Europe Days 1 and 2.

Okay. I’ve decided to just post my journals as is, without any editting. The pictures for the first two days (which just blended together, cause we didn’t go to sleep at all.) are now up here. (along with day zero).They were pretty much ready last night, as promised, but then I ran into some weird errors, and didn’t get that straightened out until earlier this morning. Anyway, what follows is what I wrote when I had time during those days. I’m not even going to try reading over them before posting, cause I’d prolly end up deleting most of it, and that’s no fun. I just added spacers where new entires started, and ran a quick spell check so things would be slightly more legible. It should be noted now that during these two weeks there were times when I had lots of free time on my hands, and just wrote as something to do, and other times when I had no time at all to write, and tried to quickly covere as much as possible just so I wouldn’t forget. So keep that in mind when you notice how boring most of this is.

Days One and Two

I’m in O’Hare right now.. our flight leaves around 1, and it’s about 11:30 maybe? I don’t know, as i didn’t buy a watch, an I don’t have my phone. Speaking of that, I’ve been without my phone for about an hour now, and I still am not used to it. Since purchasing that phone, i have been without it only once, and that was for a few hours when I was really really pissed off. So going without it will take some getting used to. Granted, while out there I ought to have a bit less need to randomly call someone up, but the idea of being some completely disconnected from everything: No Internet, no seeing lots of people, no phone [no lights no motor car]. It’s going to be weird. I’m so used to checking my phone for the time too. I’ve been without it for an hour, and I’ve tried to check it twice.

Oh, here’s something for you, my backpack is HEAVY. I’m going to die. I didn’t think it was that bad, but with the tent and sleeping bag and a number of last minute supplies.. standing in line to get out tickets… yeah. If i don’t come back looking hella tough and hella strong, then something is very wrong. [This is your reminder to tell me I look hella tough and hella strong.]

I wasn’t going to take my keys with me, because there would be no point.. So in true fashion, I left them in my pocket. We get to the security gate, and I remember the AMD pocket knife I had worked so hard to get (At the Vegas Apachecon). Yeah, I no longer have that. Which is really unfortunate. We didn’t check any luggage, so I couldn’t quick toss it in their either. So.. Yeah, that’s more than a little disappointing, but it’s my own damn fault, so what are you going to do? So now we’re sitting here in O’Hare, waiting for our flight to leave. We managed to gets seats together, which is excellent (we had all gotten our tickets at different times online, so.)

After hanging out with some extended family ([Me, Becky, Mindy] + Julie, Grandma, Aunt Nancy, My parents, Uncle Ed and Aunt Jill + cousins Deb and drew, Friday evening, we crashed at my Grandma’s place. Then My Aunt Nancy drove us [Me, Becky, Mindy] along with Grandma to the airport. that’s where we’re at. Time to start Harry Potter I guess.

okay, we’ve been on the plane for a while now (prolly 45 minutes or so) And wow, I really hate the first 20 minutes of a plane flight No I guess that’s not quite true, the first 4 minutes are really kewl: the burst of speed, the leaving the ground, the seeing things get smaller as you ascend. Then, the pressure starts. I’ve got ear problems, and flying with these ears just sucks. [You can ask Josh about my ear problems. He was my roommate during the unfortunate dual eardrum explosion incident.) So, flying, an we ascend, and the pressure grows, and no amount of yawning, gum, swallowing, anything with get my ears to pop. And the pressure gets more extreme, and I get dizzy, and begin to desire death. I learned after my first flight that keeping my eyes open was a bad idea [I passed out, and it sucked], so now when the pressure gets bad (usually noticed by an inability to focus on anything, and the feeling that we’re constantly turning hard to the left.) I shut my eyes, and try to mentally make my ear passages open up. This flight was no different, and after about 15 minutes of pain, the right ear finally popped (I had bet on the left one… I was wrong), then there’s a really painful but relieving feeling for a few seconds, and then everything is lopsided until the other ear decides to follow suit… which happened about 5 minutes later. So that’s the part of flying that I really, really hate.

Now Becky is listening to CDs, and it took Mindy all of about 3 seconds to get addicted to Wario Wares Inc. I think we land in about a half an hour. This mini keyboard was a wonderful investment. More Harry Potter.

Okay. we landed in Newark, New Jersey. I don’t recall ever being to New Jersey before, but I’ve watched enough TV to know that people don’t think very much of it…. and now it would appear that there’s a good reason for that… Well, from what I saw’s a hole, and the airport blows. Not that Grand rapids has a great one, but Grand rapids is very small, and Newark must be the jumping point to Abroad for a lot of airlines, cause I saw Air France, Air Israel, and a few I couldn’t translate here, and we’re going to Paris from here. That being said, they really ought to make the airport suck less. we got off the plane, [first we waited for everyone to get off the plane, because our carry-on luggage was strewn all over the plane, as Becky’s bag needed to lose a few inches before it fit, and Mindy’s and mine was just big. THEN we got off the plane] Then a guy who doesn’t speak English does a crude pointing job towards where we’re supposed to go… we figure it out. We got on the “air train” [seriously, just call it a tram], and it stopped at concourse B.. and as I was halfway off I was told that wasn’t our concourse. The other guy riding with us [with about 5 people’s worth of luggage] attempted to get off, but the door wasn’t lined up very well, and his luggage didn’t fit, and the door shut pretty much on him. “Guess I’ll have to get it next time,” he said. Then we proceeded to Concourse C, our concourse. It slowed down, then gunned it, and went right by it. Then it stopped a few hundred feet past the building… and then started up again. When we got to the next stop (a parking garage complex) We all got off the tram…as did about 25 other people, and lined up for trams going the other way. Turns out it was “the new guy’s first day” and he wasn’t familiar with the stops. Seriously dude, you’re driving a tram with a total of 6 stops. If you’re buy a building, STOP. It’s not rocket science…. It’s not that I minded missing our stop.. I found it amusing.. but the idea that someone that stupid is operating something capable of cause serious harm to me frightens me a lot.

So we get on a new tram, and that on does stop, and we head to the main gate… We needed gate 73.. an the big sign said “for gates 100-131” So that’s not us then. But there was NO signs or explanation or map to help us get to where we were supposed to be. Mindy asked someone.

Flashback: back on he plane, there were these two girls that sat in front of us. Jodi and Megan. Megan sat down, and since she was by the emergency exit thigner, she turned back to me and asked “Do you know how to work this thing?” “I assume you just pull on the thing labeled ‘pull'” I replied. It’s this kind of witty banter that makes me such a hit with the ladies. (witty banter –> I’m a freaking moron) So she asked if I liked flying, and of course I do not, and she didn’t either.. and we started talking, and her friend Jodi, and Mindy and Becky joined in. They were with a group of people going to London and then Paris. They also know a guy whose dad owns “Bilbo’s”, a restaurant near Kalamazoo. We talked for a while, then we were left to experience the wretched portions of flying for ourselves (Megan apparently was squeezing Jodi’s hand much of the flight.) We talked for a while once we started landing, then wished them all well, and they were off.) flashback done

well, we’re walking trying to find our where our gate is, and we run across Jodi and Megan again, wave Hi, wish them well on their trip, etc.. then continue on.. Eventually, we find where we are supposed to be, and get in line for another security check, and there Jodi and Megan are again. Okay, so when we get to security it’s a mad rush to get our packs off, get all the bajillion things out of our pockets, etc. So I’m ready to head through, and the lady says “got all the stuff out of your pockets?” I check, and toss my keys into the bucket, then quick toss my shoes in there (they had everyone take those off as well.). Then I toss my belt in there, and quickly rescue my pants from dropping quickly to the ground (this new pair of pants apparently knows the “belt off” routine.) I toss my camera in the bucket, and then quick toss this handspring and keyboard as well. Then I walk through.. it buzzes. I walk back over, and she points towards some old guy with an electric wand… I know the drill. Go over there, and grab my wallet and passport out. he starts wanding me, and I empty 22 cents out of my pocket (stupid McDonalds) Figuring that was it, I wait for him to finish. the buttons on my jeans set it off, but he lets that go (after a few hand gropes [yeah.. that’s hoe they measure pants… in prison.) then he wands my ass, and it rings off.. I reach back there to find my gameboy advanced. Stupid gameboy. So yeah.. empty that, and the old guy starts getting lippy with me: Did the lady up there tell you to empty your pockets? Yes, she did. yeah.. well you should have done that then… Prick.

So yeah.. make it out of there finally, head to our gate, and it’s packed. We blow a half hour , then get on the plane (here’s something for you. Some people don’t understand the concept of “lines”. (line –> First in first out. Not “I’ll cut in front of you, even though my passport is stuck inside the bottom of my bag and it’s not even my section’s turn to go.” ). Got on the plane and sat for a LONG time. These planes are slick though.. Tv screens in front of each chair and all that jazz. Only my earphones jack sucks, I have to wrestle with the inputs to make them work, and it’s quite rare to get both left and right to work at the same time. Sucks. The controls for the TV were also pissing me off, until I realized that they only allowed the audio to work for a while, until they got through the preflight stuff, and a ton of advertising in both English and French. Now it finally works (and good Morning Miami is going to be on in a few hours.) But for now the Recruit just started, and I’m watching it, so that’s pretty kewl. I’m going to watch that. Oh yeah, and the batteries in my gameboy are dead. and the replacements are in my pack.W00t. 6 hour flight. Fun stuff. I’m going to Paris. Still hasn’t sunk in. Outside is nothing but clouds, so there’s nothing to see there. Anyway back to the Recruit.

okay, the recruit was good. I just watched two episodes of Good Morning Miami, including the original pilot, with a different Gavin and no Penny. It wasn’t great, but it still had Jake and Dylan, so I was glad to see it. This flight is going amazingly fast, I think the movie def. helped. I just listened to Alvin and the chipmunks sing “kiss the girl” from the little mermaid, and now I’m listening to someone read Green Eggs and Ham.. In Paris time, it’s currently 4:00am, but Chicago time it’s like, 10, and technically it’s midnight right here… but either way, I’ve got about 3 hours, and I should sleep. again, this keyboard is sweet, and if I didn’t lug my laptop everywhere, this little pda would work quite well.

Wow, I’m exhausted. My body believes it should be about 11:45, but here’s it’s more like 5:45, and we’ve already put in quite the day. I’ll see what I can remember (there are plenty of pictures to Jog my memory later.

Okay, we landed at Charles de Gaulle airport, and waited in line for a long time to have our passports stamped, then we were off.. only we didn’t really know where Mindy had a rough idea where the hotel was. (i say hotel, but I quickly learned that Hotel means Hostel, and computer lab connected to the internet means old ass machines with a button and a scroll ball, and a plastic covered keyboard that charges 1 euro for every 10 minutes, and wisely connects to things very very slowly.

After some searching around, and purchasing a map of Paris, Mindy had a decent hunch where we should be headed. We would need to take the train. Figuring out how to purchase train tickets prove to be another time consuming hassle. Finally, we got a guy that spoke decent Englisher, and he sold us some train tickets, and we headed to the train station, and not a soul checked for our tickets ever. this would become a trend.

Hope on the train, and by this point we have realized that our packs are HEAVY. make it to the hostel, but our room was not yet ready. So we quick went online (sinking a euro for 10 minutes), took care of the information for the Italy section of our trip (and there was much rejoicing), We stowed our packs in a storage room (and there was even more rejoicing.) then we headed off to the Sacre Caeur Basilica, a church on a hill near the hostel that has a beautiful overlook of pretty much all of Paris in front of it. It was spectacular We began to wake up a bit, Seriously, after riding in a plane all day, those packs were heavy and annoying. We were so very glad to be rid of them.

After hanging out there for a while we started walking back, and stopped in a small cafe run by a Korean guy who spoke good French and a little English. Some strong coffee and croissants later, it started to rain. We hung out in the cafe for quite a while (our room was supposed to be ready by 11:30), so when it got near time, we headed off, and returned to the hostel, but the room still was not ready. After some time, we decided to just head out again. We planned on seeing Notre Dame. So we went to the nearest metro station, and after a lot of problems with the computer dealie that was supposed to dispense tickets, we just bought some off of this guy who was trying to help. Then we went on in, (and again, there was no reason to buy the tickets, no one ever checked.), found out ride, and headed off to Notre Dame.

Notre Dame was large, and impressive. when we first saw it, the side facing us was covered with scaffolding, and it didn’t look at all like I assumed it would. After moving to the side, it looked a lot more like what I imagined, only a lot bigger. Then near the back, it looked even more like an old style cathedral.

It was raining a bit while we were looking at Notre Dame, but not bad, and the weather otherwise was quite pleasant.. and it was finally starting to feel like Paris (Becky and I had remarked earlier that it didn’t look much different from a normal US town.. but once we got into the city a bit more, that changed. ) so since our room prolly still wasn’t ready, I suggested heading towards the Arc de Triumph. that would be a fairly decent trek. Turns out there was quite a bit along the way, as well. we swung by the Hotel de Ville, the Palais de Justice, Ste Chapelle [well, we hit that before Notre Dame], then we walked by the Louvre [we’ll be going there Tomorrow] that place is HUGE.. And I don’t mean like, Silverdome huge, i mean Zeeland township Huge. I’m looking forward to going in there. we passed by the Orsay Museum, and waked through the Jaroin des Tuileries, and there we could see the Arc de triumph in the distance, along with the Pl. de la concorde.

Just past FDR Ave, we decided to head towards the Eiffel Tower (we could pretty much see the arc, and walking another mile to prove that it was, indeed, a giant arch didn’t seem worth it. So we took a sharp right and walked by the Assemblee nationale, and the Invalides and Ecole Militaire. Then, after losing site of the Eiffel tower for a little while, we turned a corner, and there it was. that thing is pretty big. Walking closer to it we ran across some crazy martial arts performance that was just winding down. We spent a decent amount of time at the Eiffel tower then (we’re going there again tomorrow night, I believe), and took a LOT of pictures, then I fell asleep on the grass, and it was wonderful. Woken soon afterwards, we decided to head back and get our room, etc. we found a train stop, and this time we just went in (and there was much rejoicing). after waiting a half an hour, we got sick of waiting, and decided to just find a Metro station. So we did that (and again just hopped on in, That’s the way to do it) We hopped on the metro, made it back to the Hostel, got our room, (a 3 bed room with it’s own shower. wonderful. Mind you the bathroom is 3 x 6 x 6, ans the floor is covered in about half an inch of water, and it has no toilet, but still, it’s nice. Now we’re all changed, and exhausted, and pondering dinner. there’s a decent chance we’ll just fall asleep instead. I don’t know what they’re like, but I’m used to skipping means, and certainly wouldn’t mind too much doing so today. Either way , I’m drifting off to sleep.. perhaps a little nap would help me out.

The nap didn’t happen.. we headed off in search of food without a hassle (read: McDonalds) but we couldn’t remember where one was (we remembered seeing one earlier in the day, but couldn’t remember where. So we started walking around the town again, and finally ended up at “Quick” burger. The name was ironic , I believe, cause.. Yeah, not so much. They did give me a giant tub of Mayonnaise with my fries though, so that was nice. We ate our meals, and hung out there for a while, then headed back to the hostel and played cards until 8:30 (we had made the rule that we weren’t allowed to go to sleep until at least 8:30 to help acclimate us to the time change, but yeah, it was a lot of work not falling asleep. [ I fell asleep in the middle of a hand towards the end] once it was 8:30 we went to sleep. It was still bright out, and the bar below us was not super loud, but certainly noticeable. Nevertheless, i fell asleep instantly, and woke up when I was woken up at 7:30. We were supposed to meet up with Jacqui at the airport at around 8-8:30 (give or take a little while for customs… I think her flight landed at 7:45) I’ll take this moment to reiterate: I am in charge of absolutely nothing on this trip. I’ve made almost none of the decisions, almost none of the plans, and been in the lead none of the time. Therefore, all praise and complaints associated with the organization of this trip fall squarely on people that aren’t me.

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