Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Summer Trip - Day 40: London, England

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

I checked into my flight fine except for one strange thing: I forgot to fully check my backpack before I checked in my bag and went through security, so when I put my backpack through x-ray it was flagged and checked out.  The woman who searched my back found a bread-knife that I had been using for peanut butter etc, a small pair of scissors, and a sharp knife (see picture).  She took the first two items but then opened up my actual knife, looked at it, and put it back in my bag.  The French sure are strange.

I flew into London-Stansted airport and got in the evening.  I was going to stay with Zarina in my time in London and I figured I’d take the metro (as I’d assume to be the easiest solution) to her apartment but then found out it was going to be 4 pounds just for one metro ride!! That’s 6 dollars.  In all my travels around Europe I don’t think I’d ever seen a metro cost more than 2 euros (usually it’s closer to 1).  So I took the bus instead. I dropped my stuff off at Zarina’s and then went out and met up with Miraya Berke (another friend in London for a summer-program).  Zarina had a final on Friday so she couldn’t go out.  We went to an American bar, which was a lot of fun.  Even though England technically speaks English… I still have such a hard time understanding strong British accents and it really is refreshing to hear American-English (which, and yes I know I’m biased on this subject, I swear is easier to understand).  The bar scene was fun and I got to meet a bunch of other Berkeley kids through the program Miraya was on. 

Summer Trip - Day 39: Marseille, France

Monday, July 19, 2010

Today Andy and I got driven to Toulon.  Andy only has a few days left of his trip here so his plan was to go to Copenhagen straight from Toulon while I continued to Marseille to try to find my Eurail pass.  It turned out that the trains he needed to take were all full so his plans didn’t work out and he ended up going to Italy instead.  I went to Marseille without buying an actual ticket for the train.  I was hoping that they just wouldn’t check… the conductor(s) checked most of the tickets around me and passed me a few times but for some reason never asked for my ticket (I just pretended to look busy on my computer).  Either way, I think I could have pulled off the: “looking for my Eurail pass and freaking out when I didn’t find it” enough so that I wouldn’t have to actually pay for a ticket.  When I got to Marseille I went to the lost and found, with no luck.  I then went to the Police there to try and fill out a police-report for the loss (in hopes to get reimbursed some from Eurail).  The police were the most unhelpful and when I finally got to talk to someone who spoke basic English, she just said that lost items weren’t the police’s problem and sent me on my way.  At this point I gave up the remote chance that I’d find my Eurail pass again and took a bus to airport (Marseille is a Ryanair hub).  

I bought a flight to London, which was more expensive than I wanted to pay but I have a friend in London to stay with so I figured that’s where I’ll make up the money.  I spent the night in the airport, sleeping maybe 2 hours

Summer Trip - Day 38: Bormes-les-Mimosas, France

Sunday, July 18, 2010

End of the best week of my life: Start of one of the worst ones.

So by now you’ll have realized that our plan to leave after one or two days clearly failed (albeit it was well worth it) and today Andy and I were planning on going to Denmark today on our way out.  Unfortunately I couldn’t find my Eurail pass anywhere.  I looked through my entire bag/stuff about 3 different times.  The only thing I could possibly think of is that I forgot it at the last train station we went to (because that’s the last time I’m sure I had it…) but it still shocks me that I would have done such a thing.  I’m still not 100% sure I left it and that it could possibly be somewhere at the Mcganty’s house (although I have no idea where).  Either way, that clearly ruined our plans.  The Eurail pass has been something I’ve always been so afraid of losing and is clearly the most valuable thing I own (other than the pictures I’ve taken on this trip).  At least I lost it toward the latter part of my trip instead of the beginning.  It put a real damper on my travels though and will probably prohibit me from going to a bunch of places I wanted to.  Fuck me! I don’t usually lose things like this and I’m really pissed that this is the 2nd time this trip I’ve lost something important.  Was the first time in my 6.5 months of travel that I wish I were home and just didn’t have to “deal”.  Anyway, we agreed to stay in France one more day and go to the Marseille train station the next day to see if it could possibly have turned up in the lost and found (doubtful).

That evening we went down to the port for a birthday dinner for Greg, and as part of losing a bet, Dan (the dad) had to stick his head into his bowl of spaghetti bolognese.  

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Summer Trip - Day 37: Bormes-les-Mimosas, France

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Saturday was another day without any plans so we just hung around the house all day being lazy. 
In the evening though, we went out on the water to give another go at wakeboarding.

The next day was Greg’s 18th birthday so we played beer pong (well, Baseball) that night and us Americans beat the Britts pretty handedly (no thanks to Andy!).  It’s been really interesting learning the differences between English and American social lives (which are clearly inherently different due to a younger drinking-age).  “Beer Pong” for England is: put one jar/cup of beer at each end of the table and take turns shooting until one makes it.  Then you drink.  They had, surprisingly, never heard of the actual rules of Beer Pong.  Right around midnight we left to go find a bar so Greg could buy his first legal drink and stumbled upon a bar run by an English guy so that, along with the birthday landed us a few free drinks.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Summer Trip - Day 36: Bormes-les-Mimosas, France

Friday, July 16th, 2010

We had the usual relaxing morning today and then in the evening went out on the boats again.  Us kids took the speedboat to go and jump off the same rock from the other day (this time with Andy).  During our 2nd time climbing up the rocks a security guard saw us and told us we needed to leave.  We then met up with the parents (who had taken the sailboat) at one of the islands just off the coast for dinner.  It was a very picturesque dinner right in the bay, with the only access being by boat.

That evening we came back and I fell asleep watching a movie… nothing special.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Summer Trip - Day 35: Bormes-les-Mimosas, France

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

Today was a relaxing day for just about everyone.  We didn’t have any plans but in the morning Dan bought a bunch of beebee guns, so we had a series of 2 v 2 battles around their house/yard.  It was definitely fun although I wasn’t very good at all.  Throughout the day we played the usual games: chess, cards… went swimming in their pool… watched more CSI.

At night Greg (their eldest son), Andy and I went out to dinner downtown and then hit up a few bars (not a very exciting scene given that it’s much more of a quiet old-person’s town) but it was a fun night anyway and we had a good time walking back to the house (which included jumping a fence or two).

Summer Trip - Day 34: Bormes-les-Mimosas, France

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010
We had another relaxing morning where I took some time to update my blog, play chess and cards with the kids. 

I then went out with Anya (their youngest daughter), Hamish (her boyfriend who was there for the week) and Dan (the Dad) out intertubing for a bit.  The water was really choppy and it made for a rather bumpy ride and made me sooo sore the next few days.  We then drove the boat over to the property of Carla Bruni’s house (that’s the French President’s wife) where there’s a great rock we can climb up and jump off.  Because of the high-profile residents of the property there is security around the area so we had to sneak up the back side of the rocks and then quickly jump off before the security guards saw us.  It was definitely a lot higher than it looks from down below, and is the highest rock I’ve jumped off in my life (probably).

Today is Bastille day (the French equivalent to the 4th of July) so we went down by the harbor for dinner and then took the boat out to watch the fireworks.  We took the boat to the closest point we were allowed to watch the fireworks from.  They were being shot off about 40 feet away from us and a few exploded right over our head… definitely a fun time.  Us boys then messed around in the water for a bit before heading home for the night. 

Summer Trip - Day 33: Bormes-les-Mimosas, France

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

We had a relaxing morning for breakfast… watched an episode or two of CSI (which was the TV show of the week) and then took the boats out for a bit.  The Mcganty’s have two boats: a small speedboat and then a larger sailboat.  We took both of them out in the afternoon on our way to lunch down the coast.  We went wakeboarding in the speedboat on the way there.  This was my first time ever wakeboarding (I’ve skied before, but never tried wakeboarding) so I had a bit of trouble getting up at first but eventually got it.

The lunch was really cool (before I continue, let me say that ALL of the food during our stay here was absolutely amazing.  From home-cooked meals to any time we went out it was such good food and a really great thing for the Mcganty’s to treat us to) because we had to anchor the boats in the bay near the restaurant and then swim to shore.  After lunch we hung out on the beach playing sports and messing around.  The Britts made us play rugby so we taught them a bit of American football.  We then busted out the Tarazan-swing off of their boat and messed around for a bit before sailing back home.

That night we played minigolf, which was fun.  Afterward we didn’t do all that much but it was definitely a welcomed change-of-pace to just relax and watch tv.  Between warm weather, good food, playing cards, wakeboarding… what else is summer supposed to be about? J

Summer Trip - Day 32: Spain to France

Monday, July 12th, 2010

Today we took a series of trains from Madrid all the way to Toulon… we didn’t have reservations so to ensure we’d get there by the evening we had to wake up pretty early and take the 8am train out of Madrid.  Some people were still partying in the streets but either way: I felt connected to everyone in Spain that day.  Everyone in the country had just witnessed history and we were now all a part of something that will be written about for years to come.  As part of the best week of my life (which I definitely have no reservation in saying) I had checked off two things on my life’s to-do list and it felt great.

The trains to Toulon worked out fine and we got picked up by some family friends who my parents knew in Hong Kong.  This family is British (although moving to LA this summer) and they had a house in the south of France right in a small town near the ocean.  The last time I had met the family was in 1998 so definitely too long ago to actually have memories of them.  The original plan was to stay a night or two at their place and then make our way up to Scandinavia.  When we got back to their house, 3 of their 4 kids were there this summer but one of them (Kyle) had two friends in town so it was a pretty full house.  Our first night was just dinner and hanging out relaxing.

The View From Their House

Summer Trip - Day 31: Madrid, Spain

Sunday, July 11th, 2010

Andy and I took the AVE (Spain’s high-speed train that maxes out at over 300 km/hr) to Madrid.  We got to our hostel, for which we had our own room and bathroom so it made it much more hotel-like but it was still pretty cheap.  We then walked around downtown for a bit and then tried to find public viewing area.  I was originally told that they would set up a screen for the public around Real Madrid’s stadium, so Andy and I got on the Metro and started heading in that direction.  On the metro we met some guys who were clearly doing the same thing as us, but they had heard of another location and given that they were Spanish, Andy and I tagged along with them to try to find the best spot to watch THE GAME.  Well it turned out that both of us were wrong and the huge public-viewing screens were actually set up about 3 blocks away from where we had originally got on the Metro… so we just turned around and went right back. 

This was the 8th time that I had been in a country when they played a World Cup game… and the 64th game of the tournament.  Previously there was always a ton of energy and people celebrating with their flags and horns AFTER the team won.  This time, it was absolutely ridiculous even before the game.  Everywhere around the city people were wearing their red and yellow… people in the subway were blowing horns and cheering for Spain.  The crowds close to the public viewing area were enormous.  They had a screen set up at the bottom of one of the bigger streets in town, but actually set another screen half-way up because of how many people they expected to show up to watch.

Before the game started everyone was giving a variety of “A por ellos”, “Yo soy EspaƱol”, and the Spanish national anthem as loud as they could.  The fire department had set up firetrucks along the side of the crowd and was hosing everyone down to keep them cool (so much fun!).  I ended up making a ton of friends for about 30 seconds each as we put our arms around each other… sing part of a song while jumping up and down a bit.. then move on to the next group.

During the game was all of the same: songs, chants, group gasps, yelling and exclamations… flags waving, griping at every call against Spain and cheering at every call for us.  I’m really glad of my slightly above-average height because it was pretty hard to see the screen over so many people (I don’t know why they didn’t just raise it up another 20 feet) but watching the game for most people was a secondary priority to just being there in the environment.

I shouldn’t have to retell what happened in the game as I should assume anyone who’s read this far in my blog must have some slight interest in the World’s game and the biggest sporting event in history.  However, when Iniesta (sorry Andy, Ramos is still my boy!) scored the goal in the 117th minute for Spain… the crowd absolutely EXPLODED.  I remember 4 years ago for the World Cup Final I hosted a party and whenever a team scored… my friends jumped in the pool and/or just cheered for their team.  This was on a different world.  Unbelievable celebration… if I were a better writer I’d go on and on about how crazy it was… but just know that it was the biggest celebration I’ve been a part of… far exceeding Cal beating Stanford last year and rushing the field.

The only time the cheering died down at all was right before the final whistle, only for everyone to explode back up again. The same thing happened when the Cup was awarded to the team; everyone wanted to see Casillas lifting the cup, and then went right on partying again.  Eventually Andy and I slowly made our way through the crowd toward Madrid’s central plaza.  The party there had already begun with firecrackers being sent off, people climbing the statues, everyone just having the best time ever.  Andy and I eventually made it on top of a newspaper stand to get a better view and party up there.  I’ll keep this story a little short and add some video/pictures for you guys to see.
This was, by the way, consistent for pretty much all of the downtown area… for hours and hours into the night.