Cock and Bull Stories

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

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Oktober...I mean, StudyFest


So, unfortunatly, contrary to my previous post's prediction for the weekend, I did not go to Oktoberfest. Instead, over the past 8 days, I have had some sort of examination in all 4 of my classes. Not only that, but, after all the studying I did for them all, I still didn't even do that great. Here, I'll break it down right quick for you...

Fluids: I had all week to study for this thing and spent most of it reviewing homeworks and memroizing equations and processes. I got to the test and little mistake by little misatke, I ended up not doing so hot. It wasn't that I didn't know the material, I just made little mistakes and they add up.

The following week had 3 examinations:

History: The easiest of them all. All I had to do was read a few readings and then take a 10 question quiz...simple and I got a 9/10.

Mechanics of Materials: I had this material down but I had a complete brain lapse of equations when I took the test after getting only a handfull of hours of sleep. So far 1 for 3. Luckily for me, my teacher wants to give everyone A's and said that I could definetly still get an A as long as I worked hard....which I definetly will.

Thermodymanics: After doing so poorly on both Mechanics and Fluids, I studied my ass off for this test. I got to the test, took a shot of espresso, and got pumped to write down all the information I'd been craming into my skull. After a solid hour and a half of working the problems to full completion, I started reading over the problem statements agian and with no time left, realized that for problem 1 (30% of the test) I somehow only read half of the problem statement and basically created a problem totally different in my head. I guess I can just never win can I...If I hadn't done that terrible mistake I could have easily gotten a high B if not an A on a test that the rest of the class felt they did very poorly on. I pray that my teacher shows some pitty on my situation and grants me a descent grade, or at least a chance to fix it.

Other than studying, the past two weeks was filled with a few really strange Supelec (the college we share dorms with) parties and two trips downtown to hang out last weekend. Once at this awsome Belgian beer bar that has actual trees growing out of the ground and into the ceiling in side of it, and then another night at a French-Morrocan resturaunt. Both were a fun break from constant studying.

Well, I'm sorry for such a sort and boring post but next week will for sure be one to come back and read. In case you don't remember from my previous post, I'm headed to SW France to a town called Biarritz for a surf camp/watching the Quiksilver Pro. Check out the website for the place I'm going to...and actually leaving for in about half an hour!!
www.smashedtravel.com

I can't wait, I'm super stoked. Hopefully the guy picking me up is there and I can hit the beach bright and early tomorrow morning!

Plans for weekend after that: more extreemeness in Interlaken, Switzerland with the second highest bungy jump in the world (600ft) along with possible white water rafting, repelling, skydiving, etc...

Till then, au revoir!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Weekend With the Parents



So after a few weeks of crazy weekends and even crazier travel iteneraries, I settled down a bit and enjoyed a nice weekend with the parents who stopped by for the weekend.

The first night found us on a little tour of downtown Metz where we got a beer at a bar that I often frequent when downtown called L'Trefalgar located in the main resturaunt square near the Cathedral. After taking a tour through the Cathedral as well as it's tresury and museum, we headed out to a nice French resturaunt on the river. There we got a nice bottle of wine and some true French cuisine (rabbit for my Dad, pigeon for the Mom and a nice steak for myself). After that was done we headed back to L'Trefalgar for a nightcap and made our way back home.

The next day, we took off in the rent-a-car (brand new 6speeed 2.0L diesel Audi station waggon) for Hidelbourg to see the famous castle. After arriving to early to check into our hotel, we parked the car and made our way up the hill to see the famous castle which was very spectacular. Set on top of a hill overlooking all of Hidelbourg, this red castle, thrice destroyed (twice by war, once by lightning) was breathtaking. From the intracite sculptures, 7 FOOT thick walls of towers toppled over, to acres of lush garden terrace all towering over the old German city built next to a small river, it was all amazing. As the audio tourguide told us many of times, many poets, artitsts and dignitaries have spent a lot of time here. Even Mark Twain himself wrote a good number of poems describing the castle grounds. After we saw all there was to see at the castle, we headed down the mountain in a small train that went directly down hill.

After checking into the hotel, we headed over to a local resturaunt to get some typical German food. After he had our full of Boulyabase and ostrich steaks and lamb goulash, we walked back to the hotel, had a beer and got some sleep with plans to go to Baden Baden then a nights stay in Strasbourg.

Baden Baden is a town famous for it's natural hot springs and is known to have many Roman Royals as well as Hitler himself take baths in the old Roman style bath houses. We didn't go to these hot springs but instead, we walked the streets of this ritzie shopping district set along a nice babbeling brook. After getting a few pictures and some more Boulyabase, it was time to make it back to France for dinner and more sightseeing in Strasbourg. As my travel book says:
"Strasburg has been annexex so many times by both sides that even its residents seem unsure of their current nationality."
We took in the sights of this island of a tourist site which included a VERY large shopping district, resturaunts and a Cathedral dedicated to Notre Dame. We gazed at the amazing architecture of this fine building and then had a nice dinner at an Italian resturaunt and headed back home for our trip back to Metz the next morning.

This was actually my favorite part of the whole trip because I got ahold of the stearing wheel in some of the most twisty narrow roads I have ever seen. Unfortunatly, it was raining while driving but that didn't stop me from bringing it down a gear in the 180 degree hair pin turns and switchbacks that lasted for over an hour. My dad tried to get some video of me driving through it on my camera but inexperiance with the camera left us with one video that doesn't even come close to capturing the magnificance of those roads. I swear the guy who designed them had to have been either a car enthusiast or a rode a motorcycle because even through flat fields there would be a shikane for no apparent reason. God love the French, if for nothing else, but this glorlious 100 Km of paved road. The only thing that could have made it better would be the navigation system telling me 'Left turn tightens, plus, minus minus' (thats how the co-pilot talks in rally driving if you didn't know). After a good hour and a half of driving, I gave my Dad a turn at the wheel through even more windy roads on the way north through Nancy back to Metz.

All in all, this was a much needed relaxing weekend. I was getting sick of all the 30 hour travel days and the like. However, after this weekend, I'm ready to get back into the swing of partying around Europe.

Next weekend: Munich for Oktoberfest
Weekend after that: Biarritz (SW France) for a surf camp in some world class waves as well as attending the WCT Quiksilver pro (don't get too jealous).

Well, back to the grindstone for the week. I know, its a rough life...

Till then, au revoir.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Barcelona / Travel Marathon


My Barcelona trip can be summed up into one phrase, “well, at least things couldn’t get any worse, right?!” More on that later…

Our Barcelona trip started off with a 8:30am on Friday departure from our dorms to catch an early train that would get us into Barcelona around noon on Saturday. We decided to do this so that we could evade paying for a night in a hostel on Friday. The train we took was really nice though. We got a sleeper cabin which consisted of 6 beds stacked 3 high on each side and made ourselves comfortable. After a while hanging out on the bottom level of the cabin, the ticket guy came by and made the 2 people in our group that didn’t have reservations for a sleeper car move to second class. After a few more hours sticking our heads out the window, getting told by the conductor to be quiet and other good old fashion train fun, we got a descent nights sleep in hopes of blue skies and warm water.

After arriving into Barcelona it took us a good while to figure out where we were going but after wandering around for a while, we stumbled upon our shady little hostel just off the main tourist street called La Rambla (translated means street with shops on both sides). After settling into our hostel, the group split in two: those who wanted to go to the beach and those who wanted to walk around the city. I was in the latter.

Before had even got to Barcelona, I had heard all sorts of stories about street performers, illegal gambling and pick pockets all over the tourist section of the city and boy were they right. I don’t think I walked more than 20 feet before I ran into another person all dressed up wanting money for pictures. There were some really creative ones too from a guy sitting on a toilet pretending to be going at his business to people betting money on the old ‘where is the ball’ game. Speaking of that game, the guys who ran it were so fast and sneaky, it was incredible. As I was walking by, I took a second to gander at what was going on and before I knew it, I was right in the middle of the action. As one guy bet on one of the three boxes and lost, the, lets call him, ninja, asked me to turn over the box. I reached for it thinking it was just for fun and the next thing I knew he is bantering me to bet money so I can win. Before I knew it, I gave the ninja 10 EURO, flipped the box that I 100% knew the ball was in and LOST! In the midst of the confusion of giving him money, the ninja switched the boxes and got me. I always thought that I would never get caught up in these games but the ninja was just so fast and cleaver. It just goes to show you, no matter how careful and sly you think you are, eventually, someone will get you.

So after bitching and moaning for a good half hour while Dustin, Cesar and myself walked around the city we stopped by the beach for a minute and surprisingly, saw our female friends…topless. After an awkward moment and a beer from guys walking up and down the beach selling them, we headed off to check out some sights. Our sights this day included two cathedrals, plenty of fountains/parks, a trip to the official Picasso museum and finally a stop at a bar on the sidewalk for some genuine sangria which was amazing. Two pitchers later, we made our way back to the hostel to meet up with our group and get ready to eat dinner and experience the infamous Barcelona night life.

After having some of the world’s greatest paella, we all walked down to the club district and bounced around for a while. While dancing in one of the discos, Tony started dancing with these two girls and, following his wishes, we left him there as we went next door for a change of scenery. After about an hour hanging out there waiting for Tony, we headed out knowing he is fully capable of making it home. As the majority of the group headed home for some sleep around 3:00am, Janine and I decided to try and find this one club that our friend Gavin back in Metz recommended.

After an hour or two of searching/ wandering/ eating a little late night snack, we ran into Tony looking mighty flustered walking with an Irish guy that he met. It turned out that after Tony was done dancing with the two girls, he went looking for us up and down the club strip for a good half an hour and sometime in that time, he got pick pocketed so we headed back to the hostel to cancel some credit cards. Luckily he wasn’t carrying his passport or Euro Rail pass so it wasn’t too big of a deal after we got everything canceled.

On the next day, we all got what the hostel calls ‘breakfast’, aka, some corn flakes, milk, one 3 ounce juice box and some bread that could have broken a window. After I chowed down on my cereal from a small plastic cup, we headed out toward the ‘La Sangrada Familia’; a castle that has been under construction for over 100 years and STILL isn’t close to completion. We were planning on going up to the top but after noticing we had to pay 8 EURO to get in and another 2 in order to climb the big spires, we said, ‘screw that’, and I headed toward the beach for some fun in the topless sun.

After trying to spy out waves that had potential to get 3 second surf rides, I played in the water for a while, took a nap and next thing I knew, it was time for us to start heading back to the hostel, pack up and head to the train station in hopes of getting home at 3pm on Sunday.

After we arrived at the train we intended on taking, we were unpleasantly surprised to find out that we could not just use our rail pass but actually had to buy reservations. We weren’t to upset since they usually only cost 1.50 EURO but this time, they cost about 60! Since there was another train the next morning that we could use our pass on that would get us into Metz around 9pm, we didn’t worry about it and made our way to the other train station to buy Cesar a ticket for it only to find out that that train was booked SOLID. We couldn’t even buy a ticket for regular price and the only other option for us to get home was to take a total of 4 trains that would eventually get us into Metz at 9:30am on MONDAY, only a half hour before our first class started.

So needing a place to stay, we decided to go to a 'remote' beach and sleep...sounded like a good idea at the time, right? After we walked through was was obviously part of the Barcelona ghetto, we made it to this beach next to what looked like a corn field and set up camp. When we got to the beach we noticed that there was some sort of fishing competition going on up and down the beach for a good half mile. We sat, watched the fishing as we froze our asses off in the 50 degree weather and 15 mph winds (who would have thought that a beach that was 85 in the morning would be 60 at night!?).

After the fishing thing was done, we all tried to shiver ourselfes to sleep for a few hours only to be waken up by the loud rumbling and smashing metal of the beach combers. When we saw this thing turn the corner onto the beach, Chantly freaked so hard that he practically pulled the sheet right out from under both Dustin and Cesar. After our scamble not to get run over, the beach comber drove down the beach casually to go park I think. After our nerves calmed down ANOTHER beach comber came to scare the shit out of us and then a THIRD! The third guy, definetly realizing that we shouldn't really be on the beach at 4:00 sleeping started combing this 100 yard section of beach for no reason, probably just to piss us off. After we clearned the dust out of our noses, everyone got another hour or so of siezure enducing shivering then we headed out to the train station to make the first leg of our journey.

After getting yelled at by some dude who worked at the train station for sleeping, I hopped aboard the train but found out later that this train was so old and decrepit that it couldn't even make it up the hill to the next station so we had to switch trains.

After that histeric mess we finshed up that leg and took 40 minutes in a nice pictureque train station in the heart of whatever mountain range is in SW France. 3 or 4 hours later, we arrived in Tolouse, France with exitement since we had gotten bumped up to first class. Usually, first class on a trian just means that you get a tiny bit more room but on this train, it meant we got leather recliners, plug outlets, nice tables, a 'cell phone' area and not to mention, only 5 other people. Needless to say, we overtook some of the little cabins and got what little sleep we could after finishing up some Thermo-dynamics homework. 8 hours later we arrived in Paris at midnight, 15 minutes after the last train to Metz. Fortunatly, we found a 24 hour resturaunt/bar, ordered some food, played cards and did some serious loitering for about 4 and a half hours before the train station opened back up.

With only one eye open, we boarded our final leg of the trip at 6:50am to Metz. After 3 hours and an encounter with the train natzi named Fabrice we arrived in Metz, took the bus and got to class at 10:04 (one minute before the start). As we entered class, Dr. McFall, our professor, asked, "So who had something stolen in Barcelona?" After some histerical laughter from the group, Tony told him what happened and he responded, "yeah, no one ever goes to Barcelona without SOMETHING getting stolen." Great, thanks teach....

After sitting in our own filth for another hour and a half, I headed home for the greatest shower of my life followed by my first real meal in 4 days.

All in all, this trip was a textbook example of learning the hard way. Lets recap what lessons we learned this weekend:

1. ALWAYS make train reservations. I mean...there are only 1.50 EURO for christ sake. How cheap can you be!
2. NEVER talk to street performers beacuse they WILL take your money.
3. NEVER dance with random girls in Barcelona because they WILL take your money.

and last but not least....

4. ALWAYS wear dark sunglasses.

Next weekend: Much needed relaxing weekend with the Parents on a quint travel around to maybe Hidelburg, Staosburg, Metz, etc...

Till next time, au revoir!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Belgian Beer Festival


So I just got back from Brussels not but a few hours ago. Unlike all of the stereo-types that Brussels has, its a really fun city...at least during the anual 'Brussels Beer Festival'. After a nice Friday afternoon arrival, I went walking around the city and got my first real Belgian Waffle. Needless to say, the greatest waffle in the history of waffles. Unfortunately, we could not find any sort of Belgian Waffle house like we hoped.

After we had our waffle, we walked around the cobblestone lined city dedicated to a small little statue/fountain of a little boy peeing called the Mannequin Pece. Dustin had been wanting to try Escargot (snails) since he got to France and there happened to be a stand in the square selling them. For only 3,50 EURO, we shared a dozen snails very happily. Check out the video:
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-6308478096313227163
After walking around the city and playing on an amazing jungle gym, we walked back to the hostel to meet up with our other friend Gavin and headed over to the main town square for a some dinner at an amazing resturaunt followed by a few beers at the festival.

This festival was really something else. In the middle of this really big square surrounded by a few hundred year old gothic buildings but in the middle were 30 white tents serving 270 of the most delicious liquids ever produced. Check out the video:
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=5641894115724983719
There were light beers, dark beers, blondes, brunes, flavored beers, champagne beers, beers made by monks, you name it, it was there and it was the best beer you've ever had.

I waited to long to get tokens for beer but a few of the guys in the group sold me some they had and I got a few and, after running into the other 8 or so people from GTL, the tents closed for the night and we headed back to the hostel for the night.

Dustin, Jenine and myself weren't ready to go to bed so we got a few bottles of wine and tried to recruit other attendents of the hostel to hang out with us. Our techniques included straight up offering it to people, who were probably to sketched by some random people offering them wine to join, and wispering phrases such as, "Free wine" and "If you drink it, you can come" to people checking in late at night. Luckily, two Austrualian backpackers were brave enough and hung out with us and after a few hours made plans to tag along around with us around the city the next day.

After a good nights sleep, we headed out to go check out the cathedral and royal palace, both of which were very grandious. Unfortunatly, the palace prohibited pictures but I would describe the place as a chandelier wharehouse. There wasn't 30 square feet of ceiling not supporting a hundred + light chandelier and in some of the rooms, consisted of a good 70 chandeliers. There was even one room that had where the cieling and one of the chandeliers was covered in jewel beatles (those green irradecent beatles).

After getting our touristie stuff done, we proceded to hit up the beer fest. Unfortunatly, the bathrooms at this place cost 0,30 EURO! Miguel, one of the Aussies, and myself said NO WAY are we paying 0,30 EURO to pee so we wandered downtown looking for a dark corner but ended up walking into a bar called 'Windsurfer' for a toilet. We walked into this small bar like we owned the place silently but on the way out, all of the guys in the bar realized we weren't there for beer and started shouting what I'm guessing were threats in either French or Flemmish. Scared for our lives, Miguel and I ran back to the festival and got another beer to calm our shaking hands.

After we left the festival, I, of course, had to pee along with Dustin. Dustin said he knew of a gay bar that he 'mistakenly' walked into earlier to pee so we ventured in bravely. Withought making any eye contact we did our thing while trying not to look at the gay porn in the bathroom and got out as fast as we could while covering both my crotch and ass.

After I broke the legs right off a plastic chair just by sitting in it, we headed back to the hostel and hung out for a little while longer before getting much needed sleep.

Sunday was a very chill day that started with Tony and I making a bottled water run followed by some lunch and chocolate shopping then a train back home.

All in all, this weekend turned out to be a really great time. Someone asked how it compared to what I thought was the best weekend ever in Amsterdam but I couldn't. On one hand I've got the craziest party ever and on the other a really chill time with really good friends and really good beer. Whatever it is, they were both times that I will never forget.

Thanks for reading and next weeks adventure will be Barcelona for some fun in the sun. My body is definetly in some ocean denial so hopefully this will fix it.

Till then, au revoir!