Swell Season in London.

So, a few months back a friend asked in anyone wanted to go to a “Swell Season” concert and I had no idea what it was but Alexander expressed interest and the girl bought us tickets before Alexander had a chance to tell me about it.  But I was like, sure, 27 pounds to see a Christmas concert at Royal Albert Hall before leaving? Sounds excellent!

Well, the concert was Monday night and as it turned out, was not Christmas music at all 😉  “Swell Season” was the name of the headlining band which consists of a guy from Ireland and a Czech girl who apparently won an Academy Award this year for one of their songs.  (If you are not already aware of my severe lack of music knowledge, let me just point out that this summer while reviewing contracts for one of our clients, I told an associate that I had stopped at “the ra-moan-eys” contract–meaning The Ramones.  Never heard of it… Now I know!).  Anyway, the point is it just really isn’t that much of a surprise that *I* would have absolutely no idea that “Swell Season” was a band and not a Christmas spectacular 🙂

Royal Albert Hall looks really cool inside, and Alexander, Amy, Erin and I had a box to ourselves which was also very cool.  The first performer was sort of a one man show and at that point I still hadn’t figured out what was going on, so I was really confused about his performance.  He sung a few songs in kind of a traditional irish style, and since I couldn’t understand a word he was saying I’m assuming he was speaking in gaelic.  Haha.  It was cool though.  Then, he switched to the piano and started banging away at the keys and singing all Daniel Powder style which was a pretty sharp contrast to his first songs, and still not Christmas music.  Oddly, I really liked both styles, but it still isn’t every day you see one musician in a show do two completely different styles of music.  The girl who had bought our tickets rushed into our box to apologize for how much the first guy sucked, but we really liked him.

Next up was my favorite of the night–a group called “Hare’s Corner.”  There was this guy with a violin who would play a little bit, and then loop it, and start playing over himself essentially.  It’s kind of hard to explain, but it was really cool.  Then an entire band came out and they played several songs (all music, no words).  I LOVED it.  It totally reminded me of being in Ireland and I wished I had their CD as we drove along the coastal causeway.  That would have been perfect music for the drive. (I did, in fact, buy their CD at the show but it turned out to be a pretty poor recording and several of the songs have quite a bit of feedback which makes it not as fun to listen to on CD as it was in person. Sad day.)

Then, eventually the final band came on–Swell Season.  At first, Alexander and I weren’t impressed.  We liked the other two guys better.  But then it did get pretty good.  They Irish guy and the Czech girl (I only say that because I don’t know their names) are very talented musicians for sure.  A lot of their songs were kind of angsty/relationship turmoil kind of songs though, and since I couldn’t personally relate right now, I couldn’t completely get into it.  But, nevertheless, definitely very talented group.

Alexander hasn’t been feeling well for awhile now, and we didn’t realize the show was going to go so late so we ended up leaving in the middle of the Swell Season’s set so he could get home and get plenty of sleep.  I decided to leave when he did so we could both walk back to South Ken together to catch our respective tubes back home.

All in all, it was a fun evening, and I really, really want to go back to Ireland! Ah!

For pictures from the concert, click here.  (yes, I have pictures for everything ;)).

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Final Day in Amsterdam (Sunday).

On my last day in Amsterdam I fell “victim” once again to a certain trend in Europe—the trend of stores being closed on Sundays. Now, I’ve frequently heard that the United States is a lot more “religious” and “conservative” than the “liberal” and “progressive” ole European Union. But in the U.S., save maybe some small towns, you will NEVER find stores closed on Sundays! Of course, the closures might have more to do with shorter work weeks than reverence of the Sabbath Day, since Europeans aren’t workaholics like Americans are, I’m really not sure. The real point of this is not their reasons for being closed on Sundays, it’s that I always forget that stores might actually be closed for an entire day (oh the nerve!) and find myself expecting to shop and instead wandering around the streets of Europe quite aimlessly.

That’s exactly what happened Sunday in Amsterdam. I heard about a shoe store that only carried large sizes, so Alexander and I grabbed a cab to head over there. As we were on our way I started realizing that most of the shops were closed, and I glanced at the brochure… sure enough the shoe store was closed. So I had the cab driver drop us off near the flower market (in the city center) where stores were open. It was a beautiful day in Amsterdam—less cold than the day before, sunny and for the most part cloudless. I was very excited to be outside in the SUN after our rainy, cold day before. (Plus, as you know, I’m pretty obsessive about taking pictures and rainy/grey/gloomy days don’t make for the best photo ops when you’re in a city). The thing that made Sunday so amazing was really just the weather—it made for great photo ops and made it much more enjoyable to stroll around the city.

We got breakfast at a cute little café. I’ve had this really bad habit of eating really, really badly while out and about in Europe. I’m pretty much croissant-and-pain-au-chocolat-ed out at this point, but I’ve probably eaten enough of them to feed an army at this point. They pretty much have a kajillion calories and even more grams of fat in each one… but they are just so delicious! I always find myself losing weight while I’m in London walking all of the time and being super busy with school, and then I gain it all back and then some on the weekends while I’m traveling. So much for all that weight I planned to lose while in London 😉

The Reason I Have Not Lost Weight, Despite All The Walking

The Reason I Have Not Lost Weight, Despite All The Walking

Anyway, the breakfast was delicious. From there we walked to Dam Square which is apparently where Amsterdam began. Basically, someone put up a dam to block the water and BAM, a city was made. Somewhat like New Orleans (I think?), Amsterdam is built on marsh land. I’m pretty sure that the major train station is built on a giant pile of wood that is submersed in water. Apparently as long as the foundation stays below water, it’s ok. But if the foundation gets above water, it causes the foundation to warp and makes any buildings built on the water tilt. Before I learned that fun fact, I had noticed that a lot of the buildings looked kind of slanted forward around Amsterdam. I guess that’s from air exposure in the foundations of those buildings. Crazy!

Me in Dam Square

Me in Dam Square

Another thing I didn’t know about Amsterdam is that it has lots of canals. Sadly, I have not been able to make it to Italy at all yet (and won’t while I live here… I’ll have to come back!) so I haven’t experienced Venice yet, but I felt like Amsterdam gave me a similar canal-city experience. Alexander and I decided to take a canal tour for 10 euros each, and it was amazing! We had a really funny tour guide, and with the exception of smacking my head repeatedly on the roof of the boat it was a really fun experience (I was wearing a hat that day, and my ears have been pretty plugged up for awhile so my sense of balance and distance really sucks right now! Ow!). This was my second canal tour while in Europe (I went on one in Strasbourg too), but I think I might have loved this one even more. Amsterdam is seriously such a pretty city. It’s definitely a place I hope to visit again in the future. Apparently while I was in the bathroom, we passed some really messed up homes where the foundations had shifted, and they call them “drunken houses” or something like that, at least that’s what the tour guide said 😉 But people still live in them anyway!

After the canal tour, we went back to the Wok place we’d had lunch the day before because Alexander hadn’t been able to try it, and then we went across the street to an Australian Ice Cream place to get some ice cream. After that, the clouds had returned and it had started to sprinkle at that point, so we headed to our hotel to pick up our luggage and make our way to the airport. As it turned out, our flight home was delayed by about 3 hours, but it wasn’t too bad hanging out in the airport 🙂 I did, however, realize that I was pretty tired of traveling at that point and would just like to stay home and not travel for awhile.

I don’t remember if I mentioned this already, but bikes are extremely popular in Holland. There are people on bikes everywhere. Whenever you come out of a shop or anything, there are so many bikes just “parked” there on the sidewalk, not even locked up to anything. (Apparently there is also a major bike theft problem in Holland… but your bike gets stolen and then you just go to the market and buy another cheap one which is most likely one that was stolen from someone else… I guess that’s just the way it goes!). Also, bikes have the right-of-way just like cars do. And then they’ve got the train/tram things similar to the MAX that occasionally come through the middle of the walkways too so essentially you’re dodging cars, bikes, and trains all day. As much I hate getting stuck waiting in my car while a slow pedestrian meanders across the street in the U.S., I’m excited to (1) be the person in the car again so I’ll feel safer on the road; and (2) have the right-of-way again in the event that I’m a pedestrian. I swear to you it’s like people in cars TRY to hit pedestrians here. It’s nice being able to walk everywhere (when it’s not raining) but the whole nearly-getting-killed on a regular basis thing gets kind of old 😉

For the rest of the photos from my final day in Amsterdam, click here!

Amsterdam Recap- Friday night, and Saturday.

Catching up on Season 11 of America’s Next Top Model (where they go to Amsterdam!) has inspired me to catch up my blog on my trip to that wonderful city.  The words of one of the contestants on that show describes my opinion of it perfectly–she said she expected the city to be really dirty, and all about drugs and sex but she discovered it’s actually a very beautiful city and you don’t even see that stuff if you don’t go looking for it.  I had the same reaction–totally expected it to be dirty and full of things I have no interest in–but in the end it’s probably the prettiest* city I’ve visited in Europe all semester.

(*Strasbourg, France was the cutest and Luxembourg City, Luxembourg was the cleanest).

Anyway, on to the Amsterdam part of my Netherlands trip.  I didn’t bother to find out which Amsterdam train station was closest to my hotel, so ultimately I came into Amsterdam Centraal and took a cab to the hotel which was about 30 euros. Woops! (I later learned from Adam & Krissi that it was only about a 10 minute walk from the correct train station).

When I got to my hotel room I found out what I thought was free Wifi actually cost 20 euros per day (UGG!). I paid the fee, checked my email, and it turned out about 15 minutes after I left Den Haag/The Hague, the judge had emailed me and asked me to respond right away and suggested doing a video conference. I commenced with freaking out because (1) 3 hours had passed already; (2) it was about closing time in Atlanta; (3) there was no way for me to do a video conference from my hotel room; and (4) I forgot a suit jacket on the trip, so there was no way I could look professional even if I did find a way to do video.  Adam, Krissi, and Alexander sat around while I freaked out and called Dean Gash back in London to figure out a plan and emailed the judge back.  I waited for awhile to hear something back, but there was no news.  So, since it was a Friday night and we were in a new city (and it was coincidentally Halloween), we all got ready and went out to explore the city a little bit.  Ultimately we ended up walking around a lot, getting some “famous” french fries (they’re all about the fries in Amsterdam), and then getting coffee and going home.  I was in this very weird mood due to not knowing what was going to happen with the judge thing and whether I should be in the room researching the judge rather than out walking around the city.  So after coffee I just wanted to go back to the hotel.

The Fry Man

The Fry Man

The next morning I woke up pretty early and hopped on my computer to start researching opinions by the judge, using live chat with a Lexis representative to figure out how to find the opinions.  There were a few hundred published opinions–yikes.  But also at that time, (sorry for the TMI but it explains the story), I started having really bad cramps.  There was nothing to eat in the room but some weird nuts in the mini bar and orange juice, so I consumed those to try to get food in my stomach before taking medicine.  The only other option was room service breakfast which cost… I can’t even remember now but it was over 20 euros.  Long story short, the nuts were not enough for my stomach and I started getting extremely sick from taking the medicine without real food, I had to call for room service breakfast and scarf down some bread to try to sooth my stomach, and then I ended up laying in bed for about 2 hours watching crazy Dutch tv until my stomach calmed down and the medicine kicked in.  If I had just not been a cheapo and went with the room service breakfast from the beginning, I could have saved myself the extra 7 euros I spent on the nuts and juice, and could have saved myself a few hours of my morning 😉

My expensive breakfast (there was also fruit, coffee, and cereal)

My expensive breakfast (there was also fruit, coffee, and cereal)

Anyway, once I started feeling better we all decided to go out and explore the city (Adam, Krissi, Alexander and I).  We took a train to a shopping area to get lunch, and while we were walking to a lunch spot, Krissi found a 50 euro note on the ground!! (that’s over 60 USD!)  So she paid for everyone’s lunch! We went to a wok place where you pick all of your ingredients and then they stir-fry it up for you.  Almost like a mongolian-grill type thing except it wasn’t self-service.  It was, however, delicious.

After that we kept walking.  Although it was extremely cold (and to deal with the cold Alexander bought me a crazy “amsterdam” hat) I couldn’t get over how pretty the city was.  There are canals everywhere and the buildings are all so pretty.  I just really wasn’t expecting beauty in Amsterdam, so I was incredibly taken aback.  Soon we found ourselves in the flower district and I was in LOVE because I LOVE tulips! I would really love to come back to the Netherlands in the spring when flowers are in full bloom everywhere 🙂  While shopping around the flower district, it started raining so we had to find somewhere to duck in for awhile.

The rest of this day (saturday) is a little blurry because it mainly consisted of walking around shops and ducking out of the rain, although we did take a long break at a Cafe to sit and eat and relax, and I of course turned it into a photo opportunity, and came up with the future album cover for our Dutch Hip Hop Album:

Hip Hop Cover (notice my hat ;))

Hip Hop Cover (notice my hat ;))

The rain (combined with the cold) made it really difficult to try to stay out.  This was the first time it had rained on my European adventures, so I consider myself very lucky!  We eventually all agreed that we should give up, go back to the hotel, and get dinner at the hotel restaurant.  Somewhere on the way back though, Krissi and I found a giant clog to pose in:

I kind of wanted to buy wooden clogs, and they actually had them in my size… but I already have HUGE feet, and clogs make anyone’s feet look huge, which means mine would look really, really huge!  Not to mention, how on earth would I get giant clogs back home in my luggage? I already have this random giraffe bowl that I bought on an impulse in Strasbourg that I’m going to have to find a way to get home.  So anyway, that picture of Krissi and I IN a clog will have to suffice.

Dinner at the hotel restaurant was mediocre, and then we watched some TV and ate some Leonidas chocolates we bought while out and about and I think ultimately went to bed. I am really not much of a night person.  It takes something really exciting to keep me up at night, and lets just face it: cold, dark, and raining is not the least bit exciting to Michelle 😉

So that’s the end of Saturday.  Sunday (our final day) turned out to be pretty amazing so I will make a post about that later!

For the pictures from (a little bit of the Hague and) Friday/Saturday in Amsterdam, click here.

Mooting Complete!

So, we completed our final moot, but sadly there are no pictures because pictures weren’t allowed.  It was very different from the style we are used to: there was only one judge (in our moots there are usually 3), and the judge sat really high up almost on a throne.  Usually in these types of things, you get your “roadmap” out (basically what your main points are going to be) and then start getting battered with questions.  However, when there is only one judge, and that judge happens to be a “cold” judge (cold in the sense of not asking questions) it creates a very different dynamic.  Instead of the normal conversational feel of mooting, you are just presenting a speech.  And of course, expecting the conversation rather than the speech, I did not prepare a speech.  That caused me to fumble a little, but overall we did very well and so did our competitors. They won by a narrow margin, but it really was close.  I think all 4 of us did very well.

As soon as it was over, however, that insane overwhelming feeling of complete exhaustion hit me again.  Even with lots of sleep I’m just so exhausted these days.  But, I do have comfort in the fact that all I have to do now is study for my 3 finals (and attend classes for two more weeks).  It’s really odd… but I do have to go to a full day of classes next Thursday (Thanksgiving).  However, the school put together a big dinner at a separate venue for all of the law students and undergraduates, free of cost to us so that will be nice.  We will still get a full, regular Thanksgiving meal, even if we do miss out on the usual relaxation/napping/football watching/family time/etc.   Of course, I didn’t go home for Thanksgiving 1L or 2L year either (LAX is too crazy Thanksgiving weekend, and really it’s a time to buckle down and start preparing for finals which are just around the corner so most people don’t leave the law school).

I hope everyone who does get to celebrate a regular Thanksgiving has a fabulous time in the U.S.A. 🙂  Although I have absolutely loved my time in Europe, I am very excited to be returning home on December 17th 🙂  (And PS Dad–I have shot glasses for you from almost every country I’ve visited ;)).

Tonight- British Mooting Round 2

Tonight is the final round of my experience in British Mooting (oral argument).  Alexander and I are a team, representing the “Respondent” in an appeal before the House of Lords which is the highest court here.  Our opponents are young Barristers (their form of lawyers) from Middle Temple.  I forgot to bring my camera with me, but hopefully Alexander can get his so I can have pictures!

This weekend (we have 4 day weekends here) will be spent madly attempting to get my outlines for my 3 classes up to date (1 is 1 month behind, 2 are 2 months behind).  I am trying to tell myself that if I can get it all caught up this weekend, I will reward myself with downloading Season 11 of America’s Next Top Model from ITUNES 🙂

I will also try to update this weekend on the rest of my Amsterdam trip, and my trip to Atlanta.  Still no word from my interview, but as soon as I know I’ll be sure to share!

Hello Homesickness, Wow!

I’m just a couple of weeks out from finals right now.  Kind of out of nowhere I’ve been hit by this overwhelming feeling of homesickness.  It probably has a lot to do with the fact that I’m most likely not going to be traveling anymore so the adventure is gone, and I’m extremely behind in 2 of my classes so I really have to buckle down and work, work, work over the next couple of weeks so I’m not really going to be out enjoying London either.  Also, the uncertainty of Atlanta vs. L.A. vs. “do I even want to stay in L.A.?” is getting to me as well.

Whatever the reason, I really, really miss home.  Portland is so clean, and nice.  And people whine about how it rains all the time, but that just makes it really clean and green (AND PREVENTS RAGING FIRES THAT BURN DOWN HOMES AND “PARALYZE” PEOPLE FOR DAYS LIKE IN L.A.).  The cost of living is better, the traffic is better, most of my friends and family are all there… Ah!  I also just really miss being able to talk to people back home.  I have a cell here, but it costs a lot to call anyone (including anyone in the UK) so I primarily use it for texting or very short phone calls of the “where/when should we meet up/what is the reading for tomorrow” variety.  I also didn’t get my typical “fall visit home to Portland” trip this fall like I normally do which means I’ve been gone longer than I ever have.  Ah!  People keep asking me if I plan to go back to Portland, and believe me I would LOVE to go back to Portland.  I am not sure at this point career-wise what the best move for me is in the initial years after law school, but I would LOVE to come back to Portland pronto if given the appropriate chance.  I’ve never met a person who has been to Portland who said “wow, that city sucked.”  Everyone always has very good things to say.  So everyone in Portland: feel very lucky that you live in the best place in the U.S.A.! 😉

Anyway, as I mentioned, it’s buckle down time.  Somehow, I’ve been blessed with an amazing ability to get an insane amount of work done in a very short time when I am very stressed out.  This means that although I haven’t read since the first couple of weeks for 2 of my 3 classes, I will have it all read and my outlines all done by the end of Thanksgiving weekend as planned.  Now, whether I will still be able to do the same on exams as I do in a regular semester (where I actually generally read for classes) will be another story.  Our classes are very small here in London, and they are packed with very smart people and very good test takers which means the curve is most likely going to be pretty tough.  However, regardless of how I do (assuming my grades don’t drastically plummet in which case I would be pretty ashamed of myself) I think it’s all worth it for the experience of getting to live outside of the U.S. for a few months and travel around to see places I never thought I’d see.

During finals season I always have these morbid thoughts about how if I were to die sometime soon (during or after finals) it would really suck that I spent my last several days of life studying all the time.  I’ve thought about that regarding this semester, and I know later on down the road I will not regret not studying more this semester.  However, I would regret it if I had stayed in my room studying all the time and never got out to travel.  Basically what I’m saying is… I excuse my procrastination 🙂

Den Haag (The Hague): First Night and First Day of my Trip to Holland

The purpose of my weekend trip to the Netherlands was a school trip to go to the Hague and visit the International Criminal Court (ICC) and other international criminal tribunals. Then, because that only takes up one day, and you have to fly out of Amsterdam anyway, most of the students went back to Amsterdam for the rest of weekend.

Anyway, with that background…. Den Haag.

We had to leave for Den Haag on Thursday after classes. However, due to time differences between Atlanta and London (I was dealing with the application process for the judge that day), I decided to head to the airport early, skipping my last class of the day, so I could be all checked in by the time Atlanta “woke up” and could get all of my application stuff done there. Sure enough, with a lot of running around by Alexander while I frantically typed away at my laptop, I pulled it off and got my application in just in time to run down to our gate and catch our flight out to Amsterdam.

From Amsterdam we had to catch a train to the Hague. One of the frequent frustrations we’ve had in Europe is that a lot of the time their train ticket machines only take bank cards/credit cards that have the chip in them. I have four credit cards and a check card over here and none of them have a chip (and I’m not entirely sure how common if at all the chips are in the U.S.). Anyway, this means that frequently we try to buy tickets from the machine, ultimately realize we can’t because the machine rejects all of cards, and then we have to go buy a ticket from a ticket window which always costs a little more. The machines don’t specify they require a chip, so we never know. Ahh!

Anyway, ultimately we got our tickets and boarded what later turned out to be the wrong train. It still went to the Hague, just the wrong end, so we had to catch another train back the other way, and the train didn’t leave for awhile. By the time we made it to the hostel, people who had been on the same flight were like “…what happened to you guys?” because they had already been there for awhile.

From the correct train station, we just had to walk a couple of blocks over to our hostel. There was a lot of construction which made it a little confusing and then we spotted the sign for the hostel on the other side of this canal we were facing. And then we also realized that the canal and surrounding street were all taped off with police tape and there were several police vehicles there and police standing around. It was clear whatever had happened was completely over, but we weren’t sure what it was. My initial thought was: “was someone killed at the hostel?” because it was literally right behind the hostel where all this stuff was going down. We walked around to the other entrance and went inside and we found out there had been a shooting on a house boat on the canal (completely unrelated to the hostel). And I later found out (from a taxi driver) that it was actually a murder, not just a shooting. Great way to start off your first hostel experience, eh?

We dropped off our luggage in our rooms so we could go meet some of the gang to go out to a late dinner. When I initially walked in my room it reminded me of a youth camp cabin. Not a big deal, I can handle camp accommodations. However, camp accommodations are definitely better when you are relying on your own sleeping bag and not somebody else’s urine stained sheets. *shudder* However, I wasn’t aware how bad the sheets were at that time.

We all walked down to a “nearby” Indonesian restaurant which was actually quite far, but ultimately worth the walk because it was delicious! I had never had Indonesian food before, but we had a group of about 10 or so, so we got a giant spread of all different kinds of dishes. And the best part was that it was on Pepperdine, so we didn’t have to pay (I think it would have been over 20 euros each if we were paying).

After dinner, we walked back to the hostel to go to bed. I’ve already ranted about my night at the hostel, so although I’d like to rehash all of that again, I am going to save myself, and you, and just leave it at “I went to bed.”

The morning of the next day (Friday) was spent touring a few International Claims tribunals. Basically, these are courts set up specifically to resolve claims arising out of incidents that happened between two or more countries. For example, the first one we went to was the Iran-United States Claims Tribunal, which was set up in 1981 to resolve claims arising out of incident where a bunch of Americans were held hostage, and in response the United States froze the assets of Iranians. 27 years later… they are still resolving claims! Whoah.

Leaving the Iran-United States Claims Tribunal

Leaving the Iran-United States Claims Tribunal

Alexander and I on the bus between courts

Alexander and I on the bus between courts

At our second court, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, we actually got to sit in on part of a case. Three top military officials were being tried for their part in masterminding a lot of the war crimes like ethnic cleansing that were committed between the various areas that were formerly known as Yugoslavia (Sarajevo, Kosovo, etc.). There was a huge team of lawyers on one side (we’re talking 10-15 people) for the 3 men accused, and a huge team of people on the prosecution side as well. The part we saw involved one of the defense attorneys asking a bunch of questions and basically reading a bunch of passages without any questions. It didn’t make sense at all where he was going with any of his questions, and it didn’t make sense at all who this witness was and why she was able to answer any of these questions. Just as I was getting pretty annoyed by that, one of the judges interrupted and started asking the witness what she was doing there and what gave her the authority/personal knowledge to be able to answer the questions. She couldn’t give a specific answer to any of the judge’s questions, and finally she just asked if she could have a break for a little bit and the court adjourned. Just for my non-law school readers out there, in the United States you could never do that. Before a witness begins asking questions you have to make it clear why the witness is there and why they have the knowledge they claim to have. Anyway, that was pretty interesting to a procedure-nerd like myself.

(From what I could gather, apparently the defense was trying to make the case that a bunch of soldiers went AWOL, and so the military leaders had no idea where they were, and no control over what they were doing, so they should not be held responsible for any crimes committed by these soldiers when they were AWOL. Apparently the witness worked somewhere where a lot of paperwork came in regarding soldiers who went absent, and they were trying to use her to prove that a bunch of soldiers went absent around the time these ethnic cleansings were taking place… riiiight. )

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY)

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY)

After the case, I had to catch a taxi back to the hostel and begin sitting by the internet waiting for any word from the judge (for a possible interview). Since the best way to reach me is via email, and I don’t have the convenience of email access on a phone here in Europe, I essentially had to sit by the computer all afternoon waiting to hear anything. But it was on the cab ride back to the hostel that I learned it was a murder behind our hostel and not just a shooting, and while I sat on the computer I could see the investigators out the window investigating the scene. They had set up a big white tent to block people on the street from seeing what they were doing, but they hadn’t done anything to block the view from the hostel.

)

Alexander saw this while he was out with the group, and took a picture for me 🙂

Around 5 or 6pm, the rest of the group arrived back from their afternoon at a few more courts, and we all left the hostel to catch a train back to Amsterdam.

Sadly, my camera wasn’t working the first night we were in Den Haag, and then the second day I was preoccupied on the computer so I didn’t get many pictures from that part of the trip, but it was a very pretty city. More on Amsterdam to come in the next post!

It Finally Caught Me (or has been catching me for awhile).

You have to know that I must be extremely, extremely exhausted because although I purchased a ticket a few months ago to go visit my dear friend Bre in Berlin, I realized yesterday that I am just too physically exhausted and beyond behind in classes that I just can’t do it.  I have the chance to visit another country, to see a great friend, and I’ve already bought the ticket (and have a free place to stay) but I’ve turned it down.

Technically my flight doesn’t leave for about 4 hours, so I could still make it if I wanted to, and the spontaneous, travel loving, crazy, procrastinating Michelle really, really wants to still be on that plane.  However, for those of you who really know me, you know that when I reach a certain point of tiredness I lose virtually all ability to be rational or reasonable or deal with life in general and I am definitely at that point now.

That being said, I have had an absolutely fabulous time traveling to the places I’ve been so far.  Although there are many places I had every intention of visiting but just couldn’t get to (Portugal, Italy, Greece, and Germany just to name a few…), I definitely have been able to travel more than I could have imagined.  To recap, I’ve been to (not in order):

  • France (Three times: Strasbourg once, and Paris twice)
  • Belgium (Brussels and Bastogne)
  • Luxembourg (Luxembourg City)
  • Switzerland (Interlaken and the Jungfrau Region)
  • The Netherlands (Amsterdam and Den Haag)
  • Spain (Barcelona)
  • Ireland (Dublin and Malahide)
  • Northern Ireland (Belfast; driving the Coastal Causeway)
  • England (Just London so far)
  • Atlanta, GA (I had never been to Georgia prior to this!)

I still haven’t fully updated on my trips to The Netherlands or Atlanta.  I will do so soon! For now, I’m trying to catch up on sleep and make a game plan for myself to catch up on law school after all of this crazy traveling!

Getting Caught Up–Final Day in Barcelona.

I have previously updated on Barcelona Day 1 (Saturday) and Day 2 (Sunday). Our flight was leaving at 2:45pm, but that gave us several hours in the morning to get out and explore the city a little bit more before leaving. Again, it was sunny and beautiful outside. As a little aside, with the exception of my recent trip to Amsterdam which I haven’t updated about yet, I have had pretty *perfect* weather on all of my trips so far. No rain, generally a lot of sunshine, and in the event it has been cold I’ve been prepared for the cold (ie Switzerland). I’m so thankful I’ve been able to enjoy all of these beautiful places with weather that is conducive to being out on foot exploring. Anyway, back to Barcelona.

First things first: we needed some breakfast. Both of agreed that we needed to find a place with some eggs and meat because, although pain au chocolats are delicious, we were pretty burned out on the typical pastry/coffee European breakfast. Luckily, a few blocks down from our hotel we found what we thought was a cafe (that turned out to be kind of a cafe/bar/casino) that had a great breakfast for only 4.50 euros each. It included coffee, orange juice, eggs, toast, and sausage or bacon. DELICIOUS. We were not only the only white people in there, we were also the only females and the only people under about 40… But it was worth it and it was delicious! Also, instead of playing Zoey 101 dubbed over in spanish like the cafe we had breakfast at the day before, here the TV was playing the news in Spanish (with captions in Catalan). Since we both know some Spanish and I know some French (Catalan is kind of a blend of those) we were able to figure out what a lot of the top stories were about.

Breakfast for 4.50!

Breakfast for 4.50!

From there, we walked back over to the area where we had found a lot of shopping. Becky was really hoping to find some leather boots, but sadly every store we visited only carried up to a 41. Welcome to my world Becky 😦 However, we did find a store for “Martina K” which is a brand of purses/wallets/shoes which I think is only in Spain (?). Anyway, Becky ended up buying a very cool purse, and I bought a new wallet and a little clutch. From there we were on a mission to find a Starbucks because Becky collects Starbucks mugs and had already found one each place she went (France, England, Wales). We walked the direction we thought we’d been before, thinking we were walking toward the cathedral but realized it was a different church. We walked around inside and took some pictures, and then returned to our mission to find the Starbucks.

The Church

The Church

Now, I am a pretty directionally challenged person, but I am also a visual person so if I see things I recognize I can usually find my way back to something I’ve only been to once. So, using those skills I was able to guide us back to the first Starbucks we saw our first night in Barcelona. Inside, the Starbucks was super fancy and ornate. I only have one picture of it (below), but even the floor was fancy tile. Not your typical Starbucks for sure.  We decided to get lunch and coffee there before heading back to our hotel since we weren’t sure when we would get another chance to eat.  My sandwich was mediocre and they forgot to actually add espresso to my iced latte (vanilla milk anyone?) but when I went up to the counter to ask about it they added more espresso pronto.

Barcelona Starbucks

Barcelona Starbucks

On our walk back to our hotel, we passed Las Ramblas again and we saw a man standing in a tank top and underwear washing himself on the street. There was also someone dressed in a crazy costume right next to him, so it took us a minute to figure out what was going on. So we started laughing because we thought the two were somehow connected, but now we’re pretty sure the guy was cleaning himself on the street because he had no other way to clean himself, and the person in the crazy costume was just a coincidence :/

Once we got back to the hotel, we had to hurry to finish packing up and check out of our hotel. We decided to pay the extra $$ to take a cab to the airport rather than public transportation. It would have been about 5 euros each to take public transportation and it was about 15 euros each to take a cab. However, taking the trains involved a walk from our hotel to the metro (which wasn’t short), then we would have to take the metro to this big train station, which involved a lot of walking and going up and down esclators and stairs to get to the main train area, and then waiting up to 30 minutes for that train (it only comes every 30 minutes) and then once it gets you to the airport it’s a pretty long walk up to the terminal. We decided doing all of that with luggage on the way to our hotel was too much work, and it was totally worth it to take a cab which took us door to door in 20 minutes. Also, another bright side of the cab ride was that we essentially got a mini sight seeing tour. The train had taken us through a pretty run down area, but the cab took us on a highway along the harbor which was really pretty and relaxing. And, we got to see this really cool cemetery that is built into the side of a cliff:

Cemetery

Another view from the cab ride

Another view from the cab ride

At the airport we had a lot of trouble with our baggage. Although we had no problems getting to Barcelona with only carry-ons, suddenly they were telling us our carry-on bags couldn’t weigh more than 8 kilos each or we would have to check them. So Becky and I stood in the airport and shifted stuff from our main suitcases into our purses and finally they let us take both on the airplane. (By the way, having a policy like that is STUPID. It’s supposed to be based on size, not weight. The weight is going on the plane either way, and all they did by making us shift stuff is make it impossible to fit our purses under the seat in front of us, thereby taking up more room in the overhead bins which is what they were trying to protect in the first place). Then, when we got to Zurich (we had a layover there), we had to go through security again to get to our gate for our continuing flight, and this time they just flat out said we could not take our roller bags on the aircraft, they would have to be checked to our final destination. So, the woman put tags on our bags and said when we got to the plane, someone would be there to pick up the bags. However, nobody was there, and we didn’t bother asking we just snuck our bags on the plane. We assumed it must be a small plane if they were being so crazy about baggage but NO. It was a full size plane, and it wasn’t even close to full passenger-wise. There were 13 rows of business class and only 3 people in the entire section. Also, coach was less than half full. Swiss Air must have sent out some baggage policy enforcement memo over the weekend or something, because we had no problems at all on the way out, but nobody wanted to let us take our rollerbags on the planes on the way back. I think that is a really stupid policy. When you’re just going somewhere for the weekend, it’s obnoxious to check bags which is why I pack extremely light and only take a carry-on suitcase. I don’t know why they were so insistent about not bringing carry-ons on the flight! That being said, aside from the baggage policies, Swiss Air is really great! They give you food, free beverages (including free wine if you want it) and after the food/drink time they give you Swiss Air chocolates which are delicious. Oh, and the safety video they show is by far my favorite!

My one regret in Barcelona is that we never made it down to the beach! We were staying close to the harbor and it was apparently about a 45 minute walk to actually get down on the beach. Our final morning we were worried it might take us too long to get down there and we wouldn’t get back in time to check out and get to the airport, so we didn’t try. But there is always next time! 😉

I do not have any additional pictures that I haven’t already linked to, but just for ease of access, you can see all of the pictures from our short trip to Barcelona here, here, and here.

Yes I Love Technology!

Sometimes I get frustrated when technology fails me, but much more often than not technology is a huge help! Two examples:

1) When video-conferencing wouldn’t work this week (due to security issues), I was able to use a web-cam and the internet to SKYPE with a federal circuit judge (from London to the USA).

2) Today I used Google Satellite to find a particular neighborhood in Paris where I knew the shopping was, and then used Google Street View to walk down the street and find the shoe store where I bought a pair of boots a couple of months ago.  I couldn’t remember the name, and a friend of mine who is also tall is in Paris right now looking for shoes and wanted to know where I got mine.  There was a bus in front of the store, but the awning showed and I remembered what it looked like.  SUCCESS!

So, thanks to technology I was able to have a “face-to-face” interview with a judge from across an ocean, and thanks to technology I was able to walk down the streets of Paris from my Atlanta, Georgia hotel room.  Awesome!