June 7, 2004

Dublin

"Oh Dublin town be heaven with coffee at eleven
And a stroll on Stephen's Green
There is no need to hurry
There is no need to worry
You're a king and the lady's a queen
You're off to see the wonderland
There's magic in the air
There's diamond's in the lady's eyes
And daiseys in her hair
If you don't believe me come yourself to meet me
There in Dublin on a sunny summer morning"

-"Dublin Saunter"

Friday afternoon I went out in search of the bookstores on Charring Cross Rd. I wandered around Trafalger Square for a while. I couldn't find Charring Cross Rd. but I did find a store selling the French flag patch I couldn't find anywhere in Paris. Finally I found the street I was looking for but only had time to check out two stores before I had to head back home to leave for the airport. For Dublin!

Ming and I rode the Tube to the airport and sat around for a few hours before our flight. I went into the bookstore there and bought 3 books. I bought "The Time of Our Singing" by Richard Powers, which I started and is excellent, "Vernon God Little" and "The Da Vinci Code." The flight was short and uneventful, although the landing was a little rough. I thought we were going to run off the end of the runway. We caught a coach to Trinity College and then walked to our hostel in Temple Bar. We thought we had reserved the room for 2 nights but when we got there they told us it was only for one. We were a little freaked out but decided to worry about that later. We went and dropped our stuff in our room and then found the rest of our group in the common room. They were watching the end of Pulp Fiction. They had an earlier flight and been out for dinner and a few pints before we got there around 12:30 a.m. Luckily they had the same problem in making their reservation, so when they got there Lindsey booked a room at a different hostel for all of us the next night. Lindsey, Ming, Suzanne, and Allison decided to go to bed. Greg, Santiago, and I went out for another pint. We went to a packed pub and each got a pint. I ordered my first black and tan. It was amazing. We stayed just long enough for a pint. While we were there this really drunk girl who bore a striking resemblence to Paris Hilton grabbed my sides as she walked passed me, making her way through the crowd to the bathroom or something. When I turned around to see who just touched me she grabbed my face like she was Michael Corleone and I was Fredo. She said something that I didn't hear and walked away. Very odd. After we finished we headed in for the night. In the morning we got up and took our stuff to the new hostel. From there we hopped on the bus tour of the city. It was pretty interesting, although the commentary was prerecorded so it wasn't quite as good as the one in London. We hopped off the tour at the Guiness Storehouse. A shrine to the black stuff that has changed Ireland. It was awesome. The museum inside tells all about how it's made and the history of the advertising. We ate one of the best meals I've had this whole trip in the restaurant. The best part was the free pint at the end. I got to drink two because Greg had some at lunch and didn't want his. The Gravity Bar on the top floor has an amazing view of the city and the surrounding hills. I took a few pictures. In the gift shop I might an employee from Lombard who went to Willowbrook. Weird. On the way out we decided to replicate a picture we saw some other people taking while we were waiting to get in. Santiago, Greg, and I stood under the Guiness logo on the outside wall with our backs to the camera and pretended like we were pissing. Everyone waiting to get in thought it was hilarious. Some woman shouted at us to drop our pants. I felt kind of bad taking credit for someone else's joke, but it was still awesome. After that we hopped back on the bus tour and took it to the Old Jameson Distillery. The tour there was awesome as well. I got chosen to do a whiskey tasting and I got to try 4 kinds of Irish whiskey, some scotch, and some bourbon. I chose Jameson as my favorite and I got a certificate. I also got a good buzz. For free! After that we headed back to the hostel and then went out to dinner at a pub and hit up a few others. One place had a great Irish singer and guitar player. I would have liked to stay there longer but other people wanted to leave. We ended up staying the longest at a place just south of the River Liffey called Fitzgerald's. There was a DJ there who played a lot of our requests. After we left there we went to a dance club type place. They didn't want to let me in and lied and said I only had 5 drinks. I didn't stay long because I was tired and Lindsey wanted to leave and I wasn't going to let her walk back to the hostel alone. The others came back much later and got lost on the way. The ended up talking to some homeless guy and some Lithuanians for a long time. I wanted to get up for mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral in the morning but I forgot to set my alarm. Oops. In the morning everyone else had to fly back at 12:30 or so. They left for the airport right after we checked out of the hostel. Ming and I headed to the Dublin Writers Museum. It was really interesting. They had all sorts of stuff about Yeats and Joyce and Beckett. It was really cool. After that we had lunch and headed to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells. Looking at the 1200 year our book was crazy. The intricate detail was so astounding that it didn't look like it could have been done by hand. Afterwards we sat on the lawn outside the Old Library until we had to leave. Then we went and relaxed in St. Stephen's Green until it was time to catch our plane back to London. The flight was delayed 25 minutes so by the time we got back, the Tube wasn't running to central London any more. We had to take a bus. We got home about 1 and I was incredibly congested. I got this cold in Paris that I just can't seem to shake. I went to bed after a quick phone call to the parents to let them know I was back in London and a bit of reading.

Posted by dpetrella at 2:10 PM | Comments (3)

June 4, 2004

Picnics, Dungeons, and Avant Gard German Electro Weirdness

Yesterday we got out of class early because we had a picnic in Kensington Gardens. Professor gave us an hour to read between class and the picnic, so naturally I came down here and blogged for a while. We met up at the grocery store, bought food, and then headed to the park. It's a really amazing park, one of the biggest in the world, I think. It's right outside the Kensington Palace, where Princess Diana used to live. We sat and the grass and ate and talked, you know, had a picnic. Santiago brought a soccer ball and after we were finished eating a few of us decided to kick it around. I just happened to be wearing an England Football jersey that I bought, which made my infantile skill level even funnier. At one point I ran to kick the ball, stepped down right on top of it, slipped and fell flat on my ass. Luckily only the three other people playing saw this. The rest of the class was deep in conversation.
After the picnic was over Suzanne, Ming, and I hopped on the Tube to go to London Dungeon. It was a pretty fun touristy kind of thing to do. They tell you about the history of "Bloody London" in a house of horrors kind of setting. There's stuff about the plague, the Great Fire, Jack the Ripper, etc. It was a fun way to spend two hours. Although there was an obnoxious group of German teeny-boppers going through with us that wouldn't shut up and got really annoying. Man, I feel old when I say stuff like that.
We left the dungeon and went to the computer lab so Ming could do some work. I crapped around online and did some more blogging. Then we grabbed some dinner and headed home. For the next few hours I attempted to read the book we were supposed to finish for today, but failed miserably.
At around 10 we headed out. We decided to go to a place in Soho called Madame Jojo's. According to the Itchy London guide they gave us when we got here, it was supposed to have good hip hop with break dancing and stuff. We got there and when I got to the bottom of the stairs I thought I might have just walked into a gay bar. It wasn't. But it was just about the weirdest place I've ever been in my life. After we were there for about 15 minutes, the DJ came up and announced a performer. This woman came out in what looked like an outfit from a Madonna video from the '80s. She started singing this insane music that sounded like it came from a Sprockets sketch from SNL. I drank some Red Stripe (hey, if I wasn't going to read the book about Jamaica that I was supposed to, at least I could drink some Jamaican beer) and tried to make sense of what was going on in this place. After the first woman finished her performance there was a little more "normal" music. Then they announced another performer. This one came out in a vinyl body suit. Definitely something out of Sprockets. We decided that even though we paid 5 cover, it was time to cut our loses and go somewhere else. The worst part was, we brought some people with us from our building that have only been here like a week. I wonder what they must think of us now.
We ended up going to this place called the Sports Cafe, because we knew where it was and we knew it would be open. On the way Ming and Suzanne decided to go get some McDonalds or something. Lindsey, Allison, and I went to the bar. Lindsey was happy because they have Miller Lite. How that can make someone happy I don't know, but it did. We had one drink and then decided that they probably weren't coming. We headed out and me them on the street right outside the bar. We caught a cab home.
People were very hung over for class this morning. That was interesting. Professor was nice and let us out early because a bunch of us are heading to Dublin this evening. That's right Dublin! Talk to you all on Monday. Cheers.

Posted by dpetrella at 1:11 PM | Comments (2)

June 3, 2004

The Not-so-exciting conclusion to The Exciting Conclusion

When we left our hero he was at the top of the Eiffel Tower.

So after taking a million and a half pictures from the top of the tower we went down. Ming and Suzanne left early because they wanted to make sure to see the Garden of Rodin. We agreed to meet at the airport terminal at 7 p.m. Our flight left at 9:50. While they went to the Garden Santiago, Andrea, and I wandered around the parks near the tower. We ended up sitting in one for an hour or so. Santiago watched some people play soccer and I took a few pictures and slept. When we got up we decided to head toward the Metro station so we could meet Suzanne and Ming at the airport. On the way we decided we were hungry and looked around the neighborhood for somewhere to eat. We tried to find something in expensive but because it was Paris, that was impossible. At the restaurant we ate at my Coke cost me 4.50 euro. There was also an egg yoke on top of my pasta. But it was quite good. The service was slow, again because this was Paris. Actually, half way through our meal we saw our waiter standing on the sidewalk outside the restaurant with his jacket on, smoking a cigarette and talking on the phone. Long story short, we ended up getting to the airport about an hour late. Needless to say, Suzanne and Ming were less than pleased. Things were a little tense at the airport. At one point Santiago told them he wasn't going to apologize for being late, because he didn't feel bad about it. On the way to the gate, we were on the conveyor and I noticed that you could feel the wheels moving the belt. It felt nice. "Like a foot massage," I believe I said. So I stuck my foot that was very soar from wandering around Paris closer to the edge. Next thing I knew, I felt a jerk on my foot. I pulled my shoe away and saw a small tear in the side! "I just got these two weeks ago," I pointed out. Santiago thought it was hilarious and burst out laughing about it about 5 times throughout the night.
While we were at the gate waiting to board I noticed a man getting frustrated because airport security was giving him a hard time. They were checking his passport very carefully and asking him a lot of questions. I think they even asked him for a business card or another form of ID. He asked them if they were doing this because he was "brown and [had] an Italian nationality." I hate to say it but I was a little concerned. I kept an eye on the guy the whole time we were on the plane. It's probably not right of me to be so suspicious of people but I figured there had to be a reason he was getting a hassle from security. We got back to London safely, 5 minutes after we took off from Paris (yay 1 hour time difference). On the long Tube ride home from the airport I listened in on a conversation that these four young British guys returning from a Bank Holiday weekend in Glassgow were having. They were discussing the idea of opening a pub. They also talked about long distance relationships and their perils and what to do about a friend of theirs who is under the thumb of his girlfriend. They were also talking about how sometimes they just need to get out of London. It was interesting to hear these guys so far from home having conversations that were almost identical to conversations I've had with my friends at home.

When I finally got back to the house at 4 Knaresborough Place, I had to study for the test we had the next day. That didn't last very long. I read a couple essays that I hadn't read yet and then I went to bed. Getting up for class in the morning was rough. It ended up going ok. After class I did a little grocery shopping and then Ming and I went to the British Museum. It was amazing. We saw the friezes and the other sculptures from the Parthenon, the Rosetta Stone, Discus, the artifacts from the Burial Ship of Sutton Hoo, and a bunch of other really amazing artifacts of the ancient world. We didn't get to spend as much time as I would have liked because Ming promised Suzanne that we would meet her for Happy Hour. We went to this basement bar on Cromwell Rd. We had to write commentaries for class that night so I meant to only have a drink or two and then come here to the computer lab. We ended up staying for quite a while. Right before Happy Hour ended, I went up to get a couple more drinks and there was a different guy behind the bar. When Lindsey and I paid off our tabs with him, he only charged us for the drinks we had just ordered. So I got away with paying 7.50 for a buger and fries and about 5 drinks. By the time I got to the computer lab I wasn't in much condition to write a commentary or read an essay. I tried talking to Mike online since he was on for the first time since I got here. Ming took over the keyboard and told him I was too naked to type. Let's just say she was in no condition to write a commentary either. Then the internet stopped working. A couple other people had finished their commentaries or decided to give up and headed to a pub for another drink. I stayed for a while and tried to get back online to no avail. I gave up and Ming and I joined Greg, Lindsey, and Suzanne at a place called the Black Widow that we've been to a couple times. I had one more drink. While I was at the bar ordering Suzanne gave Greg a hickey for no reason.
We left the bar and headed back home. For a long time I pretended like I was doing my reading for class. Almost everyone else just kept drinking. After some more craziness I finally got to sleep.
Wednesday was a rough morning for a lot of people, especially Greg, who just kept drinking till like 2 after we got back from the pub. I pretended like I read the book. After class, Greg, Ming, and I needed to come here to the computer lab to do our commentaries we blew off the night before. We stopped on the way at an Indian restaurant that had very good lamb curry but very slow service. I came here and wrote probably the worst commetary I've written the whole class. When we got done it was too late to try to go to the Victoria and Albert Museum like I had planned so we just headed back home. I tried to read for a little while but didn't get much done. I made a sandwich for dinner and then Suzanne, Ming, Rachel, Rasheed, and I went to the Reduced Shakespeare Company to see The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged). The show was HILARIOUS and I would recommend anyone see it if they get the chance. Before the show we had drink at a place called the Sports Cafe. I wanted a mojito but they didn't have the stuff, so I was like The Dude and got a White Russian. Actually, two white Russians because they were having a "2-4-1" deal. I think it had actually ended by the time I ordered but the bartender was nice and gave it to me anyway. After the show we came back and I read and watched a really interesting documentary on a movie called Medium Cool. I really want to see the movie now.
Time for dinner and then out for the night. See you all later.

Posted by dpetrella at 7:34 PM | Comments (1)

The Exciting Conclusion

So I took some Nyquil and Ming took care of me through most of the night. I was so hot you could have fried an egg on my stomach but keeping a cold towel on my forehead most of the night really seemed to help. When I woke up in the morning I no longer felt like I was on the verge of death. It did take a lot of effort to get my butt out of bed though.
After I was finallly out of bed, we packed up our stuff and headed out toward the Tour Effiel. It was quite a long Metro ride from the hotel and everyone was pretty grumpy by the time we got there. The line also went all the way back to our hotel. Well, not really, but almost. After we bickered at each other for a little while we got some lunch. By the time we went back to the tower the line had gotten a lot shorter. The wait was only about an hour to the top. The view from the top was amazing! I think I took about 80 pictures. You could see the entire city. For all those of you who ever heard me say I didn't really have much deisre to go to Paris or to France in general, who should have slapped me. The city was gorgeous. I'd like to go back actually.
Ergh. There's still a bit more but I have to go to a picnic in Kennsington Gardens now.

Posted by dpetrella at 12:26 PM | Comments (2)

June 1, 2004

Paris

I'm going to skip all the boring stuff from the middle of last week and just get straight to the fun part. (Actually it wasn't that boring, I just don't feel like trying to remember all of it right now. It mostly involved some drinking, some people not being able to stand each other, and some searching for a place to play some good ol' American pool, not that funny kind with small balls that are only two colors).

Friday night at 7:42 I got on a train with Santiago, Suzanne, and Ming and headed for Paris. The train ride was amazing. If anyone ever has a chance to take the Eurostar from London to Paris or vice versa, I would highly recommend it. It gives you an awesome view of the English and French Countrysides. After travelling by train to Liverpool and to Paris, I really enjoy train travel. The food on the train was excellent and so was the complimentary wine. The whole trip took a little over two hours. We arrived at the Paris Nord train station around 11 p.m. Paris time (their an hour ahead of London). I really had to go to the bathroom but I couldn't go because you had to pay and I didn't have any euro yet. So we got in line for a taxi and after waiting for about twenty minutes we finally got one. I was a little nervous because none of us really speak French. Ming is the only one who speaks any really and she didn't seem to have much confidence in her skills. So we got in the cab and she sat up front so she could talk to the driver. We told him the address of the hotel I had reserved and after pulling away from the station he pulled to the side of the road and took out a map. I started to get nervous. After looking at the map he said it would be about a 45 minute drive! What had I done? I must have booked the worst hotel possible. It wasn't even in Paris.
It turned out to not be nearly that far. It was only about twenty minutes away in St. Maurice, a very near South suburb. When we got out the meter said 16.00 but he charged us some crazy extra fees for having four passengers and having luggage. I have a feeling we were being taken for a ride (if you'll excuse the pun) because we're American. When we got out, Santiago waited outside because I had only booked the room for three people. I went in with Ming and Suzanne to check in. When I got to the front desk the had no record of my reservation. The guy was nice and gave us a room anyway and copied the information hotels.com sent me. He told me to check back in the morning to make sure they found it. We ended up making it an early night.
In the morning we got up and went to a little cafe and got some crepes. We went to the Metro station and bought our passes and then headed to the Champs Elysees. Santiago and I got bored with the shopping pretty quickly, so we set up a meeting time with Suzanne and Ming and then went off on our own. We did stop in a few stores like the Cartier store and the Mont Blanc store. I must say, I really would have liked to be able to buy a 900 euro limited edition F. Scott Fitzgerald Mont Blanc fountain pen. We headed down the street to the Arc de Triomphe but we couldn't figure out how to get across the round-about to it. Finally we figured out that there was an underground walkway to it and that you had to pay to get to it. Good thing we didn't just make a dash across the street like we were going to. On the way we bought some cool drawings of the city. After that we walked down the other side of the Champs Elysees. We ended up laying down in a park near Les Invalides and falling asleep. When we got up it was about time to meet up with the girls so we headed to the Metro station. When we got there they were both a little tipsy from the drinks they had. They had gone up in the Arc to. I wish I'd known they weren't just going to shop all day. We headed back toward the hotel and stopped at a restaurant along the way. Santiago and I ordered fondue that we thought was going to cost 15.50 for the two of us but when I got the bill it was 15.50 EACH. I kept reading before this trip that London was the most expensive city in Europe, but after going to Paris, I have a really hard time believing that. After that we got some wine and some snacks and headed back to the hotel to meet Andrea, who was flying in on Saturday night. She got there just a few minutes after we got back. Her taxi from the airport cost 40 euro! We spent the night in the room drinking a bottle of wine each and playing "I never."
In the morning Santiago and I got up to go to mass at the Notre Dame Cathedral. I woke up feeling like the sinus infection I had before I left for London was back. Notre Dame was amazing. The bulidling was beautiful and it was really interesting to hear a mass said in another language. The ringing of the bells before mass was almost overpowering. After mass we got some awesome Nutella and banana crepes and met the girls to go to the Louvre. We waited in line for quite a while to get in but it was worth it. The museum was outstanding. I really enjoyed seeing the Mona Lisa, although you're herded past it like cattle. I also like seeing the Venus de Milo and the Wings of Victory. As the day went on, I got more tired and my headache got worse. After we left the museum we walked through the plaza between it and the Champs Elysees. We stopped for dinner and for some ridiculously expensive Hagen Daas. By the time we were on the Metro headed back to the hotel, I thought I was going to die. I could barely stay awake and I couldn't keep my eyes open. I got in bed right when I got back to the hotel and laid there all night. Ming took care of me most of the night and Suzanna called her mom to see what they should do. They made me drink a lot of water and Ming kept a cold towel on my forehead most of the night. Andrea and Santiago went to see the Eiffel Tower at night and I was really upset that I was too sick to go. But I had the worst fever I can remember having in a long time. My whole body felt like it was burning. I felt like one of those kids in the nineteenth century novels that is sick and they're not sure if they'll make it through the winter. And there I will leave you in suspense.

Posted by dpetrella at 2:23 PM | Comments (5)