Friday, June 19, 2009

Blog from Lufthansa flight 4250 6-17-09

It is now Wednesday, and I'm on my flight back to Paris. This morning, Dan and I went to a French restaurant for breakfast. Then he put me on a train to Domodedovo airport and I was on my way. At the airport, I stepped into a passport control line manned by a guy who didn't seem to know what he was doing. The other guy was going at apace three times faster, but, of course, I didn't realize this until it was too late. Cest la vie.

Now, on my connecting flight, there is a group of high school students from Cincinnati. Anyone could tell they were American by how loud they were. Also, they had a gait that clearly wasn't European.

I think I'm going to be spending the night in CDG airport because I don't want to pay 130€ for a hotel room. Hopefully, I can check-in to my flight really early and get rid of my backpack.

Blog from Moscow 6-15-09

I'm in Moscow with Dan now for the final stop in my trip. It's been a lot of fun seeing him and Ruth again. Moscow has a very distinctive look especially at night. The way they light up their buildings feels very...imperial...or something.

We went to Nizhniy Novgorod over the weekend where I saw their Kremlin and we walked around. I also met Natasha and Andre, some of Dan and Ruth's friends. We had dinner at their place and had a good time. The night went late, however, as things usually do.

Last night, back in Moscow, we met up with another one of Dan's friends named Alex who has a car. We went to the river to go on a boat ride around the center of Moscow. We were planning on going on the last one for the day. However, our plans were foiled when we found out that they didn't go out unless there were at least 10 people. They didn't tell us this at the ticket window. Apparently, they used to have a sign with that information, but management came by and told them to take it down. With a brilliant verbal thrashing by Alex, we somehow got our money back. He solidly berated the lady at the ticket counter telling her this was no way to welcome visitors to Russia. She proceeded to say that she did not have any money, which was, I guess, sort of true, but not missing a beat, Alex jumps in saying, "We are in Moscow, one of the largest cities in the world. How can you not have any money?" The whole situation was quite amusing.

Since we couldn't go on the boat ride, Alex took us to a park that he found last week, and we walked and talked for a while. Then we went into the center and saw some interesting sights. At the Kremlin, Alex pointed out a spot in the wall where it didn't quite line up. I took a picture of it the following day. The basilica was beautiful. I think it might be one of the architectural wonders of the world; I'm not sure, though.

Today, we just took it easy. We just walked around and hung out. After Dan's night class, however, Alex called again and invited us to dinner. It was a traditional Ukrainian restaurant where we had Kavas, borsch, and some sort of beef dish with mushrooms and potatoes. It was really good, but it was a lot of food as well.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Blog from Lufthansa Flight 3198 6-9-09

I just ate, probably, the best in-flight meal I've ever had. The choice was chicken or pasta so I was thinking chicken over a rice pilaf or a penne-type pasta with marinara or bolognese sauce; I chose the pasta. The pasta ended up being an Asian style noodle dish, and the chicken was over linguini with red sauce. Seeing that my pasta was actually noodles, I asked for the white wine to go with it. This ended up being a great choice. I am almost certain the white was a kabinet riesling. The nose had a nice green apple and orange/lemon zest aroma with the slightest hint of petrol. It was well balanced on the palate and had a fresh sweetness; the apple came through from the nose as well. This was the best in-flight wine I've ever had as well, and paired perfectly with the main course. Then there was a small vegetable side with green beans, peppers, tomatoes, and goat cheese which was good. A wedge of camembert and a piece of cake finished off the meal with a cup of coffee. Camembert is, of course, very tasty, and the cake had cherries and, I think, plums on top. The cake was good even for me who doesn't really like desserts. The coffee was delicious, too. I tasted like an African/South American blend to me.

Overall, this Lufthansa flight has been fantastic. The seats are comfortable, the food is good, and they even serve good beer (Warsteiner, of which I'm a fan) which can be expected of a German company ;-)

Also, I'll post something about Venice soon.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Blog from Rome 6-4-09

I've seen so much in the past two days. Between the Vatican City yesterday and the Colosseum today, I was completely blown away. I couldn't take enough pictures to capture all that I saw. The Pope, Vatican Museum/Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter's Basilica. Mind. Blown. Thanks. I had originally intended to do both the Vatican and Colosseum in the same day. As I soon found out, not possible if you really want to take it all in. The Sistine Chapel was beautiful, of course, but so were all the other chapels. The Colosseum was incredible to see in person. Definitely a major engineering feat. It brought to life a lot of what I learned about the Sabine empire from Cultures & Literature of the New Testament. Then was the Roman Forum and the Palatine. You really needed to use your imagination at the Forum to see what it would have been like at its pinnacle, but to think that that was the epitome of democracy.

The guys I roomed with at the hostel are pretty cool. One guy is from Oklahoma and is doing the same thing as I. He left for home today to be in his brother's wedding this weekend. I learned he was a Christian, so that was neat. We talked a little about church, and I recommended he read Orthodoxy. The other two are Irish and have come to Rome for four days. They are pretty cool, too.

There's so much more to say, but I'm tired, and I leave for Venice in the morning so that's all I'm going to write.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Blog from Rome 6-2-09

So much has happened today! Rome has such a great "feel" to it. Everything seems old. I guess having architecture that's two millennia old helps. What a stark contrast from yesterday.

I started the day "finding" my way to the hostel again. I took the subway which, compared to London and Paris's rail systems, is a bit lackluster; at least on the B line. There are only two lines so it's easy to keep track of ;) I walked almost everywhere today after I left the hostel; it felt really good after sitting on trains all day yesterday. My first mission was to get a good cup of coffee. A quick Google search at the hostel yielded two prospects - Tazza D'Oro and Sant'Eustachio Il Caffe. Sant'Eustachio is near legendary.

Along the way I stopped by several sites. The main attraction was the Trevi Fountain which was beautiful. I got a gelato at Bar Gelateria and studied the fountain for a little while. There were a few other stops as well.

Then, I set off for Tazza D'Oro first because it was just a little closer (and by closer I mean about 2 min walking). It was very good, like one of the better/best shots I've pulled on my own machine back home. For 0.80 Euro it was fantastic. Then, I stopped by the Pantheon for a while. That was really neat. The architecture was beautiful. Then, it was onto Sant'Eustachio Il Caffe. This was a little shop with a few tables out front if you wanted to be waited on. Inside was a coffee bar with two Astoria machines; one was used for those sitting outside and the other for those standing at the coffee bar. You pay for whatever you order then stand in the mob waiting for their coffee with your receipt. Once you make it to the front the server takes your ticket and gives the orders to the man making the drinks. This must really be seen in person to be appreciated. The man making the drinks cranks out espressos like there's no tomorrow, yet keeps a calm countenance assuring you he's a pro. I ordered the Gran Caffe for 2.20 Euro - nearly three times the price of Tazza. It was the best espresso I had ever had; no close seconds. Just the right amount of sugar, what seemed like miles of crema, and perfectly balanced. It was actually life changing.

After my coffee fix, I set off for the Colosseum. Even though it wasn't a good day to go in and see everything, I had to see it. So, I slowly made my way there stopping at several neat places. As I approached, I turned a corner, and, BOOM, there it was. That was a surreal moment for me. To think, that has been there since the first century AD. Since it was raining a little, I only walked around the perimeter. I'm going back tomorrow after I go to the Vatican.

After this, I made my way back to Sant'Eustachio because I had to have another espresso. Then, I went back to the Trevi Fountain to get a slice of pizza and another gelato at Bar Gelateria. Only 3 Euro for one of the best slices of pizza I'd ever had.

That pretty much completes my first day in Rome. It was a good one - no, a great one. Now I'm back at the hostel where they have free pizza and beer on Tuesday nights. Pretty good pizza, alright beer. It will be nice to sleep in an actual bed after sleeping on that train last night.

Blog from Nice 6-1-09

Well, it looks like I'll be sleeping on a train tonight because my trains this morning were delayed. Avignon to Aix-en-Provence to Nice. That's what I did today. In a few hours I'll be on my way to Milan then an overnight train to Rome. What a day. Sitting on a train all day is killing my average walking miles per day. Not really much to talk about.

How's everyone doing back home? What are you guys up to? Leave comments for me to read!