Sunday, June 28, 2009

Day 27; Madrid

Today is my last day in Europe...

Oh man, what an adventure. I loved it all. Madrid, Segovia, Toledo, London, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, Milan, Lugano, back to Milan, Dublin, back to London, Barcelona and finishing at Madrid...all in 29 days.

This trip has shown me the ultimate ends of my patience to the ultimate highs and thrills only imagined. I've been overwhelmed, underwhelmed, up, down, confused, enthused, tired and rejuvinated. This trip has made me see it all, all of me.

Spending my last full day here in Madrid is very fitting as would not rather spend it anywhere else and as I write this it is now 2:10 a.m. and I've been sitting on this balcony near Plaza Espana over looking Gran Via for about three hours now. Watching the halfmoon go from straight up all the way out and set past the Western horizon. great night, great day.

I did sport my USA Olympic jersey into a couple different bars for the USA vs. Brazil soccer game and watched them lose by a goal in the final 10 min...but that's ok. I watched it in Europe...that's what I'll remember. I will write my last blog post for this trip either tomorrow or the day following, depending on my strength to even get back home. For now I listen to this ( and hope that all of you at some point do this (

Day 26; Barcelona/Madrid

I'm trying to stay up late and wake up really late to try and get ahead of the jet lag that is sure to doom me upon my arrival to OKC on Monday evening. This morning had me up at 9:30 a.m. and that is after I went back to sleep numerous times. Strange, but ok because I had to catch the 11:00 a.m. speed train to Madrid which set sail only 3 metro stops North of the hotel.

After I had all my things packed (and what an explodingly full backpack it is) I headed to the rooftop of the hotel to shoot some 360 degree footage of Barcelona. What a great view. As much fun and sterotypical as the skinny and winding streets are to walk in across Europe, it is definitely another experience to see the city from above....looks like mad chaos.

So, after the stunning 360 view spanning from the mountains to the Mediterrainean Sea, I headed on to the speed train to enjoy the 300 KMPH train on across Spain to Madrid. Man, we were hauling across the desert.

After wiping away the goosebumps from my arms which appeared after stepping off this train into the historic Atocha train station, I headed to the metro to find line 2 which will lead me back to Angela's apartment (one of my couchsurfing buddies from my first stint in Madrid).

It is Saturday and after expressing my desire to go shopping (I really only shop about once a year but European clothes are lots of fun and quite cheap as well) I headed out to the stores of H&M (, Zara ( and Sfera ( all which are quite popular in Spain/Europe and actually a few H&M stores across the United States (just not in Oklahoma).

So, I got quite lucky because I happened to be in Madrid during the annual "Rebajas" ( which is an annual city-wide sale where all clothing is near 50% off to clear warehouses to get ready for the next line of fashion. Still good for me because Europe's "old" line of fashion is still 2-3 lines ahead of where America (particuliarly Oklahoma) I'm set for another year but I really hope the bag is not overweight (Yes, I have an extra "empty" suitcase that I left at Angela's this whole trip to bring back clothes from shopping).

So, after a couple hours of shopping (really an hour and a half of walking and 30 min of shopping) I'm set for apacking and getting ready for my 10.5 hour flight back to the United Stated in 36 hours. ugggh. I hate that flight. The flight to Europe is done over night and sleeping is a must because you land in the morning...the flight over to the 'States is from noon to the evening and it's bedtime when you land so you're not "supposed" to sleep on that flight. It's annoying. 10.5 hours is so much longer than it sounds on a plane (for those that have never done a flight of that length).

Ok, back to my first love, Madrid.

So much truth in the stereotypes of the "skinny and winding streets" of Europe and especially in Spain. Just winding down randomly throughout streets off Gran Via and Plaza Espana. I almost want to/should just stop blogging right now in these final days because words aren't going to fully show the things i'm doing/feeling.

Tapas, mahou, Paco's, Corrientes 348, time alone, packing and thinking about OKC. What a great day.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Day 25; Barcelona

Today was definitely a good day. I am starting to become a believer in my original plan to finish off this trip with a couple of days in Barcelona (

Considering all 12 cities I visited on this summer gallivant, Barcelona, by far, is the most tourist friendly and I'm not talking about the tourist shops and dumb little decals/souvenirs, I'm talking about placing someone who has no idea about the city yet can easily get around and manage (with as little of hassle as possible) to see all the sites. The streets are all properly marked and names easy to find, subway is very efficient and very recognizable, bi/trilingual signs everywhere and smaller detailed maps surrounding popular corners throughout the city. I don't know why it was so difficult for many of the European cities to come on board to the fact that tourism is a major economic factor and it doesn't take a lot to make the city more enjoyable for travelers.

The weather got up to around 85 degrees today making a trip to the beach (reachable by subway in under 20 minutes pretty much everywhere in the city) a perfect way to relax this already beaten and bruised body. Even in this most "touristy" spot I was able to get a pitcher of Sangria and a bag of olive oil chips for around $9. I love Spain. With a towel down and the 55 SPF evenly smoothed out across my casper-like skin I napped while the waves hit the sandbank 15 feet in front of me. Perfect day.

I was there for a few hours before heading to grab some paella ( from the local menu del dia at a nearby restaurant just a 10 min walk off the tourist trail.

Also while in Barcelona I was able to see Gaudi's Garden ( and his Sagrada Familia ( The city is currently doing a major preservation on most of his buildings throughout Barcelona but that doesn't keep the jaw from dropping and shutters from capturing moments sure to be reviewed in the following years in frames throughout my house.

I also purchased my final form of transportaion for tomorrow's journey over to Madrid for the weekend. The last time I was in Barcelona (January 2007) the only ground transportation available was a bus that took 8 hours...but now Spaniards (and tourists) can take the speed train making that trip a meager 2 hours and 50 minutes as the train hits speeds a tad over 185 MPH (it's like sitting shotgun in a Nascar), I love Spain.

Many people throughout this trip have asked me my favorite place so far (quite a valid question) and of course I can list off the most famous cities we all grew up reading about (London, Paris, etc.) but I'm starting to realize that those places are mostly in my head because of certain artifacts or events throughout history and I love to see those things and make them priorities in my first few hours in any city...but I don't think artifacts should make the city, it should be the people and customs (completely realizing my bias in this statement) I choose Spain everytime. It's such a special place. Every city I've been to in Spain (Madrid, Barcelona, Toledo, Segovia, Granada and Sevilla) I always notice the genuine people first.

The people in those cities are proud of their culture. They are proud to live where they live. The people want to show off the things few tourists know about...the great local spots. They want to teach you their culture. They want you to leave their city wanting to come back. They want you to spread the word of how great their country and heritage is...and I do.

Spain will always be my favorite country outside the United States and whenever anyone asks me where they should travel if they have 7-10 days of vacation time...Spain. Head down South to see the Alhambra in Granada (, bus over to Sevilla and marvel at their Guinness Book of World Records cathedral and see the tomb of Columbus (real name is Cristobol Colon), head to the center of Madrid for the afternoon siesta and Museo del Prado, Retiro and Reina Sofia (and of course Paco's and countless botellines of Mahou cinco estrella), take the 30 min speed train to Segovia and stare at the 5th century Roman Aqueduct and the fairy-tale castleázar_of_Segovia. Grab another speed train on over to Toledo and cross the bridge and moat in the hill-top city and over look the rivers and finish off by heading Northeast to Barcelona and grab some Sangria and Paella while sitting on the world-famous beaches

You may not see the Eiffel Tower, the Mona Lisa or the Colesseum but those stories only go so far. Remembering conversations made in Spanish bars and cafes can be remembered with laughter and fond memories and replayed in your head over and over...until you make yourself go back the next year.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Day 24; London/Barcelona

For some reason when I woke up today, I decided to walk and not use the Underground. I know that sounds exciting but while carrying my 22 pound bag around it can get pretty gruesome after a few miles.

I had to head up to Notting Hill to get my sweatshirt from my first couchsurfing host, Jen, because I left it there the first time around. It was my "Segovia" purchase so I really wanted to make sure I brought it home with me. Okay, sweatshirt...check...insanity walk...bring it on.

I start walking from Notting Hill all the way back to the Victoria train station and it is definitely not just around the corner. Notting Hill is situated on the edge of Hyde Park and so I decide to walk through Hyde Park and just meander on over to the train station. I had about 2.5 hours to kill so I figured I would just mosey through the park and take some photos. Well, it's a very large park and once I found a map that showed that I was only 1/4 of the way through the park (20 min of walking) I decided to pick up the pace a little. (side note: I put my bag down for a minute break while in the park...put it down right on top of a pile of ) Ok, back to the story.

While walking through Hyde Park I read just about every tourist sign I could find; reading tidbits on the park's origins (originally "acquired" by King Charles for hunting deer) and continued my walk past the lake and horse trails etc..

As I finally got through all of the park's boundaries I get to a few signs that start pointing me to Buckingham Palace...sounds good, not too far off the path to the train station so I make a stop and the luck of the Irish followed me from Dublin because I got there right as they were performing the "changing of the guard" ( It was actually pretty cool and the crowd was enormous. People everywhere.

Now, on to the train station! (I say that with an exclamation mark not because I hate London...but I was headed to Barcelona!! Wahoo!)

Train went smooth, plane went smooth and lodging accomodations worked out perfectly. This is the part in the story where I, again, tell you how important it is to converse with people you don't know on trips because cool things happen like this...) It's always important to talk (you thought I was going to say "converse" ya?) to people you don't know on trips like this because while Aimee and I were in Toledo waiting for another train to head back to Madrid (because we missed our first train) we met a family (parents in the late 50's with 2 kids 24yr and 21yr) also waiting for the next train who were from New York. After talking awhile and exchanging trip plans we realized that I was going to be in Barcelona the same time the kids were (you know where I'm headed with this) they asked me to get ahold of them when I get to Barcelona...I did...and now I'm staying with them at a hotel. Awesome.

Totally random, again.

Great night out with tapas and a cool bar that Hemingway frequented...and yes, I tried the Barcelona Absinthe (, took me 30 min to finish, I thought it was quite gross.

Hasta manana.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Day 23; London

As I woke up this morning I decided I would take the time to upload some videos/photos. I was told that the house cleaner was arriving arround 9 and that she would be there cleaning for 3 hours (this is very important because I need to leave before or the same time she leaves because she has a key to lock up and I obviously don't). So, I get up around 9:30 a.m. and realize that the she's in the house cleaning and my couchsurfing host, Lucy, has already gone to work at the BBC and I figure I have lots of time to relax and upload videos/take a shower/ or whatever. So, I turn on the computer and check e-mails and do the normal stuff and decide to upload videos and then take a shower (side note, the videos take roughly an hour each but I can upload two at a time so I do that).

After my shower I notice that it's now 10:45 a.m. and the videos still have roughly 40 min remaining so I start getting dressed and have everything on except shoes and socks when the house keeper comes by and waves goodbye to me as she is about to walk out the door...WHOA!! I say and try to explain to her that I need to leave with her because I don't have keys (I say TRY to explain to her because she doesn't speak much English and I definitely don't speak whatever her native tongue is). So she figures outwhat I'm saying and I ask her for five minutes. She goes back into the kitchen to do...whatever it is she does... and I frantically start aborting my videos, putting on shoes and socks, folding blankets, packing my bag and gathering my things to leave for the day. Whew! It was definitely a rush but EVERYTHING worked out just fine so it was kind of a fun story to laugh at throughout my walk to the metro.

I had booked a hosetel for tonight at St. Christopher's Village and actually filmed the hostel and would upload it but pepole kept trying to ask me what I was doing while I was filming and after the third take I just gave up and found something better to do.

My second night here in London was poorly planned on my part because I just assumed I was staying with my previous couchsurfing host but I never gave her the dates and she booked a flight to Lisbon instead. So, hostel for the night, which was quite fun as it's connected to a bar/cafe next door and tonight was Karoke night. I tried to get on stage and bust some Digital Underground or Dr. Dre (in honor of my older brother) but they didn't have either...silly British people and their silly karoke. I was pretty tired anyway so to bed I go...OH! I forgot to mention I went to Wimbledon today. Yes, I went to Wimbledon but did not see any tennis at all, mainly because of the many reasons I don't like London: hard to find things and with the walking it took, 100% honesty, 2 hours and 25 min to get to...let's just say if it was my first day of the trip I would have made it work but at this point in my trip I wasn't willing to put forth as much effort as Wimbledon required.

So, off to take a shower then to bed. Quite noisy outside but I think I'll put some Norah Jones on and pass out soon. Cheers, from London. Barcelona tomorrow where I will be in my 8th different language city (they don't speak Spanish in Barcelona, they speak Catalon).

Day 22; London (again)

Well I left Dublin this morning to head on over to London and the airport process was so much easier this time around. The last time I flew Ryanair I experienced the most hectic lines I've ever stood in (but everything was good becasue I had 5 hours til my flight when the lines opened). It took me about 2 hours to get through the lines to fly to Dublin so I got to the airport really early again for this flight to London...took about 1.5 minutes this time. I was the only one at the counter and handed the lady my flight info and passport, she turned and handed it to another lady, that lady looked it over and stamped it and handed it back to me. "That's it?" I asked. "That's it," she responded.

So then I sat in the airport for a couple more hours. I just don't get Ryanair. How it could be so hectic and then so easy?? I'm not gonna complain to them though because this last flight I took literally costs $5.99. Yup, five dollars and 99 tax. I don't get it, but I love it.

Upon arriving into London, about 3:00 p.m. I had to take the 30 min tram into the city center from the airport...$33 U.S. dollars. :) traveling is so funny. $5.99 for a flight from Dublin to London but $33 from the airport to the city. I have an enormous love/hate relationship with London. Now comes the love part.

I had roughly four hours until I met up with my couchsurfing host, Lucy, so I decided to walk around London for awhile. London is gigantic. I first headed to Parliment Square where all the biggest tourist stuff is; Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Thames River and the London Eye. Always an eye-opening little square of famous "history-book"buildings.

After I left Parliment Square I tried to make my way on over to Hyde Park, without a map. Bad idea...well, bad idea if the priority was Hyde Park. My actual priority was a park to spend a couple hours in while I waited til 7:00 p.m. for my couchsurfing host, Lucy. I got way lost. London is a very cool city. So much history, so much to offer, so much to see that even my four days total here really doesn't scratch the surface (that is another "love" part of London). But, London is a big pain for the traveler (me) who like to walk from place to place because London is gigantic!! I would love to place the London Underground (the tube) on a map of Oklahoma City and see exactly how far it spreads out on a map that I'm familiar with (there are many smart people out there reading this that could convert the scale...let's talk).

So, after I realize just how lost I am (by the way, doing this sort of trip where you are in a new city every two days you are constantly lost, and very frustrated often) I start asking people where Hype Park is. Now, for as popular and big as Hyde Park is I figure that to be an easy question, it's not. London is THAT difficult to walk around (rephrase, very easy and quite a great walk if you have no destination and just want to wander around) but I got many vague points to Hyde Park, some"not too sure of the streets" and a few "I'm a tourist and have no clue"'s so I decided to settle for the closest park I was too, Regents Park.

Great park and made some friends with a very couragous squirrel and the scary pigeon that wouldn't stop staring at me.

So, now that it was near 7:00 p.m. I decided to head to the couchsurfing host's house. I end up getting off a stop too early (definitely my own fault) but since the price of a one-trip underground trip costs $6.75 in American (New York's is $2.00...another one of my "hate" parts of London) I decided I would walk from. Remember how I mentioned how huge London was?? It took me 45 minutes to walk there. Now, part of that was because: 1. I didn't really know where I was going 2. London doesn't like to label their streets with signs very often because that would be too convenient for tourists and 3. Even if they did name the streets the name would change every two blocks because that's a good way to label streets....geez, ok that was the hate part of London coming out in me, again, sorry.

So, I get to Lucy's and things were great from then on. She was a lot of fun and a great person to sit and have a long conversation with. She works for the BBC too so we had a lot of good conversations about media and TV...she works in the "Event Coordination" department...we talked about soooo many cool things... how come the U.S. media never really talks about anything but the United States? The European Union has some great news going on right now; great time to be here and learn.

Well, bed time. Tomorrow, London again and maybe Wimbledon. Cheers from London.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Day 21: Dublin

I must say, my stop in Dublin was definitely a good move. Ireland is great and did you know that they drive on the left side of the road like in England??? I had no idea.

Today I got to visit the Jameson Whiskey Distillery ( and then headed to the Guiness Brewery ( The Jameson Distillery (I am not a whiskey drinker at all) was actually a really good experience. It was fun to learn all that goes into making such an old practice such as making whiskey and (because I love "experiencing" history) it was a lot of fun to actually be in the room and see the first cast that John Jameson made his first barrel of whiskey back in the mid 1700's. We (group of about 20) also had a tour guide take us through all the rooms and explain all the processes which helped quite a bit.

The Guiness factory was quite a different experience. It was like a brand new 6-story museum. Glass floors and escalators with a very open environment and no tour guide; a move-at-your-own-pace kind of place. The very top of the building had a 360 degree view bar of all of Dublin which doesn't sound very high (6th floor) but was actually above most buildings across the city.

Those two actually took up about 3.5 hours combined with the walking in between but another highlight of the day was my lunch...bowl of soup, apple and a water. mmmmmmm good, however, I was unable to find a bench in the 10 minutes of walking. I didn't want the soup to get cold I just sat down on the sidewalk and ate. I should have found a bench because while opening the soup container I spilled a little bit of soup on my shorts...yes, the shorts that I bought in Prague 5 days ago...I've worn them everyday since but now that there is a creamy vegetable soup stain on them I think it's time to buy some new shorts.

Anywho, after the Guiness factory (and a free Guiness at the top of the brewery) I headed back to my hostel (last minute was only 12.50 a night, how in the world could I say no that.....ummm with a couchsurfing host maybe?) and the first e-mail I saw was from my older brother telling me to find a TV and watch the U.S. Open. When I get something like that from Mike ( it means either Phil Mickelson is doing something ridiculous or Tiger is just being Tiger. Turns out, it was the first option which suited me just find because he's my favorite.

So on the wise older brother's advice I head to a pub (one of the most famous in London) "The Temple Bar,_Dublin" and start watching the Open with two people from Tennessee (hey, I would have watched it with locals if locals cared at all about golf.

Phil lost. :( But at least he showed up to play ( Anywho, again, after that it was merely just a walk again down Abbey street ( and over to Dublin's strange Spire ( after staring at it for about 90 seconds I figured it was time to head back (I am so exhausted).

So, now that it became 8:30ish p.m. (I think AP Style should apapt "ish" to their official time structure) I decided to shave. Ouch. I think I might be finished with shaving until I get back home (7 more days and my face, neck and patience would love it. I, again, had to buy a cheap dumb razor for just a one-time use because tomorrow I board a plane and they won't let me bring on a razor (they also made me get rid of my spray deodorant, grrrr, I got a stick deodorant so I'm all set).

So, after the 45 min of shaving and tremendous razor burn I started calling people. I tried my dad again to tell him Happy Father's Day (still haven't gotten ahold of him) and I actually had the wrong number (I remedy that situation soon). So I call my work (no, I'm not lame, I just like my coworkers) and talked with all of them for about 45 min. Throughout my talk with them I got numerous Skype calls from my grandma (Dear) and called her back after. It was my mom, uncles Max and Mark and my grandma, Dear, too!! :) Very delightful video chat! :) I love Skype ( My mom gave me my dad's correct number and I called and talked to him afterwards. Hooray!! Ok, Father's Day for the Cornett's is set for the Sunday of the British Open...I'll be there!! Another Hooray!!

Now, off to bed. I need it. Soooooo tired. Plane tomorrow to London. Til tomorrow, Cheers from Dublin.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Day 20; Dublin

The use of language has got to be the coolest and most proud aspect that humans have the ability to use. I have now traveled to countries that speak in seven different languages: Spanish, English, French, Dutch, German, Czech and Italian...but what a treat and luxory it is to speak English.

English is quickly becoming an international language. Last night, I took the late bus to the airport (for an 11 hour airport sit) as I got to the bus stop, a Turkish guy (all people in this story are in their mid-20's) started talking to me about getting a better rate by getting our tickets together, so we did. As we get on the bus we sat near the front and continued to comes a girl from Moscow on her way to Paris and sits by us on the bus and starts speaking to us in English, in this great stereotypical Russian accent. 5 min later, a guy from Taiwan sits down next to her and says, "Is this the English conversation?"

The next 30 min we all just had a conversation in English (practice for the other three) and I just sat back and marveled at the lucky break I got from being born an American. I hear it all the time (and everytime it's true) that I am lucky to be an American, but when I get to actually witness it, it's an even greater realization.

I still fully intend on getting the Rosetta Stone (not the one I saw in London but the language program) and learning Spanish.

I am captivated by language. Seemingly nonsense words now turning into lasting conversations on an hour-long bus ride in Milan (We were all in Italy, none of us spoke Italian and all from different parts of the world yet shared laughter and smiles because of a common language).

Jumping down from the soapbox, Dublin is phenomenal. It is exactly like I pictured it...thousands of little pubs "McNellie's-style" all over the place and on every corner.

I really got to experience the people in Milan and Lugano and now in Dublin. While traveling with two of my friends I tried my best to interact with locals but when it is your only chance for conversation for the day, you try even harder.

Since my friends left and went back to the U.S.A. I have had sooo many encounters with locals that I wish a photo would suffice. I even try to take photos of the situation but nothing compares. Tonight (in one pub) I had a local explain to me the rules of rugby as we watched the live match on tv. Heading to another pub, I had a local raise his glass to me and wish me safe travels, afterwards we (and a few other locals) watched Brazil beat up on Italy in the soccer game. In Milan, some locals bought me beers and asked me to sit with them while I waited for my couch surfing host, Claudio...people are great. People, in my opinion want to do the right thing, the good thing...whatever that might be. I believe OKC is another example of people opening their generosity wallets and sharing whatever they have with strangers.

Being on the road for the past 3 weeks has really showed me what it is like to be an outsider. Seven languages and four currencies later, I have learned what it's like to try and fit in and fail miserably and depend on someone around me for help. People want to help. I have learned that I have to make myself available, swallow that pride and just talk, in the best broken (whatever native) language I'm in and open myself up.

Whether or not they speak English, people are still people.

Good night from Dublin.

Happy Father's Day!!

Ok, so it's only 3:30 p.m. here but this is the first time I've beed able to use the internet and I just wanted to use it shortly to say HAPPY FATHER'S DAY, Dad!!

It has pretty much been a tradition every Father's Day that my mom, both brothers and I crowd the livingroom with my dad to watch the final round of the U.S. Open. :) Might sound corny to some of you but I've always enjoyed it. This year, not only am I out of the country but my dad is also on a flight...somewhere. Plus, this year's U.S. Open is delayed because of rain so I have an idea...let's try this whole "Father's Day" thing during the British Open next month...ok? ok, good, I'm glad you agree. I just called you, Dad, on skype and left a message but I'll try again later. I did, however, just talk to Dear (my grandma on my mom's side) on skype with video and everything! Awesome. Sometimes, I really love technology, and I love you too Dear!

Can't forget a big Happy Father's Day to my older brother, Mike. Lily is coming up on 2 years old and I can't wait to get back to see her...and see you too of course. :)

Ok, well after an 11 hour stay in Milan's ORIE AIRPORT (not Malpensa) I have finally left and am in Dublin and so far the walk around was great but now I'm off to watch some futbol in some Irish Pub.

Luck of the Irish is definitely on my side today.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Day 19; Milan (again)

After last night's debauchle of missing my flight to Liverpool and having to frantically find a place to sleep and a new flight out of the city that hates me (Milan) I am finally on my way (again) to the airport. It is amazing how much you can plan and prepare for something and no mater what you do...something seems to wrong at somepoint. I guess it's just a lapse of concentration but it sure messed up a couple of days that I really want to have back.

I am a giant Beatles fan. My iPod plays all their albums all the time and I had it scheduled to go to the Beatles' hometown of Liverpool for about 35 hours (2 nights) only to see sights like "Strawberry Field" and "Penny Lane" and love every minute of only downfall was that I took a bus that was 25 feet in front of the bus I needed. Ohhh the glory of hindsight. (Go to the next bus!! Not that one, the one behind it!!!) Why didn't someone scream that to me?

Ok, well if you read yesterday's blog you will find all the details but basically today has become a wash and I no longer got to see Liverpool (on this trip) and will trek ahead to Dublin as originally planned tomorrow at 11 a.m. Because I never successfully met up with my previous Milan couchsurfer I will not suffer the delerium of finding another hostel or hotel and will instead head to the airport on the latest bus tonight, 11:15 p.m. (15 min from now) to make sure I don't mess THIS flight up. I had a great dinner (the absolute highlight of today) eating and drinking with some locals while watching a futbol game.

I got to watch Spain vs. South Africa and I was the only one rooting for Spain to beat South Africa. I didn't care. Spain was winning and some little pathetic part of me felt like that was important at the time being. I rooted them on to victory at a 2-0 win.

Well, short blog because I don't want to be late for the hour long bus awaiting me. I am still in high spirits regardless of the downpoor of bad luck in the past 24 hours and press on towards Dublin and trying my best Irish accent.

Here's to 12 hours at the airport...cheers!

Day 18; Lugano-Milan

Oh, my.

Today was definitely an adventure unexplored by me.

Waking up and lounging around in Lugano for a few hours, saying goodbye to that beautiful place was rough but it had to be done in order to catch my 2:37 p.m. train back to Milan so that I could fly to Liverpool later on at 10:10 p.m. So, ciao and a very big thank you to Margaret, Allie, Lizzie, Jesse and Kevin for such a perfect two days in my upside-down atypical journey across and back again through Europe. Hugs and photos...check. Catch the train...check.

Arriving in Milan at 4:00 p.m. I realized my flight didn't leave for Liverpool for another six hours and decide to go back to the Duomo (Cathedral) and take the stairs to the very top (I would include photos and video but I'm at an internet cafe and not on my laptop so I can't upload anything). The view from the 108 meters (roughly 30 stories) rooftop of the Duomo was breathtaking. From the view across all of Milan to the plaza below, the white marble cathedral had me take in an even higher appreciation for the city.

5:15 p.m. Head back to Milan Centrale (where my bag is resting in a locker and also the location for the shuttle buses that head to the Milan airport(s). I've still got some time to spare so I walk around the plaza and find a pizzeria and grab a smoked ham- gouda cheese sandwich. mmmmmm good. I standup to walk out and realize that it's now only 6:00 p.m. I told my self that I needed to be at the shuttle in time to make the 7:50 leg to the airport. The bus takes 50 min to get to the airport...I know this because I've already taken it 3 times in my life. :)

Ok, so I still have some time to spare so I walk past a chinese restaurant and noticed nobody (not one single person) was eating there and the entire family of owners sat inside and I could tell the kids (teenagers) wished they could be doing ANYTHING else on a Friday night. I decided to eat, again.

After a great chinese meal it is now close to 7:00 p.m. and I decide to just go ahead and be there early to be safe. I grab my bag out of the locker and hop on the 7:30 p.m. bus to Milan-Malpensa (main airport in Milan). Upon arrival, I exit the bus and ask the bus driver if he knows what terminal the RyanAir company flies out of (I was really just trying to speak some more Italian before heading to the UK). He looked at me like he didn't understand...understandable because I really don't speak Italian and my words were probably just not said right...I start to repeat my pathetic Italian phrase again. He stops me mid sentence, "Yes, yes, yes I understand you, but, (I didn't like the "but") RyanAir is at Orie." My brain immediately started searching my abridged Italian vocabulary section trying to recall this word, "Orie."

Now that it's obvious I don't exactly know what he is saying. He tells me, "This is Milan-Malpensa (I nod with a very enthusiastic understanding of such a simple phrase) but RyanAir is at Orie...a different airport."

Many words now were going through my brain but I'm told they are "French" so I figured he wouldn't understand them.

"How far away is that? (I have about an hour to get to the ticket counter)?"

He just shakes his head...we have about a 2-sec staring contest and then he takes me to a taxi driver that speaks even less English than the bus driver but explains to the taxi driver my situation. The taxi driver looks at me and pulls out his calculator and types "180" and says to me as he holds up this pre T-1 calculator, "1-8-0 euros." Now is my cue to start the silly smiling facial expression that implies "I'm stuck in Milan at 8:30 p.m. at least an hour until I can even get back to the city to even start my flight search as well as a bed for the night" The bus driver recognizes that look, "Back to Milan (with a finger gesture to some unknown spot off in the distance)?" I give the most pathetic nod out of reaction of my pathetic situation.

He takes me to another bus driver on his way back to Milan Centrale. He explains my situation and the new bus driver tells me, "No charge, on the bus." It was an order I took immediately. After a "Grazie milo" to the previous bus driver I hop on to the new bus back to Milan...again.

Immediately (10:05 p.m.) after arriving into Milan I head to an internet cafe I saw earlier in the day...get on couchsurfing and tell my host in Liverpool not to pick me up at the airport. Then I messaged my couchsurfing host here in Milan (Claudio) to see if I could stay with him again (I eventually got a response back from him at midnight telling me to come on over...but I didn't receive that til the next morning).

Off to a couple of hostels I saw online. Arrive at the first one, 10:50 p.m., rooms. Second one, 11:10 p.m., rooms. I ask if he can call any in the area and find an open room. He told me he already did that about 20 min previous and there are no more rooms...hooray.

I just start lugging my already heavy bag down some random street, 11:30 p.m., and walk into a room!!! Only €50 ($75)!! For summer rates on a Friday night this late in Milan...this was very pleasant news. So, I walked into my "Planes, Trains and Automobile-like hotel" and shoot some some TV (Jackass was on in me, at this point I needed a chuckle and you don't need to speak Italian to think that show is funny).

Goodnight, Milan...again.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Day 17; Lugano

Lugano was probably the least researched city on my part. I knew it was supposed to be beautiful but this place is off the chart. I didn't know the curreny (Swiss Franc), the language (Italian) or the address to where I was staying the first night but everything has worked out like clockwork.

Last night was great just getting to know the students here at Franklin University. My "roommates" in Lugano are Margaret, Allie, Liz (Allie's twin sister) and Jesse. All are a blast to be around and remind me so much of my University years and it was good to be around that influence again.

After a great sleep I woke up to the sound of birds chirping and the hot sunny sky here in Lugano, Switzerland (

My balcony is crazy beautiful and I decided that today I was gonna tackle the downtown setting of Lugano. I didn't know how or what I really looking for but Margaret and others suggested some local spots and I headed on down the road. First stop- lunch.

I kept seeing regular lunch signs for nearly 15 Francs ($14) and all I was looking for was a sandwich/panini of somesort so that I could walk around and eat it at the sametime (plus, eating at a sit-down restaurant for every meal for 29 days doesn't really add up financially or very timely efficient with so much to do).

So I order (in my best Italian) the panini that looks the best. The sandwich as a whole was good but I guess I missed a small ingredient...olives. Yuck! (mom like them) I think they are disgusting and were actually located IN the bread. I am sure that sounds great to some olive lovers out there but it was a gross part of the trip for me. I coped by picking the olives out of the bread and sat on this bench ( and ate the panini and drank my Coke Zero and smiled.

I proceded to find a shady tree to lie under and listened to Coldplay's Viva la Vida album and doze off. Yes, birds woke me up again except this time because they were about 4 feet from my head...almost as if they were asking me to scoot over so that they could get a certain worm under me.

I got up, silenced the iPod and immediately made a new friend with a swan ( I don't know if I've ever seen a legit swan up close but it sure was captivating. It looked at me for quite a long time and cleaned its feathers right in front of me almost as if to show me how its done ( I snapped a large amount of photos; so much that the battery light started session over.

After a stroll through the park I eventually came back to the apartment to absolutely just sit around in this fairytale-like town. It was pretty hot and a shower was calling for me loud enough that ignoring it was no longer an option.

Shower accomplished and all electronics charged and ready to go for the next city (Liverpool, I have been told by my Liverpool couchsurfer that he will pick me up at the airport (instead of taking the tram which is 45 min trip into Liverpool). Actually, I recognized that my flight doesn't arrive into Liverpool until 11:20 p.m. and when I expressed my thoughts on getting a hostel instead of having anyone wait til 1 a.m. for me to arrive his repy was,

" Dude, I am a night owl. Don't bother with a hostel. You're trying to couch surf your way around Europe (I read your blog) so there's no way you're doing a hostel.
Let me know your flight number. I'll be there to get you at Liverpool Airport no worries."

Yes, I love

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Day 16; Milan/Lugano,

I had an early wake up call (8:00) for two reasons:Claudio had class (he is in law school) and because I had tickets to the Last Supper for what I thought was an hour long window of 9:30a.m.-10:30 a.m.

Once Claudio left for the metro and we spilt ways I headed for the main train station, Centrale, to put my enormous bag in a locker. After getting lost in the century old train station and actually having someone from the information desk physically show me where it was (because I was already too lost from some ill-advised info from the ticket couter lady). So, bag checked and headed for the Santa Maria Delle Grazie church to see THE mural, Da Vinci's "The Last Supper."

I get there and quickly realize my ticket is in my bag that I searched so hard to find a locker for. Since I am 20 min away by metro I decided I would try and just show the ticket counter my ID in hopes that Im not the only tourist to forget the ticket and they would be able to look up my name.

After pleading with the lady to excuse my carelessness of now being late as it was now 10:00 a.m. (it wasn't a 1 -hour ticket yet merely an appointment strictly adhered to, but also that I didn't have my ticket) and to just search for my name instead...she said she would and she looked (HOORAY!) but she did not see my reservation...(cue a sad song

She said come back with the ticket that I had left in my backpack and it would all be ok. Sounds great.

For the time being (and because Claudio suggested it) I headed over to Milan's enormous park ( to walk through and at the end of the park would be this phenomenal castle ( Gorgeous park, great walk and an even better than dreamed castle.

The castle was first started in the 14th Century and was reconstructed/added on in about every century since with some help from Leonardo Da Vinci as he lived in Milan more than any other city (so I'm told).

The castle was amazing. Exactly like you dream of when you think of a 14th Century castle. It was enormous with a great "standing" moat with guard towers and archers's windows. I bought an audio guide for the first time today to hear more about the castle (it helped very little).

I also went into all the many museums that are located inside the castle and was actually so very fortunate as to see Michelangelo's last "Pieta" (it was unfinished at his old 90 yr age). Being an enormous Michelangelo fan (I've seen the Sistine Chapel, Statue of David, the "Pieta" in the Vatican etc. I was thrilled to see this work of art Video and photography...check.

Ok, back to the Last Supper debauchle. After the few hours spent at the castle, I scurried over to my lockered bag at Milan's Centralle Station and grabbed my bag and my ticket. With an hour and 45 min remaining until my train to Lugano I knew I had to hurry to the church and hope they still accepted my (now more than 5 hours late) ticket to see the cherished painting.

At first it didn't seem like I would still be able to see it because the lady who told me to come back was no longer there and I had to hope the counter people would trust my true story and let me in...they did! I was soooo extactic! I almost jumped across the counter and kissed the ticket lady (she was cute too, but my grandma won't allow me to have an international you Grandma!).

So I fell in line and at 3:15 and saw it Oh my goodness. I have seen many cool things (Collesium, Eiffel Tower, Sistine Chapel, Parthenon, Statue of David, Mona Lisa etc..) but this was pretty empowering. The size of the painting is what took me away as I pictured a slightly larger than normal size painting...but this was a wall mural probably 15 feet high and near 30 feet long. I stood there for 15 minutes until they kicked me out for the next group. Da Vinci is so great. So was Milan. Off to Lugano!!

I am staying with a group of Fankin University students in Lugano Switzerland. I show up without the address (it was in an e-mail I forgot to write it down), no clue on where to get internet and only 2.50 euros...I also didn't know if they even took the euro (they don't) or what language they speak (Italian). It's all good though because Margaret was there at the train station!! Hooray! No more worries. :)

After dropping my bag off I head to the school's BBQ, play a little footaball (both American and European), volleyball in the gym and beer/salsa on the most beautiful apartment balcony I've ever been on ( More photos and videos to come. :)

Sleep in and stay in Lugano all day tomorrow. Let you know more then. Ciao.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Day 15; Milan

9 hours of sleep...that's how it should be. Woke up feeling great and had 4 hours to kill. First objective: shave.

I have shaved only twice during my 16 days so far and decided today was going to be the third. We picked up a few razors and knew that bringing them on the plane would raise a few flags So I decided to use a couple of razors out of the cheap package of 5 we bought previous. I also learned little razors hate my face and my neck. I never knew that. After the constant bleeding on numerous parts of the neck and face I was raring to go! Bring on Prague (again)!

So, Doug and I headed out of the hotel with no real objective other than to head to a plaza and big building we saw on a poster ( It was a real pretty street and sure beat the inside of a hotel room but it wasn't much more than a time filler. Eventually we found a vendor on the side of the street to sell us a "chicken hamburger" and "the longest hot dog I've seen" all for the bargain price of just under 200 crowns ($10) and they came with a Coca Cola Light and a fanta. Scrumptous lunch.

Cruising down this fabled street with small rose bushes everywhere, I began to notice that I was entering the shopping district. Seeing my favorite store, H&M (please come to OKC), I quickly took inventory of what I "needed." I actually just bought some necessary items back in Berlin (t-shirts, and a few pairs of some style of underwear which at the moment are kinda uncomfortable) but realized that since I haven't done laundry yet because I've primarily been throwing away socks and white-t's, I only have about one-day's worth of wardrobe left. Ok, so I bought a pair of shorts and some socks. It was a good idea because it also bought me a few days until I have to do laundry...probably wait til Lugano.

With full bellies, new socks and a new pair of shorts which I will ultimately wear for at least four more days, I am set for Milan. Doug and I goof off in a few more stores taking note of the pragueish surroundings and head for the metro. On to the airport!

After I arriving at the airport and parting ways I was *fortunate* enough to catch the end of the Chile vs. France futbol game before my flight (yipee) then boarded my easyjet plane to Milan to begin my voyage alone.

My first stop upon arriving in Milan was to go back to the coveted Duomo that I love and actually have a poster of it in my apartment. Amazing. All marble and gothic as can be.

From there I set off to get some grubb and settled on a pizza place (how Italian of me) and had a 4 formaggio and Heinekin.

Now to meet my couchsurfer, Claudio. Technically I haven't met him yet as I am writing at the "Birrificio Lambrato" which is a local brewery in Milan.


OK UPDATE: I wrote all of the previous text in a corner by myself at the "Berrificio Lambrate" (local brewery/pub in Milan) while awaiting Claudio, my next couchsurfing host. While waiting, the table next to me (3 Milan locals, 2 actually from Japan and one from Germany but have been living in Milan for years and spoke Italian fluently and plenty of English) asked me to sit with them since I was by myself. I sat with them (of course I did)...and if any one of you three are reading this, e-mail me!

They were so much fun to talk to and when Claudio showed up we all just sat around and talked for an hour or so. What a great night. I took video of them but not as much as I should have. I really wished it was earlier in the evening and could have talked for a few more hours because we were having great discussions on Milan and America...absolutely everything that is supposed to happen on trips. None of this strictly hotel stuff...get down in the pubs...speak to locals...learn the people for crying out loud!! One of the best nights I've had on this trip.

After Claudio and I left the pub we had a great discussion on American/European government. Mainly just about the pros and cons and the differences between the two. I love those discussions, especially with people who actually know what they're talking about instead of from people in America telling me second or third hand stories. One very important thing I am further learning on this trip is the utmost importance of conversations from people from the local just doesn't get more influential than that.

I'm now on Claudio's pull-out IKEA couch. A wonderful four-fold white soft cushion chair/couch waiting for my unconsciousness...time to give in.

Tomorrow, Lugano, Switzerland.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Day 14; Prague

Day 14 is pretty much my halfway point because I'm not really counting June 1 because all I did was sit on a plane to Dallas and then the same to Madrid...nothing exciting happened unless you count the last minute trek to Wal-Mart to get a plug converter and a last second goodbye to my darling neice, Lily (

Today was the last day Doug and I would be traveling together before I head to Milan and continue another grueling two weeks seeing 7 more planes and 3 more trains and he heads to London before a night of heading back home.

This trip originally started when Doug and I had another crazy idea of Europe traveling (last year we went up Italy; Rome, Florence, Venice and Milan) and knew we had 10 days for his schedule and planned out a June 7-17 trip...I just extended mine by going to Spain beforehand and adding all the crazy stuff afterwards. The trip thus far has been great and he is a blast to travel with. Aimee also joined me for June 3-13 and left for OKC on the second day of Berlin...her addition was sorta last minute which added some already strong fuel to the weeks leading up to this enormous trip. Thanks go out to both of you, Aimee Freyman ( and Doug Vrooman (, for making the first half of the trip a very memorable one.

Ok, the day in Prague started out with another long train ride (just over four hours) but ended up being ok because I spent most of that time labeling photos and date I have over 170 videos of this trip ranging from 7 sec to 3 min. Arriving in Prague felt like second nature to us because this was the 8th different city I've visited so far and the 6th different by second nature I mean that it was a completely new environment, new map, new streets, new language, new food and new landmarks.
Prague was actually the only hotel booked for the entire trip. We only have 24 hours in Prague and we didn't want to spend many hours out searching for our couchsurfers house and chatting it up with so little time to be in the city.

So, checked into hotel and off through the "old" city, Prague - In Prague's city center is one of their most treasured attractions, a 700 year old astronomical clock. Pretty intriguing to see in person and something I definitely want to look up more info on later.

From there we trekked on through the biggest tourist area with shops I've ever been to. Every shop had the same souveniors and took forever to get through...because of the constant bobbing and weaving we had to do to avoid all the lost and bedazzled tourists (

We finally got through the swamp of tour buses and loads of people to reach the Charles Bridge ( that leads over the Vitus River on up to the Prague Castle (

We got lost. We first realized it whenever we looked around and realized that the only people around were ourselves and a Czech man that had to be 7' tall. Ok, re-group and grab a Coca Cola Light and find a sign to the castle. Coca Cola Light...accomplished ( Find a sign...accomplished. Only thing missing? We don't speak Czech and there are seven signs pointing in 3 different directions in a language so undecipherable that we try to narrow it down to two signs we believe it could be and go with option one...should have gone with option two.

30 min later...hooray the castle!! How we missed the enormous structure is incomprehensible but nonetheless we had arrived.

The most miraculous thing about the castle grounds was the St. Vitus Cathedral ( Wow, it was pretty miraculous (nearly 700 years old). I took my video camera inside and filmed around a little then we left and walked around the castle grounds. The castle has a huge "Royal Garden" that goes all around the cathedral in a big valley with concrete old walls up on both sides...felt like being in a forrest in the middle of nowhere.

There was a stream and small bridges with ducks and birds all over the place. Pretty cool just to have something that beautiful just up a hill and free of charge to walk around whenever any Prague citizen feels.

That was pretty much the extent of our adventures in Prague (besides jumping on a random bus that led around the city and then jumping off at a random metro spot to head for some dinner and much needed rest.

Time to change my Crowns into Euros and head on down to Italy. See you tomorrow OKC.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Day 13; Berlin

Ok, first off, couchsurfing is such a marvelous thing. I have gotten to do some things because of couchsurfing that I never would have done had the people on that site not been so gracious with their homes and their generosity.

Today, was another one of those moments.

First off, we got to stay with Lilith from Berlin. She was also housing two other couchsurfers the same night and told us that there wasn't much room and that we would be sleeping on camping mats if we showed up....We were fine with that. ( needs more hosts like Lilith).

The other couchsurfers, Joel and Liz, were both on their own trips and were both from the U.S. and were both great. Lilith lived in the NE section of Berlin in an old apartment that predated WWII which is actually a rarity and a great gem to see considering much of Berlin was bombed and few of these apartments still remain.

The apartment had ceilings roughly 14 feet high and wood floors. The outside walls were also roughly 2 feet thick keeping the apartment temperature controlled year-round. It was another great historical "attraction" on my trip that I didn't consider.

The night I showed up (nearly midnight) ended after an improve dance party started by our host. :) It was hilarious. Lilith and Joel went to go brush their teeth when the cd turned to a loud dance beat. The two of them came out dancing like in a disco and we all joined. What a fun moment. I actually have it on video too. :)

The sleeping on the mats really wasn't bad because we were so exhausted from the previous day. I fell asleep right away but woke up early because of the sunlight and got up to do internet stuff anyway: video/photos.

Doug and I got up around 9ish and headed for the city center to walk around the gardens and see the Riechstag. Miraculous building. We decided that we were going to stay in a hostel tonight because we want to go to sleep early for an early wake up to catch a train to Prague so we scheduled a lunch with Lilith, Joel and Liz...but it was no ordinary lunch.

Now is the part of the story where my comfort zone went to the beach and left me at a neighborhood Vegan lunch buffet in Berlin. Let's just say the FDA and the Health Administration in the U.S. would not have approved of this luncheon.

The food, absolutely amazing. The atmosphere, one of a kind. The experience, one that I wish written words could describe. How about a photo?

With no tables or chairs and nearly 50 diners in attendance everyone found their eating spot in little groups on the sidewalk outside this little neighborhood gathering center. The feel of the environment was that of a large family reunion run by people speaking 4 different languages and many either having dredlocks or actually covered in actual paint (taking over an hour applying, yes, I asked them). They "did it just to do it." .........why not.

In order for us to even get a plate for the (2-5 euro whatever you want between those two price ranges) we had to go into the communal kitchen and wash an already used plate. Yup, scrub with soap and sponge and then get in line (I am 100% not kidding). It was great. I was smiling the whole time and I fell in line as fast as I could.

I put heaps of food that I didn't recognize nor come close to pronouncing on my plate. I have never had a vegan meal but I actually went back and got's ok, I put in the full 5 euros.

After the meal we all just kinda sat around and shared traveling stories and such. What a great time...let's see you do something like that by staying in your dull hotel. :)

I have many videos awaiting an upload but in 48 hours I'll be in Milan with a couple hours to spare. I plan on uploading all I can. :)

Stay Classy OKC.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Day 12; Berlin

Awake at 6:45 a.m., ugggh.

It is quite amazing how many "second winds" I have gotten throughout this trip already. Probably a sign that I should slow down a bit but it's so hard when I have to choose between the Brandenburg Gate ( and a nap.

We arrived today into Berlin, Germany after a long 6.5 hour train ride. The weather and the German terrain were beautiful all the way here but the train made a stop about every 45 min. waking everyone up so my iPod got a lot of use.

Upon arriving into Berlin I am starting to see my nerves easing up a little because as we arrived (3:45 p.m.) and having not secured a couchsurfing host yet (which we eventually did) and needing internet to search for a back up hostel...we decided to eat first instead. Great idea because we had some amazing genuine German brats and local beers. :)

Not really knowing where we were going, we jumped on a bus that everyone seemed to be taking (buses are so much better than metros for first time visiting because you get to see the city and not the inside of a stinky old metro cars).

We decided to jump off the bus whenever we spotted the Brandenburg Gate and eventually pawned some internet off the nearby Starbucks. Reading about all the Brandenburg Gate really made me realize how little I knew about Berlin and especially the Berlin wall (I was only 4 when Reagan said, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" and today stood in that spot).

I read up more about the Berlin wall at the Checkpoint Charlie Museum (, and headed back over to the Brandenburg Gate to visualize what I just learned. :)

The couchsurfing host we have for tonight is so great. There are actually 2 other couchsurfers here; one from Washington state and the other from Iowa. They're quite interesting. Aimee left for OKC yesterday and Doug will be here through Berlin and one day in Prague. Then off to Milan.

I should have some more videos coming soon but a few have already been posted, thank you everyone over at Newsok! I'm having lots of fun writing and taking all these videos. Just hope I can keep it for the next 2 weeks!

Gotta go, we're all about to have a tooth brushing dance party in the hall.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Day 11; Amsterdam

After a great night's sleep (I usually get one after traveling earlier that morning) we headed to the Anne Frank House ( If anyone ever goes to this museum please, I kid you not, get your tickets online before you get there! We walked up (Doug and I) to the "Internet online purchases" ticket window as the second and third person in line. Not pre-purchasers were in a line close to 150 people long.

Now, this line could have been attributed to Anne's 80th birthday today (which was so great to see) but also could been due to poor planning. Plan ahead!!!

The museum was absolutly great and so professionally done. "No photos" as I was told and definitely felt like that was understandable and kept the camera in the pocket. We did, however, get to actually walk through and see the entire attic/annex that anne and the other 7 (including some family) that were hidden in that small space. It was a very tasteful and well done museum.

Not only did the house provide chilling details and actual exerts from the diary but also allowed the witness (me) walk through the doorway covered with the fake bookcase, and stand inside Anne's small room that she shared; with original "wallpaper" in the form of pictures and book cut-outs pasted to the wall. It displayed photos taken from that room out the window of other jewish families taken from their homes and onto concentration camps.

Yes, WWII stories and concentration camps can stir some emotions but actually being in that old 10' 8" room stirs some emotions that are deep and only felt by touching the walls and seein the diary its red and yellow rustic hardback display.

After visiting the treasured Anne Frank House Museum and walking and grabbing something to eat, crepes, we headed towards the Van Gogh Museum ( The Van Gogh Museum was everything I hoped it would be...200 Van Gogh paintings and not much else.

I went to that museum hoping to learn a lot about Van Gogh and was hoping it wasn't just a lure to get tourists there to see 4-5 Van Gogh's and 100's of other artists...It was great. So may Van Gogh's with some great back story on his emerging talent and transformation into modernistic art. Van Gogh is vastly catching my top artists...his color schemes and brushstrokes up close are captivating.

After the Van Gogh Museum we saw the famous " I AM STERDAM" sign ( and took some photos but pretty much just went shopping for tshirts and socks to get me through another backpacked week of Europe.

Tomorrow - Berlin. I have NO idea what to expect but I've heard it's great but Amsterdam is one hard city to follow.

Day 10; Amsterdam

I really didn't what to expect when I arrived into Amsterdam ( I have heard many stories of the liberal city but nothing is ever really true unless you experience them for yourself. I arrived and let me tell you, so far, all the stories are true.

It's really too bad that Amsterdam only gets noticed for its liberal behavior and has the "Las Vegas of Europe" nickname because Amsterdam has quickly moved up the list on my all-time favorite cities because of the entire city itself, not just the relaxed rules/laws.

It might be because it's June and all the trees and flowers are blooming but this has to be the prettiest city I've ever been to. Yes, I think it even beats out Venice although Venice has a different kind of beauty.

Madrid, Segovia, Toledo and Paris don't hold a candle to the language intelligence of the people here. The saying, "Everyone speaks English in Europe" seems to be the most true in Amsterdam. The people here seem to all be at least trilingual; Dutch, English and either German or French and a lot more Spanish than they like to admit. When I say they speak these languages I mean they speak them fluently. I haven't had to repeat myself to anyone, even when I just randomly walk to someone and start talking. It's amazing. It REALLY makes me want to buy the Rosetta Stone language program when I get home...anyone else?

Today, we all kind of just soaked up the surrounding areas going in and out of all the shops and markets and walking down all the beautiful canal sidewalks and over the many bridges. One major difference here than anywhere else I've been is the amount of bikes. They are everywhere!! Everyone seems to be on a bike and now when I cross the street I have to be on the lookout for San-Francisco-stylestreetcars, regular cars and also bikes...all three of those going both directions. It's not all that tough considering none of them are traveling more than 15 MPH but it's still an extra thing not to get hit by.

Yes, we did walk down the Red Light District. Yes, all the stories are true...ummm, just look it up. Yes, we ONLY walked the street. :) This place is crazy.

Also, if you come to Amsterdam, don't walk into a "Coffee Shop" because they don't serve coffee, they'll give you a laminated menu with many other "herbs" and prices which is sure to make you blush and walk out of the store laughing at the realism in the history of Amsterdam.

Regardless, such a wonderfully beautilful city. The people are all soooo kind and helpful and don't ever give off the assumption that you're "just" a tourist and all take the time to go the extra mile in showing how to get somewhere or give you some history of Holland. I'm actually kind of sad I'm only staying 48 hours but Europe is big, ALMOST big enough for me. :)

Tomorrow - Anne Frank House Museum, Van Gogh Museum and the Heinekin brewery.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Day 9; Paris

Rise and shine, 11 a.m. and put on yesterday's clothes (an I "heart" London shirt covered by a grey hoodie) and go to the Louvre. The building itself is a work of art ( I've been to many sporting events/concerts/crowded schools where people are too crowded they can't move...long lines etc..not here. There must have been 40,000 people in that museum with us but every line went at almost walking speed. Definitely a well-run and very well-prepared organization. In the Louvre is the treasured "Mona Lisa." ( Fighting through the hundreds in front of it and snapping photos (which I didn't know was allowed) I took some video. The room was a mob-scene. I had always heard that the room was crowded but since it was a museum the crowd would be understandably quiet and photos (especially with a flash) would not be tolerated. Maybe the rules just didn't apply on June 10, 2009 because it was as if a celebrity was in the room. Lots of shouts and yells with a flash going off every 1-2 seconds...people shoving left and right with Mona Lisa herself just sitting there smiling and posing as she's done for the past 500 years.

Aside from the "Mona Lisa" the museum offered a few other Da Vinci's "Virgin on the Rocks" ( and "John the Baptist." ( I was in art heaven. The building had thousands and thousands of priceless works of art and sculptures and statues as well. Another few of my favorites were the "Venus de Milo" ( and the "Code of Hammarabi" ( stone. Time to head out.

After leaving the museum and finding a stair to rest on a bit, we noticed a small gathering of people next to a braed stand in one of the many luxorious gardens. We head on over and notice that all the birds (I mean even the small ones that are usually to frightened to come near a human) are flying up into people's hands and eating out of them. (I did it and have video, it was very cool) It was so much fun that I got caught up in the birds enough to forget about the Lourve and its infamous pyramid 100 meters behind me. The Eiffel tower off in the distance. The Gold Dome (Napoleon's tomb) off to my left and the Arc de Triomphe ( straight ahead. The Arc was still a mere 2 miles away but could still be seen quite easily because of its size. What a moment.

Deciding to walk toward the Arc and taking the route of the famous Champs-Élysées (Élysées the finishing street for the Tour de France) We took our time. It was th middle of the afternoon and the rain/drizzle had finally let up. We took a couple detours off the path for a rest a drink but kept our eyes on the Arc (the center of the largest round-a-bout; 12 streets merging into one). Roughly 100 people were standing around/on top of the Arc so we knew we could get to it but it took awhile to find the undergound tunnel that led to it. Crossing the street wasn't an option unless you thought it would be fun to play frogger with the 100 cars flying around the Arc.

We got to the center of the Arc but once we did it started raining again and the 9 Euro it costs to take the stairs to the top to stand in the rain with a view that was cut down about 90 percent (because of the rain) didn't really seem like an enjoyable thing we were anxious to do, despite the fact that Doug and Aimee both bought $3 umbrellas from a side vender (Aimee lost the handle to the umbrella before even getting to the Arc).

One more stop on our voyage in Paris, Mont Marte ( and the Sacre Coure (é-Cœur,_Paris). Catching a North bound subway to Mont Marte was one of the treasures I didn't really know about until I got there but quickly became one of my favories. The rain had stopped for a moment as we left the subway and stared up at the Sacre Cour (sacred heart) church. Lots of stairs, big shocker, but upon reaching the summit of that hilly climb the view was great. Another stunning view across Paris for another 3-4 min before more rain but as the sprinkles started to hit us Aimee's umbrella turned inside-out and more laughter and videos were made.

Heading inside the church was a great end to our quite adventurous day. A sit, a pause and good reflection on the trip itself and a reminder of how fortunate I am to do this. I think about all the time and am oh so very thankful for all the right circumstances, people, luck and determination it took to get this trip started. Day 9 complete. 18 more to go. (As I'm writing this, I'm on the speed train to Amsterdam, just stopped in Brussels and can see a gothic-style cathedral. All is good.)

Day 8; Paris

I'm starting to realize that if I didn't have to lug this bag around from city to that I could travel all year long. The biggest pain I endure is directly related to the weight and size of my bag. Granted, it's just one backpack but this computer's weight combined with all my possessions for a four week stay can be quite an annoyance to my already exhausted shoulders.

Since that is my only complaint, I pressed on in search 8 Rue de Mai. No, that address in Paris is not one to a couchsurfing house yet to a Holiday Inn...Paris couchsurfing failed me. :( I tried roughly 25-30 different people and nobody had an open spot. Traveling with 3 people in the peak of "couchsurfing season" can make it difficult to find a host that can accommodate but I'll try again in Amsterdam.

Anyway, now that I was leaving London and officially starting my 2nd leg of this adventure, what better way to do it than to rise at 6:00 a.m. and head to the train station. The early hour seemed to be the most inconvenient part of the train ride as the 180 mph train and the short 2hr 15min ride were smoother than a Ray Allen jump shot.

Upon exiting Eurorail Car 18 seat 56 and greeting Paris with a warm smile we found our first struggle; everything is in French. I've always heard that people in Paris all speak English as well and that it's easy for tourists to get around...surprisingly that is not the case. After wandering frantically around the Paris train station trying to find a way to buy some subway passes with only a visa card (needed to get Euros fast, still only had pounds from the UK) we finally found a kiosk, letting out a big sigh of relief from me. Bring on the Paris sunshine!

Our first destination (sure that our hotel wouldn't let us in til a reasonable noonish-2 p.m. time) was the all-empowering Notre Dame ( Notre Dame was free of charge, a huge delight to someone trying to save on a 28-day trip. I looked for Kwazimoto but I don't think he lives there anymore (

Now, on to our hotel. After searcing for roughly 20 min in an area in which we knew it was, we came up empty handed. That's it find a cab and just have him take us there. Found one. He refused to take us there citing, "It is stupid to take a cab because it's so close." So he gives some generic point to the location and drives off. My shoulders hurt from this stupid bag. That's it, let's just eat some lunch. While eating, Aimee pulls out her iPhone and uses her English-French translator (We didn't have internet so we couldn't look it up) and after the waiter drops off my 4 Euro ($5.80) Diet coke Aimee asks him where it is and he points down the street and Aimee found it while I ate some gross shrimp and avocado mixed cocktail.

After dropping our bags off (HOORAY!!!!!) we head on over to the 2nd most amazing thing I've seen (Colliseum #1) the Eiffel Tower. Holy cow that thing is amazing ( . After spotting the Eiffel we then saw a gold dome/cathedral-looking building and when I asked Doug what it was and he looked at the map and said, "Well, it says Napoleon is buried there." Ok, everyone, it's time to take a detour. Holding back the adrenaline rush of seeing the Eiffel Tower yet going elsewhere wasn't an easy thing to do but please...Napoleon?!?!?

The "shrine" of a dome to Napoleon ( is larger than anyone deserves. Absolutely enormous. His "statue-thing" in the center was kind of odd but my photos will prove that it was a little powerful just looking at it. Ok, ok, I kinda liked it ( Trying to hold that back. Moving on!

Exiting the dome and heading for that 80-story steel structure off the Saine river and getting that addrenaline rush again ( the camera shutters unload! (Cue Sufan Stevens' "Come On! Feel the Illinoise!" -

Amazing. there is a park that is roughly a mile long that leads up to the structure so the goosebumps and joy have about 20 more minutes to grow.

After getting to the Eiffel Tower (and nearly falling over at thinking if its history and beauty) Doug and I decide we're gonna stair-it to the mid-level elevator...roughly 35 stories. Bring it on! (and it brought it on...remember, I've been walking now roughly 12 miles a day for the past 7 days and my legs are a lil wobbily). Nonetheless, arriving at the mid-level elevator and paying the very deserved 8 Euro to ride the elevator we got to the top. Breath-taking view. 360 degree view of Paris. A definite must-do in anyone's lifetime. Stayed 20 min. Took more photos and on back down. From there not much else happened except finding a chinese food dinner at a really nice mom-and-pop chinese store. Day 8...success.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Day 7; London

Oh Yes! The bliss of sleep!

Today was another great day and it started with a full 9 hours of sleep and that is probably no coincidence.

After we woke up and showered and packed and told Jen (our couchsurfing host) more thank-yous (she really is awesome) we headed to the British Museum ( This museum is huge. It should be huge from the way they filled the museum. As England "took over" soooo many countries and dynasties and empires they would then ship all the coolest stuff back to London (Parthenon sculptures, Roman relics, paintings...) and keep them there for their own true citizens. So, the museum has lots of great artifacts, I mean, I got to see the Rosetta Stone (!

Anywho, after cruising through that museum we headed to another, the National Gallery ( where my amazement truly jumped at the site of seeing some great art...and when I say great I'm talking about guys like Da Vinci, Rafael, Michelangelo, Monet, Manet, Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Renoir and Reubens. All the greats. I ate it up like crazy.

We headed on our biggest journey of the evening after that and trekked on out to Camden to try and find Abbey Road. Yes, I'm a dork. After studying numerous worthless maps, taking 2 Underground trains and two buses, we decided to start asking people and it took about the 4th or 5th person to finally give us any kind of good answer. We even got one lady to ask us what it was...(insert British subtitles) "No, I don't know what that is but it's the 2nd time today someone's asked me for directions there...what is it?" Good Grief. Found it. Walked it. videoed it. Loved it...and that's all you need.

I will hopefully have all the videos wrapped up and sent to by tomorrow night for a 1st week's hoping! :) Goodnight OKC.

(Oh, and I bought one of these today

Next stop Paris.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Day 6; London

After our good 3 hour "nap" as our night's sleep, we headed out of Jeronimo's apartment and grabbed a taxi to Madrid's Barajas to fly to London.

No sleep on the plane for me as I spent the whole time uploading photos and videos and labels...well worth it.

This whole trip began with the planning around my friend, Doug, and I planning out a 10-day trip and it started in London and went to Paris then Amsterdam, Berlin and finished in Prague. But I expanded it to what it is today. Anyway, I met up with Doug this morning as his flight flew into London this morning. We didnt want to use phones on our trip and just decided to, "meet you at Big Ben at 11:45 a.m.?" and it worked out.

Doug met up with Aimee and I and we marvelled at Big Ben and the Parliment before crossing the Thames river and riding the Eye of London (,

After admiring the great view across London we started on a long trek all across London Central hitting St. Paul's Cathedral and Westminister Abbey and never did see Abbey Road but it is a primary spot for tomorrow.

We went to the Tower of London ( and walked over Tower bridge (

After that we headed on over to our next couchsurfer's apartment, Jen. Jen lives in Notting Hill (yes, like the movie) and took us to this AWESOME pub that was the place, "Churchill's Arms" ( where Winston Churchill gave all his war update radio announcements from 1940-1945. That is the kind of stuff you don't see/find without locals. I love couchsurfing.

I'm having trouble finding some for Paris though. I sent out a couple more requests tonight so I hope to get some good feedback.

Tomorrow we are sure to hit the Abbey Road (I'll be Paul and Doug will be John), British Museum, National Gallery and the Royal Observatory.