Paris and May Day

April 26, 2010

Hello! Happy May Day from Praha. The city is full of colorful flowers, Euro men wearing short shorts (thumbs down to man thigh), and increasing prices for everything. Guess it’s Springtime!

PARIS
Let me first recap my trip to Paris. I went with my good friends Alex and Becca, and we met up with their friend Lisa who is studying abroad there. I’ve never been to France before, and to be honest, I didn’t think I was going to like it. I’d had several friends who told me they didn’t like it, so it was never on my priority travel list. But I got a really cheap ticket and decided to just join Alex and Becca on this trip! We arrived early early Friday morning and spent the beautiful sunny day walking around the Marais (which was my favorite part) and just down the river Seine enjoying the sun and the Parisians.

We saw Notre Dame, falafels sold by the Israelis, gypsies in the street, pastry shops, sat on the bridge over the Seine and went to Musee d’Osprey. We then had a really, really fancy dinner and I had the most amazing lamb I’ve ever had. We passed out in our hostel with the tootsie-roll pillows that were attached to our bed and passed out. I don’t really care what anyone says – Parisians are super nice. Plus, in Paris they give you free bread AND endless water with meals (something I miss extraordinarily so).

The next morning we walked through Marais again and got a breakfast of croissants and coffee for me and Alex decided he’d only consume baguettes for the entire day (ps – he succeeded with the exception of some Heinekein the size of my hand – Paris, step it up!). We walked down the Champs d’Elysees and saw the Arc de Triomphe and made our way to the Eiffel Tower.

Becca and I being silly

Absolute perfect weather. We explored Musee d’Orangerie which had fabulous fabulous panoramic Monet paintings and I dragged everyone to the Longchamp store (I practiced unforeseen restraint whereas Becca bought two bags haha) and Lisa showed us the best macaroons in Paris. That’s about when we heard about the Polish president’s death and we went back to Lisa’s apartment before having a late late Italian dinner and going to a wine bar.
We had such an early flight out of Beauvais airport (2 hrs away from Paris) that we didn’t bother paying for a hostel for a night since we’d have to wake up around 3:30am. So we found a pub in Champs d’Elysees and took over the basement with our backpacks and camped out with a deck of cards and crossword puzzles (in between watching drunk people stumble downstairs trying to find the bathroom) and we were relatively undisturbed. At 4:30am we left to catch the 5am bus to the airport. Needless to say, when I arrived back to the kolej at 10am I crashed.

Paris was amaaaaaazing, I’m really sad I didn’t get to see the Louvre or the Eiffel Tower sparkle at night though (we were there a grand total of 48 hours). It was for sure worth it, though, even with the lack of sleep.
But I know I’ll be back to Paris in the next few years, so I’ll experience it then (hopefully longer than 2 days this time).
So, to keep track:
Paris? Definitely number 3 on my favorite cities I’ve visited this semester (Amsterdam being #1 and Vienna #2).

Okay, now for a more recent update…
Today was May Day (aka Labor Day/Welcome to Spring!!! holiday) and yesterday was Witches’ Night. My friends and I decided to celebrate the festivities at Kampa Park – the park right near the Vltava river on the Mala Strana side – where they had a giant bonfire. Basically, pálení čarodějnic – which means “burning witches” – is centered around the idea that you burn witches in a giant bonfire. This holiday, from what I’ve experienced, is a combination of Halloween, drinking pivo, and pyromania. It was FANTASTIC!
They had a huge bonfire pit, stands selling weiners, skits of pirates (??), mock swordfighting which was EXCELLENT, fire dancers, and musicians. Mostly people were just sitting around in the grass with their friends. We wandered around, watched the performers, drank our bottles of wine, and roasted marshmallows on the mini bonfires (thanks for the  marshmallows, Kacy’s madre!). It was definitely one of the most enjoyable nights I’ve had here in Prague and it really feels like Spring is here (even though right now it’s raining and I have about five papers due in the next week).

With that… I have only one month left. This is indescribably depressing. I’m not ready for this to be over and I’m just trying to focus on living it up while I’m here. None of my friends are really talking about leaving yet – it’s too sad.
I would just like to say that the friends I’ve made here – Jenny, Celia, Becca, Alex, Walt, Kacy, Paulos especially – are some of the closest I’ve ever made. It’s incredibly difficult for me to explain how much my time with them means to me, and I’m so very sad that we have only a limited time together. Of course we’re going to visit each other but as most of them go to school in Texas or on the East Coast, it’s pretty miserable.
So… when you all ask me if I’m ready to go home?
I’m not. I’m not ready for my adventure to be over and I’m addicted to the adventure and traveling and experiencing new places. One semester was not enough. But we’ll deal with that in one month’s time, I guess.
And it’s not that I’m not excited to be home and see everyone again – it’s just that my lifestyle this semester really suits me and I don’t like that it has an expiration date!

In an attempt to leave this blog post on a positive note, I go to Berlin next weekend with these kids and the weather is getting to be AMAZING and I’m feeling good and working out and just discovered a new FANTASTIC vegetarian restaurant I’m obsessed with and am reading up a storm and finally don’t have to go to coat check when I go out to clubs and having my friends sleep in my room for the hell of it and always needing to wear sunglasses now and am nearly all caught up on my TV shows and am still discovering new people and places and markets and parks and there’s live music everywhere along with new spring menus and the weather is muggy and will be raining but the next it’ll be 70 degrees and sunny and taking jumping pictures and the Golden City is finally showing me its TRUE spirit of Spring.

currently listening to: “you and your heart” jack johnson

alex’s birthday!

April 21, 2010

Today, Alex C. Horn turns 21.

This is a pretty big deal. This kid, right here, has been described as having an innate awkwardness* but as he gets upset about that, we shall not mention it.

This is Alex falling into the River Seine in Paris.

Alex is pretty awesome, but I’m on Team Celia regarding certain behaviors over the last weekend in Krakow. (Alex was mean to Celia all weekend, making fun of her green hair – which she got due to the minerals in the water here – and kept being annoying). There is nothing that Alex likes more than pivo and fist pumping, which is why we’re going to Karlovy Levne (5 Story Club) tonight to help Alex expand his dancing horizons and maybe if he gets lucky, remember flashes of the night.

Alex is one of the funniest, nicest guys I know. He is always on Creeper Patrol, protecting his lady friends from the sketchy Czech dancers whenever we go out. He has also been described from my sister as a good dancer and is 100% a ladies man, since it’s always like 5 girls and Alex when we go out to dinner. Alex’s hobbies include being as annoying as possible (such as singing “Like a Prayer” at 7am when we’ve pulled an all nighter to get out of Paris and while we’re waiting to board our flight out of France), drinking beer, ice cream cones, showing everyone “the Situation”, saving damsels in distress, Taylor Swift, and hanging out with his bros Ry, John, and Walt.

This is Walt dragging Alex wrapped in the kolej’s duvet cover out into the hallways.

Since tonight I have made a vow to Alex to save him from a certain female entity, I will not give him many gifts (I mean, the gift I’m giving him tonight in protecting him from certain girls is a pretty big deal), but if I could, I would give Alex this gift:

Happy birthday, buddy!! I’m sorry Walt and Kacy and lots of your other friends aren’t here to celebrate with you!

*may or may not have been described by me

vienna!

April 8, 2010

I’m sorry about not updating! I’ve been so busy with trips and the fam visiting and midterms I’ve been slacking.

Anyway! Onto my trip to Vienna with the program!
Vienna was absolutely beautiful. We left Friday morning and took a bus to Austria (stopping only at Excalibur, the most amazing over-the-top amusement park/pit stop ever) and arrived in the afternoon. After settling in the hotel and grabbing coffee, we went on a walking tour to the city centre, where Z and Jana (our program directors who take us on these trips) left us and Becca, Jenny, Celia, Sarah, and I wandered around a bit before having dinner at this authentic schnitzel (I LOVE SCHNITZEL) place.

The weather was variable, and while it was gorgeous when we arrived it got cold and the following days it was largely cloudy with bits of sun in there.

in front of Parliament
Since our hotel was so far away from the city center, we decided to stay out for the evening (aka go to bars/clubs). We hung out and ate gelato and then met up with some of our friends at a bar. On Saturday we woke up early to go on the 10am walking tour, but I had these godawful blisters on my feet and I couldn’t go on the 2pm tour. Instead I met up with my friends at 3:30 to tour the Imperial jewels of the Habsburgs! It was insane… they had a nail and a piece of wood from the True Cross (personally I think it’s BS but whatever) and an 8ft. Narwhal horn (that the Habsburgs claimed was a unicorn horn) and it was pretty cool! Tired, we headed back from our long day of walking to the hotel, and had dinner around the corner at this epic restaurant called Centimeter.

We ordered two Meters of beer (about 5l. of beer in each one) for our table and my table split a SWORD of schnitzel.
The only way to adequately describe is via photos:

My favorite picture from the trip

This is what a meter of beer looks like

This is me and all my girlfriends in front of the Hundertwasser Haus, a piece of  interesting 1980s architecture in Wein.

Sunday we went to the Hundertwasser Haus and the Summer palace of the Habsburgs and toured inside since the weather was crappy and rainy and cold. It was really awesome!
Conclusion:
Vienna was AMAZING, beautiful, wonderful, and I wish I could’ve had at least a week there so I could explore all the museums I wanted to see. But since we were able to have two meals of weinerschnitzel and test out the best apfelstrudel, and saw some of the most important sites, we had a fantastic time. Seriously, though, Wein is my second favorite city I’ve been to since I’ve been here after Amsterdam.

Best quote from the trip came from a snarky Walt on the 4-hour bus ride back from Vienna:
“Tom, you’re a Hufflepuff if I’ve ever seen one. ‘Cause you’re a huge bitch and nobody cares.”

Sorry this was sort of rushed, but I felt the need to post something asap!
Tomorrow I leave to go to Paris with Becca and Alex for a quick 48-hour trip. It’s going to be exhausting but the weather is going to be really beautiful!

Today Obama came to Prague and we stalked the castle for two hours but didn’t get to see him. 😦 sadness. But we spent the day in the sun since the weather is so nice and I’m now about to go to a Mexican place called Cantina for margaritas and some fajitas. =]

I’m in great spirits and am hoping this Spring weather is here to stay!!
Miss you all, probably a lot more than you know.

currently listening to: the beatles, “dear prudence”