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Matthew 19:26

Archive for May 2010

Walking Along the Thames

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I mentioned in my last entry that I met a girl. I ran into her on Thursday night and we talked for hours. Extremely interesting, she is getting her doctorate in psychology. She was from L.A. and had been backpacking through the UK for the last month and spent most of her time in Ireland. It was great to talk to an American and I know she felt the same way. Being able to travel around and not have to explain differences in culture or explain why something was funny was welcomed and refreshing. We decided that we would tour the next day together.

I woke up at 8:45 am on a beautiful, clear and sunny day in London. I had to meet Kira at 9 so I rushed to get ready and started thinking about what we should do. It was her second day in London and it didn’t sound like she had done very much. I decided we would head to Westminster and see Big Ben and possibly ride the London Eye. Both things that I wanted to do and I was sure she would too. She did so we left for the tube.

Seeing Big Ben is a short event because you cannot tour the clock tower unless you are a UK citizen. So we walked by the enormous clock tower and continued to the London Eye. Tickets to the Eye are more expensive than I thought, but it is well worth it. You get a fantastic panoramic view from the top of the Eye which shows you a huge amount of London. It was great to experience the Eye after I had been wandering around London for a few days because I could identify a lot of what I saw. It is difficult for me to describe and it is best to experience it yourself, but I hope the pictures that I post will speak for themselves. The only thing I can say is it is a beautiful view of London and make sure, if you do go on it, to go near the end of your trip on a clear day. After the Eye we headed up the Thames River.

We slowly made our way to the Tate Modern Museum. It shocks me every time I walk into a museum in London and no one checks my bag or asks me to pay. Inside the Tate there are artists ranging from Picasso to Warhol. Even with these two great artists being in the museum, the best thing I saw was the work by Bridget Riley. Her work is an exploration of the human eye. It is all about how we view color and how our perspective changes with different angles and lines. I could have sat in front of one of her paintings all day. They were all mesmerizing and seemed to move in front of you. One in particular called ‘To a Summer Day’ gave me the sensation of staring at a fire. If you have ever stared into a fire it can have the affect of clearing your mind and keeping your attention. This same dream state came upon me when I stared at this painting. It is astonishing what artists can do and how the medium has progressed over the years. Moving from the Tate we walked farther up the Thames.

Our goal was to get to the Tower of London in time to go in it, but unfortunately (depending on how you look at it) The Anchor was in the way. The Anchor is a restaurant pub built a few hundred years ago and when you walk by it you can’t help but go in. It looks like something right out of the 18th century and it is. Kira and I both had fish n’ chips and relaxed in the sun next to the Thames before heading to the Tower Bridge and on to the Tower of London.

The Tower Bridge was enormous. It is an absolute engineering feat and at the same time it is a gorgeous piece of art. The bridge was built to be the first draw bridge and I think the building of draw bridges has gone down hill since this this one. England set the bar way too high. We crossed the bridge and searched for the Tower London.

Once we got to the Tower it was too late to go into the castle, but since it was so beautiful outside we sat down and just looked at the massive structure. The Tower is actually at the center of a castle and by eaves dropping on some tours crossing by I could hear some of its history. It is too long to tell but I will probably try and tell some once I have been on the inside. It was a great day to spend outside walking by the Thames. The sun was out and the breeze felt great. That day there was nothing better than sitting outside the Tower of London and relaxing.

We hit a pub on the way home and listened to a band sing American oldies.

Written by davidpaparelli

May 30, 2010 at 5:09 pm

Posted in Europe

“Please Mind The Gap”

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Wow it has been a hectic few days. Sorry to everyone waiting for updates. I have been up at 8 am everyday and busy until at least 11 pm. A lot has happen so let’s see if I can collect my thoughts enough to recollect my days.

The day Amisio left, a dane, who was staying in my room, invited me to follow him around London the next day. So I met up with him the next morning and we ventured on. He told me we had to meet up with a couple of his friends from a class he just took in London. Turned out it was another danish guy and a swedish girl. It was an incredibly interesting group, but if you are waiting for a punch line at the end of this story you will be disappointed.

The swede was from Stockholm and the danes were from northern Denmark. We were trying figure out what to do for the day and the original Dane (Nicoli) suggested that we get lunch in Camden. He also suggested that we walk to Camden. At that time we were west of West Kensington and the walk would have taken three hours. The tube station was about one hundred yards away so fortunately the group decided on the tube. The other things that we absolutely had to do for the day was: 1) go to Whole foods 2) Go to Barnes and Nobles. I know, they are both very historic and memorable landmarks in London. The swede apparently loves Whole Foods and never gets to go and Nicoli loves to read and Barnes in Noble “is the place to go”. Well we managed to get to Whole Foods first.

Not surprisingly, Whole Foods is exactly the same in London as it is everywhere else in the world except more expensive. Nothing too thrilling happened in the grocery store and after two hours we left. We found our way to the tube and headed to Notting Hill.

We went to this part of town to burn time before we searched for a restaurant in Camden. I had been to Notting Hill before and was not that impressed with it. We wandered around the hill and I must say it is a beautiful place to live. It has rows of gorgeous town houses and small quaint stores. The bookstore from the movie ‘Notting Hill’ was another exciting “must” see and so we navigated the winding roads and found it. Nicoli had to touch the door knob that Hugh Grant touched in the movie before we could move on. Actually, it turns out that this was not the actual door knob Hugh Grant touched, but the inspiration for the door knob Hugh Grant touched. The movie was not filmed on site but the bookstore was remade in Hollywood. We then moved back to the tube to get to Camden.

Camden was an experience. It reminded me of Miami. I told the group this is what I expect from a city and they all gave me very surprised looks. As one of the store owners told us, Camden is where all the weirdos in London hang out. He said “if you are weird come to Camden and we will accept you.” Now you can understand why it reminded me of Miami (specifically Lincoln road/South Beach). The people in Camden are incredibly colorful. Covered in tattoos and piercings, with mohawks, and an appetite for vegetarian food, they were everywhere. This may be an unfair judgement, but I would not want to get lost in this part of town.

The group headed to a vegetarian restaurant first and then wandered around the “World Famous Market.” The market was a bunch of tents set up as stores and salesmen trying to force feed you samples. It helped that I was with two vegetarians so the group could politely refuse most of the food trying to be forced down our throats. All of this considered, the tents would have been a great place to get lunch because the food was pretty good and really cheap. The swedish girl had to leave and me and the two danes headed to Covent Garden.

Apparently there is not much to see in Covent Garden. Expecting a park of some sort, all we found was a small square with street performers. The square actually had a schedule for street performers and they performed their acts one at a time in front of a pub balcony and wandering tourists. The first guy we watched elected four unlucky tourists to dance around dressed as the village people and the audience voted on the winner. Nicoli stuck around with me, but the other dane had to leave mid act. I got to play a small role in the next act.

The next act was a small englishmen who brought out a giant unicycle, a chainsaw, and three large knives. We saw the props and decided to stick around. The englishmen started the chainsaw and while he was setting up his set he made fun of people walking by to keep the audience entertained. A guy walked by in sunglasses, a polo, and jeans and the performer commented that he was the coolest guy he had ever seen. The guy heard this and pulled out a cigarette to start smoking (enhancing his coolness). He offered the performer a cigarette and the he declined motioning to the chainsaw and saying “I have enough risk in my life.” Then the show began.

The performer searched the crowd and chose me to hold the unicycle upright so he could get on. He asked where I was from and he begged me not to take over his country. I agreed for now just so the show could continue. While I was standing there holding the unicycle upright, the performer pulled out a huge yoyo and a string. He kept tossing the yoyo high in the air and trying to catch it. Every time he missed he took off an article of clothing and he finally got down to his tight underwear. To the crowds horror he missed the next catch. Thankfully he came prepared and had a pair of small pink spandex under his black underwear (I never thought I would say that sentence). So the rest of the show was done in his little spandex. This didn’t bother me too much until I realized he had to mount the unicycle seat that was a few feet above my head. When it got to this part of the show I had the worst or best view in the house depending on how you feel about englishmen. Well he got on the unicycle and juggled a chainsaw as expected. After the show Nicoli told me he wanted to see a musical so we headed to Picadilly Circus.

All the musicals were sold out or too expensive except for ‘Avenue Q’. It was a great show, but I had already heard all the songs so it was not as good as it could have been. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the show it is an adult comedy show with puppets that is a parody of Sesame Street. I guess when puppets make racist jokes it is ok. Anyway, the best part of the show was watching it in London. It is an extremely american script. All of the jokes wreak of american culture including the on going Gary Coleman bit. You’ll have to see it to know what I’m talking about, but just know that the show was made for americans, by americans. The surprising thing was that the Londoners understood all of the jokes. It is incredible how much they know about my country’s politics and culture and how little I know about theirs. Well it was a great show and I was exhausted and ready for bed afterwards, but that was not in the cards.

Nicoli and I said good bye too each other and I headed back to the hostel. When I got back I noticed that the rec room was full of people for the first time since I had been there so I decided to hang out. I met a girl and we talked for a couple of hours and decided to hang out the next day.

Written by davidpaparelli

May 30, 2010 at 1:59 pm

Posted in Europe

Buenos Dias

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After ten hours of flying, worrying about a checked bag, a chicago dog, and a ridiculously expensive taxi I made it to london.

I got into the Ace Hotel at midnight last night. The name makes it sound more luxurious than it actually is. I am sleeping in a room with five other people and the room is about ten feet by ten feet. It was a problem when I got in because everyone was asleep so unloading and trying to get acclimated in the dark was a challenge. After the twelve hours of travel I didn’t think I would have any trouble sleeping, but it took me four hours to fall asleep and I only slept for three. All things considered it was not too bad of a trip in. The cab ride is worth mentioning though.

If you fly to London take the tube! Every guide book that I read said to get a certified taxi. The Ace Hotel told me to get a mini taxi. The real answer is to not get a taxi at all. The cab ride cost me sixty pounds. That is around 90 USD (for those having trouble with the conversion) and is equivalent to almost three nights stay at the Ace Hotel. The tube, on the other hand, costs five pounds. I’ll let you be the judge on whether it is worth it or not. Oh yeah, and the tube faster.

The public transportation in London is fantastic. To drive from Heathrow Airport to the center of london takes about thirty to forty minutes. Public transportation gets you there in fifteen. It disappoints me that Atlanta is not even close to having something like this. Back to the Hotel.

The Hotel is not as bad as it sounds. The bed is comfortable and the people are friendly. It is an outstanding place to meet people because most visitors are backpackers so they are looking for people to tour with. I spent the day today with a guy from Salvador, Brazil. He left after just one day of touring with me and hardly spoke english, but it was great to get to know him in the little time I had and the little I could. He is an extremely nice guy and he lives to travel. I really wish I would have learned spanish or, even better, learned portuguese before I came over. After a day of attempting to combine english, italian, and spanish to communicate he had to get on a flight to go back to Brazil. Before he left we saw quite a bit of London.

It was a great first day. Easy, relaxing and informative, the day started out with me eating breakfast and meeting Amisio. Mentioned above, Amisio is the Brazilian who toured with me for the day. He invited me to join him and I figured we could help each other so why not. He barely spoke english so I could help him communicate and he had spent the nine days prior in London so he knew the city well. We left the hotel and I purchased an Oyster pass (charge card for the tube) and we took a tube ride from west kensington to westminster.

It was amazing walking out of the Westminster station and seeing and hearing the London Clock Tower (Big Ben) loud and proud. The noise and the size do not disappoint. Amisio wanted to take the Thames River cruise tour so we immediately picked up tickets. We had an hour before the cruise so we saw five minute ‘4D’ presentation on the London Eye and walked out to Picadilly Circus.

On the way we saw the historic Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square, and the Charing Cross train station. I’m sure I will see all of these places again as I visit restaurants, pubs, and museums. Losing track of time we had to rush back to the dock to get on the cruise.

The cruise was about an hour long and gave the history of the House of Parliament, the great fire of london, the financial district, the Tower of London, the amazing Tower Bridge (and every other bridge for that matter) and even touched on a few historic pubs along the way. It was a gorgeous day and the breeze from the river felt great. When we got off the cruise I was starving and told Amisio that we should get fish and chips and a beer. He told me that the fish and chips were ok and I guess it was a language barrier issue because he took me to a lebanese restaurant.

The food was still good and we had a beer to celebrate his leaving London. The check came and we left. By the way, trying to explain the concept of a tip to someone who speaks portuguese and almost no english is not easy. So after a day of bueno’s, no les problemes’, aki’s, non lo so’s, and Ambre’s, Amisio left for his fourteen hour flight to Salvador.

Written by davidpaparelli

May 26, 2010 at 2:52 pm

Posted in Europe

Flying to London

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6am flight from Atlanta to chicago (ORD) then a 9 am flight to London from there. American Airlines has already made me check my crarry on bag. It is not too big this plane is just teeny. Hopefully I won’t have to do that again.

I get into London (LHR) at 11 pm. I usually do not have trouble sleeping so it should be no problem adjusting to London time. If it is a problem adjusting it’s not that big of a deal because I plan on taking it easy tomorrow. I’m in the city for a week so there is no need to rush anything.

Getting into the hotel at midnight and sleeping in a room
with seven other people should all be interesting. I have heard most people take the red eye over, which may make more sense…

Written by davidpaparelli

May 25, 2010 at 9:49 am

Posted in Europe

Hello World!

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This is the first of many blog posts.  I recently graduated from college as a finance major at University of Miami and this blog is dedicated to my life after college.  In the next six months I will be backpacking through Europe for nine weeks and traveling to Uganda to work for a nonprofit organization called Hands of Love.  My trip to Europe will be the topic of the majority of the blog posts in the next two months.

I hope to see nine cities in Europe in the nine weeks I am there.  The cities are:

London

Paris

Amsterdam

Stockholm

Prague

Budapest

Rome

Venice

Barcelona

I am not sure what I am going to be doing in those cities.  I am not even sure how much time I will spend in each.  The Eurail Global Pass will be my transportation for the two months leaving me with unlimited travel to almost every part of Europe for sixty days.  Having so many possibilities and having never been to any of these cities I don’t know where exactly I’ll end up, but whatever the case it is going to be a great trip.

Having been packing for the last week and booking hostels, I can tell you that it is almost impossible to plan for a nine week trip.  So I will be making most of my decisions as they come.  I know a few things that I must see, but for the most part I will be winging it.  It will be more interesting that way…

Written by davidpaparelli

May 22, 2010 at 11:59 pm

Posted in Uncategorized