Posts from August 2006.

Drinking in Pasadena

I got back this afternoon from a fun weekend in L.A. Well, I was mostly in Pasadena, but that’s close enough, right? One of my friends, who goes all the way back to junior high with me, finished his PhD a few months ago and is doing a residency at UCLA. His wife was out of town on business, so we decided to do a guys weekend. Drinking in Pasadena

Delay in follow-up

I had hoped to post some follow-up on my travels, but I came home from Europe with a nasty cold, so I’ve spent most of my time catching up on sleep. In some sense, I was lucky that I didn’t get sick until the last day of my trip. Usually I can count on a few down days during such a long trip. More… »

Long story short, I’m home

Long story short, I’m home.

Missed connection

It looks like I’ll make it home tonight, but I’ll be a lot later than anticipated. I missed the connection to Phoenix here in Minneapolis, but I got a boarding pass for a later flight to Las Vegas, then to Phoenix around 1 am. The check-in agent says this happens almost every day with the Icelandair flight, which has a short connection to Phoenix and is almost always late.

The thought of having been up for 28 straight hours is not at all appealing.

En route

The first flight segment is done, but it was the shortest. I have two to go, if all goes well. I’m having a beer at the airport in Iceland, which gave me a chance to use most of my remaining kronur. The next flight is reportedly on schedule.

From the plane, I was able to see the glaciers I didn’t see during my stay here.

Heathrow

After all the horror stories I’ve heard about Heathrow for the last six days, I arrived at the airport this morning, got through the security outside the terminal, checked in, went through the normal security checkpoint, cleared an emergency passport control, and arrived at the departure lounge in … wait for it … 20 minutes. I could have stayed in Oxford for another two hours, but oh well. I took advantage of the time to eat an enormous breakfast. It’s going to be a long day, and I’ll need more than three meals.

They are letting passengers take small bags on board as hand luggage now, but still no liquids, since I’m heading for the US.

All journeys end

I’ve just boarded the bus to Heathrow from Oxford, where I’ve spent the past two days with a buddy from college. It’s here that I begin what will probably not be a pleasant journey home. The security situation at the airport is very fluid, and I’ll find out when I get there just what I’ll be allowed to travel with. As a precaution, I’ve packed as much as I possibly could in my checked baggage, leaving only a handful of essential items in my small backpack. More… »

Waiting for a flight

I’ve had a pleasant four-day stay in Ireland, but today I head across the Irish Sea to England. I’ll spend a couple nights there before returning to the US.

Here at the airport in Dublin, everything at the security checkpoint seemed to be business as usual, although many flights to and from the UK are behind schedule or cancelled. Mine is delayed 20 minutes right now, meaning my bus connection in London will be awfully close. We’ll see how it goes. More… »

Guinness Storehouse

So, in what I imagine will be the last of my alcohol-related blog entries, at least for this trip, I toured the Guinness Storehouse here in Dublin today. I won’t elaborate much about this tour. Skybar at Guinness Storehouse in Dublin

Old Bushmills Distillery

Yesterday morning, after much holding my breathe, I was able to tour the Old Bushmills distillery in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, home of my very favorite whiskey. I was shut out all day Friday because there was some maintenance underway that required them to cancel tours, but they were able to re-open for Saturday. Bushmills whiskey in Northern Ireland

Another quick update from Ireland

I’m sure someone I know is waking up this morning, turning on CNN, and hearing about violence in Northern Ireland. I didn’t hear about it until an hour or so ago myself, so it hasn’t affected me, other than increased traffic. Police with machine guns were checking cars on the bridge in Derry, and I didn’t know why until later. In any event, I’m now back in the Republic of Ireland, where I had already planned to spend my time before heading back to the chaos in London.

Northern Ireland

I’m in County Antrim in Northern Ireland, where I spent the night in a farmhouse bed-and-breakfast about six miles from Bushmills. It was a bit of trouble finding a place to stay. The area is crawling with summer tourists from the Continent. I went to a pub last night, and I was beginning to wonder whether I’d really left Germany, since the place was packed with Germans. Touring Northern Ireland

Pub stop in Ireland

Quick update. I’m in Ireland, and for the first time on this trip, I’ve rented a car. I left the airport in Dublin maybe an hour ago, and I started driving north until I found a little roadside pub. I’ve had a pounding headache all day, exacerbated by a flight, a long line at immigration, and a car with both a right-side steering wheel and a stick shift, which is of course operated by my left hand, which is very confusing. Of course, once I get on the left side of the road, everything is backwards, so it all seems to make sense. I thought a little food, a little beer, a little coffee, and a little Advil would make the afternoon go better. Roadside pub outside Dublin

Weight

I had a discussion with a cousin of mine a few days before I started this voyage. He was joking that I might gain 20 pounds during this trip because of all the beer I’d be drinking, which is perfectly reasonable. However, I responded that I might lose 10 pounds because of all the walking I’d be doing, which is also perfectly reasonable. Weight change from traveling

German women, French language, Chinese food

New day, new place. I’m once again passing time on a train, this time bound for Cologne via Hagen.

I had a fun day in Kassel. My friend met me at the train station, and after we dropped my bags off at her place, we saw the city’s beautiful green spaces on foot, including a grueling half-hour walk to a castle perched atop a hill. We earned the ice cream we stopped for. I was surprised by the lack of tourists, since it was such a pleasant setting. Then again, it may have been pleasant because of the lack of tourists.

Later, we went out to dinner with some of her friends. The dinner was a Chinese buffet, and I must say I’ve rarely seen four young women eat so much at one time. I think one of them had six plates. They put me to shame.

At one point, my friend commented that I was the only man out with all these young women. I could do worse, I said. She studies French and math at the university in Kassel, and so most of her friends are classmates who also speak French. In fact, one of them was French. So it was somewhat bizarre that I was out with several young, attractive women, speaking French, at a Chinese restaurant in Germany. It’s not something that happens to me every day.

After dinner, we met some other friends of hers at a bar near her apartment for a drink. One of them did not speak French, and so the tables were turned, as the young women who speak French and German every day now had to speak English, which none of them had spoken in years. I got to be a teacher for a short while.

My friend put her apartment at my disposal, while she slept at a friend’s place nearby, which I thought was particularly generous of both of them. She had to leave early for work, so I didn’t see her this morning. I slept very well and rather late, and I almost missed my train.

I also missed breakfast this morning, and this train has no cafe car, so I am very hungry. Sometimes a regional train like the one I’m on will be serviced by a snack cart at some point. We’ll see. If not, I have a long wait for food. Hagen is still over two hours away, and I only have 11 minutes for my connection, if everything is on time. If not, I’ll have to wait another hour for Cologne.

My plans for tomorrow involve an airplane, which is the only reason I’m going to Cologne. This may be my last long train trip for a while.

One night in Munich: Posh restaurants and English Gardens

I had a very pleasant evening in Munich last night. My friend found me shortly after I wrote my last post, and fortunately she was willing to sit with me while I finished my beer. Despite being a two-minute walk from her apartment, she had never been in that particular bar. It was kind of an after-work place where guys watched sports, so I guess it wasn’t her scene.

The gods have recently forgiven me, and we had some really pleasant weather for walking around the city. We walked through the city square, all the way to the English Gardens, where the recent rain has filled the streams nearly to overflowing. We saw some places that were new since my last trip to Munich over three years ago, including a very posh shopping center and a market that had been turned into a restaurant hall, where we had dinner and chatted for hours.

I got an early start this morning, not immediately realizing that my train didn’t leave until almost 11. My friend left for work at 7:30, but she let me stay at her place as long as I needed. Even though I was only there for another hour, it was nice to have a little time to myself and an apartment at my disposal.

Today I’m on my way to Kassel to see another friend. I’m on the train now, and I’ll be there in about an hour. Germans and foreigners alike seem to know little about Kassel, so I guess I’ll just be surprised when I get there.

Munich: Bavarian beer

I’m waiting in a bar near where my friend lives in Munich. She had to work late, so she’s not home yet. I thought I’d have a beer while waiting for her. Until just now, I had forgotten how good Bavarian beer is.

No more words, while I savor the moment.

Weekend in Eisenstadt, Austria, and Bratislava, Slovakia

I’m once again aboard a train bound for somewhere. I left Eisenstadt early this morning so that my friend could drop me off before work. I took a rural bus to Vienna, where I took a streetcar to the train station, where I boarded the train I’m on now. I had meant to board an earlier train, but it took a half-hour to get a ticket, at which point I’d missed it. I’ll take this train to Salzburg, and then catch another to Munich, which is where I’m going today to meet another friend. More… »

Underground in Austria

I’m still here in Austria. I’m in Eisenstadt right now, staying with a friend. I met the friend, her boyfriend, and her boyfriend’s daughter at the airport in Linz, and then we drove to Altaussee, where we rented a charming cottage in the country for a couple nights.

Unfortunately, it has been raining almost nonstop since I arrived in Austria, so I have been experiencing the extremes of summer weather in Europe. The good news is that my friend had planned some underground activities for us, so we visited a salt mine one day, and an ice cave the next. Both were quite fascinating tours.

We dropped her boyfriend and his daughter off last night in Vienna, where he lives, and the plan for today is a day trip to Bratislava, Slovakia. I passed through Slovakia a couple weeks ago on my way from Poland to Hungary, but being in a country from 3 am to 6 am doesn’t really permit me to say I’ve visited it.

Arrival and beer drinking in Linz, Austria

I arrived in Linz yesterday afternoon. I did a little sightseeing, and then found a beergarden. Good beer and decent food, outside among the trees on a beautiful summer evening … did I need more?

Frankly, this is not such an interesting city, but I won’t be here much longer. I’m meeting my friend this afternoon. The only reason I’m meeting her here is that we’re picking up her boyfriend’s daughter at the airport. It’s much cheaper to fly from London to Linz than to Vienna.

I’m not really sure where we’re going from here, other than that it’s in the mountains. Since most of Austria is in the mountains, that doesn’t narrow it down much.

Austria

I crossed the border into Austria about an hour ago. I’ve often said that Austria is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, and the route I’m traveling today has done nothing to change my mind.

I’m going to spend one night in Linz before meeting a friend tomorrow. I hope I can find a place to do some laundry. I’m due for a haircut, too.

It’s also nice to be back in a country where I can read signs.

Great steak dinner in Ljubljana, Slovenia

I had the best meal of my trip this evening here in Ljubljana. I’d walked past a little hole-in-the-wall place with a sign that read “home cooking” several times since yesterday, so tonight I walked in. I don’t even know the name of the place. More… »

Sightseeing and comfortable weather in Ljubljana, Slovenia

I arrived in Ljubljana, Slovenia, yesterday afternoon. I’ve only walked around for a few hours, but I think this is the most beautiful city I’ve seen on this trip yet. For a capital city, it’s quite small. The city’s center is very easy to walk around. A very narrow river runs through it. There are cafes, bridges, and statues all around. A castle is perched on a hill just above the center. Beautiful Ljubljana