Friday, April 27, 2007

Dad will be jealous!!!

Getting down to our last few days in England. It will be sad to leave, but I really am excited to come home. There really isn't much to write about this week as we have been relaxing mainly.

On Monday we got our pictures developed from the trip, so that was the excitement on Monday.

Tuesday John had an interview in Bristol, so we took the train up with him and spent the day there. We shopped while he went to his interview, and Adam got some new shoes. Then we went to see the suspension bridge.

On Wednesday we went to see a movie at the cinema - '300'. Adam and TA really enjoyed it, I thought it was pretty good, John fell asleep.

Thursday night (which is the night my dad will be jealous of), Ronnie (John's mom) had tickets to go see the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, and the friend of hers that was supposed to go couldn't go anymore, so I went instead. They played a Mozart piece first, which was pretty nice. Then a piece by Stauss, which I didn't like particularily - and it was too long. The main piece for the night was the 1st through 4th movement of Bruckner. That was good. I particularily liked the third movement.

That brings us to Friday. There are no exciting plans for the weekend either really, though we might be going to Cornwall on Sunday with TA, but we haven't decided where exactly yet. We leave John's on Wednesday next week when we will spend the night in London after seeing 'Wicked', which I am Extremely excited for! Then it's home!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Getting to Know Exhaustion

Day 12 (April 16th): BRUSSELS, Belgium
Belgium sucked; we hated almost the entire time we were there. (Slightly ironic for Adam, considering that Brussels provided more comic book stores in a city then any other country we've been to.) Our lack of enjoyment wasn't the fault of the country itself, per se, but more a combination of bad circumstances: for some reason nothing in Brussels opens much before noon; this is a northern european city -the capital city of the E.U. - and we were there on a non-holiday Monday. It probably didn't help matters, then, that we arrived at 6am. Complicating matters was the train union strike the Belgium had organized for that day, that no one had informed us of. After hours and hours of waiting, we were finally able to explore a couple of open stores before catching the first train of the day out of the country.

Day 12 (April 16th): LUXEMBOURG CITY, Luxembourg
Luxembourg is not a big country, and it really only has one major city - the capital - which really isn't that big (at least compared to the other cities we visited). Having realized this, we were prepared to spend less time in this city than others. Fate took this to heart. By mid-afternoon the Belgian train strike we reaking havok on the entire euopean train network - especially in its neighbouring countries, so we decided to forgo our immediate plans to visit the Netherlands, and to try to return to Italy - Venice, specifically. Unfortunately, this left us a mere hour in Luxembourg: half was spend eating at a Quick resturant (kind of like a French take on McDonalds), and the other half was spend at the post office.

Night 12: DIJON, France
This is where all of our best laid plans fell to pieces. Every travel office we visited told us that we could get a night train from Dijon to Venice, but that we wouldn't be able to reserve seats on that train until we got to next station. So we spent the whole afternoon criss-crossing train stations, heading south to Dijon. We finally arrived there around 8pm, and were promptly told that seats on the train we wanted could only be reserved 24 hours ahead on time, and we would have to wait until the train arrived to see in there would be space for us. We grabbed a quick dinner - doner kebabs (actually the best of these either of us had ever tried) - and then set about waiting for the train to arrive. At 1am (very, very late because of the Belgian train strike) the train finally arrived and we were informed that there was no space for us. The station master suggested waiting around and trying stand-by again the next night (by then we had passed the 24 hour cut off for reserving seats on the next train). Understandable this sounded like a stupid idea to us. After a restless night sleeping on the floor of the train station, we took the first train south the passed through Dijon the next morning.

Day 13 (April 17th): CHANTELY, France
Chantely was as far as we could go in France without reservations. (Our train passes allow unlimited travel in every European country, but we have to specifically book seats on any train the crosses an international border.) Thankfully, the station had room on an evening train heading to Milan - in Italy and only a few hours from Venice. We made the necessary arrangments and then spent a lovely afternoon in this beautiful little town in the French Alps. We shook the nonsense of the previous day and managed to get back to seeing new things and enjoying ourselves in foreign cultures - the whole point of our trip.

Maybe a little too optimistic...

Night 13: MILAN, Italy
The Belgian strike fall-out continued! Our French/Italian train SOMEHOW got delayed by two hours and we didn't arrive in Milan until almost midnight. No more trains were running out of the city, the station was closing, and no hostel or hotel had any spare room. This almost disaster, though, surprisingly ended up being quite nice. Even though the trains had stopped, Milan hadn't. The city was still in full swing - restaurants and tourist stores were open, buses and trams were zooming everywhere, people were walking around patrying and generally having a great time regardless of the time. The atmosphere was infectious, so we decided to take in the sights of the city. We went to the famous churches, took pictures of cool buildings, window shopped in the enpensive fashion district and had a lovely meal of panini and coke at a cafè in the central park.

Day 14 (April 18th): VENICE, Italy
Easily THE city that we had to see on our trip to Europe, Venice had some high expectations to live up. The city didn't dissappoint in the least. The cannals were as thin and numerous as expected. The roads and alleyways were more labyrithine than imaginable (even with sign posts and our expert memories and navigational skills we were pathetically unsuccessful at re-finding a delicious pizzeria). And the number and variety of Venitain masks kept Troë in a constant state of euphoria. Definitely a wonder of a city, and worth everything it took to finally get there.

Day 15 (April 19th): PARIS, France
At this point we decided to cut our losses. We'd been most everywhere we wanted to go, and there was room for us on an overnight train to Venice to Paris. Our lucky streak continued when the coach station gave us directions to a nearby hotel where we were able to leave our bags for less than we'd paid for a bottle of Coke in some cities. So our last day on the continent was a lazy care-free day in Paris with literally nothing weighing us down.

Day 16 (April 20th): LONDON, then TEIGNMOUTH, England
Our overnight to London arrived earlier then expected, so we took in the dawn with a nice stroll through Hyde Park on our way to London'd Paddington train station. A number of seemingly random train changes, and saw us arrive in peaceful Teignmouth by noon. Seaside British air, and a couple of fresh pasties, envigorated us enough to tackle the hike to John and Ronnie's.

After two and half weeks of living out of a back pack, it's nice to finally be somewhere we can call home.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Getting to Know the Art of J-Walking (a.k.a. Ruinous Walking)

Day 06 (April 10th): ATHENS, Greece
Our second day in Greece was much more eventful than our first. We spent the morning exploring the ancient ruins of the Acropolis (the hill-top in the city center where the Parthenon is), the Temple of Zeus Olympia (which is gigantic) and the ancient Greek Agora (the center of the Athenian city life in the B.C.E.). Everything was larger than life and it was awe inspiring to think about how long some of these structures have existed for. After all of the mornings walking, we spent a liesurely afternoon strolling through Athens' marketplace.

Day 07 (April 11th): PATRAS, Greece
This was not a city we had intending on visiting for longer than an hour or so, but in hind-sight we're glad we ended up with a full day here. Patras is Greece's third largest city, and the only major city on the west coast - making it a vital international port, and THE place we needed to be to in order to take a ferry to Italy. The city was beautiful, though, and much more in the quaint style we were expecting Greece to be. It was definitely a welcome break for the tourist infested metropoli that we found in our first days.

Day 08 (April 12th): BARI, Italy
Again, not a city we were planing on staying long in, but the italian train system being was it is, we had to spend the whole day in this little sea-side town before we could catch a train north. Again, though, a welcome surprise. We had a lovely afternoon basking in the southern Italian sunshine and had a delicious pasta lunch in a little side-street cafè. Somehow we foolishly forgot sunscreen though, and we were both a little pink by the day's end.

Day 09 (April 13th): ROME, Italy
Like Athens this was a huge city full of ancient monuments and packed with tourists. Rome was amazing, though, and the Italians seemed to find a unique balance between centuries old architecture and millenia old ruins. (The mix seemed to work a little better here than it did in Greece.) Our morning in the Vatican City was worth the thirty minute wait to get into St. Peter's Bascillica and our two hour wait to see the Sistine Chapel. Rome was the most tourist-ridden city of our trip though, and (maybe because of that) it was easily the dirtiest city either of us has ever seen.

Day 10 (April 14th): VIENNA, Austria
After spending most of a week dodging scooters and being crushed in crowds, the open Alpine sights of Vienna provided a welcome break. We awoke on the train at dwan as we were passing through the Alps and the views we undescribable. We had a relaxing day strolling through the most amazing selection of Gothic churchs and post-modern architecture. We had brautwurst hot dogs - the Austrian way - and took in some street performances (much better than what Bournemouth had to offer).

Day 11 (April 15th): BERLIN, Germany
Today has been above and beyond anything we would have expected from this city. From the ashes of a city completely reduced to rubble sixty years ago, and then divided for the second half of the 20th Century, Berlin has risen to be a beautiful modern city. With as many sites to see as other major Euopean cities, a colourful history, and both a pedestrian and tourist friendly layout and atmosphere, Berlin is definitely Europe's diamond in the rough. (Hopefully Curtis will enjoy the city next year as much as we have today.) The city has wonderfully preserved portions of the wall, updated the Reichstag building with a glass observation sphere, and filled the city center with green spaces.