Tuesday, July 26, 2011

7.22.11 - 7.24.11: The Scottish Entity and the Worst Monument Ever

Daisy, Britni and I left for Edinburgh, Scotland, the Isle of Britain, United Kingdom, European Union last Friday. Upon our arrival, we immediately noticed that Edinburgh was not like the other European cities. There was something darker about it. The sky was darker, the buildings were darker, the history was darker, and the people were darker (not in terms of skin…you racist). The architecture was harsher and the accents rougher. The air was colder and the buildings sootier. All of these things combined to create, ironically, what I believe is one of Europe’s prettier cities. Edinburgh isn’t, as we say, ‘trying too hard.’

Anyway, that is enough of me pretending to be a seasoned enough traveler to make such in-depth judgments. It is more fun to tell you about the cool stuff we did. Like all good adventurists, we decided that the first thing we should do is get tickets to a ghost tour. We headed to the Royal Mile and a bought tickets for the tour by St. Giles Cathedral. We went through a company called "City of the Dead." They are supposedly the experts on Edinburgh paranormal activity. Edinburgh is interesting in that it has something it calls The Vaults. I wish I could relay all of the history of the Vaults to you, but I cannot. Even after the tour, I am still confused as to why and how they exist. In other words, a lot of the historical background I am about to give is a combination of what I was told on the tour, what I read in a book Daisy bought, and what I found on Wikipedia. Basically, the Vaults are a series of chambers that have been formed from the 19 arches that support the South Bridge. The bridge was completed in 1788. Here is an interesting blurb from Wikipedia:

Edinburgh's South Bridge should be regarded as more than a simple crossing from Old Town to Southside. It was, in fact, Edinburgh's first purpose built shopping street, and as such as much space as possible was utilized. The bridge itself is a nineteen arch viaduct, although only one arch is visible today, the 'Cowgate arch.' The remaining eighteen arches were enclosed behind tenement buildings built to allow the area to serve as a commercial district. The hidden arches of the bridge were then given extra floors to allow their use for industry. In total there are approximately 120 rooms or 'vaults' beneath the surface of the South Bridge, ranging in size from two metres squared to forty metres squared. South Bridge officially opened for business on 1 March 1788.

So now you get the basic idea. For the first 30 years or so, these vaults were used as taverns and for other purposes, including cobblers, merchants, etc. Many people also used these spaces as storage. The people occupying the space at the time quickly learned that the bridge was not sealed against water. When it rained, the Vaults would flood and these businessman were not happy. As such, they abandoned them. The Vaults then basically turned into slums. So, these small spaces with no light and no running water became cramped with impoverished families and criminals. Many of the vaults would house cows and other cattle which lived, went to the bathroom, ate, and were slaughtered within these small spaces. So imagine living next to or below these vaults. These people literally lived in the blood and waste of cattle. Worse yet, it was pitch black, so when something dripped on your head, you could only guess what it was. At least it wasn't as bad as Riverside. To make things worse, when a fire took over Edinburgh, many of the residents of the Vaults were basically cooked alive. Remember, the Vaults are literally shaped like giant pizza ovens. So, all in all, not a bad history.

So, now you are thinking, "Man, the Vaults sound creepy." They are creepy, so good job. Our tour guide took us into the one remaining section that has not be modernized, and it is quite obvious that some sketchy stuff took place down there. When I say not modernized, I mean there was still barely any light. We all walked around looking like idiots...at least I imagine we looked like idiots...I couldn't see. Our guide herded us into rooms and told us the dark history of the Vaults. In some cases, she even told us the history of the specific vault we were in. Many believe the Vaults are extremely haunted. It has been on the "Most Haunted" shows and is regularly listed as one of the most haunted places on earth. They refer to the "haunter" as the Scottish Entity. I don't know if believe in "haunting," but it was certainly creepy. The guide said that many people inexplicably pass out, get cuts on their faces that look like they are from a hand, and randomly start crying hysterically. None of this happened to me, and I'm okay with that.

Our tour guide was by far the scariest part of the tour. Also, the flash is what makes this look like we could see stuff.

After the Vaults, we headed to Greyfriars Cemetary. If there is any place that is more haunted than the Vaults, it is supposed to be this place. We went inside the mausoleum where most of the paranormal attacks are said to occur, but we made it out alive. I won't bore you with the details of this part. Let me just say it has been featured on The Scariest Places on Earth.

Greyfriar's Kirkyard

After the tour, we were pleasantly surprised by the fact that we were close to the Elephant House. This is the cafe where J.K. Rowling wrote parts of the first Harry Potter novels. In other words, it's basically Harry Potter Mecca. Here I enjoyed a hot chocolate with Bailey's and a small pastry. Britni and Daisy did likewise. Luckily, it didn't seem like anyway else knew about this landmark. The cafe was not packed, it didn't have cheesy Harry Potter paraphernalia everywhere, and not a single worker mentioned it. Instead, there is a modest sticker on the window and a small plaque on the exterior.

The next day we climbed Arthur's Seat or something very close to it. We weren't exactly sure what we were climbing, but we climbed it. It was like the Sacre Couer of Edinburgh, only with better views....at least that is my humble opinion. We had to take a few breaks on the way up, but for the most part, it was a pleasant little hike. From the top we could see the Edinburgh Castle, St. Giles Cathedral, Holyrood Palace, the Scottish Parliament, the Scottish Highlands, and the sea. This was probably my favorite part of the trip. Just sitting and relaxing while enjoying the view was a nice change of pace. We descended the opposite side of the hill/mountain/volcano and went straight to Holyrood Palace, the Queen's residence in Scotland. We did not go inside. After a few palaces, you quickly learn that they all look the same on the inside. Across the street was the Scottish Parliament, which we did go inside. The building is extremely modern and the debating chamber has some really high tech equipment...but only I care about this so I will stop writing about it.

I stole this from Britni

Holyrood Palace


We headed to the Edinburgh Castle via the Royal Mile. We were pleasantly surprised when we stumbled upon Cadenhead's, a famous scotch shop that my Negotiations professor recommended. We grabbed her a bottle and continued our journey toward the Castle. If you like bagpipes, a quick stroll down this street would probably tickle your fancy. If you like creepy dudes playing the bagpipes, a quick stroll down this street would probably tickle your fancy. We finally made to the Castle just in time to wait in a huge line. I am tired of lines. They have this amazing ability to suck the fun out of even the coolest experiences. After finally getting into the Castle we were able to enjoy the buildings and the view. Sadly, the interior of the Castle is a huge let down. They have successfully taken what should be one the continent's greatest attractions and turned it into a bad medieval times festival. They leave nothing to the imagination. Everywhere you look there is a figurine getting crowned or mural of a knight. It looks more like a theme park. Don't get me wrong, the site has incredible history and the exterior is still a wonder, but I would rather imagine what the prison must have looked like than have it shoved down my throat. People go to attractions such as this to imagine what they must have been like; to picture the grandeur of the royal apartments and the horrors of the prisons, not to see fiber glass mannequins wearing crowns. Anyway, I apologize for my rant. It's worth seeing regardless, especially if you can get past the cheese.

The dog of Cadenhead's Whisky Shop

Cathedral at the Castle

Example of some cheese

After a quick bite at the Jolly Judge, we headed toward the one thing I insisted upon seeing: The Scotch Whisky Experience (SWE). The title says it all. We were in Scotland, there was whisky, and it was definitely an experience. Note: it's whisky sans "e" if it is made in Scotland. The tour began with a ride on a giant whisky barrel that took us through an interactive "experience" which explained how whisky is made. After this little adventure, we were led through a couple of rooms which reexplained the distillation process. Now, being experts on the production of Scotch, we were taken into another room where we were taught about the different regions in which Scotch is produced; the four major ones being: the Highlands, the Lowlands, Speyside, and Islay. To our pleasant surprise, we had scratch and sniff cards that corresponded with each region. These helped us get an idea of the different characteristics of the whisky. Based on our sniffage, we were able to select which type of whisky we wanted to taste. I chose Highlands. The best part of the tour was the room in which we did the tasting. The SWE has the world's largest collection of scotch whisky, and we did our tasting amongst these bottles. It was honestly one of the coolest rooms I've ever seen. This was basically the end of our tour, and I was happy. This pretty much ended our second day in Edinburgh.

The tasting room and a very small part of the collection

The room where we learned about the regions

On our third and last day, I made what was arguably the worst decision I've ever made. In the Prince Street Gardens, there is something called the Scott Monument. For 3 pounds, you can have the pleasure of climbing the stairs all the way to the top. It seemed like a really good idea to me, but Daisy and Britni disagreed. They decided to wait for me comfortably on a bench in the park. I began my ascent. The stairs were winding and narrow, but no problem, right? I have climbed stairs before. On the way up I came by a family coming down. It was a tight squeeze for all of us, but we made it work. Onward I went. I made it to the platform about halfway up and admired the view. At this point, it was totally worth it. I couldn't just go halfway. Onward I went again. The stairs were narrower and the spiral was tighter. I got quite dizzy because of the tight spiral, but no big deal. They're just stairs. I made it to the next platform. It was pretty tight, but the views were great. Onward. I wasn't going to get this far and not go to the top. The stairs became much tighter and the spiral was so tight it was like spinning around in circles. The stairs kept getting tighter....and tighter....and tighter. At the top, I literally had to squeeze myself out of the staircase. The top itself is very narrow and only large enough for maybe 2 or 3 people. But more people kept coming up. Suddenly, there were so many people that nobody could move. Literally, nobody could get to the stairs to go down because nobody could move....at all....zero. It was no longer worth it. Finally, someone near the stairs squeezed in and I went in for the escape. All is good, right? False. Remember, there is only one way up and one way down. I was squeezing my way through the stairs when all of a sudden I came upon an Asian family coming up. I was close to the next level, so I thought maybe they would go back down instead of me climbing all the way back up. They didn't. I was not going back up. I looked them in the eyes, and they knew what was coming. They squeezed as tightly to the wall as they could. I was going to get through. I hugged the center of the spiral where the stairs are maybe 2 inches wide. I was now upon them, and I literally mean up on them. First came the little girl. I hope she enjoyed my ass in her face. Then came her mom. I couldn't get by. I was going to have to jump over her somehow. I went for it...and tripped. I heard a gasp from the family. Was this it? Was I going to die? I was able to plant a foot and it slid down a few stairs as my other leg flew around like one of those inflatable dancers at a car dealership. My shoe eventually caught traction and I was able to regain my footing. The Asian family and I went our separate ways. I was obviously in a great mood by now. I stepped out onto the middle level to recoup. As I stepped out and looked over the side, my head met a giant metal bar. I tried to play it off like nothing had happened, but the German family to my left knew better. I was done. I got into the stairwell, yelled "I'm coming down" and descended with authority. All those in my way knew they were going to have to move, and they did. I finally made it to the bottom and joined Daisy and Britni on the bench. I recouped for a while and we spent the rest of our day sitting around different places. I was happy to finally get on the train and head to Cambridge. Scotland was awesome but it was time for some relaxation. Little did I know I was going to get plenty of that on the train. About halfway through or trip the conductor comes over the radio and says we were going to have to wait about an hour because someone was killed by a train ahead of us. Apparently this happens all the time in England because I have already seen it twice. Anyway, and hour wasn't so bad, especially since Britni and I were in first class (the tickets were cheaper than coach for some reason). Five hours later our train moved again. We got back into Cambridge at 4:00 am.

A picture of the Scott Monument from planetware.com
One view from the top

All in all, our last day in Scotland was a success.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

7.09.11 - 7.16.11: You're All Mad As Hatters

Since we last spoke the rest of my classes have started and Jess has gone back to the States. Both of these events were quite sad. At least my classes are somewhat interesting. My first class of the day is European Union Law. While I've learned a lot about the functioning of the Union, the thing I've come to understand the most is that the whole system is a mess. Basically, it seems like the member countries are going through puberty and have not yet figured out what they want to be when they grow up. They seem shocked that, while they get to reap the benefits of membership, they also have to deal with the consequences. For instance, the UK is currently a little bitter about the situation in Greece. As members of the EU, they are partially responsible for assisting in the bailout. This is true even though they are not members of the Eurozone. It seems the Union was formed in a very optimistic haze that shrouded the consequences of such a commitment. Regardless, the project is a very admirable and I wish them the best of luck.

I am also taking Resolving Disputes Across Cultures, which has been very interesting. We have been learning about the art of negotiation in the context of different cultures. Anyway, enough about my courses. I can barely stay awake in them so I doubt very much that you care to read about it.

One of my favorite evenings thus far happened before Jess left. Jess, Daisy, Britni, Josh, myself and our two new friends Emily and Katy, went and found a spot near the river. We enjoyed some drinks. The setting in which we found ourselves was surreal. This is what we had the pleasure of staring at the whole time:

A good view of King's College

We ended the night at the Eagle Pub. The pub was founded in 1667. Seeing as Darwin, Newton, and other notable scholars went to Cambridge, I'm sure it has seen the likes of many famous academics. I'm sure it was honored by the presence of the students from Chapman Law.

On Monday we went to the river with Lydia and fed the ducks and swans. Lydia is the granddaughter of one of the coordinators of the program and she was lucky enough to travel to Europe with her grandparents. She showed us where to find the ducks and we fed them around two and half loaves of bread.

Jess enjoying feeding the swans. Britni not enjoying it as much.

Lydia and her swan friend

I walked Jess to the bus station at 2:30 am Tuesday morning. I was sad to see her go, but she had to get back a do some wedding planning. When I walked back from the station, I came across a rather interesting fellow. He was dressed in leather and was staring across the street at something I apparently could not see. He started yelling, "You're all mad as hatters. You're all mad as hatters. I am finished with the human race." Overall, he seemed like he was in a great mood. I decided not to stop for conversation and kept walking home. After all, I am a part of the human race, and it sounded like he was finished with us.

The rest of the school week was pretty uneventful. My days consist of massive amounts of tea in the morning followed by class followed by massive amounts of tea in the evening.

Yesterday we went to London for the day. We started off at Westminster Abbey. I didn't realize how many important people were buried there. Many kings, earls, esquires (of course, because we are the key holders to society), queens, etc. can be found in the Abbey. Many important non-royals/nobles are also buried there as well, including Chaucer, Handel, Newton, Darwin, etc. After grabbing lunch at what I am pretty sure was an American expat barbecue hangout, we went to the Tower of London. The tower was awesome. We had a tour with a Yeoman Warder, a member of a group better known by their nickname: beef eaters. We saw the place where Anne Boleyn lost her head along with countless other royals and nobles. We saw where Thomas Moore was imprisoned and where Henry VIII greeted his second wife when she arrived to the tower. Sadly, she didn't realize she would return later to lose her head.

The Abbey

The palace at the Tower, first occupied by William the Conqueror

Our beef eater. The circular monument behind him marks the spot where Anne Boleyn and others were killed

The traitor's gate. This is where the prisoners (including Boleyn) would have entered

The crew

When we were finished here, I insisted on finding the first Twining's store. If anyone knows me and my affinity for warm beverages, you know that I was very excited when we found it. This is where the company was founded and where it has stood for more than 300 years. Of course, I bought some tea, which I am drinking right now.

We decided to head towards Trafalgar Square. Emily, Katie, and Josh found a pub while Britni, Daisy and I enjoyed a quick Diet Coke by the fountain. We sat their an enjoyed a great view of the National Gallery, Nelson's Column, and Parliament.

Trafalgar Square

We then took a walk through St. James Park and eventually found ourselves outside of Buckingham Palace. None of us started the walk knowing that's where we would end up, so it was a pleasant surprise.

Buckingham Palace

St. James Park

We then went back to meet up with the others at the pub. We had a few drinks, went for dinner, and then had to catch our bus back to Cambridge. All in all, it was a pretty successful trip.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

7.03.11 - 7.09.11: We're Black, We're White, and Together We're Dynamite

If ever there was a college town, Cambridge is it. We’ve been here since Sunday and I am loving it. It’s not a college town in the stereotypical sense. There are no mascots in the bars, no team stickers on cars, no basketball schedules hanging on the doors of shops. It is instead a town covered with the 31 colleges and hundreds of little medieval streets shoved in between them. These 31 colleges make up the University of Cambridge. Specifically, we are at Sidney Sussex College, founded in 1594. Sidney Sussex College is the alma matter of Oliver Cromwell, the guy who overthrew the monarchy in the 1600s and became England, Ireland, and Scotland’s first Lord Protector. It is also where the fictional Sherlock Holmes studied.

Random street

The River Cam. Hence, Cam-Bridge. The bridge is called the mathematical bridge...although Daisy did not trust me on this

Anyway, more history later. The first night here I had to attend a reception. It was complete with Sidney Sussex Wine. The director of the program gave us a quick tour of the grounds. It was interesting to note the difference between Cambridge and the American universities. For instance, the really nice grass you see in many of the pictures can only be stepped on by the fellows of the University. There is also a Master’s Garden that is strictly for the enjoyment of the master and the master alone. The master is the equivalent of a college president in the U.S. They usually live on the campus is an absurdly nice house or apartment. The individual colleges here are usually walled or gated and a person called the porter is in control of the entrance. They have what is called a porter's lodge near the gate of all the colleges. This is where the students get the keys to their rooms, pick up their mail, etc. It's not entirely unlike an RA in your dorm, only they are virtually the RA for the whole college.

Sidney Sussex waits patiently for me at the end of the street

The building that houses the Sidney Sussex chapel. This is the final resting place of Oliver Cromwell's head

I started English Legal System/European Union on Monday at 8:45. Everyday, breakfast is served in the dining hall, which is very Harry Potter-esque. The class is taught by Adrien Jenkala, a real life English barrister. It was also on Monday that our friends Britni and Josh arrived after having a 15 hour delay in Detroit. Tuesday was more eventful. Jess, Josh, Britni, Daisy and myself went to the King's College Chapel to see the world renowned King's College Choir. It was unbelievable. I could literally feel the bass notes from the organ. The choir was eerily perfect. The chapel is also the home of the Adoration of the Magi painted by Ruben. Sadly, no photos were allowed inside.

Josh and Britni waiting in line, looking thrilled

Jess in line outside the chapel

A view of King's College from the street

This brings us to Wednesday, which was a rather eventful day for our class. Sadly, Jess had to stay back, but I think she enjoyed not doing anything for the first time in a few weeks. Anyway, our professor has some serious connections in London and we were lucky enough to benefit from his hook-ups. The class left Cambridge at 7:00 on Wednesday and we headed to the Royal Courts of Justice in London. I wasn't able to take photos here either, but think the courts in the Ministry of Magic from Harry Potter. I am 100% positive this is where J.K. Rowling got the inspiration. After going through security and a quick tour, we were able to sit in on some actual cases. It is true that the judges and the barristers wear robes and powdered wigs. We were in a Court of Appeal with three judges who sat significantly higher than anyone else in the court room. To our left was a cage-type room that presumably holds the criminals when they come into the court room. We witnessed two sentencing appeals. Both, without going into detail, dealt with a certain level of pedophilia. The first barrister was able to reduce the sentence from 7 to 4 years, a pretty significant decrease. We didn't see the result of the second, but the barrister was being grilled by the judge, so I doubt it turned out well for him. After the Royal Courts of Justice we went over to the Middle Temple Inn. In England, a barrister must join one of four Inns of Court in addition to the Bar. From my perspective, these Inns seem like they are basically extremely nice clubs or fraternities. The Middle Temple is not often open to visitors, especially for eating in their dining hall, but our professor is a member and he managed to get us in. We were given a quick tour by the Inn's porter of the hall. Construction began in 1562 and it mostly stands now as it appeared then. It was one of the few lucky buildings to withstand the fire of 1666. The table we ate at was reputedly given to the Inn by Queen Elizabeth I. The wood is from one single oak found in the Windsor Forest. A table to the left was created from the hull of Sir Francis Drake's ship, a gift from the seaman himself. This is probably not nearly as fascinating to most people as it is to me. I couldn't help but wish we had a similar system in the U.S. After all, this hall has hosted the Queen and Prince William (an honorary member) in the last year alone. Additionally, law students are required to join an Inn. Not a bad place to hang out every once in a while.
Exterior of the Royal Courts of Justice

The table...our table

Me in the Hall

After this we headed over to Parliament. Some people are probably thinking, "Well, I've been to Parliament." This may be true; however, did you sit in on a session of the House of Lords? 'Cause we did. Once again, no pictures were permitted, at least in the House of Lords. We were able to watch a somewhat lively debate, as is typical of the Houses of Parliament. Some parts were very interesting, others were immensely boring.

This is from to internet. I did not take this. Thank you http://maldencapell.wordpress.com/

Just a cool picture

The Hall of Westminster. The oldest portion of Westminster Palace (Parliament). This is where Obama recently spoke

Us parliamenting it up

On Friday we took our final, which wasn't bad. We all went out last night to the Baron of Beef, a restaurant/bar near the Curry King. I was looking for the Prince of Paella, but I couldn't find it. Today we went Punting on the Cam. This is a popular activity among tourists and locals alike. We then had the honor of witnessing a demonstration by a bunch of white trash who were protesting the Mosque in Cambridge. This was a big deal here and last time it happened some stuff was destroyed. There was a counter protest by the more educated (and less smelly) group that was very much against discrimination, racism, etc. My favorite chant of their's was, "We're black. We're white. Together we're dynamite." They were also chanting, "We're black, white, Asian, and we're jews" to the tune of "She'll Be Coming Around the Mountain."

The crew in front of the Bridge of Sighs

Jess and I in front of the Bridge of Sighs

St. John's College


That pretty much sums up our time here so far. Of course there have been many good meals and drinks in between, but I figure this post was probably long and boring enough. Sorry this post was a little more tedious. I've been trying to stay out of trouble.

Monday, July 4, 2011

6.28.11 - 7.02.11: Showers on the Sink

We arrived into Beauvais airport on Tuesday morning. Apparently, the French do not care who comes into their country because not only did we not have to go through customs, they didn't even look at our passports. In fact, there weren’t any workers in the area. In a way it was awesome because those lines always seem tedious, but I am a little disappointed I won’t have that stamp in my passport. We got out quickly though and caught the bus to central Paris, about an 80 minute ride.

The first thing that struck me along our drive was how much it looked like a drive through Missouri. If someone put me in the middle of a highway (without signs of course) and asked me to guess where I was, I would probably guess incorrectly. Obviously, the landscape began to change once we got into Paris. We had to take the Metro from the center of Paris to our hotel in Boulogne-Billancourt, which turned out to be a very family oriented neighborhood in the 16th Arrondisement. The Metro was slightly harder for me here because unlike London, it was not in English and unlike Rome, every stop didn’t coincide with some famous attraction. That being said, it was still pretty easy, especially with Jess’s help on the French.

Our room was nice enough. The owner even upgraded us to a room with AC because it was open. After Rome, AC was the greatest thing that we could possibly have hoped for. Granted, it’s not nearly as warm in Paris. The only negative side was the bathroom. Without exaggeration it was the size of an airplane bathroom with a shower head. I’ll just say that if I had to sit, my knees didn’t fit. It was so small that it didn’t bother much because I just laughed my way through it. Every time I showered it had to sound like there was a battle going on because my elbows were smacking the walls and I was running into the sink and things were falling everywhere. Moral of the story: the Residence Aurmat in Paris is a decent hotel in a nice part of Paris with absurdly small bathrooms. Absurdly small.

You can't see it, but the shower head is toward the upper right. This pictures does not do it justice

After a shower (or a spraying of water above the sink) we headed to the center of Paris. For my birthday, Jess bought us tickets for a river cruise along the Seine. It began at the Eiffel Tower and took us up the river past all the sights: Notre Dame/the Latin Quarter, Musee d’Orsay, the Louvre, etc. This remains my favorite part of our trip so far. We then took a bus (part of the same tour) around the sights on land. This is a great way to start a trip in any city. Getting a glimpse of all the famous areas got us really excited for the rest of our stay. From now on we will be doing similar tours at the beginning of our trips, funds permitting of course. The tour was quite long and we headed back to the hotel afterward. We fell asleep to our one and only English TV channel, the BBC World News.

Not the best photo, but you get the idea

The next day we went to Versailles, the palace built largely by Louis XIV. The opulence of this place was out of control. Everything was covered in gold and the gardens were, as the legend states, as far as the eye could see. The coolest part of the palace was seeing the King's and Queen's chambers. In the Queen’s bed chamber, you can see the door where Mary Antoinette ran to escape the mobs during the revolution. She apparently wasn’t quick enough. We spent most of our time outside, largely taking pictures of flowers that Jess thought might inspire good wedding colors. We’ll see if they make it to the big event.

Front of Versaille

Us in the mirrors at the hall of mirrors

At the top of the gardens at Versaille

When we got back to Paris, we wanted to save a little money. Logically, we went to the shop near our hotel and bought a baguette, some cheese, and of course, wine. A baguette may sound a little clichĂ©, but it’s not. Everyone seemed to be carrying a baguette, at least in our neighborhood. We passed one guy carrying a baguette and fresh flowers. I thought I was looking at a Parisian painting. Anyway, we took our purchases back the center and wined and dined by the river, right outside of Notre Dame. We watched the river boats go by and waved at the tourists as we tried to pass as Parisians. We were at least partially successful. This will probably be my most vivid memory of our entire trip. After all, I had my four favorite things: wine, cheese, bread, and Jess of course.

Jess and our wine by the river

Just some wine by Notre Dame. NBD.

The next day we met up with Daisy outside of Notre Dame. We walked around the cathedral for a while. Luckily it was free; the one and only free thing in Europe apparently. Then we went to the Louvre. Like everyone else, we headed straight for the Mona Lisa, the most popular painting in the museum (and possibly on Earth) and probably the smallest. The gigantic crowd really sucks away the experience of seeing such a masterpiece, but it was beautiful nonetheless. Being law students, Daisy and I dragged Jess to see the Code of Hammurabi. We took a quick pass through Napoleon III apartments and we were museumed out. We found a nice little café called Le Petit Fleur where we ate strip steak with shallots and French fries. It was pretty good and relatively cheap for Paris. Of course, I had a giant beer afterwards. Later that evening, I dragged Jess to look at the grounds of Roland Garros. They were only 15 minutes from the hotel.

*My camera was dead on this day so I have no pictures. I will have to steal them from Daisy*

On Friday we met Daisy in Montparnasse, the historically bohemian district of Paris. This is where Picasso, Dali, and a bazillion others did much of their work. We checked out the view from Sacre Couer, which was pretty impressive. The whole city of Paris was laid out before us. This whole area is certainly in the running for my favorite area in Paris. After this we finally decided to go up the Eiffel Tower. The thing is tall friends. It was awesome to stand at the top and see Notre Dame, the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre and other landmarks. We then walked the Champs-Elysees, which is bar far the biggest let down of the whole trip. It’s a boulevard. Wow. Cool. Never seen one.

Toilet in the restaurant made for squatting

Sacre Coeur

At the steps of the Sacre Coeur

Ice Cream in Montparnasse

On our final day we mostly hung out in the neighborhood by our hotel and sat in the airport. Nothing exciting really happened.