great moments in X-factor history.
Its the chance. Its the risk. A x-factor can only happen when its no one is expecting it. Last Saturday morning I wasn’t expecting it, and thats when it hit me. But let me back-up first. This moment is only a great x-factor with its history. This blog is a testament to my study abroad experience, which could only happen if I gave up a final season of soccer. I love soccer, football, Votball. How ever you say it, I still love it. So I came to Holland over having a senior year of sport. Which of course kind-of sucks, a lot. That point I can not stress enough. Ok, back to the story.
After a drama filled night forced onto me by others agendas I awoke wanting to clear my head. I thought let me just run away from it. In a physical sense not metaphorical. So I strapped on my running shoes and sprinted out the door in a never before traveled direction. Often when I run here I always pick a new path and try to get lost. It gives me the opportunity to explore. In Holland I’ve come across a really nice park, with ducks and birds. Another time I stumbled upon wide fields of cows and grass. This time I found a fork in the road.
I could go left. Follow the line of trees and road to where ever it may take me. I could go right. Follow the streets back into the suburbs and observe more Dutch architecture. I went left. For no real reason except maybe, x-factor. I ran for several hundred yards before my keen sense of observation realizes that just beyond that long strip of trees to my left is a canal. And behind that canal…
The most beautiful series of soccer fields. Two turf fields, a perfect grass pitch, several nice-but-not-as-nice grass arenas, all lined one next to the other. Two buildings, with their club titles printed on the sides of the building and again on the flags that hung next to them, sat behind the center fields. I ventured in.
By passing the young-ins playing on the field I walked up the stairs and into a bar. Looking around I see a large window to the right over looking the fields, a tender tending to the thirsty adults, a pinball machine, a menu for food and soccer moms prepping their kids for battle. It was glorious. So I went ot the tender and asked, “How can I get involved?”
He went and grabbed a stern looking man for me. He had dark shades and small hoop earring, one most men could not pull off the way he could. We chatted for a bit. Long story slightly shorter, tonight, the second of November, I find myself with nerves again as I will be breaking in my new cleats on the field tonight with some of Leidens best young talent. At 7 I will be on the fields looking for Mario “with dreads”. Wish me luck!
It was a lazy afternoon, hanging around the dorms when my roommate first asked me if I knew about the event “Dont let Daddy Know”. Well apparently this party takes to the road, crossing European boards from Ibiza to Amsterdam. Mostly playing your typical club house music, but known for inviting special guests like Wiz Kalifia too. Wiz was not there last night, but even without him it was worthy.
Traveling halfway across the country for this show, we arrived in Amsterdam at about eleven thirty. Then we rolled-in the club at about midnight. The growing anticipation made it seem impossible to live up too. And yet it still did.
I don’t want to call it stories, because they were more like platforms. But there were three declining segments, with the lights, music and dance floor centralized on the basement floor. With several bars, one in the VIP lounge, one right next to the dance floor, and one in a cooler, more mellow, back dance room, for those who may not enjoy the “rave” like atmosphere. Toped off with a smoking room where, unfortunately for non-smokers, all the non-VIP chairs and benches are.
The lights and banners surround the three side of the dance floor from all angles that don’t climb up. Yet, my group of friends still managed to bring their own finger lights to enhance the light show anyway. Strobes flickered from all directions as sub woofers thumped the ground floor. So we set up camp right next to the best ones. It was clutch though because our position scored us some face time on the Facebook picture page. It was so awesome that the show ended at 5 in the morning, but we wanted to stay till 6.
It was the most over-whelming, in-control thing, I have ever seen. What is respectable about clubs in Europe is how respectful everyone partying there was. Often in the states I feel as though there are a lot of people who are either a little obnoxious or arrogant about their partying. Either there being distracting by attracting attention, or rude and demanding it. In AIR, the site of this shin-dig, I found it easy to pass by people in the club with people moving out of my way, rather than in it. Yet, one man sensing my Americanism, made a comment to me in French. What he said, I am unsure of. But he laughed, so I laughed and then we high-five’d. It was awesome.
We got back at about 6 30 in the morning and stayed up to watch the sun rise. We sat around and looked at our ridiculous pictures freshly snapped from at the club. Joked about absurd moments. And shared a quiet moment, appreciating how lucky we are we can even have the opportunity to have these experiences. The night was a blessing.
Just some of my friends enjoying the music.
Quick shout out to my mom, who shares a birthday with me. Happy birthday! And one more to you crazy St. Louis kids, and everyone in the LLC. Thanks for a memorable twenty first birthday.
Birthdays are a time for celebration. It is the recognition of another year of life experience and a temporary excuse to act like a celebrity. Which is not a bad thing, unless that celebrity is Charlie Sheen. Don’t be Charlie Sheen.
But birthdays are a symbol of maturity and status, which at certain ages becomes a pass to new, previously off-limits aspects of life that are granted only to those who have obtained the socially-given title of “Adult”.
Like taking a road trip after getting your license, new access to taboo things is usually greeted in-excess by the American culture. The Twenty-first birthday has that sort of mind-set attached to it. This is because it is the legal drinking age in America. Also the last thing I will ever have to wait for. Anything that my age previously held me back from, has past. Except renting a car at 25. But thats less exciting.
So the day began with a presentation meeting and class. Followed by laziness and naps. Then finally proceeded by a quick trip to my favorite burger place. It was awesome. Afterwards, however, I brought a bit of American culture to Leiden with me.
Following my roommates lead, we walked down to the courtyard of the dormitory to a group a people gathered together in celebration. It was a nice night and we hung around as the sun set. Then we went down to “Kaassers” where we met with another group of people also celebrating another persons september 11th birthday. It was a packed bar, that Tuesday Night.
I was greeted at the door with a round of presents given to my group from the bartender. Then continued to be showered in gifts all night. Before long, I was making my birthday known from the top of the bar! It was nice “finally” being able to enjoy a beer or two.
It was at about 11 or so when I decided that food is a very necessary idea. So I hoped on my wheels of my vintage brown bike, and pedaled down across the bride for a good ole American diet staple, McDonalds. Two burgers and a chicken sandwich, please. It was spectacular. Afterwards I returned to the group and partied like I earned it.
It was an awesome birthday spent in a foreign country. I could not have asked for better company and want to thank everyone who helped make it happen. It was a perfect day. I would change nothing. In the words of Charlie Sheen “Winning”.