Cock and Bull Stories

The adventures of a 20 year old student traveling around Europe.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Ben Harper Concert then Saltzburg, Austria

This post will cover two weekends since one of the weekends would be a very short story. Firstly, lets cover the weekend after Fall break where Katarina and I went to a Ben Harper concert. We were dropped off at the concert hall only 20 mintues away from Metz by a friend of Katarinas and then manuvered our way as far forward as we could while not getting crushed. My initial thoughts of the concert (before any music started) was that it was not very smoky. Usually at places like this in the US, there are tons of people smoking who knows what which then covers the entire croud.

I told Katarina this and she didn't really understand what I was saying but right after Ben Harper came out, the croud screamed and then the lighters were busted out and it actually turned into more a stoner fest than it is in the states! A few guys were so out of it they were falling on the ground and one girl actually had to be carried out of the pit after having some kind of seizure or something...typical Europe I guess! After the show, Kat called her friend, he picked us up and we went back to his place and hung out with him and his girlfriend for a while before we headed back home.
Ben Harper rocking out

As for the next weekend, Dustin and I, on a whim, decided one Wednesday afternoon that we were going to Saltzburg, Austria. We had planned on going there to see the sights and hang out with some friends we had made while we were in Interlaken, Switzerland but they never emailed us back. We decided to go anyway and sent them one final email with my cell phone number in case they wanted to hang out with us.

We took an overnight train and got to the hostel around 5 or 6 am, again, too early for check in so we sat in the lounge area and took some much needed naps. We woke up from the pain in our backs caused by the wooden benches we were sleeping on and decided to look at the parifanalia that the hostel had strewed about. We found a group tour package that took us on the infamous Sound of Music tour then followed by a tour of the salt mine the city was named after.

Sidebar: for those who don't know, the academy award winning musical 'The Sound of Music' was filmed in Saltzburg, Austria in the 70's. Also, Saltzburg is German for Salt City. Okay then, back to the story...

Greesy haired and sleep deprived, we hopped on the bus to go see the film sights of Dustin's favorite childhood movie as well as some georgous Austrian countryside. We finally picked up all the people on our tour and soon realized that Dustin and I's age COMBINED was still younger than 60% of the tour group. On our way around the picturesque conuntryside our tour guide, a Scottish man dressed in full liederhosen, bantered us with Sound of Music facts as well as pointed out all of the other sights Saltzburg has to offer, such as Mozart's birthplace, Hitler's summer cabin among many other things. On our tour we saw the, actually two different, houses that scenes were filmed at, the church where the main character, Maria, attempted to be a nun, the gazebo (which was actually moved from its origonal location for some reason) and then had a stop at some small town to get lunch before the tour continued.

The house used for the backyard of the Trap Family house

After our sandwitches we made from stuff at the grocery store, we jumped back on our retirement cruiser for more super exciting times. Our bus then took us on more of a landscape tour around to this small village on a lake where we walked around for a while and got some great pictures and tried on traditional Bavarian hats.

A small girl that I thought looked cute feeding the swans

We finally got back to the main station of our tour company where Dustin and I boarded a second bus that took us to the salt mine tour. An hour and a half nap later, we arrived at the salt mine, jumped out of the bus, dressed ourselves in protective clothing (a canvas jacket, pants and a leather butt pad), and boarded the little train that would take us through the caverns deep into the moutain. The caverns were so small that I felt like if I had moved my head a foot to the right or left that it would have been taken clean off as we were flying down the tunnels at 20 mph sitting longways on, literally, a bench.

My attempt to get a picture on the train in the two lane section

We walked through all sorts of dusty caverns, watched a cartoon on how salt mining works, slid down these strange 50 foot slides on our leather padded buts, tasted the supersaturated salt water and took a small boat through one of the caverns used to extract the salt from the rock around it. After that was all over, we got back on our bench and flew through the caverns all over again until we made it to ground level just as the sun set over the top of snow capped alps. Once this was all done, the bus took us to another small village just across the border into Germany where we got some food and scoped out the small trade shops and got back on the bus to take us to our hostel.

Dustin and I at the end of our tour dressed the stylish gear given to us

At the hostel, exausted from not having any sleep, we had dinner and played cards with some other people we met there and enjoyed a beer or two before getting some much needed sleep so we could get up nice and early to walk around the city. But before we got our pijamas on, our friends from Interlaken called and said that they were in town and would love to meet up with us the next night, cool!

The following day took Dustin and I through a farmers market, the beautiful gardens that more scenes from the Sound of Music were filmed at, played in another crazy playgroud where we rode the slide and giant swings, the town square where we played a game of chess on the lifesized board, looked through the main entryway to the wax museum where Dustin and I showed the Mozart playing piano a thing or two, took pictures next to a crazy looking old lady figure and finally, made our way up the big hill to the famous castle.
Mozart can never get it right

At the castle we saw took in some great view of the city, took a tour up to the top of the castle, saw the torture chambers, some crazy humiliation/torture equipment, and a bull painted half black and half brown. The story behind the bull is as follows...The castle was under seige and in hopes to get the seiging army to back down, the people of the castle paraded around the last remaining brown cow to show they had one, then they painted it black and paraded it around again. The seiging army, thinking they had at least 2 cows, gave up figuring that they had plenty of food to survive...ok then.

At the top of the castle overlooking the Saltzburg river

So after we had our fill of tourist stuff we went back to the hostel, got some food and met up with our friends from Interlaken, Switzerland at a bar downtown. We hung out at this Irish style pub that had a live band then migrated to another bar down the road where we hung out and where one of the Aussie guys that we brought along with us made out with one of the girls that we met there for about half an hour next to everyone trying to act natural.

We made it back to our hostel late and woke up the next morning to go to a Red Bull museum. As it turns out, Red Bull's headquarters is in Saltzburg. We caught the bus and got to this wild looking hangar and inside was a small exibit to a few different Red Bull sponsored sports cars, motorcycles, airplanes and even a small exibit dedicated to a guy who straps wings to his back and jumps out of airplanes so he can travel a few lateral miles in the air before hitting the ground. There wasn't much to see here so after an hour or so, Dustin and I got back to the hostel to grab our things, get a Kebap and board the train back to Metz
Amazing flying guy!

All in all, this trip was good. We got to see some friends from other travels which was awsome as well as check out an awsome castle, salt mines, and a surprisingly good nightlife.

Next weekend I think I stayed in town to study for test but the following one I met up with my brother and we went to Paris for Thanksgiving on Champs Elysees. Have a nice day and until then, Chao!

Monday, January 15, 2007


A long time has passed since my last blog entry. Basically the reasoning for this was just due to sheer lazyness as well as computer troubles which got me behind. Regardless, I wanted to write short stories of the rest of the trip for those who might care the read stories about them. I will keep it up about once every week and include more pictures this time...yippe!

I think I left you guys at Greece. Our group of 6 made it to Athens for our first 2 nights where we cruised around almost all the sights while trying to avoid the thousands of wild dogs and cats roaming the streets looking for table scraps. It was here we tried our first shot of Ouzo, a traditional Greek liquor that tastes very strongly like black liquourish (not always a good thing), got confused for being Greek 8 or 9 times, made friends with a few stray dogs and ate some plenty of feta cheese and baclava to go around. After this, the group split up. Two of the girls decided they would like to go to the islands in SE Greece (Santorini, Mikanos, etc...) instead of the trip we had planned before: A hostel/resort called the Pink Palace on the island of Corfu off the western coast of Greece.

View of the Acropolis from the streets of Athens

After our LONG travel on a bus and then a ferry, we got to the island and were met by a Pink Palace representative, a crazy old lady named Magda who, when asked, claimed she was 'concieved, born and raised at the Pink Palace'...ok then. We had an interesting drive up winding, olive covered roads in a big van going way to fast. When we were, thankfully, let out of the car, we checked in and got a complimentary shot of Ouzo at the front desk (yeah!?). The 4 of us proceded to get bags into our rooms and sat on our balconies as we enjoyed the sun setting just over the cove that our rooms looked over.
The view from Gavin and I's balcony

That night we got on our pink togas and had an actual Greek toga party at the bar down the road from our rooms. After a night filled of all sorts of debauchery, and 5 ounce shots, I woke up the next morning, drank a big glass of water, got Gavin and I's togas folded up for return and noticed that his was COVERED in dirt, blood and everything else I didn't want to know about. When I returned Gavin woke up and the first words that came out of his mouth were; 'what the fuck happened last night?!'

After I stopped laughing, he goes to tell me he lost his glasses, he had someone elses sandals and there were cuts and bruises all over his body. Not to mention, he doesn't remember anything after the first drink that followed dinner. After a little more histeria, we realized that we didn't really have much more time to dilly dally since the booze cruise was coming up fast and we had to sign up to make sure we could get on. I knocked on the girls door, Janine answered it looking like she spent the night awake in a lesbian jail clenching a big bottle of water. After I talked her into drinking more on a boat in a few hours, we had our suits on and got on the boat for even more good times.

Gavin and I before the Toga Party

The Booze Cruise took us first to a 50+ft cliff that I did twice and what a rush a 5 second free fall is! Our next stop took us to an halfway submerged cave which had a second cliff of about 30 feet for us to jump off of. I gathered some courage and after a few practice jumps, did a front flip off the rock, climbed back on the boat with adrenaline induced shakes and we were on our way again . The last stop was a secluded beach where we call played frisbee, had a few more brews and made our way back to the hostel.

On the way back a thing happened that I think will stick in my mind for the rest of my life as one of the most rediculous moments of my days...This one Aussie guy was completely smashed, laying on the boat's bar, playing with the dildo attached to the end of the beer bong when I, after he tried to stick it in my face, pointed it back at him jokingly. Immediately after I did that, he went from laying down to up on his feet and off the side of the boat at full throttle in one leap. It seemed that only the boat driver and myself realized what had just happened and since I was too busy laughing my ass off in amazement, the captain threw the Aussie a life saver which he proceded to start swimming on to the nearest island (about a mile away). We got the Aussie back on the boat, tied him down (no, not really) and got back to the hostel where we all showered and got ready for another night at the club near the hostel. At dinner, the boat jumper's girlfriend was sitting alone and said that her boyfriend was so pissed drunk that he couldn't even wake up for dinner!
Me jumping off the big cliff on the Booze Cruise

The next day we planned to go on an ATV safari. We got geared up and had a short chat with the tour guide who couldn't help but talk tits and ass every 30 seconds. I have to admit, it was pretty funny for the first, say, 5 minutes but this thing lasted over 5 hours which = not so funny. So, after going on trails faster than I thought could be safe, almost rolling my quad and getting some amazing views of the island, we got back and did our regular routine.

The Group on one of the many picturesque views of the island

The next day was October 31st and for those involved in satanic cults, it means Halloween. Now, usually no one else but Americans celebrate all hallows eve but since this hostel was populated by more Americans than not, they thought it neccissary to throw a party...well not so much a Halloween party as it was just another excuse to get hammered.

After deliberating on which t-shirt and pair of jeans would make a good costume, I had the grandious idea to dress up as Kevin Federline (the ex-husband to Brittany Spears who is known for being one of the biggest wannabe gangstas in the buisness). My costume consisted of a camoflauge shirt, my muddy jeans from quadding, a pair of fake Dior sunglasses and most importantly, a 5 day old beard with cornrows. For the 40% of the people at the party, all I had to say was K-Fed's signature line, 'po-po-zow!' and I had them going crazy...actually that phrase turned into pretty much all that I said to anyone by the end of the night, haha!

Pre-Halloween dress-up party

The week was coming to an end and all that the rest of us wanted to do was chill by the beach and relax while we got a little fall time tan in the 75 degree weather. The last day and a half we were there, things started to wind down at the hostel as well as a storm front came in which cooled it down significantly which made it easy for us to part ways with 'The Palace'.

We got back to Athens a day before we had planned and when we arrived there at 4am, we couldn't check into our hostel until 11am so we went for a hike up the acropolis again and hung out on a biblical rock, awaiting an Athenian sunrise. After a few hours we couldn't wait anymore so we got some food and took a nice nap on the hostel louge's couches.
Me at the higest point of Athens viewing over all its glory

We finally woke up, played some chess, ate some toast, took a shower and went on another walkabout around the city for one last time before we departed from where has been thought was the location of mythical city of Atlanis.

All in all I did a lot this trip, saw ancient ruins, jumped off rediculously high cliffs, swam in bat caves, danced in a pink toga, rode a quad to views better than anything I'll ever see again and spent time with great friends. I hope you enjoied this latest installment of the "Cock and Bull Stories". Send me a message if you like this style of posting better than the old...or if you want to see anything different.

Next entry will tell the tale of a journey to Saltzburg, Austria where Dustin and I explored salt mines, lived The Sound of Music, saw where Mozart was born and got into the typical nightlife scene.

Alright, thanks again for reading and until next time, goodbye!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Procrastination to the extreme

Ok, first off, for those who look forward to the weekly posts that I haven't been making, I'm sorry. After I got back from Greece, I had test to study for then after studying for so long, I just didn't want to do anything. Also, I had written most of the Greece story twice and BOTH times my computer decided to update itself and restart in the middle of the night, thus, deleteing my almost completed posts...aka, I'm a huge procrastinator.

Unfortunatly, I am not going to update the whole shebang right now but I WILL post up some of my favorite pictures from Greece for you all to enjoy/hold you over.

Other stories to look forward to: the weekend after fall break in Metz where I studied for a test on Mondaywent to a Ben Harper concert and then this up coming weekend in Salzburg, Austria. Alright, enjoy the pictures and I'll get typing next week since I will have some free time.

Take care, enjoy and till then, au revoir.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Metz, France...what!?

Unfortunately, nothing really exciting happened this weekend...sorry if you were expecting something super interesting and adventurous, it just didn't really happen. However, instead of just talking about my un-eventful weekend, I'll break it up into two segments. Part 1: my weekend and Part 2: one of my favorite stories from other friends travel experiences.
Part 1: My weekend

The weekend started off with a fun night downtown at a club called (translated) the two zebras. I actually didn't even know there was a club there until after I walked into the bar and down a spiral staircase was a small, but fun, underground club. After a while dancing there, I headed back home at around 2 or 3am.

The next day Pioter, Dustin and I decided to get some lunch downtown as well as accompany Dustin so he could get train tickets for his trip next weekend to Italy. When at the bus stop, we ran into Katherine, a fellow GTL student. She was headed to Paris with her parents, who left for the train station earlier since she was running late. Turns out that her train was an unprecedented hour late! After Dustin said 'forget it' to the super long line at the Metz ticket booth, we grabbed a Doner Kepab (a pita like thing) in L'Place St. Jaques followed by ice cream where we talked a lot about energy and its effect on society/economy (yeah, were not geeks or anything). We got cold when some big winds set in so we felt it the right time to go home.

Dustin still wanted to try his luck at the train station so we caught the first bus that we thought would get us there. However, the bus we took was going the wrong direction. 45 minutes later we got to the train station (a usual 5 minute ride) but decided we should just head home since our bus ticket was only good for an hour.

After that, we talked about where we should go for a day trip: Champagne, Stuttgart, etc...

We concluded that Champagne for tastings/tours was the best bet since it was not even 2 hours away, unlike the 4 hours to Stuttgart. Not decided on what time or if we would even go, I made dinner at home as a few people went downtown again followed by a movie and an early, much needed, sleep.

The next day I woke up at 11am to find a note in my door from Dustin saying that he and Pioter were leaving for Champagne at 6:00 am to catch a 7am train that day...woops, thanks guys! After the initial heart break, I hung out with a friend and watched one of the movies I downloaded on my computer followed by another home cooked meal and a trip downtown to my favorite bar that serves only Belgian beers (mmm, my favorite).

Sunday was pretty dull as well with some homework, internet surfing and watching a recording of the Yellow Jackets get destroyed by Clemson on someone's computer and now I'm here...typing this.
Part 2: My favorite story

I'll start off with my friend Tony Pendalino...well I should say where do I start with this kid. A born wanderer, Tony finds himself in the most precarious situations on a regular basis but seems to always come out unscathed. I'll tell a tale of his adventures at Oktoberfest...

Tony and Gavin went to Munich to visit a friend of theirs as well as participate in the biggest gathering of beer bellied, drunken fools in the world: Oktoberfest. The trip there was fine, as well as most of the first day where the three found themselves in such a stupor that they decided to take a nap on a nice grassy hill with a multitude of other Oktoberfestians. I'll tell the next part in two different perspectives, one from Gavin and the other from Tony.

First Gavin's:
I was sleeping next to Tony on the hill and the next thing I know, I wake up and he's gone. I'm thinking that he just went to the bathroom or something so we waited around for a bit then decided that we would go looking for him in the crowd of a couple hundred thousand, yeah, like that's going to work. After no success, we figured there was no hope and just prayed that Tony remembered how to get a hold of us (note: Tony has no cell phone) and/or the way to get back to our friends place that he's only been to once and is miles away from the Oktoberfest site. We replaced our worry with another liter of beer, and another to later find ourselves back at my friends place with no sign of Tony.

However, next day at Oktoberfest, we get over to one of the tents and sure enough, I get a phone call from Tony saying he found an internet cafe and my phone number. After we met back up, we heard his crazy side of the story...

Now, Tony's side:
I was sleeping on the hill right next to Gavin and my friend and the next thing I knew, they were gone! Maybe I just sleep walked right out of their sight, or was just really wasted but all I knew is that I need to pee. I did my thing, went back to where I thought they were and couldn't find them. I tried searching the places we had been previously and with no luck, bought another liter to ease my sorrows.

When the last tent sang the last song I realized that I had no idea where I was going to sleep and with no phone numbers and phone, I just started walking in the direction of the train station we got to the Marienplatz on. (The Marienplatz is the area in which Oktoberfest takes place). When I reached the train tracks, I just started walking. Not really sure where I was going, I decided to take a nap in this ditch that looked nice. I woke up a little later and started walking along this fun trail that lead into the woods. After I ventured along that for a good while, I took nap in another less conspicuous ditch and later made it to the train station where I rode/slept on the train from 6:00am until 10:00am when I hoped to find an internet cafe in order to get a hold of Gavin.

I eventually found an internet cafe near the Marianplatz, called Gavin and met up with him to share another fun day together drinking liter beers...

I may not be able to give this story justice but I hope you can imagine hearing that and just wondering what the hell was going through Tony's mind. Not to mention, I got a call from Gavin during that weekend asking if I heard from Tony since he couldn't find him. haha...

Well, this next week I've got one test to worry about and then I'm off for an entire week!! Woo hoo for fall break (not like I've been working particularly hard or anything). Plans: fly to Athens, Greece to sight see then off to the island Corfu at a hostel resort called the Pink Palace. My travel book describes the Pink Palace in one glorious sentence:

"Here, hordes of American and Canadian backpackers trade travel stories and bodily fluids while enjoying the nightclub, clothing optional cliff-diving and other water sports"

Needless to say, the next entry will probably be very short, as I might have to censor most of the events so future employers don't read it. haha, no, I'm only kidding but next week should definitely be a fun one.

Anyway, thanks for reading and tune in next time.

'Till then, au revoir!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Bruges, Belgium

This weekend stated off a little slow but soon there after, the fun/exitement factor was boosted beyond expected levels. Before I get to ahead of myself, lets rewind to Thursday, the night before we left.

Thursday had plans to go out downtown to the clubs. Nothing seemingly wrong with that, except that our trian left at 5:30am and the bars don't even close till after that! I set my phone alarm for 3:00am and headed out.

After spending a good few hours and feeling like I just smoked an entire pack of cigarettes from the second hand smoke, I left the club to get a cab. I got home at 3:45, got a good half hour of sleep, packed by bags and got to the train that morning.

Our train seemed like it was going to go smooth but when I woke up in a town before our first connection in Thionville, everyone was getting off and we had to board a bus to get to our connecting train station since on the previous Wed., there was an 'accident' and the tracks were closed. So, what is usually a one hour journey from Metz to Luxembourg, took a good 3, or more, hours.

After getting on the next train to Brussels, I cooled my jets and awaited my arrival in Bruges. Once we got in, we hopped on the bus, got to our hostel, checked in and hit the cobbelstone streets for some grub. We ate at a nice resturaunt in the main square of Bruges where we ate 2 local dishes, oysters and beer beef stew (both of which were delicious but not so filling). After blowing too much money on food, we wandered around town for a good couple of hours seeing the sights (including Michelangelo's 'Madona and Child') and walking around the canals that filled Bruges.

After we had our fill for the day, we went back to the hostel for, what is becoming ritualistic on our weekends, happy hour. We had a cheap beer, decided to walk around town some more, got back, had a few more beers, met some Spanish kids and an American backpacker, went searching for a fun bar, got tired since I hadn't slept for 2 days, and went to sleep. While back at the hostel we were thinking, this place kind of blows. We were trying to think up other plans like going to Amsterdam, Brussels, or anywhere to have more fun. We decided against that idea and waited to see what the next day would bring us.

Saturday, we got up for breakfast at the hostel, then got on our walking shoes to check out the 'holy blood'. The holy blood is what the church calls the vile of blood that they claim is actually that of Jesus Christ himself. The story behind it is that back during the Crusades, a night was given the vile by someone in the holy land and he brought it back to Europe. It now resides in Bruges, Belgium. Every day they have a ceremony for it and you can even go up to it, kiss and pray over it and then leave. Apparently people come from all over the world, just to see it. I don't know if it is actually true but I'm going to go with another currupt ancient Catholic church hoax. Check out the video I took of the ceremony:

After we did that, we played some UNO and chess at the hostel, and then made our way to our most important destination of the weekend, the Brugges Zot brewary where we ran into our friend Nick from the previous night. We took a cool tour through this ancient brewary's labrynth of just too small hallways and doors in order to finally reach our destination, the free beer upon completion. After that was all done, Nick went to get food and Dustin and I walked to the next place, a bar that serves over 300 of the sweetest nectars in the world, Belgian Beer. Check out the video:

Here we had 2 delicious beers and also met a pair of really cool early 30 something guys from London, Johnathan and Dean, who invited us to tag along to a Circle Bruges soccer game. We agreed and after we finished our beers, caught the bus to the game. We got our 10 Euro tickets that were right behind the home bench and watched my first European soccer experiance where, needless to say, I had an amazing time. I've never seen so many people stoked over their home team. They might even put Oakland Raiders fans to shame. The most fun part about the game was talking to the British guys. We were exchanging slang in some of those, had to be there moments.

After the intense soccer action and me getting a picture with the Bruges Bunny just as the visiting team was scoring, we caught a cab back to town where Dustin and I had a beer, played some UNO at the hostel, ran into our friends then headed to a Rock and Roll bar down the street where I met some of the coolest guys I've met so far, a trio of Belgian metal heads who spoke flawless english.

We exchanged cultural stories for a while. Nick and Dustin, tired of getting lectured about politics with an obviously drunk Belgian, grabed me to go to check out a bar that Nick's drunk, Scottish, 50 year old hostel roomate recommended with no avail. Being it already 2am, we decided to go home and got a nice nights sleep.

The next day we didn't really have anything else to do so we just caught the earliest train back to Metz after our late morning wake-up. On our way there, Dustin and I walked down this really picturesque trail along the canal where we happened upon this random wooden scuplture of a human body hanging from strings. After further inspection we found out that every 15 minutes, with the help of a motion sensor in a tree, it would dance. Giddy with exitement for this event, I got my camera ready to take some video and this is what I got:

Yeah, pretty anti-climatic right!!? We joked about how the carving must have arthritis with a British guy standing next to us and got our buts to the train station and made our way home.

In summary, the weekend can be summed up into one phrase...nice one! haha, definite inside joke. But yeah, we had a blast eventhough it had a really boring start. I wouldn't ever go back to Bruges but its definetly a nice place to go for a day or 2 max, especially with your significant other.

Anyway, next weekends plans are still up in the air (as usual). Some brainstorms: London, Champagne for champagne tasting, Stutgart, who knows...

Thanks for reading and 'till then,
Au revoir!

Monday, October 09, 2006

Interlaken, Switzerland

This weekend was definetly the best one I've had so far. From the moment I stepped foot in a Swiss train station I knew it was going to be fun.

After a abrupt awakening to realize it was already 10 minutes past the time my friends were meeting for the bus to the trian station, I stuffed everything I thought I might need into my backpack, caught a cab and got to our trian with only 3 minutes to spare.

After an unusually calm train ride, we arrived in Interlaken and made our way to the hostel, Balmers Herberge. This hostel is the greatest hostel I've ever even heard of. Not only was it pretty reasonable (about $25) but we got a pool table, fooseball, ping pong, hammocs, a big projector movie screen and not to mention, there was a club underneath the hostel with happy hour from 9-10pm. Aside from all the amenities, we were also able to book all sorts of extreeme sports right from the front desk. The girls decided that they HAD to go skydiving in the alps so right as we checked in, they bolted to get on the van to take them to the heli that they would soon jump out of. Dustin and I decided that this was optimal time to go for a hike up to see some waterfalls.

To get to the waterfalls we just walked to the local train station, jumped on a train for 20 minutes and we ended up in this amazing valley with 300+ ft rockwalls on each side. I even took a video so you can get a taste of how incredible the scenery is:

During our hike, we walked up this steep trail leading behind a 400ft waterfall where I proceded to fill up my bottle with some of the most refreshing water on the face of the earth. After that, we pet the sheep you see in the picture and headed down the trail some more. On the trail we passed numerous cow pastures (yes, they were all wearing bells) where both Dustin and I made some new friends, Betsy and Shakira. We got tired of petting the cows and when they left they were all mooing in sadness that we left. We headed down the trail for another hour before we turned back since it was getting dark.

On the way back, right as we were passing this one cow pasture, the farmer was letting his cows out on the road so they could go to the barn so we ended up walking right in between a few dozen cows for a good half mile as we avoided the random rivers of shit coming out of their behinds. Check out the video:

Dustin and I got back to the hostel just before dark and hit up the resturaunt in the hostel for some authentic Swiss food (sausage and rosti, a hashbrown type thing). Once that was all done, it was about time for happy hour so we both made our way downstairs for half price beers where we met some crazy girls who are studying abroad in Austria. Dustin hung out with one of the girls all night and I tried my best to avoid the girl who introduced herself to other people as a 'skank', no joke. haha! A few drinks and a couple hours later, we got back to the room and passed out with aspirations to go canyoning (explain later) at 9:30am.

That next morning, we got our breakfast, got our towels and got picked up by our canyoning guide. We headed to their headquarters to get all of our gear (4 mil wetsuit, harnest, helmet, drysuit jacket, booties and a helmet) and drove out to the canyoning site which was about an hour away. The two guides decided it was a good idea to check the water levels at the base of the river canyon before going out and noticed that the water had risen to three times the safe limit for us to go canyoning due to the rainstorm the previous night. After the initial stab to the heart, I settled down and we agreed to go on a less intense canyoning trip later in the day.

A few hours after we got back to the hostel, we got piked up again by a new guide, suited up at HQ and drove 10 minutes to the new canyoning site. After a small hike we got into the river canyon that we were going to walk, jump, slide and belay our way through. As the 14 of us lined up at the rivers edge, our guide told us that we had to jump off this 4 foot tall rock, on our backs in the water to get it all started. Just seeing everyone before me jump in, I didn't think twice about the water temp but that initial hit of glacier water will definetly wake you up. Thank God for wetsuits.

We proceded to jump from rock to rock like a gazel where we came to our first obstical, a 30-40 foot cliff that we could belay down. After that was all done, we treked over to a small jump of 10 feet, leaded our way to a natural water slide, another jump and the biggest jump of the day, a 30 foot cliff. The guide told us to jump out as far as we could and instead I just jumped up and when I hit the water, the current pushed me undeneath this rock overhang. It wasn't a big deal since the other guide at the bottom just grabbed me by my life jacket and I got out. After a few more jumps and a fun water slide, we got out of the river with grins from ear to ear all waiting for our free beer at the end.

After peeling off the wetsuits and drying off, we had our beers, looked at the pictures the camera girl took and then headed back.

For dinner I decided that I had to have some Swiss Fondue (a local dish of melted cheese and breads). After being completely unimpressed and unfulfilled, we made our way back to the hostel to wait for happy hour to start again.

After a few hours at the club, hanging out with our fellow canyoners, I called it a night and got to bed. The next day Dustin and I had the idea of renting this little car that was more of a glorified golf car. It looked kind of like a Ferrari and even had the Ferrari symbol on the front hood except the horse was a cow and was called Fun-rarri. We drove this thing up the mountian and back railing every hair pin turn, making the tires squeel. We proceded to drive on a few closed roads, get yelled at and then finally made it back to the hostel in time to get our stuff together and head back home.

In summary, if your in Europe when it is warm, you need to go to Interlaken. Aside from what we did, you can do skydiving, bungy (one of the tallest in the world but closed when we were there), white water rafting, zorbing (rolling down a hill in a giant hamster ball basically), etc, etc...

If I were going to be here during the summer I would definetly take a trip back.

Next weekend...possibly Berlin, maybe Frankfurt, maybe Nice. I should probably decide pretty soon.

Thanks for reading and until next time, au revoir!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Surfin Surfari

I'm back, and in one piece from my trip to SW France / NW Spain for some surfing. The trip overall was good but not as nice as I had expected it to be. I arrived in Biarritz after a good nights sleep in a train at 7am and Toby, the surfari leader, picked me up in his shady early 80's beat up VW bus with surfboards piled on high.

Since Toby and the other two people in the van had stayed out late the previous night, we decided to get some coffee in the train station cafe. While we sipped our cafe ole, we started talking to these other Americans who happened to be from Pepperdine in Malibu, California. They were studying in Paris and had taken a trip down to Biarritz for some beach lounging as well as watching some Quik Pro WCT action. Toby decided that it would be fun to take them to the beach with us and go surfing, so we did. One of the kids, Bobby, actually lives in San Clemente when not in school which was kind of a cool coinsidence (San Clemente is about an hour south of Huntington Beach where my parents live).

Once we got to the beach, we scoped out some clean shoulder high sets rolling through, got our trunks and boards and paddled out. I didn't realize how out of surf shape my arms were until it took me a good while to actually paddle out to the break. haha! After I got out there it took me a while to catch a good wave but once I did I was stoked. I just wanted to ride all day but my arms were so tired after a while that I couldn't paddle much longer. After a good little break, we went back out to catch a few more, ate some lunch and then made our way to pick up two other people as well as drop off our friends near their hotel.

After retrieving the couple (one from Canada, the other from Austrailia) we headed up to Hossegor to watch some Quiksilver Pro France action. The waves weren't very good, mostly chest high, occational head high, sets that were totally blown out. However, somehow these pros can take the shittiest wave and turn it into the best ride I've ever gotten. After watching the likes of Taj Burrow, Mark Occopulco, Jeremy Flores, among others, we walked around the contest sight and then headed back to the van for some dinner. After we ate our nachos and sangria off the hood of some old beater parked behind us, we made our way to downtown Hossegor for some post contets night life. Since Hossegor is such a small town, there was only 1 bar that everyone had congregated at. It was so crowded that I could barely get to the actual bar to get a drink! One thing is for sure though, the surfer style of dress and attitude is the same world wide. I felt like I was back on Main St. in Huntington again, aside from people speaking French.

After a few drinks there, we were all real tired so we went back to the van, got the tents and set up camp on the beach only to get rained on in the morning! When I woke up, however, I took a peek over to the contest sight and there were overhead barrels rolling through on the beach break. The waves weren't coming in so fast and were so short that they were almost unridable, eventhough a few locals were getting tubed for a good second.

Then we took down our tents and headed back to the van to see what the plan for the day was. Since it was raining, Toby suggested that we head to San Sebastian, Spain for the day/night since he didn't want to get rained on again. We all agreed and off to San Sab we went.

We arrived at the hostel that Toby frequents, set up our stuff and hit the beach that was only a 10 minute walk away. Some of the kids at the hostel were saying that it was as flat as a lake out there so I brought a bit 7'6" fun board out, however, once we got out there there were some solid chest high + sets coming in. The main break was filled with locals and even a contest. I tried to catch a few waves but, not wanting to upset the locals, let them have most of them. One of the guys from the hostel was catching all sorts of stuff on his 9' board and got in a verbal argument with a local which was pretty amusing. Apparently it happens a lot and they will even try and threaten you with the old, "let's settle this on the beach" deal but when you agree, they just paddle back near their friends and hide.

After avoiding any Basque confrontations, I walked back to the hostel with hopes of going to the clubs in San Sebastian. Everyone else at the hostel wanted to do the same so we hung out for a while until the clubs started getting busy. I got tired of wating around talking to people that I had no interest in talking to so I read my book in my bunk bed waiting for Toby to come get me so we could go out. Unfortunatly, I fell asleep reading and Toby just 'forgot' to wake me up before he went out. I woke up at 8:30am, got my book off the floor and continued reading outside when Toby and this other girl from the hostel walk in at 9am from the bars. Obviously wasted, Toby appologized for not waking me, gave me his wetsuit and I went out surfing again, this time with a 6'4" in hand.

As I got out to the beach, the white wash was really intense and after a good 15 minute paddle out, I sat, waiting as the waves progressively got bigger and bigger. At one time I think the swell rolling through was about 8 or 9 feet high, and I was scared! Not even the locals were dropping in on these terribly shaped waves. After I saw a few guys drop in with unknows success, I decided I might as well do the same. I paddled a little farther towards shore and the next wave that came was already breaking at the time I was paddling. I was already fully committted to catching it and next thing I knew, I'm going over the top followed by a good 20 second hold down with enough time to catch my breath before the next waves of the set came pummeling through. After a good 5 minutes of diving under white wash, I decided to ride back into shore to take a break. After a good rest and a nice conversation with an old guy in Spanish (take in mind I don't even really speak Spanish), I headed back out for a wave or two before I made my way back to the hostel to get a ride to the train station so I could go home.

Once I got to the hostel, Toby was passed out in his bead with no hopes of waking him up. His friends even tried shaking him with the hopes of offering him a lit cigarette to wake him up but it was to no avail. Fortunately, his friend Jeff drove me to the station since he was already planning on going surfing somewhere in France anyway.

After I found out that the train was fully booked, I got a later train that would get me into Metz only 20 minutes before my first class. Jeff and the rest of the gang suggested I tag along with them while they go surfing and they could drop me off at the train station later, which we did.

Finally I got back to the Biarritz train station with about 5 hours to kill. I decided to just start walking down the main road for a good 20 minutes to find a nice spot to watch the sun set. After wanderin through this neighborhood having a small cat follow me, I headed back to a pizzarea for a beer and a pizza. After I was done with that, I sat in the train station for another hour or two, reading my book awaiting my train. Once I got on it, it was no big deal getting home with only one transfer in Paris, the only problem: get to class on time. Luckily, I got a bus that took me from the trian station to campus and after a short jog to the GTL building, I got there just in time to not have a quiz that day. At least I got to class on time though.

So, all in all, the trip was pretty fun eventhough there were a few boring/dissapointing parts. I think if I could do it over again I would have either gone to Biarritz NOT with the surfari thing or to Oktoberfest with my friends. Either way, it was nice to get back in the water, thats for sure.

Well, next weekend should be really exiting as well with a trip to Interlaken, Switzerland for some bunjy jumping, white water rafting, and any other life threatening activities I can get into.
Until then, au revoir!