Friday, March 20, 2009

I'm at a loss

I have no pictures for this post....only thoughts. You have heard me mention on a couple occasions about easter break, well the time has arrived. I leave in a few short hours for possibly one of the most amazing, astounding, moving, lengthy, trying trips of my life. We are leaving on a four week journey through Europe with a 12 city list of stops along the way. Barcelona, Mariselle, Pisa, Rome, Naples, Florence, Venice, Vienna, Prague, Berlin, Amsterdam, and Paris. This list may change as we go. We have tentatively planned on spending two to three days in each place. I feel as though I am prepared in some ways but not at all in others. I've got my passport. I've got my air up pillow for sleeping on train rides. I've got my Eurail pass that gets me into 21 different countries by train and all paid for. I've got my large travel bag with a removable day pack that I have bought since I came over here. I have my travel pants with tons of pockets and zippers to carry my essential and important items. I'm packing three shirts and two pants. One bandana and one hat. A ipod, sunglasses, passport, id's, tooth brush/paste, deodorant, and some paper work to work on an essay while on the road. We have made few plans to book hostels or train rides, because we don't know how or when exactly we will be moving to a new city or country. I am packing light. I need to be able to be on my feet with a large pack for extended amounts of time. Our plan as of right now only gets me from the city of Bristol in the UK and on a plane to Barcelona. We will arrive around 1 am. We will spend the first night sleeping in the airport. Then we will have to track down a hostel and transportation. There will be three guys other than myself traveling together. Others will join and disperse along the way. Most students plan on roughing it. We will smell bad and look worse by the end of this journey. I hope all goes well. I am excited, nervous, and not packed. I leave in two hours to catch a train for Bristol. Do I have all that I will need for four weeks on the road? I dunno? It'll be great fun. I sure don't wanna lose any valuable ids or info. That would be wicked bad. Since I have been overseas my eyes have been opened to the world. I no longer see only inward in my own little town, in my own little country. This is the best time in my life to attempt such a trip. Does it sound like I'm not ready? I am. I'm ready to tackle the unknown. Physically I think I will be pushed to the edge. All trips thus far have been two to three days and generally it is wonderful to be 'home' to my dorm. We don't know other languages. I know some dirty/slang spanish from working in a restaurant with Mexican cooks. I don't think that will help. I will try and blog along the way. I will have access to internet hopefully in hostels. I'll have to pay for that. I'm about to see what its all about. I'm about to take a month and see more of the world than most could dream of. I'm so very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to be here. now. I can't wait. Peace out!

Pony Mountain, Mumbles, and Gower/Worm's Head

In the last couple of weeks, since London, I felt I needed to lay low and consider reading a few of my books for my classes. I also am trying to prepare for the 'giant...daunting...over-the-top...out-of-control easter break trip. In doing so I need to conserve some money, because I spent WAY too much in London. Which by the way is very very expensive. Oh, fyi I had some amazing Leboniese food. Oh and in chinatown I ate some shark fin soup that was way over priced and tasted just like egg drop soup and I had some fried eel that tasted like some old school fried catfish back in Oklahoma. Okay, enough of that tangent. I'm laying low the last couple weeks....kinda. I had some great local journeys and my very best friend, Daniel Clark and his girlfriend Kinda Wilson, from back home in Oklahoma were able to visit me. In fact, they just left this morning. They both stayed in my small peanut sized room for the last three nights and I gave them a guided tour of the full Swansea experience.

First off: Pony Mountain

So, it isn't really named that. It happens to be a large hill that is directly behind my dorm and from the top it has a beautiful view of Swansea, Mumbles and the ocean. I/Daniel so aptly named it Pony Mountain because of the beautiful, yet hairy, ponies and horses residing on its peak. Its only about a fifteen minute hike from behind my building and along the way is a very cool, albeit scary mansion. Here are some pics:

Secondly: Mumbles

I've been to Mumbles a few times and this was the only time I was able to remember my camera and actually take some decent pictures. We visited the castle in Mumbles and visited some of the shops and delis. The best part of Mumbles is walking the boardwalk and going out on the giant rock islands and lighthouse off the pier that are only available when the tide is low, and if you don't make it back in time you can be stuck on out there until low tide or the next day.

Thirdly and certainly most impressively: Gower/Worm's Head

Words and pictures CAN NOT describe the beauty to be found at Rhossili Bay. This is the bay located in Gower that leads to Worm's Head. All I can say is that it is awe-inspiring and at every new turn and cliff I stopped and thought too myself that it was the most beautiful place/view in the world. I will let the pictures do the rest of the talking, but bear in mind that these in no way capture the shear scale and impressive boasting that this coastline deserves.

On a final note...

You'll notice the bearded man with glasses hanging from cliffs and posing with his girlfriend to be Daniel and Kinda. The pier that can be seen in the pictures is from the top of the giant rock islands in Mumbles. It is a most impressive climb and the view from the top is humbling!

Nick-2, London-0

I visited London for a second time recently on a weekend when I had nothing else planned. I decided last minute after spending a weekend at home after Amsterdam that I absolutely did not want to just sit around and waste another spectacular weekend. So booked my train and hostel a little last minute, but still didn't have to pay too much. I went with will, one of my friends from Swansea University. I'd seen mucho the first time I visited London, but of course that was the first day I arrived overseas. I knew after leaving the first time there were quite a few things I had to go back and visit. I accomplished most of these things this second time around. We spent Saturday, Sunday, and some of Monday touring London. We arrived at Paddington and navigated our way through Hyde Park through south central London past Harrods and the Science Museum finally finding our way to our hostels after a couple of leisurely hours looking and sampling some tasty treats at little bakeries along the way. The hostel was a bar on the bottom floor and all the rooms were upstairs. It was a great looking hostel with some intimidating bathrooms.
I fully felt capable of navigating despite the fact that our map didn't show far enough west to allow us to see how to get to our hostels.
This time 'round Will and I saw the Natural History and Science museums, and since I'm a nerd for dinosaurs and science, this was particularly special. I hadn't ever seen a full dinosaur skeleton put together in all its magnificent glory.
We made our way around to Harrods, where I had some amazing chocolates and sweets,
then to the London eye and caught the most spectacular view of London from the great ferris wheel.
/I saw the Big Ben and the Houses of Parliment for a second time, we ate some eh....sketchy and pricey food in the chinatown district of London. We went back and around Piccadilly Circus, which I feel is somewhat equal to the feeling of being in Times Square in New York City. We went out for drinks on Sunday night with some friends of Wills in a pub in central London near Piccadilly Circus. I really enjoy riding the London Underground (the tube), it is the easiest and far cheapest way to travel. So, once again I have conquered London. It all went seamless, and I am happy to be able to check a few more spots of the

Thursday, March 12, 2009

more amsterdam

We've got everything here from random wooden horse sculpture pictures, to the back of Nate as we are riding our bikes through the streets of Amsterdam, to The Bulldog 'coffee' shop, city centre, and lots and lots of bicycles.

I AMsterdam

I'm not sure I know how to talk about Amsterdam without getting myself in trouble, so I believe I'll stick to the basics. We took a bus to Amsterdam from the University on a Thursday evening at 5:30. We arrived in Amsterdam the following Friday morning at 9ish a.m. Needless to say it was a long bus ride, but we got to take a ferry from England to France. We took two charter buses filled with students from all over Swansea University, so not just Americans this time. Once checked into the hostel, we were all set free to do as we pleased in Amsterdam. We had the opportunity to choose our roommates for the hostel. So, the crew that I most generally travel/hang-out with here all roomed together. That'd be Nate, Katie, Jeph and myself. To start, everyone was tired and hungry, so just about everyone set out for breakfast. Beyond breakfast, there was no time to rest, so we ventured into the city. Amsterdam is a very artsy city and fairly expensive as well. We visited the Anne Frank museum, the Van Gogh museum (and yes I saw Starry Night!), the Red Light District, Hard Rock Cafe, numerous windmills and outside markets. The absolute best way to travel in Amsterdam and I highly recommend, is by bicycle. The most noteworthy thing about Amsterdam was that it seems to be the bicycle capital of the world. I've never ever seen so many bikes in my life. Cars and pedestrians alike all give way to bikes. Bicycles have their own street lanes, traffic lights, road ways. It is unreal! It is without a doubt the best way to get around the city though. It seemed very complicated to navigate the intense roadways, traffic, and people on a bicycle, but it becomes very natural after a while. I got to experience and see so much more of the city by bicycle. The only downside is the high bicycle theft rate. It is very important to lock up your bike every time you stop, which became somewhat of a nuisance. The Anne Frank museum, though I was skeptical about visiting, especially with the high entrance fee, was jaw dropping. The whole museum/house was very well designed and interesting. The Van Gogh museum offered almost every one of Van Gogh's most important works of art. It was a real treat to see them in person. The red light district was exactly as I had imagined it would be from the movies. It isn't quite as 'shady' as you might expect. During the day, parents and children alike all walk through the district. Prostitutes parade around the window rooms dressed in lingerie at all hours of the day and it is quite the popular tourist spot. At night is when the district really shines however! I learned that you must always stay cautious in a city like Amsterdam. People offered drugs on the corners of streets and friends of mine had close encounters with pick-pockets. By all means, don't misunderstand me, I loved Amsterdam, you just have to use caution. Although I haven't been to Venice yet, Amsterdam seems to resemble the same type of set up. The main centre of town is surrounded by water-ways splitting up the city into sections like a stadium. The food in Amsterdam was also a treat. They had fantastic pastries such as doughnuts and pancakes (which is more like an American crepe). On the way home we stopped in Belgium at a small diner where I had the most amazing Belgium waffle's in the world and at a Belgium chocolate shop. I fully understand why they are known for their chocolates and waffles. mmmmmmmm I enjoyed them for days after the trip was over!

more York pictures

Starting from the top left:
-Me getting cozy with the viking in our hostel
-The last nights dinner our group had in York. (that'd be Fiona, me, Audrey, Jeph, Katie, Nate, Ethan, and Jared)
-We played truth or dare in the car. Fiona's dare was to run around the car in the middle of Manchester waving her arms around in the air three times.
- Um...that small top one, above Manchester United Stadium is my room in the hostel.
-The of course is Manchester United Stadium. We only drove through Manchester on our way home from York.
-Purple living statue riding a bike. He wasn't a very good statue. He moved all the time. But it is a cool idea with the bicycle.
- The next three, me, me all acting dumb in a castle museum in York and getting arrested.
-The final photo is one of the York sightseeing boats that was docked up on the shore. I thought it was quite peculiar how they dock them!