Saturday, November 1, 2008

home again, home again.

Reverse culture shock, who knew?
Coming home has not been as easy as I was expecting it to be. Luckily I have Fontella Bass and Aretha Franklin to help cheer me up... You sing it girl!

Friday, October 10, 2008

The French Alps

What did you do today?

Well, ya know... I just walked accross a glacier in the French Alps. Pretty standard.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


So, things are becoming very busy as my trip is beginning to wind down. I already feel like I am rehearsing my coming home speach as I rush to see as much of France and Switzerland as I can before taking the boat (which is actually a plane) home. As every thing is beginning to feel so rushed, I am afraid you, my loved readers, will not have much new news until the end of October- after I get home. I am having a swell time, however, and I will have plenty to tell (and all I will tell) at the end of my travels. There may be a periodic update, but don't count on it.
Until later, I always love to hear from you all and I wish I had more time to type on these frustrating French keyboards...
Love, peace, and hair grease,

Friday, September 19, 2008


(more to come soon!)
I am in Copenhagen and am loving my time here. Today I am getting ready to go to a cabin in the woods! I am really looking forward to it. It is Mikkel´s grandfather´s cabin. There are six of us going, two Germans, Stuart (who is English), Mikkel and Casper (who are Danish), and myself. It is going to be a weekend filled with fantastic music and delectable food.
I am looking forward to it!

Gothenburg, Sweden

This post will be edited with more details next week...
Just a travel day to Sweden
Roller skates and chocolate cake. A calm, rest day in Trollhattan with my friend Tommy (who I met when I was in Fontainebleau climbing with Taz and Paolo).
Walking around Gothenburg and climbing in a gym. Hanging out with Annica and Anna (who were so kind to have me stay at their flat in Gothenburg).
Climbing outdoors near Gothenburg with Tommy. 
Walking around town with Annica.
This was one of those days where all that I saw reminded me of all the places I have been and will be. I really liked Gothenburg, it is a really nice city.
A shorter and colder version of yesterday.
Travel day to Copenhagen (farewell Sweden!)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Åndalsnes to Flåm and another long bike ride 09.08 & 09.09

The train ride to Flåm was a good one. I could not see very much of the scenery, which made me very excited for the next days train ride and bike ride. What I could see looked stunning!
When I arrived in Flåm (population 200), I went straight to the hostel and set up my (Dave´s) tent. It was a really nice evening and I was excited for the next days bicycle ride...
This day was the most fantastic day. It was perfect in so many ways. I took the early train up to Finse, a train station that has the claim of being the station at the highest altitude in Norway. It was so beautiful up there. It had snowed the week before, so there were big patches of white snow between the crystal blue water and the greens and oranges of the mountain grass. The sun was out and smiling down on me, illuminating everything around me in a soft yellow. It was so nice.
At Finse I rented a bicycle and proceeded to ride the bike back to Flåm, over 60 km. It was awesome! Also, it was all down hill and some really great mountain biking and road biking. Some of the path was really rough and I almost bit the dust several times... it was so cool! It felt really good because I was riding really hard, not like my up hill walking bike ride.
The scenery was so beautiful, I was riding next to glaciers and lakes and rivers and waterfalls and mountains and forests. By the end of the ride, which took me about four hours, I was completely wore out and went back to the hostel to eat and sleep.
This was definitely one of the best days so far, top notch!

Stinky Clothes (the seventh of September)

If I read a book and really enjoy the way a character acts, I tend to take on certain attributes of that character for a short time. I just read Catcher in the Rye...
So bare with me.
Yesterday Serge and I rented a car, so today, I rented a bicycle. There was a walk that sounded really supreme that the lady at the information desk told me about. I thought I would ride the bike to the start of the trail, hike the trail, and then ride back and do some more walking. I really enjoy walking by myself, just for a change. I think a lot more and it is just nice to do that sometimes. Just walk and think. It helps me clear my head a bit. Today was a sunny warm day, the kind of day that you just can´t help but smile. It was perfect conditions for walking and bicycling and thinking.
It was sunny and cloudless enough to get a bit warm when doing strenuous activity.
I ate cookies and milk or breakfast, so I was looking to do a bit of strenuous activity. I didn´t eat milk but I drank it and let the cookies get soggy in it. Same for supper, but I am not there yet.
So, I rode the bike to Isfjorden and then up Vengedalen- maybe just towards Vengedalen... I am not sure if it is the name of a place or the lake or the road...
Yesterday I was so impressed and inspired by the cyclists going up the steep mountain roads and u Trollstigen. It would take so much physical and mental strength. After today, I felt like an Olympian, but I had no such strength as the people I saw yesterday.
The road going to the hike I wanted to do went up a mountain. A real, actual mountain. Over five miles of steep up. No relief for me and my seven speed mountain bike. Sometimes it would be a little less steep so I could attempt to actually ride the bike, but it never lasted more than a few feet. Sadly. I hardly even had a chance to ride my fancy bicycle (which even had a basket!) on the way up. It was a party on the way down, but not so much of anything exciting on the way up. Normally I wouldn´t say ¨Today I rode a bike (more like walked a bike...) up a mountain!¨ Because most of the time when people say they walked up a mountain, what they really mean is up a steep hill for a few minutes. It is used almost as a figure of speech rather than to state what actually occurred. But today, I really did walk up a mountain. My sore muscles can attest to it. Each time I thought ´this has to be close to the end. I must almost be there.´I wouldn´t be. The darn road just kept going. After about an hour of struggling and sweating my way up, I decided to eat lunch. The cookies were no longer cutting it. So, as I ate my stale bread (but not moldy!) and cheese, a father and son combo walked past me with their fancy full-on road bikes that I secretly wished I had. They even were wearing the official road bicycling clothes- they were the real deal. The only problem was the kid was around ten years old, definitely not over 12. I was thinking, after I had completely sweated any chance of cleanliness off my skin, did that kid ride the bike up? So I decided they had been dropped at the top. It made me feel better about myself. But I decided any way that I would ride the rest of the way because surely I was almost there (which I was not) and it looked like it was getting less steep. So, after eating, I set off and rode or about 300ft before getting off and walking again. good effort. noble attempt.
Oh! There was one time where I was riding up a less steep part and had enough push to go a little ways when it started getting really steep again and a car drove past me. All the passengers looked very impressed at my strength. They didn´t know I had been walking the previous five miles or that I was just waiting for them to go around the next turn so I could get off and continue walking. It still made me feel good. What they don´t know won´t hurt them.
I took a really long shower this morning. I even went to the extra effort of putting on a clean shirt for a while, before thinking better of it. Then I put on the same ol´stinky clothes. It was good thinking too. Not even half way up my ¨bike ride¨ I was starting to smell pretty ripe. So it made me wonder why I should go through all the trouble of showering when my clothes reek any way?
After nearly two hours, I made it to the summit and the base of the thirty minute walk I had set out to do hours earlier. But it was worth it.
I bet today was at least a 25 mile day, all in all. The views all the way up were fantastic and once I reached the top of the hike, the views were even more spectacular. Today was a top-notch day. As I was hiking up the trail, I felt like a true champ for making it so far and not turning around or giving up. It was a really good feeling.
And, on the way down I only nearly killed myself. I was going a bit to fast... to say the least.

Renting a car in Norway, 09-06-08.

That´s right! Serge and I rented a car!
As we were walking back to the hostel last night, we decided to go ahead and find out about renting a car. We went to the car rental place and the price was affordable split between two people, so we decided to rent one. The man working let us take the car only a few minutes after we walked in. It is a strange thing to rent a car in Norway. Neither Serge or myself had to show any sort of ID at all and he only took Serge´s mailing address and stamped his credit card. No signing papers, or any sort of thing. It was awesome!
The drive was fantastic. Today is easily the best day of my trip thus far. The scenery was the most spectacular I have ever seen and I felt like I was either on top of the world or on a different planet. The water glowed in its pureness and the mountain heights gleamed in the sun. There are stories about the trolls living in Norway, in the hills, forests and mountains. After today, it is easy to understand why a person could believe in such a thing. There is something really magical about Norway. 
We started our drive by going up Trollstigen Road (Norway´s most dramatic mountain road!). As the road winds up the mountain, there are spectacular views of waterfalls and the valley below. My favorite part was the top of the road. It feels like the top of the world and no other place I have ever been. After driving up the road, we continued to the other side of the mountains where we put the car on a ferry and found our way to Geirangerfjord, one of the best and most visited fjords in Norway. I found the top of Trollstigen better... so we continued on until we found ourselves next to a toll road winding up. We decided to take the mystery road and see where we ended up. We could not have guessed we would end up on top of the world, again (only this time for real). 
It was an incredible day, filled with such vivid colors and landscapes. I will have to let my photos attempt to describe it better.
Definitely the best day yet.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A rainy day and a long walk. Norway, Part 2!

Last night at the hostel I made a friend from France - Serge. So today we went exploring with another couple that was staying at the hostel. We walked along the fjord (click on the word ¨fjord¨ for a definition) from Åndalsnes to Isfjorden, a maximum of a 5km walk. The couple we were walking with had to turn around to catch their train on time, but Serge and I decided to keep walking. So we did. We walked and walked and walked. It was really nice, and the views up the fjord were spectacular.  After a short bus ride and a lot of walking, we decided it would be a good idea to start heading back. We realized how far we had gone and decided to try our luck at hitch hiking instead of paying the expensive bus fee. After about 40 minutes and no sign of a bus to take us even if we decided to take it, a car picked us up. 
I got some really spectacular photographs and can now say I have hitch hiked!

train from Trondheim and Åndalsnes

On the 4th of September, I took the train from Trondheim, Norway to Åndalsnes, Norway...
It was another fairly early morning this morning. I woke up early to get the free breakfast from the hostel and have enough time to walk to the train station. No more attempts at finding accomodation in the dark- especially not places where the tourist office is only open until 17.00 or earlier. The train from Trondheim to Dombås was not too interesting, it was very beautiful and the landscape got much more mountainous- but I did not meet any one. Then, at the little train station in Dombås, I met some older people from Seatle. It was really good to meet some people from the States in Norway. I dont know why, but some times it is really nice to meet other Americans. This was one of those days, so I spoke with them while we waied for the train to Åndalsnes - which is suposidly the most scenic rail line in all of Europe. It was beautiful, and it was a beautiful sunny day to complament the mountains and streams and waterfalls. The waterfalls on Kawai, Hawaii have nothin on Norway- granted Norway is a whole country and not just an island... but it is the only other place I have seen that compares to the massive amount and beauty of the falls I saw.
Another spectacular thing... the water itself. The water is so vividly colored! It is crystal clear and is bright terquios and blue. It is so pure! I will write more about that later though...
Upon my arrival in Åndalnes, I went to the tourist information center and spoke with the lady working there for some good sight seeing and hiking tips. After feeling like I would have more than enough ideas to ponder, I split for the youth hostel.
End of Norway Adventures, part one.

Copenhagen and Ostersund

08-30-08 to 09-03-08
day one-
I had some very good train rides today. On my first train, I met a wonderfully nice chap from England who lives and works in the Netherlands as a designer- architectual and interior design. He made the first part of the train really good. The second half of the train ride was really good because the train was put on a boat and everyone had to get out of the train and go to the upper decks of the boat for the crossing. ¨Welcome to Denmark.¨ I got to see the sun set over the water from the boat and white jellyfish swim in the dark water. It was an incredibly good train ride to Copenhagen. When I arrived, Mikkel and his flat mate Casper where ready to pick me up and place me into the Copenhagen night culture- on this night, it was street parties. Whole blocks were consumed with people and music and food, some even little fires. Because I do not drink, it was a bit odd at first, but in a city where bikes are scattered up and down the roads, on the sidewalks and against buildings, it did not take me to long to adjust.
day two-
Today is the day I was supposed to go to Sweden but did not. As it turns out, I had to make a reservation on the train I was going to take and the train was already full. Ooops. So, while at the train station, I booked my ticket for the next day. Instead of riding a train to Stockholm and then Ostersund, I went to the coast in Copenhagen and enjoyed the sun. It was another good day in Copenhagen - sunny weather and good company (Mikkel and friends).
In the evening, Casper cooked a wonderful dinner and I prepared myself for the long train ride the next day with sleep.
day three-
Off to Ostersund, Sweden!
Over twelve hours of train rides led me to Ostersund, a small city by a big lake. There are so many lakes everywhere in Sweden! It is crazy! Upon my arrival in Ostersund, I was very fortunate to meet Andrew, a chap from Australia working in Rotviken looking for uranium and other minerals in the ground to be mined. It was already dark when I got to Ostersund and I did not know how I was going to get to the camp ground, then I met Andrew, a fellow traveler. He was kind enough to take me to the house he shared with the other guys he works with and feed me. It was really nice. He has so many fantastic travel stories too! Today was a great start to Sweden.
day four-
Rain. A nice, lazy day. I feel even more fortunate today for meeting Andrew, as I would be camping in the cold rain if I had not met him (and it is cold!).
day five-
A short travel day to Trondheim, Norway.
Now the adventures really begin...

Sunday, September 7, 2008

just checking in.

I am alive and well and in Norway.
Norway is the most beautiful and amazing place I think I have ever been... it is so wonderful!
I will write in detail some time next week, unil then,

Monday, September 1, 2008

Update, update, update!

Since the Lake District... I have been to Den Haag in the Netherlands (and Amsterdam briefly), Copenhagen, and am now in Sweden. The Hague was a restful period where I caught up on the what not's that needed catching up on. A very nice time, more to come later. Then Copenhagen, a brief stop on my way to Sweden- also very nice and more to come. Now I am in Sweden (arrived today) and it is going amazingly awesome. Super duper. The next two (or three) weeks will be brief on the updates but here is the itinerary: Sweden and Norway and a tent. The third week of September I will be back in Denmark... until then, I am adventuring on my own - although I never really find myself alone because there are always so many wonderful people around me.
Until later... Love, peace, and hair grease-

P.S. - Grandpa, HAPPY BIRTHDAY! (I get to be the first one to wish you a happy birthday on your birthday because here it is just after midnight and you guys are seven hours earlier than me!) I hope you have the most wonderful birthday and you enjoy your time with the family. I wish I could be there to wish you a happy birthday myself. I am thinking of you and Grandma often, as I know you guys are me too. I love you Grandpa! Happy birthday!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Lakes

Going to the lakes was definitely the best impromptu decision I have made so far. It felt so good just to be outdoors and camping. I was really fortunate to get a camping spot, as it was Bank Holiday weekend in England (meaning everyone and their dog were on holiday/vacation). If the campground I went to had not been two miles uphill from the city center, I would not have had a campsite. The farm I camped at was full, but they saw me walk up the drive and felt bad for me, so as I am just one person with a tiny tent, they allowed me to camp. It was so very nice of them. I was really worried I would have no where to stay... but it worked out perfectly. The campground I stayed at was beautiful. The mountainous hills of the lake district were my surroundings. Perched up on the hill side, I could see such beauty on every horizon. It was very nice and relaxing. 
The day after I arrived, I did a long 10-12 mile walk. It felt so good! I hiked up a mountain and looked over the lake and the valleys in the distance. I met some lovely people on my hike up too. I met a very nice couple working in England from New Zealand and I met an older gentleman who is a professor at Oxford University. They were all very friendly. It was a really swell walk. For the second half of my walk, I went down into a valley that use to be filled with graphite (I think...) mines. It is now a field full of sheep. Mines and factories always make me think of the hardship people face. It is such gruelling and deadly labor- to inhale the dust of the earth all day and be covered in the filth of the minerals, it would be a hard life. The sheep did not know this though. They went on eating the grass where men once tore at the flesh of the earth. It was really interesting to think of as I walked. It was perfect conditions for just thinking. The sun was shining but it was cool enough to where I still wanted to wear a jacket- simply beautiful. After my long hike, I went back to camp and ate cold soup with bread. It felt so good to fill my body with bad camp food. Something about camping just allows me to slow down and makes me feel the joy and beauty all around me. Not that it would be hard to do in an area like the Lake District. After I ate it started to rain, so I crawled in my sleeping bag and read until I was drowned with sleep. The rain fell all night leaving the next day pretty muddy. I had to leave in the evening to get to Manchester so I could catch my flight the next day to Amsterdam, so I decided to lay low and catch up on my writing. I opened up the tent to let everything dry out and opened my books - enjoying the sunshine and my sore legs. 
A truly spectacular time, indeed.
That evening I caught a series of trains that led me to Manchester and the great hospitality of Rodders (a school mate of Dave's who I met in San Francisco last year). I got to try a real Turkish kebab and watch half of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - a movie I must see all of soon... Clint Eastwood is wonderful in the old western! The next morning I woke early to catch a train to the airport. Rodders was so great to wake up early on his Bank Holiday to take me to the train station. It seems like every place I have gone, people have stepped out of their way to show such great kindness. 
Once on the trains, I travelled for a few hours to the airport, flew to Amsterdam, caught another train to Den Haag, and made it to Stuart's flat (the other walker I met last year along with Dave, walking across America). 
Now I am here in The Hague, doing a little of this and a little of that (meaning catching up on e-mails and my blog and figuring out where I am staying in Sweden and Norway-my next stops).
So, all is well and I am once again in Mainland Europe. More adventures to come soon, and to all of you who have started school once again - best of luck. My thoughts are with you guys.

Also, a special shout out to Stef, my cousin. Today is his birthday and he is another year older... hehe. 
Happy birthday Stef!!! I love you and hope you are not working too hard today! 


I think when they say "Sunny England" they mean the people, and not the weather. I rarely saw the sun but every person I stayed with was so incredibly kind and offered so much, it made my entire trip to England spectacular - despite the rain.
In Redditch, I stayed with Pete and Moya, Dave's parents. They were both so kind to allow me to stay in their home and to show me all around the Midlands. The first day I was there we drove all around the country side looking at English-style cottages. It was really neat to see homes that were built before the American colonies had even gained independence. It put a new perspective on "old", the cottages I saw are older than the United States... 
The tour first took us to Stafford, Shakespeare's birthplace. We toured Anne Hathaway's cottage and walked all around town. Anne Hathaway's cottage was beautiful. The front garden was filled with flowers taller than me, with vibrant colors. After we around Stafford for a while, filled with the Royal Shakespeare Company and rich with Shakespeare's history, we went to a town called Chipping Campden and then Broadway. The old-style homes were beautiful. Instead of the white and black of Stafford and many other areas, these homes were a yellow stone that glistened in the sun (which, unfortunately, we did not see much of). They were so beautiful against the green grass and dark sky, it was really a treat to see the sun shine on them. My whole time in Redditch was fairly rainy. 
The next day Pete and Rachel (Dave's sister) and I went to Warwick Castle. It was really fun. I have never seen a real castle, so it was a treat, indeed! It was so neat to see the rooms and stairs and imagine what life would have been like there so long ago. At the castle, they had show-type entertainment every hour somewhere in or around the castle walls. One of the shows we saw was Birds of Prey- there were two types of eagles, an owl, and a vulture in the show. It was fascinating watching the birds fly so elegantly with the wind and struggle to climb upwards to the castle walls. I was very glad we went to Warwick.
The next day I decided to do a day trip to Bath Spa, where the ancient Roman baths are. I had a really super time in Bath. I did not have a lot of time to spend there so I decided to do a bus tour - the kind where you can sit in the open on the top of the bus. It was a really great way to see the city because I got to hear the history of the buildings and I was able to learn and see a lot more than I would have had I just been walking.
The next day is the day I decided my new wardrobe should be more green, and by that I do not mean environmentally friendly. :-) Despite the washing mistake, the day turned out to be spectacular. For those of you who have heard of Old Greg, I was introduced to the British comedy show "The Mighty Boosh" where the five minute clip comes from. It is a fantastic show! Dave told me it would blow my mind away, but I had no idea... Dave, Bob (Dave's house mate), and I watched several episodes of Boosh along with several other British comedy shows. It was a fantastic evening. 
The next day I had breakfast with Dave, packed my things, and then Bob ran with me to the station so I could catch my train to Penrith, the English Lake District.
A swell time in the small town of Redditch.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Change of Plans

Today I was going to leave for Scotland; but, I decided against it. I could not find a cheap place to stay and was a bit worried about getting there and not even having a place to sleep - then I realized I did not have to go to Edinburgh, I could go somewhere else. So, today I leave for the Lake District of England. It is said to be one of the most beautiful areas in all of England... I am excited. I will be camping there and going on walks and just exploring. Delightful.
More to come on all the fun I have been having here in Redditch soon. :-)

An added note: my day yesterday was a good day despite the morning chaos.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A Sad Day

Today I made a really big mistake. A part of me is really sad, but all I can do is laugh - which is more appropriate any way.
And so it begins this way:
All of my clothes were in a bad need of being laundered, and today I had the time to wash them (except what I am wearing). Of course, all of my favorite things were what needed washed the most, because I wear them the most. So it is my favorite clothe items which this story is regarding (which is why it is funny...).
Well, yesterday I splurged a little and bought two new scarfs, a black one and an orangish yellow one. They went in the wash with all my other clothes... My yellow shirt and scarf that were my favorite color of yellow and that I wore every day, are no more. They dyed today along with countless other clothes. The casualties are still being counted as this was discovered only moments ago. So far we know my prized scarf is now a yellow/grey/green along with my once yellow shirt. My favorite pants that were once a light tan, are now a dark green. My favorite green sweater is now a dark grey/green and the new orangish yellow scarf I just bought, is that color no more. All my socks are blue, but my new black scarf is happy.
As the casualties are still being counted, the rest of the clothes that have dyed will be discovered as I move them from the washer to the dryer.
My heart goes out to all my clothes I used to love, and to all you readers out there, you will begin to see me wear darker clothes, but fear not - my lack of bright colors is not because I have turned to the dark side, rather it is because the black scarf bandit has struck again.

It is now mid-afternoon here in Redditch and I am feeling much better about the situation. None of my clothes are nasty colors, so that is good. I now have a nice brown scarf too, which is also nice. The only thing I am still a bit bummed about is my pants. They are green now... and I really liked the light color they use to be - but it is all good and I am in high spirits.
A good laugh and a lesson well learned.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Click on the slide show to see them close up.

Brighton and Sonny's Jamboree

On the morning of the 14th I caught a train to Brighton and was southbound to more rainy weather. At the station I was joyfully greeted by Dave (one of the cross-continental walkers I met last summer) and his friend, Jim. Marvelous! We took my bag to the car and began the mini tour of Brighton - starting with a full english breakfast, a most delectable breakfast of eggs, toast, bacon, sausage, beans, tomatoes, and hash browns... FULL english breakfast. Once my belly was completely filled up we walked all around the city. We saw the hipster shopping area (not mainstream) and an area called The Lanes, where the streets are to narrow for cars and so it is for walking only. After wondering through the maze-like lanes, we arrived at the coast line. The pier had rides on it like a fair!!! It was great! It made me want to skip around and eat ice cream... but I remained composed, with a grin on my face. The coast was really neat - not as beautiful as the part of the coast I saw with Duffy, but really great for people watching. After wondering around for a bit more, we went back to the car and decided it was sunny enough to explore the Sussex countryside. We started our tour at a farm that is well known by the locals for its wonderful cider. I tried a tiny taste of Dave's favorite cider, but just didn't really like it. I also tried the apple juice they make, and it was the best ever! So I bought a pint and quickly drank it all. Then we went to a place called the Seven Sisters, where there were white cliffs (it was on the coast) - like the White Cliffs of Dover. It was wonderful. Once we finished with our beautiful walk, we headed back into town and got some fish and chips, which were good. The chips were just like a type of french fry, which I didn't expect, but it was all very good. Accomodations at Jim's house were running quite low as he was hosting a few other people as well. Because of this, Jim, Dave, and I decided to camp at the place where we would be camping for the weekend (because we were going to be camping for the weekend). So we did, and it was lovely. It felt so good to be warmed by a camp fire and sleep outside. Really great.
So, here is the deal (I say 'so' a whole lot...), over the weekend some of Dave's friends were having a party to celebrate their son and their love for each other - basically a non-wedding wedding. A name changing party, if you will. The party was held in a huge field just outside of Brighton and was a wonderful time. It was called Sonny's Jamboree because their 6 month old son's name is Sonny. There were 150 people that attended but at any given time probably just under 100 were there. On Friday I wandered around Brighton while Dave and Jim helped Calvin (the main man) load stuff and take it to the field. In the evening we headed to the festival for a fine evening of campfires and setting up tents and what nots for the next day. Saturday was the main day and I met so many wonderfully nice people. It was really great to hang out and enjoy the sunshine. Super duper!
Sunday we helped load up, said our goodbyes, and drove to Redditch - where I am now.
More to come soon...

Cambridge (12-13 of August)

I left my wonderful, couch-surfing host Kwame early in the morning and set out for the short train ride to Cambridge. When I arrived I was picked up at the station by James Duffy, a friend I met in San Francisco. It was really happy to see a familiar face and have a warm welcome. After my arrival, we went to his flat to drop off my pack and decide what to do for the day. So, we went on a wonderful walking tour of the town. We started at the outskirts of the city and walked all along the river. It was so nice to do so much walking; it was a perfect day for walking, not hot and not raining. The trails are marvelous, it did not feel at all like we were close to a town- it was all fields and river. We also had a lovely lunch picnic along side the river. It was really very nice. Once we followed the river into town, we started to see people punting up and down the river. It was very entertaining (even though we didn't see anyone fall in...). The whole town is such a beautiful and amazingly clean place. In the evening we went to see an outdoors performance of Shakespeare's "Love's Labour's Lost". It was a really fun show - I had never read the comedy or heard the story even, so it was really great. A very good day, indeed.
The next day was just as good. We rode bicycles all along the river in the other direction. There were so many fishing, barge type boats. They added so much character to the riverside because many of them were very antique-y looking. It felt really good to ride so much on a bicycle and do so much outdoors exercise. After riding along the river for some time (which really made me want to go fishing...) we rode back into town and explored one of the many colleges of Cambridge University. We went and saw King's College. It was so impressive! The chapel for the college was massive - it was hard to believe it was a chapel for a University. Then, we drove to the east coast of England near a town called Lowestoft and saw the beach there. By this time it was a bit rainy outside and the temperature had dropped a bit, but it was lovely. It made me wish I had a kite to fly, as it was extremely windy. The beach was sandy and was lined with colorful little beach huts. We did not stay there for very long because of the rain, but it was really nice to see and feel the ocean. I really enjoyed my time in Cambridge and had such a fabulous host.
Off to Brighton...

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Brussels / France (take two)

Hokay, so.
I arrived in Brussels and made my way to Taz and Paolo's flat. I was not really sure who to expect to be there, as I had not met them before (a friend of a friend sort of thing), but I was sure it would be great. Unfortunately, I was terribly wrong. Just kidding! They greeted me with smiles and warmth, it was wonderful. They were taking an extended weekend to go to Fontainebleau to do some climbing and hanging out (hanging... ha!). Along with Taz, the American, Paolo, the Italian, and myself came a family actually from Belgium: Hans, Alex, and Freia. We were a wonderfully odd bunch and had a swell time together. From climbing (when it wasn't raining...) to exploring the Chateau (when it was raining...) it was a swell time. Also while camping in France, we met a family from Wales: Grant, Cathrine, Naomi, Noah, and Hannah. The latter three were ages 11, 9, and 4 - so a fun bunch to be around. We ended up climbing with them for a day and thoroughly enjoyed their company. It was a great weekend with fantastic company. I am going to go back to Brussels, I left some belongings at the flat to ensure it...

Freia: sorry for the misspelling of your name... If it makes you feel any better, I generally spell names (and most other words, for that matter) incorrectly.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Brussels and France

I am kind of skipping Pisa... where I had a lovely time and met some wonderful people. I saw the tower and all that jazz too. Good times.
Brussels / France
Wonderful! (more to come later)

I am now in Cambridge, England and am getting ready to go see a Shakespeare show...

Monday, August 11, 2008

Answering a few questions

These are just a few questions different people had, so here are the answers. Also, the next week or so I will figure out the photos...

I have a question, though, about the money. What is the little symbol before the money amount called? It that a pound or a euro? Also what is the exchange rate?

The euro (€) is used in most of Europe and the EU (European Union), the UK, however, decides to still use the pound (£). One euro is just over 1.5 US dollars and one British pound is about 2 US dollars.

Have you drank out of that water fountain yet? / Did you drink from the public fountains?

Jeremiah: Do you mean the water fountains in Rome or a different one?
I drank out of any public fountain I walked past. The water coming out of them was always so good and cool, and they all looked so neat that I couldn't help but stop to fill up my bottle.

How did you like the stylishly dressed Italian women on their motorcylces?

I actually did not see very many stylishly dressed Italian women motorcycles. I have seen a lot of motorcycles everywhere I have gone, but I have not been paying enough attention to notice the dress of the riders.

Did you throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain?

I did throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain, ensuring that I will return to Rome. :-)

Romania. Isn't Count Dracula from there?

Count Dracula is from Romania. I didn't go to his city, but I did pass by it on train.

Now that I am home from China I am glued to the Olympic coverage in China. Is all of Europe excited or ignoring it?

I have not been staying with anyone who has paid any attention to the Olympic coverage. I had even forgotten that the Olympics were on... I am so out of it when it comes to news. I have not been able to read the news for some time, unfortunately. So, I am not sure about all of Europe but I have not seen or heard about the Olympics since I have been here.

The Rest of Romania - a short excerpt on a few other things I did...

All of my time in Romania was wonderful. Every member of Andreea's family greeted me with such great hospitality and kindness, even though we could not understand each other. One day we went to a street market in the city and just had a city day. It was really nice, we walked all around town and saw some beautiful churches. Another day we went to this botany garden that was so big and beautiful. People in Romania love flowers, it seems. There are so many floral designs and many people have beautiful flower gardens infront of their house. It adds so much color to everything.
I had a really good time in Romania and every person I met there was completely wonderful. Romania is a beautiful country with beautiful cultures.

Baptized in Romanian Water (figuratively, that is)

Day one in Romania (after the very long and scary train ride):
Once I was with Andreea, a great weight was lifted off my shoulders - it felt so good to speak with a friend. As soon as we arrived at her grandparents house, her grandmother came out to great us and feed us. The whole week I was fed nonstop... it was great!
Most of the meals are meat based and have bread with them. I ate several different peoples homemade sausage, which was a lot better than I expected - I liked it and I don't like the sausage from back home. The week before I came they had slaughtered a pig, so nearly all the meat we ate was from the pig. There is also fruit everywhere, it was amazing! If I wanted a pear or plum or apple or blackberries while I was out walking, I would simply turn to my side and pick one or ten. It was the best ever...
So, after we ate dinner, I wanted to take a shower. (This was one of my favorite things in Romania) The shower is heated by a wood stove, so if you want to take one, it takes near an hour for the water to heat up. The water for the shower comes from a reserve that runs down a mountain (hill) near by. The water is not perfectly clear, you can see a bit of discoloration in it from its journey down the hill towards the house. It was really neat. Also, the shower and bathroom are not in the house, they are in the barn, which is connected to the house, there is just not a door between the two. So, I was baptized in Romanian water and had a most proper welcoming.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A Very Long Day on Very Little Sleep

7-28-08 / 7-29-08
Okay, so... I am typing on a crazy french keyboard. I had no idea, the letters are all mixed up.
My trip to Romania was a hard one. My trains didn't work out, meaning I had to wait at the Bucaresti train station over night for nine hours... scary. To top that off, my phone died so I could not contact my friend Andreea if I needed help. Luckily I survived, I just couldn't sleep or speak. If I slept all my stuff would be gone when I woke; if I spoke, people would know I was not Romanian and American, creating more trouble. It was very stressful, but very good (in a strange way). It pushed me to think practically and to think past my fears. It was not something I would want to do again, but it worked out.
The Romanian train rides were very beautiful. The country side is so beautiful and everything is such a mixture of old and new, it is so interesting. It gives every place such character when a horse drawn carriage is being pulled down the highway next to a brand new Logan car (Logan is the Lexus of the states, it is a very popular car) or when the cows are brought home, through the main street of town, by the gypsys at promptly 8:30 every night. It is such an interesting and wonderful place.
Anyway, after traveling for 26 hours by train I arrived in Cluj where Andreea picked me up and we went back to her grandparents house. I was imediately treated with such great hospitality, it was phanominal.
more to come soon. it is 1 am here in belguim (where i currently am) and i am waking early to go to Fontaine Bleau (a lovely climbing area) in the morning with some friends I am staying with here in Brussels.
I promise I will finish Romania and get totally caught up this weekend so you all can know what is happening instead of what happened last week.
Until sooner than later,

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Travel day: Rome to Pisa

Today is a travel day and the last day I will write until I return from Romania. Today I was going to go to an outdoor market but I decided it looked way hard to find and also it was not close to a metro... and my ankle is a bit sore from yesterday (along with my feet). So, I embarked on a different mission, finding a charger for my UK phone that would work in the rest of Europe (darn Brits needing to be different from the rest of Europe...). It has taken me the better part of the day to find one, but at last I did. Happy joy.
Now I must go pack my things and find out how to get my train ticket, as the ticket offices are closed on Sunday.
Over and out,

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Rome (day 2)

I would like to start by adding a P.S. to yesterdays blog: Dearest Cousin Danny, I am pained to say that I took no fantastic photos of a slinky going down the stairs of the Colosseum. There were no good stairs to send it down... :-(
All the stairs there are no longer there. (The only stairs go from the first level to the second- there are about ten stairs and they are no good.) Sorry, with great sadness do I relay this news.
Okay, on to today.
So, yesterday started out as a not very good day. (Debbie, you were right.) I was really bummed that I had not met anyone yet and was just in low spirits. Then... I took a nap. It turned my world upside down and I woke up ready to face all of Rome. It was wonderful. Evidently sleep really makes a person feel grood (great and good). So, after my nap I walked out of the dorm-ish thing I am staying in and went on a walk then to the place where the computers and food are located and made some friends. They are two girls from New York and both their names are Kate. Then I also got some roommates from Canada. It was very happy. So, needless to say, today has been a much better day. Today feels more like my first day in Europe. Kate and Kate and I wondered around Rome together and saw so much. We walked about five or six miles not including the maze called the Vatican. It was a full day. I saw the Sistine Chapel today! It was AWESOME!!! I have loads of photos. (Unfortunately they will not get put up for at least another week as I will have no internet in Romania) On top of seeing the Vatican, Sistine Chapel, St. Peter's, and all the other catholic things in Vatican City, I saw Fontana Di Trevi, which is a huge fountain and is beautiful and crowded. I also saw the Pantheon, the Spanish Steps, more fabulous ruins and much more. It was a jam-packed day. I also got real Italian food today. Yesterday and the day before I ate the tuna and mandarin oranges I had packed, but today... I ate nutella and bread and I ate out at a little restaurant. I got lasagna and it was really really good. I also tried some of Kate Z's ravioli and some of Kate's pizza. It was all very good. Other good things: since we walked everywhere I got to see a lot more of Rome and it became more of what I expected, narrow stone streets with small motor cars and motorcycle things zipping around everywhere. It was neat. And, instead of water fountains like we have, they have actual fountains that you fill your bottles at or stick your head under or what ever. The water comes out of everything from gargoyle mouths to whales. It is neat. So, today was good.
Tomorrow I am going to an open air market that is open only on Sunday. After that, I leave for Pisa and then Monday I will leave for Romania. That being said, I will not get a chance to write again until I return to Pisa from Romania, so it will be about a week. I will have no internet in Romania so I will also not be able to check my e-mail until I return to Italy. But until then,

I know some people were wondering about the food and I forgot to write about it. So, most everything cost a flat rate, £1 or £1.50 - never like in the states where things are always odd change. The strangest cost was today I bought juice for £0.90. There are no taxes when you go to check out either, which is nice. However, the downfall to going and eating out is most places charge you a sitting fee. It is just one euro per person usually, so not too bad. Then, depending on where you eat the meal can cost anywhere between £5-10 (that is at the places I eat... cheap). So my meal yesterday (this post) was £8 but there was a £1 sitting charge and also the water cost £1. So it ended up being £10, not too bad. All along the streets there are little stands selling food and other what-nots and the food there is usually just pizza (not like our pizza, though-more like a sandwich pizza) and there are sandwiches. They are usually between £3 (if you are lucky) and £5. It is good though. Bread is cheap. :-)
So, I just thought I would add that info for you all to enjoy.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Rome (day one)

Well, I made it (at last) to Rome. It was a long plane ride and many hours of waiting... but I made it at 11:00 pm Rome time and went straight to bed. :-)
Today I went around town and saw the Colosseum and other must see things in the area. I think tomorrow I will go to Vatican City and wander around. I am staying in North Rome, so it is a bit of a journey to get into town, but it is an interesting one. I was expecting things to be much different here than what it is. Outside of the city center, Rome reminds me more of a big city in a third world country. There is graffiti everywhere and all the buildings are so old and falling apart. In the nicer part of the city (more towards the city proper) there are vinders of every kind everywhere. It is really interesting. Some parts of the city are really big but I mostly avoided those areas so as to not get directionally confused in an area where I don't know the language. So, I mostly just stuck to the super touristy areas. I made a chum of myself... a classic tourist mistake- nothing is free. There were a bunch of people dressed as roman soldiers asking people if they wanted their photos taken with them. Since they were using my camera, I assumed it would be free, but, of course, it was not.
I was proud of myself on the metro, though. I only made one mistake and I got of f at the exit after I made the mistake (wrong direction) and got on the right train. A small mistake. Although it was a short day (it is 14:00 and I am back at the hostel) it was a great first day. I think I will get the hang of this soon...
I am really looking forward to Romania and visiting my friend Andreea there. I am glad I will know someone there. It is hard being in a country where I don't know the language or any person, but it is good. This trip will be a very good learning experience.
I am out, but I will get photos on here in the next few days.

Monday, July 14, 2008

And so it begins...

And so it begins... As my trip to Europe draws closer (it is now one week until I leave) I have begun to become more excited and much more nervous. I have never done anything like this before and I am so glad I have all your support along the way. I will try to write here weekly, but that is no guarantee. If you send me an e-mail, I will do my very best to respond to it in a timely manner (and it will be happily received). I would also like to say that I am not good at spelling and my grammar will not be the best at times and so now, I believe, is the appropriate time for advanced apologies. Thank you all again!

This calendar is subject to change at any moment (not so much the first part... but the month of October and the end of September are likely to change).

July 23- leave St. Louis and fly to London
July 24- arrive in London and fly to Rome (arrive Rome)

July 27- train to Pisa, Italy
July 28- fly Pisa, Italy to Constanta, Romania then train to Dej, Romania

August 4- fly Constanta to Pisa

August 6- fly Pisa to Brussels, Belgium

August 11- train to London
August 12- train to Cambridge

August 14- travel around UK with tour guide Dave (a friend in Brighton, England)

something, something, something...

August 25- train to Den Haag, Netherlands

August 29- train to Stockholm, Sweden

September 1- train to Ostersund, Sweden

September 3- train to Bodo, Norway

September 6- train to Oslo, Norway

September 9- train to Gothenburg, Sweden

September 12- train to Den Haag, Netherlands (go to Amsterdam and Utchrect)

September 20- train to Denmark (?)

the rest of September and October:
go to Switzerland and France and some other places
and go back to Belgium

October 23- train to Brussels, Belgium or Den Haag, Netherlands

October 25- train to London

October 28- fly home