Vote No on Prop Hostel.

Although I have yet to update about my trip to Barcelona, I am currently in The Hague, Netherlands.  Yesterday prior to leaving I was running around like a madwoman in Heathrow Airport (or technically, I was sitting at a computer typing and clicking wildly while Alexander ran around for me) because out of nowhere this possible 1-year opportunity has presented itself and I needed to get my materials in (a cover letter, resume, writing sample, current law school transcripts, undergrad transcripts, and a list of references) off to Atlanta ASAP (ASAP as in the guy told me in the next 5 minutes would be preferable when I hadn’t even finished the cover letter… AH!).  Anyway, long story short… I got everything out just in time to basically run to my terminal to catch my flight to Amsterdam. 

Now, although the rest of my group is out exploring more courts in the Hague, I am sitting at a computer in the hostel where we stayed last night because it is now the start of the work day on the east coast and I need to be available by email.  So I took a cab back from the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and here I am.

While I anxiously await any possible emails… I just want to take a moment to recap my first Hostel experience.  The only reason I chose to stay here was because our leaders claimed it was “clean for a hostel.”  For those completely unaware, hostels are kind of communal living/college dorm like places where you basically just pay for a bed for the night, and popular with young people who are looking to sleep cheaply.

So, last night when we arrived at the hostel, there were police everywhere and red tape all around the street where our hostel is.  As it turns out (as I was informed by my taxi driver), last night right in the canal behind our hostel a woman was shot and killed in her boat.  (By a “friend” so it was a passion killing and not a random act of violence, but STILL.)  Then the taxi driver was like “yeah… not the best area of the Hague.” 

But that was just the beginning.  So when I got to my room in this “clean” hostel which I was sharing with 3 other girls, my sheets/duvet cover were wrapped in plastic which gave a false sense of cleanliness.  I opened the package to discover urine (and other) stains and a few pubic hairs! Excellent!

So I ended up sleeping in all my clothes with my hat on, but it was soo freezing in our room (since the heat is broken) that I had to ultimately use the blankets.  I don’t think I actually slept at all.  I can’t remember ever actually falling asleep.  All I could think was that I wish I had taken Alexander up on his offer when he suggested we go find a hotel in a nicer area of town.  Then when it was time to get up, I realized there were no towels, and I was scared of catching a disease from the shower because I had no flipflops… but I hadn’t showered the day before either and had been wearing a hat the whole day so I had to shower to look (and smell) professional.  So, I did the unthinkable–I took a shower in that scary shower with no flipflops and I dried myself off with the cleaner portions of the nasty sheets.

A few of the girls kept insisting that this was “really nice” for a hostel, but all that assures me of is that if this is “nice” then I will never voluntarily stay in a hostel again. Gross!  Some of the girls kind of had an attitude like I was being too pretentious.  Are you kidding me? Urine and pubic hairs on my blanket, no heat in freezing temperatures and a murder just occured outside our back window??

I mean.. if I were on the mission field I might have a little more grace for the circumstances (I still wouldn’t be ok with dirty sheets though), but this is a trip with my professional school to visit international criminal courts and I’m supposed to get up in the morning and put a suit on and try to stay awake through a bunch of presentations.  Ah!

The one saving grace of the morning was that when I came downstairs it turned out Alexander had woken up early and went out to find food for me knowing I would be hungry.  He bought me food for breakfast and for lunch because he knows how I get when I’m tired and/or hungry and he thought it would make me feel better knowing that my night was probably as miserable as his.

More power to those who can handle hostels, because I most certainly can’t.

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Some London News.

This past Friday was the dreaded Moot Court round that I had posted about.  I think all of the exhaustion finally caught up with me and I was just completely incapable of really preparing for the round.  I read the cases on Wednesday, then had “Looney Wednesday” where Alexander and Becky joined in for dinner, and then Thursday I had classes all day, and tried to prepare after class with Alexander but was just too exhausted.  Finally, I tried to go home and I just missed my train and I started crying while I was waiting on the platform because I didn’t want to be stuck there, I wanted to be home in my bed.  Or shall I say “floor.”  Due to some unfortunate circumstances, Becky and I had to sleep in my room and I only have a small twin bed and a small floor space.  Since Becky was the guest I insisted she have the bed and I managed to sleep in a space about 2 ft x 5 ft on my floor on the nights we were in town while she was here.  I’m sure that didn’t contribute to my sheer exhaustion at all 😉

Anyway, long story short, my preparation was basically spending about 40 minutes the morning of the presentation outlining some points.  We had to leave by about 7:30am to make it to campus by 8:00am for my 8:30am round.  Up until even seconds before the round started I was panicking thinking “I can’t do this.. I can’t do this.. I need to drop out I don’t care about the credit.”  However, I managed to get up there when it was my turn and do a pretty good job.  I came up with some pretty good policy arguments on the fly which I was pretty proud of, especially when the judges turned around and used my arguments against my opponent.  Alexander (who had been sick all week) did extremely well as he always does, however he was the first to go so he had to state all the facts and then the judges were grilling him with questions and he wasn’t able to get much out substantively.  Ultimately we did not make the “Top 6” that go on to the “special” final round, but I think we still did very well considering the amount of preparation we were able to put into it.  It was not a disaster, and for that I’m very grateful 🙂

After the round, Becky and I headed out to get breakfast and coffee and Alexander headed to work.  Then we stopped by my flat so I could change out of my suit and headed out to explore a little bit of London.  We walked through Hyde Park, saw Kensington Palace, walked through St. James’ Park, saw Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben/Parliament, and walked across the Westminster bridge with a full view of the London Eye.  After that, we took the tube to meet Alexander in Covent Garden for dinner.  There was a huge crowd waiting for the lifts out of the underground and we didn’t want to wait so we decided to climb the stairs.  The sign said there were 193 stairs but we were like “we climbed 400 at Notre Dame, this is nothing!”  Boy were we wrong! We almost died!  I think the difference was that at Notre Dame you take little breaks at the book store and at the bell tower, etc. so it’s not all the stairs at once.  Woo.  Won’t be doing that again!

Westminster Abbey!

Westminster Abbey!

A Statue in front of Buckingham Palace (a female statue)

A Statue in front of Buckingham Palace (a female statue)

For more pictures of our day in London, click here.

Also, on another London note, today I had a *brilliant* idea for what to do with all of my change that has been piling up–use it to top up my Oyster card! (Oyster card is what you use to get around on the Underground).  However, little did I know there is actually some kind of magical amount of change you are allowed to insert before the machine considers it too much change and will spit it all back out at you.  Except, it doesn’t give you back the same change you put in.  I put in lots of pound coins and 20p pieces, and I got back basically a bag full of 10p pieces.  The 10p pieces are the size of U.S. quarters, so it’s really obnoxious. What am I going to do with 10 GBP worth of 10p coins??? Ahh!  Anyway, I suppose I need to find one of those charity boxes at grocery stores or something.  Or maybe pay for my latte with 18 10p coins.  I’m sure they’d LOVE that! 😉

One Step Back–Paris Last Weekend with Becky.

Due to the nature of my life over here (traveling way too much) I end up traveling again before I’ve had a chance to post about the last trip, and then wanting to make posts while I’m on another trip, and then I go back and start talking about the last trip again. I know it gets pretty out of order and perhaps confusing, but I while Becky is getting ready I want to take the opportunity to make an update on our Paris experience 🙂

So, last weekend, Becky and I caught the train to Paris on Saturday afternoon. When we arrived at Gare du Nord, I really wished Alexander was there because he was so good with the Metro system. Becky and I stared at the map for awhile and I thought I had it figured it and then I still put us on the wrong train. Also, from the map it looked like the area where I’d booked our hotel (La Defense) was a lot further out than I had anticipated so I was worried. However, we finally made it to our hotel and it turned out to be an excellent choice. While it was a bit far out (like 12 stops out from the city center), the area was very clean and felt safe, and looked a lot like the Pearl District in Portland actually. Then, the best part: we got to our room on the 14th floor and we had a view of all of Paris!

Eiffel Tower, taken through a dusty window

Eiffel Tower, taken through a dusty window

It was hard to get pictures that did it any justice through the dusty window, but straight down was the river Seine and there was a little island (see the tree in the bottom lefthand corner). If you looked to the left of this picture, you could see everything else. It was such a great view!

We were really hungry so we quickly headed back out to the metro and went to Place St. Michel which is where they have the cafe with my favorite crepe. It turned out to be a little obnoxious because Becky accidentally ordered a plate of bread with thin slices of some kind of meat (not enough for a meal!), and the man next to me was literally smoking into my arm. In Paris at the cafes, all the tables are super close together and people smoke like it’s going out of style (oh wait… it already did…), I kept glaring at the guy and also thinking of this scene from a movie where Canadians get in a brawl with Colin Farrel for smoking so close to them in a restaurant. Luckily, there was no brawl, just a lot of disgust on my part.

Next, we walked around the corner and saw the Notre Dame at night (the picture from my previous post about Paris!). Becky and I walked around it taking photos and then we could kind of see the Eiffel tower and thought it was pretty close and decided to walk. It felt like we were walking for EVER and we finally consulted the map and we weren’t even half way there. So we gave up, looked at a metro map and I managed to remember that the place with the great view of the Eiffel Tower is Trocadero. So Becky and I went there so she could see the Eiffel Tower twinkling at night (one of my favorite things ever!)

Trocadero! (not twinkling at the moment)

Trocadero! (not twinkling at the moment)

After that, I tried to take Becky to Cafe de L’Homme which I’d went to with Alexander (inside the museum right there, great view of the tower). However, I forgot that when Alexander and I went we were dressed up, and it wasn’t very busy. Becky and I walked in in our super casual clothes (I was wearing a puff vest), and we pushed the curtain to the side and stepped in and were completely overwhelmed by the scene: it was super busy, full of people, everyone was dressed to the nines. It only took us about half a second to realize we were completely out of place and we turned around and left. Instead, we had dessert and coffee at a sidewalk cafe across the street which was delicious, and we headed home.

The next morning, we had the “city breakfast” at our hotel cafe for 7 euros which included coffee, orange juice, “as many croissants as you can eat”, and apple slices. It was delicious! From there we headed to Notre Dame because I really wanted to go to the top. Just like the day before, it was a BEAUTIFUL sunny day. We waited in line to go up the Eiffel Tower in front of a pair of Russian men who were playing middle eastern music on their cell phone as we waited in line. Very interesting ambiance 😉

It was about 5 euros, and 400 winding steps to get to the top but it was beautiful up there. We also went in the bell tower and I could BARELY manuever my way through the door. How small was the bell ringer anyway?? (what you can’t see in the following picture is that the top of the doorway actually comes to below my shoulders, I just stuck the upper half of my body out.) So weird!

Bell Tower

Bell Tower

One View From Notre Dame

One View From Notre Dame

From there, we walked around to find a cafe to get crepes, and then got some amazing gelato (basically, we were eating all day long) and then we began a crazy amount of walking. Becky wanted to walk on Pont Neuf (the famous bridge) so we did that, but from there it wasn’t too far to the Louvre so we walked over there. Becky said she almost cried when she saw it. It is just such an amazing spot! We also walked around Palais Royal, and then it looked like the Opera area, where there is a lot of great shopping, wasn’t too far so we walked over there and it turned out everything was closed since it was Sunday. Bummer! By then we were really exhausted from all the walking so we caught the Metro back to Trocadero to find a place to eat, and ultimately ended up walking all the way down to the Eiffel tower.

But of course, before we began walking down to the tower we purchased chocolate crepes:

)

My Chocolate Crepe 🙂

We had contemplated NOT going to the top of the Eiffel Tower, but once we were down there anyway we decided we had to do it. (When I went with Alexander the first time, the lines were way too long and I hate lines so I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I’m lame that way, I know.) I can’t remember now but I think it costs about 12 euro to go to the very top deck. You ride one elevator up to the second deck and then you have to go get in line for another elevator to go up to the third. We were so glad we decided to do it because it was so beautiful up there. Before, I was sold on the Tour Montparnasse’s advertising that if you go to the top of the Tour Eiffel you won’t see the most key part of the Paris skyline–the Tour Eiffel itself (but you can see the Tour Eiffel from Tour Montparnasse’s 52nd floor viewing deck… which Alexander and I went to last time). So I thought we’d feel like something was missing up at the top of the Eiffel Tower, but it was actually the best spot to view all of Paris because it’s so high up. Plus, the sun was starting to set while we were up there which cast a shadow of the tower over the buildings below which was really cool.

Eiffel Shadow

Eiffel Shadow

Also, Becky and I were very pleased to learn that there were FREE bathrooms at the very top, and there wasn’t a line or anything to get in. Woohoo! All the waiting in lines to get up to the top in the cold made us really need to use the restroom, and had there not been one available up there we most likely would have rushed through our time there so we could get back down and use the toilette.

)

The Bathroom at the Top! 🙂

One View from the Top

One View from the Top

From there, we headed out to find a place to have dinner. Becky wanted to try european-style pizza, and I was craving pizza, so we found a place down a random street that turned out to not be very good. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t the “omg this is so delicious” feeling you tend to get from most things you try in Paris (crepes, bread, cheese, coffee, etc.). After dinner, we were exhausted but we did a little souvenir shopping and headed back to the hotel to go to bed.

Monday, our last day in Paris, we didn’t have to be at the train station until around 6 so we had breakfast at our hotel and then walked around La Defense. A woman told us there were lots of shops but at first we were walking around and didn’t see anything. Then, we saw this big glass building with “Castorama” and the letters looked kind of like IKEA. We went in and the store was basically a lot like IKEA. As we wandered through the top floor home goods, suddenly we saw an opening to the secret garden: Castorama had an entrance opening into a mall. As it turned out, the mall was enormous because we got lost in it for the rest of the day. I was so proud of myself for not spending too much in Paris and I planned on saving my left-over euros for the following weekend’s trip to Barcelona but instead I spent every last euro I had in that mall. I even had to dig out 8 euros in change at a store where I spent 33 euros but only had 25 left in bills. I do love all my purchases though… although I’m really starting to wonder how I’m going to get everything home when the time comes.

La Defense

La Defense

In the above picture of La Defense, that glass structure in the background with the TV screen on it is the mall we went to. I realize that it may seem like a “waste of time” to go to a mall when you’re in a foreign city and could be out seeing the sights. However, we had already been out seeing the sights for two solid days, and you can’t underestimate the cultural experience of doing one of your favorite things (shopping) in a foreign country. Also, I now have a few holiday dresses from PARIS! 🙂 After the mall we had to hurry back to our hotel, pick up our bags, and get to the train station to catch our train back to London. When we got back Becky had to pack her bags for Wales, and I had to read for my classes the next day so it was a very late night!

Thrill the World!

Becky and I are currently in Barcelona.  After a couple of bumps in the road that temporarily had us wondering if we were in a 3rd world country (and/or south Los Angeles), we discovered that Barcelona is a really great city.

One of the best things that has happened to me so far in my Europe experiences happened last night in Barcelona.  Becky and I were walking through the “old town” part of the city when we heard a band playing so we walked to find it.  There, outside a castle looking (probably museum building) in a little square a stage was set up and a Spanish band was performing.  It was dark and they had all the colorful stage lights and everything and they were really good! It was so cool!  …But the best part is what happened next.  The band left the stage and a guy came up to me and asked in english “Has the dancing happened yet?” and we were like “what dancing?”  As it turned out, there was supposed to be a performance of (Michael Jackson’s) THRILLER in the square at exactly 8pm.   Apparently, people in 90 cities around the world were all going to perform this at exactly the same time.  We had to stay for that!

Sure enough, minutes later, the speakers started blasting Thriller and a group of people jumped up and started doing the dance from the video.  We took video on our digital cameras and I couldn’t help but laugh.  So random to be walking through a square in Barcelona, Spain and have that happen!

More to come later!

I really love this picture, so I want to post it.

So, although I’m not recapping my actual Parisian adventures just yet, I took a picture of Notre Dame at night and I love it!

Here it is:

Notre Dame at Night!

Notre Dame at Night!

Funny story: when we were walking by this, a guy was speaking another language (I think German?) and in the middle of his unintelligible jabber (since I didn’t know his language) I heard him say “Notre Dame” as it is pronounced when referring to the American university/football team (he said “no-ter dayme” but the pronunciation of the cathedral should be “no-truh dahm”). It’s probably only funny to me, but I definitely got a good laugh out of it.

To see the rest of my photos of this round of the Paris trip, click here.

(Note: I actually took about 300 photos, but since I’d already uploaded about 5 albums from my prior Paris trip, I limited my uploading to the maximum 60 photos per album and tried to just upload most of my favorites)

Paris Will Have to Wait…

So, I haven’t been able to even try to think about recapping my Parisian adventures with Becky because my schedule this “week” (ie the 4 days I’m actually in town) is crazy busy… but hopefully I’ll get around to that soon because the trip was AMAZING! At first when Becky told me she wanted to go to Paris I kind of had this “…Again?” feeling. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVED it the first time. However, since I had never really traveled before coming to London, now when I have a chance to get out of town I want to go somewhere new. I want to see everything, and then think about repeats 😉

But, nonetheless, I booked a trip to Paris with Becky, and it was amazing. I don’t regret going back a second time at all, and it just made me want to go back more! More on that later…. but in the meantime, my current schedule issues:

The main thing is that on top of all the normal things that cram my schedule Tuesday-Thursday (I’m in class all day on Tuesday and Thursday, and have to fit in all the readings, laundry, groceries, etc. in between before heading out to travel again on Thursday night or Friday.. I know, hard life ;)), this week I’m preparing for a moot court competition on Friday. Alexander and I are a team and we will be arguing a fake British case in front of fake House of Lords judges (like the Supreme Court of England). Although the facts of our case are made up, we have to use real British cases and British law to argue for our imaginary clients. British cases are super dense and they are not like American cases in that instead of a majority and minority opinion (which makes it very clear what the law is), each judge writes their own opinion and they are all listed. Also, the cases seem to be heavily weighted in the other direction (supporting the other side). From the looks of it so far, we’ve basically got a dissent in one case (not binding) and we’ll have to analogize humans at a concert to “wild beasts” to make a policy argument. Basically, our argument is “I know you guys have already totally settled this issue and are very clear that we’re supposed to lose here, but um.. how about you completely change your mind and let us win? Eh?”

So, I should really get back to trying to read the cases and figure out what to say on Friday morning at 8:30am when it’s time for Alexander and I to argue this mess.

Also, Becky and I will be leaving on Saturday morning for a quick trip to Barcelona, Spain… so it may be a bit before I’m able to recap Paris or Barcelona. We’ll see!

Last Day(s) in Switzerland- A Few Injuries + Mucho Outdoor Activities

**Although I just got back from Paris last night, I had typed up the last day in Switzerland when I didn’t have internet access, so here it is now!**

On Monday, our unlimited train passes had expired, so we bought roundtrip tickets to Grindelwald because there were several other things we wanted to do up there. Adam and I were really tempted to try paragliding from First, and even Krissi was feeling a little extra adventurous that day but when we got up to the gondolas, it was closed after Bort (no way to get to First). So, instead, we took a gondola up to Bort and rented scooters again.

Since I cant smell cows, I think theyre cute.

Since I can't smell cows, I think they're cute.

Since we’d already taken plenty of photos the time we did it before, we didn’t have to stop as much for pictures (except for the cows of course), so we were able to go faster which (for some people) makes it more fun. I’m not a big fan of going really fast (in cars or on scooters or anything for that matter) because I’m not a fan of the potential for crashing and how much more crashing can hurt if you’re going fast.

Well, Adam and Krissi were going pretty fast down the hill, and I told them I didn’t want to go fast but they didn’t have to wait for me, I’d be fine going at my own pace alone and meeting them at the bottom. I’m not sure if they didn’t hear me, or if they just felt bad and didn’t want to leave me behind, but they kept stopping and waiting for me, and I started feeling a little bad and also thinking “ok, Michelle, it’s not so bad to go fast.” And shortly after I thought that and started going faster, Adam crashed. Luckily, he was able to jump off the scooter and it crashed by itself, so although the scooter was a little broken he was unscathed. You’d think I would take that as a hint to not go fast anymore, but I let myself continue to faster than I normally would feel comfortable with, and I came around a bend in the road and heard a small waterfall so I turned to look, and when I looked back at the road I crashed into a gutter.

A glamour shot of me right after the crash ;)

A glamour shot of me right after the crash 😉

In my case, I wasn’t able to jump off and walk away, but I did manage to save the scooter from any damage. And I also managed to turn my body just enough (and thankfully was wearing long sleeves and long jeans) so I only got a few minor scrapes, and then some major bruising and soreness in my left hip and left shoulder. I was really lucky I didn’t get hurt worse! Also, I’m not trying to blame Adam and Krissi here for my crashing, because it really wasn’t due to me going fast, it was due to my compulsive need to turn my head and see where sounds are coming from. The fact that I was going fast just made the crash a little crazier 🙂

So, after that, we probably went pretty obsessively slow down the remainder of the mountain now that 2 out of 3 of us had crashed. Adam and Krissi felt bad that I crashed and hoped it didn’t ruin my experience or my day, but honestly it kind of made the day better because it seems so hardcore to crash going down a mountain. Interestingly, all the Swiss flags around (a white cross on a red background) led me to the incorrect presumption that the Swiss are all about first aid. Well, when we got back down to the station I asked about “first aid” or “hydrogen peroxide” but the Swiss woman didn’t have a clue what I was talking about and I had no idea how to say it in german or French. So then I just pointed at my bloody hand (with rocks in it) and my scraped up elbow, and she just handed me a large bandaid for the elbow. So then we tried to go to the town pharmacy (a green cross), but it was closed for two hours for lunch! Seriously, Switzerland? So then I just decided to put the bandaid on my elbow, pick the rocks out of my hand and let it dry in the air and hope it didn’t get infected or anything.

From there we walked down to a spot where you can take a different kind of aerial cable car up to Pfingstegg where they had an alpine slide thing called Sommer-Rodelbahn or something like that. Basically, it was kind of like bobsledding without the snow. It feels like if you flew off the slide you’d fly off the edge of the mountain. Pretty awesome 😉 We all did it twice and then when it turned out the car back down wasn’t leaving for another 10 minutes, Adam and Krissi did it a third time.

The Slide

The Slide

From there, we headed back down and then walked back to the glacier gorges. There is this random hotel down a long, downhill somewhat windy road, and behind the hotel is a path into a rocky gorge that is beautiful! For the first part you’re walking on a wood path, but then it gets to a point where you have to walk through caves and there are little water falls throughout it. It was beautiful.

Glacier Gorges

Glacier Gorges

After that we were feeling pretty wiped out (from our day of riding trains, gondolas, walking, scootering, crashing, sliding, hiking) and had to begin the long uphill walk back to Grindelwald. From Grindelwald we headed straight back to Interlaken because it was our last chance to make the chocolate show at Shuh. Shuh is a chocolate shop that has been in Interlaken since 1818 and it was right across the street from our hotel. The chocolate show was really cool—we got to eat pretty much as much chocolate as we wanted, we got to make truffles and a hollow chocolate cow, and learn about how they make chocolate from Gino, their head chocolatier. Then, we also got a 10 CHF gift card for the shop so we all bought some truffles to take home.

After the chocolate show, we headed out to find dinner and managed to find a pizza place that had a smoke free room! Smoking is allowed everywhere in Switzerland which is obnoxious, and this was the first time there was a smoke free area. It was funny too because the smoke free room was isolated in the back, like you’d expect a smoking room to be in the States. I really don’t understand why Europeans smoke so much. Their cigarette packs over here have HUGE bold faced warnings on them and still… everywhere you go people are smoking like crazy. In my head the thought always crosses my mind, “Did Europe miss the memo re: how disgusting and deadly smoking is?” Apparently they got the memo and they just don’t care.

The dinner was DELICIOUS. We shared two pizzas and they were both amazing. After dinner, I wobbled my injured self back to the hotel and Adam and Krissi went out to look around a few stores. Before long I was in bed hoping I was still able to walk in the morning with all the soreness from the hiking and the falling.

The next day, Tuesday, we basically just slept in and then began the long journey of travel back to London. We left our hotel just before 11am and I made it back to my flat around 10:30pm. The most notable part of the day though is that we met this great guy at a coffee shop in the Zurich airport. When he found out we were American he was like “I love America! I love Americans!” and then he gave us free espressos and chocolate after we finished our lunch, and sat down and chatted with us for awhile. It was really refreshing to meet someone that actually liked Americans! He was Hungarian, married to a German woman, but had been working in Switzerland for 28 years and had 3 daughters. Every year he takes his family to Florida for a month, and his daughters always cry when he brings them back to Switzerland and they want to go back to America. He loved that things were so much cheaper and cleaner and nicer in America and that it was easier to start your own business. His family is currently on the waiting list to try to move to the states in the near future. By the time we had to go we were kind of bummed to have to leave him. It was such a great lunch! (Plus, just a shot of espresso in a cup is like $4 in Switzerland, so getting that free was awesome!).

And that’s the end of our Switzerland trip!

For many more pictures of this last day, click here.

Switzerland Recap Interruption–Paris Round 2!

A friend of mine from Portland–Becky–came to visit me in London for a week.  She got in yesterday and today we took a train to Paris for the weekend!

Our hotel is a bit out of the center of the city but it turns out we are in a great area–La Defense which is a business district that is very clean and safe and our room is on the 14th floor and has a spectacular view of Paris! Right now as I’m typing I’m looking out our window at the Eiffel tower which is twinkling as it does every hour on the hour for a few minutes.  I love it!

We’ve only been here for a few hours and we’ve already went to my favorite crepe place, seen the eiffel tower twinkling at night, and went to Notre Dame at night.  Tomorrow we are going to go back in the morning and go to the top of each of those, and then head over to the shopping area and shop for the afternoon!

Day 3- The Top of Europe!

On our third day, after getting breakfast at the hotel and getting ready we headed on the train out to Kleine Sheidegg where we could catch the special train up to the Top of Europe. “Special” in the sense that it wasn’t included in our almost-all-inclusive mountain pass, and we had to pay about 53 CHF each for one trip up there 😉 Luckily, it was amazing and we felt it was worth it! 😉

So, while we were waiting for our first train, this couple next to us asked where we were from. We all kind of froze for a minute. Often people guess that I’m not from the U.S., but we had all been talking so we were pretty sure they knew we were from the U.S., and I don’t know about the Looneys but I was bracing myself for the “What do you think about Bush??!?!?” speech. We told them that we from the States and I was from Oregon, and it turned out the husband of the couple (a retired dentist) grew up in Portland, and they currently live in San Diego. It turned out to be a pleasant “where are you from?” and not an “I hate America” where are you from. Phew!

I know the United States isn’t perfect, and I know any of the U.S.’s mistakes have a profound effect on the rest of the world and it has to be very frustrating to have something you can’t control at all (the government of the U.S., which you have no right to vote for) effecting so much of your life in another country. At the same time, the U.S. has done a lot of GOOD for the world as well, and success in the states causes a ripple effect of good in other places as well. I wish there was a way for people to opt out if they really hate the U.S. and not get any of the bad or the good. However, that’s just not the way it is. Also, as a little aside, the fact that so many people supposedly hate us makes me really ticked off that they listen to our music and follow our celebrities so closely. If you hate us so much, get your own music and celebrities, sheesh! 😉

Anyway, so we eventually caught the train up to the Top of Europe. The Top of Europe-Jungfraujoch is the highest train station in Europe– up about 11,000 feet resting between two mountain peaks (Monch and Jungfrau). To get there, the train goes at a sharp angle uphill through a tunnel that was carved out INSIDE the mountains back in the 1800s. There are two points where the train stops for 5 minutes, and there are windows in the side of the mountain and you can look out. I had no idea when we boarded the train that it would be driving INSIDE the mountain, and I started feeling very claustrophobic and freaked out on our way up! But we made it just fine 🙂 Inside, our first stop was to the Ice Palace. Everything is made of ice inside–the floor, the walls, the roof, etc. There are a lot of little ice tunnels and ice sculptures inside. It was extremely cold in there (obviously), so we took some pictures and got out and headed to somewhere warm pretty fast.

Me ducking in a tunnel in the Ice Palace

Me ducking in a tunnel in the Ice Palace

We stopped in the cafeteria and the food didn’t look too good for the price, so we ended up splitting a big bowl of french fries and a giant chocolate bar for “lunch.” Then we headed out to this outdoor patch where you could see all the mountains, and there was this group of musicians in really colorful outfits playing crazy music. It was a very stark contrast to the whiteness and quiteness of the snow covered mountains. I did a silly dance the whole way up the path to the area where the music group was. Apparently they were filming some kind of commercial or music video. A lady kept asking us to “stand 2-3 meters back” and we didn’t know what that meant. The best I could think of was that I’m pretty sure I was close to 2 meters tall in science class back in the day when we learned about the metric system, and I was sure I was a little over that now. But it’s not too easy to imagine the length of myself lying down and to stay that distance away! Me and Krissi were all annoyed like “we paid $50 to be here, she can’t tell us where to stand” and then Adam pointed out that she had a “jungfraujoch” badge on. So we listened after that 😉

The Colorful Band

The Colorful Band

Me Dwarfing a Mountain Peak (we think this one is Monch)

Me Dwarfing a Mountain Peak (we think this one is Monch)

After taking a tremendous amount of photos and posing on a cliff for a photo op, we decided to head back inside and find our way up to the Sphinx which was the top viewpoint. The Sphinx was really amazing as well, and Krissi and I walked around taking lots of pictures. At the end of the day, Krissi put all her pictures on my laptop too, and we had basically all of the same mountain pictures. We took the same angles, the same distance, the same exposure, etc. Almost all of our shots were exactly the same! And they were amazing pictures–it was such an amazing view. It felt really fake because we’ve always seen pictures of this stuff but never actually been up there. Even the pictures of us up there look photo edited. Adam got cold pretty fast and went inside but Krissi and I continued to walk around taking pictures for awhile because although we were freezing, we loved it!

Up at the Sphinx

Up at the Sphinx

We hadn’t brought big coats with us because first of all most people don’t, because it’s really not as cold up there as you might expect, and people are usually only outside for a few minutes to look around and hang out the rest of the time indoors. Also, we didn’t know how long it would take us, and we didn’t want to be lugging around big jackets for whatever else we might do that day. As it turned out, it took most of the day to do the Jungfraujoch and by the time we got back down to Grindelwald it was dinner time. We wandered around for awhile looking for a place to eat. I really wanted to eat in Grindelwald because we already knew what was available in Interlaken and we’d already eaten there two nights in a row and would probably eat there again our final night. But every place we looked at in Grindelwald Adam kept suggesting we should go back to Interlaken (boo!). Finally, after I gave in and we were walking back to the train to head to Interlaken, I stopped to look at one last menu and then we saw a sign that said, “Sonntag ist Burger Day!” which means “Sunday is Burger Day!” and apparently on Sundays, all burgers at this restaurant were 6 francs. (About 5 USD). We asked to make sure that was correct, and then decided to eat there. I had a DELICIOUS curry chicken sandwich for 6 CHF. I was also feeling a little ill and after describing my symptoms we thought it was most likely I had a little altitude sickness.

After our delicious and reasonably-priced dinner (a rarity it seems in almost any european country, at least the reasonable part), we headed back to Interlaken where we stopped in a chocolate shop for dessert before heading back to the hotel to go to bed. Another great day in Switzerland!

For more pictures of this day at the Top of Europe, click here.

Day 2–Mountain Excursions!

Like I said in the last post, we woke up about 9am. Our hotel has free breakfast so we hurried down to take advantage of that before sending Adam to figure out the travel info while Krissi and I got ready. When we got to Interlaken the night before it was dark so we couldn’t see the mountains, and then when we woke up it was foggy so we couldn’t see the mountains. But luckily we could see the sun shining through and were sure the fog would burn off in no time.

Adam came back with good news- we could get 2-day passes for most of the trains/buses/cable cars for 35 CHF each (about 30 USD each). So we bought those, caught a bus to the train station, and were on our way up to First. Our train ride was a relief—after the hassle of traveling the day before and everything seeming so expensive, suddenly the fog had burned off so we could see how beautiful it was and it made all the traveling worth it! Fall was in full swing in Switzerland and it was B-E-A-UTIFUL!

On the Gondola Ride from Grindelwald to First

On the Gondola Ride from Grindelwald to First

To get to First we took a train to Grindelwald, and then we walked for about 15 minutes up to a station where we took gondolas (aerial cable-cars) up to First. Originally Krissi was not interested in the idea (she hates flying and the gondolas are somewhat similar), but she agreed to do it. Up at First (over 7000ft up) we took in the amazing views and took some photos and we noticed some paragliders jumping from First down to Grindelwald (about 3700 feet down). The scenery was so amazing, Adam and I were very tempted to try it out. However, we already had other plans for that afternoon—taking the gondola back down to Bort (about halfway down before Grindelwald) and renting scooters (“trottebikes”) to ride down the rest of the way to Grindelwald. At first after we rented the scooters I was like, “…what…did…I..get…myself…into…” I’d never ridden on a scooter in my life, and now I was trying to balance on one going downhill the whole way—ah! Plus, the bars were not adjustable and I felt way too tall for the thing having to hunch down to reach the handles. For the first few moments I thought I might have to return the scooter and walk down, but luckily I soon got the hang of it and we were on our way down the mountain! The weather was amazing, the scenery was beautiful, and it was just the perfect day to be scootering down the mountain! We all loved it. It was like Ireland again where I couldn’t stop talking about how beautiful it was the whole way down. Also, at a couple points we had to pull over while someone walked a heard of cows by… so random!

Scootering down the mountain!

Scootering down the mountain!

When we got back down to Grindelwald we went to a café for lunch and had “Grindelwald Toast” which was basically a sandwich that was toasted shut with cheese, tomato, and ham inside. I’m not a ham fan, but it was yummy 🙂 Then we took a train up to Kleine Sheidigg to try to find a hike. By the time we made it up there, there wasn’t enough time to do the hike we’d planned to do and make it back to the train station before dark (Kleine Sheidigg to Mannlicken and back), so instead we walked from Kleine Sheidigg to Wengernalp. Basically, we were walking along the wall of the Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau mountains. It was very cool and very pretty. There I was—a girl from Oregon, attending a California law school, studying abroad in London, and currently walking down a random path in the middle of the mountains in the middle of Switzerland. Crazy!

Adam with his scooter (stopping for a photo op).

Adam with his scooter (stopping for a photo op).

Krissi and I walking to Wengernalp

Krissi and I walking to Wengernalp

Mountain Reflection

Mountain Reflection

When we got to Wengernalp we caught a train back to Interlaken and walked back to our hotel, and then went out to find dinner. We settled on a place called “Chalet”—the restaurant in a hotel that a very cute Swiss theme inside, and we had fondue. Yum!

I can’t remember at all what we did after dinner—probably just went back to the hotel and went to sleep because it had been an exhausting day!

For more pictures from this amazing day, click HERE.

I will write about Day 3 (the day we went to the Top of Europe!) and Day 4 (the day of multiple injuries for Michelle!) later 🙂