A Travellerspoint blog

Homeward Bound

I wish I was....

sunny

Well I have now been on the road for 10 weeks, or 70 days as it were. I think that it is a good time to return home. I am sitting in my last hostel, feeling a little apprehensive, anxious i think is a better word. i have seen a lot, met new people, been exposed to new world views and everything else that you are supposed to experience when you leave the country for the first time for an extended period. It has been great, and i don't know yet what kind of effect this will have, if any. So as i pack my bag and hope that the British will allow it as a carry-on, i have just started to think about what it will be like to return to a somewhat normal routine after the longest period of unemployment and vacation that i have ever experienced.

And at the same time I am way excited to see my family and friends again. I really have missed you all, as well as Stillwater, Sussex County, New Jersey, and all the spots that I love to visit contained therein. I can't wait to drive my car, esp b/c it will be on the right (correct) side of the road.

Travel plans for tomorrow:
Take Piccadilly line to Heathrow airport
Get on Flight 111 Air India to JFK
Take AirTrain to NYC Subway
Take A train to Penn Station
Take Train to Dover
Get picked up by dad
Relax
family dinner
see friends?
sleeeeeeep

Wish me luck!

Posted by Brainford 14:58 Archived in England Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

London: Part Deux

The Arrival of Luke

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I arrived back in London on Saturday night, and after overcoming obstacles such as closed tube lines, vague directions to my hostel and a large crowd of sex-toy supermarket go-ers, i was able to find my hostel.

It was in a word: terrible.

Dirty, cluttered, lacking toilet paper, and tending to emit loud drum and bass music at night, i was glad i was only there one evening.

On the next day, i found the hostel that luke and i would be staying in for the next three nights, then went out to ambush luke which i did at the local tube station. we made a deal: he wouldn't succumb to jet lag if i agreed to go to the london dungeon, which was a very disney-fied haunted house that told all the stories of scary london, ie. the plague years, torture in london tower, jack the ripper, and my favorite (and kyle's :) sweeney todd. (btw fleet street is actually a really nice place for food, nothing like the den of murder and terror that it used to be)

Today we woke up early and went to the Tower bridge, which luke fell in love with, and The Tower of London, where we spent almost 5 hours and got our picture taken with a beefeater. Good times. Needless to say i am glad to have a friend with me to wander about the city and sightsee. Although i can no longer make mistakes (like mistakenly order 2 dishes of rice at and indian resturant) without being made fun of. Having a great time! See y'all soon.

-Brian

And introducing a very special guest contributor to the blog, the illustrious Luuuuuuuuke FRANK-liiiiiiin!

Okay so I only have about ten minutes so I'll make this quick. London so far in my less than 48 hours has been awesome. My flight was good though I did sit next to a chatty chelsea on the plane which meant I couldn't just sit and read and fall right asleep. She was a sweet old lady from England, but it was still somewhat annoying.

Anyway, so once I landed I figured out how to get on the train I needed to take to London and then arrived there around 10am UK time. I went to take the tube to the hostel, which was remarkably easy to navigate. This proved a good thing as since it was Sunday there were numerous lines down so I had to go a crazy roundabout way to get where I wanted.

As Brian mentioned, he snuck up on me at the tube station by our hostel. We checked in and then went around as he mentioned. Now he is making fun of me for loving the Tower Bridge, but the thing is so COOL. We do not have bridges like that and I don't know why he doesn't share my affection for it.

We have been wandering around the city a lot which has been great. To be honest, some of the best things we have found so far we have stumbled upon just by getting lost like the pub we ate at tonight and the fake Rockefellar center of London. Well, I have to wrap up this rambling message as our internet time is up. See you all soon.

Posted by Brainford 13:32 Archived in England Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

Barcelona!

so glad i changed my plans and came here.

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Honor, Wim and Wasseem kept telling me how awesome barcelona is, but i didn´t decide to come here until nick told me that he would be here on business for a week. How could i pass up a chance to hang in a foriegn city with my longest tenured friend.

So after an 11 hour train ride from nice, i arrived in barcelona and as soon as we got back to nicks hotel, we went out with hos coworkers for dinner, and just as a side note, you could def tell by our dress who the backpacker was and who the professionals were. We had a great meal and when it came time to pay, the bill went on the company credi card. needless to say i was grateful and more than a little surprised. The Vernon Township BOE certainly never paid for a 3 course dinner and wine. Maybe i could get used to this business model...

Barcelona could very well be the most beautiful city i have ever been in. It has a well-organized grid pattern for the streets, with multiple tree-lined boulevards crossing the city providing an amount of greenery that you don´t find in too many places. In addition to this, there are also 3 HUGE parks in the city, the most famous being the Guell Park, designed by the city´s famous architect, Antoni Gaudi. Gaudi´s work was inspired by both Christianty and nature, so that much of his work is shaped by his study of the complex and simple structures of nature.

He also designed many buildings in Barcelona, but his most extravagant work is the Sagrada Familia, a huge cathedral that is still under construction more than 120 years after it was first started. Nick and I both had the same reaction; absolute awe at the fine details and sybolism grafted onto stone of every shape and hue. I spent almost 2 hours there and barely felt the passage of time.

i wish i had written this better, but i am a little pressed for time so enjoy what is here. i know its lacking in detail and clarity, but check out the websites since pictures are worth a thousand words.

Posted by Brainford 08:55 Archived in Spain Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

5 Days in Roma

which was really only supposed to be 3 days

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Ok, i apologize to all my adoring fans out there for not writing in almost 6 days. I know how you all love to put off writing papers, creating lessons plans, and any other chore by checking to see if i have added anything new. Well to reward you here are a few stories about Rome.

1.) I got into Rome itself and called my hostel for a ride, only to find out that i needed to take ANOTHER train for 40 minutes to get to the hostel, which was in a suburb called Ostia. When i arrived there i could not help but think that this place is either a mental institution or based off a level from Goldeneye; tall white ceilings and long corridors seperated by a ton of unneccesary doors with a wide staircase with elevator in the middle. When the owner opened the door to my room, i was able to glimpse a couple youngish americans, a few bottles of wine (empty) and was assaulted by blaring MTV. The owner turned and said she could find another room for me, but this looked way to good to pass on. Turns out there were 5 minnesotans sharing the 6 person room, and they were all just a year younger than me. And 4 were girls :) We ended up hanging out the next day and went to...

2.) The Vatican Museum. It took us a good 10 minutes to follow the signs directing us to the entrance, but when the signs stopped, all we saw was an exit from the museum. a little confused, we asked a couple that was leaving where he entrance was and she pointed to the right. to two large bronze doors. that were quite definatly shut. It turns out that the las entrance to the museum is 12:20, and it being 3:00 at this point, you could say we were a little dissapointed.

3.) Fortunatly, John and I were staying an extra night and got to see the museum and the Sistine Chapel the next day, and we only had to wait in line for an hour. The museum was amazing, there were more statues, tapestries, gold leaf, frescoes and arble than i have ever seen before in one place. I made a joke about the Catholic church having more money than God, but john, being Roman Catholic, didn't really appreciate my humor. but seriously, when you see what all the collection money of thousands of peasants being used to pay for a very large peice of artistic cloth, you begin to realize why martin luther started the reformation. i'm sure that money could have been used in a much more useful manner.

4.) I also went to see the Collesum (little kids dream come true), Roman Forum (cluttered group of once great monuments), San Clemente (church built on top of a church built on top of mithriac temple, excavations in progress) and later spent a whole day in Pompeii which was just amazing. We're talking a full out roman city complete with 2000 year old frescoes that don't look a day over 500.

5.) and you might ask why i didn't stay in naples, which is a lot closer to pompeii than rome and would not have required a 3 hour train ride back and forth in one day. i'll tell you why.

-First of all, an Italian girl i was hanging out with in Berlin said that in naples you should keep all of your money in your pockets and keep your hands in your pockets.
-Second, Massimo, the guy i bought my jacket from, said that i should put money in my shoes and not to bring anything valuable out on the street with me.
-Third, and finally, i saw a front page article in the Herald Tribune that read "Violence is getting out of control, even for Naples." The article went on to discuss the rampant drug use and gang wars in Naples and the idea that italy might send in the military to control things. This was not so much a straw, but more like an anvil that broke the camel's back. I decided i liked my life and that Naples probably was not such a good place to be.

I have now returned to venice, and from here i will be going to Nice again, and then take a train to Barcelona where my good friend Nick will be staying for business during the day, and fun at night. It will be good to see a familiar face again.

Posted by Brainford 09:14 Archived in Italy Tagged backpacking Comments (3)

Florence, Italy

yummy

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while traveling you have to ask yourself some serious questions, such as,

1.What is so wrong about eating gelato before dinner, and could i replace dinner with another gelato?

the answer is of vourse yes, as long as you have two different types of gelato.

2.Is is better to buy italian leather in italy or America? I am really hoping italy cuz i finally bought myself a sweet souvenir. and italian leather jacket. its espresso colored and i bought it from massimo, who was a pretty savy business man, but even he wilted under my stern bargaining. we started out with a jacket for 180 euro, which he assured me would be 300 euro in other stores, and 300 pounds in london. i moved him to another for 160, and because i drove a hard bargainm he dropped it to 150. sweet huh? AND i later went to a regular leather store, and i found a similiar jacket for...330 euro! i am a shopping champ. now i just gotta get it back home safe and sound. dont worry, i got him to specially wrap it as part of the deal

off to rome!

Posted by Brainford 07:27 Archived in Italy Tagged backpacking Comments (2)

So much nicer in nice

sunny

i had heard horror stories about how touristy nice and how i should avoid it like the plague. however, when it came time to book a hostel, nice was the only town on the mediteranean that had decent prices. so i booked 2 nights and i do not at all regret it.

the hostel was clean and had free internet, two of my big sticking points. i met a guy who just got out of the navy after 9 years and we went out for dinner and discussed teaching and politics and the war in iraq. since he had been in bagdad a few months ago i asked him about the current situation. he explained that this is prob the worst mess we have seen in many years and will end up being there for 10-20 years and as poor of a job as we are doing at keeping peace, if we weren,t there the country would be in absolute chaos.

later on the train to florence i read an article in the international tribune that explained that most if the government contracts given out to companies to rebuild iraq are expiring and that the companies (ahem, haliburton) havent actually completed much rebuilding, thanks in large part to security issues and a lack of criticism and prodding from those in power. and the us government has no plans to renew efforts at rebuilding. considering the country is only getting 6 hours a day of electricity, is it really a surprise that the insurgency is only getting stronger? is this even being talked about back home in the midst of elections that are coming up? has anyone put forth a plan to actually improve conditions in iraq so that our army can actually have a chance at coming home in the next 10 years?

sorry, this is supposed to be a travel blog and i really started this out as a story about nice, but its hard to avoid the news from home when it seems all bad.

Nice however really was nice. i ate cheese and french bread on the rocky beach the next day and then decided that 65 degrees air temp and similair water temp meant that i should go for a swim in the med sea. it was awesome. a saltier than the atlantic, but i floated around for awhile then basked in the bright sun for an hour. no vacation is complete without a little beach time.

Nice kinda\reminds me of the jersey shore, touristy, relaxed, but in the offseason the fading grandeur of the buildings and cheesiness of the shops becomes a little more evident. in other words it was perfect.

Posted by Brainford 07:07 Archived in France Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Paris, Normandy and Bordeaux

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Paris was a lovely city. dad i'm really not sure why i got spit on. and i'm glad to hear gonzo still lives, think he'll make it another 4 weeks??

anyway back to Paris. I mastered its metro systems, which i am very proud of since so many people said it was confusing. The Louvre was fantastic, i literally spent 2 hours in one half of one of the 4 floors. this is not so hard when you consider e"ach floor is the size of 2 football fields. saw notre dame that day as well and rounded off the evening with ice cream at the eiffel tower (which you can see in my pics)

the next day i walked the champs elyesse to the arch de triomphe which was another example of napolean having a napolean complex. just had to have the worlds largest triumphal arch didnt he? i also tried fitting in with the parisiens by getting a baguette and eating itin the jardin de tuiliers. lovely day.

the food was great aunt pam. crepes from street vendors have def topped doner kebab as my favorite fast food in europe.

i didnt get to versailles but may be able to on mly way back to london from italy later in my trip.

I did however go to a little village in Normandy near Mt St Michele where i stayed in a lovely little b and b style hostel run by an english couple. i stayed there 4 nights and in between sleeping in a room all to myself with clean towels and the possibility of instant coffee in my room if i felt so inclined; i was able to ride bikes to mt st michele(really neat old fashioned island but very touristy), take a bus to st malo (where they happened to be having a very famous bout race and i got to walk on the brach) and a train to Bayeux (where i went to a dday museum and saw the famous bayeux tapestry) great ti,e there thanks to steve and liz (owners). they even let me have a book i started to read while i was there.

now i am in bordeaux and the town seems ok, but my hostel kinda reminds me of the hotel that tom hanks stayed in in the movie BIG. lil scary. i'll be in nice in é days and then on to italy for 10 days, then back to london to meet up with luke, then after a week, home again home again, jiggity jig.

thank you to all who are commenting and sending emails, i really appreciate knowing what is going on back home. though i think that for having a blog thats gets 40-50 hits a day; it looks like more people could leave some love here :-)

later!

btw, it is consistently 10 degrees warmer here than in NJ :-)

Posted by Brainford 10:41 Archived in France Tagged backpacking Comments (4)

New Pictures

here is a sample-more pics are in my gallery

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here we see some fine examples of communist propoganda on a former nazi building (luftwaffen HQ) that is now home to the tax office.

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ice cream in prague looks almost too good to eat

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how about this jaunty item for an adventure hat???

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The festung in Salzburg had three main defenses
1.) Steep climb to exhaust invading armies
2.) Massive walls

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and 3.) Fierce warriors with spears!

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Jed, Max, and Me at the base of Jungfrau AFTER ascedinding 1000 meters

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and last but not least, ny postcard shot

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all is well, be home in less than a month

Posted by Brainford 08:12 Archived in France Tagged backpacking Comments (4)

French keyboqrds qre qnnoying

so iù, just gonnq type qnd you cqn figure out zhqt keys qre ,ixed up:::sqcre bkeu

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ok so internet is free here which is a good thing. oh and here by the way is paris. i arrived at 7 pm and found my hostel, attempted to do laundry but the owner of the laundremat said it was too late. well actuqlly he just motioned at me despite the fact that i was using broken french with him. i left and somewhere in the next 10 feet i got spit on. yup real big loogey on my shorts. cute.

things got better qfter that (as could be imagined) and i went for dinner, and on the way saw some people i had met in berlin and we decided to go out for crepes later: this was a good idea as crepes are delicious, esp w/nutella or applesauce and cinnamon.

FLASHBACK

1 Day Ago...i was hiking the swiss alps with a couple of guys from boston, and no we did not talk about baseball as this prob would have resulted in us not travelling together anymore. we took a train up to grindenwald (1034 meters) and from there we set off on a fairly well travelled trail that at times was more challenging than the grand tetons trek that i did with joel a couple summers ago. We ascended up to a town at the base of Jungfrau (2072m). it was supposed to take 4 hours. We did it in 3. and stopped for lunch. a lunch that included cheese that i cut with my NEW SWISS ARMY KNIFE!!!! needless to say the views were amazing and i was just really happy to get out of the cities and experience nature on a meaningful level again. i also can't imagine the labor it takes to build up there.

3 Days Ago...i was in Munich and went to Dachau (great pics for a powerpoint lesson) the public baths (interesting...and i was glad i got a chance to swim) and then the Haufbrauhaus (drank 2 very good liters of beer)

aaaand thats about it...bed time...bon soir

Posted by Brainford 14:35 Archived in France Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

WE HAVE A WINNER...OR TWO??

internet is way expensive in interlaken (4 bucks for 30 min)

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And the winner is..............

Cole Little

aaaaand

Katie Ghilain

both guessed 8 dollars (american) but cole was the first to answer correctly. congrats to both of you and you will be recieving postcards soon. and thanks to katie for critically analysing the phrasing of my contest rules (silly lawyer).

To everyone else who guessed, thank you for your attempts, esp to Brian for guessing in crwons and alex for guessing in obth crowns and us dollars.

keep tuned for more contests (like "who knows where the exclamation point is on a german keyboard???)

Posted by Brainford 11:54 Archived in Switzerland Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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