Monday, August 24, 2009

Your Euro Based Son Part IV

This will be my last Euro Based Son post. For those of you that don't know it is a tribute to my mothers blog Check it out if you haven't already. Here are some pictures from my trip through France and Spain and the different foods I tried.

Breakfast in the plaza of Ceberes
Best croissant I've ever had

Bakery in Ceberes - Small town on the southern French coast

Lunch in Madrid - Ham and cheese bocadillo

I love ham

Chocolate caña - Spanish Pastries are amazing!

Churros with dulce de leche

I've resorted to drinking lemon fanta by the half gallon

Best chocolate croissant I've had (and i've eaten lots)

Bakery where I bought the croissant in Port Bou Spain

Crepes in Paris

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Paris part II, last days in Cambridge, and the point

After spending the night in the Barcelona train station we were able to get on a train headed towards France. We got off at the border and went and explored a little town called Ceberes. It was absolutely beautiful and we found a little bakery that made the best croissants ever. I ate four of them. We then made stops in Narbonne and Montpellier on our way to Paris. Once we got to paris we walked along the Seine, ate Crepes, and took pictures of the Eiffel Tower at night that was absolutely beautiful. We then took the metro back to the bus station. On the way I saw a guy on the train with a basketball and I talked to him about Nicolas Batum and the Blazers. He had heard of BYU before because of the NCAA tournament.

The bus ride back was really long, but it was good to be back in Cambridge. That afternoon I had my last supervision that went really well. It has been amazing working with Professor Steinberg. That night we had a final formal dinner, afterwards they had a party with a slideshow and dancing. After that we all went out to a club that the programme had reserved for us.

The next day I spent as tourist in Cambridge. I toured around Cambridge and did all of the other things that I have wanted to do that I havent gotten around to yet. That night everyone said goodbye. I have gotten to know lots of people really well, and it was sad to see everyone leave.

Yesterday I left Cambridge early afternoon for London. I then met up with my cousin Georgie and went to here flat in East London. We went out to a local pub and saw some of the area where she lives. We spent the night at her place and woke up the next morning and after a walk through a local market we took off for Sonning where her family was staying.

Sonning has been amazing. The house the Clark's have here is in an absolutely beautiful location. It is right on the Thames. We spent the afternoon barbecuing and eating strawberries and cream next to the river. Afterwards we went on a boat ride up the river. It was an absolutely beautiful day, and the scenery was incredible. It has been really great getting to know the Clark family.
Boat ride on the Thames

The boat that I sleep in
Relaxing at the point

Dinner last night in Cambridge with Dr Martland

After the formal dinner
Eiffel Tower at night

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Barcelona Part II

From Madrid we took off and the first train to Barcelona that got us there around ten in the morning. On our way to the beach (By this time we were tired of traveling and pretty smelly since we had only showered once in four days so we didnt feel like much sightseeing just laying out) we stopped at an internet cafe. While checking our email I overheard a couple talking about the problems they were having getting a train to Paris. I asked them what the problem was and they told me that no trains were running in France that day because there were strikes going on. This freaked us out, with all the other problems with trains we had the last thing we wanted was not to be able to get back to London, lose the deposit on our bus out of Paris, and have to buy a bus ticket to Paris (which is a 16 hour ride). We went back to the train station and asked everyone we could find about it, but never got a straight answer. Since European trains are so international, you would think there would be better organization between countries. They are not. All the Spanish rail workers told us that those were French trains and they had no information on them. So we decided to go to the beach and come back to the station later. We had until 1:30 in the morning to figure it out, that was when the last bus to Paris left that would get us there on time to get us on our bus to London.

The rest of the day was amazing. The weather could not have been better. We both got pretty sunburned, but it was so relaxing. That evening we got dinner at a bar along the waterfront and then wandered around the boardwalk and the marina. There was live music everywhere and the atmosphere was very fun. We sat for awhile and listened to a band play Spanish music. They were really good and entertaining. After that we went back and sat on the beach for awhile.

This trip has been kind of an interesting sociological experience/experiment. For about a week Brian and I lived pretty much like homeless men. You look at the world differently when you do not know where you will be sleeping that night. Also after four days with no shower we looked pretty ragged. On a few occasions that night we had homeless men join us as we sat by the beach. It was really interesting to hear their stories and their outlook on life. Just a few hours before we had been on that same beach as tourists, these men were wandering around constantly trying to sell us coke and beer. It became rather obnoxious. After spending an hour talking with these guys on the beach I saw them in an entirely different life. It made me wish that I would have bought more drinks from them. The saying that you don't understand someone until you've walked a mile in their shoes held very true for us. Its something I hope to continue to do, see everyone as an equal no matter their position in life.

That night we returned to the train station and were very blessed. We went into the customer service office to ask about the French train situation that nobody knew anything about. I had even called the train station information center twice that day and talked with five different people, none of which even know that there were strikes going on in France. The head of the station just happened to be in the customer service when we walked in there, he also was the only man that had any idea of what was going on in all of Barcelona. He told us that the strikes may very well continue through the next day, but that there were certain trains that would make it to Paris because they were with a different company. The thing is most of them were full. The biggest problem would be finding a train that would actually cross the border. He told us which trains to get on that we wouldnt need a reservation that would take us to the French/Spain border. It wasnt much of a train, but more like a subway type train that stopped at all of the beaches along the coast. He then told us to get off at a certain train station where we would be able to board a train that would take us across the border. He told us to get on it there and not in Barcelona because in Cerberes there was no security control and we would be able to get on it without a reservation (we figured it was the head of the train station telling us to do it it was ok to sneak on), and that if there were any problems just to hang out in the train bar (where they dont check for tickets) until the next stop. From there we were able to talk to a french railway attendant who would be able to help us get back to Paris. He then told us to stay in his office when the security cleared out the station so that we could spend the night there. It was a relief to know that we were most likely going to make it back to Paris, and that we weren't going to have to spend anymore money.

The beach we spent all day at
Listening to live music at the marina
Out on the pier


We woke up early to take a train to Madrid. Spain has some new high speed trains that travel between Barcelona and Madrid that were actually really nice. It was almost like being on an airplane. They even showed a move, unfortunately it was Mama Mia. Honestly the worst movie I have ever seen. I have seen the show and actually enjoyed it, but the movie was bad. The only entertaining part was watching the movie in Spanish only to have them break out into song in English.

When we got to Madrid we set out to explore the city. We pretty much walked all over the entire thing. We saw the palace, many of the gardens, monuments, and cool plazas that Madrid has. The pastries there were amazing. I will be sure to feature some in my next eurobasedson post. That night we went to the Madrid train station and after talking to several different people we got permission to stay the night inside the station. The cement was hard, but its nice knowing that they kick everyone else out so that you don't have to worry about getting robbed in your sleep like you do sleeping outside the station.

Where I spent the night
The Plaza Mayor
Don Quixote, Pancho, and I
Royal Palace Gardens
Royal Palace

Friday, August 21, 2009

Barcelona Part I

Getting on a train headed to Barcelona was a relief. My day in Paris was great, and I found the French people rather nice and friendly. I thought the stereotype of the French being jerks and anti-american was not all that true, until about twenty minutes into the train ride. Brian and I were talking about what he had done with his family when they came to London, all of a sudden a French guy in his late twenties who was sitting across the isle gets in my face, I stopped talking and he says to me in English, "Oh so now you stop talking about me?" He continued to say that he spoke really good english and knew that we had been talking about him. I told him that we were not talking about him and that he misunderstood what we had said. This just made him more mad, and started showing off his "good english" which mainly consisted of swear words. Not wanting to get into a fight in a foreign country i tried to keep a level head and resolve things peacefully (avoiding the very strong temptation to say thing like - What are you going to do, try and fight me, lose terribly, and then hope some other american comes and beats me up?). I asked him what we had said about him, in response he just continued to shake his head at us, act put out, and swear in english. Brian and I just sat there with this crazy guy who was on drugs staring at us, not able to talk in neither spanish or english because he would think we were talking about him. So we tried to be really nice to him, that really made him mad and he moved to a different compartment. However, during the night when I was asleep he came back and took my water bottle that had fallen behind my seat and drank most of all of it. When I woke up he had already gotten off the train, his plan to get back at me was actually quite effective. It was really hot in Barcelona, and there was nowhere to buy water because it was Sunday morning. Needless to say I got pretty thirsty.

Barcelona was amazing. I loved the city and being in a spanish speaking country again. The first place we went was the Parque Guell. It is a park designed by Gaudi. Lots of cool collage art everywhere. We then went to the Sagrada Familia, a church that was designed by Gaudi that was not finished before he died. We then headed off to the beach. The weather was beautiful and it felt so good to go swimming because the weather was incredibly hot. That night Brian did not feel well at all so his parents got us a hotel room. It felt good to take a shower, which would be my last for the next four days.

The food was great in Barcelona. I had dulce de leche ice cream and churros filled with dulce de leche. The whole time Brian and I talked about how much it made us feel like we were back on our missions. We talked to lots of people from South America, and it was refreshing to interact with such friendly people compared to the majority of Europeans. When looking for an internet cafe we asked a man from Ecuador and he walked 10 blocks with us to show us where the closest one was. While at the internet cafe a couple was watching the world track championship online. So I got to watch Usain Bolt break the 100m world record while sitting next to the beach in Barcelona.

Here are some picutres from our first day in Barcelona.

The beach after all the topless Grandma's left
La Sagrada Familia
Parque Guell
More of Parque Guell

Paris Part I

A lot has happened since the last time I blogged so I am going to break it up into a few different posts. According to my mother long posts are boring and people tend to skim, so I will try to keep them somewhat short, entertaining, and coming as often as possible between packing and other final activities.

Last friday I took my last exam and immediately hopped on a bus to Paris. It was a long time to be on a bus, but luckily I was able to sleep most of the way. I got to Paris at around seven in the morning and after wandering around lost for a little bit I located myself on the map and set off to find Notre Dame. It was about an hour and a half walk, but it was fun to watch the city wake up. I bought a croissant at a small bakery on my way (To be included in YourEuroBasedSon Part IV). Notre Dame was awesome, and I even got to attend a morning mass. The organ in there was incredible, I took a few videos of different things on this trip and may try to upload them in a later post.

After Notre Dame I went to the Louvre. To be honest I really don't like art museums. After about ten minutes all painting start to look the same to me. Call me uncultured, but I had way more fun in the Oxford natural history museum, which is about the size of the Louvre's entry room, with all if its dinosaur bones and shrunken heads than I ever could have had in any art museum. But I figured since I was in Paris I better go see the Mona Lisa, plus I got in for free since I'm a student within the European Union. If had been anything over five Euros, I would have most definitely bought a crepe and a Mona Lisa post card instead. After wandering around for about a half hour I found it, looked at it for a minute then left. I really don't understand all of the hype it receives. The thing is really small, personally the fifty foot painting on the opposite wall that nobody has ever head of was much more impressive.

After the Louvre I walked to the Eiffel Tower. It was much more impressive than I thought it would be. I took a nap in the park in front of it and then climbed up as far as you can go without taking an elevator. I then went to the arc de triomphe, and then walked by Moulin Rouge on my way to the Basilique du Sacre-Coeur. The Basilique was by far the best part about Paris in my opinoin. The building is beautiful, the view was awesome, and the ambiance of the place was way cool. There was a guy playing live music, a couple of guys doing tricks with soccer balls that were unreal, and a dance crew right out of some low budget dance moving performing in front of the church.

At the Paris train station we ran into some problems. They told us that all of the night trains to Barcelona were full. We went through several different possible routes with the very unhelpful guy at the ticket counter who was very annoyed at our persistence. There are two train station that are about two minutes apart, one in France and the other in Spain. He kept telling us that there were no reservations left on the train to the Spanish station where you make the connection to Barcelona, but I asked him what about the French station? There happened to be two reservations to there even though it is the same train. Needless to say the train system in France in Spain leaves much to be desired. The train ride was very interesting, but that will have to wait for the next post.

Basilique du Sacre-Coeur

View from where I took a nap

The Louvre

Notre Dame

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Last full week in Cambridge/YourEuroBasedSon Part III

I am up kind of late and I have my last final exam tomorrow so I probably shouldn't be blogging, but it has been a little while since I last posted and I leave for Paris, Barcelona, Madrid, Cordova, and Seville tomorrow so it may be awhile before I am able to do so again. This week has been full of studying and paper writing. I can't wait for 6:00 pm tomorrow when my last final gets out, because my bus for mainland Europe leaves at 6:50. Yes a bus to mainland Europe. Apparently the put the bus on a ferry, I should be able to sleep the whole time and it is the cheapest way to get to Paris.

My supervision continues to go really well. My supervisor is excited about my paper. This week he offered to continue supervising me through skype once I go back to BYU, with the goal to eventually get this paper published in The Historical Journal published by Cambridge University Press. It will be a lot of work, but an amazing opportunity. My supervisor used to be an editor or someone high up with the journal and said that if it goes well he will recommend my paper to the Journal. I was hoping to maybe get something published in the BYU undergraduate historical journal before coming to Cambridge, my sights have now been set a little higher!

I need to get to bed so here are some pictures.

Your Euro Based Son Part III

Well they don't eat spiders here but if I leave my window open I get tons of bugs in my room because I overhang the river. I found this spider last night in my room, to give you an idea of how big he was, that is your average sized crown molding behind him.

We found a Polish Restaurant in town

I had potato pancakes with beef goulash, they were really good!
I also tried borscht and a few other traditional polish dishes.

Bangers and Mash

Stake and Ale Cornish Pasties
Lemon Fanta is amazing!