Sunday, May 31, 2009

Bad Timing and Good Stuff

BTW: To this point Erica and I have sparingly indulged in sweets and food items that aren’t entirely necessary. In France we did have our fair share of crepes, in Germany we got a pretzel, but Italy is where we really wanted to take advantage of the local food items and treats.

We started off the day trying the Vatican because on the last Sunday of the month entry is free…well apparently if you plan to take advantage of this you need a tent and a lot of free time the night before. From there we tried the Colosseum and found out that apparently Italy’s equivalent of the Tour de France is going on, Tour d’Italia, and lucky for us the home stretch encircled the Colosseum…strike two I guess. Lucky for us on our third try we feel like we hit a home run. We went to the Spanish Steps that is infamously known as a gathering and eating place in Rome. By the time we got there it was lunch time so we found a nearby pizzeria. We found here that instead of charging by the slice they charge per kilogram; Erica got marguerite (basically just cheese) and I got salami (close to pepperoni). After getting our appropriate weight of pizza they fold it up and wrap it in paper. From there we walked over to the Spanish Steps and had our first real Italian pizza…yum.

After the steps we went to the Pantheon and Trivi Fountain. The Pantheon was incredible and still in immaculate condition. Everything about that building has a purpose: the central opening at the top of the dome provides all of the necessary light for the space during the day and also creates natural ventilation as the heat rises up and out the top. The opening also acts as a sundial, as the direct sunlight enters through the opening it hits the walls and the time can be determined based on location. The one problem that is caused by the opening is that it allows rain into the building; this isn’t really a problem at all actually….when you walk inside the Pantheon you can feel a slight slope in the floor. The very center of the Pantheon is the highest point in the building so when it rains all that needs to be in is to open the doors and let the rain drain straight out. All cool stuff…oh and the other cool thing was just outside the Pantheon is where experienced our first gelato. Up to this point we’d passed on ice cream because we were holding out for the gelato, I think it was worth it. The Trivi Fountain was very pretty, but also very crowded making the perfect shot hard to attain. We were patient and got some pretty good pictures, we also made sure to throw a coin backwards over our shoulder into the fountain to ensure our return to Rome. For dinner we had pasta at a restaurant on a side street, it was pretty good and well priced, but we’re still waiting for that plate of fantastic Italian pasta.

Erica on the Spanish steps with her first Italian pizza

Outside the Pantheon

Erica inside the Pantheon...see the sun dial effect on the wall

Inside the Pantheon

The great Pantheon

At Trivi Fountain

Heading back to the hostel

Saturday, May 30, 2009


So I’m on the train to Rome finally, I’ll explain briefly…missed the 10:02am train by two minutes but we were still able leave Nice by 12:30pm or so. Because we’re going to be getting into Rome later than expected, we needed to email the hostel and let them know. In order to send an email we need access to the internet so we were just going to go to an internet cafĂ©, but once we got there we asked the manager (middle-eastern fellow) if there were any WiFi spots. God bless this man, he kindly responded “Yis, around corner, 1 minute, mag-do-nuts.” Quizzically Erica and I took the man’s instructions and started to head to the next street to find this mysterious place mag-do-nuts. As soon as we got around the corner the light went on as soon as I see the golden arches and I exclaimed to Erica “ah, haa…McDonalds.” So if you’re ever in Europe and someone refers to Magdonuts, you’ll know what they’re talking about.

Friday, May 29, 2009

A Bird in the Hand is Worth Two in the Bush

Well I’ll start off by saying I’m definitely not disappointed with today…however things could have gone better. We arrived in Nice yesterday and today we set out for the beach. The hostel we’re staying at right now is a ways away from the coast so it takes a long time to get to anywhere where you can see the Mediterranean. We hear about a great beach a little ways from Nice at Cape d’Ail, so that’s where we headed first. It took forever to actually get into Nice to take the bus to the beach so we didn’t end up getting to Cape d’Ail until around 1 pm. And even once we got off the bus it took about 20 minutes to walk down the winding streets to the little cove where the beach, called Plaga Mala, was located. The area was very pretty but not as good as advertised by some others (it was still pretty awesome don’t get me wrong). We were there for probably 2 or 3 hours…then we saw a guy who had arrived at the hostel the same time as us yesterday and he told us we should go to Monaco because the beach there was awesome and so much better…so we went. Well Monaco was a little bit of a nightmare. The city is built for driving, not for walking…which I suppose is why their Grand Prix is such a big deal. It took forever to get to the beach, which is cool but no better than where we were before. We got back to Nice around 7:30 pm or so and were exhausted from all the run around…what we should’ve done, instead of hunting for beaches outside of Nice, is just stay put and be content. Nice is a very cool city and we wish we had more time here to take it all in. Tonight we grabbed a pizza from a take-away stand and headed to the beach where we ate our pizza on a bench. After that Erica got an ice cream cone and I had my last French crepe, this time cinnamon…which, by the way, was fantastic!

Nice Photos

Erica in the center of Nice

Along Nice's beach

Plaga Mala

Leaving Plaga Mala

Me in the water at Monacco

Monacco's beach

Our dinner spot along Nice's beach

Walking along Nice's beach at night

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Campeones...Campeones...OLE! OLE! OLE! OLE! OLE!

Yesterday was a crazy day, for a few different reasons…which is why I’m writing this the following day. We started yesterday by walking around Barcelona and taking in the Architecture and whatnot. We started at Sagrada Familia, the famous Antoni Gaudi cathedral that has been in existence since 1882 and has yet to be completed. After that we went to Mont Monjuic where we heard we could find some amazing views…we were not let down regarding this claim. The National Art Gallery of Barcelona on Mont Monjuic overlooks the entire city providing a great place for a picnic! After the gallery we walked all around Mont Montjuic…literally ALL AROUND. We did take the subway to the area, but once there we decided against taking the Teleferic (it’s one of those gondola ski lift type things) straight to the top, and instead circled pretty much the entire area, which included the Olympic Stadium, as we made our way to the top. The main reason we wanted to go to the top is because there’s suppose to be a castle at the top…thankfully the journey was worth it as the castle did exist, was pretty cool, and provided more views of the city. After walking back down Mont Montjuic we took the subway to the Gothic district, made our way back to Las Ramblas and the market there for some more fruit, and then walked back to our hostel to get ready for the Champions League Final, Barcelona vs Manchester United.

Before we left for our trip through Europe I had checked the dates and knew that we would be in Barcelona during the Champions League Finals match. I knew that even though the final is being played in Rome, that be in Barcelona for the game would be an unreal experience…I was DEFINITELY not disappointed.

Hopefully my entry for the AC Milan game a couple days ago gives you somewhat an idea of what soccer/football (whatever you want to call it) means to most European countries. Well that game was just a regular season match with only slight implications on the season’s outcome…the Champions League is so much more. For those of you who don’t know, the Champions League is a tournament held throughout the year between the best teams from the best leagues in Europe. This year Barcelona had already won their league title, as well as their National tournament the Copa del Rey, and a Champions League title would make them the first Spanish team ever to hold all three titles at the same time. Needless to say we came to Barcelona for a once in a lifetime experience.

We watched the game at the Maremagnum where the game was playing on a giant big screen; this was one of a few different locations in the city where we were told the game would be playing. The reason we came to Maremagnum is because we were told this place one wouldn’t be as crazy…wrong. Once we got their we had to push our way through a football field sized area of wall-to-wall, standing room only Barca fans until we could see the screen…luckily we had strength in numbers as we went with a group of about 10 from the hostel, so we were able to get a spot eventually. I can’t begin to explain the atmosphere and how chaotic it was leading up to the match…chant after chant leading up to the kick-off.

Once the match started things seemed to calm down, as everyone was intent on seeing the action. For the first 10 minutes Man-U dominated play, outshooting Barca 5 to 0…but in the 10th minute of the game Barcelona’s Samuel Eto’o weaved his way into the box and put Barcelona’s first shot into the back of the net….the eruption that ensued where we were was full of absolute, unbridled enthusiasm from everyone there. High-5s and hugs all as a mist of wine and beer was sprayed into the air. From this point on Barcelona seemed to take control and at the end of the first half the score was 1-0.

For most of the second half everyone seemed to be on pins and needles as the decisive goal was yet to be struck…either an equalizer from Man-U or a clincher for Barca. Finally in the 71st minute, Barcelona’s star and fan favorite Leonel Messi headed a cross back across the goalies face and into the goal making the score 2-0 making the match all but over. At this point the crowd at Maremagnum was jubilant beyond belief…strangers hugging strangers, group pictures, fireworks…complete euphoria.

Barcelona held on for the 2-0 victory, which is when the party really started. All of our friends from the hostel headed out as the game was ending, but Erica and I decided to stay and brave the chaos that we knew was about to ensue. When I use the words crazy, chaos, insane, and out of control to describe the celebration…I don’t feel as though they begin to describe what we experienced. I don’t really know the way to describe it…complete madness I guess. Picture a Husker National Championship, then take it times 100, 1000, 1 million…I don’t know if that’s even enough. Anything you could climb, a person was hanging from…anything with a fuse, was lit (often)…every celebratory chant, was chanted all night. Literally miles of streets were jam packed with fans the entire night…it’s a good thing we had the sense to make it home shortly after 1 am because watching the news this morning it really got crazy, lets just say the riot police was involved. I really just can’t believe I was right in the middle of what seems to be Barcelona’s biggest moment in sports since the ’92 Olympic Games, if not ever…and glad I took part in the whole thing without an M-80 blowing up in my face.

Champions League Finals Photos

The scene at Maremagnum

Getting ready for the first whistle

Me celebrating with a crazy Barcelona fan minutes before the final whistle

The celebration at Maremagnum

The craziness on Las Ramblas

Barcelona Photos, day 2

Sagrada Familia

Barcelona's Olympic Stadium

The view from the National Art Gallery on Mont Monjuic

View towards Sagrada Familia

Erica with all of Barelona behind her

Atop the Castle on Mont Montjuic

Erica made me do this

Leaving the castle

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Beach! You’d Think I Would Have Learned My Lesson

We arrived on the night train from Geneva this morning shortly after 9 am and went straight (I shouldn’t say straight because whenever we get to a new city our path to our first destination is anything but linear) to our hostel Mambo Tango. After settling in we got our swimsuits on and headed straight to the beach! The hostel owners Totti and Marina are awesome, they told us what beach we should go to and which beaches to avoid because of pick-pockets and whatnot. We decided not to take the subway to the beach and instead walked the entire way so we could see Barcelona. Barcelona is very pretty and (unlike Geneva, see previous post) has that “it” quality that immediately strikes you.

On our way to the beach we passed by the statue of Christopher Colombus, Las Ramblas, and a lot of palm trees! We had to walk along the beach for a while to get to the place where we were told was less crowded and less touristy, but we didn’t mind because we got to take in the views and get a little exercise. One thing we had noticed along away, and had been forewarned about prior to our trip, was the… “free-er” nature of a lot of beach goers when it came to their attire. We thought there would be a lot of speedos and that maybe I’d be out of place because of my swim trunks, little did we know that Erica who decided to keep her top on was the one who was in the minority. This trend held true pretty much every so we just had to bite the bullet and pick a spot. After settling in we had lunch: sandwiches, chips, oranges…it was all pretty good. The big mistake of the day came when I asked Erica if I should put sunscreen on….her reply? “No I think we’ll be alright.” Well needless to say, despite how much we enjoyed our time at the beach, after over 4 hours of Barcelona sun…we’s was burnt, especially me. You’d think after my experience in France I would have learned…I’ll catch on sooner or later.

After the Beach we went to Las Ramblas, Barcelona’s main avenue full of shops and markets leading up to Catalunya Square, the city’s main square. We stopped at a fruit market and picked up some fruit, which I was actually able to (sort of) order in Spanish. Tonight we hung out with some of the other people at the hostel. We just went to a local bar/restaurant/not sure called Mantra; the atmosphere felt pretty “Spanish” and it was a good time of conversing with other people from all over the world who are doing the same thing as us…people from: Florida, New York, Canada, Europe, and even Australia.

Hasta manana.

Barcelona Photos, day 1

Statue of Chrisopher Colombus

Determining whether or not to get in all the way

Erica getting her feet wet

Erica looks beautiful as always

I'm pretty white aren't I?

Erica at the market on Las Ramblas

Monday, May 25, 2009

So Maybe THIS Was The Best Train Ride

FYI: The only real point of coming to Switzerland in the first place was to be able to get to Geneva by tonight in order to take the night train from there to Barcelona.

After waking up this morning in Brig we walked around the town, nestled in between the Alps, to take in the view. We could have taken the direct train from Brig to Geneva and arrived as early as about 12:30 in Geneva, however our night train from Geneva didn’t leave until 11:35 pm so we decided against this path. What we did instead was take a series of scenic trains through the mountains to various Swiss towns.

We left Brig at 1:30 in the afternoon and headed to Spiez where we could have connected to the next train almost immediately, but instead we decided to take the next train in about an hour so we could walk around the town. We definitely wish we had more than an hour in Spiez, it is one of the prettiest places I’ve ever seen. It is set right on Lake Thun with mountains all around. The temperature had to be 80 to 90°, there were people swimming in the lake and laying out on the grass all while snow capped mountains could be seen around the town. We took a couple pictures and then got on the train. Our path from that point was Spiez to Zweisimmen, Zweisimmen to Montreux, and Montreux to Geneva. Probably the best leg of the journey was from Zweisimmen to Mountreux because we were actually on a train that was intended to provide the “scenic route” with extra high windows. A lot more of the pictures I took turned out this time, but to give you a better idea of the trip I even took some video. The whole journey was a great experience, especially because of how unexpected it was.

The one unfortunate thing was where the journey ended up taking us, Geneva. The entire train ride through the mountains provided such a build up of beautiful scenery full of mountains, valleys, small towns, lakes, and the list goes on. Because Geneva was the only Swiss town we’d actually heard of we thought this great build up would lead to the final climax in Geneva. This was not the case. We definitely had a great day, but we found Geneva to be crowded, uninteresting, lacking in any kind of draw or “it” quality the rest of Switzerland seemed to have, not too mention we stumbled through the, uh, burlesque area of town. ….and we saw a lot of weirdos.

We are now on the train to Barcelona which is also somewhat disappointing as the train we are in is at least a couple decades old (at least it looks that way). We figured the night trains would be much nicer ince they provide longer trips and are intended for sleep and comfort. I don’t want to sound ungrateful, all I’ll say is the one things we’ve found on our trip is not everything is going to be exactly what you expect. Oh well, no worries…we made it and we’re on our way to Spain!

Switzerland Train Ride Photos

View in Brig from our hotel room

Erica on the bridge from Brig train station

Spiez, Switzerland on Lake Thun

Erica in front of Lake Thun

Just taking it all in

One of many awesome views we had from the train

I took a video during the train ride since photos taken from a moving train don't always seem to work out...I'll post it as soon as the internet cooperates.


I've been trying to update as much as possible, but lack of ability to connect to the internet has mad things difficult. I'm going back and adding pictures to previous posts when I can and will put on the new posts as soon as possible.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Forza Milan and Then Get Out of Milan

Today Erica and I spent our one day in Milan which largely centered around the AC Milan vs Roma football match. We woke up early enough to get to the stadium 4 hours ahead of time to pick up our tickets. After picking up the tickets we walked around the stadium and looked at all of the merchandise and food stands and whatnot just to get the feel for a European sporting event. We still had plenty of time before the game started so we headed to Milan’s city center, where the Duomo is located. We took enough time to get some good pictures, eat our lunch and then head back to the stadium in time to take in some of the pregame festivities.

The match was truly an unreal experience. In Nebraska we have chants like “GO, BIG, RED”, here in Italy, and it seems in most of Europe, there is so much more to it. It seems as though each team has an endless arsenal of chants, I only wish I could understand what they were saying. The entire Milan side would chant in unison, pumping their fists together forward like a general making a “charge” call…the Roma fans would respond in kind, even though their numbers were much fewer because they were the away team. Flags waved and thousands cheered in unison throughout the entire 90 minutes of the match. Roma’s John Arne Riise struck first on a free kick following a penalty just meters outside the box; this was the only goal of the first half.

The second half, however, provided many more fireworks. Milan leveled the score at 1-1 when a cross into the box was fired by Pippo Inzaghi straight at the goalie, the shot was blocked but Mossimo Ambrossini got to the ball moments later and put the ball in the back of the net. This triggered an eruption like none I’d ever experienced in person at a sporting event. The entire second half Milan was on the attack, but one errant pass and a blink of an eye later Roma scored on a counter attacking making the score 2-1 in the 79h minute. Again Milan was able to level the score, this time only two minutes later, when a low cross into the box found Ambrossini who once again managed to find the back of the net. Unfortunately this would not be Milan’s day as they managed to give up another foul in prime position, once again just meters outside the box…this time Francesco Totti, Roma’s star player put the free kick around the Milan wall and by goalie Nelson Dida. Milan still threatened late, as Gianlucca Zambrotta dribbled his way into Roma’s box and was tripped, the ref did not make the call providing a penalty kick which resulted in a group of Milan players swarming the ref…this resulted in a red card for Ambrossini, Milan’s only goal scorer of the day. Milan lost 2-3, however the experience…absolutely incredible, totally worth it.

The other thing about this game that was truly special, was being there for the last home game of Milan’s captain, Paulo Maldini. Maldini has played for AC Milan his entire professional career which has spanned 25 seasons. Before the match he was honored and the opposing team even wore warm up shirts that read “Grazi Paulo.”

We left the stadium right as the referee blew the final whistle, headed back to our hostel with jus enough time to take a quick shower and catch a train to Brig, Switzerland, where we are now. I had the fortune of sitting next to someone from the area who spoke English, they let me know that Brig shuts down at night…she was right, it’s a good thing we had booked our hotel in advance or we’d be sleeping in the street. In fact, when we got to the hotel the door was locked and when we rang for reception, the manager spoke and told us our key was waiting for us on the reception desk. We’re safe and sound now and have a nice clean place to call our own for the night.

Milan Photos

Arriving at the San Siro (AC Milan's stadium)

Brief trip to the Duomo

The mall at the City Center

Entering the Stadium

Before games the fans typically hold up their club's scarf, but to honor Paulo Maldini special scarves with the captains name on it were handed out beforehand

This fan was too oblivious to realize he was holding his backward, providing me the appropriate picture

The entire stadium holding their scarves up

Pre-match prayer

Milan side going crazy

Enjoying the action

Red Card handed out to Ambrossini, host of Milan players argueing with the ref

Not the result I was looking for, but still a great game