Friday, December 28, 2007

I'm.... really full.

Air action in front of the Notre Dame

There's just simply too much to tell. Too much. So I'm going to let the bumbling idiot next to me attempt to capture the essence of the last few weeks in one simple post... Here he is:

HIiiiIIIIIIIIiiiiiiiiiiiiii!!! This is BENKO, reporting live, from Barcelona. It's been quite the journey so far, with twists and turns rivaling Lombard street. Let's recap from the beginning.

Thursday night of Finals week, Neo and I try to leave the warm heart of San Diego (La Jolla) and journey to the treacherous port known as LAX. Leaving many crying friends, we drove up during the late night, arriving at Neo's house to a pair of flapping penguins, welcoming us for a longer stay than we had anticipated. 3 pieces of sushi and half a box of chocolates later, we had fallen asleep, in preparation for long plane flights and deep butt imprints in our seats ahead. Planning on an 8am departure from the house to catch our 11am flight, we woke up abruptly to my phone alarm. 8 am it was already... not to be distraught, we took nice long warm showers, and even stopped for breakfast close to King's bakery. Once at the airport, things took a turn for the worse.

HORSES WERE EVERYWHERE! I don't have words to describe the horrors unfolding in front of us at the airport, but I was... frankly terrified. Determined not to let this natural disaster derail our plans to visit our friends, we braved the clouds of dust and the flurry of hooves to reach the ticket counter. Unfortunately, we were unable to check-in bags for our flight, and were booked on another flight the next day. Neo and I paused for a moment to pray for those that had been mauled by the horses, and also to make a quick suggestion to God to keep horses out of airports. The rest of that day was filled with all sorts of interesting pizazz that you can ask us about later, but mostly fashioning ourselves some cow/horse prods to use in case of emergency the next day.

Eventually we got to Spain. Could've been by plane... could've been by canoe. We don't remember much of it. When we did get there, we had to immediately re-prepare for the bull ride to Rome. I'm not sure why Spaniards enjoy such unorthodox methods of transportation... but they do... they really do. Our bull shepherding guides dropped us off somewhere near Termini train station, and we were then at the mercy of the cobblestones of Rome.

And cobblestones there were. Everywhere. That's pretty much all we saw in Rome was cobblestones. And some large pillars here and there. Pfft. Rome. Whatever. Oh yeah, we also went to Vatican City... a few things of interest there, like St. Peter's Basilica, the Vatican Museum, the Pope... and some chapel painted with tons of naked people. Real cheeky. Beautiful cheeks though. We have a few pictures here and there, feel free to check Facebook, if you know us through such venues, or I'll be leaving a few links at the bottom. I know you're all dying to know what we ate, so let me tell you, the lasagna is to die for. Literally. Lauren killed about three people fighting for our pasta and cheese dishes. Note to self: don't fight Lauren for anything. Stampeding horses were scary, Lauren... a-whole-nother level. Anyhow, pizza and calzone were also quite yummers. Better than home for sure... we even cooked a meal at our hostel. Traveling by hostel is excellent, for those of you interested in following our trailblazing steps. Our original hostel was overbooked so we ended up being transfered to Gulliver's House, a little hostel with three bedrooms, and carwash style showers. Every morning we had to get up, sit down on the moving walkway, and put ourselves in neutral. Then we'd go through the various cycles of their crazy showers. Distressing, yes, but effective. I might have lost a little skin in the process, but I did smell nice. If anyone tells you otherwise, they are wrong. Our first full budget traveling experience in Rome was quite enlightening, after getting lost many times and walking countless miles, we ended up in Venice by sheer chance...

Venice (or Venezia) was quite a transition from Rome. The constantly bustling streets of Rome had a certain grand aura to it. Venice had me at hello. Swept me off my feet right into bed. Or that's what they told me, after our first night wandering San Marcos square, and paying the paltry price of nine euros for gourmet microwaved vittles, I managed to conk out and snore the night away. Well, the night, my friends, and apparently our neighbors. Oops. Truthfully though, Venice was perhaps my favorite stop out of our three cities. The maze of canals in addition to the charming and rustic facades of the various homes and churches lining the footpaths just begs the visitor to get lost. We tried our best to get lost amongst the bridges and narrow alleyways, and enjoyed every second of it. From the fish market just steps away from our Hostel, the 50 cent tra-ghetto gondola rides, to the seriously infinite churches in Venice, we roamed and roamed for an entire day. And roamed. and roamed. Echo.... echo.... anyhow. The food in Venice leaves much to be desired, but we made up for it with Gelato. 1 Euro gelato is absolutely divine. Once again, pictures and Sierra will tell the story much better than I, so to facebook you shall go. We had an extremely short stint in Venice, but we managed to hit up the majority of what we wanted to see. We proceeded to rent a gondola, and rowed ourselves to the airport, and caught our discount flight to Paris.

A quick note on Ryan-air. I have yet to figure out who this "Ryan" is, but we thought we saw him on our first flight. He had an absolutely stunning purple, black, white and beige striped sweater on, and clapped with an unmatchable enthusiasm upon landing. As entertaining as "Ryan" was, the damn safety instructions painted on the backs of the seats are only entertaining for the first 30 minutes. And thirty minutes is stretching it. So my advice to you, if you want to buy cheap(.01 euros + tax and fees) Ryanair tickets, and pay the extra 30 euros worth of bus fees to get you from the random airports to the hearts of the big cities... bring some reading material. Or some scotch tape and blank paper. ANYTHING.

Anyhow, Paris. Fantastic city. They've got the Eiffel Tower, Quasimodo, and baguettes aplenty. Snooty French accents and art to last a lifetime. By the time we arrived in Paris, everything had shut down for the night, even the Eiffel Tower had gone to sleep. Luckily for us, it was about -7 degrees C, so we were unable to feel any of our extremities by the time we reached our hostel. AND when we attempted to access our room... there was stuff in our beds. So we were moved to a swanky private room complete with its own shower. Nice eh? The following day, we met up with a certain Petier, and had a brief history lesson on the city of Paris, from the Notre Dame to the Grand Palais. Of course, we had chosen to get lost before hand, so by the time the tour was done, we had totaled 6 full hours of walking. And then we chose to walk some more. Only because Sierra insisted on going into every store on the Champs Elysees. Oi. And then we went to some art museum, Louvre, or something like that. Saw this famous gal named Lisa, and a few other drawings. It was pretty neato. To cap our night, we headed up to the top of the Eiffel Tower, and watched Sierra prance around, giddy with glee, every time the tower started to "SPARKLE". Would not be the last time either. Oh, and we got lost trying to find our hostel again. Yippee! Our next two days were filled with crepes, more visits to the Eiffel Tower, hanging out at the Musee d'Orsay, and a kickass visit to the Palais Versailles. The gardens of Versailles are absolutely beautiful at sunset. They're beautiful at anytime of year. They're just beautiful. The ponds and fountains were all frozen over, and there were even swans in one of the fountains. Couples holding hands, little kids running through the pathways, and statues hiding in cloth bags from the elements made for quite the experience. And.... yeah. I am going back in the fall, for whoever wishes to join in my escapades. Finally, we had an exquisite dinner at a little restaurant in Paris, a nice four course meal with just amazing everything, including mashed potatoes that could stretch almost a meter. That's right, the metric system.

Anywho, we're prepping to leave Barcelona, which has also been exhilarating. Late night clubbing, inappropriately used plurals, and excessive eating have become staples of the Barcelona lifestyle. And not so much walking. Iiiiiiiiiiii recommend coming and visiting! and if not, the girls also welcome shipments of cheez-its. This is BENKO, signing out. You stay classy, world.

More paris:
Eiffel Tower:
More Eiffel:

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