Friday, July 27, 2007

Cardiff Wales

Sorry I've been lazy and haven't updated lately. There really hasn't been that much going on except that we've all gotten sick with some nasty cold/sinus crap, so the entire bus is just one big mass of snotty people.

We are currently in Cardiff, Wales. The dorms here are really nice, but in the ghetto. We've been cooking in the kitchens to save the money, so I made sour cream chicken enchiladas the other night. There have been several requests for an encore, so if everyone goes to the store and buys ingredients for me, there will be another performance tonight.

Oxford was cold and rainy. Cardiff is cold and rainy. I have a feeling the rest of the trip will be cold and rainy. The weather made the views from the tops of the mountains absolutely gorgeous yesterday, though. We ate lunch with a mayor and went through a manor house with people dressed up in period costume and playing characters as household servants. It was a good time.

Next we are going to Breacon, then to Bangor. I'm so ready to come home. I'm tired of wearing the same clothes over and over and over!! When I get home, I'm going to be on a mission for good Tex-mex, a real Diet Coke, and some Taco Bueno. Mmmmmmm... it's more Bueno.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Fer Chrissakes!

We couldn't get the hell out of Paris fast enough.

On our last night in town, we all thought it would be a nice quiet night. Some of us went to bed early, some played cards, some were just hanging out and talking.

In the midst of the hanging out and talking, some of the guys were acting silly, so one of our guys took a picture of them. There were several 10-12 year old British boys staying in our dorm, and they happened to be running through the halls in their underwear and managed to get in the back of one of the pictures. Also, their extremely fat French teacher was out in the halls in ONLY a towel yelling at them to get in bed and managed to get in a picture as well.

The boys complained that Greg (the guy taking pictures and also the nicest and most innocent guy you will ever meet) had taken a picture of them. The idiot teacher took that to mean that Greg was doing something inappropriate. The teacher finally put on some clothes and drug Greg and his camera downstairs to talk to the guard.

The teacher basically accused Greg of being a pedophile. WHAT?? GREG??? ABSURD!!!!!! So Greg grabs our teacher that speaks French since the teacher and guard were speaking French in discussing the incident. I must say that I'm quite proud of our professor... he just told the French teacher that he didn't appreciate being woken up in the middle of the night because of a half-baked accusation. Niiice.

Our other professor just said the next morning that Greg wasn't taking pictures of the children... he was taking pictures of that 'fat bastard' in his towel. Giggle.

Of course, this professor also referred to our bus driver as a 'damn bastard' and an 'arse.'

Good times.

Now we're in Oxford, where the dorms are nice, the food is excellent, and the weather is cool and rainy. Only two weeks til Texas!!!!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

And Paris continues...

As if this place couldn't get any more exciting, we had an 'incident' last night.

A guy in our group originally struck me as simply a testosterone-fueled moron. In London, he kept wandering off from the group late at night, getting ridiculously drunk, and tried to have a one-night-stand with a girl in the group. Of course, after she rebuffed him, he claimed he didn't want to hook up with her anyway. Then he disappeared for about 24 hours explaining himself by saying "Hey man, I couldn't pass up a threesome."

So this guy comes home from dinner and one of the girls (the one who rebuffed him in London) has brought 2 French guys back to our dorm and has one of them on this guy's bed making out with him. Understandably, he gets angry with her, then proceeds to call her every name in the book. She starts hitting at him and scratching him, so he just grabs her arms and pushes her out of the room. I slept through this portion of the evening.

He apparently doesn't handle confrontation very well, so to deal with it, he downs several Xanax and chases them with a bottle of champagne and at least a couple of bottles of wine. I'm a little fuzzy on the details, but apparently he got very upset and began trying to break mirrors in the hallway and succeeded in breaking a window. He then becomes somewhat suicidal and keeps trying to jump out of the windows on the 4th floor. He's a big guy (probably 6'3" and about 260lbs), so when he decides he wants to jump out of the window, it takes several guys to hold him back. They finally convince the hostel guard to quit shushing them and call the paramedics and police. The guy takes off down the hall, throwing himself into walls and saying he is going to kill himself. It took 4 guys to hold him down for about 30 minutes before the police showed up.

To give credit to the police, they didn't club, taser, or pepper-spray him. He was a complete animal, throwing people off of him and roaring. They finally managed to get him into the ambulance and to the hospital.

Today the professors had to go get him from the jail and put him on a plane back to Texas. I just hope he actually got on the plane. And I hope he gets the help he needs back at home.

The excitement just never ends...

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Forget Paris

This city sucks! We finally arrived at about 10pm on Bastille Day because we just kept getting delayed everywhere we went. Our group (4 girls, one gay guy) decided to go out to the Eiffel Tower to see the festivities and left the hostel around 11. After a ridiculously long ride on the Metro with one confusing transfer, the trains shut down at midnight, spitting us out 2 stops before where we wanted to go. We got out of the subway and started walking towards the Eiffel Tower.

Our first clue to turn around and go home should have been when everyone was walking away from the tower as we were walking towards it. We grabbed a beer and some french fries and checked out the scene. It was nothing but people working on a 12-hour drunk, so we decided to finish our fries and grab a taxi. The taxi stand near us was full of people and no taxis were coming, so we decided to walk a little away from the crowds to catch a taxi there.

As we were walking away, 2 guys tried to talk to us and wouldn't leave us alone. After telling them we were all gay and Brett trying to hit on them, it still took us pretty much forcefully pushing them away to get them to leave. We walked on until we found a promising looking square. No taxis were stopping, so we spotted some cops and told them where we were headed. They sent us to a taxi stand a few blocks away after laughing at how far we were from 'home'. At that taxi stand, some locals laughed at us and told us we'd never get a taxi there.

Okay, forget it, we'll just start walking and see if we can catch a taxi as we go. We continued walking for about an hour, then stopped into a Best Western to see if they would call a taxi for us. Nope. It's about 2am at this point. We stopped into a bar and even bought a beer to see if they would call a taxi for us. After the waitress stole the change we dropped, she said no, they don't have a phone. Bitch.

We walked on along the shore of the Seine, waving at every taxi that passed, with cars full of locals whistling and laughing at us. We stopped once more at a small cafe where someone bought a sandwich and the waiter said he would call a taxi for us. The manager asked where we were from, and when told USA, he laughed and said he would not call a taxi for us. Bastard.

So as it's nearing 4:30, we are starting to get somewhat close to our hostel. Had a taxi picked us up when we first started looking, we would have been at home and in bed by this point, rather than having the worst experience yet.

We were crossing the street and Brett was approached by a shirtless guy asking him something in French. Brett replied in French that he speaks English, and the guy pointed to a knife wound (looked pink, more like a scrape or a scar) in his side and was accusing Brett of having stabbed him. Brett tried to shrug him off and keep walking, but his friend came up and they grabbed him. Two more guys came into the fray and one punched Brett in the jaw. We finally figured out what was going on, and began screaming No! at the guys and trying to keep them away from Brett. I was in there pulling guys off as they were kicking Brett, trying to keep them from pushing him over the wall onto the concrete walkway next to the Seine 20 feet below. The guys were not that big, but they were all strung out on something and fueled by alcohol, drugs, and testosterone. There was one guy that was probably about 5'7" and 130lbs, and I had him by his throat. If some locals hadn't appeared, I would have probably either gotten really hurt or sent to jail.

Thankfully, there were some locals around that saw what was going on... one guy getting the crap beat out of him, only defending himself and not swinging back, with 4 girls pulling guys off of him and screaming. They came up and somehow got all of the guys away long enough for us to take off running.

We made it back to the hostel at almost 5am on a total adrenaline high. I showered and went to bed, but Brett and one of the other girls were so freaked out that they stayed up until this afternoon drinking wine, popping anxiety meds, and smoking cigarettes in the bathroom. Real good way to deal with all of that.

So... Paris sucks. I'm ready for Oxford and Wales. And Texas most of all.

Friday, July 13, 2007

People are strange... or just stupid

It's very interesting seeing London with a group of college kids. Most of them have never been out of the country, so they are complete stereotypical dumb Americans.

Questions I've heard so far:

What's the prime meridian?
What's a subway coach?
What does 'maritime' mean?
Isn't 30 minutes enough time in the British Museum?
Why do they call dollars pounds?

And last I heard, we are missing a guy. We all went out to some clubs last night and at 2am when everything was closing down, he didn't want to go home with everyone. Instead, he wanted to go with the girls he had met. No one has seen him since. This same guy passed out on a park bench a couple of nights ago and was woken up by the police. And he's a senior at UT. Whatta moron.

Paris should be interesting...

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Queen Rocks My Socks

Tickets to a show... £23
T shirt from show... £15
Lapel pin from show... £5
Seeing We Will Rock You... Priceless

A musical based on the music of Queen? I'm so there. It absolutely rocked. I had so much fun that I am still smiling from it! Julian, Victoria, and I went to the TKTS office this morning and got half price seats. Standing in the rain and waiting for the tickets was so worth it... it was only a 45 minute wait anyway.

Oh, and there are some of the dumbest chicks I think I've ever seen on this trip. I think next year they should institute a general knowledge test before people are allowed to sign up for the trip. Seriously. How can someone make it into the University of Texas and have the gall to ask "What's the Prime Meridian??"

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Here in the UK

So I made it to London, finally. Turns out the Barcelona Reus airport is not in Barcelona. It's not even in the same province. It's about an hour and 15 minutes out of town... or €160... or almost $200 in a cab. Eff. Once I finally made it to the airport, my plane was delayed by about 3 hours. At least I made it here.

London is insanely expensive and I'm ready to go somewhere cheaper now. Sad that Paris is actually sounding reasonably priced after seeing fish and chips here for about $18!

At least I don't start sweating immediately as soon as I walk out of the door. It's about 70 here for the high, and that's absolutely lovely!!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

A much better band outside of the Prague Castle. Again, thanks to John for the video.

Worst band ever...

We had to sit through 2 hours of this at a dinner in Stramberk. Ouch. Video thanks to my brother, John.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

A Tribute to Kourtney and Jaime

Famous places I've peed in...

Venice, Italy- The Doge's Palace
Florence, Italy- The Uffizi Gallery
Rome, Italy- The Colosseum
Vatican City, Italy- The Vatican Museum (right next to the Sistine Chapel!)
Madrid, Spain- Reina Sofia Modern Art Museum (close to Picasso's "Guernica")
Barcelona, Spain- Sagrada Familia Cathedral

I get around, eh?

Quick Hits from Barcelona

Because I'm having trouble remembering what I've posted about...

- Rome in a day and a half was good. I saw the Parthenon, the Forum, Capitol Hill, the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel, and St Peter's Basilica. Whew.

- Milan in 5 hours was a bit short, but I did go to the Duomo and went to the roof of it and saw all of Milan.

- Overnight trains without a couchette or sleeper berth are bunk. Absolutely the worst night ever. And I didn't even get my free mineral water and earplugs.

- Spain's rail system is effed up. A 2.5 hour wait to make a reservation for a train the next day? You gotta be kidding me! Although you can shorten that to just over an hour if you know how to cheat just right. Who, me??

- Madrid was nice. I love the fact that when traveling alone I can manage to cover 3 major sites in less than 8 hours. The Prado museum was nice, but the Reina Sofia with the collections from Picasso and Dali was way cooler, if much smaller.

- Two days in Barcelona, then I'm off to London. I'm ready for a bus with A/C and meals that have already been paid for!!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Travel Quiz

When entering a musuem, church, castle, or other tourist spot, what is the best location to stop suddenly?

A) Directly inside the door
B) Directly outside the door
C) Directly in front of a popular exhibit, for as long as possible
D) All of the above, especially if you are a large person and/or have several children and strollers surrounding you

If you answered A, B, or C, you are an amateur. Nice try, but keep working on it.

If you answered D, congratulations! You are an expert asshole tourist! You are ready to be a complete pain in the ass in any language. Good job!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Shrimp Crack

Rome has been interesting. I had Chinese food for dinner last night... the appetizer was translated into English as "Shrimp Crack". It had the texture of light styrofoam, tasted like shrimp, and popped like Pop Rocks when I touched it to my tongue. Interesting.

Last night I saw the Pantheon, the Parliament Building, a marching band concert, and the Trevi Fountain. Today I saw the Colosseum, Forum, Capitol Hill, the Vatican Museum (including the Sistine Chapel), and St. Peter's Basilica. Whew. Packed, but a fun day!

Tomorrow I'm off to Milan for a 5 hour layover before I catch the overnight train to Barcelona, then on to Madrid. That is, if I can get a place to stay in Madrid!