30 November 2010

OMG BURITOS- or in which I visit Berlin

I was starving to death when I wrote this, that probably explains the title of this post and the amount of times it mentions food.
I left my Edinburgh hostel four hours or so before my flight, mostly because I didn’t want to leave and then come back, because that just seemed silly. Because I am an addict, I made my first order of business returning to the Starbucks I had visited the day before for peppermint mocha, num num. (side bar: something is making a weird clicking noise, and it’s very distracting). The nifty thing about this Edinburgh Starbucks is the pricing. At the one I went to in Paris (there are none in Bordeaux :( ), the pricing is redonc. That is, if a tall peppermint mocha costs like $4 in the us, than it costs 4 euro there. Which is totally stupid because 4 euro is like $5.80. At this one Edinburgh, the price was more like 2.40 pounds which is something like $4. (side bar: word grammar is really irritating. I SPEAK ENGLISH BETTER THAN YOU COMPUTER.)
Anyway, then I failed at finding my bus stop a lot, and had a ten minute conversation with this Scottish man. And by conversation, I mean he talked a lot and I could only understand like 10% of the things he said, and so I mostly just made agreement sounds based on tone. “OH NO!”, “Really?!”, “Wow!”.  It’s important to be enthusiastic, lest the other person realize you don’t have the slightest idea what they’re saying despite the fact that you both supposedly speak the same language fluently. Occasionally, he would ask a question that seemed like it might require an actual response, in which case I would have to say “what?” at least 5 times before getting the gist of the question. Finally, I escaped his clutches, found my bus, and paid 2 pounds to ride it the airport (remember this for comparison with the NEXT time I take an airport bus).
Then some general travelly stuff happened. And I ate a prepackaged panini that they heated up for me, which was surprisingly good for being overpriced prepackaged food. OMG I’M STARVING. Then I sat on the plane for a bit and had Ryan Air try to sell me stuff to make up for the fact that I only paid like 15 euro for a ticket, and then I landed and Ryan Air played their unbelievably corny “we arrive on time!” sound effect. YAY, budget airlines.
I exchanged my remaining pounds for euros on my way out of the airport, and I’m pretty sure that I got totally ripped off.
Then I met Lisa, bought a tram pass of some girl for a 6 euro reduction, and then went places.
She showed me her university, and this nifty memorial for all the books that were burned in its library, and most importantly DOLORES. Dolores is amazing. Dolores is my hero. Dolores is a California style burrito place that serves burritos that taste like they are supposed to- like joy in a tortilla. And I had a burrito which was amazing. AMAZING.
I also met Lisa’s roommate, who is very nice, but who had a minor medical emergency that was completely harmless except that it resulted in her having a very unpleasant evening at the hospital, which wasn’t completely harmless.
Lisa and I went back to her apartment which is on the fifth floor and has no elevator, and I dropped off my stuff.
Then guess where we went…McDo. And we had mcflurries which were cheaper than the French ones, but also less amazing. Then we watched some Dr. Who, because it’s awesome.
The next day after Lisa got back from class she took me to Kreutz burger which has authentic curly fries which they serve with not so authentic mysterious white substance that is possibly sour cream, and then she took me on a tour of parks in her neighborhood. Starting with this one which is in a graveyard:

(you know what Microsoft Word? Your FACE is a fragment. And no, I’m not going to capitalize you- just to SPITE you.)
In other news, it is possible that typing snarky notes to a computer program may be a first sign of insanity.
Anyway, it’s most definitely fair to say that German parks pwn American ones, and that American parents need to chill out on the whole “OMG THIS WILL KILL MY CHILD” thing and realize how amazing these contraptions are.
Then we went back to the apartment, after a quick stop at the grocery store. Then we did some stuff, I think. And then we made pizza, actually mostly Lisa made pizza, and I sat around and laughed at her. I am GOOD friend who performs irreplaceable moral support activities.
The pizza was fantastic though. OMG, starving.
The next day, Lisa didn’t have class, so I she took me to see all the Berlin touristy things:
Straddling the Berlin wall, or where it was at least
For being a bunch of rectangular blocks the Holocaust memorial was surprisingly effective and moving.
The bunker in which Hitler killed himself was located under this parking lot. You wouldn't know...

This is the space ship of love = representing America it pretty much sums up the Global Stone project (which has a stone thing for each of the 5 continents 5 because German people are apparently unaware that there are actually 7). The male viewer is supposed to use his imagination a specific date to connect these rocks with their sister rocks in their continent of origin, thereby envisioning peace. OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT ...)
Then we ate amazing burritos at Dolores before going home for a nap (because it was cold and rainy and we were tired) after which “we would do more stuff”. (I want a burrito, SO BAD.) Only we didn’t actually do stuff because we were lazy and sleepy. Unless by *stuff* you mean watch Dr.Who, make yummy hamburgers, and invent mixed drinks (The Friendly Chipmunk: 1 part red orange vodka, 1 part Orangina).
The day we ate one final time at Dolores, and I attended a class with Lisa. I slept through most of it. Also, I drew an ALOT of German Confusion.
Then we did some more touristy things in the rain:
Check point Charlie
Giant ball of stuff (supposedly representing that which an immigrant brings and wishes to bring). The truth according to Lisa, Kathy, and Delilah is that it was originally designed for Toon Town but was rejected because, WTF?
pretty nifty art on the longest stretch of the Berlin wall that remains

Fantastic quesadillas were had for dinner. Our plane left 2pm the next day, so we left the apartment at 10 ish, and stopped for bagels. I got a coffee. And a “california bagel” which was like a Chinese chicken salad in a bagel, because that’s what they do in California, OBVIOUSLY. It was pretty tasty though.
Word objects to the “like” in the last sentence. Please stop being prejudiced against my California dialect, Word.
For more pictures go here

Guess what’s fantastic… Money

Because of my early bedtime and the falling back I was awake at 7 and out of bed by 7:45 and out of the hostel before 9.
The early morning was crisp, quiet, and beautiful. I hiked up to the Scottish memorial to admire the view and the strange structures there. It turns out that this project, built during the 1820s to honor victims of the Napoleonic Wars, is considered to be folly because it appears that the over ambitious project was never completed because of budget problems.
The view from up there was gorgeous and the early morning lighting was perfect.
Then I came down and stumbled upon this really awesome Giraffe sculpture. I really liked the poem encircling them and how the little giraffe gazes at the larger.
I took a picture for a couple and they took one for me in return. Then the woman asked to take a picture with me. So I did….
Then I did some shopping and bought some of the least intelligent things to buy when you are travelling light and 4 plane rides left before home, 7 if you count the ones to return to San Diego. But I’ve wanted galoshes for forever and I’m all about practical souvenirs. And also that tea shop was filled with AWESOME and inexpensive.
This is one of the best purchases I've ever made. It started raining as soon as I got back to Bordeaux and it basically hasn't stopped

I would like you take a moment to ponder if I would go to Edinburgh without visiting “the birthplace of Harry Potter”… if you guessed “no”, you win.
Also, they didn’t give me any napkins. How am I supposed to rags to riches without napkins on which to write my first novel? If I never make it big, I will always hold you responsible, Elephant House.
Then I went to Edinburgh Castle and admired it and the view from outside, because I wasn’t about to pay 13 pounds to go in.
Then I walked down the hill, vaguely searching for the soldier’s dog cemetery I had heard about. But I didn’t ever find it.
Instead I found this graveyard in which the inventor of logarithms is supposedly buried. I couldn’t find his tomb stone. I can only assume this is because they were lying to me.
Then I made an awesome, yet somewhat offensive discovery:
This is a sculpture of Buddy, the beloved vagabond dog of San Diego. He was a gift from San Diego, as Edinburgh also has a beloved vagabond dog. I am offended because no one told me
For more pictures go here

17 November 2010

Pretty okay for a disaster

As far as non-life threatening travel tragedies go, I’m pretty sure losing your credit cards when you’re alone in a country that you don’t have any currency for yet ranks as among the worst. I discovered my cards were missing when I went to take them out to stick them in the ATM to get myself some pounds. It was midnight in Edinburgh, that is, one am Bordeaux time, and I had gotten up at 6:30 am in order to jump through the last visa getting hoop. In a moment I saw all the times I had unzipped my wallet since leaving Bordeaux- more than 5 times at least. And I had no idea at point they had disappeared.
And that was the beginning of what proved to be a very long early morning.
I left the airport at nearly 1:20 am on a night bus I couldn’t afford to pay for. I had explained my situation to the bus driver and told him my stop. Forty-five minutes later as everything started to get less city like I began to suspect I had missed my stop, and sure enough 5 minutes later we arrived at the terminus. The bus driver got off, had a smoke, clearly saw that I was still on the bus, and got back on. I thought surely this time he would tell me my stop (because a person with an American accent who was picked up at the airport, and who rode the whole bus line without getting off probably doesn’t know where to get off the bus since the announcement are turned off).
And so I watched everything go by in the opposite direction. At a stop next to a sign saying “Princes Mall” I wondered if this was my stop (“princes st”) but I wasn’t sure and I really thought he would tell me. I can’t explain why I didn’t get up and ask just that on a night that went on a scale from “cold, miserable, and tired” to “furiously happy” I was much closer to the first at this time.
We left the city again, and I started to regret intensely not getting off the bus, I didn’t even care if it might have been the wrong stop. I felt bus sick and wished that I had not left Bordeaux. We arrived at the airport. The bus driver asked me if I was going to get off, I said no and that I didn’t know which stop was mine. He said okay, he hadn’t known that and that he would be back in 10. I waited and we left the airport. When we got to town I decided I would ask him, lest I end up at the other terminus again. A large group of people got on the bus, and then I asked him before he pulled away. He said, “this is Princes St” and I was like, “Thanks for nothing!” only not out loud and got off the bus into the freezing cold.
It was windy and past 3:30 am. My google directions told me to walk “east” on Princes St. which was absolutely useless to me at this hour in a city I had never been to before. I choose a direction that turned out to be west, which I discovered when I turned around and saw a bridge (I was looking for “north bridge”). After that I found the hostel without much difficulty. On my way there, a homeless woman asked me if I could spare any change, but like her I was penceless. The hostel, thankfully, didn’t turn me away. Although the guy was kind of a jerk- I was like: “Brrr, it’s cold” because it was and my feet were wet and literally numb. And he said in a you-stupid-tourist tone “Yeah, it get’s like that in Scotland”. I actually really regret being so nice about this comment.
I woke up at 9 the next morning and was unable to sleep. I hoped I would be able to obtain money soon because I was starving. A couple hours later, after talking to a woman at the American Express office multiple times, attempting many calls with both my cellphone and also a payphone (none of which actually went through ) (do you have to pay to make toll free calls?) , and writing an email or two, I gave up my quest for money temporarily and adopted a furiously happy attitude, and decided to do my best to enjoy Scotland despite my hunger and exhaustion.
I made a kitty friend:

Eventually I ended up in a park, and I swung on a swing and wondered why it is that adults give up this enjoyable pastime. Then I played doggy stalker and took a nap on a park bench because I was pretending to be a homeless person.
I spent some time window shopping and by the time I was finished I had a list of things I would buy if I had money with me, and of things I would buy if I was rich. It appears that I have a Scottish sense of style because the stores were filled with awesome things.

I headed back towards my hostel, but I got a bit turned about. I don’t want to say “lost”, let’s say “exploring”
A cow is running into a building, weird

I finally got back to the hostel, where I hung out for like 10 minutes when my parents called me. Then I spent the next threeish hours waiting for the money to arrive.
Then at 6ish, edinburgh time, a full 24 hours after I had eaten last, I feasted. I had amazing butternut squash and coconut soup and a not really amazing burger and it was fantastic.
I obtained shampoo (the jerky French security people threw mine away because it was “too big”) that was also “too big” but it still made it out of Scotland and Germany.  Then I showered and sent some emails and I went to sleep at 9 Edinburgh time.
And that was day one in Edinburgh. It sounds kind of awful, but it actually wasn’t THAT bad.