Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Places I Want to Go

Now that our European trip is over, I'm already thinking about the future experiences.

Sal and I will be returning to England next year in May for two of our good friend's wedding. We'll be spending time in Manchester, Burnley, and Liverpool. There's a chance we also sneak away to Scotland for a few days.

I've been itching to continue our away hockey trips. Ottawa, Toronto, and Montreal are all really high on the Canadian list.

We also have friends that live in Pittsburgh, New York, and Washington, so a Northeast trip to see the Flyers, Penguins, Rangers, Devils, and Capitals is also in the near future.

And now that we've reconnected with Sal's cousins in Orlando, jumping on a Blues Florida trip is possible.

I know Sal's big trip she wants to do is to wine country. We're thinking that would be a great 10 year anniversary trip. And from our friends that have been to Napa, they said don't spend more than 3-4 days there, so it would probably turn into a trip to San Francisco as well.

And then there's my beer meccas.

I would love to go to Portland, Oregon / Yakima, Washington, the hot bed of the American hop where most bars have their own personal beer.

And then there's the beers I love the most. The ones worth going to the source for.

Sal and I have a little work on our finances to do before our next trip is officially booked, but it's fun thinking about the possibilities. 

Bill Watterson said it best in the final Calvin and Hobbes comic, "It's a magical world, Hobbes, ol' buddy... let's go exploring!"

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Eurotrip - London and Dublin Pt. 2 - May 17-20

The Adventure

Just as how we were feeling by this time in the trip, this has taken a long time to write because I was getting tired.

London was a whirlwind and in all honesty, we probably should have booked our trip home straight from London, instead of returning to Dublin.

We had roughly from 2 pm on the 17th until we passed out around 10 pm to explore. The first day was filled.

We were staying in Soho Square, per a tip from a friend of ours. He told us, "That's where all the best food is."

But no time for food now. We also booked this area because it was so close to everything we wanted to see it. So the first day, we dropped our bags off and walked the 12 minutes to Piccadilly Circus (giant shopping district / Times Square area), then another 5 minutes south to St. James Square, and then only another 5 minutes to Buckingham Palace.

I was getting annoyed. There were thousands of tourists from many different countries, not knowing where they were going, on some of the narrowest sidewalks I've ever seen.

Not having anything in particular to check out, we got some ice cream from a cart and then wandered around Green Park to the North of Buckingham Palace, which turned out to be a great surprise. It was a beautiful park, void of the tourists in the other areas. There were some World War II memorials throughout, the coolest of which was the Bomber Command Memorial.

From here, we went to Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, saw the London Eye, and then we were sort of tired.

We came back to our Hostel, had a beer, and then got some incredible Indian Food at Gopal's of Soho.

I'm glad the meal was good because the rest of the night was a little rough. Our Hostel as it turned out was cheap for a reason. It was roughly a 10'x8' room with a futon mattress thrown on a full sized bed frame, a sink, and a window.

There was no AC, which wouldn't have been a problem a few days before, but it had heated up and rained so that it was humid.

On top of that, we had a nice Indian couple getting drunk across the hall, singing Indian pop songs until about 11 pm.

And to top it off, all I wanted was a good shower at this point. We shared a shower with roughly 10 other rooms in our area. And when Sal and I finally brought all of our shampoo and soap to the bathroom and turned the water on, we found that our shower did not drain very well. So for the next two days, we took 3 minute showers in overflowing water filled with god knows what. Luckily, I didn't get a foot infection.

The next day we woke up and left the hostel as soon as we could. The British Museum was only about a 10 minute walk east from where we were.

I feel this museum was incredible, but the mounds of tourists really made certain areas stressful. There were two certain kind of tourists that I became really racist toward by the end of our trip because lines means nothing and they have no qualms about pushing right through you.

The Rosetta Stone is a perfect example of this. 50 people sort of queue up in a half circle, as one person leaves, the next person steps up. After 5-6 minutes, Sal and I finally make it up to see the Rosetta stone, and my god does it have a presence. You just find yourself in awe of this artifact you've only seen in textbooks.

I start raising my phone up slowly to try and get a picture of this thing and as I do, three arms reach other my shoulders and start flashing their bulbs. As that's happening, I feel this small elbow get me right in the kidney as they start pushing through.

We left the museum exhausted and walked about 35 minutes south to the Imperial War Museum. This was the highlight of London.

Each floor of the massive museum is dedicated to another subject, like World War I, the Holocaust, Fashion during war time, home life during war time, spies in the Cold War, and British Heroes. I just can't describe how it's designed. It would take a book. So here's a picture of Sal dressed up as a British trench soldier.

Travel to Dublin

Heathrow Airport is probably the worst airport I've ever been to, and I've been through Dallas.

The lines are long, the security overly tight, the foreigners I spoke of that wandered the sidewalks were now wandering the halls of Heathrow. Sal and I were both chosen for random security checks of our bags where we had to dump out the contents in front of everyone while they went through it. I was chosen for a random security check of my body where a nice overweight British man touched my no-no parts.

When we finally got through, all I wanted was a taste of home. I wanted a simple Chicken club sandwich.

It took another 30 minutes to find a place with this staple. Everything was "British Food, Pasta, Jamie Oliver's British Cuisine...." just gimme a chicken sandwich.

Dublin Part 2

We really didn't have much time in Dublin again.  We ate at a hip pizza place called Skinflint and then bought a bottle of wine and watched TV in our hotel room until we fell asleep. Turns out we were staying in the famous O'Donohgues where the Dubliner writer's club often met and drank.

We entered our taxi the next morning, our minds already on the pizza we would order as soon as we got home. Our nice Irish Taxi Driver told us how they all love Obama, but feel like the lower houses keep him from doing anything. He doesn't like John F. Kennedy, Bush Jr., Bill Clinton, or most Germans. But he loves America, specifically Wisconsin, Chicago, and Las Vegas. And he told us next time we come to Ireland, get out of Dublin. That's where the real Ireland is.

Coming Home

Sal and I were put in the last row of a giant airplane on the way home. The worst part of this is the landing. It was rough to the point of Sal feeling sick and me praying thinking this was it and we had no windows to know how close to the ground we were.

And it's nearly impossible to get into the United States. We spent an hour and 15 minutes of our 2 hour layover in Toronto going through US customs and having 40 security checks done.

Lesson learned, don't leave the country, you might not get back in.

And the pizza that night... that pizza was awesome.