Friday, July 30, 2010

The Old Smoke

So I touched down in London almost 4 days ago and the last few days have been incredibly hectic. Not necessarily physically hectic but mentally hectic for sure. That's what happens I guess when you undertake filming a short while attempting to sight-see and experience a city.

So first impressions of London. It's incredibly nice to be back in an English speaking country. I feel strange actually being able to fully communicate what I want to people haha but in all honesty I really do love London. Having never been to New York I feel like London is the kind of city I could see myself living in. It is the center of so many different things and just being here makes me feel important. That and the fact that seemingly everyone is always walking around in suits and work clothes. It's funny how different London is from the rest of Europe. The main difference I've seen is that the normal 9-5 workday seems so structured. They work during that period and right afterwards head to a pub to get some drinks. So walking around the city you literally see hundreds of people standing around outside (another thing, many people take their drinks and stand outside on the sidewalks drinking them) and because they start so early the rest of the nightlife starts early as well. It literally is winding down when people in Spain are just beginning to head out.

Sight-seeing in general has been taking second string to Greg and my movie making and I'm completely okay with that. Seems fitting that after three months of nearly straight sight-seeing the final stop is a tone down. Funny also how my first impressions of London being a spacious city turned out to be the complete opposite. The city is ALWAYS busy and ALWAYS crowded. But anyways so the first day I arrived late and we just caught up and planned out the week. The next day was spent sight-seeing and I saw a chunk of the "must sees". The next day was spent shooting for the majority and we ended up getting all of the shots we needed done. Then we headed over to see Inception (great movie as expected) and got ready for shooting the next day. Thursday Greg had to work so I met up with another friend from Cannes: Alexandra. We ended up hanging out and going to get Pho (a vietnamese noodle soup) with her friends at night in Old Town London. Funny thing about the food in London is that it basically is a collaboration of all other foods. The city is so incredibly diverse that you can literally eat anything you want and have pretty good versions of it. For example, I had some great Mexican food the second night there and today I actually ate Jamaican food which turned out to be a lot like Kebabs (jerk chicken wraps are delicious).

Getting around the city which is one of if not the biggest city in Europe is the one thing that would get to me. The public transportation is great. Buses run nearly everywhere and the tube is quite effective especially giving you only have to put the oyster card near the censor to make it work, but the city is so huge that it can take up to 30 minutes just to get anywhere. This I'm not used to. I've found that trying to cram in everything would not have been good for my sanity because once you're in one area it would be a decent trip to get to the next. This was true with Madrid as well but the thing was that there were only a few main places to go in Madrid. London it seems like everywhere has something for you and so you honestly don't need to leave and see everything; you can stay in one place and by rounds all you like and then hit up the club if you fancy (I'm already being influenced). But overall I am having a great time and only have tomorrow afternoon of shooting left and then we have Saturday night and all of Sunday packed full of fun--including an Arsenal game, a very unique screening of Manhattan, and a BBQ!

So yah the days have been very busy but at the same time kind of relaxing. There were only a few things that I felt I needed to see in the city and the rest of the time I've spent just experiencing what it's like to live here. It's a hectic life (referencing my first statement) but it's one that never has a dull moment.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


So looking back I figured I'd do a brief explanation of each beach we ended up visiting during the five day stay in Lecce.

1st beach- Porto Cesaro. This first one was standard fun in the sun. Nice clear warm water pretty busy and was my first look at the beaches the heel of Italy had to offer. Interesting thing is, there was nearly all families and not many people our age. This didn't really matter cause we spent most of the time getting our sun on but there was a nice castle in the distance.

2nd beach- Torre Vado. This beach was the very southern tip of the heel. It was a lot like the first one, bit nicer, a bit less crowded, and my favorite thing about it was in the water, very far out, there would be a patch of very shallow water. Basically if you walk out far enough the water all of a sudden just gets shallower. Pretty cool stuff and you can see people just really far out juggling soccer balls and having a good time.

3rd beach-Otranto. We started out by visiting the village of Otranto which had a lot of very cool sights and fit the image of all of the paintings of Italy and Greece you see in the art galleries. The beach itself wasn't named Otranto but it was such a journey to get there and it was so secluded I really don't know if it had a name. By far the nicest beach out of them all it really felt like we were in our own little paradise. The water was incredibly clean and clear, there were very tropical umbrellas that set the mood, and it was on the opposite side of the heel from all the other beaches we went to. Definitely one for the memory books

4th beach- Gallipoli. At first glance we were shocked at how dirty and un-beautiful these beaches were. Out of all of them this one had the largest and youngest crowd, but we couldn't figure out why. There were rocks all over even in the water and the sand was littered with trash (keep in mind this is all relative to the last beach). Anyways we decided to stay and I'm glad we did. This beach had THE best waves out of any beach I've been to in Europe. This was helped partly by the wind but Nicola and I spent a large section of our time body surfing and we took breaks to all play cards. Worth a visit for sure.

so yah as a whole a great experience. I'll definitely be missing Italy and all it had to offer. Funny enough when I met up with Nicola and Michela's friends none of them spoke English. We had to talk through other means like singing and dancing but it was quite the experience having absolutely no understanding of each other. The last night I got an amazing home cooked dinner from Michela and we got to explore her home city. I'm kind of jealous of the situation she has. She lives on a beach with an amazing view. And at summer nights all of her friends and nearly everyone goes to this strip along the beach of bars to hang out. It's essentially the place to be and you always see your friends there. Never really had that in CV where we have to call up everyone if you want to hang out and go over to their house. I'd love to be able to just go down to an area and be surprised by who's there and have the consistency of just knowing people will be there. Anyways I digress, I've been in London for two days now and I love it as well. Could definitely see myself living here not only because of the language (which is nice haha) but because there is always something going on. Greg, the friend I'm staying with who I met in Cannes, made a good point though. With all of the things going on it's almost too much. There's a beer festival right after I leave, and in a small town you could confidently go there and see all of your friends. but because there are a million other festivals going on it's basically not as special as it could be.

Film is also huge here which is a great thing. We had coffee and brainstormed at this lounge below a theater where you could tell there was just an artsy vibe. There were short films playing on repeat and most people were sitting around laptops discussing business or creative aspects of their own projects. I'll write more about London later but sadly my trip is coming to an end. Hasn't really hit me yet and probably won't till about week into me being back but this has easily been a trip of a lifetime. Anyways we're shooting the short today and the rest of the week (which will be mixed in with activities as well around the city). Last night for example we all went out for drinks. Funny thing with London is you don't by drinks you buy rounds. But ok ok I gotta go do some filming. You'll hear from me soon. Cheers.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Livin the good life

So I just got back from day 3 of some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Following Rome, our road trip headed to the heel of Italy's boot to a city called Lecce. While Lecce might not be famous for foreign tourists, it is one of the hottest spots for Italian tourists looking for vacation. This means a few things: 1. I'm relying on Nicola and his Italian more than ever and 2. This is the most raw real Italian I'll be getting on my journey. Anyways this has been a much needed break from the hustle of tourism and sight-seeing and I've been getting tanner by the day.

A typical day in Lecce starts with waking up around 9-10 to hit up the Bed and Breakfast complementary breakfast. Hostels are non existent in this small city but Bed and Breakfasts are cheap and affordable. Our room is incredibly spacious and it is roughly the same price as all the other places we've stayed (WITH AIR CONDITIONING!). Lecce is awesome because it is incredibly close to nearly all coasts and a huge variety of amazing beaches. Each day we've gone to a different part of the heel, and so after breakfast we'd get ready, grab our stuff, and head off to the beach of the day. At the beach we'd go in the water and lay out until lunch, then take a break at one of the bars along the coast, then go back and repeat. Because of the amount of time under the sun a few hours later we usually get some Granita or Ice Cream to cool off and take a break. Then we have one more section of rest/relaxation before driving back to our B&B. The water at these beaches is crystal clear and is a color only seen in the finest of postcards. They've all been pretty busy, but that doesn't stop us from enjoying the amazingly warm Mediterranean and soft tropical sand.

Back at the Bed and Breakfast, we take a shower, rest for a bit, then head to dinner. Depending on the price of dinner we'd go and get some Gelato and walk around the city or just walk around the city and enjoy. Lecce itself is even smaller than Florence but it's full of activity. Nearly every night we've been here there has been a concert in their old gladiator stadium. On the streets they have ridiculous sales and lots of souvenirs but I've done my best to resist on my budget. After some walking around we head back to our B&B and sleep to wake up and repeat.

I have one full day left of this dream life before it's off to London so I plan on making the most of it. Noone speaks English here so it'd definitely be hard to return without an English-speaking Italian friend, but I'd highly suggest it to anyone who has some knowledge of the language. Lecce is incredibly cheap (for Italian standards) which has been nice. An example of this is that a huge double scoop of Gelato is only 1.50 and they have these tourist menu dinners for 12 euro that have three courses and water included. If you tried to get the same in nothern Italy it would be over 30 or 40 euro. So yah the beach life is nice, and it's been nice to just rest and relax...the perfect way to end an epic (if not a bit pricey) Italian road trip.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

For reals though

While the title of my last blog entry was when in Rome, it didn't actually come into full play until my last few days in the city. Living the hostel lifestyle, Nicola and I met all new people and headed off to visit the Colosseum and ruins together. This is great advice btw for all people attempting to go to the Colosseum at some point in their future: head to the ruins first. Not only is it cheaper (you can get the two tickets for ruins and Colosseum together for 2 euros less) but the line is much smaller and you'll walk right in. Another tidbit advice: if you're going to the vatican go in the afternoon and not in the morning: in the morning it's th busiest and in the afternoon we just walked right in. So back to the story: we went around and visited the amazing ruins. Turns out the ruins were not made from age but mostly by people stealing stuff from the older buildings. Not sure if I said this before but the Colosseum is in this state because they took the marble off of it to build the Vatican. This is the same case for the ruins which were nearly all stripped of marble. Anyways another thing I love about Rome is how hilly it is. What I mean by this is that you can see a lot of the city from various places it's not like Barca where you need to climb up to a park to get a view. You can honestly get a view from so many places it's ridiculous. And even at the lowest points you can see the higher points like the Capatolini hill war memorial.

So that was fun and incredibly hot. Thank God for the free fountains everywhere. I honestly have never sweat as much in my whole life as I have in Rome. I suppose it's good for my skin (saunas right?) but it really does do a number on your energy. I have also never drank as much water in such a short time and one positive is that because you sweat so much you don't need to pee at all. It all leaks out of your skin. Pleasant huh?

Our hostel for some reason kicked us out everyday from 11-4 to clean, but when we got back it wasn't any cleaner. What this meant was that everyday you needed to spend 11-4 in the city which was basically how we always planned our days. So after the ruins we went to hit up a famous restaurant that was supposedly amazing but it was closed :( So we went to a Kosher Italian place and I finally learned what Kosher was. For those that don't know there are a lot of rules, but practicing Jewish people cannot mix dairy with meat and cannot have pork and every meat has to be blessed by a Rabi. The food was delicious, and for the record all Italian food is as good as they hype it...especially if you like pasta.

That night was the pub crawl that ended in a pool party. Now, Saturday night was very disappointing. After having a blast on Friday a group of us decided to try again on Sat but there weren't nearly as cool of people and the people that were there for the most part were not really friendly. So it was definitely a debate whether or not we would actually go on Sunday. and another hostel mate decided that "When in Rome" we might as well give it a go (and when do you EVER get a chance to go to a pool party really) so we did and it was sooo worth it. Rome is just during the day as night and the pool was absolutely amazing. Not only that but crazily enough Krysti (a friend from UCSB) was at the same crawl!! I ended up making friends with some Spanish people which meant more practice for me which I loved and the night was definitely one for the memory books. We ended up staying out all night and coming back on the first metro train still wearing bathing suits and towels. Needless to say we were given some funny looks, but not as many as you might expect. Most locals probably understand how crazy their city can be at times.

So, after seeing nearly everything the cities sites had to offer, Monday was a relaxing day (a much needed one at that)...but again the "When in Rome" mentality came into play. We walked around for awhile and saw some sites we hadn't seen and then went to a nice park (where we saw the sunset the first night). At this park were Segways. Nicola had long been saying he wanted to try them out, and after some convincing I eventually gave in and decided to do it with him as well. There was about an hour left before our hostel opened so we honestly had nothing else to do, and the park was quite big. Getting Segways, however, proved harder than expected. We went up the man but he said they were all booked and that he'd have to call his boss. Before he could another group (an old woman and a little girl) came up and swooped in front of us, using the girls tears to cut essentially. Not cool. So they got on and were practicing around. The girl was having a bit of trouble not leaning back but that was nothing to what happened to the old woman. As she was about to leave she basically couldn't turn and the wheels hit one of those low pillars that prevent cars from driving and she fell on her back and got scraped up pretty bad. It was quite sad, but Nicola and I got to use their Segways after this incident and that was nice.

Segways take a while to get used to to say the least. When you start to go fast the weight shifts and the handlebar gets closer to your body, making it harder for you to push forward. Turning is done by pushing left or right, and leaning also has an effect. They were pretty fun for half an hour and we got to see most of the park. Not only that but we looked pretty cool haha I'm sure you've all seen those people on Segways doing tourist tours.

That night we went back to the fountain and got Gelato (of which I've failed to mention thus far). Gelato in Italy is everything you could hope for and more. I've found green apple and pineapple are my favorite mix but there are just so many delicious options and Nicola and I get at least one per day. What's cool about going to these locations is it's really easy to meet people, for example we met a group from Puerto Rico at the fountain. Some of Nicola's friends were in town too and so a group of us went and just had Gelato and enjoyed the amazing location. Can't ask for much more.

As fun as the cities I've visited have been, I can't look forward to anything more than Lecce and the beach. Lecce is a large Italian tourist destination, but it will be a nice contrast from the intense amount of walking and sight-seeing I've been doing over the last few months. I do have London coming up, but these 5 days will be clutch in helping me recover AND get my summer tan on. Here's to becoming a new race.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

When in Rome...

For anyone that loves history...specifically ancient history...this is the city for you. Nicola and I arrived in Rome on Thursday and I have loved every minute of it. I'm glad we're staying for 5 days because this city has so much to see and it's absolutely gorgeous.

When we arrived we checked into our hostel. Our hostel has been great and we've met a lot of really cool people. As of writing this most of our friends headed on to their next trip but that just means meeting the next batch! It's located right next to the Vatican and is a decent walk or a bus ride to the coliseum. Anyways so we immediately explored the city a little bit. Can't stress enough how nice it is to be with a fluent speaker. Normal meals in Italy is either pizza or paninis (the only really affordable meal on a regular basis) but both are quite delicious. The hostel life, though, is both awesome and a bit strange. You meet so many different people and spend time with them only to separate a day or two later and most likely never see each other again. I've been doing my best to keep contacts with the people I've met but it's near impossible to do it for everyone. It's really cool though and honestly I think the best way to travel for people my age.

That night we all went down to an area on the river and hung out and listened to music and go to know each other (all of us from the hostel). And when we woke up the next day a group of us went to the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel. Crazily enough, this was my first museum I went to in my whole time in Europe. It was definitely impressive. The Vatican church was HUGE, almost unnecessarily so. Turns out the reason the coliseum is only half there is because they stole a lot of the materials for the making of the Vatican. Then we went on to the chapel, which was nice because it was such a hot day anything else would have been murder. Everything in the museum was so incredibly old but very well kept up but personally I can only see so many statues and be in awe. Then we went back and rested up for a pub crawl at night at the coliseum! The crawl was definitely a fun time and I think we might be doing one again tonight we liked it so much!

Today Nicola and I walked a chunk of the sites of the city. It's crazy how much history one place can have. We saw the Pantheon, the Spanish Steps, the roman columns, the piazza navona, the trevi fountain, capitoline hill, and we have another two days here and we are going to try and hit up the coliseum tomorrow and there's still more to see! Definitely a lot to look forward to :) look forward to some good pictures

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Florence Birthday

Florence is a beautiful little city. The Duomo is incredibly epic and has one of the largest domes in the world. THey have the oldest bridge in Italy and an amazing lookout point. There, however, is not incredibly a lot to do there. Sight seeing can easily be done in one day. But I had fun all the same for the entire time.

Our hostel, Newostel, was incredible. This was my first "real" hostel experience, I say this because in Barcelona our group took up the whole room so it was basically just staying with friends. There were 4 beds to each bathroom and they had a nice little common room where we were able to meet a lot of people and use the free Wi-Fi. Basically our three days started with Nicola and I exploring the city (some aspect) the first day we did a general walk, the second we went to Pisa to see the tower, and the third we hiked up to a lookout point over all of Florence. At night we would hang around and meet whoever happened to be out in the Hostel and then a group of us would head out and go to an outdoor social bar area right on the river (the first night), a dance/karoke bar (the second night), or both (the third night). I loved it because I was able to meet so many cool people every day and from that my birthday was definitely fun.

So like I said the first day was exploring and the city is extremely touristic (is that a word?). It's hard to describe how the city looks but definitely check out the pictures. Then that night for my 21st midnight celebration we went out to this huge open bar area which was filled with young locals. It was really cool and unique.

Pisa was fun but literally all the town has is the tower and their duomo. More entertaining than the actual tower are all the people attempting to take a "holding up the tower" picture. Then that night for my actual birthday we met up with a friend of mine from Madrid who was in Florence and went to a very cool bar. I sang some Ricky Martin and we got to meet a lot more people there.

It's been hot in the past, but for some reason Florence's hot was almost unbearable. When we hiked up to the lookout point it was incredibly tiring; Nicola and I had to take a nap in the shade to regain our strength. Italy is so HOT and HUMID right now it's insane. But no matter it was amazing meeting new friends, celebrating in style, and right now we just arrived in Roma and I'm super excited to see all this city has to see for the next few days. Addio!

Sunday, July 11, 2010


So after a stressful little morning involving waking up late (I knew I shouldn't have slept) figuring out how to get to the airport, and an intense 40 minutes, I made it to Milan from Berlin. Milan is a very nice city, the most expensive in Italy. It has little to see as far a sight-seeing goes (besides the beautiful church and a castle) and I actually felt pretty satisfied having seen the city in one day. It's much more of a place to live not necessarily visit, but it definitely got me in the mood for the rest of the trip. So after arriving I met up with Nicola and he showed me around the city. His apartment was really nice but already I can tell that my trip in Italy is going to involve some monstrous heat and lots of sweating. Italy can compete with Madrid as far as temperature goes, and adding the humidity to the mix and you feel sticky and gross after just a few minutes of walking around.

The country is beautiful though and that night we watched the big Spain Netherlands game at a row of bars that were floating on the river. Funnily enough they served paella and tapas with our drinks, and while I was very happy that Spain won I was obviously pretty sad not to be partying it up in Madrid. The celebrations in Milan were summed up by a lone couple on a scooter honking their horn and waving a spanish flag as they passed us by. But I can't have everything and I was incredibly excited for the trip ahead of me.

I'm writing this now, on my birthday, having been in Florence for 2 days and it is really REALLY beautiful here. I love how every city in Italy has a gigantic church called a Duomo that provides the main attraction. Milan's was beautiful but I really like Florence's. Not only that but the city is just straight out of a postcard. One bridge is one of the oldest surviving in Italy and has a great view of all the mountains. Last night for my 21st we went out with a group from our hostel to a very popular area with the locals. We also got a famous Italian drink called the Invisible which is a very strong drink and needless to say the night was a blast. Today Nicola and I drove to Pisa and saw the tour (taking the necessary holding up the tower pictures) but besides their Duomo and the tower there was really not much else to see. Pisa is a college town and has one of the best universities in Italy and like all other cities in Tuscany it was gorgeous. It seems as though Italy or at least the places I've gone in Italy are a lot more touristy, or at least I hear more English than I've heard in awhile. There are street vendors everywhere (something I didn't miss much while in Germany) selling fake bags and fake rolex's. But with Nicola being fluent in Italian it definitely makes it a lot easier to get around and get what we want. Tonight for dinner we're going to a restaurant that serves legit Tuscany food and I'm really excited and depending on what the people in our hostel are doing we'll definitely be going out again!

The rest of our trip is looking super exciting Rome is up next but then afterwards what I'm looking forward to most is Salento which is a beach town and it looks beautiful! After all of the tourism and walking it'll be nice to be in a tropical beach with water to swim in and the relaxing lifestyle. Anyways time to go live up the big 21!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Vasup Berlin?

So this trip all started out with me meeting a few Romanian friends at the bus stop in Amsterdam. They actually play a pretty crucial part in the first part of this story. So they approached me and only one can speak English. we ended up talking for awhile and we sit on the bus next to each other. After awhile we all fall asleep and in my dream I dreamt that I had overslept my stop and that I was going to Romania with the group of them. I woke up quickly after and realized that this was a trip from Amsterdam to Berlin and that it'd stop when I got to Berlin and I'd be fine. So I go back to sleep only to get woken up suddenly by my Romanian friends and they tell me that we're at Berlin and that I should get off now! SO thank God I sat next to them on the bus cause I have no idea where I would be if they didn't help me.

But anyways the first day was a tour of Berlin where Thomas taught me all of the things I wrote about below. Then that night we watched the Netherlands game on a projection TV at their apartment which was really fun. It's crazy how badly timed to the world cup my trip is...I knew I should've paid more attention to where I'll be during the final because I'm very sad I won't be in Madrid. But Berlin was cool tonight fyi we watched the consolation game and the city is happy with 3rd place...not ecstatic...but happy and it's still pretty crazy right now with fireworks etc..

The second day was more touring around the city (to the "posh" area which was actually pretty high class especially with fashion week going on) followed by the big Spain Germany game which left the city pretty upset. It was fun though because I was able to meet up with a lot of new people despite the depressing circumstances. As a girl we met later in this trip said, "The only place it's ok for a man to cry is after a football match". It was a happy and sad moment for me but I'm for La Roja all the way.

The next day my friends from California who had visited me in Madrid arrived in Berlin and we all went to the areas of Berlin that Thomas had done too much (for example the top of the Parlament building and a bombed out old church set in the middle of a richer area of the city. This was a blast and we ended up at a bar recommended to us.

The next day I borrowed Thomas' bike and explored the city. I tried to find the "Eiffel Tower" of Berlin but failed and had to take the U bahn to get there before I needed to head home. I actually was following a radio tower I thought was the right one but arrived to find that it was only a small radio tower on a tall roof. Very disappointing. But I was able to find a lot of cool stuff and biking in this city is amazing. There is a lane in every sidewalk for bikes (the streets here are very very wide) and they even have a separate bike don't bike sign. It's been really hot here though so that's been the only problem...but after the bike ride I came back to join Thomas for a bbq on the roof-tops of Berlin. The view was amazing even though I had to leave early. Earlier that day my friends and I decided we wanted to go on a pub crawl around the city and it started very early around 8:15. So I headed off to that and the pub crawl was amazing. We met these three girls from Manchester and hung out with them for the majority of the time but we were taken to all sorts of bars. One was in one of the old abandoned art houses and there was live music, fire shows, and lots of other cool stuff. We went to a club afterwards and the Berlin nightlife is just as crazy as everyone says it is.

Today was more relaxing. Woke up late, packed up my stuff, went to a beautiful park and wrote some film ideas down, and then came back and watched the Germany-Uruguay game. My fligth is early tomorrow so I'm debating staying up so I don't miss it. Either I'll be going out with Thomas, meeting up with my friends and their host Andre for a drink (they're couch surfing), or meet up with a group of girls we met at the worn down castle. Either way Berlin is amazing and I'll definitely miss it. But enough lamenting...On to Italia!!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Berlin First Impressions

I love it. Berlin so far in the two days I've been here has surpassed all expectations and, depending on how the rest of the trip goes, most likely will take my pick as favorite city I've ever been to. It's like a mix of Madrid and Paris, with the best of both worlds. It has the history and sight-seeing of Paris mixed with the social and nightlife of Madrid as well as the great public transportation. Thomas (for those of you that don't know he is the friend I'm staying with here) has been amazing and has taken me around to all of the best sights. He's better than a tour-guide and he knows the history of nearly every building we pass.

Berlin as most of you know was split into two parts East and West. The architecture of the city reflects this as East side buildings have communist architecture and the west has architecture of France Britain and USA. Berlin is adamant on keeping their history when they rebuild and they have preserved/built onto old buildings while maintaining the older ones historically. An example of this is the wall which has been kept up and has historical pictures and descriptions next to them describing their significance.

the city is also very young. Many students come to study here and so the age of people is young, but the city itself is just beginning to become amazing. They have a lot of crazy buildings that were all finished within the last decade and they are constantly adding more. Another good thing about Berlin are the prices. The city itself is one of the poorer ones in Germany and that means the prices are ridiculous. It is not unheard of to get a meal for 2 euros. And just a showing we got 9 .5 liter bottles of quality beer at a store for less than 8 euros. Pretty crazy if you think about it.

The city has so much to offer with all sorts of different parts (the higher class downtown reminiscent of the area of Paris I was talking about with all of the fashion designers in contrast to an artist's street where they took old abandoned buildings and turned them into gallerys). Germany is all about keeping a hold of the past in order to make sure the same mistakes are not repeated. They are also into recycling old buildings (old war factories for example have been turned into massive night clubs) and many historic buildings have been turned into museums.

Anyways I can't talk enough good about it. I'm sure I haven't covered all parts and I'll go over what I've been doing in a later post but to sum it all up you should not go to Europe without visiting Berlin. It's constantly changing and in a few years it will only be better.

BTW: watched the Spain Germany game last night and as many of you know Germany lost which meant many people were sad, but the most interesting thing to me was that there is a tradition in Germany where this octopus will predict which team will win: and it has a 100% record so far for Germany haha. It picked Spain to win and they did and now people don't like Paul the Octopus anymore here. Read about it below

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Leaving Madrid and Amsterdam

I never thought I'd be so sad to leave a city. With Cannes I was more sad for the people and the event, the city just acted more as a host to the wonderful experience, but with Madrid the city it was definitely different. I had grown fond of the various different aspects it had to offer. I was finally fluent with the metro (up until the strike of course) and really felt at home next to the Moncloa stop. Not only that but the people I had made friends with in the city and in the program were amazing as well. All of it was finally coming to a close. Before this moment I didn't understand how people could spend such long periods at each country. I figured a few weeks and you'd have seen everything there is to see. But after this trip I found out there is more to that. There is a difference between seeing all of the sights in the city and actually experiencing the city/becoming a part of it.

Anyways so Madrid will be missed and as most of you know the next stop for 3 days was Amsterdam. I was worried at first because I was going to be staying with a friend in his hotel but he was not getting into the city until around 6 while I was getting in at 11 am. Turns out everything worked out great though because I just kept my bags in the hotel while I was able to fully explore that interesting city. Following the Netherlands's victory against Brazil (which I missed by 1 day :() the whole city was decked out in orange attire. The streets were filled with various flags posters and whatever else you can imagine. not only that but the main street and a few others were just having ridiculous sales. Good thing I have good willpower and only bought one T-Shirt (which you can see on my Facebook page). But anyways first (and last) impressions of the city:

1. Very multi-cultural city: maybe because it's hard for me to recognize dutch, but the city was filled with people from all over. Not only that but the food outlets were very diverse and you could get whatever type of food from whatever country you want.

2. Very innovative city: in the middle of nearly every street there were river canals. All of Amsterdam is rigged with a waterway. What's cool about this is that you can literally take boats to any part of the city you want. Most people were just chilling in boats down the river. The public transportation was also very diverse. Many people bike around, but there is also driving and trams and even trains which go all over. It's very cool and you'll never be without a way to get around.

3. Very small city: the craziest part is how much those above transportations aren't really needed for the most part. You can honestly walk anywhere. Before my friends arrived I explored a huge chunk of the city just by walking around. After big cities like Madrid and Paris, Amsterdam seemed much more attainable as far as downtown and other things go.

4. Very "free" city: by this I mean law-wise. Funny thing is compared to Madrid you most likely can't get away with a lot of the more obvious crimes (drinking in public ---in madrid many youth botellon or drink in public places, or peeing in public etc.) but instead they have two items legalized which make the city famous: prostitution and weed. Prostitution I'll get to in the next part but the weed is a very interesting matter. Basically around the cities they have coffee shops and those are the only places allowed to sell it. People go into the shops and order what they want, and legally they are only allowed to smoke it within the confines of the shop. A few people smoke weed in public, but after inhaling way too much 2nd hand cigarette smoke in various parts of Europe the smoke from marijuana was far from bothersome. It's an interesting way of doing things, especially since Cali will be voting next election on this very subject. I could see from watching that the business was booming and for the most part if you didn't go into a coffee shop you couldn't even tell. But politics aren't what I'm trying to discuss in this blog haha but definitely a unique experience being in a city such as this.

5. A very bipolar city: so basically during the day I figured Amsterdam to be a very cultured quaint Dutch town. At nighttime, however, when walking down the red light district, it is a completely different feel. They call it the red light district, for those that don't know, because in windows that have red lights surrounding them there are prostitutes. They're very much on show, just waiting for someone to come and pay. Not only this but in the streets containing these everything is SEX. There are peep shows, strip shows, and really any kind of show you can imagine involving people. The shops looked intense and all of the neon signs etc. were promoting some sort of sexcapade. The people walking around, nearly all guys, would just go from window to window looking at the prostitutes (who weren't wearing much) and it was quite the experience to see this transformation. I don't know how I missed those particular streets in my tour of the city (at day time they are basically the same without the lights) but it definitely was a surprise.

So yah the city was definitely interesting. They had a beautiful park that we bike road through. We went on a boat tour of the city. We went to the Heineken factory where we got to learn a lot about how beer is made and even got to ride a virtual beer ride haha. We went to an ice bar which was quite the experience as well but a little too cold for my liking. And we watched the games at pubs around the city. Our hotel was beautiful and the city was fun. A little too touristy for my liking, but I'd definitely suggest visiting Amsterdam at least once...just to see all of this first hand.

PS: I'm really bad with timing my trip. I saw the netherlands-brazil game in Madrid then went to the Netherlands and the spain-paraguay game is on and now I'm in Berlin and the netherlands-uruguay game just ended, but tonight is the Germany-Spain game and I'm watching in Berlin so I'm super excited! Until next time.