Wednesday, June 28, 2006
Paris is kinda grubby. I guess when you squeeze 2 million people in a very small area around the river Seine, things get very close and smelly. It doesn't help that we got stuck in a roach motel. I probably should have realized this when we pulled up and there was big contiki tour bus parked out front. Benedict and I got the worst room in the entire place. Everyone's carpet sucked, darn green carpet color should be outlawed. What made our room bad was the smell. Most of Paris did smell kinda funny, but our room smelled like a football team had ran in and stated smoking and urinating on the carpet after a football match.
Unlike Madrid there were much more non Europeans in Paris. There are a lot of immigrants or descendants from Africa, Middle Easterners and Asia. In Madrid all the Asian women seemed to be in the business of selling musical rocks and paper fans, curbside. Every place you went where there were tourists there were Asian women selling those annoying rocks. There must have been a pyramid scheme where one woman sold all these rocks to all her friends and so on and now they're all stuck selling rocks and fans to tourists to recoup their investment. In Paris all there were minorities in all walks of life.
On the day we arrived we checked into the roach motel and ate dinner. The family took a walk down Porte d'Italie, where our hotel was on the southeast edge of the city ring. It was not a great location, The Eiffel Towel was clear across the city and the Louvre was at least 10 stops away on so we didn't the Metro. The metro system was pretty good though so we didn't have much of a problem getting aroung. The fare was more expensive. In Madrid it was 1 euro I think it was 1.20 euro in Paris. After dinner Sheila, Sophia, Benedict and I took the metro to the Eiffel tower and took som picture of the lit up structure. Its too bad that it rained, my shoes got soaked again. It rained most of the time when we were in Lourdes.
Day two I woke up just in time for breakfast and took a bus tour of Paris. We started our driving up Place d"Italie through Goeberlins and drove around the Luxemburg Plaza and on to the right bank of the river. At the river we drove around the Norte Dame cathedral on the little island then to the left bank towards the Louvre. The Louvre is ginormous. After the Louvre we headed towards the Opera House and the Galarie Lafyette for some shopping. I went up to the fifth floor and bought two more Nintendo DS lites in black.
After shopping we headed to the Eiffel Tower where we got off and took pictures of it. On day two it wasn't raining but it was still a little overcast so the tip of the tower was in clouds at times. After the tower we drove around the Hospitales Invalids where Napoleon's Tomb is and finally we drove up the Champs Elysses. The Champ Elysses is a pretty big street lined with a lot of shops. The flagship Louis Vuitton store is there, didn't find the velvet leopard stripe speedos in there though. Fougets is also on the street, its supposidly where you want to be to see and be seen when dining out in Paris. After The Champs Elysses we drove to the Cathedral of the Medallion where the tomb of St. Catherine is. FOr a 200 year old corpse the body is remarkably well presevered. Its kind of odd seeing the body dressed in the attire of 1806 with pilgrims and visitors paying homage around it in modern attire. In the middle of Paris.
After the Cathedral we crossed the river to the Louvre. At the Louvre we ate our packed lunches and took a bunch of pictures. It was late in the afternoon though so we didn't pay the 57 euros to get in and see the exhibits. Anyway Sheila and I were the only ones who haven't been inside. I guess the Louvre will have to wait until the next time.
After the Louve we go in the metro and took the 1 line to the Champs de Elysses and walked from the Arch down to the FDR stop. We looked in a few of the shops and but didn't buy much, except for my dad. He had to get a pair of shoes from Zara.
By the time we got to the end of the Champs de Elysses we were all pretty tired of walking so we hopped back on the metro back to our nasty hole of a hotel. It was rush hour so the lines were pretty packed I had to stand the entire time, about 15 stops.
Back on the southeast side We ate at some nearby restaurants and my sisters started packing since they had an early flight to cath to Rome the next day.
Paris is a pretty nice city too. A lot of history and culture of course, but also very crowded and urban. The sheer number of cars around the city is no where near close to LA, and the people traffic is not like it was in Tokyo but its still a massive ammount of people. Just go to the Louvre or the base of the Eiffel Tower and you basically see nothing but people. Mostly tourist though, so I wonder how crowded the city is in the off peak season. There's probably just as much to do in Paris as in Madrid. Madrid probably has the better night life. In Paris though I think the more money you have, the better time you can buy. Theres no end to the number of fine shops, ultra fine hotels and restaurants.
>On 2006-06-28,23:32:52 Blaise wrote:
Arc de Triomphe
Lourdes is right across from the Spanish border in France. A small town by the river Gave in the Pyrenes. Its perpetually foggy and misty here and it pretty much rained the whole time. This place is like Disneyland for the devout. Lots of attractions like holy rocks, holy grottos and holy shot glasses at the numerous gift shops. There was also a holy bath which I jumped in, but now that I think of it, I should have gone in the morning rather than right when the bath closed after 10,000 people had their junk in it. The town is really nice though, very green and pastoral and the people have a smalltown niceness about them.
Lourdes is a pilgrimage destination because a poor village girl named Bernadette had 18 visions of the virgin Mary at a grotto in 1858. So shortly after people started coming to this small town. Many people also come because apparently there are healing powers in the water. In fact there are a lot of people getting hauled around on wheelchairs, perhaps here on a last hope. Whats kind of amazing is the amount of money and manpower funneling into this place. There have been 3 or 4 cathedrals built since the visions and each are pretty big. There are also thousands of volunteers coming here to help manage the large number of handicapped people needing assistance.
This pilgrimage tour makes me feel like I'm in the Cantebury Tales, except that probably makes me the lecherer among the cast of characters.
After two nights here we boarded the TGV train, fastest in the world, early Sunday morning for a 5 hour train ride to Paris.
>On 2006-07-01,02:32:16 susan wrote:
>>that is a very impressive photo. the lighting, angle, composition all come together so well.
Today we drove around in a bus for a long time. About 12 hours going from Madrid in Spain to Lourdes in France. Ont he way we stopped for lunch at Zaragoza. There is also a large cathedral built in the style of the Moors there. I thought the moors were muslims, but I guess this was before Islam. The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Pillar does date back to the 1st century but its been rebuilt a few times.
So here's what it took to get here. Originally the tour my mom booked left for Lisbon on Sunday June 18th and returns from Paris 10 days later on June 27th. So on Saturday night I packed all my stuff, and went to go get my passport from the drawer where I keep my passport. It wasn't there. So until about noon SUnday I tore my place apart looking for it, even drove to work in the middle of the night to see if my chance it was in my office. Anyway its gone, I even checked inside the microwave. Hopefully I don't come back wednesday, fix myself a bowl of quaker oats and find it in the container.
So after giving up on finding my passport and having already missed my flight, I went to the federal building in WWestwood on Monday to get a same day replacement. I called the US Passport Services appoitnment hotline and and they took my name and told me they would try to get in on what they call "special circumstances" appointment. I waiting from when I got there at 11:30 to when they closed at 3:00 and they never called. The guard told me to call the hotline at 7:00 am the next day and I might be able to get a cancelled appointment. They relist cancelled appointments for that day at that time. SO I called and after messing around with the appointment system for an hour I got an appointment and a confirmation number for 11:30. Without the confirmation number the guards won't let you in.
Back at the federal building I give the guard my number, suprise, he doesn't have it on his system. He gave me the run around telling me to call the appointment hotline again, which is useless, the hotline can't do anything. So I went back in but this time the guards had rotated and it was the same guy from Monday, he still can't find it but he remembered me from the day before, and I told him I did what he told me he finally lets me in. So after all the hotline bullshit in the end it was the guards disgresion that got me in. All of the other people who needed same day replacement went though the same thing. The appointment system give you an appointment for the following week and even if you did try to get a cancelled appoitmnet it screwed up. The system is completely flawed. On top of that, once you got past the guards it didn't matter who you were they don't keep track of the appointments beyond the guard's computer. You could have been Osama bin Laden and as long as the guard was your brother you'd get your passport. That federal database is yet another one of those useless systems that did nothing in the end except for keep track of who tried to get a passport when.
Once I got in the passport processing area they were able to get my passport processsed in about three hours and they got it to me by 3:30 on Tuesday. If you ever needed a passport the same day, here what you do. Well first if you're travellin on a weekend, check for your passport on a Thursday or sooner because the passport service is not open on weekends. Fill out a DS-11 form, and a DS-64 form if you lost your passport. Then bring your drivers license and proof of citizenship. Proof of citizenship can be a Certificate of Naturalization or an old invalidated passport. Also bring a passport photo, two of them. There is a photo studio in the cafeteria at the Westwood Federal Building. Then the morning before you go call the hotline to get a cancelled appointment. Hopefully it's before noon because if they process your passport too late you'll have to come pick it up the next day. Even if you appointment is late in the day come as early as you can like at 8 am and be prepared to convince the guards to let you in. Tell them the circumstance, flight out later that day or early the next morning and you need a passport now. Also show that you have everything you need and that there won't be any problems processing, or tell them the system messed up and garbled your confirmation number. Haha and if all else fails, wear something revealing and flirt.
Once I got my passport, which was still warm from the presses I drove to the airport. I got to the Northwest/KLM counter and after some haggling got the counter lady to put me on the KLM flight to Amsterdam which leaves in an hour. She charged me 200 bucks for missing my first flight though. Since I didn't ahve time to move my car from long term parking, Erwin called and offered to pick my up later that night. Thanks Erwin that was a big help. I got to the gate just as the plane was boarding and got put way in the back for my 9 hour across the atlantic. THe KLM plane was big and blue, it was kinda old, not as nice as the new planes on JAL or SAS, but the service was very good. By about 1:00 pm in Amsterdam our plane landed, it was the middle of the night, early Wednesday in LA. Once in Amsterdam I went to back to the KLM counter and tried to change my connecting flight to Lisbon but the plane to Madrid that afternoon was full so I went to Iberia Airlines and bought a ticket to Madrid on the 4:05 pm plane. Its a good thing I only had carry on luggage or else I'd never make these planes. I tried to sleep on the two hour flight to Maderid but I was seated next to a bunch of high school kids and they were loud.
Spain is about one hour back of Amsterdam and by about 7 am Madrid time I was in Spain. I went to the tourist info center and they tld me to take the 204 Bus and the metro line 4 and 2 to get to where I needed to go, the Plaza Mayor. It was only 1 Euro to take the bus and another euro to enter the metro system. So shortly after I popped out of the subway system at the Sol stop and was looking at a statue of some guy on a horse. There were also hostels right when you get out. I spent about an hour walking around with no idea where to stay for the night. So finally I got tired of walking and went into this place called Hostel la Macarena. I had no idea what to expect, but there happened to be an American friendly desk clerk named Alexis who had lived in New York City 7 years ago. He had a single room with private bath for 57 euros. Much less than a hotel but a little high for a hostel, but it was a private room and was right next to the Plaza. After getting settled I asked Alexis where to get some food and he told me not to go to any of the shops downstairs but to jsut go to McDonalds. Haha I guess he thought I was too clueless to order some tapas, but it was 10:30 and the prices were going to be high. After my Big Mac I called Bruno, the tour guide and arranged to meet the rest of the tour the next day at 4 pm across from the horse statue, its at the Puerta del Sol. I went to sleep, but the street didn't really settle down until about 4 pm, so the occasional drunk American woke me up with some drunkspeak.
The next day I got up at about 8:30 and took the metro to the east of the city where the Retiro, its like the Central Park of Madrid, and the Museum del Prado. The museum had a large collection, in fact impressive. The Bourbon Kings started the collection and the Prado has been around for a couple hundred years. Lots of paintings by Goya, El Greco and yesterday they had a special collection of Picassos. It was kinda weird seeing a few pieces that I've seen in text books or the internet and finally seeing the actual piece. Its amazing the volume of work that a lot of these artists produced. My favorites were probably Goya's Titan eating his children and the nude Maja. Its like one of the few nudes thats actually looked like a woman. What also amazes me is that some of these pieces were done in the mid 1500s and here, almost 450 years later they around for us to see. Its hard to fanthom that kind of history in America. You are seeing proof of an event in oil and brush strokes 450 years ago.
There was also an entire section on Picasso. Picasso got laid a lot. We should all foster artistic talents. THe guy was bald, kinda out of shape and was probably crazy but every piece in his gallery went something like, "Picasso painted this after a summer with his model/mistress in the alps." His collection was like a history of every woman he slept with. Its good to be an artist, its hard out here for programmers. "Hey baby, I dedicate this PERL script to your body," or "the last 7 days of trouble free operation, all for you." The Prado collection is too big to see in one day. I'll probably have to come back again one day.
After the Prado I checked out of the hostel and headed west to the Palacio Real. The royal palace ok. Its like all other palaces, a bunch of oppulent rooms. It is pretty crazy how oppulent everything was though. You can probably visit Bill Gates house and find nothing that will amaze you, but the royal palace, especially in relation to the time and how everyone else lived its on a whole other level.Perhaps these days such incredible shows of wealth is just not in fashion, or just not possible. I think the closest modern day equivalent that I could think of when I see Royal Palaces is Hearst Castle. I took a picture of the rear of the ROyal Palace, its another one of those come to life moments after seeing in in person.
After exhausting all the exhibits at the Palace I went back to the Peuerto del Sol to do some shopping. I still had about two hours to kill before the tour bus will come to pick me up. By now I was hauling my backpack around too so it was getting tiring. I went into an FMAC, a bookstore/electronic store and found a Black Nintendo DS lite, so I bought it on request from Scott Lee. Its pretty nice, I think I might buy one for myself if I see it at the airport. Finally the bus came and I got picked up, everyone was happy to finally see me, but they came to do some shopping so we walked around some more and went into a few more stores. I wanted to buy a bunch more stuff at HandM and Zara but I think I have too much clothes already, no need to get even more European couture.
After shopping it was dinner and check in at th hotel. I was pretty dead tired at this point but my family wanted to see as Flamenco performance. So I went along reluctantly. The flamenco bar was back at the Retiro at the Florida cafe or something. The act was pretty good, although I expected it to be more about a man dancng with a woman, instead there was more precussion and physical feats in dance and song.
Overall Madrid is a romatic city. Amsterdam is like a place you come with your friends, or with your girlfriend if you want to see exhibits in museums. The canals are nice though. But in Madrid there are secluded calles for kissing and even though everyone is out at 3 in the morning, it is better to hear the nightlife from your hotel window.
Thursday, June 22, 2006
Finally made it to Europe and caught up with my family in Madrid. After loosing my passport, missing my Sunday flight to Lisbon and hassling with the US Passport Service for two days I got on a KLM flight to Amsterdam and finally wound up on the Plaza Mayor in Madrid Wednesday night. Here's me with the backside of the Palacio Real in the background. Will post more later.
>On 2006-06-25,00:35:10 lysette wrote:
Friday, June 16, 2006
Yesterday, thursday I went to Fullerton for some all you can eat sushi, which was great. All you can eat sushi and all you can eat king crab and jumbo shrimp are the greatest ideas ever. The only problem is that seafood always wins. I know that sushi chef was watching me, "oh yeah, this one is done, get him the check he's defeated." We were so full we had to drive to Cal State Fullerton to chase skunks and bunnies around. Boy those "wild" rabbits were dumb, if I wasn't so full I would have ate it after we cornered it. Comeon, if you're a bunny and you can't escape three guys lethargic with sushi overdosing, you need to be taken out.
After flying I went surfing with Scott at Sunset Beach. At first the waves didn't look too good, but once we got in we caught some good ones. In fact I think I had my best ride thus far, also caught a couple almost as good ones but I lost it and fell off a few times. And to top it all off I got free refill on my orange juice, thanks blonde waitress at the Islands on Pico, maybe you were suprised someone orders OJ on a Friday afternoon.
>On 2006-06-18,01:41:12 lysette wrote:
>>excellent! a picture of you surfing this time. who took it? and by the way, Friday afternoons are usually Happy Hour, right?
>On 2006-06-18,23:43:36 Blaise wrote:
>>My left hand.
This morning I flew in this helicopter. Its just about big enough for a couple of skinny people. Its operated by Orbic Helicopters in Van Nuys who I took a demo flight with. Learned a lot. We were in the air about 30 minutes, and of course it flew by really fast. We went up then headed south towards the westside then turned around and headed back to the airport. My instructor Julie let me handle two of the controls, the cyclic (pitch and roll) and the collective (angle of the rotor blades), definately takes some getting used to. I think when I first took hold of the cyclic we started diving, great way to end up in the middle of someone's living room after going through their new skylight. Overall it was a lot of fun and the amount of control required is unlike anything.
>On 2006-06-18,01:13:41 Blaise wrote:
>>Article about Aussie cowboys
Saw this Escalade on the 405, the plates say JJJames? Like Jesse James? The guy who builds choppers?
>On 2006-06-18,01:36:28 lysette wrote:
>>then what would the other J stand for?
>On 2006-07-11,03:49:10 Steffie wrote:
>>Well did you pull up next to him and find out?
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
"Dude how long have we been out here"
"Don't know watch out here comes one."
I think we were out surfing too long. I woke up Monday, looked in the mirror and some red guy was looking at me. Thank god for aloe, cools the face. I think I grew some zits though, damn you aloe, why must you be both good and bad?
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
So its World Cup time, I have to avoid watching pre-recorded sports again all night long. No relief in sight either, after Soccer there's the Tour de France. Today I slept in and was awoken by my recorder going off to record the Korea v Togo match. Who knew there were so many Koreans in Germany? Korea won 2-1, in a come from behind victory.
Monday, June 12, 2006
Anupa and Holger cutting the wedding cake. Lot of good Indian food, music and dance too.
>On 2006-06-12,19:22:23 lysette wrote:
>>were there any belly dancers like in Caspian?
>On 2006-06-12,20:44:12 Blaise wrote:
>>Nope, but there was a girl that did a hindi dance and a bunch of dudes that danced to some Punjabi music, kinda like the one I put on my myspace.
Paddle, Paddle! At Bolsa Chica.
>On 2006-06-12,19:21:03 lysette wrote:
>>hey this is your friend from this weekend, right? where's one of you surfing?
>On 2006-06-12,20:46:59 Blaise wrote:
>>Haha yeah still working on being able to take picture, surf and recite the alphabet backwards at the same time.
Thursday, June 8, 2006
I think the end is near for my trusty Minolta, its been dunked in water and duct taped too many times. It still clicking away but lately the LCD flickers. Here's to you Minolta, you may not get pampered like your bro Canon, but we saw things that Canon never could. But you're tired now Minolta; I saw Pentax and Olympus at the store the other day.