Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The lowdown on Paris, The city of lights....

I don't know why they call it that, they should call it the city of gypsies.  They are everywhere.  That and the lingering smell of urine.  Other than that it is a pretty cool town.  Will I ever come back, don't know if I like it that much.

The people seem nice enough though, which is refreshing after hearing all of the horror stories about how they treat Americans.  Everyone we have talked to have spoken English.  Now to catch you up on whats been going on.

After our flight was pushed back twice, we finally arrived in Paris.  When we ascended from the metro we were standing in the awesome presence of Notre Dame. We found our hotel, which is in a very old part of town.  Check-in and took a nap.  Barcelona wore us out.  We woke up around 10 and I got dressed and walked around a bit. I grabbed some cheese, a baguette and a bottle of red wine and came back to the room.  I talked Jina into getting up and we went down stairs and grabbed a crepes, one with mozzarella and one with nutella and coconut.  We went back to the hotel and chilled out the rest of the night and listened to the rain.

We woke up at about 9:30 on Monday morning took our time getting ready, ate some cheese, and bread and went for a walk.  Notre Dame is steps from our hotel so we decided to go there.  It was amazing!!!  How they used to build stuff like that by hand amazes me.  After seeing the inside we stood in line for an hour to walk the steps to the top.  It was cold as hell outside, so I dipped into a cafe and grabbed a few hot chocolates to keep us warm.  We finally make it to the front of the line and walk up a whole lotta steps to the top and boy was it worth it.  You could see everything from up there.   When we got to ground level we decided to walk along the river toward the Eiffel Tower.  We made a detour at the Louvre.  Holy shit!!!   There is so much to see inside that it is almost sensory overload.  We did get to see the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, and the Winged Victory, among many many other pieces of art.  It was nice to have Jina there as she was an art history major.  We left the Louvre and headed toward the Eiffel Tower.  We stopped at a brasserie along the way and had the worst onion soup and some pretty good steak frites.  We finally made it to the Eiffel Tower and the line was so long and not moving at all we decided to come back early in the morning.  We pushed our way through all of the guys hustling eiffel tower key chains and other petty shit and made it to the metro and back to our side of town. Honestly who the hell could keep an Eiffel Tower in their pocket???  Grabbed some more wine and went back to the hotel.  The sun was down at this point, I decided to take a quick nap and get up so we could go out.  We both passed out and when we woke up it was Tues morning.  Our bed in the hotel is the devil, it is so comfortable.

OK Tues. morning we wake up early and head downstairs.  We ask the lady at the desk if she had a recommendation for a restaurant, she said yes and made us reservations for a place around the corner. More on that in a minute.  We hopped on the metro and went to the Eiffel Tower. We jumped in the line which was growing by the second, but at least it was moving today.  It didn't take long for us to get to the elevator to take us to the second floor.  We waited in line for 30 mins or so and took the elevator to the top.  WOW are you up there.  The good thing is that I think that skydiving cured me of my fear of heights.  Anyway the view is amazing and it was cold up there.  We took in the view for a while and hopped on the elevator to the second floor and took the stairs to the ground level.  It is neat to think that the Eiffel Tower was supposed to be a temporary exhibit at the worlds fair.  Glad they didn't take it down.  From there we went to the Sacre Ceour, the church of the Sacred Heat.  Amazing.  The architecture in that place makes you speechless.  I wish I had some pics of the inside to show you but you can't take pics inside the church.  We went back to the hotel, I wanted to do some shopping before dinner.  Went to this mens clothing store called Celio and was hated on by the security guard,  This sack followed me everywhere in the store, like I was going to steal something.  I tried a jacket on and put it down, walked around the corner and looked at a few shirts and decided to try the jacket on again cause I was more than likely going to make the purchase and it was gone.  Less than 2 mins. later it was gone.  Me and the security guard were the only ones upstairs and he and the jacket were gone when I went back to try it on.  What a douche!!!  Oh well!!

We had dinner at a nice little place called Le Lutin dans le Jardin, it had 11 tables in it.  One guy in the kitchen and one waited on the floor.  It was good.  Started with an amuse bouche of cream of white asparagus follow by our starters.  Jina had ravioli in a foie gras sauce, and I had a chunk of house made foie gras, both were tasty.  The next course, Jina had a salmon pie and I had roasted pork, they were good, not great, but good.  For dessert Jina had an apple tart and I had a selection of cheeses, we washed everything down with a nice bottle of white wine.

Today we are taking a train to Versailles to see the palace of King Louis and Marie Antoinette.  Tomorrow we head to Amsterdam, home away from home.  I am getting excited about just chilling.  I am tired of being a tourist.  We have done all the touristy things to do in the Dam so we are going to rent bikes and just chill.

Sorry for the long post.  See ya soon....

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Last few days in Barca!!

So I am finally able to blog again.  I have a lot to do today so I am going to make this a quick version.  Our last 2 days in Barca were amazing.  We had a killer time and met some pretty cool people.  So on the 9th we woke up and walked around a bit and ended up back in La Boqueria market and sat at a counter of a place called El Quim.  It was supposed to be one of the best places to eat in the market, we didn't think it was all that great.  Jina has the potato omelette, which was pretty good.  I had the razor clams, which ewere ok, the ones we had the other day were way better.  I also had the blood sausage, now that was tasty.  The couple sitting next to us were actually from Tampa.  What a small world.  From there we walked on and ended up on the beach.  It was nice.  We stuck our feet in the water,brrrr, just so Jina could say that she had been in the Mediterranean.  There were people laying everywhere, but not to many in the water.  From there we went back to the hotel and chilled out for a bit.

I did a little Google ninja action and found a place for dinner called Bubo'.  It was in the El Born area, a part of town we had not been to yet.  This area was JUMPIN"!!  We get to the restaurant and the tapas are made to order and not your run of the mill stuff.  We sat down and ordered some Ham Croquettes, Shrimp w/ garlic sauce, tuna belly, and a mini pizza with peppers and anchovy.  The chick behind the bar gave  us a free plate of marinated olives.  Now this place has another place right around the corner and they specialize only in dessert.  You wouldn't believe the desserts they had.  Check out the pic to the right.  In the Born area it is a lot of clubs and cocktail bars.  The big cocktail was Mojitos for some reason so we sat on the street and drank these all night long and watched all the hustlers selling cans of beer and other shit.  Spain is full of hustlers, Rick Ross would be proud.  We were a little drunk, so we took it home.

The next day was our final day so we told ourselves that we were going to take it easy.  We went to the Picasso museum, which was really cool.  We wandered around a bit, and went to relax at the hotel.  Our plan was to go out for a bit and go home early, WRONG!!!  We hit the streets and went to have a few drinks at Pepino, and met a couple from N. Carolina.  We told them that we were going to a reggae show and they could come with us if they wanted.  The venue wasn't open yet so the guy suggested we go to the Olympic village because they had an ICE BAR that he wanted to check out, so we hopped on the metro and went.  Should have gone home after that.  We ended up talking to the girl from Canada named Caroline who was living in Barca working at a hotel.  She went to hotel school in Switzerland.  She was great to hang out with and will be a good contact to have.  She got us into clubs that were not letting just anyone in and we drank free all night long.  We were out till like 5am and were up at 7 to get ready to go to the airport.  We get there 2 hrs ahead, and the flight was moved back twice.  Oh well what are ya gonna do.

Hoped you liked Barca, I will catch you up on Paris soon....

Friday, October 9, 2009

Day from HELL!!!

As you know we were not in the best of shape yesterday.  We spent  a good deal of the day licking our wounds from Wednesday night.  When we finally did get moving we decided to head over to Montjuic.  We got on and off the metro like 3 or 4 times trying to figure out how the hell to get to the cable car that would take us to the top of the hill.  We eventually found it, still hurting but pushing on.  The view from the ride to the top of Montjuic left you speechless.  You could see the whole city from up there.  On the top of the hill is an old Spanish fortress/castle that was also used in the World Wars.  There are some HUGE guns that sit up there, and the view again was amazing.  When we finished walking around the castle we took the cable car back down to ground level and decided that we would take the metro and decide randomly where to get off.  We were going rogue!!  That didn't work out so well.  It was about 4:00 or so and although the city center doesn't shut down for siesta, you can bet your sweet ass that the rest of town does!!  So we turned around and got back on the metro, again.  We thought it best to go back to our side of town, grab a quick bite and and take a siesta ourselves.  Our hotel is right by the University so we sat at a cafe by the Uni and I enjoyed some cockles and meatballs in sauce while Jina had a ham, cheese and egg sandwich.  We washed it down with a few beers thinking that a little hair of the dog was in order.  (the only sure fire cure for a hangover)  Finishing up lunch we went to the hotel to catch a nap.

Woke up about an hour later feeling a good bit better and thinking that the day was going pretty well, but that is all going to change soon.  I hopped in the shower and told Jina to pick out a restaurant that she would like to eat at, she chose Restaurante Rincon de Aragon, and it was GOOD!!  Spanish people seem to be really friendly.  Everywhere you go people say hello to you.  So the lady that waited on us was a doll. We picked out a nice bottle of Rioja that went down a little to easily. Jina ordered a salad and some garlic soup (which is having its revenge today) and I ordered something that I have been looking forward to since we booked the trip, roasted suckling pig.  I don't care that they ripped the little bastard from its mother while it was still on the tit, that thing was muy muy bueno!!!  It was two big pieces of melt in your mouth meat covered by the hard as candy skin, and in between the two was a nice layer of fat. MMMMMM!!!!  Can you tell that I enjoyed it?  Leaving the restaurant felling top of the world we had to hit up an ATM, and thats where things went wrong.  I put my card in, selected an amount for withdrawal and thats when it happened.  The ATM did nothing but spit out a receipt informing me that not only was I not getting the cash I requested I wasn't getting my card back either!!!  AHHHH!!!  What a nightmare.  In a frenzy I rushed back to the hotel room and called my bank to see what could be done.  They told me to go back to the bank in the morning and see if they could retrieve my card and that they would put a temp. hold on it.  After all of that it was well time for a few drinks.  We shot down to Pepino and sucked down a few beers before heading back to the room to get some sleep, cause I knew today was going to be a long day.

I hit the bed by about 2:15, I wanted to be at the bank when they opened in the morning @ 8:30.  I was up by 7:30 took a shower and went to the bank and waited a few mins for them to open.  Well no one in the whole bank spoke English.  They finally realized while I was there and told me that they don't have the key to the ATM.  I would not be getting my card back.  

My bank's customer service doesn't open until 6am so I had to wait till noon here to call them.  I get back from the bank and Jina is not feeling well (garlic soup revenge I think), so I rounded up all the dirty clothes and dropped them at the laundry to be washed.  I had a nice walk on the way back just to clear my head.  I was bumping Tough Junkie in the headphones.  Just what the Dr. ordered.  After talking with the bank on 3 different occasions this morning, I have been informed that it will take 4-5 business days to get a new card here in Europe, so I am waiting on my buddy Martin to send me his address so I can have a new card shipped there.  While walking I grabbed a few crossiants filled with chocolate and have convinced Jina that if she ate one and took a shower then she would feel better.  We are now sitting on our hotels rooftop patio and starting to enjoy the day.  Gotta soak it all in, heading to Paris on Sunday. 

Stay tuned...... 

Thursday, October 8, 2009

My head hurts!!!

My head is pounding!!!  I think that I drank more than I thought last night, but we will get to that in a moment.  So yesterday was a good sightseeing day.  We woke up, got ready and hit the street at about 11am. We stopped at Cafe Zurich to have a cafe con leche just to get things moving.  There is a huge food market in the middle of the city called La Boqueria that I wanted to check out, so we headed there first.  AMAZING!!!  They had it all from candy to Creadias (bull balls) and everything in between.  After walking around a bit and taking some pics we nestled up to the counter at Bar Cerntral where we had an amazing breakfast, a plate of Jamon and a mixed seafood plate.  The mixed plate consisted of a few razor clams (our first ones, tasty), some smaller clams, some HUGE prawns, salmon and 2 types of fish that I had no idea what they were.  One was a big filet and the other were two smaller whole fish, and when you cut into them all of the guts went spilling onto the plate, normally I wouldn't mind it, but not what I wanted to see first thing in the morning.

From there we walked down Las Ramblas to the port to check out the aquarium.  It was SWEET!!!  They had all sorts of fish, sharks, octopus, and even penguins.  I love penguins!!  After the aquarium we grabbed a few cans of Estrella and sat in the park by the water and enjoyed ourselves for a bit.

Ok so from the aquarium we hopped on the metro and went to see the Sagrada Familia, which is a huge church designed by Gaudi. (the man basically built Barca)  The church started being built around 1830 and is STILL UNFINISHED!!  It's huge.  We took the lift to the top and caught an amazing view of the city.  We were about 20 floors up!  It had been a long day so far so we headed back to our side of town, grabbed a beer at a cafe, saw a great band on the street and took a much needed nap.  By this time it was about 6 o'clock.

After getting up from the nap we wandered around the streets of El Raval looking for a place to eat.  We ended up at a small place called Bodega 1800.  It was good.  We dined on Calcots, (diceed onions) w/ prawns and romesco, Aubergines with tomato, Galacian chorizo, and some Cabralas cheese (stinky, but good)  The owner, upon hearing that we were on our honeymoon gave us a few glasses of Cava on the house. After tapas we had some foccacia with mozarella and tomato, grabbed some cans of beer from the corner store and sat in a nice square and chatted for a while.  While walking around afterwards we saw a poster for a reggae night at a place called Club C.R.E.A.M so we decided to head there and that is why we both have a head ache.

While we were walking to the club we were approached by a guy from England who asked us for directions to Las Ramblas and then said that he was looking for some Yerba (herb).  So we gave him a hash ciggy and told him where to go.  I hope that he goes home and tells his friends that all Yanks aren't wanks!!

So we get to the club, a little bar actually, the beats were bangin' the drinks were flowing and our asses were shaking!!!  The bartender gave us some free shots of berry vodka, which was tasty but strange because it was black vodka.  Strange I know.  It was called Eristoff, look it up.  So we got hammered drunk and walked home, I ate everything in the mini bar that I could get my hands on, smoked more hash than we should have and passed out.

This post maybe a little plain, but I have a hang over and I need a coffee and some food.  See ya soon!!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

It's Barcelona Baby....

So we made it.  Thank the gods, it was a hell of a long day of travel.  Ad now for the rundown of what happened on our first day abroad. I am glad that I carry abound a little notebook cause I would not remember all of this without it.  Now, let's get started.

We got to Barcelona (here on out to be shortened to Barca) at about 8:40 am local time.  They are 6 hours ahead of us in the States.  So we were tired as it was.  From the airport we hopped on the Aerobus and rode to the Placa de Catalunya and found our hotel, Hotel Jazz, which was right around the corner.  We were not expecting to be able to check in but they told us to come back in 20-30 mins and a room would be ready. NICE ONE!!!  So we wandered around, found a cafe' and had a beer.  MMMMM....Estrella Damm!!  We checked in, debated on what to do, I blew the fuse in the room and after they came to fix it, while laughing at me,  fell asleep before we knew it.  

Waking up a few hours later feeling refreshed, we took to the street. Through my super ninja google skills I located this place called Bar Jardi.  What makes this place unique is that you have to first find a store called El Mercado, walk to the back of the shop and up a set of stairs to a little roof top area.  There was a sign on the wall that read "Smoking Joints Prohibited" hehe. OK, so from there we walked through the Barri Gothic neighborhood.  It is the oldest part of town.  We wandered into the old Gothic Cathedral, now I'm not religious, but there is something humbling about places like that.  Leaving there we were feeling a little peckish and stopped in a tapas bar called Evinia vins i Tapas, had a few glasses of Cava, the Spanish sparkling wine and some Jamon, roasted red pepper and cheese on toast.  Tasty!!  I knew that we could find better tapas so we moved on.  Walked through the small winding streets of the Barri Gothic and ended up on the water right in the middle of the harbor.  We decided to head back to the hotel to change and walked through the Raval neighborhood.

After changing we headed out of the tourist area and located a place that I sniffed out on-line called Cerveceria Catalana, which is supposed to be the BEST tapas bar in the city, it did not dissapoint.  We munched on Bravas (fried potatoes like home fries) with aioli and spicy sauce, Prawn Brochette, and two types of Jamon (ham), downed a few beers and moved on.  On the way back we grabbed some beer for the room for later and decided to go out for a few beers.

While walking down the street we found guys hustling everything from cans of beer to bars of hash, not a bad price either. (sorry mom)  We found a great little rock bar in the Raval called Bar Pepino, had a few drinks and just walked around the city taking in the night sounds.  Felling tired from wandering and traveling all day we went back to Hotel Jazz and cracked a beer and passed out.  Now it's nine in the morning and I need a coffee, cause we have a long day ahead of us. 

Stay tuned....

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Quick Philly Layover!!!

So we had a six hour layover in Philly and we decided to leave the airport and check out some of the city.  Our plan was to hop a cab and go to Pat's and Geno's and compare steaks, our cabbie had other plans.  He said that he "would take us to Pat's, but that he would rather take us to Tony Luke's."  So on his recommendation we went to Tony Luke's, grabbed some steaks with WIZ to go and headed over to Independence Hall.  So we get to Independence Hall, get yelled at by security, ate our cheese steaks in the park out back and went to see the Liberty Bell.  It's a lot smaller than I remember. (of course I haven't been there since I was a kid) We still had a little time to kill so we walked over to South Street and had a few drinks in a bar called TATTOOED MOM.  Great little hole in the wall pub-n-grub place.  Had some great conversation with a few local punk kids and a lady who works at the zoo. (I swear we meet the greatest people when we travel, but thats what its all about.) After that we grabbed a train and headed back to the airport where we met a nice women from Germany while having a pre-flight drink.  Not that exciting I know, but the fun is just starting.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Just a few more days..

     Just a few more days and we are out of here!!  Just wanted to fill everyone in on the itinerary.  Our flight out of Jacksonville leaves MOnday at 10:40am.  Rrrrrr!!!  Thats early, but the kicker is that we have a SIX HOUR layover in The City of Brotherly Love.  I love Philly!!  It is not a town that I have been to in a long time.  So what to do with a six hour layover???  We are getting the hell out of the airport and hitting the streets. I think that a stop at Pat's and Geno's steaks are in order. Maybe the Italian Market, who knows.  Enough rambling, back to the itinerary.
     From Philly we head to Barcelona.  In Spain for 5 days, we fly to Paris on the 11th and check out on the 15th.  From there we hit the rails for the four hour trip to Amsterdam, where we will meet up with our good friend Martin.  I hope that everyone stays tuned, this is going to be one HELL of a trip.