Wednesday, July 8, 2009
This week Paige and Frenzel made their way into town. They came in on a Wednesday, and unfortunately, didn't stay that long, but we had a good time anyway. We went out to some nice typical French meals when they got here, and I even got them to try some foie gras (which I believe only Frenzel took a liking to). And because it was 4th of July weekend, I had that Friday off, so we used it to our full advantage.
Our first mini trip was up to Albi. That is a small town only about 45 minutes from Toulouse. It gives off the typical quaint French feel. We took a tour of the massive church there, as well as visited a famous art museum there (featuring Toulouse-Latrec).
Our next trip was up to Nice to watch the Tour de France. I have a friend that lives in Nice, so it was convenient for us to take a train up there for the weekend. After spending the first night in Nice, we spent the next day walking up the mediterranean into Monaco. Monaco s its own separate country surrounded on three sides by France and by the sea on the fourth. It also happened to be the starting point and first stage of the 2009 Tour de France. It should also be noted that I introduced both Paige and Frenzel to Pastis as well (and again, it was only Frenzel who took a liking).
After our long walk from country to country, we found a spot to watch the first couple of riders launch out of the gate. We took the trip to Monaco with a couple of cycling enthusiasts, so it was nice to hear more about the sport during its most popular event. Once we scoped out our location, we were immediately star struck by Lance Armstrong casually riding by during his warm-up. We were able to see him 'launch' off the starting block before we spent the rest of the day meandering around Monaco watching all the different riders. It was a very fun day, and Lance only finished 40 seconds back of the pack (he was temporarily in first when he finished). Although I didn't get to see much of Nice besides the Tour. I wouldn't mind going back at some point.
We headed back to Nice after the riding was over and got ready for stage 2 of the Tour/4th of July. Walsh had an apartment on the street the Tour would be riding down, so we brought down a table, did some picnic shopping, and had ourselves a fourth of July cookout right on the street in Nice. This cookout was complete with the watching of Joey Chestnut down 68 hotdogs in 10 minutes. What an incredible athletic feat. In honor of this American victory over the Japanese Kobayashi, we wrote all over the streets of Nice in celebrtory bliss.
The Stage 2 tour was over very quickly. During stage 1 in monaco, we were able to walk around and soak in the Tour. Stage 2 was a blur. The riders had come and gone within seconds. Although they did try to make a big spectacle of it. Before the riders came through, they had all the sponsors drive through in parage fasion (although at about 5 times normal parade fashion speed) and throw things to the crowd. So we caught as much 'swagg' as we could while we feasted on grilled sausage and watermelon. As the Pelaton came and passed, so to our time had passed in Nice. It seemed short, but I will always remember watching the Tour de France. Paige, Frenzel and I took a sleeper train back to Toulouse were it was off to work the following Monday...
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Saturday, June 20, 2009
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
When I first arrived (I travelled alone), I had a bookbag on my back and a frisbee in my hand. Lucky for me, there were people on the lookout for travelers carrying fribees. One player found me and gave me directions on how to get to the fields. Later, he skyed me in match play...
The tournament was great. We were what I would call a middle of the road type team, not the greatest, but certainly not the worst. One thing we were the best at was dodgeball. Each time we played a team in frisbee, immediately following we challenged them to dodgeball. The results were always the same. Our team always won. Afterwards we had north americans vs. matches. Results still the same: America!!! Our spirited play in dodgeball after each game led our team to take home the coveted spirit award for the tournament. Unfortunately for me, I wasn't around to witness the victory, as I headed back before the 3 day tournament was over.
The following weekend I played in a local tournament in Toulouse called 'Hot Tolosa.' This was a hat draw tournament. For those not up to date on their ultimate frisbee lingo, it means the teams were chosen randomly. Unfortunately for me, I had to work the Saturday morning the tournament started. It had been raining all morning when I arrived, but once I got there, the skies cleared up and it turned out to be a beautiful weekend.
My team wasn't the highest skilled team at the tournament, but definitely the most fun. We enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere of the hat draw tournament, and I even got some of them to drink some budweisers (which i found in the local supermarket here).
That night there was a big party, which started with a large dinner followed by a wine race. The wine race was actually a relay race with 4 people on each team. The goal is to send one player down at a time to drink wine. After each player has drank their fill, they are tasked with spinnign in a circle 10 times before racing back to the original starting point. Of course, the fourth person must finish off the bottle, so it is important that each person drinks their share of wine.
Afterwards everyone went back to their respective tents for a good nights rest before the next day of Ultimate on Sunday. I haven't played this much ultimate since college....
Saturday, May 23, 2009
The weekend started off interestingly enough. After finding a free parking spot in Barcelong (which is not an easy thing to do), I soon realized that I had forgotten something from my car. When I went back to check on my forgotten item, I discovered someone had smashed in the small triangular window of my car. So needless to say, I was worried the entire weekend about the car, and kept moving it back and forth to keep the theives at bay. Luckily for us, nothing got taken, and it didn't rain at all. But it did make the drive from Barcelona to Toulouse a little more interesting.
The first day saw a pretty relaxed viewing atmosphere of the Barcelona head, that was obviously an hommage to Brazil, and some awesome mac game beach ultimate. And in the ultimate game, it was not Scully, Margalit, or I who had the most consecutive macs, but none other than Tobey Vu, with a record 14.
Later than night we sat down for some food (where I've had possibly the best octopus in the world), and ended up partying all night until the break of down at a club that I originally thought permanently damaged my hearing. But a few weeks later, I was back to normal.
Our hostel in Barcelona seemed pretty upbeat. We had a ping pong table in which Tobey and I continually pounded Margalit and Scully. We also had beer in the vending machine, which is not all that uncommon. The best part of the hostel was that it was me and 7 girls in the same mixed room. I ended up sitting down and speaking a little French with two girls from Paris, which was pretty neat.
The following day we visited a lot of Gaudi architecture. He had created an entire houe we viewed as well as the famous La Sagrata Familla. That church is super amazing and I would recommend everyone get a chance to see it at some point in their lives. It is the most unique church I've ever seen, and apart from that, has great views of the city where there are areas to climb up.
After a long day of sight seeing, we went out later that night (Sans Tobey, cuz we wore him out the night before), to a ginormous club in Barcelona called Razzmatazz. It was enourmous, and lots of rooms with lots of people. So big we established a check point of where to meet if we got separated.
All in all, we saw sh!t hard, and we played hard. That was the theme of the weekend....
Sunday, May 17, 2009
The tournament is comprised of two weekends of round robin play. There are typically 8 teams per division. The top two teams after round robin play will then play for the national championship. I should start off by saying we were not in the top division, but the second to best division. Therefore, we NEVER had the chance to win the French National Championship. The best we could hope for would be to move up to the premier division by finishing either first or second in our division.
The first weekend of this tournament we went 2-2, so there were already two teams ahead of us in the standings (at least), and we'd need some luck to finish in the top two. As it turns out, we played well all weekend, especially our zone offense, and finished the tournament 4-0. However, this wasn't enough as the two teams that beat us the previous weekend of the tournament emmerged as the 1 and 2 teams to advance to the premiere league next year.
But this blog is more about watching the French Ultimate National Championship. Although I've never been to the U.S. national championships, the athleticism seemed to be on about the same, but the careless drops surprised me, as can be witnessed in the video. I didn't get to watch the entire match, but there were too many careless mistakes from what I saw. But all in all, the teams were solid. Our team played great, and I'm glad I had the chance to experience the French Ultimate Championships.
Friday, May 1, 2009
Besides being beautiful, Interlaken is the adenture capital of the world. And we certainly took advantage of it. We hit the ground running Saturday morning with the first canyoning adventure of the season. This involves sliding down rock formation, repelling down semi-cliffs, jumping off waterfalls, and trust falling backwards into pools of water. If your schlotty, it also involves getting head butted in the face. Although the water was freezing the rush kept us warm long enough until it was over. Our biggest jump was 8 meters (approx. 24 feet) and what i really liked about guides was that they didn't give you any time to think about what you were doing. You looked down at the pool, and you heard 3, 2, 1, ... and if you hadn't jumpe by then, they were pushing you, so you most certainly jumped, and loved every second of it.
But we didn't stop there. Later that day we went out hang gliding. I can't really explain the feeling of hang gliding other than saying it was absolutely breath taking, but I can speak for how long we waited to run off the side of the mountain. We waited hours until the conditions were just right. And in our case, the best conditions were no wind at all. So we had to run fast. And if you didn't know it, runing tandem with someone else when you're right leg lined up in the middle of their legs isn't the easiest thing ever. But we managed ok, and to make sure it work out, once we had liftoff he guided the glider real low to the ground (low enough that if i tried to stand then there wasn't enough room), to pick up some speed. It was exhilirating but a little bit scary as well. Also scary was when he did some stalls in mid air. Imagine coming to a complete stop when you're hundreds of feet up in the air. That's what a stall is...and you can kinda view it on the video if you watch closely.
That night we hit up the same club we did Friday night (except saturday night Slattery didn't get punched because he wasn't there, although me and Doherty almost got beat up by a bunch of Australian guys who claimed they were locals...drunkin idiots is more like it. We hit up the only restaurant open at 2 am (a local vending machine), and visited some back to the future private club that we somehow convinced the guy to let us in. Oh yeah, and at the end of the night, we ended up cornering a sheep in a tree, and Doherty slapped it in the face while I slapped it's ass. All and all, a very successful night.
Finally the next day we went river rafting (not very rapid at all), and called all adventures over with. However, we did manage a drive to Lichtenstein where there was a health festival going on. After that we drove through Austria and called it a weekend.
I would love to go back to Interlaken, so if you're ever up for it, let me know...
Saturday, April 25, 2009
Saturday, April 18, 2009
The middle of the week was spent in Wichita, riding my motorcycle as much as I could, eating more steak and fancy restaurants with Betsy, and trying to rest as much as I could (the jetlag back was very difficult for me). It was nice to make contact with some of my friends in Wichita over at Buffalo Wild Wings (Don't forget about me guys!). It was nice to eat some wings too.
The actual wedding itself was not a wedding, but rather a tea ceremony. The best part of the tea ceremony was getting to the bride. By this I mean the bridesmaids set up a series of tests for the groomsmen to pass before they would allow Bolin to wed Jenny. These tests included:
This of course was no exception as we ate an 8 course chinese meal, made fun of each at every moment possible, drank strange drinks like Remy Martin, had a body roll competition, and went to an all black club in Oakland, CA.
I guess you could say we know how to have a good time. I need to warn you the video is very long (17 minutes or so), but I think I did a pretty good job editting it. So enjoy! and feel free to leave comments!
Saturday, April 4, 2009
During the week, I still had to work, but Betsy is grown up enough to take care of herself. She took some side trips including one longer than anticipated bus trip to Carcassonne. We spent most of our night eating at find French restaurants. I actually made my first over the phone reservation. I was so proud of myself until we walked in and realized there was only 2 tables with people at them while the others were all empty. It was still a good meal nonetheless. She also got to hang out with some of the old Wichita crew here in Toulouse, so that was fun.
The next weekend we headed out to Paris. I took Friday off and we headed out there Thursday night after work. Paris is a great city and I wish I had more time to enjoy it. We walked through the Louvre and I realized I knew nothing about art. So I was one of those cheesy tourists walking straight to the Mona Lisa. I even took a little nap while ‘studying’ some of the artwork on a nearby chair. We of course walked down the champs elysee and visited the arc de triumph. There was some kind of ceremony going on to commemorate the tomb of the unknown soldier there, but it wasn’t a very exciting ceremony (probably why we got front row seats).
And of course we saw the Eiffel tower as well. Waiting in line seemed like it would take up too much of our precious Paris time, so we didn’t go up to get a view of the city. We did see something that I thought was as equally entertaining though. While walking away from the Eiffel Tower, we saw a group of ‘street peddlers’ (basically the people selling trinkets in the street). Well, a policemen happened to stroll by and start to follow them around in his car, sirens a blazing (it had now become evident that this sort of peddling was looked down upon). I’ve never seen a group of men get up and run so fast in my life. And the way they moved is what was impressive. Like a group of minnows trying to avoid being caught. Almost synchronized weaving and turning. It was great.
The following Saturday and Sunday we played in a Frisbee tournament. We went 2-2, and played well at times, but not well at others. We don’t play enough together to be great, but maybe with more practice…Saturday night we went out to dinner where I tried steak tartar (Raw steak) for the first time. I’m still alive writing this blog, so it didn’t kill me. Don’t know how my stomach would handle it in large doses though…
Sunday morning Betsy took her leave and we said our goodbyes. Had a great week!
Saturday, March 21, 2009
I went down with my firsbee friend Jean-Gael to his parents mobile home near the beach. After getting there, we played a little Petanque and scoped out the beach before finding out we were eating dinner at his parents friends place. So here we go, first EVER real home cooked french meal. And if you ever have a chance to do this, don't hesitate, and say yes!
The dinner started off with some 'apperitifs,' or before dinner drinks. Followed by some 'entrees,' or appetizers. Sounds normal, right? Let me tell you a little more. The apperitifs were drinks, as you might expect, however, what you might not expect is that the drinks were all homemade. I'm talking boiling some plant with sucre at 90 degrees C home made.
by the way home made is 'fait maison' en francais and that was the theme for the night. The entrees consisted of about 10 different plates of stuff that I can't fully remember, but I do remember the fait maison sauces being excellent.
After a very leasurly start to the meal we moved from the hearth area to the kitchen table, were we sat a talked a little longer while the main dish, Fondue, was being prepared. The meat consisted of 'viande' (turkey) and 'boeuf' (cow). It was all very good. However, you had to be careful when preparing the boeuf because you should only set it in the pot for a few seconds, otherwise your meat won't be 'saignon,' or rare. Also, unlike the united states, there wasn't a separate plate for the raw and cooked meats. This is France baby, and you have to have a good immune system.
Once the flame burnt out from under the fondue pot all the meat was temporarily taken away. I was a little shocked considering how much there was left, but again, this was my first real home made French meal. Well, the key word here is temporarily, because it would come back. We were just taking a break in the middle of our meal typically known as a 'Trou Normand.' This trou normand basically consisted of us drinking a VERY strong glass of alcohol (again home made) with a scoop of sherbert in it. The first drink took me back quite a bit, but after the next, and the next, it started to grow on me. The trou normand is suppose to help you digest your food, so that during the second half of the meal, you can eat more. ;)
After the main course ended about 7 different types of cheeses were brought out. Some pasteurized, some unpasteurized. I tried all of them, and some of them were ok, and some of them gave me bad breath for 2 weeks. I'm still glad I tried them though. A delicious cake dessert was brought out afterwards followed by the 'digestif,' or the after dinner drink. Or in my case, drinks, considering they figured out I was willing to try everything and they had so many different home made liquors.
We chatted some more at the end of the meal and eventually we said our goodbyes. What a wonderful experience this was for me. It was one that I will never forget. and oh yeah, I forgot to mention that my friends parents and their friends don't speak english, so you could say I polished up on my French a little bit during the weekend.
Sunday we got up and hit the Mediterranean for a little water skiing followed by some frisbee on the beach (see video). All in all, A+ weekend, and a great cultural experience. I would like to publicly thank J-G's parents for letting me stay at their house, and their friends for their wonderful hospitality.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Sunday, March 8, 2009
Monday, March 2, 2009
For those of you who don't know (and I didn't know until I moved to Toulouse), Andorra is a very small country between France and Spain. Here, it's most well known for its tax-free status. People here at work with me travel there to buy cigarettes (like 2 euro cheaper a pack), mountain dew, and liquor. It's like visiting a state with no sales tax, except bigger discounts cuz the tax over here is 20%.
Friday night I went to ultimate practice. Ultimate is turning out to be super awesome. Good group of people where I really get to practice my French. And they are very understanding. Saturday I slept in a little bit and then went to work (boring). After that the real trip began. Jeff, Aaron, Brian, and I made the 2 hour treck out to Andorra. We we're going to meet up with Doherty, Schlotterbeck, and Slattery. We booked a room outside the town they were staying but decided mid route just to crash with them. They had a bunch of extra beds and we'd save money right? WRONG! Even though we cancelled our hotel and they told us they wouldn't charge us, they still did, and I've called and emailed numerous times and basically their excuse is that the employee who told us that was an idiot. So we paid for two places in one night. mais, c'est la vie, n'est-ce pas?
Saturday night was possibly the biggest filled shannanigan night of my entire stay in Europe thus far. I couldn't even begin to describe it. Luckily for my faithful viewers, I got most of it on tape. I will say that profanity was used. I've done my best to keep it to a minimum, but I must warn you none-the-less. I must also warn you that this footage is embarassing not only to me, but to several others as well. However, what kind of blogger would I be if I left out the good stuff?
Sunday we finally hit the slopes. We hit our first lift at about noon. And the resort was HUGE. I've been to Colorado several times to ski, so I have something to compare it to. This was definitely a big resort. Multiple mountains and something like 60 lifts. I skied instead of snowboarding this time and it was definitely the right choice. After my first run down I was back in the swing of things...I skied all day with Slattery and Schlotterbeck. Slattery is a good snowboarded and Schlotty is new skier, but did very well for himself considering some of the runs we took him on.
Unfortunately I was too scared to bring my video camera along. I didn't want it to get crushed or wet...so there's no skiing footage except some via Slattery's camera. The skiing was very cool and I'd like to go back one more time before the slopes close...we'll see.
After a full day of skiing, there wasn't even enough time for me to go shopping, so we drove back Sunday night...where Jeff had the biggest craving I've ever seen for McDonalds...
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Although the tournament started Saturday (and we didn’t leave Toulouse until Saturday morning), we all met up Friday night for dinner. It was nice to meet all of my teammates there and get some good old homemade crepes compliments of J-P (at least that’s how I would define them). Some ham and cheese for dinner and then followed up by nutella for dessert. It doesn’t get much better than that…
It was on Friday night that I received my forged medical examination note. To fill you in: in order to play at official French tournaments governed by their frisbee governing body, you have to be cleared to play by a doctor. Somehow, someone on the team got a doctor to sign a blank note in which we could write whatever we wanted in it. So they wrote the appropriate words for the note and we were on our way to Lyon after meeting Saturday morning.
Knowing my memory skills, I’m sure it would surprise most of you to learn that I totally forgot to bring my forged medical note with me on to Lyon. Of course, I was freakin’ out the rest of the way there (about 4 hours) once I realized it. How distatrous it would’ve been to drive 6 hours to a tournament and not be able to play. Luckily, French frisbee players are as laid back as american frisbee players and no one cared.
This tournament was a French national tournament of the third tear of ultimate (there are only three). Our team name was BTRaves. Raves, in this case, is some type of legume, or vegetable. If you haven’t put it all together yet, the BT stands for Better Than. …Hmmmmmm
We played two games on Saturday. The first was relatively easy and the second was against the eventual champions. The game was competitive, but I wish we would’ve played them on Sunday, because we were firing on all cylinders then, and ended up winning all 4 of our games. So, we finished with a record of 5-1, good enough for 3rd in the tournament….
The reason it was third and not second was that these results were combined with another previous tournament results. For both weekends, we had a combined loss total of 3. Either way though, we had a great time and got to play some good ultimate.
The party on Saturday was nothing like parties in the States. Instead of going to a bar and getting plastered, everyone went to some private club and got served dinner. It wasn’t formal or anything, and there was a cash bar there, but it just didn’t have the feel that I was expecting. Still not use to eating long dinners…
During the tournament I would wear my KU tearaway warm-ups in between matches. Surely tearaways are not new to France but most of my teammates acted like they were, ripping them off at every opportunity. They would even have the audacity to plan attacks right in front of me (of course it was in another language so it would work most of the time, until I learned the work ‘decompression,’ which is like button or something).
Sunday, February 15, 2009
So, this was my first weekend back in Toulouse for an actual weekend in a long time....and I just have some general thoughts I'd like to share with everyone.
Food: The food here is very good. Unfortunately for me (or fortunately if you know me well), I've made myself too busy to go out and actually enjoy French meals. However, the few I've had thus far have been very good. It's very easy to walk into a sandwich shop and get a sandwich. And the sandwich isn't like american sandwiches. It's basically an entire baguette sliced in half with meat and cheese. And the cheese is very good here (as long as you don't get a peice that smells like someone just wiped their butt with it - which has happened to me before). The cantine at work is very good. You can get a very well rounded meal cooked up french style for only a couple euro. Sweet deal, right?! WRONG. They charge you like 6 euro just for being a foreigner. If they knew what busch league meant over here, I'd be telling them they were so.
I also drank my first beer while on work hours the other Friday at lunch. I gotta be honest, I was tempted to buy about 12 and get a game of flip cup going, but my better judgement prevailed.
The only thing that you really need to know foodwise though, is the kinder beuno...It's pretty much the most amazing candy bar I've ever had. And you can buy them by the case at the super market....score.
Oh, and don't forget about nutella crepes. Wow, I've been missing out for awhile on the nutella train. Do they even have that in the states? I have no idea.
Brian and I recently went to a place called 'Meet the Meat.' We were meandering down the street and just scoping out restaurants when this guy came out of one and starting talking 300 miles/minute in French. We were a little struck back, but then he explained everything in english. One of his expressions was, 'so tender you could cut it with the back of your knife.' He said this after proclaiming his english wasn't that good. Either way though, the food was good and it was just what we needed to make our decision.
Dog Shit: It's everywhere. Which in general I have no problems with (if it was in a park in some grass). The first part of the problem is that there isn't any grass anywhere. It's all cement sidewalks, roads, etc. So you have to wait for rain for the poop to dissapate. The second part of the problem is that 50% of the dogs are owned by homeless people, who just let their dogs crap wherever they please, even if it's the future place of the bottom of my shoe.
Objects that I miss: Ketchup. I never thought that I liked it that much until they give you a 0.5 ounce packet of it at the restaurant when you want fries. First off, that's way too small of an amount. Second off, they give you the miniscule amount in the most worthless packaging ever. You can never get it all out of the packet, and if you do, you can never scrape it all off the surface you poured it on (complete waste).
Steak. The steak here is ok and you can find good cuts (as mentioned in the meet the meat restaurant earlier), but you just can't get a nice filet when you want it. That will be the first thing I eat when I take my first return visit on April 12th back to Wichita.
English. I find myself totally absorbing myself in books. Two very good books might I add. Jitterbug Perfume (I won't even try to describe it, read about it online), and Still Alice (a book about a woman's life as she tries to overcome Alzheimer's disease). I normally don't read this much so I've found two explainations for this. 1. When I firt got here, I was bored and needed something to do. When I becamse busy I had established a good habit. 2. I miss the english language, and will do anything to get it. When I took my return trip to Chicago I read an entire Time magazine and USA Today. And I'm definitely not chalking that up to Maturity.
Work in general is going pretty well. Staying busy and working late hours. My days are now mostly full. Monday is just work, but Tuesday/Thursday is filled with work followed immeditely with my new French class. That lasts until 9. I tested into an intermediate class, but it was on Monday/Wednesday, and I didn't want class then, so instead they put me in an advanced class. I was very intimidating at first, but I'm starting to get the hang of it and I'm comprehending much better now. I have problems speaking just because I don't know enough vocabulary, but hopefully that'll change as I keep practicing.
On Wed/Fri I have ultimate practice. More to come on ultimate in the next blog...That's all for now. If you guys have any questions that I could write on, please post them, and it'll give me something to write about...peace.
Sunday, February 8, 2009
I left Toulouse on a Thursday afternoon. This was the day after I spent the first night in my new apt. I moved in Wednesday night, but only because I had the help of Brian, Jeff, and Justin. After they all left I started unpacking things, turning on the heat, doing some laundry, and cooking my dinner. Ya know, just normal stuff. It was around midnight at this time when the electricity finally went out.
'Merde!' was my initial first thought.
After I regrouped I got my cellphone flashlight on and started to head towards the windows to open them all up to get a little bit of light. I checked the hallway and that electricity was still on, so I inferred it must be a local problem to my apartment. That's when I opened the fusebox. I did some prodding and pushing (but it's midnight, mind you, and I can't see anything), but couldn't find the answer. I figured it must be because the utility bill had not been paid. You see, I had set up a direct withdrawal on the electric bill from my French bank account, but had yet to deposit any money in my account. And since the electricity had gone out around midnight, I smartly figured that must be the problem. (I later found out the circuit breaker had just gone off, and I failed to see the largest button on the fusebox turning the electric back on. Apparently our apartment can't handle 4 space heaters on max, a computer, the stove, the washing machine, and all the lights on at once...oops)
Either way the trip to Chicago was great. First off, it gave me a chance to relax and catch up on some sleep. Also, it gave me a chance to hang out with my cousins Brad and Andrea who I hadn't seen in awhile. They took me out two nights during the weekend and I had a great time. I also got to hand out with an old high school/church youth group friend in Julie. She gave me a tour of the city and let me hang out with her friends that night while attending a comedy show featuring Maria Bamford.
I also went up and down the magnificent mile (Michigan Ave.) and up in the Sears tower as well as visit the Museum of Science and Technology where the most impressive feat was definitely the German sub they had captured during WWII.
On my return to France, I promptly recommenced breaking electrical things by plugging in my U.S. surge protector (110V) into a French outlet (220V) without a voltage converter (designed to downsize voltage). Immediately the lights in my room, as well as the bathroom(s) went out. Took me 2 days to find the right fuse...merde!
Day to day life is starting to settle in. The apartment is coming into shape, and will be almost home-like in the next week or so. We still need to buy some odds and ends and I'm still waiting on my shipment to arrive. We also still lack internet. Living without internet is much tougher than anticipated. I've ended up starting up this other activity called 'reading.' So far it's pretty entertaining. Only time will tell though.
Sorry for the non-pictures, but without internet, I can't upload them. And I can only upload 5 at a time here from work, so not worth it. Stay tuned for pics from London and Chicago. In the meantime, enjoy the video...
Sunday, February 1, 2009
Friday night we arrived in Gatwick (cheaper to fly there) and took a train into town and our hostel. We had the pleasure of Justin's company with us this weekend, as he was in town for to help with a Maturity A review (which we aced, btw). When we arrived at the hostel it was about 12, but most everything was closed, pub-wise that is. So we decided to hit up the hostel bar which apparently is open 24 hours/day.
The night started slow, but turned into a good one by 3am. We played a friendly game of foosball (see video for results), and talked with a girl from Russia for awhile about how much she hated Americans. I tired to enter the conversation with an open mind and told her, "Look, to be honest, I probably fit the bill of what you think about Americans. I don't know much about Europe or its culture. But I'm trying to learn, and you at least have to give me the benefit of the doubt for my honesty, and my desire to learn more."
And by the end of the conversation she was trying to convince us how dumb we were because we didn't know who invented broccoli. I had found her wallet earlier that night and turned it into the bartender. Now I wish I would've turned it into the toilet.
Saturday we woke up and took the tube into town. We hoped on an open top double decker bus, even though is was 2 degrees C at the time, and explored the city. My favorite part of London was Big Ben (which is the name of the bell inside the clock). I probably took too many pictures to attest to that. Saturday night we ventured out again and found 'quite possibly the largest pub in the world.' We just drank a few brews and took the midnight bus home, where we sat up top in the front row and pretended like we were driving...
Sunday we headed out to Buckingham Palace and the changing of the guard. As you can see, one of the guards himself wasn't too impressed with the ceremony (double-click on picture to enlarge). After relatively short Sunday, we headed to the airport to catch our flight, when the snow began to fall. To make a long story short, London got the most snow it had seen in 18 years and our flight was cancelled (after we sat on the plane for 2.5 hours). We were told to re-book new flights online, and we did. We then found a quaint little hostel in Gatwick which we stayed. And believe it or not, they had the superbowl on TV.
Needless to say we arrived late into work on Monday, without repercussion. I think it helped that the snow storm was such a big story. Enjoy the video. I will hopefully have the slideshow posted soon! Right now my apartment doesn't have internet!
Sunday, January 25, 2009
Berlin was a great city. Although I must admit, for the larger cities, one weekend will never be enough time. The biggest impression left on me by Berlin was the Berlin Wall (That's also what I wanted to see the most). We walked along a 1.6 km part of the wall still standing. It was amazing to think that such a structure would divide such a large city. And it was definitely clear which side of the wall you were on. The city on the east side of the wall was poorly underdeveloped, with not much industry or new businesses building there since the wall came down. It seems to me Berlin has done a good job of preserving some of it's history as a reminder, as evidenced by the wall and the bombed out church.
Friday night might after we checked into the hostel we went immediate out to sample some of the finer brews Germany had to offer. Because Schlotterbeck had lived there during a semester in school, he knew some people and we had planned on meeting up with them. He received an address from his friend and we proceeded to head there (on the way sampling one of Germany's finer Kabobs). As we continued to get closer, we noticed we were venturing deeper and deeper into east Berlin. This is noteworthy because some bitter cultural differences still exist. The Germans call this "Mauer im Kopf." (literally: Wall in the head) We were walking near what looked to be an abandoned building when we heard, "thump, thump, thump,..." and saw people standing out near the street. We made a walk-by of the situation to assess. What we assessed was a dark alley with one lit up door, with two huge Germans gaurding it. We then decided to walk down said alley. We go to the door, and just kinda shuffled around for a few minutes until we saw a few people go in. We then decided just to walk in like we knew what we were doing. that's when the two aforementioned large Germans confronted us.
They told us there are private birthday parties inside and asked why we were here. Fortunately for us, Schlotty's friend has told us there were birthday parties inside, so we just said we were invited by a mutual friend, and they let us through, simple as that. The inside of this building is what you would expect it to look like based on its outward appearance except there was loud techno music and several bars on each of the two levels. Most of us danced the night away while eating orange slices that were being passed around and trying to avoid crazy good dancing by girls who had ginormous mullets.
Another interesting aspect of Berlin is the metro. There are no gates, no gaurds, and no stopping anyone that wanted to get on the metro from using it. It is a 100% honor code system. You could just walk down to a station, and jump on a train without anyone knowing any better. Although we hear if you get caught, the fines are steep, and the German police are 'unforgiving.' So needless to say (even though I'm saying it), we bought our tickets every time.
I wish we would've had more time to stay around and see more of Berlin, but we can always make a return trip...right?
Enjoy the video blog.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
This week was very event filled. Remember, I arrived on the 9th of January. That Friday we went to the grociery story and stocked up on some food. Saturday we went down town and just explored the town a bit. I decided to take a gamble on a dish. Pied du porc. For those of you who know French, you know it's a gamble. For those of you who don't, see the video for more details :)
Sunday, January 11th we took off for a city in southeast France. Carcassonne. This is an old city most well known for it's castle. It's castle, in fact, was the setting for the original movie Robin Hood. This was a great day trip seeing as Carcassonne is only about an hour drive from Toulouse.
My first week of work also went smoothly. I'm staying busy already and working late everyday (sometimes because I get in late). We've done the usual things that people do in France like drink beers in the street, eat kobabs at 3am after leaving the bars during the week, and driving 6 speed manual transmission mini-vans.
Wednesday I got my first chance to go to the Ultimate practice. I must've impressed, because they invited me to play in the French Outdoor National Championships this summer. Or, maybe they just ask everybody, who knows....
This past weekend was filled with more travel. Biarritz, France on Friday, January 17th and then on to San Sebastian, Spain on the 18th. Both are coastal cities and very beautiful. The picture above is from Biarritz.
We found a casino in Biarritz where believe it or not 3 out of 4 people in my traveling group came out ahead (props to Brian and Schlotty also). Unfortunately for Jeff, he ended the night over 50 Euros in the hole. In San Sebastian, we hiked a hill adjacent to the bay opening, and had a great view of the sunset as well as the entire town. After the hike, we all took a siesta before attempting to close down the discoteque. Unfortunately, we only made it till 6am. And in my opinion, we were the best dancers there....
WARNING: The video is kinda long and it has a lot of me talking. I will correct that for future videos... :)
San Sebastian Pics
Friday, January 9, 2009
This is my first attempt at a blog, let alone a video blog, so bear with me as I refine the process to make it better (that's the engineer in me). Consider this a preview blog to the others to come.My company has chosen me along with some other talented engineers to go to France to work on a contract we recently signed. This blog will detail my travels and allow friends and family to keep up to date on what I'm doing while I'm away. The picture seen to the left is a good picture to start off with. It is the capital of the city where I am staying, Toulouse.
I arrived in France on Friday, January 9th in the morning. I was suppose to stop along Chicago on my way out and pick up my work visa. But due to poor communication on Spirit AeroSystems part, I discovered only hours before my flight was suppose to take off that my visa, in fact, was not in Chicago as I was previously told. However, on the fligh overseas I did get a nice surprise. See the video below for details. Hope you enjoy and feel free to make comments!