Today,
miracles of miracles, M. Barney “I don’t need to travel.” Falgout landed
in Ch. de Gaulle airport to visit his son and explore Europe.  There were
a few issues, like the airline putting him on an earlier flight from New
Orleans to Houston because there looked like there might be delays and then
the flight from Houston to Paris being late and then woman on the flight
to Paris behind him kept hitting his chair because she claimed that she didn’t
have enough space.  However, all is now good.  He was even feeling generous
to give a metro performer some change (American quarters), which we had a
good laugh over.

The plan for this weekend is either London or a walk along the western
coast of Italy through 5 small towns there.  As is usual with my travelling,
I will decide the day of.

A bientot!

Once
again, I decided to make game of this crazy world and venture off into the
unknown by myself.  I had the best time going by myself to a hostel, so I
should have just as much fun same this time, right?  Nope.

My trip to Brugges was almost cancelled because there was an accident
at Gare du Nord (my take off station).  Luckily, an old Frenchman took me
under his wings and helped me get to another Metro where I was able to make
it to my train with only 5 minutes to spare.  When I got to Brugges, I went
to the “Johnny Rockets” hostel, because the description and name seemed fun
enough.  I took the taxi and walked inside the bar and asked the bartender
for a room.  It seemed pretty noisy, but I’m sure that I would enjoy myself. 
After the paperwork and credit card, I hear the words that will forever ring
in my ear as The signal that you’re getting a bad room.  “You’re
in Room…1.”  Not knowing better at that time, I took the key and walked
upstairs to the unlit, stair hallway and blindly felt myself though the door
way.  I finally opened up a door and the motion detector lights came on. 
And true enough, I was the ONLY soul there.  I found my room, opened it up
and plopped my stuff down and went off for a restaurant.  Dinner was pretty
good.  I then explored Brugges and found that it’s a really romantic city at night with
the nicely lit buildings and waterways.  Tired and full, I went back “home”
and crawled in bed…going to sleep took a lot longer because I could hear
the music downstairs going strong.

The next day, (Unfortunately, a rainy day, but that did not douse any spirits.) 
I packed everything up and took a bus tour of Brugges and was quite impressed. 
Regrettably, I did not see it; however, in one of their buildings, they have
in a metal container, the “Blood of Christ.”  They also have a beautiful area with a statue of Neptune in the middle.  The city is surrounded by many canals, which split up the city wonderfully

Points of interests in Brugges:  The main attraction is the Tower
(I forget the name.)  Every 4th store is a Lace store since it is a huge
tradition in their town.  And inside every other lace store is a tapestry
store.  If I remember correctly, there are 20 tapestry factories in Europe
and 9 are in Brugges.  So, if you’re going to get lace and tapestries, go
to Brugges.

After enough touring, I decided to make a change in plans and go to Brussles. 
Home of the EU (European Union) and my favorite tourist place so far:  Mini Europe
(The leaning tower IS leaning, but the picture was taken the wrong way.) 
When I got into Brussles, I was completely lost (AGAIN!).  I quickly found
an Ibis hotel (4 stars and in the Nortel travel recommended hotels list)
and plopped my weary arms and legs in bed.

The next morning, I had some Belgium Waffles (very good with some chocolate syrup.); visited the Grand Market; did some window shopping; and enjoyed some of the local artwork.  Afterwards, I took a bus tour to the Atomium (A
100+ meter monument built for the 1950 Olympics) and then the neatest place
so far:  Mini Europe.  As it’s name suggests, all of the monuments of Europe
are shrunked and placed in this decent sized area.  There’s the Eiffel Tower, Sienna, off shore rigs, Brugges, Brussles, Arc du Triumph, Venice, The Berlin Wall, Greece (?), an oil repository on fire, and a lot of other places I have not been to yet.  It was; however, a really great feeling to see some of the places which I have already been to and places I have yet to see.  I then hopped on the tour bus again and went to see some Chinese houses which were imported to Brussles as monuments.  (Most impressive.)  It made me realize that Asia is the next place I want to visit.

No journey to Brussles can be complete without seeing the “Manneken Pis“. 
Legend has it that when Brussles was under attack, the king’s son releaved
himself on one of the attacking cannons, thus saving Belgium.  A statue was
created of the boy, of course…peeing.  Who knew that urine could also be
used to save lives?  Also, the boy is dressed up in various costumes throughtout
the year.  (Long live the King.)

At first, I thought that I would not enjoy myself as much in Belgium,
since I had this thought that it was a boring country.  However, Europe has
not let me down yet.  I continue to explore new places and enjoy myself each
time I venture out into the unknown.  Next weekend will be great because
“Father Falgout” (aka Dad) is coming to visit for 2 weeks and we shall paint
Europe red!

Cheers!

P.S.  Here’s the link to the entire album.  There are lots more pictures from Mini Europe.

If you haven’t read yesterday’s jounral entry, please do so now, because otherwise, you might be lost…

I sure am glad that I went to the Thanksgiving banquet at the church. 
They were having a huge American festival.  Complete with turkey, mashed
potato(e?)s, gravy…the whole kit and kaboodle.  Since I came in late and
most every seat was taken except for the volunteers, I volunteered to stay
and help clean up afterwards.  Something I was more than happy to do so that
I could enjoy the atmosphere as long as possible.

The dinner was good and the people were friendly.  I had no problem making
myself at home with second servings of dark meat and mashed potatoes.  I
make a few more friends including one Indonesian girl who experienced Thanksgiving
for the very first time.  I later found out how hard she had to work to persuade
her father to allow her to come to Europe to study since women over there
VERY rarely move away from home at such an early age.  (I’m beginning to
see how interesting other cultures are and how differently they work than
Americans.  We are quite free.)  One of the other girls, German, who I had
met before, was quite “open” and had no problem putting her fingers on my
plate to remove some of the strings from the cooked turkey as I was eating. 
My thoughts went from shock to amusement as I repeated my mantra which has
kept me sane these past weeks:  “That’s just how they do things.”  This journey
in Europe has been very interesting as I continue to see life and other people’s
reality as just that…another person’s reality.  For her, it’s ok to put
fingers in another person’s plate.  Funny, eh?

I got home and packed up for this weekend, still not sure of where I will go, but backing warm.

To finish off about last weekend, the next day I got ready to go paragliding
again and luckily, we took a different route so I was able to see some different,
beautiful scenery, including a city that’s in the Guiness book of World Records for being the longest city in the world  (7km).  Nervous, I walked behind a house, made some yellow snow and then syched myself up for flying in nothing but a parachute.  (Tandem, of course).  Giglo strapped oursevles to the parachute, told me to run off a cliff and then…

We were off!!!  I’m flying!  I’m really flying!!!  Everything below me looked so small.  The view of the lakes was mystical…A few minutes into the flight, I hear the question, “You like tricks?”  “Sure!”  “WE GO LEFT!!!!”

Little did I know that “tricks” meant barrelling down towards the earth
while listening to the altimeter beep off the number of meters we had left
before we hit the ground.  I truly had the experience of being in a plane,
which was spinning on an axis right before a crash.  I was so horrified and
excitied that I couldn’t move.  However, I knew that I was in the hands of
a professional and was really enjoying myself.  When we stopped circling
around, my heart and breath caught up with me and I felt the adrenaline rush
finally hit my head.  Whoo!!!  And to imagine I’m thinking of going back
for skydiving or canyon jumping!  :)  Then, all to shortly, we landed.

We both thanked each other for the experience and he dropped me back off
at Balmers.  I then rested for a while and read some of Anne Frank’s Diary
and talked to some of the people that just came back from skydiving and canyon
jumping.  One of the guys had a smile on hit face that you could scrape off. 
“That was the wildest thing I’ve ever done!”, he exclaimed.

After the rush wore off, I went touring around town and
had a LOT of fun at this restaurant called Bebbie’s.  Where the waiters sing
along with the radio and are extremely cheerful and friendly.  They also
ring cow bells for children.  Oh, one thing about Europe which amazes me
is how they allow their pets to come into the restaurants with them.  It’s just commonplace.

Finally, my journey was over and it was time for me to head back to Paris. 
I vowed, tho to come back and spend another weekend in Switzerland, most
likely in Interlaken, because I am amazed by it’s pure beauty and naturality.  Oh yeah, and the chocolate’s good too. 🙂

As
the previous entries describe, last weekend, I spent it in Interlaken (which
means between lakes), Switzerland which is in the middle of the Swiss Alps.

After getting enough courage to do a trip by myself and hearing enough
about Interlaken I bought tickets for my humble journey to Switzerland. 
On the way to the train, I was stopped by two American girls who were also
on their way from Paris to Interlaken and had missed their two previous trains
and wanted me to take a picture of them in front of the train as proof. 
I was quite amused.  So, I took their picture and went on my way.  After
various layovers, I got off the train and into Interlaken only to realize,
“I haven’t booked a hotel.”  Luckily, I found the same two girls and asked
if I could bum a ride with them to whatever hotel they were going to.  I
later found out that they were going to a hostel instead.  (Quick note: 
Hostels are usually for college aged kids that are backpacking all over Europe
can stay for CHEAP prices  $16-20/night in a dorm type room.)  So, around
midnight on Friday night, Balmer’s became my new home for the next two days.

I walked inside and was warmly greeted by an Astralian girl who had check in
soon before me and was sitting down with a bunch of other college kids in
front of the fireplace drinking beer.  “Quite a cozy atmosphere,” I thought. 
I then went about the check in procedure and opted for the single room since
I figured that my budget allowed for it. :)  40 CHF/night  (~$20)  I went
up to my room, dropped my bags and headed off downstairs and joined everyone for a house raid and interesting time with their cactus.  After a few drinks and a few more friends, I headed off to bed.

The next morning, I had a great view of the houses around the area and got to explore more of Balmers
Early morning, I signed up for paragliding, because I wasn’t ready for ski
diving yet.  That was going to be tomorrow.  So, before the pickup time,
I explore the beautiful city of Interlaken.  There was a grand casino.  (yes, those are clouds in the background, not my camera).  I also took an impromptu nature hike. 
And soon, I was supposed to go paragliding, so I trotted back to Balmers. 
In the truck ride there, were the two girls I met in Paris, and 4 other girls
ready to be thrown into the air.  The ride there and back was simply amazing!!!  It was truely a winter wonderland.  We took the cable car, to the top, above the clouds and had an even better view.  The 2 Parisien girls went first and the 3 other girls and I waited
behind.  We walked around until we found a great slate of snow and I said,
“This is the 2nd time EVER that I’ve gotten to play with snow.”  “REALLY?!!”
The girls said.  So, they showed me how to make a snow angel.  I was quite happy.  I even got to be a kid again.  Afterwards, the girls and I made love notes to our admirers back home.  (Jen, someone and someone. 
I wish I was better with names.)  Two of the paraglider pilots came back
(one apparetly couldn’t make it) and the other two girl went and Jen and
I stayed behind and had Swiss fondue for lunch.  About an hour later they
were ready again and we trekked to the top of a high point and Jen and I hyped ourselves up to do what others have told us to do for a long time…go jump off a cliff!

And unfortunately, the weater did not permit us because there were too many clouds which
would not allow for a safe landing…I asked them about waiting and they
said that it could take until tomorrow.  So, sadly, they walked back down. 
(I decided to roll down the mountain instead since I was still enjoy playing
in the snow.)  I then enjoyed the ride back home and chilled out with everyone else for another night at the hostel.

…  DANG!  I’m going to update this tomorrow, because I want to make it to a Thanksgiving dinner!  Check back tomorrow for the rest!

Fortunately, I got my pictures up

Unfortunately, I’m sick.  I’ll explain the pictures soon…to sum it up,
I stayed in a youth hostel for ~$30 a night for a private bedroom.  I also
met tons of great people who were mostly college kids that were studying
in Europe and backpacked during the weekend.  I also knocked off another
item on my list…paragliding…those are the pictures where you’re looking
between my thighs.  Everything was beautiful; however, I didn’t get enough
sleep, so I think that’s why I’m not feeling good.

I’m outta here.

Night.

Amsterdam pictures are up!!!  (Check out:  Itchy Bitchy, and my new hero, who’s diary I am now reading:  Anne Frank)

So far all of my trips have been to the stereotypical Classic European
cities…Paris, Vencie, Siena, Florence, Chamonix, Salzburg, etc.  However,
this past weekend, I feel as if I went to the “New Orleans” of Europe: Amsterdam.

Amsterdam is a major city in the country of Neatherland.  It’s a very
hip place where the gas stations play techno, the streets are lit up by neon
signs and even grandmas wear fashionalbe coudoroy jeans.  It’s also where
you can find the famous “Red Light District” and smoke majaraunia legally.

I knew that I wouldn’t partake in any of those activities (I can almost
hear my mom giving a sigh of relief right now.); however, it was on “My List”
of things to see.  (On this trip I got to see how everyone has a “My List” 
This is a list of things which they want to experience in their life before
they die.  Skydiving, be married, and watch your kids go through the same
hell that you did with them, are a few examples.  My list is a lot more conservative
than most; however, I still have a few wild things to add to it:  paragliding,
sky diving, bungee jumping, etc.)

I also consider myself an open person and was able to just be with the
idea of prostitutes standing in a window, wearing next to nothing, putting
on a show for some guy with about $50 looking for a good time.  However,
one scene blew my mind:

I’m chilling with some friends in the red light district with our backs
up against the walls, talking to each other and facing the prostitutes in
front of us and then I notice this girl crouched down to my left, reading
a book.  Since it was really cold outside, I figured that she didn’t do this
for fun, but hey…this is Amsterdam.  A few minutes later, one of the curtain’s
in front of my goes back, an a guy walks out, and then the girl gets up,
waves to the prostitue, the prostitue waves back, and the girl grabs onto
the arm of the guy who just came out and they walk off down the street arm
in arm.  I know that I’m assuming something here; however, that just blow
my mind!

Also, while in Amsterdam, I wore my black trenchcoa, black shirt and my
new Oakley sunglasses.  My friends said that I looked like the “White Shaft”. 
However, to the locals, I apparently looked like someone who was into the
white stuff.  No, not Anthrax.  Cocaine.  I was approached 4 times by someone
wanting to sell me some coke.

All in all, not much else exciting happened while I was there.  I didn’t
enjoy myself there as much as the other places; however…it was on the list.

What’s your List?

More pictures! Innsbruck and Salzburg, Struttgart and the Porche Museum, and Venice I recommend reading the story first, tho.

Normally, I would give a long spiel about how much travelling I did this weekend; however, I’ll try to keep it short…just like my attention span

This past Thursday was All Saints Day, which the French have off. So, Ankur, Nilaksh and I decided to take Friday off and go to Rome and explore Italy. We started the trip around 9AM, Thursday morning. We never got to Rome.

Using our Internet provided driving directions, we started and found out that our trip takes us through Switzerland. Slight problem. Ankur and Nilaksh are from India and need a Visa to get in. After getting turned away by the border guards, we tried finding the Swiss Embassy, but to no avail since everything was closed due to the holiday. Frustrated that we could no longer use our directions we started plotting a new course…Venice. We realized that to do this, we would have to go north of the Swiss, through Germany and Austria. And that’s what we did.

Up unto this point I had not driven yet; because the car was a standard, which I don’t know how to drive. I decided to stop letting that hold me back and took the wheel in Germany…on the Autobahn. I had a quick lesson and started driving…fast. Reaching speeds of 170km/h, I was quite happy. That was until I passed a cop car and they pulled me over.

“Guten tag…. … Sprecken se deutch?” …some dialoge… He almost sounds like a Japanese guy scolding me. “You were going 100. 20! The speed limit is … 80!” “Really?!” (Plays the dumb American role.) He then goes back to his car and comes back. “Normally…100 marks! But I let you go. Drive carefully!” Completely amazed that after only driving on the Autobahn for 30 minutes, I was stopped for speeding, I decided that my driving mojo is no good here and I handed over the car to someone else.

We arrived in Italy around midnight, and Venice around 1:30AM. We got lost and finally found a hotel on the outskirts of Venice. The next morning we got up and took the train into Venice. We couldn’t find any place to buy tickets, so we just hopped aboard without paying. Venice is beautiful. A bit smelly tho. We visited San Marco square. I even made some new friends. We then took a gondola ride around Venice and saw some beautiful scenery. It’s amazing how everything is surrounded by water.

Once we had our fill of Venice, we jumped in the car and headed to Innsbruck, Austria home of the 1964 and 1976 Winter Olympics. Unfortunately, there was no snow around, so we looked around the quaint Austrian town and saw some statues and monuments and paid tribute to someone great who has allowed this amazing exploration into the world happen. (Thanks Cecil!) We then moved moving onto my FAVORITE part of the weekend: The Swarovski Museum! Swarovski is the leading crystal manufacturer in the world. Their museum entrance was a giant head with water coming out of the mouth. The entire place was sparkling and full of crystals. They also had a dome of mirrors where I had too much fun with my camera. Outside they also have a labyrinth of hedges and a blue crystal in the middle. I was like a little kid playing again. The scenery from there was also amazing.

We then gathered up our souvenirs and decided to visit Salzburg. Home of Amadeus Wolfgang Mozart, a castle, and people play on a VERY large chess board. We got there late, so we rushed up to the castle and almost collapsed when reaching the ticket booth only to find out that they only took cash and we had no marks or shillings. Thankfully the US Dollar is the most accepted currency in the world and we were able to get through. (Thanks Ankur!) We toured the castle and found an interesting story about the Salzburg people and why they’re called “Bull Painters.”

Exhausted, we drove to Struttgart, Germany where one can find the Mercedes-Benz and Porche museum and where we found the MOTHER of a hotel. This place had 2 casinos, a concert hall, a dance club, a movie theatre, an Irish pub, about 10 restaurants and 5 bars. Amazingly enough we pooled our resources we were able to manage a double room in a business suite (The brought in a separate bed for me.) and our view was amazing. Being inventive, I decided to make my bed on top of the conference table where I had a nice view of the Mercedes-Benz museum. We got up and drove to the Porsche museum, saw a few cars (Some fancier than others, and some speedier than others) and then headed back to Paris. When we finally made it back to Versailles we had traveled about 3300km (~2000 miles) and through 5 countries. What a trip.

So, I tried to make this a small entry; however, as you can tell, so much happened that it’s almost impossible to keep it brief. Who knows what next weekend will be like!