|8/30/2009 9:09:14 PM -
Back in Black From Eurotrip '09 *EXPLICT*
(Let me start by saying, this is LONG. I had no intention of making it this long, but it kept flowing...enjoy it or skim through. I'll have a few pictures up at some point)
Man, what a trip. I mean, the trip was a trip...and also, what a trip. If that makes sense. In 12 days me and my buddy, Rob, went to 5 different cities in 4 different countries.
Here's the semi-breakdown on each. Some details will necessarily be excluded. And I'm not going to lie, we spent a great deal of time in the nightlife, moreso than museums. But I find that my favorite way of getting to know cities is getting around and partying with it's inhabitants. And drinking...way too much.
My second time in London, but my first was with my parents when I was too young to wipe my own ass...probably 12 years old or so. Needless to say, this would be a different experience.
I love big cities and was looking forward to heading back to see it in a different light. The bus tour was great and really allowed us to get all around the City as well as hop on and off at interesting points. It was a good form of transportation as a result. There was a boat tour included in the package as well...nice! We got to see the Globe theater, where Shakespeare's plays are consistently playing, but all the showings were sold out. We saw all the other touristy sights as well like Buckingham Palace and Big Ben.
This was my first time in a hostel, and we decided to book them mainly by location. This one was right off of Picadilly Circus which is just a great location. We were really right in the heart of London. The first night there we went to a place called "Zoo Bar" and the second night, we found ourselves at "On Anon"...cute names, I know. These were both sponsored by the Hostels which meant that we got to meet plenty of other backpackers.
Asked the bus tour guide for a recommendation on where to get some quality fish and chips. So we found a place, but I have to say it wasn't my favorite food in the world. I'm not a huge fan of fried foods...much bigger on the sweets. Like the 99s, which I've been dreaming about ever since my last trip to Ireland.
We knew that things were going to get even crazier in...
When getting into the train station for I thought of what the typical American might say to the customs officer.
"What is your purpose for visiting?"
"Well, I'm going to Amsterdam to smoke your weed, have sex with your prostitutes, do your shrooms, and pee in public."
Funny enough, these answers wouldn't get anyone in trouble. I'm not saying I did these things by the way...it's just an example.
We ended up getting on a train that was supposed to be included in our package, but it turned out that it wasn't, which was no fun. So we paid extra. The first of many times.
A mutual friend of Rob and I was supposed to meet us in Amsterdam, and was getting us the hook-up at a 5 star hotel. Upon arriving at in Amsterdam we found out that he couldn't get on plane, so we were stuck with no place to go. We went to train information booth and got hooked up with the Hans Brinker Budget Hotel. This place really wasn't too bad, but had the greatest marketing scheme ever, of calling themselves, "The World Holiday". Posters all over the wall and postcards just made fun of how cheap they were...quite ingeniously. Check it out.
Despite most people giving you "that look" when you say you're going to Amsterdam, it was truly a remarkable City. This fact seems to be overcast by the other unique aspects of the culture, but the architecture and City layout was truly awesome. Purely based on layout, it was probably one of my favorite cities. Riding a bike around (and almost dying on it) was the perfect chance to explore. I ran into the back of a stopped car and almost hit a man before I decided to walk the bike back to the shop.
Seeing the red light district was truly an unforgettable experience. It was very surreal. When looking for directions, we met a big American guy named Richard, with a giant beard, cowboy hat, and sunglasses (at night). He was a self-proclaimed genius, which I don't doubt, and had retired in his early 40's and now travels around the world all year long. He gave us the "down and dirty" tour of the district. Perhaps the most surprising thing to me about the prostitutes was how attractive they were. I suppose I expected mainly hunch-backed, gap-toothed, cloven-hoofed wildabeasts...but they were far from it. I must say, my pal and I somewhat regretted not going to a sex show and seeing the amazing "squirting banana" trick. On another trip I'll surely catch it. The show I mean, not the banana.
The first night out we made it to an "all you can eat" rib place...only to discover that I couldn't even eat one plates worth. As I've said before, I'm all about fatty sweets, but super-fatty meats just turn my stomach. Went out to a few nightclubs and bars to continue the trend after consuming a fair amount of Jameson. We found a falafel chain called "Maoz" and ate there about 4 times in 2 days. Yum.
We had planned for Paris to be a "rest day" where no drinking would occur. The first time in 5 days. The trains were a disaster on the way there and we had to keep getting on and off, so it was hard to catch much sleep. Keep in mind that we planned for the trains to be a good amount of our sleep time. Things don't always turn out he way you plan them.
Arriving at our Hostel in Paris for our only one night stay during the trip, I felt a little depressed by our neighborhood. It just seemed kind of empty and dead. But it was also late and we were tired. I didn't want to have the empty streets be my only impression of the city at night. We went out for some food before decided to turn in early for the evening. Although I was in Paris many years ago, I was excited for the food for obvious reasons. And I wasn't dissapointed...I got a wonderful mixed grill dish with some of the best fries I've had in my life. Like golden, buttery, nuggets of goodness. I walked the streets alone that night for a while and explored the busier parts of town passing by tons of sex shops and the Moulin Rouge. The latter was definitely less impressive than I thought it would be in person. But as a true night person myself, I really enjoyed exploring a few different neighborhoods.
During the day, we did some hearty sightseeing, checking out Napoleon's tomb and the Army Museum. Both were just incredible. But first, we walked into a military training school thinking that it was the museum. We were quickly turned around. We saw Notre Dame and the Eiffel tower as well. A nice taste of banana and nutella crepes helped spike my blood sugar just long enough to make it to the train station to get to...
For this 12 hour train ride, we booked a sleeper-train. We hoped that we'd get another solid night of sleep again to keep us alive for the second half of the trip. Rob fell into a coma with a few Tylenol PM's and I tried jamming my earplugs into my ears to drown out the incredible snoring of our 2 other roommates.
Not as well rested as I had hoped to be, we ventured out into the City. Our best hostel so far, these rooms actually had air conditioning. After checking in, we wandered on the Ramblas, which is the most famous street in Barcelona. During the day, it's famous for it's street performers, shops, and a great marketplace right off of it that sells all kinds of fresh foods. At night, it's another story. I made sure to sample tapas at a shop in the market place that actually had organic food.
I did my only bit of exercise here, doing pushups and pullups with my backpack on for about 6 sets of each. Yep, that's all.
At night we wandered a bit, again making our way down the Ramblas. Dodging prostitutes (who are not legal here) was an interesting experience. They love to pinch men's nipples apparently and grab at your man-bits to try and make you a customer. I suppose it's like handing out free samples in a store. This provided a great source of entertainment as Rob was harassed for 10 straight minutes by one woman. Saying that "I have Jesus on my heart" was no deterrent...she claimed to as well. We ran and ended up in a disco. Same name for a club in the states.
Next day, we were a wreck. Our immune systems were shutting down and Rob was starting to get a pretty bad cough. We were tired and beat down. We spent a good portion of the day trying to figure out how we'd get to our next destination through different travel agencies since we decided to leave this to the last minute. The two mottos for this trip were "flying by the seat of our pants" and "always choose the more adventurous option"...we lived and died by that.
Night came quickly and we decided to do a bar crawl with another guy from the Hostel. Things got nuts once again as we came across a few great bars. One had about 200 shots listed on the wall including one that had a birthday-girl licking whipped cream off a dildo and having the shot sprayed in her face. Good practice for her birthday I suppose. Another awesome bar had headphones right above the countertop where you could listen to awesome music so loud that it drowned out the rest of the place. But they all had the same some playing. Rocked out hard to some "Rage Against the Machine" while screaming and cursing so loud that everyone stopped to look. Sometimes you forget that the music isn't so loud in the rest of the bar.
Last but certainly not least was....
Known as perhaps the number one party place in the country, we were sure to save this for last. Having a room booked in a 24-male room dorm at "Ibiza Budget Beds" was sure to be a trip. We met a few other Americans in Barcelona that said the place was a crap-hole. You show up at once hotel and they send you down the block to where you actually stay.
Somehow, they either messed up the reservation or upgraded us and we stayed in the hotel that night. What unbelievable luck. The room was truly hotter than hell though. But with a balcony and being the only 2 people in the room, who were we to complain.
The food was awful and touristy wherever we went and I was out of protein powder. I had a "burrito" the size of an egg roll and some other terrible tourist cuisine that looked like it had been thrown up out of the back side of a lactose-intolerant cow.
The parties are what it's about here. On the first night, we went to "Amnesia", one of Ibiza's biggest mega clubs. The tourist appeal for the clubs is so huge here, that they literally have stores for all of the clubs all over the island selling merchandise and tickets. The music was loud and the DJ's were all of the best. We embraced our inner-guidos and engaged in shirtless fist pumping. I'm not ashamed. I pride myself on being able to enjoy a great variety of music and scenes...and that we did. The second night, we saw world-famous DJ, Fat Boy Slim. It was truly an experience.
With a budweiser being about $21 bucks a piece (no joke) we didn't but a single drink in Ibiza. Aside from the 2 liters of Jameson that we had bought in the airport. They also had baloons filled with laughing gas that they sold in the clubs. What a different world. I don't think I've ever seen so many attractive women in my life...women working at Burger King (one whose name as honestly "Nazi" on her nametag) women in the clubs, working on the airplanes, etc. There's something in the water. And it makes them sexy. I'm sure of it.
The last 2 days were more travel than anything else with a nice wrap-up in London. We slept on the floors in the airports, and almost missed a plane that we had to sprint to.
Our hostel there looked like it was straight out of Harry Potter, and had apparently been named one of the top 10 hostels in Europe. The place was amazing. Too bad we only had enough time to spend a few hours there. It had a bar in the basement, and I enjoyed what would be my last few beers for quite a while.
In the morning, we were going to take the tube (subway) to the airport but learned that it wouldn't open until 7AM and our flight was at 8:30AM. We got ripped off by a car driver on the way to a bus station to take us to the airport. But the bus station didn't open till 7AM either. So we had to take another cab to the airport. Not cheap. FML. But it may have been worth it to see the cab driver in a tuxedo and leather gloves...we just don't have those in NYC.
Today, I got back, sick and tired to New York City. Not sick and tired in a bad way...but literally, sick and tired. The trip was only 12 days but honestly felt like months. We did everything we could to push through all of the fatigue, headaches, and general resistance to fun, and came out with one of my best vacations ever. We saw great things, met tons of good guys and great women, sampled foods both good and bad, man-handled the nightlife, and pushed our limits.
We crushed it.
Tomorrow, it's back to work, back to training, and time to diet. A nice break from it all and I'm ready to break out of the summer fresh and hungry for September.
Until next year...