Andrew and Donna's Road to the World Cup

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Bonjour, Merci - Tuesday, May 30

Man, I wish I knew how to speak French. Greetings from Paris. After several hours on the bus and a relatively short fairy ride, we arrived at our hotel on the outskirts of Paris late this afternoon. We checked into our hotel, relaxed for an hour or so, had dinner, then headed into the city of lights for a bus tour. I learned something new....I don't like bus tours. I'm not an auditory kind of guy so several hours of fast-talking from our tour manager does little more than annoy me. I'm looking forward to tomorrow's "free day" in Paris. Funny, my bank account might disagree with Contiki's idea of free.

Nonetheless, we had barrels of laughs with Steph and Bonny.

Enjoy the photos. More is to come.

Au revoir

Snapfish Photos

A few samples

making our way to the mainland (no that is not a chaw, I just like to do new and stupid things with my face when being photographed)



Paris is for lovers



and sisters



obligatory shot



from high above paris

Andrew 6:54 PM | 9 comments |

Monday, May 29, 2006

Pictures to Prove It - Monday, May 29

Almost forgot












and the link to our Edinburgh photos
Andrew 8:30 PM | 1 comments |

Combined Effort - Monday, May 29

Note: Donna wrote the beginning of this guy as well; she is becoming quite a prolific writer.

This will be a short blog, because the day is not over. I am sure Andrew will write more later.

We slept until 10:30 this morning, it felt so good. After showering and packing we checked out of our hotel and loaded Andrew up with the luggage and hit the tube to find Imperial Hotel. After much swearing and me almost breaking down in tears, we finally found it and were able to check-in the hotel.

Bonny and Steph are right next door to us and we caught up with them around noon. After a brief chat and exchange of hellos we got some grub. Bonny was not thrilled with her uncooked bacon and lettuce sandwich, but the rest of us did ok with the food today.

Andrew and I went with Bonny and Steph to the Tower of London where we parted ways until 6 tonight. Andrew and I were rewarded for our journey on the tube with them to the Tower with more soft-serve with flake.

We’ve been at the hotel since about 3 recovering from our first four days and updating our blog. Tonight we have a meeting with our tour group and then see Les Miserables. Tomorrow Paris!

+ + +

Tonight we did indeed see Les Mis. It was very enjoyable. The theatre held about 1000 people and only performs Les Miserables. I expected less jeans, more jackets from the audience but it did not take away from our enjoyment of the performances. Jean Valjean was brilliant. The little boy was a hoot. Donna cried. I didn't, but I did get goose bumps.

Tonight after the show I settled into our hotel's atrium to post the entries we wrote this afternoon. Unfortunately the wireless network was not working so I walked a few blocks to the Imperial Hotel's sister hotel, the Royal National. Ambitious names, aren't they? Well, the network is up here and thus the sudden information overload. Some more photos are posted on our snapfish site, but they don't have the clever captions you have come to love and mock.

We are off to Paris in just about five and a half hours so I better head back to the hotel to pack.

I hope you all had a wonderful Memorial Day and comment again soon!

All the best,
Andrew

Andrew 8:00 PM | 1 comments |

Not a travel agent, eh? - Sunday, May 28

Note: Donna wrote this one too

In the first few days I found that I have not been called to be a tour guide. Just shortly after 3:30 am this morning I realized, I should add travel agent to the list of things that I am not suited for. I planned our lovely excursion to Edinburgh, Scotland with the intent to have as much time as we needed to see the city. I did not account for the fact that we would need sleep or the fact that we would be worn out from three days of touring London. Oh well, right?

We had to wake up by 3:30 to catch a 4:30 train to Gatwick. A clue that under no circumstance should any person be awake at 4:30 am, was that the tube didn’t start operating until 6 am. We caught a cab to Victoria Station and made it with plenty of time for the 4:30 am train. Our flight was at 6:30 am and I fell asleep as soon as we sat down. Andrew, who seemed more exhausted than I did, only managed to get a 20 minute nap in…his body apparently has a 20-minute limit for airplane naps. I got off the plane feeling refreshed and Andrew got off the plane and wanted to crawl into bed.

With absolutely no clue of what we should do in Scotland, we decided we should start with the obvious…breakfast. We found a hidden little hole in the wall where I got uncooked bacon and egg and Andrew got last night’s trash. Amazingly, he didn’t quite finish his meal.

We followed Frommer’s guide on Edinburgh for most of the day. Edinburgh, much like London is currently under construction. We started out at the Edinburgh Castle, where we were appalled at the admissions’ price; that is until we realized that you could spend about a half-day just walking around and seeing all of the museums. I was amazed by how many tourist shops they had 1000 years ago. You’d think that sort of thing would have been weird in a castle, but no, just about every 50 feet they had one, just in case. As amazing as the castle and museums inside were, the most enjoyable part of our visit inside the castle was the 10 minute movie on Scotland’s tradition of war. The first time it was interesting, the second time it gave us both a chance for a much needed power nap.

Next we walked down the Royal mile and saw all of the well known sites. I’d tell you what they were, but we didn’t have the book out and I haven’t read it to find out what we took a picture of. Here are two of the better shots:



We next attempted a nice walk up a hill that Andrew thought would take at least an hour to complete, but I didn’t think so. Half-way there in under 5 minutes, we confirmed what I have always known, I was right.

We spent some time hunting for some strange monument. Once there we sat around and rested on the hill. Andrew informed me that the monuments are incomplete and are considered “Edinburgh’s Disgrace.” I thought they were neat.


We found some food then walked around a bit. I introduced Andrew to one of Britain’s finer sides, the soft-serve ice cream, with flake. Realizing that my schedule had allowed just too much time, we headed for the airport where Andrew finally got that much needed rest. The flight left at 9 pm and we got to the airport at 5. I think he got at least 2-3 hours in and I was the hero for suggesting it.

We finally got home and went to bed shortly after midnight. Now I know for future planning that a 21 hour day is not a good idea.
Andrew 7:52 PM | 0 comments |

London under construction - Saturday, May 27

Note: Donna wrote this, but I am posting under my name because she is back at the hotel sleeping.

With having done so much on Saturday, I figured I need to stick my two cents in about the day as well.

Apparently we have managed to get here when just about all things in London are being renovated. Notice the picture of St. Pauls is half drawing. We also saw a nice photo of what the Nelson statue in Trafalgar Square should look like. It’s nice that they show you what you should be seeing.


We went to St. Paul’s today, just about my favorite place in London. Apparently other people must think so too, because it has doubled in price since I went in 2000. I have the ticket stubs to prove it. I felt rather guilty after seeing Andrew at the top of St. Paul’s (after 530 steps) sheet white with sweat dripping down his face. I asked if he was ok on the way down and he just told me to keep walking. I had a long trip down trying to figure out how to get him to forgive me for convincing him to go to the top. We made up rather quickly and then caught up with the Neffs. We spent a few minutes marveling at how our legs wouldn’t stop shaking. Apparently none of us is in that good of shape and our legs were crying out for help.

Later in the day we headed toward the British Museum. I lead the way and had us get off at Euston Station where we walked through the Quaker House and the tiny park that smells like piss and on to my old dorm (Campbell House). I made Andrew take a picture of me in front of the door. It was great to see it and I couldn’t help but smile.


Andrew 7:41 PM | 0 comments |

Busy Day - Saturday, May 27

We did it. We woke up early and arrived at Westminster Abbey before it opened. That is no small feat for four people sharing one hotel room, one bathroom and two single beds. I did not know so many people were entombed at Westminster Abbey. It seemed that I could not take two steps without walking on someone’s gravestone. The intricacies of the 1000+ year old structure were humbling as were the memorials to children, royalty, poet laureates and most especially the unknown warrior. It was quite moving to read the epitaph on the gravestone that was surrounded by red flowers.

Beneath this stone rests the body
Of a British warrior
Unknown by name or rank
Brought from France to lie among
The most illustrious of the land
And buried here on Armistice Day
11 Nov: 1920, in the presence of
His Majesty King George V
His ministers of state
The chiefs of his forces
And a vast concourse of the nation

Thus are commemorated the many
Multitudes who during the Great
War of 1914 - 1918 gave the most that
Man can give life itself
For God
For King and country
For loved ones home and Empire
For the sacred cause of justice and
The freedom of the world

They buried him among the kings
Because he
Had done good toward God and
Toward
His house

From Westminster Abbey we went to Shakespeare’s Globe, a recreation of the theatre where Shakespeare’s plays were put on.

None of us were very enthused to go on the tour, but it proved to be quite captivating. We learned lots of fun trivia about watching plays in Shakespeare’s day. For instance, there were seats behind and above the stage that cost six times more than the SRO tickets and three times more than the regular seats. People bought the seats because they went to the theatre to be seen. It was not uncommon for them to arrive 30 – 45 minutes late. When they arrived, the play would pause and the actors would catch them up. “I’m Romeo, He’s Mercutio – we’re best friends, about to fight some members of the Capulet family with whom we’ve had a longstanding rivalry...” Hilarious. Also, our guide told us that Shakespeare’s plays were laced with local references that only the most aware Londoners these days would catch. “A rose by any other name still smells as sweet,” is a clever illustration and a pun mocking a rival theatre called The Rose that sat on a street that’s sewers smelled awful. Donna and I picked out a cool poster that lists about 10 common phrases and their Shakespearean origin…it’s like Shakespeare’s take on the Jeff Foxworthy You Might Be a Redneck jokes. You’re quoting Shakespeare if…To see the actual poster and phrases you’ll have to visit the new house!

St Paul’s Cathedral was similar to Westminster Abbey, equally impressive and humbling. A little weary from reading about so many dead people, we spent a few minutes whispering silliness across the Whispering Gallery. It took several tries, but there is no mistaking the hilarious, falsetto voice of Dr Neff saying, “I can heeeeaarrrr yooouuu!” The whispering gallery was about half-way up to the top of the cathedral, so about 265 steps. It’s harder than it sounds. The trudging up the steps confirmed my discomfort with tight spaces and high places without high fences. I felt pretty crappy but think I may have looked worse (see Donna’s entry following). I was sweating bullets, my face was completely flushed and I felt terribly jittery. Maybe I’d fit in more with the urban men here with their hair product and murses (man purses). Here's a picture of my nightmare (thanks Curtis)

Donna took some great panoramic photos of London from the top of the cathedral so she thought the trip up was worth it.



After making our way down, we learned some about the Church of England’s Anglican Church and how it is still alive today with 170 million members. (I had to resist converting that 170 million to American.) They hold services daily at St Paul’s though the majority of the denomination is made up of Asians and Africans. The final point of interest in the Cathedral was the memorial to the Americans who lost their lives in World War II. In many of the sites we’ve visited, the strong relationship Britain has with the United States is on display but perhaps none more than there at St Paul’s.

All this we did before lunch. Amazing, eh?

We did the pub thing for lunch again. The friendly bloke who took my order and I had a bit of trouble communicating. I asked for filet (pronounced how you read it) of cod and he never heard of such a thing. After three tries I went to “the fish and chips” and he said, “Oh, the filet (pronounced fill-it).” I’ve found I don’t like soda in London so I usually go with a pint of whatever. My mind wasn’t quite made up and I was flustered from the filet fiasco so when the barkeep asked me what to drink I said, “a pint of something.” He said, “Well, that’s helpful.” I asked him to help me out and after telling Donna of our exchange she asked me to share it.

Him: Bitter or Lager

Me: Lager (does he know I haven’t a clue)

Him: You have four options. This one is overpriced, this one tastes like piss, this one is nicknamed the wife-beater due to the tendency of lads to act crazy after just two pints, this one is in the middle. Me: I’ll have the middle guy, thanks.

After we were sufficiently recharged, we trekked to Donna’s old stomping grounds from her summer at the University of London.

The British Museum was nearby so we went inside for about an hour though 45 minutes of the hour was spent trying to locate a usable toilet for the ladies. We were able to check out some of the Egyptian artifacts on display. Cold, wet, and tired, we called it a day.

We decided to send the Neffs back to Sweden in a three-way trade with America. It was great have someone to take pictures of Donna and me together…oh, and it was nice to see them as well. For our trade, we got Bonny, Steph and a group of tourists to be named later. We’ll let you know how that works out after the Contiki tour.

Andrew 7:14 PM | 0 comments |

Saturday, May 27, 2006

More Photos

Here is a link to photos we took yesterday:

Road to the World Cup Photos (RTWC) 2006-05-26


Andrew 2:51 PM | 5 comments |

A Day of Near Misses

Note: I wrote this last night, May 26.

Near miss is one of those annoying terms I try to avoid because it doesn't make sense: if it is a near miss,
isn't it a make? Nevertheless, today we managed to have a blast with the Neffs amidst several near misses. Our lovely tour guide, Donna, had planned a wonderful itinerary for our day. We did not realize how time-sensitive it was until a comical series of unfortunate events.

To avoid waiting in line (or queue if you will) for too long, we planned to be at Westminster Abbey by 9 AM after
eating at a 24-hour London diner. The queue was quite long when we arrived around noon after sleeping in and the Starbucks' drinkers partaking in the consumption of their favorite Starbucks' beverage. My scar was burning especially badly, perhaps because of the proximity of the evil forces: Starbucks and He Who Must Not Be Named. We decided to skip the waiting and go back early Saturday. So we headed to The National Gallery.

We saw works by Rembrandt, Monet, Seurat and other influential artists. It is amazing how accessible these priceless pieces of art are. It made me think of Ghostwritten and The Da Vinci Code. Apparently looking at art builds up an appetite because we were all pretty hungry.


We went to an English-style pub where the men had fish and chips with their pints while the women had womanly
meals. Next we hopped on the Underground and headed to Vinopolis to buy tickets for a wine tasting. When we arrived, we were told to simply come back when we were ready: advanced purchases were not necessary. So we walked about 10 minutes to the Shakespeare Globe where we were told to either buy a ticket for the matinee that was in progress or come back before noon tomorrow if we wanted to see the inside of the theatre. So we crossed the River Thames again and headed to St. Paul's Cathedral and arrived 30 minutes before it closed for the Evening Song Service. So we crossed the River Thames again and headed back to Vinopolis. The busted plans did not bother anyone.

For me, I
just enjoy being in the city. Surrounded by buildings that are thousands of years old and people from all over the world speaking different languages is enough to keep me entertained. The wine tasting was fun. We learned why you swirl the wine, what to look for and how to smell and taste it. Donna and I learned that there are many wines we don't like, notably Smelly Socks Wine and Wine that Tastes Like Wood are two of them. I don't think those are their official names, but that is how I'll remember them. As part of our tour we also tasted Absinthe and three whiskeys. Curtis especially enjoyed the Tilaskey whiskey and ended up buying a bottle. Some video I took after the tastings may make it up here. We had a good laugh. My drink of preference is still a Cherry Coke.

For dinner, Curtis had suggested Chinatown or Little China as Donna likes to call it. He had fond memories of walking by restaurants with crispy ducks (with their heads attached) hanging in the window. Here we are (3 Photogenic People and a Bloke):


We ate at a restaurant with some such setup. The food was good, we all enjoyed it but Curt did the most. We've got the picture to prove it. Here Curtis is doing cleanup duty, finishing off Donna and Therese's meals.


From dinner we headed to the Easy Internet Cafe to finalize our plans for tomorrow. We're planning to head back to Westminster Abbey and St Paul's Cathedral and take a tour of Fulham Football Club's grounds, Craven Cottage. We'll see how that works out.

Thanks again for all the comments. They make this worthwhile.

All the best,

Andrew
Andrew 2:17 PM | 5 comments |

Thursday, May 25, 2006

End of Day One



There are signs at the tube stations that say "Way Out" and point you in the direction to the street. Andrew has likened that phrase to "far out". So far, this trip has been "Way Out!" With all of my planning, I don't have things down exactly. I have led us in the wrong direction several times, only to admit that I think we went the wrong way after it was obvious to both of us. I think Andrew should fire his tour guide, but so far he is sticking with me. I am going to try harder tomorrow to actually look at the map and not try to do it by memory. We'll see how that goes, I don't exactly love the proverbial blinking red arrow pointing to the tourist below when I walk around with a map open. It's been nice reading your comments, keep them coming.

-Donna
Donna 4:35 PM | 4 comments |

First Fotos

Hi there, us again. We are battling the jet lag. Expect more entries from us as we try to stay awake until at least 9 PM. I'm working on two and a half hours' sleep; Donna about five and half. Took a little nap this afternoon after taking lots of pictures. Before we head off to Wagamama's for dinner, we wanted to post some of the photos we took today. We are really happy with the new camera. Maybe we'll have a video up after we visit with Curtis and Therese. They are scheduled (pronounced shhhheduled) to arrive from Sweden around 2 AM.

Here are two photos:




Here is the link to these two and 12 more photos that we took today:
Day One London Photos

Enjoy!
Andrew 1:09 PM | 5 comments |

Arrived

Hello from London. After entertaining ourselves by counting Vera Bradley bags (8) in the Atl airport and stopping by an airport in the 51st state (Canada), we made the trek across the pond and landed at Heathrow at 5:55 AM GMT. We took the underground to our hotel to drop our bags, which seemed like way too many and way too heavy to my old, tired shoulders. Adjusting quite well, I asked the way to the wash room and made it there and used it European style.

We should have some photos of the River Thames as well as photos of the Neffs up tomorrow.

Thanks for all the comments already. We hope you keep them coming.

All the best,
A&D
Andrew 4:12 AM | 5 comments |

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Almost Ready / Itinerary

Donna and I are flying to London in four days.

Today we bought a digital camera, a Canon PowerShot, so we can share lots of pictures as we travel from Atlanta to Bad Sobernheim and everywhere in between.

We're hoping this blog will help us keep in touch with you while thousands of miles apart. We're looking forward to your witty, clever comments.

You can leave us a voice message by
calling 1-800-706-1333, *2 and entering our account number 7211222222104 (that's seven twos, six consecutive).

All the best,
Andrew & Donna

Here's where we're headed.
05/25: London
05/28: Edinburgh
05/29: London
05/30: Paris
06/01: Lucerne
06/02: Munich
06/03: Venice
06/05: Florence
06/07: Rome
06/09: Milan
06/12: Duisburg
06/13: Hannover
06/14: Amsterdam
06/15: Berlin
06/17: Bad Sobernheim

Games We're Attending at the World Cup
06/12: USA / Czech Republic
06/17: USA / Italy
Andrew 4:16 PM | 7 comments |