Monday, June 15, 2009

Hey Everyone!
I am currently in Prague, but have just spent about a week in Paris and 2 days in Vienna. Paris was lovely. I ended up meeting up with some friends from Clemson University and traveling with them for the week. One of the guys has an apartment in Paris which became our main hub for the week. We did most of the main tourist attractions such as the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Sacre Couer, the Louvre, ate crepes, baguettes with cheese, drank wine... It was also really nice to be able to do a few off the beaten track things too. We ended up eating lunch in the parks a lot and went to the Chantilly chateau just outside of Paris. They had beautiful gardens where we explored in a labyrinth for a while and walked throughout the chateau itself. It was a nice break from all of the crowds in the city. It was sad leaving Paris, but it's been nice to see some new places again.
I ended up traveling to Vienna with two of my friends from Clemson University, Boykin Lucas and Kevin Ferguson. We took an interesting overnight train from Paris to Vienna, which I think we all could agree on the fact that it was not one of our more enjoyable moments. We stayed at a pretty cool hostel with a private kitchen and super friendly staff. The second day in Vienna, we met up with my old roommate Catherine Cotrupi and her friend from Bratislava. We spent the afternoon exploring on the outskirts of the city at one of the Hapsburg's palaces. It was absolutely stunning. I have never seen anything like it. There were acres of gardens with old Roman ruins, mazes, fountains, statues, ponds... It was the highlight of my trip to Vienna. We could have easily spent the day there. After the palace, Catherine and I went to this incredible market and dinned on apple strudel and dried fruit. We had to put fictitious blinders on to keep from spending everything we had in the market. The smells alone were enough to keep you there all day. Once we had enough control over our senses, we met back up with the boys and Catherine's friend took us all out for authentic Mexican food. It was another great gastronomic experience.
After Vienna, Kevin and I took a train to Prague to stay with David and Sarah Baker, friends of mine from the States. They are currently working at the CzechInn hostel. This has been the nicest hostel I have ever stayed in and would recommend it hands down to anyone. The staff is amazing, the building is super clean and inviting, and the breakfast puts cornflakes and white bread to shame (that's been the staple at most hostels so far when breakfast is served). When we arrived in Prague, we went to the Czech National water polo championship game to watch some of their friends play. I have never been to a water polo game before and it was a neat experience. I think I would drown if I had to play that sport! I don't know how they do it. After the game, we went out with some of their friends for drinks and called it a night. Today, Kevin and I spent the day exploring the Prague Castle, the Jewish old town, and parts of the river. Prague is a beautiful place with an incredible past. There are signs of their hardship everywhere that you go. We decided that pain,suffering, and religion are a major reoccurring theme in this city.
Tomorrow I am off to Germany to visit my old roommate for a few days and get to know Bavaria.
Cheers for now,

Gear Review:
Seeing as it has been rainy and cold on and off in Vienna and Prague, the Patagonia H2NO jacket has been a blessing to have. It's a breathable lightweight jacket that is easy to pack in my day bag. I've been using it as a windbreaker at times too. Having long arms and a long torso, it is hard to find jackets that fit well, but this jacket fits like a glove. The sleeves extend half way down my hands and the waist line sits comfortably below my hips. It's a slim fitting jacket so there is no excess bulk to be fighting around with. It was a great last minute decision and makes for a perfect rain coat!


Hey Everyone!
After spending two and a half days in Amsterdam, I grabbed a train and made my way to Paris. Amsterdam was a lot of fun and a beautiful city. As previously mentioned, I was staying at this bizarre campground about thirty minutes outside of the city. It turned out to be quite nice though. I was able to rent a bike one day ( an orange one, very Dutch) and ride along the country side for a bit. As it turns out, I am not a very confident bike rider nor am I very good at it! There were a few close calls and lots of wobbling and swerving around! I did manage to make it to the next village and have lunch at a cute sidewalk cafe followed by a trip to the market for dinnner supplies. While in the city of Amsterdam, I went to the Van Gogh museum and saw the original Starry Night painting along with a few of his other works such as the Potatoe Eaters and some of his twilight paintings. It was a really neat exhibit. I spent the rest of my day walking through the streets looking at all of the different canals, going to the main park in the city and eating an ice cream cone; checking out the main sites from my tourist info map, and finishing the day off with a tour of the Red Light District. The Red Light district was a very interesting place with lots going on as you might imagine.My tour guide was great and kept our attention by telling fascinating stories and brief tidbits of the history behind the district. It was quite informative and I would highly reccomend it
On my last day in Amsterdam, I ended up touring qround with three other Americans from Illinois. We tried to take a canal boat tour, but they were full, so instead we trucked it on foot making up our own tour. I spent the day carrying my pack around because the lockers at the train station were not working. It was quite interesting making my way through the crowds with it. I felt like a bull in a china shop and was glad to be able to get rid of it for the train ride.
In Paris, I am staying with my friend Thibault and will be doing some sight seeing today and then hanging out with his friends tonight.

Gear Review:
So far everything has been holding up just fine. The more time I spend walking with my pack on, the more I realize the importance of packing it well in the mornings. I have yet to figure out a system that works 100% for me, but am still trying. I do really enjoy the lightness of the Granite Gear Nimbus Meridian pack, and it's easy front zip capabilities.

That's all for now, take care,

Monday, June 1, 2009

These are the last few pictures from Amsterdam. After that, I headed toward Paris via the Swiss Alps!

In swiss alps heading towards austria. Lots of snow everywhere, but not cold.

The pass we drove through on way to Scoul, Switzerland.

I was so glad Iwas not the driver!

Hot mineral baths/spa in Scoul, Switzerland-pretty amazing!

Still heading toward Paris with my new favorite shoes! Go tigers :) have worn them every day and haven't had one blister.