Mermaid Parade

Yesterday was my first real weekend day since getting back from my trip. I had been piling up with things I was not going to be able to do during the week as well as things that were specifically planned for the weekend. This led to a very long but very fulfilling day.

Computer

The day started out, as many of my days do, by going on my computer. I took the time to go through and edit some of the photos from my trip. Rather than use Photoshop, I actually made the adjustments in the Photos App on my Mac. It’s a fairly powerful tool and is good enough for the type of editing I needed to do; exposure, contrast, saturation, etc. This was a great way to start my morning which felt productive.

Mermaid Parade

After getting showered and dressed and texting my friend Alyssa, it was off to Coney Island for the Mermaid Parade. Initially my plan was to swing by Alamo and watch one of the three movies on my watch list: Solo (which I saw in London but want to see again), Oceans 8 or Incredibles 2.

However, when I looked at the showtimes and when I got a text that said the parade started at 1pm (initially my plan was to leave my apartment at 1pm), my time table got pushed up. I got done with my morning routine in time to leave my apartment by 12pm.

I was going to bike to Coney Island from my apartment (7.5 miles) and I knew that would take 45 minutes to an hour to do. As I got to Ocean Parkway, the straight shot with a bike path which leads all the way to the beach, I saw a flock of rollerbladers followed by a cyclists dressed as a mermaid.

I soon caught up with them, started chatting with the cyclist -Page- and ended up riding with them all the way to the Cyclone. I hung out at the Cyclone for a bit before moving to an area further down Surf Ave with a clear view of the Wonder Wheel. Eventually Alyssa showed up (~1:30pm) and together we watched a bit of the parade.

We were both hungry however and wanted to get out of the direct sunlight so I waited in the shade around the corner with my bike (I hadn’t brought my lock) and she went into Carls Jr. to get us some chicken sandwiches and drinks.

We ate them sitting on the sidewalk in the shade and then walked back towards the Cyclone and waited in line to get onto the boardwalk. We then walked the very crowded boardwalk, me being the asshole with the bike, all the way down to the end of the parade.

We then made our way back out to the street and walked back (using the street behind Surf Ave, which runs parallel) to the subway. There we hugged and parted ways.

24 Hours of Le Mans

It was about 3:45pm and I knew my co-worker Xander was planning on watching the 24 Hours of Le Mans. I was interested in checking it out and texted him to see if he wouldn’t mind if I crashed his watching party for a bit.

I then proceeded the ride back up Ocean Parkway towards Prospect Park. I decided that if I didn’t hear back from him by the time I reached the park, that I would just go home. Sure enough however, when I checked my phone at a red light near the park, there was a response from Xander saying to come over.

I rode the rest of the way there and got to his apartment by 4:45pm (9 miles). I sat, had a beer and chatted with Xander while watching a bit of the race. I was a great way to just relax after biking and being out in the heat. Meanwhile in the background, another plan was being hatched.

I had seen in Time Out Magazine that the Metrograph was going to be playing a 35mm film print of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. I had reached out to two of my friends about it and, amazingly, they not only wanted to go, but followed through with getting it organized.

Metrograph: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

At 6:30pm I left Xander’s apartment and biked back to mine to ditch my hat, denim vest and bike, and checked my computer to see when the next train was leaving. It was 7pm and the next train was to leave at 7:08pm. After a quick drink, I left my apartment for the subway.

I got to the station on time and despite a slow train, made my connection to the (6) at Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall. I got to Canal Street at 7:56pm. The movie was set to start at 8:15pm so I sprinted the several blocks across town to the theatre.

When I got to the lobby, I texted tweedle dee and tweedle dumb only to find that I had beaten them there, my sprint had been for naught. On top of that, they insisted on buying drinks and chugging them before entering the theatre. Despite entering a couple of minutes late, we got there just in time to not miss the beginning of the movie.

The Last Crusade is my favorite of the Indy J films. It doesn’t hurt that it has Sean Connery and came out the year I was born. It was great to see it in theatres (I’d never seen it in the theatre before) as I had been having a craving for it for a while. After the movie was over (~10:20), we took the train up to Astor Place and ended up on St. Marks where we had a late dinner and drinks in a little Asian restaurant.

After dinner we parted ways, Guto and I needed the same train and John needed a different one. However, Guto and I found out that the trains we not stopping at Astor Place on the downtown track. So we walked up to Union Square where I got on the (5) -which came first- and he got on the next (4) train.

Apartment

I got back to my apartment at ~1:30am where I proceeded to find a live stream of the 24 Hours of Le Mans and watched it for 20 minutes or so before going to bed.

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Amsterdam to New York

Saturday – June 9, 2018

I woke without an alarm at 7:30am and though I was planning on leaving at around 9:30am, since I was ready earlier, I left. Before I walked out the door, the host of the Air BnB came down, asked if I’d had a good stay, and said goodbye to me.

Air BnB to Schiphol Airport via tram and train (~30 minutes)

I took the 5 tram (light rail) from Kronenburg Station to Station Zuid where I transferred to the commuter rain station. I tried to use my metro card to tap into the other station but it wouldn’t let me. I then asked at the information desk why it wouldn’t work and was directed to the ticket booth. There I purchased a second single use ticket for the nonstop 6 minute commute from Station Zuid to Schiphol Airport.

Schiphol Airport

The commuter rail train takes you right to the terminal. Apart from the Underground at LHR, I’ve never seen a metro connection that is more direct. Because I was fairly early for my flight, it was 9am and my flight was set to depart at 12:25pm, I decided to use the time to explore the terminal.

I grabbed a light breakfast before taking a few laps back and forth in the area outside of the security checkpoint. There were several shops and restaurants to check out. I was caught off guard by a clothing store called “America Today”.

However, what really interested me was a model airplane shop that had a KLM jet engine on one side, fuselage on the other and landing gear out front. There were models of aircraft from numerous airlines and several different sizes. Not only the scale of the model but anything from a B737 up to an A380. If this was the sort of thing I collected, I’d have spent the rest of my Euro there.

IMG_0258Planes @ Plaza model airplane shop

Eventually I moved on, self checked in at a kiosk and took the moving sidewalk up to the departure level. There I went through security. Once again Amsterdam proved to me that they just have their shit together.

Everything about how the security line was set up was vastly more efficient than any I’d dealt with before. What impressed me the most was the self replacing plastic trays that appeared as if from nowhere when you took one for your various bits of luggage.

After that was a quick automated customs checkpoint before moving on to more food and duty free shopping. Here I purchased some Dutch cheese as a snack for the flight. (As I learned from my first Norwegian flight, there would be no food or drink).

IMG_0266Where I bought some cheese before my flight

I then made my way to my gate to see where it was and if there were other food offerings there before making my way back to this main area to buy to sandwiches and two drinks; lunch and dinner on the plane.

I got back to my gate just as boarding began. It took about an hour and as it turned out, was not a gate at all, but rather a bus that drove us to our plane. The tail of every Norwegian Airlines airplane is adorned with a figure from history (or whatever) that has pushed boundaries. Our had, as luck would have it, Freddie Mercury! I was pumped as I’d seen a Norwegian 787 with Freddie on the tail as we were leaving JFK so I was hoping we’d get him and we did.

AMS to JFK via Norwegian Airlines B787-9 (~7 hours)

We pushed back from the gate, er, stairs a little after 12:30pm. As we were taxiing to the runway I watched an episode of Family Guy, as I had before, and had a slice of cheese. Once we were in the air and had leveled off I had my first sandwich and drink. I then started my first movie, Blade Runner 2049.

I’d seen Blade Runner in theaters and though I didn’t love it, I did want to give it a second chance. Additionally, being that the run time is nearly 3 hours, it would be a good way to eat up almost half of the flight.

IMG_0271 2Norwegian Boeing 787-9 as seen from the bus that took us to the plane

As was the case with The Shape of Water when I watched it on the flight from JFK to CDG, the movie was censored which was really lame. However, perhaps because I knew what to expect from the plot this time, I liked it a little more.

There was about 4 hours left in the flight and I used approximately 2 of them to watch Singin’ In the Rain. I’d seen it when I was a kid but this was the first time I really watched it and paid it my full attention. I didn’t realize all of the songs/references that are from the movie. It was simple but cute.

Half way through the movie I helped the couple next to me (I had the window seat again, score!) who spoke little english to fill out their landing card. After the movie was over there was about 2 hours left in the flight. I used the time to eat sandwich number 2 and drink drink number 2. I also filled out my landing card and watched some Big Bang Theory.

I then looked at the map for a bit, the last hour seemed the longest. I used the last ~50 minutes to listen to Abbey Road; I’d had a craving to listen to it ever since visiting the studio. We soon landed where we sat on the tarmac for about 30 minutes before finally pulling up to our gate.

JFK to Apartment via AirTrain and subway (~2 hours)

I got through customs as quickly as possible, got out to the curb and headed straight for the AirTrian only to find that it was not running. Instead there was a free shuttle bus to Howard Beach station. It was around 3pm and shortly after a quick call to my Mom to let her know I’d landed, a bus arrived.

There was an (A) train pulling in as we got to the station. I took the (A) from Howard Beach to Jay Street Metro Tech where I got out and switched to the (5) at Borough Hall. I got back to my apartment at ~5pm, just as I expected I would. I was finally home.

Top Five

This is based on the order in which these things happened, not on any sort of ranking system.

1. Monaco Grand Prix – as I said in the post, I have been wanting to go to this race for years and it did not disappoint.

2. Hamilton – a show I’ve been interested in seeing that lived up to the hype.

3. Alton Towers – a theme park I’ve wanted to go to for nearly 20 years and turned out to be a lot of fun.

4. Le Caveau de la Huchette – a fun night of jazz and dancing in Paris.

5. Moulin Rouge – one of the most memorable birthdays I’ve ever had; the show was incredible.

Below is a visual itinerary of the different modes of transportation I took to get to each major location in my trip.

MyTrip

Lastly, I just wanted to give a shout out to MapWay app (not a sponsor). I used their maps of the London Underground and the Paris Metro in both cities respectively and the worked wonderfully. Whats great is that they work even if you don’t have internet so it make getting around very easy.

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Europe – Day 15: Amsterdam – Day 3

Friday – June 8, 2018

Today is the last day of my trip and though it’s been great, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t ready to go home. I learned many little lessons on this trip, one of which is that if you’re going to do a two week vacation, do it with a friend. I think that’s what made Japan so tolerable, I had other people to talk to and bounce ideas off of.

Rijksmuseum

In any case, because the day was supposed to be crappy weather wise, I decided to try and do mostly indoor things, hence my saving the Rijksmuseum for today. After having another bagel sandwich at Bagels and Wraps, I made my way to the museum.

IMG_0211Porcelain (non-working) violin

I bought my ticket at around 10 or 10:30am. Though most of the artwork is not necessarily the style that I love, the museum itself is beautiful. It is well laid out and well curated. Additionally, unlike most museums, the walls were shades of grey, rather than white. This somehow helped make the artwork look even better, the presentation was nicer.

I will say that when I got to the top floor with the more modern artwork (1900 to 2000), I really hit my stride. I ended up staying until around 2 or 2:30pm after which I strolled around Museumplein before heading to my next stop.

Heineken Experience

Next I went to the Heineken Experience, located at the former site of the Heineken brewery. (It ceased operation in 1988). The brewery is more of a museum now with different historical artifacts from the company’s history and interactive little exhibits.

There are people in different sections of the building who give little talks about their particular section and answer any questions. There are also a few short films you can watch along the way. Eventually, you make it to the “bottling ride” where you watch a little movie that makes it seem like you’re beer being bottled.

IMG_0228The original Heineken Brewery

After that is a tasting room followed by these weird little interactive sections and eventually the bar where you can get up to two beers. You can even compete with three other people to see who can pour a perfect Heineken.

I ended up staying until ~5pm before walking through the city. I happened up on a flea market, different from the one I’d found the other day, and strolled through it. I stumbled into a cheese store and had a few samples before continuing on my way.

IMG_0252More canal stuff

As luck would have it, I eventually made my way to the restaurant I wanted to eat at. I knew roughly where it was having visited it the other day, but I didn’t realize I knew Amsterdam so well already that I could so easily find it again.

It was a bit too early to eat, plus they weren’t open yet, so I walked to Centraal Station to once again use their restroom. I then doubled back and by the time I got to the restaurant, it was 6:20pm.

Gebr. Hartering

This was one of the places from the show The Getaway. The restaurant is pretty fancy however, and they either do expensive a la carte or expensive pre fix meals. I went for the latter which was a bad idea because a) it was pretty expensive and b) half the time I didn’t know what I was eating or how I should be eating it.

IMG_0141Gebr. Hartering restaurant

It made for an embarrassing and uncomfortable experience. I knew I wanted the charcuterie, why didn’t I just go for that and then have a real meal elsewhere!? That said, the last two courses were excellent and the dessert was good too.

I just know that moving forward I need to stay in my own lane and continue to be a middle class bum. Oh well, it was an experience and a way, good or bad, to send off my trip.

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Europe – Day 14: Amsterdam – Day 2

Thursday – June 7, 2018

Because I knew that I didn’t have a ton on my “To Do” list today, I decided to take my time getting ready for the day.

Bagels and Wraps

I got into town at around 10am, got off the bus at Leidseplein and immediately headed for Bagels and Wraps, a small breakfast spot I’d seen yesterday. I had the “New York” bagel sandwich and ate by the window while watching the army of city workers go through their various roles to keep the city clean; it was fascinating.

Blue Boat Tour

At around 10:45am I finished up and headed the short distance to the Blue Boat Company. Blue Boat is one of several companies that runs canal tours. Being that I’d seen it yesterday and knew it was close by, I decided to try it out.

IMG_0114

I bought a ticket for the 11am tour and got right in and boarded the boat. It was pretty empty so I sat in the shade (on the boat) and waited for the tour to start. We were given ear buds and a sheet to show which channel was for which language for the audio guided portion.

I could have been boring and chosen English but when I saw the option for Freshwater Pirate, I knew which one I wanted. Before the tour started I ran back into the ticket office and bought a drink.

As it turned out, the Freshwater Pirate audio guide was basically fo kids. I’m sure it gave all of the same information as the other tours, but added some childish color to the whole thing and was hosted by a water vole and a cat.

IMG_0179Dancing houses

There were some interesting facts that our captain told us while on board. One being that there is a service, a special boat that goes through the canal to scoop out bicycles that have fallen in the Amster. Also, apparently cars accidentally fall into the canal all of the time.

Additionally, I think he said that the water is only 3 meters deep and that despite it’s look, if you scooped some out into a cup, it would be clear and drinkable. Apparently, unlike Venice, Amsterdam cleans the canal every few months to make sure it never gets too dirty. I’m sure there were more cool facts but I can’t remember them now. The tour ended at ~12:15 and after it was done, I moved on to my third stop.

Add the bit about the 800k Euro House boat and the fact that the canal tour boats are all electric 

Mac Bike

Someone like me can’t come to Amsterdam and not ride a bicycle. I went to the ubiquitous Mac Bike, a rental shop nearby, and rented bicycle for the day.

I set off at 12:30 and dove right in to the organized chaos that is Amsterdam bicycle traffic. This city does it right in terms of having dedicated bike paths on most major streets that are actually part of the sidewalk. There is a separate set of traffic lights for cyclists and most people follow it pretty strictly.

There is a liberal use of right-of-way, which is given and taken on sort of a case-by-case basis. However, if, like me, you kind of just follow the crowd and don’t panic, you’ll be ok. The only part of all this I disagreed with was the fact that motorized scooters are also allowed to use these paths. This seemed dangerous as they are much faster than bikes but I never got hit so I guess it works fine.

I started off by riding past the old Heineken brewery, then doubled back and rode to flea market that had been pointed out during the canal tour. I then got on a path that ended up taking me all the way out to Westerpark.

IMG_0191More canal goodness

I then consulted the map I’d been given and figured out how to make my way back to the city. I ended up on this cool shopping street and eventually made my way to and through Voldelpark. After stopping on a bench for a minute, I made my way to Sarphatipark where I sat and chilled again before heading to Cafe Piper.

This was one of the other bars suggested by Seth Meyers in the Amsterdam episode of The Getaway. However, when the bartender told me that they did not serve food, I decided to eat at the place next door. I had a burger and a beer and just chilled. I chatted a bit with the older women next to me who were from Savanah, GA.

Reenergized, I rode to Museumplein where I contemplated going into the Moco Museum. It was ~5pm and the place was set to close at 6pm. Despite the fact that it looked small enough to tackle in an hour or less, I moved on.

IMG_0192Museumplein with I AMSTERDAM and the Rijksmuseum

I ended up biking all the way to Oosterpark before turning back to drop off the bike. I returned it at ~6pm. Then I popped into a shop to by two drinks. I was super hot and tired from all the riding.

I then hopped on a bus back to my Air BnB where I took a shower and a (bad idea) nap. I then got up and wrote this before going to bed.

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Europe – Day 13: Amsterdam – Day 1

Wednesday – June 6, 2018

I woke up and did my morning routine of getting showered and dressed. I got everything packed then headed out into the early morning rain. I took the Metro to Gare L’Est as there were no trains running to Gare du Nord.

Eventually, after running around for a while I found a map. I went out into the rain and, after asking an attendant for directions, walked the 7 minutes to Gare du Nord. Once there I went looking for what platform my train would be on. I the went looking for food and ended up getting a ham and cheese on a croissant with ice tea. When I got back to the departure board, I found that may train was boarding at the platform I assumed it would be.

Paris to Amsterdam

Gare du Nord to Centraal Station via Thalys train (~3 hours)

Once on the train I wrote a bit of a post. At one of the first stations, there was an announcement that we were delayed by 10 minutes; such has been my luck with trains. At the Brussels station there was a bit of a confusion with some passengers who said that there seat was the same as a passenger already in that seat.

A woman told me she was supposed to have my seat. However, I showed her my ticket and she went to find another seat. Apparently there was a glitch in the system where seats were supposed to be reassigned but never were and thus some sections appeared to be overbooked.

The trip continues without a problem and I arrived at Amsterdam Centraal at ~11am. I was expecting to have to go through customs/boarder control in either Paris or Amsterdam but I never did.

Once at the main terminal I was a bit of confused finding my way out of the station. Then, once I did find an exit, I wasn’t sure how to buy a metro card. I asked for help and was told to go to the store across the street. There I got a metro card and was told where to get the train I needed.

I’d Googled how to get to my Air BnB but the train they told me was different than the one I was expecting to take. I nervously rode to my destination but then found out that the light rail (what I was expecting to take) and the subway stop at the same station.

The walk to the Air BnB was very easy and though this one is by far the most out of the way, it is also the nicest. The Air BnB was an actual house so my host simply answered the door when I rang the doorbell.

My room was on the top floor and was bigger by sq ft than the entire apartment I’d just come from. As the BnB implies she even had tea and biscuits for me. When I asked where I could do my laundry, my host offered to do it for me. I then sat, wrote, did my hair, got and settled in ie. organized the room. I left for the city at 1:30pm.

I Amsterdam

Rather than walk back to the train, I took my hosts recommendation and walked to the nearby bus stop. The only problem was that due to construction, the first bus drove right past me to stop at a makeshift stop a little ways down the road. Luckily the next bus was only 4 minutes away (there is an electronic sign that tells you the bus number and its arrival time).

IMG_0102I AMSTERDAM

The ride into the city was fast and easy. I ended up getting off the bus one stop earlier than I planned to because this stop, Rikjsmuseum, seemed to be in the middle of everything. On top of that, standing right in front is the famous I Amsterdam sign which was too mobbed to get a picture in front of, so I just got a picture of the sign with a bunch of random other people in front of it.

Vondelpark

Next I made my way to nearby Vondelpark. Along the way I passed a small Tesla showroom and though it wasn’t on my to see list, I had to stop in. There was only one woman working there but once she was done teaching people about the Model X I went over and chatted with her for a bit. I told her that I work at the Brooklyn showroom and she told me a little about how they operate over there before I continued on my way.

IMG_0108Be sure not to get Vondeled in the park

Vondelpark was super chill, people were biking everywhere, in fact bikes got the main path and pedestrians had paths off to either side. People were laying out, drinking and smoking. I basically just walked around and took it all in. Everything was super clean and the grass was very well kept.

One thing that stood out to me was how the grass went right up the water. There was no fence or boundary blocking you from going in if you wanted to. I feel like you don’t really see that in the states.

The Grasshopper

Next I walked through Leidseplein and popped into an Apple store to use their internet and figure out the best way to The Grasshopper (restaurant). I figured out what tram I needed just as it rolled by the storefront and ran outside to catch it.

IMG_0120The Grasshopper

The stop I got off at was only a short walk from The Grasshopper. The Grasshopper is a super chill restaurant right on the water. To be fair, most things are right on the water. I had a beer and a schnitzel. For dessert I had some ice cream.

Dam Square

IMG_0125The best Dam(n) Square I’ve ever seen

I then backtracked a bit and walked up the street to Dam Square. I took a few pictures of it before continuing to walk. I did a lot of walking and ended up near the main canal. I was headed to a restaurant I’d seen featured on the show The Getaway on Esquire Network.

Gebr. Hartering

Though I’d just eaten and this spot didn’t open until 6pm (it was only ~5:40pm), I just wanted to see it so that if I am able to get it in before I leave, I’ll know where to find it.

After, finding it, I found a nearby bench where I sat and rested my feet for a bit. I also gameplanned my evening before continuing on my way.

Centraal Station

I ended up accidentally doing a full loop, beginning where I started at Centraal Station. I knew there would be a restroom in there, however, what I didn’t realize was that, as was the case in Cannes, you had to pay a small fee to use it.

IMG_0136Amsterdam in a nutshell

I only had big bills so I went into the I Amsterdam Store because a) it looked like a classy (not cheesy) souvenir store and b) to see if they could break my 10 Euro note. Unfortunately/to my surprise, they only accepted credit cards. I then went to the ticket office where they were able to make change for me and I was able to use the WC.

Free Ferry

As I had been walking through the station, I noticed that the entire back section was open to the elements and I could see the big river that divides North Amsterdam from South Amsterdam. While on the train, the man sitting next to me told me about a free ferry that takes you across to the other side.

So, I exited out the back of station and quickly found the ferry he was talking about. There was a huge queue of cyclists (Amsterdam truly is a bike-centric city) but I was still able to just make it on the ferry.

IMG_0147A’DAM Lookout

Upon reaching the other side I passed a chill bar with hammocks on the front lawn, the A’DAM Lookout* which is apparently one of the tallest buildings in Amsterdam, but that’s not saying much, I passed a second I Amsterdam sign and the Eye Film Museum.

IMG_0158Eye Film Museum

Nestled in back of everything was a round building called This Is Holland. It was a tourism building that had everything from maps to souvenirs to food and drinks. There was even a movie ride thing (it seemed, from what I could tell, like the Soarin’ ride at Disney) that was a tourism video of Amsterdam.

Like the I Amsterdam Shop, this store was not filled with low rent cheesy bullshit, but rather was well designed, very clean, and classy. It felt like an IKEA or something. I grabbed a drink and sat and rested for a bit before taking the ferry back.

*Side Note: there were swings at the edge at the top where, presumably, you could pay to swing over the edge of the building.

Ferry Back

Once on the other side I found the tram I had been initially planning on taking to get me to the Air BnB. Because of the route it took, the tram was like a tour of the city. Once back I organized my newly washed clothes, showered and shaved, and wrote this before heading to bed.

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Europe – Day 12: Paris – Day 4

Tuesday – June 5, 2018

I had a pretty solid gameplan going into today so after getting a bit of writing done, I was off to my first stop.

La Grande Arche de la Défense

I took the 1 train all the way to the end of the line to see a building/structure called La Grande Arche. To be honest, I didn’t know and still kind of don’t know what La Grande Arche is. I just remember seeing it in my French textbook, thinking it looked cool and wanting to see it in person.

IMG_0014La Grande Arche

Upon exiting the station it is the first thing you see and the first thing that you notice is that it’s massive. According to wikipedia it stands 361 feet tall! For a non-conventional building, that is huge. Standing at the base and looking up is simply staggering. I walked around the area for a bit and took a few pics before heading to my next stop.

L’Arc de Triomphe

I hopped back on the train and took it a few stops back in the other direction to L’Arc de Triomphe. This was the first time I noticed that this particular train (this is not the case for every line) was autonomous.

IMG_0030L’Arc de Triomphe with a Citroen 2CV; does it get much more French than that?

I got out of the subway and took a few pictures before taking the underpass to the center of the rotary. The last time I was in Paris I didn’t go to the top of L’Arc because the line to go up was extremely long. This time however, despite the fact that the weather was nicer and I was prepared to wait, there was no line at all.

I paid my 12 Euro to climb to spiral staircase to the top of the 164 foot tower. At the top I took a few time lapse videos of the traffic going around the bottom as well as a few photos of Le Champs-Elysées and La Tour Eiffel. After getting my fill of that I walked back down to the bottom and took a few more pictures before heading to my next stop.

Hotel Raphael

I then walked a few blocks over to check out the Hotel Raphael aka “Hotel Chevalier” from The Darjeeling Limited. I basically just took a few pictures of it and dipped a toe in the lobby before moving on.

IMG_0062You talk like Marlene Dietrich And you dance like Zizi Jeanmaire Your clothes are all made by Balmain And there’s diamonds and pearls in your hair…

I will add that across the street was the Peninsula Hotel which had a green Rolls Royce Phantom, as well as a green 7-series BMW. The green Rolls is another movie connection, though unintentional and I was in the wrong city.

“That’s right Goodnight, a green Rolls Royce.” “…James, all green Rolls Royces belong to the Peninsula Hotel.” Quotes from The Man With The Golden Gun.

Le Champs-Elysées

I walked a few blocks back over to the Le Champs-Elysées and began to make my way down it, all the while having the song, also featured in The Darjeeling Limited stuck in my head.

IMG_0068Le Champs-Elysées

It was around noon and I hadn’t eaten anything yet so I kept my eyes peeled for a restaurant. All the ones I came across were too fancy or too McDonalds. Eventually however, I found one that was a cross between to two. It was still a fast food spot but it was a French fast food spot so the food was actually good. I stopped and ate for a bit before I continued walking all the way to the Musee d’Orsay.

Musee d’Orsay (fail)

However, upon my arrival I found that there was a super long line to get in. My legs were already tired from walking from L’Arc de Triomphe so I knew that waiting in a long line and walking through a museum would leave me and my feet cranky.

Plus, of the things I had left on my “to do” list, I knew I wanted to do the Catacombs more. So, I gave up on the museum and walked to the nearby Metro station.

Catacombs (fail)

I took the Metro all the way to the Catacombs only to find out that they were closed due to the construction going on in the area. This really bummed me out as I don’t know when or even if I’ll ever be in Paris again. I decided it would be best to go back to my Air BnB to relax, regroup, and do a bit of writing.

After coming back to the Air BnB, organizing my things for my departure tomorrow and doing a bit of writing, I headed back out to hit a couple more things.

Sorbonne

IMG_0072Sorbonne

The first thing I did was to find and walk around the area surrounding the Sorbonne University. I remember passing by it on the tour bus the last time I was in Paris so I figured I might as well see it in person. I did a lap around the block before eventually stumbling into the next thing I wanted to hit.

Panthéon

To be honest, I don’t really know what the Panthéon is but I know you’re supposed to think it’s cool or whatever so I took some pictures and then moved on.

IMG_0077Panthéon

I backtracked my way to the Sorbonne and was looking for somewhere to eat. I found a spot I thought would work, but when I realized how close I was to stop number 3, I pressed on.

Le Jardin du Luxembourg

Le Jardin du Luxembourg is also something that I don’t really know why it’s there or why it matters. My guess is that perhaps it used to be a private home, but again, I’ve done zero research.

IMG_0093Le Jardin du Luxembourg

All I can say is that it is very beautiful. It felt like a miniature Versailles or something. Also, there was a little spot where you could get food, so that is where I ended up eating. I basically just walked around for a bit and took some pictures before heading back to the Metro and going back to the Air BnB for the evening.

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Europe – Day 11: Paris – Day 3

Monday – June 4, 2018

Today is my 29th birthday. My initial plan was to start my day with death for breakfast. I took the Metro directly to The Catacombs.

Catacombs (fail)

Upon arriving there I found the area where I thought them to be but was not able to find an entrance. I stumbled around walking back and forth in the area until I came across an older couple who were also looking for the entrance. Eventually we found it only to see there was a sign saying that it is not open on Mondays.

Bummed, I then crossed the street and had a long slow breakfast outside at a corner cafe. After finally finishing and finally paying my bill I hopped back on the Metro and took it to Passay.

Pont de Bir-Hakeim

I got off the train and walked along Pont de Bir-Hakeim and underneath the bridge the train had just crossed over. This area is relevant to me because it is used for a location in the movie Inception. Despite the fact that is was supposed to rain, the weather was sunny and pretty warm.

IMG_9920Pont de Bir-Hakeim

I walked over to the area directly across from the Eiffel Tower where there is a fountain and stairs for a good elevated view of the tower. I climbed the stairs and got a bunch of pictures of the tower. I then grabbed an ice tea before walking back to the Metro

IMG_9945Eiffel Tower

I took the Metro to Concorde where I walked the short distance to the Musée de l’Orangerie.

Musée de l’Orangerie

There was a bit of a line to get into the museum but it moved pretty quickly. Once inside, I made a dash for the thing this museum is famous for housing, Monet’s Water Lilies.

IMG_9953Monet’s Water Lilies

There are several iterations of these paintings but these ones are the most famous. It’s difficult to really appreciate the size of these paintings until you see them up close. After finishing the first room, I moved on to the second to find that this room contained even more water lilies.

After getting lilied out, I moved on to the rest of the museum. To be honest it was pretty small and without rushing I’d say I got the whole thing done in an hour or an hour and a half.

Musée d’Orsay (fail)

Once done I walked the short distance over the bridge to the Musée d’Orsay. Only to find that it too was closed. Being that I have plans to see a show this evening, I decided to go back to my Air BnB to regroup, figure out the rest of my day and figure out my tomorrow.

After getting everything together I decided that despite the fact that it was closing at 6pm and it was already 4pm, and since it was not going to be open tomorrow (closed on Tuesdays, wtf?) I’d make a run for it, hop on the Metro and head for the Louvre.

Musée du Louvre

I got off the subway and walked the underground mall to the ticket booth, got a ticket and headed into the museum. The place was a mob scene. Realistically if one wants to do this museum justice they’ll need an entire day, maybe two days and they’ll need to get there first thing in the morning to try and avoid as much crowd as possible.

Because I had been to the museum the last time I was in Paris, nearly 10 years ago, I initially wasn’t going to do it. But, because I had time to kill and because how can you not, I went. Luckily, once I got into the museum, I sort of remembered where to go. There were really just two things I wanted to see but ended up seeing 4 of the big things.

The first one I ran into was the Venus de Milo. Next, making my way up the stairs, I saw Winged Victory. Then, funnily enough, I made the exact same mistake I had made the last time I went, going left at the top of the stairs instead of right. Eventually I backtracked and I eventually found her and her sly smile, the Mona Lisa.

IMG_9962Winged Victory

Lisa has a wall to herself in the middle of one of the gallery rooms and, unfortunately, every other paining in that room gets ignored. I myself fell victim of photo fervor, getting caught in the crowd clamoring to get a shot. Small and stuck behind several inches of bullet-proof glass, it’s hilarious to me (as it was last time I was there) that the massive painting on the opposite wall gets no love and yet is arguably a much more masterful achievement.

When the fever had passed, I made my way to the last stop. It took me 17 minutes to find it but eventually I found her, 28 Juillet – La Liberté Guidant le Peuple. This famous painting had been moved from it’s regular spot in the museum to be part of a special exhibit.

IMG_9976La Liberté Guidant le Peuple

I had been seeing it on bus ads and so I was compelled to see it in person. Something about the neo-feminist movement which has been sweeping the nation made this image depicting a woman taking charge of a prison break even more compelling.

After looking at it and the rest of the images in the exhibit, it was about time for the museum to close so I exited through the glass pyramid.

Le Mulin Rouge

I then made my way to the red light district so that I’d be ready for my 8pm entrance into the theatre. It was only around 6pm or a little after so I strolled up and down the road on which Le Moulin resides to see what food options were available.

Unless it moved, I had remembered (obviously incorrectly) that the Hard Rock Cafe was right near Le Moulin. I didn’t necessarily want to eat there, put it would make a fine back up choice. However, despite my laps up and down the main strip, I was unable to find it. I did however find Le Chat Noir.

IMG_9995Le Chat Noir

Now, to be fair I’m pretty sure this was not the real place but merely a new restaurant claiming the name (more research is required on my end) but either way it looked cool and would make for a good story, so I stopped in.

I had the pasta bolognese with some bread and butter. I ate slowly and by the time I was done it was around 7:30pm. I then walked up and down the strip a bit more and before I knew it, it was time to go in.

When I got to the check in desk the man behind the counter took a while to find me my seat, then, as I was about to enter, he grabbed my arm, “There’s a  message for you, from your sister. She wishes you a happy birthday.” I was so shocked. “How did she… ?” I asked. “She called the office.”

I could not believe it, I was so stunned. This may seem like a small thing but I thought it was such a fantastic way of sneaking in a birthday wish. It was the most thoughtful birthday wish I’d ever received and I got a bit choked up.

Moving into the theater I was taken to my seat. Along the way I took in every detail. Le Moulin is like a Disney Attraction, no detail is too small. The walls have theming with hints of Paris like the entrance to the Metro and old posters of past shows that have gone on there.

It wasn’t until I got to my seat, that I realized how close I was to the stage, I was basically in the front row. There were a lot of people already inside. Presumably if you ordered a meal you were seated earlier in order to eat it before the show.

IMG_0003Le Moulin Rouge

The group of people I was sitting with were all considerably older than me. Additionally, the the server noted that I had a bottle of champagne coming my way, when it didn’t arrive right away, I got a bit nervous. Eventually it did come and it was quite good.

There was a house band playing a warming up the crowd for the show. Eventually I got to chatting with the people around me and when I said I was there for my birthday they all wished me a happy birthday.

At one point, perhaps when I was turned around trying to take everything in, the dance floor that had been right in front of us had raised up to be the same hight as the rest of the stage. At 9pm all the lights went out, the opening announcements were made and then the show started.

To be honest, there is too much to remember to even begin to describe it. All I can say is that it is part burlesque show, part circus, part vaudeville, there are live animals, in short it was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. The show went through different era’s and movements highlighting different costumes of the times.

The parts that stuck out to me were the roller-skaters, the drummer/juggler/comedian, the woman who swam with snakes, the two acrobats that performed to Singin’ In The Rain and the part towards the end where they performed the Can Can as I hoped they would. It was a fantastic show and an excellent way to end the evening.

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Europe – Day 10: Paris – Day 2

Sunday – June 3, 2018

Today I was off to a bit of a slow start due to a late night last night and because I was busy getting things in order for today, figuring out my gameplan, etc. The first thing I did was to take the Metro to Montmartre.

IMG_9847Le Sacre Coeur at Montmartre

Chez Eugene

I got off the train and nearly passed out from walking all of the stairs up to Le Sacre Coeur. Once at the top it took me a bit of getting lost in order to eventually double back  to Chez Eugene.

Chez Eugene was, I think, the first restaurant I ever ate at in Paris when I was there in 2009. Because it was not winter, I wanted to eat outside along the street and people watch. Despite the fact that it was already 11am, it wasn’t super busy. Though every outside table was filled, every indoor table was empty.

IMG_9850Chez Eugene; restaurant where I ate breakfast

A table shortly freed up and I had a long slow breakfast of crêpes covered in Nutella and bananas. (I also had a full/untouched croissant that was left at the table next to me. They were going to throw it out, why let it go to waste?) The service was very slow and I’m not used to taking my time and enjoying my food. Especially when I have a bunch of things to see.

Despite making eye contact with my waiter several times and giving him the “check” sign, I ended up getting up, going into the restaurant and paying at the counter. I then walked back down to the streets below and hopped on the Metro.

Centre Pompidou/Stravinsky Fountain

I took the Metro to the area near the Centre Pompidou. However, the screen shot of the directions I had taken was not super clear and I ended up at a park near Les Halles Metro station. I re-routed but went in the wrong direction. However, I found a map that was helpful and, re-routed again and, found the Centre.

IMG_9859Centre Pompidou

I took a few pictures of it and in my walking around, stumbled into the nearby Stravinsky Fountain; also on my to see list. I got a few pictures of that as well and decided not to go into the Centre. I then chilled in the area for a bit before doubling back to my next destination.

Duluc Detective/The Louvre

IMG_9872Duluc Detective

While heading to my next stop, I stopped into a grocery store and grabbed a desperately needed ice tea. Moving on, I easily found the street I was looking for and easily found the location as well. The Duluc Detective agency is one of the location’s featured in the movie Midnight In Paris.

IMG_9877The Louvre museum

After basking in it’s glory and taking a few pictures I continued on my way. I had other sights to see but being that it was right there I walked through the courtyard area of the Louvre. I took a few pictures of the exterior before continuing on my way.

Notre Dame/Shakespeare and Company

I continued walking, now I was along the water (I even went down a ramp that took me along the bank) and eventually made my way to Point Neuf. I strolled through and soon ended up in Place Dauphine where I passed and took pictures of two restaurants also featured in Midnight In Paris.

IMG_9890Notre Dame

This was an unexpected surprise as, though I did have them on my “to see” list, I had omitted them from today’s itinerary due to their lack of importance to me. Eventually, after continuing to walk, I made my way to Notre Dame. I got a few pictures of the front, side and back before sitting on a bench to figure out my next move.

IMG_9895Shakespeare and Company book store

As it so happened, as I sort of expected, I was right near the Shakespeare and Company book store. So, I got off my ass and walked the relatively short distance there. This is yet another location from Midnight In Paris. However, there was a line to get in so I just took pictures of it.

Bastille

I then walked to the nearby Metro station and took the subway to Bastille. Upon exiting the station there were subway police and I almost got fined again because I hadn’t written my name on my Metro card.

IMG_9897Bastille

Luckily he just brushed me off and I exited the station to get my pictures of the Bastille. I then found a nearby gift shop where I “tested” a pen by writing my name on my metro card. Afterwards I walked back to the Metro  and took it to Gare de Lyon. There I was to switch to the 14 train, however, it was not running.

After a bit of looking at the Metro map and the station map, I found that there was a station nearby which connected to a train that took me to where I wanted to go. So I exited the station and walked to 5 train. Took the 5 to the 6 and the 6 to Bercy.

Bercy

Now, Bercy is not a place anyone would go to just to go. It is a stadium so unless you have a concert or event to see. However, I am me. I am a nerd and this is the venue (or one of the venues) where Daft Punk performed their Alive 2007 concert. I know, I know, totally nerd, BUT, I was here, I wanted to see it and I did. Plus, I’m sure you’ve never see an arena like this:

IMG_9900Bercy arena

I then walked over to a nearby skatepark to watch some cool tricks before taking the Metro back to my Air BnB. It was a long day with a lot of walking and despite the fact that it was only ~5pm, I decided to call it quits for the day.

My initial plan was to go out to another jazz club, however, the one I thought had a show which started at 7:30, actually had one that ends at 7pm. I was not going to trek out there to see maybe an hour of showtime, so I wrote this and planned my next few days instead.

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Europe – Day 9: Paris – Day 1

Saturday – June 2, 2018

I woke up at 3:50am from the sound of the alarm I’d set on my phone. I left the Air BnB by 4:25am. I then walked to the Bush Street bus stop and waited for it to arrive.

Bush Street Bus Stop to St. Pancras Station via Bus and the tube

The bus arrived a minute or two later than I expected it should at ~4:38am. I took the bus to Canada Water Station and took the Jubilee line to Green Park. There I was supposed to take the Victoria line to Kings Cross/St Pancras but the wait at the platform said 47 minutes!

After quickly checking the tube map on my phone and realizing that the Piccadilly line also ran from Green Park to Kings Cross/St Pancras, I re-routed and ran down the escalator to catch an Eastbound train just before it left the station.

London to Paris

I got to Kings Cross/St Pancras by 5:18am. I went to area near the security checkpoint to check it out. The line was short so I popped into a shop to get a croissant and lemonade before going through security.

I sat and ate and checked the directions from the Metro to my next Air BnB. Eventually my platform was announced and I went up the platform to the train. There I found seat and wrote to this point.

Goodbye London, it’s been swell.

Bonjour Paris, ça va?

St. Pancras station to Gare du Nord via Eurostar (3 hours)

While on the Eurostar, traveling at 300kph (186mph), I wrote for a bit then napped for a bit. I then went to car 6 to try and get discounted Metro tickets but once there, decided against it. I then went back to my seat where it was announced we were delayed by 8 minutes. My luck with long distance trains has not been very good thus far.

Gare du Nord

We arrived at Gare du Nord 8 min late as expected. Once there I bought a 5-day metro ticket and hopped on the subway.

IMG_9778My dirty Eurostar train from London to Paris sitting in Gare du Nord

Gare du Nord to Air BnB via the metro

I took metro to the Air BnB. When I arrived, one of the other tenants of the building was entering so I followed them in. I tried to find host via mail-box names but failed. I then tried to use my cell data to look up his information but failed. I then went to leech off the free wi-fi at the cafe across the street.

I could not get to Air BnB messages to load on my phone so took out laptop and connected to the wi-fi all while standing on the sidewalk with my back pack and suitcase on the ground near me. I messaged my host via Air BnB dot com.

Then a passerby asked if I needed help. He spoke some english and I explained the situation. He looked at my computer screen, memorized my host’s number and called my host from his apartment. (He had left his phone at home but lived nearby). Meanwhile I texted him and shortly after was let into his apartment!

Air BnB

At the Air BnB I did my hair, shaved and figured out my day. Like a typical boring tourist, my first stop as the Eiffel Tower.

La Tour Eiffel

I walked to the Metro but when I put my pathetic little ticket through the machine, it got stuck. I had to have the attendants come out and open up the machine to fish it out. They eventually and I took the train to the Military School metro station.

IMG_9791La Tour Eiffel

I then walked a short distance down the street, looked at map, turned around, took two steps, and Boom, there was the Eiffel Tower. I looked over and saw an obvious American tourist by himself and asked if he could take a picture of me with the tower. He obliged and then I was on my way.

I walked down the grassy area that leads to the bottom of the tower only to find that it was closed off. I don’t know if this is permanent or if it is temporary due to construction or something but I was a pretty big bummer.

Le Recrutement Cafe

I then went down some side streets and eventually made my way to Le Recrutement Cafe. The service was super slow but, to be fair, the place was packed. I had a croque madame and later a rich but amazing piece of cheese cake. I finished lunch a little before 2:30pm.

IMG_9796

Place de la Concorde

I then walked out to and along the Seine. I was headed to Place de la Concorde but kept getting distracted. I stumbled into Jardin de la Nouvelle which reminded me of the exhibit I’d been to at The Met just a weekend before leaving for the trip.

IMG_9802Jardin de la Nouvelle

I passed by the Palais and Petit Palais, then crossed the bridge again and walked down to the Musée De l’Armée. I then walked all the way back to and across the bridge to Place de la Concorde. I didn’t realize it was located at the end of Les Champs Elysee.

Back to Air BnB

I then walked into the nearby park to sit for a bit and figured out my game plan for the rest of the day. I decided to go back to the Air BnB to take a nap. I had been going hard since 4am after all.

IMG_9825Musée d’Orsay and the Seine River

Cut to a montage of me walking to the Musée d’Orsay, going down into metro to find the train I wanted was gonna take forever then walking all the way back along the Seine to the next closest Metro. I took the  subway back to my Air BnB and arrived by ~5pm.

There I napped until a little after 7pm. I then just chilled out and wrote and got things organized until it was time to venture back out into the night.

Le Caveau de la Hauchette

Le Caveau de la Hauchette is a jazz club and was the first to come up when I did a Google search (initially for Gypsy Jazz). It also happens to be featured in the movie La La Land, but that is not why I was going there. The bar looked almost spooky yet inviting, a relic of a different era.

IMG_9834Le Caveau

As I would find out, the 15 Euro cover was more than worth the price. I can’t really begin to go into all of the micro stories that happened but there are a few I’ll call out.

I was looking for someone to dance with and accidentally asked the wife of the piano player (both American) who said, “I have a bum knee, but my granddaughter,” she turned around and pointed to a lovely young woman behind her, “would love to dance with you, wouldn’t you Isabell?”

IMG_9837The dance floor at Le Caveau de la Hauchette

It was like a scene from a movie and we had a good time chatting and ended up dancing a few more times throughout the night. There was lovely French woman with the green top that I danced with a few times.

Other lovely French woman with the beige sweater. The British girls, I’m forgetting the first woman’s name and Anna who were fun. I found the best dancer in the room and danced with her. The place is simply magical.

A few things I forgot to add: The band would play for about an hour or so, then take a 15-20 minute break. During that time there would be house music that would come on, one of which was this beautiful jazz cover of Creep by Radiohead. Another song that came on was, appropriately enough, Another Day of Sun from La La Land.

Lastly, I forgot to mention that during one of these breaks, I went upstairs to get some water. On my way, I ran into the aforementioned grandmother who sat me down and told me the whole story of how her and her husband met and how/why they moved to Europe and were eventually brought to play at Le Caveau. I guess he (her husband) even used to play with The Blues Brothers before they were The Blues Brothers!

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Europe – Day 8: London – Day 5

Friday – June 1, 2018

It was my last day in England so I wanted to make it count. Ever since I heard about Alton Towers I’ve wanted to go there. My plan was to go while in the UK this time. However, when I got sick on my arrival and when the weather was iffy each day, I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it there.

However, when I woke up at 6am, I knew I had to go for it. I didn’t know the next time I’d be across the pond, so I had to take a shot. After getting showered and dressed I took the  tube to Kings Cross/St Pancras. Along the way I had to wait for six District line trains before a Hammersmith and City train arrived. I almost thought it was a sign.

Surry Quays to St. Pancras via the Tube (30 min)

I got to St Pancras by 7:30am and ended up buying a super expensive East Midlands Train ticket (roundtrip) to Derby. It would have been significantly cheaper if I’d bought it months prior to leaving as I had for several other things on the trip.

However, I didn’t by them prior to leaving and the expense of the same day fare was another sign that I maybe shouldn’t go. But, as I already said, I did end up buying them after doing some “Kyle math” and justifying it to myself.

St. Pancras to Derby via East Midlands (1 hr 50 min)

My train left St. Pancras at 8:02am but had a slow start due to congestion which delayed us by 20 min. This made me nervous as I had a bus connection to make which I now thought there was a chance I could miss.

Eventually we got to my station. Off to the right, while rolling into the station, was the Rolls Royce aircraft engine manufacturing plant. I arrived in Derby at 9:51 and rushed off the train. On my way to the bus platform I ran into a young couple who were also bound for Alton Towers. Together we easily found stop S2.

Derby Station to Alton Towers via X52 Bus (1 hour)

The X52 bus to Alton Towers was supposed to arrive at 10am and since there is only one there and one back per day, I was afraid to miss it. 10am came and went but still no bus. Eventually, about 15 minutes later, it finally arrived

I paid the fare on board, 12 pounds round trip then climbed the stairs to the top of the double decker. After cutting through small towns and what seemed like endless English countryside, at ~11:30am, we arrived at Alton Towers.

Alton Towers

When I got to the entrance, there was a long queue to get tickets to get into the park. However, while I was waiting, the young women in front of me asked if I could help them. They had two for one vouchers but there were only three of them.

IMG_9585The entrance to Alton Towers

They needed a fourth person to help them save money and asked me if I was willing to pair up with them. Fuuuuck yeah, was I willing to pair up. After spending a shit ton on train fare I was down for anything that would save me a few pounds.

In doing this deal my price for admission went from 55 pounds to 27.50. I put it on my card and the young woman gave me the cash… boom, lunch money baby!

Because of the long queue, I didn’t actually enter the park until noon. The park was, to my knowledge, only open until 5pm. Regardless, that’s when our bus would return to Derby station so I only had five hours to hit as many rides as I could.

Nemesis

Alton Towers was different than any other theme park I’d been to before. For one, things are very spread out. The park is just plopped in the middle of the English countryside and there seems to be no rhyme or reason to the layout.

Version 2Nemesis – inverted roller coaster

To make matters worse, the signage was poor and confusing. After asking for directions, I eventually found Nemesis. The queue was short so I waited for the front row. The ride is not very long but it’s compact nature packs a punch. You’re never not twisting or turning and though it’s short, it leaves you breathless. After I got off I immediately got back in line to ride it again, this time in the last row.

Side note: The Brits are professionals at queuing. There is a point in the loading station where the ramp ends and people split off to choose there row. There was no one managing this section of the queue, and yet, the hive mind instinctively knew not to choose their row until the group before them had boarded the train.

This would never happen in America. People would be bottle-necking, jostling to get on before other people. I was genuinely astonished by the amount of self control they had.

Galactica

Next I went to Galactica, formerly called Air. This was one of the first flying coasters. I’m typically not a fan of them but I had known about it since it’s inception so I checked it out. Since it’s name change, the dual loading platform allowed for the ride to be split. The left side ride the coaster normally, the right side rides with VR goggles and goes on some sort of space adventure.

I chose to ride the non VR version. Luckily the queue wasn’t too long because I will probably never ride a flying coaster again. The restraints make me feel claustrophobic and at one point in the ride I turned my head the wrong way which hurt my neck a bit.

Rollercoaster Restaurant

After riding Galactica, since I hadn’t had breakfast, I decided to grab lunch. I went to the nearby Rollercoaster Restaurant. It’s called so not only because it’s near some coasters, but also because there are tracks near the ceiling that lead to each table and little coaster cars bring your food to you.

The food took quite a while to be made and arrive at my table. I was regretting not just grabbing something quick because I knew I was on a time crunch. When my food arrived I ate as quick as I could and was done by 2:16pm. I’m ultimately glad I went as I would have bummed to come all the way to park and skip it.

Smiler

After leaving the restaurant I made my way through more confusing paths through the gardens and forests which eventually led me to Smiler (roller coaster). Essentially I just kept following the sounds of people screaming until I found my way.

IMG_9738The tangled track that is Smiler

When I arrived at the entrance, the wait time said 45 minutes but the line ended up taking about an hour. Funny enough, while in the queue I saw the couple I’d boarded the X52 bus with. The ride however was worth the wait. It is, I’m pretty sure, the record holder for most inversions on a roller coaster; 14!

Oblivion

After riding Smiler I went across the way to Oblivion. Though the ride is a short, and basically only consists of one main element, the drop, because I’d know about it for so long (since it’s construction), I had to ride it.

IMG_975087 degree first drop on Oblivion

Oblivion was basically a proof of concept for the now ubiquitous B&M dive coaster. That said, the nearly vertical drop (87 degrees) is an effective scare element and makes for a thrilling ride.

Side note: the queue was short and in it I bought a cup of Ben & Jerry’s. Also, though I had been nervous that the weather might not be good and that it might rain, it held out and was even sunny, despite a foggy morning.

Rita

Cut to a montage of me trying to figure out if there was enough time to ride Rita, a roller coaster formerly called Rita – Queen of Speed. It was 4-something pm and I knew it would take quite a bit of time to walk from the section of the park I was in to the front of the park.

Knowing it was close by, I made my way over to Rita and thought the queue was short, 20 minutes, I didn’t want to risk missing my bus back to Derby. So, I chickened out and made my way back to the front of the park.

Before exiting the park, I bought a Dr. Pepper at a shop near the park’s entrance. On the way out of the shop I heard a little kid behind me say, “Mummy, he just called me a cunt.” The woman next to me must have heard this too because we both started laughing.

I then walked through the parking lot to the waiting bus only to find out two things, 1) it was gonna come to the park entrance (I didn’t need to walk over to it) and 2) it was gonna leave at 5:30pm. I had had time to ride Rita after all. Oh well.

I think if I had skipped lunch or just eaten at a stand rather than a sit down restaurant, I might have gotten things done quicker, but ultimately I still had a good day.

Alton Towers to Derby Station via X52 Bus (1 hour)

I sat on a rock in the shade, drank my soda and waited for the bus to pull up. I then got a seat on the hot top level (it cooled down once we got going) and listened to the groups of young women, a) listen to 90s/2000s hip hop and/or classic 80s songs and b) talk about what virginity means, what masturbation is, and their thoughts on penis’s and vaginas.

IMG_9768English countryside on the ride back to Derby station

It was very funny to hear some of their thought processes and imagine that that is what I must have sounded like before becoming more educated on the subject. Unrelated, we also passed a pub called McFly’s but I was too slow on the trigger to snap a picture of it.

Derby Station to St. Pancras via East Midlands (1 hr 30 min)

We arrived at Derby station in time for me to catch the 6:37pm local (rather than the 7:04pm express) back to St Pancras. The ride was pretty uneventful apart from a weird guy who was chatting up two brothers the entire ride. I slept for the last 40 minutes to London and arrived at 8:20pm.

St. Pancras to Surry Quays via the Tube (40 min)

I took the tube back to the Air BnB. I screwed up in my haste to get back quickly and took the train in the wrong direction. I then screwed up again in making my transfer. I eventually got back a little after 9pm; it was still quite bright out. Despite the cost and the ups and downs, what a fucking day.

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