Friday, October 5, 2007

European Adventure - Day 10

So last night when Jeff was taking his Bubble Bath, Ryan and I (mostly Ryan) planned out the next day's events, so we knew exactly what we needed to do.l Of course Breakfast delayed us a little bit, but we caught the bus just outside our Hotel for the Tower.

Ryan was in Heaven on the bus. He had all these people to talk to, who couldn't leave, at least for a few minutes anyway. When we first got to the Leaning tower area, there weren't that many people. Kind of surprising. but its how we planned it I guess. That and we almost missed our stop. Good thing I was starring out the window instead of talking to 18 year old girls, or reading from the R.S. Bible.

First we went to the Baptistery. A cool little chapel with a decorative font in the middle of it. Quite a large building for what it was, but whatever. "go big or go home', right. We then went to the tower. All these sites had scheduled times when you could visit them. This was determined when you got the tickets. Its still a tower, and its still leaning. We were the first 3 in line. So we didn't have any old people or foreigners to slow us down on the way up. It was pretty cool. On the trek up you could tell which way the tower was leaning by looking at the wear marks on the stairs, and on the dirty greasy hand marks on the walls from the fat, greasy, slobbery American Tourists who obviously had to sweat their way to the top. you got a good view of the city of Pisa from the top. The stair from the top platform to the top of the bells was microscopic! I don't know how some people could fit up there. It was a lot easier going down. And when we got down there were significantly more people parading around. Tour buses don't operate as early as we do apparently.

We took some tome to take pictures of us and the tower. I just took two, one of me and the tower, and one of me flipping off the tower. There were a lot of people around doing the usual poses. I took pride in making fun of them, quite loudly too. Ryan took his time to do some street contacting while I waited for the cathedral to open. But this is when Jeff disappeared. No where to be seen. Luckily I knew that he needed a plaster statue of the leaning tower, so I figured he was some where in the row of little shops off to the side. I never knew that the search for a little statuette could take so long. Apparently picking a leaning tower statue was just like Harry Potter picking a wand! You have to pick up, inspect, and calculate each and every one that was for sale. For a second I thought that he was buying a car.

During this time I noticed a guy selling watches. Oh Boy. This could get interesting. I bargained with a few guys for an Omega watch. But soon noticed the one I wanted was flawed, so instead of walking away, I used that as a bargaining tool for another watch. I spent a little to much on a sassy looking 'Breitling' watch, but whatever, right. Not more than 5 minutes later 12 other guys by selling more watches, sunglasses, and purses swarmed the area. For a sec I tried to tell the guys to leave me alone, but I figured I'd play with them a little. After all, I still wanted an 'Omega'. So I told them what I wanted, and how much I'd spend on it. He didn't have MY watch in his folder, but he bid me follow him a distance off. He then led me a ways off, down the walkway around the corner, and over toward his scooter. I know what you're thinking, and yes, I knew this was sketchy, and I didn't follow that closely, and I didn't let to many of his Ethiopian friends to close to me. So he went over to a row of scooters, ducked down for a second, then popped back up and walked back over to me with his pockets full of Omega watches. As he showed me his wares, I kept repeating to him that I was only willing to spend 20 Bones. With every watch he started rather high, but I would have none of that. I continued to show interest in only 1 particular watch. Finally when he stopped lowering his price and was almost insulted by my tactics, I threw in ten extra Euro's to complete the deal. So now James Bond and I have something in common, an Omega. And I was not done playing yet, I just lowered my offering price. But again, that just insulted them more. Then they just started yelling at me. I even offered to sell my Breitling back to them (for an elevated price of course). But I got the last laugh, cause I had 2 super fancy watches and nothing to loose.

On the bus ride back to the hotel Plewe took special interest in talking with some hot sassy lady with a stroller. She was all sassed up, like she was going to a club later. (good thing she spoke English, he just started talking to her as if she did.) In general, I wasn't sure if the girls were 'dolling' up just for us, or if they always looked that way. But they were exotic looking, as if they all were going to a photo-shoot later.

When we got back we got our tickets to our next stop- Vernazza, one of the 5 cities of the Cinque Terra. As the day moved on, It got hotter and hotter. And I wans't really ready for it.

As we rolled into Vernazza it was very warm We had only one transfer in La Spezia, and the next train took us immediately into the side of a mountain. We spent most of the trip inside a cliff, only popping out for a second here and there for a quick glimpse of the Mediterranean Sea, and then at each town too. The views were just teasing us with what was out there, and made us excited. It was a sheer drop off cliff leading to a Black Pebble beach overlooking a gorgeous view of the Marvelous Mediterranean Sea which looked like it led to infinity.

We finally made it to our city, and weren't sure where to stay, so we just asked at a counter that sold Jeff some frozen Lemonade (a recent addiction of his I think they were laced with Nicotine, or Heroine, cause every time we stopped, no matter what city, Jeff seemed to find the 1 store that sold them in each town.) The lady ran into the back room, made a phone call, and came back out of her store to tell us that someone would be right there to get us... Perfect! That was easy. Some lady led us to a cute little villa near the station. Hows that for service.

Once we were settled in, we went right to work, stocking up on needed gelato, and water, and so on. From There we went hiking between each of the 5 Cities. Of the 5 the hikes went from hard, to difficult, to Moderate, to 'not bad', to easy. Our city, Vernazza, was number 4 on that scale, and we started by hiking to the easier end. There were some spectacular views of the mountainous coast, and Gorgeous towns. In the time it took to get from 4 to 3 I had completely run out of water, so we had to stock up in every new city. And like I said, the hikes got easier as we went. ON the way, as we were walking by the pebbly beach, Ryan ran by me and asked if I had looked down at the beach lately. Then told me that I might want a picture of it. Curious as I was, I went back a few steps and looked down toward the beach, and immediately noticed 2 people 'doing IT'. So I took a picture in between my giggling. As I went back for a second picture they were getting up to move. I guess I was giggling to loud for them. It was funny.

So as we got to the last city we jumped on the train that was supposed to wisp us back up to our city. We would go swimming, eat more gelato, then think about dong the last, and most difficult hike. But I led us to the wrong train. Either the schedule was wrong, or the Italian trains run 10 minutes late, cause I thought I was right. Good thing the conductor didn't come through, cause we would have gotten in trouble and I didn't notice this situation until I noticed the third city race by without stopping. So it looked like we were going to make that hike before our swim. It seemed like the last hike took forever. The path took us up hills, down hills, through vineyards, and groves. At some points the path was only 1 foot wide, on a seep drop-off. I was anxious to get a few pictures of our city before the sun went down. It was the picture that was on all the postcards and guidebooks, so I ended up running for most of the way. Mostly on the flat parts, but a lot of up hill too. It felt good to stretch my legs out, to dust off the ol' cylinders. It was hot and sunny and most people had their shirts off. There were also lots of crazy Germans hiking the trials too. They weren't to friendly. It was during this last hike that the boys got probably their first dose of 'Euro beach'.

I got a lot of great pictures of the whole hike. The beaches here aren't sandy, they are stony; black pebbles up to full rocks. I don't see how its comfortable, but I'm not as 'Euro' as those people.

After we finally made it back we went for a dip in the sea. It was cold and clear water and it was late enough that we were the only one sin the water, as the sun had just dipped below the horizon. while just swimming around I noticed that Jeff Kept migrating towards me. Thinking it just a coincidence, I purposefully moved away from the two. Moments later I noticed the magnetic like effect again being displayed. ( as we were getting in he was anxious to climb down the ladder at the same time as me it seemed like, I had to ask him to wait until I was done using the ladder before he did - to avoid a 'crotch in Jim's face' situation. And on the way out of the water it seemed like he only wanted to get out just as I was. Again I had to ask for a 3 foot radius 'no fly zone' anywhere close to my butt, as he tried to use the ladder exactly as I was.)

So after cooling off in the water, we changed, and then found a place to eat. I'll admit the location was the deciding factor for me, as I just wanted to cat/sit over looking the water. I thought the food was good, the atmosphere was splendid and the company was grand. It took a while for me, but I only noticed that they didn't like their food after 5 nonstop minutes of them asking to sample my beautiful Pesto Noodle dish. I think they both took the advice of the nice Australian Lady sitting next to us. They were a lovely couple from Perth Australia. They were a little bit older, but on Holiday for a few weeks touring Europe. He was cool and quieter, she had a bit more 'social lubricant' in her (i.e.Red Wine). It was a nice chat.

After they left I took a few minutes to scope out the next Gelato target. A minute after I reported back to the others these 2 sassy Canadian Chicks jumped over to the table next to us and asked if we would talk to them. And of course we did. I must have been putting off a 'vibe' as I was on the 'Gelato Prowl' and the they sensed it, and couldn't stay away. We talked for a while between the 5 of us. They worked at the whistler Tourism office up in Canada and us being from Salt Lake, we had lots to talk about, seeing that whistler is a great show destination up north, I guess.

After our long and lovely conversation we parted ways. It made sense cause they were totally trying to flirt with us and Ryan just wanted to talk about dentistry. Jeff- Hollywood, and Me- gelato. One of the chicks was on her 'divorce-moon'. So after I wandered around to take some candle-light night pic's and Ryan went to find a telephone to check his messages back home. After Jeff and I were done wandering we ran into our 'Euro-phone illiterate' friend who was having trouble figuring out strange I-talian phones, and even stranger I-tallian phone cards. In order to give a quick Euro phone demonstration I picked up a discarded I-tallian phone card and it turns out it had some money on it. Most of his calls were from Frat Buddies yelling about the Byu-Ucla football game. After his call I exclaimed how glad I was that he took the time to use this found phone card blessing for his 'important' calls. Next I suggested he call LDS link-up since he was on such a roll.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Daily Update

Yesterday as I was leaving work some lady parked her car in front of the parking lot exit. So my buddy the attendant went and told her off. I don't think he liked her at all.

I went running yesterday. I was slow like a young zebra. It was the usual Outback territory, but something was off in my performance. After watching the office last week, I tried to pull a 'Michael' and load up on Carbs with lots of pasta for lunch. I'll never do that again. It felt like I was carrying a lead weight in my stomach the rest of the day. During the run I suddenly remembered that I didn't put money in the meter, so I took a time-out to sprint back to my car and throw a few quarters in the machine. The whole run back to the track I built up anger about how the 'Man' was holding me back. I would keep up with kristen for a while, but soon after starting (maybe 2 laps), she got sick of going slow so she just took off like the Road-Runner.

Later Joe came over and we hung out, went to In n Out, looked through Euro-pictures, n' stuff.

I'm listening to Panic at the Disco right now.

Lunch was sponsored by Jamba Juice.

European Adventrue - Day 9

Its amazing what a good nights rest can do for you, and a shower, and lots of breakfast. We were planning to meet up with Ms. Cook at an appointed time at the train station. At that time Jeff, the 'Pick-her-up-er' was still sampling the morning pastries, yoghurt's, and juices. I offered to go in his stead, to give him more 'alone time' with his pastries, but he would have none of that. They both came back (after a while), we left our bags at the hotel, checked out, then took a 'bus-boat' over to St. Marco's Square. It was kid of cool, except for all the smelly Europeans. We were in line for the Dodges Palace, a fast moving line in my opinion, but R.S. said we could get tickets to something else and then could skip the ticket line,. I partially didn't want to have to hear about 'rick', but also didn't want to have to figure out what he was trying to do for 'our' vacation. So we saw the palace. It was pretty cool, we had to rush toward the end due to time constraints of our train departure.

It was just a large palace of the 'Dodge' (or governor). The first floor rooms we went in made me mad that we actually paid money for, but as we went upstairs it got better. Super large rooms, Ornate carvings, Glass chandeliers, and Proper palace-like ceilings.

I don't think the others realized the time crunch we were dealing with at this point. It was about noon and only 2 other trains left the city that we could be on; 1:30 and 4:30. I was really pulling for the earlier time, but the term 'hurry up' didn't compute with this group (after all, they hadn't been here before.) Then we went to see St. Marks Cathedral. It was right next door to the last palace. And of course, being around noon, every tourist in the city was out in force and they didn't understand why the lines were so long. Jeff resorted back to the Rick-bible for random suggestions, but I would have none of it. It was only OK for a Cathedral. I had seen plenty of them before, and they are almost the same to me now. The floor was really warped cause the city is sinking too.

Then we went to check out some art dealers down on the boardwalk. That ended up being a huge chore. We accidentally passed by 3 battalions of pigeons. Oh, you haven't forgotten about Jeff thinking that pigeons are 'exotic' and 'worthwhile' creatures have you? Cause Catherine apparently feels the same way. Before I knew what was happening they purchased bird-feed and those filthy animals were swarming them; eating out of their hands, off their heads and arms. Absolutely disgusting! One of the two 'Filth-lovers' thought it would be funny to throw a handful of bird seed at my feet, to spread their love of filth into my personal bubble. But I had a stronger counter attack! I quickly stomped the seed grains into the ground, pulverizing it into non-eatable dust, and if birds got to close I would kick them away. Word must travel fast in the pigeon community cause the rest of the day I had a good 'bird-free' bubble around me.

Another filth-ridden experience; Jeff wanted at least a dozen pictures of him being a bird lover. The next series of pictures was him running through a mob of birds and having them fly up around him or something. However he imagined it, it didn't work. NO matter how giddy he was, he ended up scurrying about 10 feet, indeed into a group of pigeons, but they were so used to people they all just hopped aside, except for 5-6 of them that flew off. It wasn't a threatening move on his part, just confusing. He just stomped his feet rapidly for those 10 feet. I rolled my eyes at least 3 times.

Now we were running on Ryan's stomach's time, so we had to stop at the nearest street cafe for food. Its funny cause the louder any of our stomach's would talk, the quicker we would find a place to eat. So we found a place not to far from San Marco's Square. Most of the street cafe's were cute little places located on fatter parts of the sidewalks, big plaza areas, or down alley's. By this time I had a craving for pasta, I-talian pasta to be precise. I ordered the first Spaghetti dish I saw on the menu. It would still be a creative dish cause the menu said it was with 'cuttlefish' (squid). OK fine, I'm OK with creative food dishes when the reliable word of spaghetti is in the title... right? Well, after I had ordered it Catherine asked the Snobby waiter what it was like, what kid of dish it was. The Snobby waiter started pulling a French like attitude and acted if we had never heard of spaghetti before. "It is spaghetti with 'Black Sauce' on it". What on earth is 'Black sauce?! Well, I shortly found out. This black sauce must have been the ink solution from the octopus/squid. The best way to describe it was oily chalk sauce. Kind of dry like. And yes it turned my whole mouth black. But I didn't feel bad about the black stains I left on the napkins. (after wiping my mouth a few times in order to remain presentable, you know- to the ladies, the napkin looked like I had tried to wipe down the underside of a car engine.) It took us a real long time to make our way back to the train station, about the same time as last night except this time stores were open.

Stores were open alright cause 'Little Bo Peep' was in wander mode as well as 'Gotta get something for Mom mode'. With the number of times I had to stop, start, wait, tap toes, roll eyes, etc, it was almost painful. It took him a while, but he finally he got something.

Between our hotel and the station, just yesterday there was a couple of artist stands, selling art. When I first saw it I simply told myself that I would stop by later, or tomorrow if I couldn't find anything better. Well, it was tomorrow and they weren't there. My loss I guess. I'll have to Not hesitate next time I see something I want to buy.

Blaming the misery of yesterday, I was feeling a scratchy throat and sniffily nose, and it was really pissing me off. What a time to get sick! Thats right, I'll blame it on Venice. Although I was drinking lots of water, I didn't really have hunger. The whole time in Venice Ryan kept asking me if I knew where the house from 'the Italian Job' was. Honestly after the 4th or 5th time I started making fun of him. I thought that show took place in Italy. anyway I could only vaguely picture the house they destroy in 'Casino Royal'

The train we took out of town was actually later that we(I) wanted. I was considering travel time, but I don't think 'Simon and Theodor' were. We had to transfer just outside Venice, and in Florence. We finally got to Pisa after 10 pm local time. Luckily for my stomach, Ryan's stomach was talking charge at that minute, so we luckily found a McDonald's and a sandwich shop open at the station. So yes, I broke down in Italy and ate at McDonald's. But man was it good. As Ryan was flirting with the chick of McD's. I got him to ask her about hotels. She pointed us in a direction, so Ryan winked goodbye, and we set off. We started asking at all hotels that we say. All Full! OH boy. This could get interesting. After circling the close block to the station, we finally found a place at the last one we tried And it happened to be a 4 star hotel. Ahhh, I guess we deserved it though. The shower was really awkward, and I didn't feel like using the shower curtain, so there was a huge puddle on the floor for most of the night.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

European Adventure - Day 8

Its not always difficult to wake up at the crack of dawn when you don't have curtains covering the window in your room. but today it was a good thing. today is a travel day. with breakfast starting at 7:30, every two minutes I'd remind the boys that we had a 7:45 gondola to catch. I urged them to skip food, but they assured me that was not an option. we went down for our bread and juice allotment, but I noticed a problem as soon as Jeff ordered a hot chocolate too. Just as James Bond has his choice drink, so does Jeff: Hot Chocolate with two cubes of sugar (because chocolate isn't sweet enough). And then stirred with a silver spoon in a clockwise rotation. I felt like I should set the example and start marching first, but then that would leave no one behind to hurry them up as needed.

Finally with a 5 minute hike and 5 min to go we set off for the cable car station. We hurried down the mountain short-cut path. I started running for the station in hopes of somehow delaying them enough for the guys to catch up and make the cable car, but that failed because as the first customers of the day the ticket machine had to warm up. But anyway... I was running and Ryan had followed some local kid through their backyard thinking a shortcut was available, thus leaving Jeff guide-less on the rough gravel path towing his roll-behind luggage. As I approached I saw the two incoming Gondolas pulling into their stops at our station. I quickly ordered our three needed tickets, but to no avail. The gondolas as were in and out of the station before you could spell 'stinky swiss cheese'. As I asked for the three tickets, the lady behind the counter didn't seem to act. I think that she knew that we would miss our ride, so she didn't want to lead me on with any false hopes of catching the car. So as I turned my head with fading hope, the gondola sunk from the platform at the station. I turned my head the other way, just to welcome Ryan to the station, via his local 'shortcut'. It was another minute before Jeff rolled down the pathway. Because I was running and Ryan with his creative shortcuts, he had no way to tell where we were, which direction that is. It was a short 30 minutes to the next ride down. So we had a few spectacular minutes to enjoy the crisp morning air, and soak in the cloudless views of the glorious alps. Yes thats right, the clouds flew away last night, so it was completely clear.

I do trust both the swiss and German train systems, but short layovers still make me nervous. We only had 20 minutes from when we hit Interlaken to when the next connecting train would leave, and this being our last moment in the great town of Switzerland, we needed a few parting gifts, i.e. chocolate. I had been telling Plewe that thats what I wanted/needed for people back hope, and he agreeing, volunteered to make the decision making sprint to the store as I raced to the ticket counter and booked us some tickets to Venice. As I got in line, I kept asking Jeff what time it was, and the minute that Ryan left, I told myself "I shouldn't have done that" and asked Jeff to go and fetch Ryan. Time was of the utmost importance here. But both the chocolate gods, and the train gods were on our side, cause as I left the ticket office, I only had to wait 30 seconds before I saw them running towards me from the nearby grocery store. It was a really intense run for all of us. I had mine and Jeff's stuff. Only at this point I realized how heavy Jeff's bags were. I think he was taking large rocks home, as souvenirs, (kind of like my dad at any national park). As I struggled with that weight, Jeff who had got to fetch Ryan from the store was carrying our chocolate selection. He was doing well to keep our precious cargo safe. Then Ryan was running the best he could with a huge camping backpack on, as well as a bag of collected items that he's had since Paris. It was like a reenactment of 'chariots of fire'. I could almost hear the tune in my head, and the people cheering too as they made their dash for the train platform. We only knew we were safe when all three of us were safely aboard the train, just as the doors were closing. Wheeeew! Mission accomplished. I had actually sent Jeff over to tell Ryan to abort the chocolate mission, but he took the green light, and it all worked out.

It was a nice ride to Venice, other than having to switch trains three times. Thats always a pain. There was a definite change in scenery as we traveled from Switzerland to Italy. The mountains, the architecture, the people (and their laziness), the train punctuality, and the sassy model girls started appearing again.

At one point on the train ride our dear friend Jeff leaned over to, what I thought was look out the window, but instead me and the Ry-man heard another surprise, a leather-sliding echo from Jeffie's seat. He 'ripped ass' and it sounded bad, like he crapped his pants. We almost died laughing, but only hoped that we were the only two to hear such an act. Stuff like that almost always makes train rides fun. We sat by some lady who I think was in the Mob. We're in Italy after all. She was fairly Petite, but had the deepest and raspiest voice imaginable.

So now that we were in Italy, the R.S. guidebook/bible started taking over. He was close on some stuff, but definitely no all. there was a hotel kiosk in the strain station which helped us score a great deal not to far away. And this is where Venice started getting funny. We asked the hotel lady how to get there and she said it was only 30 meters away. No problem, it'll take 2 minutes, even with jeff's 30 lb. roll behind brick carrier, right? (wrong). Jeff was content on staying within the 30 meter limit that Hotel-lady told us about, while Ryan was content on asking some on , or looking at a mop. I was content with egging them both on, hoping that someone w3ould eventually show us the way. Finally after 2 laps up and down the same street even I broke down and bought a map, which Jeff didn't think we needed, because R.S. said so. Ryan had seen one, and looked at it and was trying to get us there, to our hotel, but Jeff kept wanted to re examine the well visited street and I refused to help (as much as possible). I occasionally would verify our direction with the map, either supporting or questioning Ryan's chosen Paths. We finally arrived after about 200 meters, much to Jeff's astonishment.

Just in visiting the one street 3 times, our interests were sparked , so we were ready to see the whole city. Upon starting this quest we also began our Gelato eating festival as well. Now, Venice is the 'Plewe-the-pit-stop's' heaven, but a nightmare for me. Around every confusing corner, and on every single alley street, sidewalk, or canal, there are a dozen shops full of trinkets, gifts, colored glass of all varieties, and colorful porcelains carnival masks. And my dear friend Ryan needed to stop in every single one. A nightmare for any navigator. We were trying to get to the main plaza at the opposite end of the island. We eventually made it. We only had 1 day so we were going to try to see as much stuff as possible.

After walking around for a minute we wandered over to the main Canal on the open water. We took a few picture, then we spotted something that I couldn't let NOT be photographed by us. Some Indian dude was posing for his 'buddy' right by the water. I mean these were true glamor shots! Sitting sprawled out on the pavement seductively, sitting, leaning back on one hand, crossing legs in front of him... And yes the shirt was un-buttoned half way down his torso The one pose that I got on film was him standing with a shy pouting faced, with the "I've got a surprise for you later" look on his face. This kid was photographic gold, so we followed him down the pier a ways. All this time while I'm trying to document this whole situation, Ryan comes and tells me to check this chick out... NO problem, we've both been doing it quite a bit this trip, so it was nothing new. Then he sys that she's the spitting image of the Catherine Cook girl that we all know. Jeff had already tested the Name calling technique and it failed, so after I photographed this person, I decided to try a definitive test of my own. I walked up right behind her and was going to try the Plewe-street-contacting method of getting her to look at me by spouting cheesy pick-up lines. From the side everyone looks different. But as soon as I get behind her I confirm the 'eternal smile' -the underwear line that only Mormons have. So I just say to her " hey Catherine, whats up?" From there she about had a heard attack. She was just off in her own little world pondering life with her diary and the city of Venice. She said she thought she heard her name but she'd been stalked/ harassed by so many weird Euro-Guys this trip, she just blew it off. So we got to hang out with her the rest of the day. Which consisted of eating pizza at a street cafe (they were everywhere) walking around, window shopping , and goofing off. When we sat down to eat you could tell that she hadn't had a normal meaningful conversation with anyone in a while, so she took the time to philosophize on the little soap box that we gave her. I tuned them out real quick cause it was nothing I cared to discuss on a vacation. It wasn't vacation related. It required activity from too many neurons. That and we could philosophize about life any time and we had [very] limited hours in Venice. But that was just me. We continued the race for Gelato as we walked around. There was a particular church I needed to photograph, and they all were nice enough to amuse me.

At one point during our stroll, having to sift through dozens of 'crap' vendors in every Piazza, Jeff told me he overheard a guy selling watches; since I'd already advertised this to everyone, I found it quite nice. So I ran up to the guy. African or Jamaican, and asked him about this rumor. I must have caught him a-mid a difficult conversation between him and his 'look-out' The first thing I heard was 'Jamaican 1' asking 'Puerto Rican 1' if this was the guy, pointing to me. Annoyed and confused with the lack of respect that any loud annoying tourist deserves, I asked him what was up, and does he have watches to sell. Not really looking at me, but constantly glancing side to side, he responded by saying that his 'look-out-a-Rican' said he saw a cop and thought it could have been me. Surprised at this, I told the un-trusting Jamaican that his Mexican friend was stupid as he was ugly. And that I don't deal with Voodoo Magicians anyway. So Red and I left. Later I was feeling rambunctious so with Catherine on my back I started running into people. My fun was short lived though.

After hours of labyrinth like wandering, we as gentleman offered to walk lady Catherine back to the monastery where she was staying. And that was definitely easier said than done. By this point they were all relying in me as navigator. Because I had brought the map, maybe because of my up-canny skill and orienteering ability. Yes, the fact that I couldn't stand how slow they were going , and by walking my normal pace (faster than them) that is how I passively told them all to hurry up, well, ya. Or could it have been because even if they would lead, I'd still need to correct them? Well, ya after a bit of wandering, and listening to 3 back seat drivers bark out directions for 20 minutes my internal compass/ liahona shut down as my deep seeded dislike for this rat maze filled with up. The fact that I was looking at a map, didn't know where I was, or where we were going didn't ease the disdain for this picturesque city. It was late now. most shops were closed, the minimal local night life was filling an occasional Piazza. I eventually gave up and fell to the back of the pack To let themselves get even more lost. Even when we asked locals how to get to the convent, their directions were extensively vague and unhelpful. By some miracle Catherine finally recognized something and then led us to her convent.

So, now the second part of that story; We were deep in the heart of Venice, Italy somewhere, and I felt lost. So I started leading us in a direction which I thought was helpful. The streets there sure are confusing, and there are very few signs to San Marco (one end of the island) or to the train station (at the other end). These signs are old run down, and very random. On the 30-40 minute search for our hotel, my dislike for this place grew and grew. It waxed strong in hatred. I even saw the old Jim come out for a second. He took over more like. I vowed even to erase all my pictures from this place to delete the memory all together. The two guys were having fun with this, so their gittyness/humor/joy only fueled my hate engine. Yes it was late enough that all filters on Jim had gone to bed. I don't remember what he said anymore, but I'm sure it was funny and mean. There were still Jamaicans hanging out on the main bridge of the city when we got there, so they got to hear what angry tourist Jim thought of their rip-off sunglasses and purses. And that I didn't appreciate their gypsy cohorts, and that I don't deal with people who use Black Magic. My feet were just as tired as I was.

Daily Update

Last night I met up with Josh and Jeff at California Chicken Cafe. I went there right after work, and waited for the duo to show up. My hunger was enraged as it took Josh 10 minutes just to pull into the parking lot.

After practice J.Bonds came up to me and the guys with her big blue eyes and sad puppy dog face and told us that her car wouldn't start, and she needed some big strong guys to help her with it. So our ego's sent us immediately to her rescue, except that either my jumper-cables, or the other dudes car weren't strong enough, cause it didn't work. We got her to call AAA, and then the wait began. Some of the guys went to Wendy's to get Frosties for us which was nice. Oh ya, and a few people were waiting at Big Chill for us too, but that didn't work out. Sorry bout that, if you were there. Eventually an angry AAA guy showed up with his magic jumper cables and then her car started right away.

Today at work two guys are out sick. Ummm, ooops. That means of the 5 guys I work near, 4 of them have had sick days (which may have been because of me. Luckily Steve Blamed the French and not me directly.) Patrick must have some sort of super strength Korean immune system.

Also at work, Steve still gets really super angry at computer problems, when its most often 'user error'.

Lunch was sponsored by the Corner Bakery.

I'm listening to the News right now.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Daily Update

Yesterday was difficult at work. Peter kept asking really dumb redundant questions, and when I tried to answer he wouldn't even pay attention. He was definitely trying my patience. For example I would tell him to "print a page" of something, and then his response would be "The computer won't save this file". I want to say its the language barrier, but something deep down tells me he might be 'a couple sandwiches short of a Picnic' if you know what I mean.

FHE was a white elephant gift exchange. It was funny. Lots of silly gifts.

Brandon and I were going to go shooting, but it got to late.

Then a few of us hung out at Marvin's Diner.

Lunch was sponsored by In N Out.

I'm listening to Queens of the Stone age right now.

European Aventure - Day 7

We woke up this morning as the Swiss Sunshine was beaming in the un-curtained window. The only reason I got up was because Jeff kept running in and out of our creepy room reminding us it was food time. I think the only reason he cared was cause Walter served European sized portions and he wanted our share. The one bad thing with a Euro-breakfast is that some of the people don’t like butter and Jam on bread as much as Is do. So instead of having enough for three pieces of bread, I only had enough for 1. the hot chocolate was also exquisite and fresh out of a special Swiss ‘chocolate cow’.

Today was our day to make our climb up to the Jungfraujoch, which is the saddle between the Jungfrau and the Monch Mountains,. It started off being somewhat overcast, but the other two were hopeful that it would be clear by the time we got to the top. The whole train ride up we were traveling at an angle. The train was equipped with a third wheel, which was a gear that gripped the track extra well. In all the ride was about 1 hour and 45 minutes. Half of which was done just inside the face of the Eiger Mountain. On that part of the trip, the train made 2 pit stops so people could go to look out points that look out of the face of the mountain. The top was super cool. The second the train stopped it was like opening the gates at Disneyland. First we went to the ice caves that had treated me and my brother so well before. There were these tunnels carved into this glacier 10 meters below the surface. It was really slick and cold as you could image, after all, we were inside of an enormous ice cube 11,700 feet above sea level. The Ice caves were cool, but not as cool as last time when me and Joe were there. these caves were only ½ as big, and some of the big sculptures weren’t there, like the one that 'bought' us lunch.

Next we visited the Swiss Plateau, one of the caves led us to the outside were we could look out to a glacier on one side, and the a cloud-covered valley on the other side. Up there it was really windy and super cold. Good thing I brought my jacket. My hands would freeze just taking pictures. By the entrance to the caves there was a hill that everyone would slip on, except me. The combination of sunshine, sliding shoes and heavy cold winds made that area 'The Ice Slide of Death'. The first time I went down it I was behind an old man. I didn’t think he could take the inevitable spill, so me being invincible, just grabbed his coat and backpack with out him knowing, and I would ‘help’ correct his movements both steering him and holding him up. I didn’t make it back in time to help Jeffery though. He, like everyone else, felt safe about walking near the guide rope (which was slickest part) and the guy behind him slipped and took a bunch of people out, just like bowling pins. There were a lot of Indians up on the top of the mountain too. A lot of Indians. Enough in fact visit there that they have a Bollywood Curry Restaurant.

We also went up to the observation deck, where all the research is done. We wandered around outside where the air was cool, windless, and sunny. The observatory itself is 11 stories above where the plateau is, but is connected by part of the net of tunnels. After that the kids were hungry so we had to stop and eat at the cafeteria there. a bit more than my wallet wanted to pay, but my tummy had more of a say at that point. After that Ryan had to send a postcard while I collected some Glacier snow samples. The train ride on the way down was really full. We all had to sit in the entry way. I slept as much as I could.

As soon as we came out of the mountain tunnel it was completely foggy. Good thing we took all those pictures earlier. We made a pit stop there where we switched trains. They had a huge frying pan there cooking up bratwurst, sauerkraut, and Roesti (potatoes). We all got some, or should I say I got some and they all helped themselves. As they were drooling in the sauerkraut, I heard an announcement over the loudspeaker telling us the next train down was leaving in one minute. So I assumed they wanted to make that train as much as I would, but I had for forgotten that they don’t understand everything over the loudspeakers that I do, so I quickly explained that we didn’t have any more time to take pictures of ourselves eating bratwurst.

At this time we had a few extra hours to kill, and weren’t sure what town to spend our evening in. There was an option of three or four different places but we opted for the quickest and easiest town which was on the way back to our place. I was pushing for an early dinner and early bed, but Plewe had a set eating schedule and he still had an hour before his schedule would let him eat, so we wandered around this little Swiss village for a while we bought some chocolate, and hiked to a waterfall too. I was almost indifferent to it all cause I had been there before with my brother, but they hadn’t so I just played along. I think I was annoyed with the cloud cover too. That definitely didn’t help my majestic attitude.

We found a quaint little place to eat not to far from our train station. It had lots of people so it had to be good (according to Jeff). They made us wait 20 minutes cause of the business there. That didn’t make the ‘great food conisur’ “Jeff” happy. Don’t they know who he is?! I made him humbly wait just around the corner, as his opinion went from ‘looks great’ to ‘how disrespectful’. And “how can they even stay in business”! When the time was up they still didn’t have anything free so we waited some more. Plewe gave them a 10 minute time limit to seat us, but at 8 min. we decided to leave anyway. We went to a place just up the road that didn’t speak any English. We got Schnitzel and cheese bread. The schnitzel came with fries, or should I say ‘fried-salt-sticks’, with a a little potato in the middle’. Just the amount of salt alone scarred my mouth, then the temperature of these extra salty potato sticks finished the job, leaving second degree burns on the roof of my mouth and tongue. Only after the pain hit my conciseness is when I realized I shouldn’t have let myself get so hungry. It was one of those times where I knew it was bad for me, but I couldn’t stop. And to finish up the evening the true Euro-style, we had a hot chocolate night cap as well. After all, we were sitting at the edge of a gravel patio in the heart of Switzerland, looking up to some of the most spectacular views anywhere. It almost seems unreal.

So towards the end of the evening we generally knew that the bus came to the train station once an hour. We hadn’t seen it yet that hour, so I hurried the guys away from our delightful dinner to hustling into play (yes another one). I check the bus schedule and it said the bus shouldn’t be there in like 10 minutes. But that wasn’t entirely logical cause we hadn’t seen it go past the other way yet. And that posed a problem cause Swiss buses don’t operate behind schedule. So after the second and third times I check the schedule I realized that the bus dust get a dinner bread, cause it didn’t come that hour. So yes we had to wait 1:50 minutes for the next bus. I figured it would suck, but what else could we do. So jeff, in an angry like parental fashion decided to put his foot down and said “fine, we’ll walk there!” In order to punish us or something. But both Ryan and I almost in unison said “Hell No!” “It looks like I’m waiting here for the next bus”. Both as we slowly sat down, stretched our legs out, reclined our heads, hands behind threads, and let out the sigh of “I’m about to wait 1hr. and 50 minutes for a bus”. And so we waited.

So what I learned there was to check the important Bus/train/gondola schedules in advanced, rather than meandering aimlessly then planning on a schedule to work out when you haven’t even checked it. IN our long wait we had time to plan out tomorrow. We were trekking to Venice tomorrow. Luckily some of the girls that Plewe was trying to pick-up on gave us a Euro Rail train schedule book so we could check out times n stuff of all trains all over Europe. Good job Ryan.

Monday, October 1, 2007

European Adventure - Day 6

And just as it goes, it was a very early morning, again we had the earliest train possible out of town (Jeff loves that). It was kind of crazy. So jeff dosen't do 'no breakfast' so he marched us down to the bakery first thing. It was early enough that the bakery didn't even have all their goods out yet! I just needed something for later, cause it was too early for me even to be hungry. But Jeff needed to stalk up on his 'French Pastries for the rest of the trip. I think he got 2 or 3 of everything. Then we had to race for the metro. It got a bit tense for a minute cause I wasn't totally sure which way we needed to go. Sure I made 1 or 2 corrections to many of our plans, which took us the wrong way possibly, but we adjusted, made the connection, then literally sprinted to our train. We made it with maybe 1 minute to spare. Wheeeew, what a relief. So the rest of the day we traveled by train. It was a real nice break from walking and photographing everthing. We had like 4 transfters to our next destination: Gimmelwald, Switzerland.

At one of our stops (in Bern, Switzerland) Jeff ran into a grocery store and started shopping for the week it looked like. A loaf of bread, 3 pints (or were they quarts) of yogurt, 1 quart of fresh whole milk, 1 brick of ultra-stinky cheese, and plenty 'warm up' chocolate. I just got snacks and water which was more than enough for me, but he obviously had some pre-set grocery list. Just as I had a list of places I wanted to go, he had a list of things he needed to eat. So the next train ride was like a mini-Buffet City for a while, as he laid his smorgasboard out on the mini train table. The cheese he got was the worst smelling thing ever! It had to have been 'Out-House' flavored! I'm almost sure of it.

We made it to Interlaken, transfered to a small mountain train, then transfered to a bus, then to a Gondola. Then after a 5-10 minute hike we made it to Walter's Hotel. (a rick steves recommendation). The views were spectacular and we were all in awe as we looked up or down the side of the mountains from our hotel balcony. We had 2 hours to hike around before dinner, so we had fun doing that. They had mostly paved pathways leading from place to place. We hiked up to the next city of Murren. Jeff stopped to tie his shoe, and Ryan and I told him we'd just be up around the corner at/by/in/behind the gondola stop. So while we're up there (which was just around the corner) Jeff comes up, doesn't see us, therefore keeps wandering. This was my first into to Jeff in 'Wander-Mode'. I swear that "When in doubt, start wandering" was his motto. We had barley gone around the corner, and he disappears. We were at a fork in the pathway so he could have gone one of 4 directions. 'Why on earth would he just start wandering around like that' you ask, Good Question! We looked around for about 10 minutes before Ryan decided he wanted to go check out the Funicular train about 0.5 miles off, so I waited in this large open space right next to the Gondola station in case he was lost, or was looking for us. 10 minute, 20 minutes, then 30 minutes went by, and I was starting to loose my awe of nature behind my curious worry about these two lost sheep. I noticed Ryan troddeling down the pathway to relieve some of my angst, then noticed Wondering Jeff come 5 minutes after him. When he got to where we were, I asked him why he took off. He said that he thought we took off, but I then reminded him that we were only around the corner, in the city center, most open place, at the Cable Car station. But he must have figured that if he can't see us, we must have kept hiking so, So did he. I asked if he needed a leash, like one of the kids at Disneyland; you know, the shoulder harness with a 5 foot cord attached to the parent, but he didn't seem to keen on the idea. He actually tried to make it seem like our fault for 'letting' him wander off.

For dinner we had the most Swiss spaghetti ever made; by Walter. It was good. During our dinner Jeff kept talking to everyone else there about their travel plans n' such. Since the place we were at was famous only cause of Rick Steves had been writing about it for such a while, his name came up in every conversation, thus when Jeff was relaying every conversation to us that he had that evening mentioning this Rick Steves, I forbid him from speaking that name again, but let him only mention his initials, RS for the rest of the trip, and that was only if he HAD to. After dinner we walked around in the dark crisp chilly mountain air for a bit. It was dark and chilly, and the clouds were starting to move in, which made me nervous about tomorrow (my first time to this location our spectacular views were killed by the evil cloud cover which was thick and low). As we got there that afternoon there were some clouds but we could still see most of the peaks. It was absolutely glorious and I only hope that the few pictures I took do it some justice when we show them to everybody. We were hoping to see stars, but the clouds had moved in. It was really dark, but still fun to hang out outside, and wander through the now silent peaceful town.

And right before bed we filled up on some of the spoils of chocolate that we had won earlier by fighting some of the locals to death. They use bars of chocolate around here like currency. Except this currency is eatable. Walters house (hotel) was an old typical swiss house: all wood, really creaky, super soft feather beds, and every room had a balcony.

[Also, I don't know if I'm allowed to share this story; but before going to bed Jeff asked why there was a sink in our room. Ryan said it was for convenience cause the bathroom is all the way at the end of the hall. But I introduced it as a 'Mid-night Urinal'. Ha Ha, funny funny jim, then to bed. Well, during the night I guess Ryan took advantage of this idea, and used it as such. Well, apparently he wasn't to quiet about it(light must have been on) cause Jeff woke up and was freaked out and wouldn't shut up about his o.c.d. like behavior and that a UCLA dentist should never sink to such behavior. The next day I would laugh my head off every time Jeff would mention this, Ryan would chuckle and Jeff would rant, and I just told Ryan he was "just dumb for getting caught" as I smiled evilly at both of them. (I might have to retract this last paragraph, so be prepared to never mention it to either of them, but I'll still talk with you about it in full detail:) ]

Daily Update

On Friday night our wards had a Dance as a wrap up for our Wednesday night 'Dance Night'. Lots of people showed up. It was actually really fun, better than I thought it would turn out. I ate about 3 pounds of sugar right before it started so I had energy to talk to people AND to dance throughout the night. Courtney forced me to dance with many different random people (although I would have been fine on the sidelines making fun of everyone else the whole night.)

I Watched TV all day Saturday. It was kind of depressing when you think about it. I feel like I got dumber by the end of the day so I had to start reading books late at night to combat that feeling. So in the evening I was trying to watch an interesting football match between USC and whoever they were playing. Mind you, I was at Ryan's place I was at, who didn't care what we watched and he ended up turning it more to other games, or to golf, or to Oprah, so I left. It got pretty annoying there as he found a new friend at some store, brought him back to his place, and they were just loudly reminisce about their high school Football carriers. I remember their schools being 'not so good' in high school, but the picture they painted as much different than I remember. Each of their stories got more and more elaborate as time went on. And finally I had to leave to watch TV in peace back at my place.

After church at our 'break the fast' I got to the food tables a little late so the chili and potatoes were already gone. I was talking with friends while the desert was brought out as well; and just sat back to watch the feeding frenzy of people as the brownies and cake were put out. I made Mississippi Mud Brownies for the kids and they were well received.

That night we hung out at Jessica's for Brandon's b-day. He made us good food, while everyone else had the time of our lives with a Championship Tetris Tournament. Sean S. was doing well, until Kami got home and easily destroyed his title. It was great. Then I stayed up way to late watching Movies, TV, and playing Tetris.

Lunch was sponsored by Acapulco Grill, and hosted by the 'Wheat-Free' Girls.

I'm listening to Silverchair right now.