Here they are! Pics from the Super Cliché Eurotrip 2012, as promised. There are a lot, so I’m breaking it into 2 parts. These cover everything from London through Marseille, and I’ll put up the second half with Lyon, Paris, Normandy, Brussels, and Amsterdam when I get around to it. I think the pictures give a pretty good narrative, but I’ll at least introduce the main characters and a few highlights.
First we have Mr. Jeffery Pilkington. Jeff is 1/17th of the talent and ½ of the authority behind Mile 21 (the a cappella group I sing with at CU) where he is more affectionately known as “Pilks.” Jeff is the kind of guy that will carry your backpack to the train for you when you want to look at Dali paintings instead.
Next is Abigail Cher. Abby is the other half of the organization at Mile 21, and came on this trip wanting to “learn how to be a bro.” By the end of the trip us bros were wishing she would shower and chew with her mouth closed so… success! Abby is in Nepal now working at an orphanage outside of Chitwan, and I will be meeting her and some of her family in Israel in August.
This is Miss Raena Hubbell. She is the brains and the beauty in Mile 21 and enjoys Spanish paella and chocolate con churros (even though she can’t eat the latter). Raena is back in CO now working her way through the summer like a responsible adult (and hopefully having some fun too!).
Meet Jim Carpenter. Jim enjoys whisky with steak, chocolate croissants, tall socks, and a nicely trimmed hedge. Jim and Jeff are now vagabonding their way through Eastern Europe searching for the legendary 5 Euro Hungarian pizza.
Next we have Mr. Eric Fauble. Eric is more commonly seen with a camcorder up to his eye as he was (and is) the official trip archiver. Eric is currently cruising the Mediterranean with his brother and will be meeting up with Jeff and Jim in Italy I think.
Finally there is Eric #2, Mr. Eric Stoessel. We found him in London and discovered he was good for a hearty laugh and his extensive knowledge of Europe’s metro systems, so we decided to drag him and his roller suitcase along. Eric is back in London now trying to get his hands on his Aunt and Uncle’s tickets to the Olympic opening ceremonies. Incidentally Eric also sings a cappella, which will become important in the second half of this saga. If you want to get ahead of the game you can check out the Mile 21 website – Mile-21.com – there is a link at the right. Be careful though, the site will start singing at you when you open up the page.
So we started out in London. I don’t have any decent photos from this leg of the trip because I was unwittingly experimenting with an over-exposure setting on my camera that I didn’t discover until halfway through Madrid. Rest assured though we took pictures of Beefeaters, spoke in insulting British accents, and drank Guinness. Next we flew to Madrid where “la junta está muy loca,” My favorite time was between 5 and 7 in the morning when the streets rest for a short time before they are filled with the morning workers. The only people out at 5 am are those catching the sunrise on their way home from the previous night.
On our way to the station to catch the train to Barcelona we hung out for a few hours in Las Ramblas – a giant park on the edge of Madrid – and I had a chance to go around and photograph Spaniards enjoying their weekend. Most interesting to me, there were probably a hundred or so small round-table open-forum style debates scattered under trees throughout the park. Paper signs taped to trees outlined the topic of each forum and from what I could gather, the majority of the groups were concerned with addressing Spain’s significant economic problems. I was really taken by the comparison of these concerned students, parents, grandparents – all kinds of people – in stark contrast to the crowd that filled the streets the night before; milling around and filling the wee hours of the morning with shouting, music, and lots of litter.
Barcelona was incredible with its huge avenues, melting-sandcastle-esqe Gaudi architecture, and hole-in-the-wall greasy sausage sandwich joints. One of my favorite experiences was wandering through the old jumbled Gothic section and stumbling unexpectedly upon an enormous Gothic cathedral nestled between the apartments and gelato shops.
Taking the train to Marseille was exciting for me and Eric #2 because we finally got to start speaking a little French. We also stopped along the way in Figures to check out the Dali museum. We didn’t leave ourselves enough time to really go through it, but Eric and I dumped our bags on the rest and ran through as much of the building as we could. Dali designed and built the museum and included many life-sized and larger than life-sized surrealist pieces. Definitely a place I hope to return to and spend more than 40 minutes exploring.
If I could sum up Marseille in one word it would be stairs. The city is right on the Mediterranean and is enmeshed by a network of “Rue This or That” which is really a narrow flight of stairs winding its way towards the rocky shore through orange adobe walls, cactus gardens, and North African shops. No vehicles navigate these streets unless they are filming an Italian Job sequel with off-roading mini coopers. One of the highlights for me was making good of the guys’ challenge to catch a pigeon during our beach day. You say animal cruelty, I say I am a ninja. (You still owe me a beer by the by Jeff – all things considered though I think I’ll let it slide…). I wasn’t expecting to break out the Arabic so soon, but Marseille is unofficially called Little North Africa, so I got a little taster of what the next 7 months are to be like.
Worm hole to the present now and I am sitting in the Zamalek lobby with most of the rest of the ALI people trying to study with about as much success as everyone else is having. We checked out the citadel today and we’re planning a trip to Old Islamic Cairo tomorrow – I’ll be posting those pics at the end of the weekend. Our taxi drove by Tahrir square on the way home and we got a glimpse of the huge crowds that are gathering to protest what is being viewed by many as a military coup. Election results should be announced in the next couple days here after much stalling and accusations of fraud. As our press media professor quipped this week, “the dead play a very big role in Egyptian elections.” People are angry, but so far everything has remained within the bounds of peaceful protest. I have gained a lot of respect for Egyptians in these last few days and for how truly daunting the challenge of establishing a new democracy is. Though we roll our eyes at how dysfunctional American politics are, I am gaining a much greater appreciation for the fact that the obnoxious political ads that are already swamping my email inbox really represent an enormous blessing. Here’s to counting all of our blessings.