27 Mar 2007

Last Chance, you're never gonna get away

Alas, I have been, as you frequenters well know, a bit behind in updating my blog with my latest exploits. I realize this and do sincerely apologize. Business has been as usual here. At least for the most part. It is a rare occasion that I fall sick, but I must say, as is the norm with me, I fell hard. These past two days have been miserable. Anyways, I recognize that my writing on here has been of poor quality and therefore feel compelled to share with you my most personal and intimate thoughts that I have diligently recorded in my journal--with a few removals. This is the closest you'll ever come to delving into my personal thoughts, so enjoy this glimmer while you can. (Side note, please excuse the errors in tense and days, for this was written on my way home from Lisbon.)

In short order, I will return to the Knox from a delightfun weekend spent in Lisboa, PT. Unfortunately, that requires a return to 'reality'--at least my current reality as I have known it for the past 9 weeks. In reading Twain's The Innocents Abroad, I have come to appreciate those often overlooked ways of modern travel.

I do love water. And boats as well. But I do believe that 11 days on a boat to cross the pond would grow tedious to even the most ardent sailor. I have become accustomed to quick, painless, efficient and even enjoyable train rides. When he took on the 'polite' french (quite a reversal of roles), it took 12 hours by train from Marseilles to Paris. It now takes just more than 4.

I will also attest that my recent affinity to indulge in writing of more than just day to day actions has also stemmed from Twain's immaculate journal and his claim that it would be worth $1,000 (his era, which I would roughly translate to circa six zeros). So please, immerse yourself with me.

Portugal is a pleasantly picturesque country. I will remark that I have only experienced two cities, but I would place the country as silver winner, as of yet. The large, green, palm tree scattered parks adorn the city and truly maintain the Mediterranean climate, even though the city is situated upon the Atlantic.

Surprisingly, and contrary to popular notion, the city is immaculately maintained. The language was unique, and in similar gait with Spanish, even though it was not of much help. But to a certain extent, I find a uniqueness and a bit of enjoyment in the unknown.

Back now to my ill-attempt to paint a portrait that will never be finished, I must comment on the food. First off, regardless of locale, the country smells of fantastic food. I honestly believe that they make a valid attempt to crop-dust the country with food scented perfumes. I will attest to this fact b y saying that yesterday, while wandering aimlessly through Eden on Earth (Sintra), I could, in fact, smell fresh food being prepared--in a garden.

Last night we ate a spectacularly cheap meal of 9 euros per person. I had trout, cooked and served whole. I must say, if deemed proper, that I did quite an excellent job fileting the damned thing, for not having done that dirty job in multiple years. After dinner, we travelled a few blocks to a renowned Fado house. At least the man standing outside inviting us in claimed it was. At any rate, it was an enjoyable ending to an equally enjoyable trip. The fado music, consisting of guitar (nylon stringer), mandolin, and an upright bass, was exactly what I needed. At first, it was wailing and melancholy and, accompanied by a large woman with a large voice, made for a perfect setting. However, after another round of rusty nails by a not so prompt server, the music picked up in liveliness with quicker mandolin riffs and a booming male bass. We all enjoyed ourselves and our mandatory 16 euro drink minimum. We then left and visited Ben and Jerry's so Ashley could indulge.

With a quick breakfast, I caught the first cab to the airport and, alas, here I am.

So there you have it. It actually included no real thoughts, and therefore was deemed appropriate to share. I just simply know that I could not write that whole thing again in a different way, so why not copy it? I hope you are all doing well.

A Bientôt.

Post Script: I have included links to my photo albums on the left hand side of this blog for those of you not enrolled in facebook.

22 Mar 2007

Today for me, tomorrow for you

So where did I leave off? I actually do need to check...ah, Gruyeres.

So the last fortnight went quickly. I spent the week doing what I've always done. A little bit of wandering, a little bit of climbing, some guitar--you know the routine. Friday morning, Amy, Zach and I woke early to catch a train to Padova, Italy. Where? Well, for you literary folks, someone important happened to be sent there for a short period of time. For the rest of you, my good friend Bart from home is studying there. It's a lovely little city with some lovely people. The general population is younger, considering it's a university town.

We spent Friday evening wandering the streets with Bart and two lovely ladies. The food was great, and the 'spritz' (the drink of choice there) was on par with the Shark. Saturday morning we rose early to catch another train--this time to Venice. With Bart in tow as our tour guide, we rowed through the city with little effort and saw the sights. It was quite a blast. With a simple hop, skip, and a jump, we landed in Murano. It's a world-renowned glass-blowing island. Stellar. We later returned to Padova and spent another crazy night with crazy students. The next morning was a quick stroll through the city with one last stop at a gelato place called "Grom". Best. Gelato. Ever.

Back home now. For 8 more hours. Then it's off to Lisbon, Portugal for me. I hear the fish is decent alli.

OH. BIG NEWS. This last Wednesday, I spent the day with Ginnie, my lovely Southern girl, and Eric, my New Yohka skiing Chamonix, in France. The skiing was amazing, the powder was fresh, and all was well. Until I fell off a small cliff and half-broke my iPod and my back. But all is well now. No worries.

Sorry this is short, but I must still prepare for my weekend adventure. By the way, I will post links on here to my facebook.com photo albums. Apparently someone wised up and made them available to non-users--non crack users, that is.

A Beintôt.

12 Mar 2007

Horse is popular here

Strange post name. Did you notice? Anyhoo, the past few weeks have flown by and this post will as well. Please forgive the bullet-point-like sentences.

After leaving Paris on spring break with my dad and Kathy, we went to Interlaken. It was a trip of a trip. We spent some good time watch shopping over and over. We spent more time shopping. And let me tell you, I now understand better than ever how women work. The more you shop, the more exhausted you get. After thoroughly exhausting oneself shopping, what better way to relax than spend a relaxing two hours in the hotel spa receiving a hot stone massage? Let me tell you, I have yet to come up with a more relaxing thing to do. (Quick thanks to Kathy for that lovely treat). Oh yeah, my dad got a pedicure while we were there. What a weirdo. The following day we went up the mountains to Kleine Sheddig to see the ski towns and what not. Good times. Up top was near white out conditions, but the cafe au lait was worth it.

Geneva the next day. We walked around a bit and I gave them the tour of the JKC (John Knox Centre, for you foreigners). They loved it and thought it was equal to--4.5 star accommodations. They saw old town and then we ate at an awesome restaurant where a few people missed out on an AWESOME meal. Oh well.

Lausanne the next day. Funky hotel, but a beautiful city. We saw the sunset over the lake and the Jura mountains. Doesn't get much prettier. Following day we spent shopping around 'old' town. We went home then dad and Kathy left for Paris and eventually Chicago. Thanks again for everything that week.

School flew by. Wait, did I say school? Mistype. The week flew by. Friday I went to Basel and walked around a bit with Zach, Amy, and Molly. Zach and I drank a few liters of beer at the oldest brauhaus in Switzerland. Decent beer, but not as good as Seven Star in Vienna. We jumped on a train--literally, jumped on the roof, Bourne style--and jumped back off in Neuchatel. It's a pretty little Swiss French town on a lake. We watched sunset there then hit up a creperie for dinner. Came home and had a good night.

Oh, big news. I forgot to put this in my week that flew by and am currently too lazy to scroll up and insert it. I spent my Wednesday walking through Geneva burning off calories. On my adventure, I stopped by Cash Converters and bought two guns and a guitar. Ok, really, just one gun and one guitar, but a guy can lie. So I've been playing my guitar all weekend.

Saturday I woke up nice and early and hit the train to Gruyeres with Zach, Amy, and Mee-gan. Good fondue and alien sex. Go ahead, ask yourself...I'll wait...yes, alien sex. I'll post pictures later. We also saw a chateau and walked around a bit. It was really flat and green in those mountains. On the way home, we stopped at Lausanne and watched the sunset from the lake again, but this time with friends. Good day, ended better.

Oh, more big news to insert in after Friday. I had an afro Friday evening when I got home from Neuchatel. Now, I'm a skin head. Not a straight up, I'll kill you with my shiv type, but buzzed--like I used to be. Welcome back, scalp.

Sunday I woke up and headed to the rock wall. We had horrible luck with buses so we ended up sitting around for a while, but once we hit the wall it was a great day. The climbing was good and Stewart and I taught Mee-gan how to lead climb. All in all, good day ending with yet another sunset. Now I'm on here typing the following day. How are you doing today?

Now to the good stuff. Scroll to the top of the page. I'll give you a minute.

Ok, now did you read the title? I know you've been dying to know what it means. I'll take the liberty and inform you. Horse is popular here. You see them often, but more often, you see cheval on a menu in a restaurant. The same runs true in the JKC. Tonight we ate spaghetti with cheval in the meat sauce. It doesn't taste much different than good ol' beouf.

I think my river might have run dry, but don't tell boys 2 men.

A Beintôt.

P.S. I will post pictures soon. My time in Suisse has forced me to become complacent, like the Swiss. But they will be up.

1 Mar 2007

Spectacular, Spectacular

As I sit here on the train from Paris to Basel listening religiously to my new favorite musician (a Stemo artist some of you might know), I can think of nothing real to write about. Sure, I guess I could describe my past few days in Paris with my dad and Kathy, our experiences at varying restaurants, bars, and tourist sites. I could also detail my Tuesday night spent staring at the half naked women, some of which swam with snakes, of the Moulin Rouge or the mediocre dinner that they happen to serve when you pay Zero Class (cha-ching) prices. But I suppose all that seems pretty petty to me at the moment. I’m not really a pensive guy, at least not at the moment, but I found the inspiration to write. I spent the last hour writing two pages in my journal—two pages about nothing important. Two pages, not about the time spent watching Kathy do what she does best (she does a lot well, but I don’t think she can trump herself in shopping), not about the complaints heard when my dad ordered his ‘martini de pomme’ in Paris and discovered that Parisians don’t know how to make a damned apple martini, but simply writing about nothing.

Right now I’m listening to my Favorite Everything. I’d recommend that you go out and download it, but I’m pretty sure you couldn’t find it anywhere. So instead of telling you all about my time here in Paris or my expectations of the rest of the week in Interlaken and Geneva (which, trust me, will be well documented on here as time rolls on), I’m going to tell you about my favorite everything(s).

Forgive me if this turns into a list, but I will make a futile attempt at a proper explanation of all things, and I will also try to relate all things to my travels somehow, since a lot of my favorite things have, alas, long since been enjoyed.

To start, I enjoy language. It’s amazing here how many people speak more than one, and it’s also pretty amazing that a lot of them don’t speak English. After all, it’s the langua franca, so why don’t they speak it? There are multiple reasons. First and foremost, refusal to accept world domination of the American culture. That being said, I’d like to ask for their Polo shirts, Gant sweaters, Adidas shoes, Tommy Hilfiger pants, Ford cars, and McDonalds (commonly, MacDo’s) to be returned. No complaints. But I do enjoy the opportunity to expose myself to different languages. Unfortunately, when you spend exorbitant time in Paris, you come to realize that while on the surface, it appears to be a welcoming place, they really can be a bunch of self righteous, pretentious assholes. But the city is fun.

Moving on. I like the coffee here. A espresso from Starbucks does more than lack in comparison to a café au lait. My French teacher likens American coffee and, most notably, Starbucks, to brown water. I set myself out on a pedestal with him and agree, America, in all its glory, has horrible coffee.

The history here is pretty stellar. Imagine yourself, for a moment, in…Philly. Ah, good old Ben Franklin, Liberty Bell, and the constitutional convention. Beyond that, you can trace it back just under two hundred years when the Quakers risked life and limb to come to America to start a utopian colony. Now, place yourself, conversely, in Austria (I almost said Paris, but I really have little affinity for the place, so work with me). Austria goes back over 1500 years. The Romans controlled Vienna. Then the Holy Roman Empire. It pushed back the Turks in the 1400’s a few times, and culminated in WWI with the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. A little more interesting, eh?

It’s been just under two months since I left America for the unknown (hey, it was unknown to me). The changes have been subtle. For example, life is the same, but now I write in a blog. I also write in my journal routinely. I speak about the same amount of foreign languages daily as I did at home, but I do it in a less formal, more important environments. I’ve come to appreciate good cheese. (Note: not cutting good cheese, but eating it.) I’ve become accustomed to ordering alcoholic drinks, no questions asked. When I come back across the pond, I’ll have to wait a while before I can order one again. I’ve gotten used to the pants tucked into boots, but ladies, pay attention: they do it with style. Not Uggs. Grow up (some things will never change in me). I’ve made friends with people I would have made fun of or ignored under other circumstances. I’m sure there are many other things, butttttttttttt for now I must bi you farewell and return to my newest challenge—a rubicks cube with a pattern on it. You have to line up each individual cube correctly or it is incorrect.

A bientôt, mes amis.