Wars and Windmills

05 February 2007

Old Roads

It was two years ago this month that I discovered that the gods of fine bacon smiled more favorably on Britannia then they have across the pond. This is fine as it gives eager travelers and pork lovers an excuse to make the trip. It must be said that normally I am not a fan of pork in any form, or beans for that matter, but this mighty breakfast, served up pipin' hot as only The Easton can deliver, has to this day yet to meet its match.

Also while staying in the Easton I learned of a feature that is normally not advertised as a commodity at a hotel: Ninja Proof Rooms. I will never again fail to request a room so well equipped. You see, when you are full of manish volatility like me, trouble seems to follow you quite consistently, this is why the Easton's ninja proof rooms held such high importance and were such a welcome surprise. No matter the time of day or night, these trustworthy squeaky floor's loud and pained retching would put a halt to any possible sneak offender's sidecar of tricks. Never have this young traveler nor his friend slept so well or felt so safe. Knowing fully that any artful dodger, clandestine rascal, shifty rogue, or a ninja, the masters of stealth, would find his coming thwarted and the alert sounded as though a trumpet were set a blowing.

These life lessons were only some of the many learned during Joe’s and I month long trip across Europe two years ago; and London was only the first stop...simply amazing.

From London we went to Paris, the famed home of Gerard Depardieu. As it turns out his name, conveniently, is actually the universal term in French for anything you would ever want to say. Priceless. Hungry and looking for a decent restaurant? Merely walk up to a passing Parisian and while pointing to your stomach and mouth say "Gerard Depardieu" in a quasi-French accent and you will be directed to the closest eatery. A really great trick, one Rick Steves in all his wisdom fails to mention.

We then went to Italy's Cinque Terra, and stayed in the gracious Rosa 4 apartment. The water heater was 5-gallons at most, making for some cold showers, but the cities are as gorgeous as expected. We stayed in Vernassa and hiked to the other four cities via a trail that connects them all. Ah Vernassa. Not only the home to Rosa 4 but the temporary haven to Arles, a fellow traveler who was in charge of our days and our nights. I was happy to have Arles in Charge. Thanks to Arles, the scenery, the architecture, and the feral cats, this place was my favorite little town.

We then traveled by train through the night to Florence Italy. We splurged on a couchette that was just big enough to hold two three-high bunk beds. I would make a meritless quip here about Europeans and personal hygiene and the results of such a gathering in a tiny room. But truthfully Joe and I were dirtier and stinkier then any of them. So, I slept as well as can be expected. As for the others...I can only guess.

Rome was next. In case you were curious, there is no McDonlads in the Colosseum, as the American tour guides will be more than happy to tell you when you turn down there tours.

Then we had some misadventure after heading for Greece. We missed our ferry in Bari and were forced to spend the night. Joe and I disagreed about what to do next and said flavorful farewells to each other and reconvened in the morning. The night was long, longer then this post is becoming. So, for that reason it suffices to say that we made it to Greece, and befriended two Australian girls, an Albanian named Claude, and got advanced degrees in the fine art of 'zza with an emphasis in toppings from the "Pizza University" in Brindisi, while on the way.

Greece was pretty much closed. Athens had amazing Gyros, and Stavros Melissinos the coolest poet sandal maker in the world...honestly, the man changed my life. And it was quite something to walk among the antiquity that, to me, seemed to saturate the air.

After failed fishing attempts on Crete and a brief sojourn in Santorini we flew for 5 euros to Venice. From Venice, we took a train to Praha. Prague was a refuge for us as our money was finally worth something. We ate like kings. If cathedral architecture were to do battle, an odd kind of stone, glass, nave, cherub, and pew smack down, St. George's cathedral would bring the pain...honestly. Also there is Charles Bridge, the Jewish Museum, the brisk air, scarves a-plenty...et al.

Next off, Amsterdam; great museums and legal drugs, quite the city for a hedonistic hipster of which I am not, but an amazing Van Gogh museum.

Then to Brussels. A very cool city almost missed due to my ineptitude at reading a map and governing the correct stop to get off the train. I knew I had misstepped when I saw Joe's angry head sticking out a window of the then moving train shaking with total and understandable disappointment. Oops.

We then flew to the city of my ancestors, Dublin. We saw saw a bum fight. We also the Book of Kells, which for all its intricacy took a backseat to the bum fight. Not enough time was spent there. I then flew 8 hours earlier than Joe to Edinburgh.

If I hadn't been to Prague, Edinburgh would have quaffed from the flagon of coolest city. But it is nonetheless, a close second. We went to Roslyn Chapel, and then walked back because we missed the last bus back. We thought we would find another bus stop along the way, but we just didn't. It was a nice walk of 10 miles or so.

Then we took a bus ride from Edinburgh to London, which would have been a fine eternal punishment for the minions of th dark lord it was so miserable. It was hot, cramped, smelly, seven hours long, and a man actually fell asleep on my shoulder. But the ride was worth it in the end because we once again spent one more night at the Easton with accompanying godsend of a breakfast which served the dual purpose of a bounteous and hearty meal, and the ideal capstone to a superb month.

The next day we went home.

Looking back at this trip I am reminded of one final Euro-lesson: there is one constant that seemingly prevails through European blood, the compulsion for terrible jeans. Now these jeans transcended the simple faux pas of stonewashed and pleated variety. These featured pockets abounding over the entirety of the jean, zippers running the length of the pant, and two tones of jean and leather thrown together in a patchwork of 18 kinds of ugly...and on and on. No matter the country, terrible jeans ran rampant. But there is more. The jeans were accompanied by backpacks that were reminiscent of the design team that brought us the eye candy of the Trapper Keeper. Very odd. Very contrary of the fashionista that everyone thinks of when they are thinking of Europe as a fashion mecca. These Europeans seemed to fit in better in hanging out in my room in the 80's. Granted this is a magnificent generalization, especially in northern Europe. But it was still sick and gross, and I was appalled.

O Europe.


  1. The jeans are baffling! Why are our 80s movies just getting to them? Are movies truly that slow? And the zippers? Is there a surplus of zippers that must be gotten rid of at any cost?

    The Czech Republic was the worst for jeans. And Germany was the worst for backpacks. I saw dozens of backpacks with spikes adorning them. It seems that sometime after World War II, the Nazis mated with porcupines to come back stronger and better.

  2. Hound--

    that was the finest of fine entries my friend. Truly, the entry to end all.

    The Easton...like a pink hatbox or a velvety womb, it closed us within and kept us safe from ninjas, and on our last night, provided us with a comprehensive list of the 100 greatest cartoons of all time

    Other glowing times: (Santorini times--the purchase of the GameBoy Advanced)--trying to fish at night (and nearly dying) in Aghios Nikolaus, Bart Simpson servin the 'Za hot in il Cinque Terre, being able to once again use "Gerard Depardieu" in Belgium, the late night BK in Munich, Ruth from Innsbruck, the food on Crete, too many. Great post.

  3. i haven't seen that picture! what other gems have you yet to unearth?

    glad you commented...i would have added more, but the post was getting out of hand.

    I forgot about Ruth!

  4. Not having brothers, I enjoy reading about these testosterone driven trips. That said, I have determined that despite Darren and I going to Paris for our Honeymoon, I believe that he enjoyed the Europe trip with Joe much better! Probably because Joe didn't make him stop at every pastry shop in Par-ee for a chocolate croissant. Now all I want to know is...Who is Ruth?

  5. Oh, Lindsey. Only you would put the word "Testosterone" in the same sentence as Darren and Joe. Testosterone is not what fuels nerds like the aforementioned. No, it's called "Sexual Frustration". That's why they can stay up to all hours debating who would win in a fight between Boba Fett and Warf, Chekhov and Yeats, Heathcliff and Jean Valjean, Lindsey Lohan and Anne Frank.

    Without Darren's vital source of energy, I'm sure he was much different in Europe...

    Oh, nevermind. Guys, who do you think would win in those fights?

  6. James,

    Heathcliff the animated cat, Heathcliff the Wuthering Heights character, or Dr. Heath"cliff" Huxtable? I need to know because it will affect my decision. But, really, I think Heathcliff the animated cat would win no matter what. The other Heathcliff's would be hampered by pride, Jello, and bad sweaters.

  7. It seems that Warf is most proficient at hand to hand combat, while Boba Fett's fighting prowess extends past mere fisticuffs into jet packs and laser guns, and he can match wits with a Jedi.

    However, if the fight were to take place on a balance beam perchance, then my money is on Warf because Boba Fett's balancing ability is lacking...as seen from the simple bump that sent him flying into Sarlacc, and a "new definition of pain and suffering as you are slowly digested over a thousand years", to quote C3PO.

    So if the fight is sans balance beam, then Warf is going down.

  8. Boba Fett was slightly misrepresented in that fateful battle at Jabba's sail barge. Maintaining balance in a full suit of Mandalorian armor is no trivial feat, but his jetpack was surely sabotaged right before the filming of that slapstick death scene. If I remember right, the foley had the nerve to superimpose a Wilhelm on top of of the plummeting Jeremy Bulloch's cries of rage and disgust at the injustice his character was suffering.

    So...notwithstanding Warf's natural prowess at melee combat, every time those two end up on the holodeck together I can only see glimpses through jetpack smoke of Warf being dragged through the air with his own wrists tethered by a well aimed grappling hook, scorched by flamethrowing gauntlets, peppered with Westar pistol fire, covered in backpack-rocket contusions, and demanding an honorable death just before he's frozen in carbonite.
    It sounds grisly, but I'll have you know I begged Warf not to go through with it.

  9. Pleased to be explaining Warf?

    The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation? The misspelled version of a landing place for ships?

    Boba Fett would win against those.

    A ha, google image answered for me: you speak of this dorsal-fin headed creature from Star Trek?

    I know nothing about him, but Fett would wax that chump like a candle.

  10. But what about the Yeats v. Chekhov? Chekhov has the military might of the Russian Army at his disposal for any tag team mayhem but Yeats commands a legion of spectres and haunts. The matchup is fierce.

  11. a fine point James. as we learn from Return of the King, an army of angry ghosts are a horde to be reckoned with. But Chekhov has a weapon that to some is equally as powerful: the real world. The battle is epic and boils down to fantasy v. reality...D&D v. The Jocks...timeless.

  12. Valerie10:55 AM

    I hear Chekhov was an assassin. That's actually what The Cherry Orchard was about.

  13. I was hoping for a doogie howser M.D life lesson learned at the end

  14. Shelly Brown2:51 PM

    what the....?