Thursday, April 29, 2010

Czech Me Out! - Spring Break and Trinity Weeks 0 -1

Well everyone, it has been about 7 weeks since I have written. And boy have I been busy! I will now give you a brief description of the places I went during my break and tell a few of the stories. I hope you won't get too terribly bored.

Melody and I flew out to Prague of March 14th very early in the morning. Prague was incredible. There were amazing towers and the atmosphere was great. It was rather chilly and snowed a bit, but the cheap meals and beer quickly warmed us both up. We really enjoyed ourselves here.

Next we went to Salzburg, Austria by train. Now this city was my favorite of them all. I absolutely loved Salzburg. The views were incredible and the town felt very safe and comfortable. Not to mention we took a Sound of Music tour that showed us all of the great sights filmed in the movie around the town. I found my favorite beer here, called Die Wiesse. I loved it and hope to go back. 

At Salzburg I said goodbye to Melody and took the train to Vienna to meet Sam. Vienna was a great place and we experienced lots of sunshine. My favorite event in this city was when we went to see an orchestra play in the Vienna Concert Hall (pictured below). They were incredible. I also saw my first prostitute here, which of course was an adventure.

From Vienna, Sam and I took a plane to Athens. That day was probably one of the most eventful days of the trip. That morning we got up and ate a huge breakfast in our hostel in Vienna. It was a wonderful buffet with granola, yogurt, Nutella, and ham. We ate a TON. I don't know how we managed to eat so much. We walked around Vienna and eventually had lunch (at 3pm) at this all you can eat/pay what you think its worth Pakistani restaurant. I wasn't very hungry from breakfast but I ate anyways. We both ate quite a bit, although Sam definitely had more than me. From there we went back to get our stuff and out to the airport. We got on the plane after the usual irritation in airports and sat down only to be served dinner on our 8pm flight. I, of course, was not hungry after the amount of gorging that we had done that day. However, Sam was. So not only did he proceed to eat his dinner, but he ate nearly all of mine as well. I was shocked. Looking back I don't know how we managed to eat all of that food. It was probably enough to feed a few families in Africa... for a month. Anyways, we arrived in Athens around midnight and caught a bus into the city center. I had directions to our hostel by metro, but when we went to the metro stop we found that low and behold it was closed. Therefore, we had to find our way to our hostel at night in a city that was in masses of debt and having riots. Clearly, this was NOT the best situation ever. In fact, this night turned into one of the scariest nights of my life. So we walked along in what we were thinking was the right direction followed by two abandoned dogs who used the cross-walks even when we didn't. (I found them very cute and amusing, Sam didn't agree.) We took a wrong turn and ended up in this area of town that had men in military uniforms holding massive machine guns on each street corner and a caravan full of more like them. This was definitely not the best place to be at 1am. So we asked one of the men for directions and ran off on our way (the dogs got distracted by the men at this point and left us). We went along and eventually stopped in a nice hotel for directions again and picked up a handy map. From the hotel we walked across a square in the direction of our hostel and began to be followed by some gangster ruffians. I was desperately afraid that they were going to knife us, but they eventually lost interest. We finally got to our hostel around 1:30 and on our way in noticed the lovely prostitutes hanging out right near the doorway. It was quite the eventful day and night. Athens was a very interesting place in comparison to all of the other cities I visited. The buildings were run-down, graffiti was everywhere, people looked pretty sketchy, especially at night, and abandoned dogs were everywhere. On the last night we randomly ran into our friend Nate Chastain, which was really great. It was an adventure being there, but I don't think I will ever go back to that city. 

I said goodbye to Sam in Athens and took a plane to Amsterdam to meet Josh, Alvin, Anna, Deirdre, and Carl. I really enjoyed Amsterdam. We went to the Keukenhof tulip gardens and later to the Anne Frank House and Red Light District, which were both very sad and sobering experiences. Amsterdam is a very relaxed, hip town and I found it had a great atmosphere. Although the streets followed the paths of the canals and so I got very confused while navigating us around. Despite this setback, I was very sad to leave that city. 

From Amsterdam I took a train to Paris and met up with Melody again. We had a wonderful time in this city. Josh, Alvin, Melody and I took a walking tour central Paris and on this 3 hour tour ended up enduring crazy weather. It was always windy and began as sunny then turned cloudy then rainy then it began to hail then it was sunny and then pouring... etc. It was definitely insane weather. We also met up with Jerome, my brother's ex who lives in Paris, to show us around. Melody left us halfway into our time there, which was sad. We toured the Musee D'Orsey and the Catacombs, which was a frightening experience. Check out my pictures of that; it was pretty surreal. I left Paris on April 2nd by train and got to Oxford that night in order to greet my parents in the morning. 

My time with my parents was great. We travelled around first in Oxford and went to Easter service at Christ Church, which was pretty fab. And of course we had to get a pint at the Eagle & Child in order to placate my dad. We then rented a car and drove around the Cotswolds (the villages around Oxford) and then drove on to York. In York we found a Cath Kidston store, which made me extremely happy. While we didn't find York to be the BEST place in England as Rick Steves thinks, we did enjoy the city. 

From York we drove over to Ambleside in the Lake District. We had to go up a wicked pass near Lake Ulswater in order to get into town. It was pretty neat. Although, my dad's driving terrified me. We would get a little too close to the edge of the road for comfort. I was definitely holding on to the "Oh Shit"/ "Suicide" handle for a significant portion of our drives. From Ambleside we drove to Liverpool where we got a pint in the Cavern, where the Beatles originally played and my dad picked up a few souvenirs.

From Liverpool we flew to Dublin and hung out in the city for a few days. We checked out the Guinness Storehouse and the Book of Kells. I will tell you, my days were jammed full with museums and activities with my parents. Although, I did thoroughly appreciate staying in hotels instead of hostels and eating quality food and not worrying about finances. From Dublin we drove the width of Ireland to the west coast to see the Cliffs of Moher, which were overwhelmingly vast and beautiful. It was incredible. Nothing I've ever seen compares with that sight. 

From the Cliffs of Moher we drove to the Dingle Peninsula, which has 10,000 human residents on it and 500,000 sheep residents. This was also a gorgeous place. Apparently the next port due West from the peninsula is Boston. Interesting, eh? I loved seeing all of the sheep and the amazing islands right off the coast. Then we went to the Ballyseede Castle to stay the night, which was AMAZING. I loved staying there. I had my very own room and we ate a 5 course meal together there. They also had these really cute dogs named Arthur and Einstein, who both had lots of character.

From here we went on to Cashel, Ireland which has the Rock of Cashel. The town was pretty empty and seemed pretty stuck in time. The Rock of Cashel was interesting, but I preferred looking at Hore Abbey, which was right down the hill from the Rock. Hore Abbey was a 12th century Cistercian monastery that is now in complete ruin. It was pretty neat to look at. From Cashel we drove to Dublin to hang out for a day before the flight out at 8am the next morning. 

We arrived at the airport after waking up at 4:30am and hopping in a taxi over only to find out that some volcano in Iceland had exploded and all flights to the UK were grounded. We were shocked. There was already a massive line for Ryan Air to reschedule the flight in the airport, but we got in line anyways. Eventually we gave up and took a taxi out to Dun Laoughaire (or however you spell it) port in order to take a ferry across to Holyhead, England. Thankfully, I called and eventually secured us tickets aboard the 1:15 boat. As we stood in line to see if we needed to pick up any ticket confirmation from the ticket desk with others who were trying to buy their tickets, we heard the ticket people call out saying that the ferry was all booked. We felt so badly for the travellers who had waited in line for nearly an hour only to be turned away. We knew that they all were feeling the exhaustion and frustration that comes with this kind of mess. However, because we had already gotten our reservation we were able to get on the 1:15 ferry. Of course, our ferry's gangway didn't work, which caused us to get a late start, and one of the jets was not functioning, causing our journey to take an extra 45 minutes longer. But we made it and we hustled onto a train to get back to Oxford. 

We got back to Oxford around 10:15pm that night and were exhausted. Due to the ash cloud, my parents were forced to spend an extra week here in England, which I didn't mind so much. Sure, they grew a little tiresome after a while, but I generally enjoyed their company. Now it is 1st week of Trinity term. I am taking WWII tutorial with Lesley Brads and C.S. Lewis with Michael Ward. I am very much looking forward to these classes. However, I must stop writing, despite that I have much more to tell you, because I am about to pass out of exhaustion. Well, not really. But this is growing trying. Never fear though. I shall write again soon.