Europe – Day 7: London – Day 4

Thursday – May 31, 2018

After getting showered and dressed I searched Google maps for a laundromat nearby. I ended up finding one that was about 7min away and, with the help of the owner, did laundry from 10am to 11am. After I finished doing that, I headed for Surry Quays and was on the tube by ~11:30.

Considering the fist three things I did, today was a very nerdy day…

Abby Road

I took the tube to St. John Woods station. Upon exiting, I made my way to The Beatles Coffee Shop. However, along the way I got slightly lost. I ended up backtracking to the station only to find that it wasn’t a stand alone place but a tiny spot in the tube station.

IMG_9442Abby Road Studios

There, I grabbed a light breakfast before heading to Abby Road. As I stood on the corner trying to get a good picture of the “zebra crossing,” I made fun of all the nerds there (in my head) only to remember I was one of them. I took a few pictures of the crosswalk before using said crosswalk to get to the actual studio.

Though I’m aware that it is a working studio, I was a little surprised that there isn’t a tour on days when nobody is recording. After admiring the studio for a bit and getting a few pictures, I walked a bit further down the street to the gift shop; a tribute to all things Beatles.

I took everything in and admired it for a bit. Then I settled on two pins to bring back to the big Beatles fans in my life. One pin was in the shape of a plectrum (guitar pic) that said Abbey Road Studios on it and the other was in the shape of McCartney’s violin bass with the crosswalk on it. It also said Abbey Road Studios.

After finding an Abbey Road street sign and taking a picture of it, I took the bus to 221B Baker Street.

221B Baker Street

As I sat on top of the double decker and thought about what I had just seen and done, I almost teared up. I was thinking about how cool it was to have been in the spot where the music which has made so many people happy, was born.

IMG_9454The Sherlock Holmes Museum

Upon arriving at Baker Street Station, I took a moment to get my bearings before heading up the street to The Sherlock Holmes Museum. Because I am not a huge Sherlock Holmes fan, I decided against going into the museum. So, as was the case with Abbey Road, I settled for going into the gift shop.

After looking around for a bit I left and then literally just popped my head into the nearby Beatles gift shop before taking the tube from Baker Street to Kings Cross.

Platform 9 and 3/4

Upon my arrival, I explored a bit of St. Pancras Station. Knowing that I would need to utilize St. Pancras to take the Eurostar from London to Paris in a few days time, I walked around for a bit and got familiar with it.

The station is a nice combination of classic and modern architecture. There are also a couple of statues in the station that are very beautiful. After admiring everything for a bit I then left and crossed the street to King’s Cross Station.

IMG_9470Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom advertisement at King’s Cross Station

The station had a couple of really cool advertisements for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. One was a, seemingly full scale, T-rex that was standing on rock and lava or something. The other was this scene of that glass ball things they use to explore the park. The glass is broken and kids can go in and sit in the seats. There are Raptors on either side of the display.

However, I was looking for the Harry Potter gift shop. I didn’t know where it would be and began wandering aimlessly. Eventually it hit me, it was so obvious, it must be located between platforms 9 and 10.

IMG_9473“Platform 9 and 3/4, think you’re funny do ya?”

Sure enough when I got to the opposite end of the station, there was the gift shop. Set up to the side of the shop was a brick wall with a luggage cart half way through the wall. People could stand in line and take their picture, posed as if they were pushing the cart.

You could even choose to wear the scarf of the “house” you identified with most; Griffendore, Huffelpuff, Ravenclaw or Slitherin. An attendant would stand near you holding the end of the scarf. Then, a photographer would countdown from 3 and the attendant would toss the end of the scarf in the air to give the illusion you were running through the wall.

I decided to skip the line and just check out the gift shop. While looking at all the nerdy stuff they had, one of the employees complimented my Powerline t-shirt while she was walking by. The store was actually really cool. Very well themed to the level of the Universal Parks.

Freddie Grubb

After getting my fill of Harry Potter nerdiness I took the tube from Kings Cross to Angel station. From there I walked to Freddie Grubb, a bike shop I’d hear about it via Monocle Magazine.

IMG_9483Freddie Grubb bike shop

Unfortunately when I got to FG, it was closed. However it was just as well, wasn’t going to buy anything anyway. After this slight disappointment, I walked to a nearby bus stop and took the bus to Shoreditch.

Boxpark

At Shoreditch I got off and walked to Boxpark.  Boxpark is, as my sister would say, “a very Kyle thing to do.” It is a series of pop-up shops and food vendors all contained within shipping containers that are stacked side-by-side and on top of each other. I got lunch there and listened to the sweet mowtown and classic rock they were playing.

Gherkin

IMG_9507The Gherkin

After finishing what I could and putting the rest in my bag, I walked to (what I believe to be) the financial district. I specifically went to The Gherkin aka the “Faberge Egg” building. From there I walked to Aldgate station and took the tube to London Bridge station.

The Shard and Borough Market

Upon exiting the station I got pictures of The Shard which is the tallest building in the United Kingdom. I then walked around for a bit until I eventually found Borough Market.

IMG_9529Borough Market with The Shard in the background

I think I learned about Borough Market via a Londonist YouTube video. This location is featured in the Wizzarding World of Harry Potter. I know it well from my 4 hour wait for the Gringott’s roller coaster. In any case, it was cool to see the real thing.

Tower Bridge

IMG_9547Tower Bridge

I then walked along the water to the Tower Bridge only to have to double back to the London Bridge tube station. There I took the tube to North Greenwich where I got to see the O2 Arena. This was not something on my “to do” list but it was a very pleasant surprise. From the O2 I walked over to the Emirates Air Line.

Emirates Air Line

The Emirates Air Line is just a gondola that goes from one bank of the Thames to the other. It is sponsored by Emirate Airlines, hence the name. Sadly the gondola is so far out of the way that it doesn’t really take you anywhere you want to go. However, I was able to check it off the list.

I got off on the other side and walked around for a bit before hopping back on. While crossing over the Thames I saw guy wakeboarding. There was this little suspended tow-line that went back and forth along the water. There were also some rams and “rails” so you could do tricks. I saw him actually hit one of the jumps which was cool.

O2 Arena

Once back on the other side I went over to and into the O2 Arena. I was unaware that in addition to being a venue, it is also open to the public and is filled with several restaurants, a movie theatre and a bowling alley. It is reminiscent of Downtown Disney or Universal City Walk.

IMG_9554The O2

The O2 is important to me for three reasons, 1) it is featured in the film The World Is Not Enough. 2) It is where Michael Jackson was going to hold his last concerts for the This Is It tour. 3) It is where Led Zeppelin held their one-night-only reunion concert.

Being that my feet were killing me, I’d had a long day and nothing left on my “to do” list for the day, I headed back to my Air BnB. It ended up being a super productive day. It was good to be home by 8:20pm instead of after 10pm or 11pm. Plus, the way things were routed out, I basically went in a big loop so the ride back was really quick.

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Europe – Day 6: London – Day 3

Wednesday – May 30, 2018

I woke up at 7:30am, went back to bed and got up again at 8:30. Due to the fact that I hadn’t been feeling well since arriving in London, the first thing I did was to hock a (literally) bloody luggie into the bathroom sink.

I then tried to catch up with blogging for a bit before getting showered and dressed and brushing my teeth. I started walking to station in my new sneakers but my heel/ankle was hurting due to my shoes not being worn in. On top of that I forgot to get my allotment of cash for the day.

I then walked back to the Air BnB, tried to solve my blister problem, failed and ended up  putting on my old shoes anyway. I finally got to Surry Quays station by 11:30am. I took the tube to  Green Park where I got out and mistakenly took the 14 bus for a few stops before switching to the 9 bus, eventually getting off at Exhibition Road.

My destination was the V&A Museum but I took a brief detour to visit The Royal Albert Hall. I got a few pictures of the outside and was going to go in but when there was a security check at the front lobby I decided to continue on my way.

IMG_9382“Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall”

I then made my way down Exhibition Road, past the side entrance to the V&A and out to the main drag. I walked up and down the main road for a bit before stopping into a French cafe to get a late breakfast at 12:40. It was a solid meal of eggs, sausage, mushrooms and of course a spot of English breakfast tea.

I then doubled back and popped into the V&A for about an hour. Though most museums in London are free, this one ended up costing me 1 pound due to the fact that I utilized the cloakroom to store my backpack.

There were two exhibits that I wanted to see, however both cost money that I wasn’t in the mood to spend. On top of that I was very tired/out of it due to my cold, hence the short stay.

IMG_9386The courtyard at the V&A Museum

I continued down the main road where I popped into Harrods. Unless I went into the wrong place/spot/entrance, it was just a high end mall. I thought, it was it’s own unique retailer but apparently I was wrong.

I then walked(?) from Knightsbridge to Piccadilly Circus. Once there I made my way to Gosh! Comics. Gosh! is a comic book shop I’d seen the first time I was in London but had not stopped in. In between the first time I was there and this time it relocated from being across the street from The British Museum to being in Soho-ish.

IMG_9387Gosh!

After I’d had my fill of window shopping, I walked to Covent Garden to the Brooks saddle store; B1866. There I had a great conversation with Michael, the only employee there who seemingly ran the place. We talked about cycling, naturally and Johnny Cupcakes, at which he used to work.

IMG_9391B1866

After our chat I continued on my way to Tottenham Court Rd. I took the tube to Temple station and walked along the Thames to the Millennium Bridge. When I got to the bridge there was a busker was playing Here Comes The Sun just as the sun was finally coming out. As I passed by and started onto the bridge he started playing I Want to Break Free.

I crossed the bridge and walked along the Thames back the way I came. Along the way I  stopped into a Starbuck’s to get a drink. I then stopped outside and sat and drank by the River.

IMG_9400The Millennium Bridge

While I was chillin’ there, an older guy (maybe in his late 40s) came up to me and started chatting with me. He even sat with me for a bit and asked me about my trip. He was nice but the whole thing was so random it kind of weirded me out. It almost seemed like he was hitting on me? If that’s what life is like for women, I feel bad for them.

I continued along the river to the London Eye. I then crossed bridge near Parliament, which was covered by scaffolding, and walked over to Westminster Abbey. By the time I got to the Abbey, it was closed to the public. Just as well, I was pretty beat from walking and wasn’t super interested in going inside. I looked around the gift shop for a bit before heading to the tube.

IMG_9412Westminster Abbey

I took the tube from Westminster to Hyde Park Corner. There I made my way for a second time, this time not in the pouring rain, to Trader Vic’s. There I had a light dinner of a rib appetizer and bread. I also ordered a Piña Colada just so I could feel like I was in the song Werewolves of London.

IMG_9416“I saw a werewolf drinking a Piña Colada at Trader Vic’s, his hair was perfect”

After dinner I went outsider where I stole some free wi-fi from the Hilton the restaurant is attached to in order to post an Instagram and to iMessage Kyra. I also used it to look up some movie theaters and showtimes.

I then walked to The Empire theatre where I caught the 8:30pm screening of Solo: A Star Wars Story in IMAX 3D. The movie wasn’t great, but  it was fun, a good way to end the night.

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Europe – Day 5: London – Day 2

Tuesday – May 29, 2018

After finishing my posts from the last two days I organized the room, got showered and dressed and took the tube from Surry Quays to East Finchley. Once there I stopped into a little breakfast spot called Dan & Decarlo. I got a sandwich and a cup of tea. The tea, English Breakfast of course, was not only to support a British tradition but also because I woke up with a sore throat.

Hexagon Classics

I then walked the short distance to Hexagon Classics. I had recently seen a video on YouTube about this place and since it looked cool and I was going to be in town, I had to stop by to check it out.

As the name implies, Hexagon is a classic car dealership that restores and sells automobiles old and new. Their collection, though not that large, is well curated. The receptionist gave me the green light to walk around and take pictures so that is exactly what I did. After taking in everything, I hopped back on the tube and took it to Oxford Circus.

Reagent Street/Carnaby Street

Upon arriving at Oxford Circus, I took a moment to get oriented before heading down Reagent to Carnaby. My goal was to purchase a new pair of sneakers as has become tradition all two times I’ve come to London. I was also in desperate need of a pair as my current sneakers were falling apart.

IMG_9265Double decker bus on Reagent Street

I found the Adidas Originals store with ease and immediately spotted the sneakers I was looking for, Primeknit Sambas. Unfortunately when I asked the man working there what the smallest size they had was, it was too big. I then moved on to my second target, a pair of black suede Gazelles.

They had my size and moments later I was pulling out the credit card and spending too much money on sneakers. After my purchase I sat and used their wi-fi for a bit to figure out where to go next. Then walked around Carnaby and Regent before moving on.

Covent Garden

I continued to make my way to Piccadilly Circus, stopping into the Hamleys toy store along the way and using their restroom. I came out to a drizzle and as I continued walking, found a Lotus store that I made a brief stop at before continuing on my way.

Once outside again the drizzle had become rain. Cut to a montage of me trying to figure out where I was going and doing my best to stay dry… unsuccessfully meanwhile my new sneakers were getting soaked.

IMG_9269Covent Garden Market

Eventually I found Covent Garden Market where I paused to walk around for a bit. This covered shops area reminded me of a covered version of Faneuil Hall/Quincy Market. After getting somewhat dry I made my way to the London Film Museum, just around the corner.

London Film Museum

The LFM is currently home to Bond In Motion, an exhibit dedicated to the different modes of transportation James Bond uses throughout the franchise. I bought my ticket and then immediately had to exit due to the fire alarm going off. It soon stopped and we were allowed back in.

IMG_9295Lotus Esprit from The Spy Who Loved Me

The museum was pretty small and despite not really rushing, I got through it fairly quickly. I basically took a picture of everything they had on display before exiting through the gift shop.

Trader Vic’s

It was now pissing with rain so I got to the nearest tube stop as quickly as possible and took it to Hyde Park Corner. Cut to a montage of me getting soaked while trying to figure out where to go. I took shelter under a stoop and then saw a couple doing the same. I asked them for directions and they pointed out where to go.

Eventually, I found myself at the Hilton and was about to enter Trader Vic’s only to find out it didn’t open until 5pm, it was only ~3pm. Defeated, I stood under the awning out in front of the Hilton and used their wi-fi to figure out my next move. I then took the 16 double decker bus to Victoria Station where I eventually stumbled into Browns Restaurant.

Browns

Browns was nothing really special, a slightly upscale pub where I got a burger and a spot of tea. I milked my late lunch/early dinner for as long as I could before heading back out into the cold. It had stopped raining but I was still wet and chilly.

It was too early to enter the theatre (it was 5:20pm and doors were at 6:15pm) so I took a lap around the block, stopped into a department store and eventually found a bench at Victoria Station where I took off my socks and changed back into my crappy sneakers. By the time I was done with all that, I was able to enter the theatre.

Victoria Palace Theatre

I buried the lead a bit, I had tickets to see Hamilton. I was very tired and not feeling well and so I would have preferred to go home and go to bed. However, eventually it started and as the mother/daughter sitting behind me had told me (this was their third time seeing it), it flew by.

IMG_9369The Victoria Palace Theatre where I saw Hamilton

The show was great and certainly deserves the praise and hype it receives but by the time it was over, at around 10:30pm, I was ready for sleep. I took the tube home and immediately went to bed.

—Thing I had already written before I left for this trip:

Hamilton. I know what you’re thinking, “Kyle, you live in New York now, the theater capitol of the world (maybe ¯\_(ツ)_/¯), why would you come all the way to London to see a musical when you have Broadway in your backyard?”

I’ll tell you why, the price I paid to be seated on the lowest level, the closest to the stage I’ve ever been for any other play or musical I’ve been to, cost me less than the price to see Hamilton on Broadway in the very back of the theatre! My equivalent seat costs $500 more in New York!

Plus, I have three London traditions:

1)  Visit London every 10 years – this was not something I planned but since it turned out that way, see you in 2028!

2) Buy a pair of sneakers – the last time I was here I bought a pair of yellow and black Onitsuka Tiger Mexico 66s.

3) See a musical – in 2008 I saw We Will Rock You, the Queen Musical and it was great.

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Europe – Day 4: London – Day 1

Monday – May 28, 2018

I woke up without an alarm at around 6:30. Got showered and dressed, then packed my things and headed for the train station, leaving the Air BnB at 7:20am. Along the way I passed a patisserie where I grabbed a croissant with some kind of fruit in it.

At the train station, my plan was to take the 7:44am train to Cannes. However, when I got to the station, there was no 7:44 on the departures board. On top of that, the station listed had a name which did not match that of the one I was expecting.

A quick Google search told me that this was or should be the correct station still. I had already committed and bought a ticket so I was hoping this would work out. Normally it wouldn’t be a big deal, but I was leaving Nice and needed to be at the airport for my 12:55pm flight. I was nervous that my return trip would be a later time than Google told me it would be and I’d miss my flight.

Gare de Nice-Ville to Cannes Voyageurs via train (~35 min)

I nervously rode the train to Cannes. When I arrived (approximately 9:08), the first thing I did was to check the departure board. As I expected, there was a 9:54 back to Nice. The second thing that made me happy was that upon looking out to the streets of Cannes, I could tell from my pre-departure Google mappings that I was in the right place.

I immediately walked over to the kiosk to purchase my return ticket. I needed use the bathroom and the attendant told me that there was one out the door and down a little bit and that I needed to pay to use it. Sure enough this public restroom had a turnstile and  cost me 0,50 Euro.

IMG_9201Palais des Festivals

After using the restroom I headed for stop number one, the main reason why I wanted to dip a toe in Cannes, Palais des Festivals, the site of the Cannes Film Festival. It was extremely easy to find and was only a short walk from the station. After taking a few pictures, I headed to stop number two, the New York New York restaurant.

IMG_9203New York New York restaurant

I had seen this on Google maps when scoping out the location of the Palais des Festivals and needed to take a picture of it. I flew all the way to Europe and couldn’t escape New York. The next and last stop was the Da Stefano restaurant. Not quite my last name, but pretty close. Again, I snapped a pic, then headed back to the train station.

IMG_9207Da Stefano restaurant in Cannes

It was 9:39am, so I made my way (by “make my way”, I literally mean, crossed the street) back to the station.

Gare de Cannes to Gare de Nice Saint-Augustin (~35 min)

I took the train back to Nice and walked from the station to the airport. The walk was only about 15 minutes and if I’d known that it would be so easy, I’d have taken that over the bus, then again, the bus was easy too AND required less walking so it was probably, ultimately the better choice.

Nice to Geneva to London

I arrived at NCE by ~11:00am. I got situated, went to the bathroom to brush my teeth, then went in search of my gate. Looking at the departure board, I didn’t see easyJet anywhere. Checking my e-boarding pass, I found that I needed to go to Terminal 2 and I was at, you guessed it, Terminal 1.

I asked an attendant on the sidewalk where to go and he pointed me in the right direction. I took the free shuttle bus to Terminal 2 but was stumped upon arrival. All I saw were signs that said Arrivals and none that said Departures. I walked back and forth and then guessed that I needed to go upstairs. Sure enough, I was right.

I made my way to and then through security only to be stopped. Apparently the woman watching the x-rays found the large bottle of suntan lotion I’d forgotten to remove from my bag before my trip. I had made it though two airport securities without anyone noticing it and now, I get caught. Clearly Nice doesn’t like me.

I told the woman to just throw it away if I couldn’t take it with me (more money down the drain) but first I needed to sign some piece of paper. The paper was in French so I don’t know what it was. I probably agreed to be on a “no fly” list, but I signed it anyway because I needed to make my flight. After the paper was signed, she let me through.

Next, I came across problem number I-don’t-know-what. I looked at the departure board and, though I saw my flight, I was not able to determine what gate it was at. All it said was A; it was not followed by a number. I went  all the way to the end of the gates to A00 and thought perhaps this was it. Eventually, I went to seek someone’s help when, along the way,  I ran into a couple with the same problem.

When the problem was not solved, I went back to wait and write by the departure board. One cool thing was that in addition to showing the typical departure Airline info and logo, there was one with the F1 logo which I can only assume meant Monaco.

In any case, eventually a gate was assigned and, as I’d guessed, I was basically in the right spot. I moved to a better seat and continued to write until I had to board. Again my bag was checked at the gate and again I boarded via the tarmac.

NCE to GVA via easyJet A320 (45 min)

Our flight was supposed to leave at 12:55pm but it was a little delayed. To be honest, the only cool thing about the flight was the fact that we were taxiing behind an Emirates A380. I would not have guessed that the runway/airport was big enough to accommodate such a bird.

IMG_9215The Alps… maybe

Otherwise I basically napped the whole flight while listening to the Foo Fighters first album. No sooner did the album end were we on final approach, passing some Swiss Mountains along the way.

GVA

I arrived in Geneva at ~2:05pm. I grabbed my bag from baggage claim but did not have to go through Customs. Confused, I then asked where to go to board my next flight and was told to exit and go up the stairs on the other side. I then went to the check in gate where the man issuing my ticket was cool and gave me a window seat. I was also issued a proper Swiss Airlines boarding pass (real card-stock, not flimsy receipt paper).

After going through security, I found myself in a land of all things Swiss. There stores had every item and brand you associate with the country from Swatch to chocolate. I made a beeline for the chocolate store an got two triangles of Toblerone. I then proceeded to my gate.

IMG_9218“The hills are alive with the sound of music…”

Finally I was to go through security/customs. (Oh yeah, that was the other thing, it was like for Swiss… something, go this way, for French… something, go this way + the whole going down stairs/heading the the exit bit). Getting through was almost too easy.

However, after that, I headed in the direction that I though my plane was only to find it was closed. I went the other way and when I emerged, I checked my boarding pass and sure enough, I was in the right place.

Now, the whole time leading up to this flight I was dreading it because, though when I was booking my trip, it said this was a Swiss Airlines flight, my confirmation later changed to say, operated by Bell Air. After looking them up, I was not excited to be flying on them. I love the clean and simple livery of Swiss Airlines and I didn’t want to have to take this cut rate, second class airline.

I had been watching some Swiss Airlines videos on YouTube and was bummed I wasn’t going to fly them. Cut to last month when I pre-wrote (basically just outlined based on my travel itinerary) some of these posts. While headlining this section, rather than write “GVA to LHR via Bell Air A320” I wrote “… via Swiss Airlines CS300”

So, when I got my boarding pass and it said operated by Swiss Airlines I got very excited, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up. However, when I looked at the gate there was the bird I was hoping for! I was so excited. Something in me knew the whole time that this would work out. Either that or I willed it into happening.

IMG_9222Swiss Airlines CS300

While boarding, I was told for a third time on this trip that I needed to check my bag. This time however, the Swiss Airlines guy I dealt with gave me a bit of an attitude. Not only had I not paid attention to the fact that my bag was “too big” but also I wasn’t going to be charged because I was checking at the gate.

I guess usually they charge you to check your luggage. I was psyched. Not only was I getting the plane I wanted, I also going to stick it to the man!

GVA to LHR via Swiss Airlines CS300

Immediately upon boarding I was excited. This single aisle Bombardier aircraft has a two/three seat configuration (two people side-by-side on the left of the aircraft, three on the right). On top of that, because the aircraft is so small, it feels like you’re on a private plane.

The video is of a CS100 (instead of the 300) but they are ostensibly the same plane

The seats are leather with beautifully crafted seat backs. We had a ~20 minute delay (we left a little after 4pm) sitting on the tarmac but, perhaps because of this, the crew handed out Swiss chocolates with the Swiss Airlines logo embossed in them. The take off was great and the hills and mountains along with the beautiful green grass and clear blue lakes made me feel like I was in the Sound of Music.

This is just another beautiful video of the C Series operated by Swiss Airlines

Additionally, despite the short flight time, we were served a drink and a Swiss pastry. Now, maybe I was the opposite of spoiled by my previous three flights (Norwegian, c’mon, no food for free on a long haul flight? EasyJet, Paris to Nice, short flight plus low cost airline, I get it. The same goes for my easyJet flight from Nice to Geneva) but this service was incredible; I loved flying with them.

LHR

I arrived in London Heathrow Airport at ~5pm and went straight to customs which didn’t have too long of a line, but, when I got to the front I didn’t have a Landing Card. There was no table on which to pick one up and no one handed one to me.

IMG_9239One last look at the CS300 before going through customs at LHR

Luckily, the woman managing the line noticed this, gave one to me, and told me to step aside to fill it out, then get back in line. After that, it was quite easy getting through customs.

Once through I made my way down to the Tube Station. I thought there was supposed to be an express train -Heathrow Express- to take you to central London in a short amount of time; like 20 minutes. I didn’t see anyone to ask so I just went to the vending machine, bought an Oyster Card and put 20 pounds on it. The zone bullshit they do here really confuses me.

In any case, I got to the platform at 5:30pm just as a train was leaving. However, another came about 5 minutes later and I got on to start making my way into the city.

LHR to Hammersmith via the Underground

From Heathrow I took the Piccadilly line Eastbound and was planning on taking it all the way to my Air BnB; making a couple of connections along the way. However, I noticed that my train would take me past Hammersmith which is where the hotel I had stayed at the first time I ever came to London was located.

My initial plan, after stopping at my Air BnB to drop off my stuff, was to go to the Hammersmith Ram, the first bar I ever drank at; I was 19 (legal age in the UK is 18). I decided instead to get off and hit the pub first, then go to the Air BnB for the evening to catch up on blogging.

I got off at Hammersmith, then switched to the District line and backtracked one stop to Ravenscourt Park. I knew this was where my hotel had been and as I got to Kings Road and looked right, I saw it (the hotel). I turned left on Kings road and made my way to where I thought the pub to be. However, after a while, it seemed like I was walking too far so I turned back.

As I got back, pretty close to the hotel I heard some kids behind me being bullied. I kept walking as to not get involved and as I turned around, I saw them get robbed by this group of thugs. I had no idea what to do. I had my suitcase with me and my backpack with all my valuables.

I don’t know if, with less to risk, I would have done anything but I felt so helpless. As the saying goes, “Evil prevails when good men fail to act.” And I know, I know, poor me, I had my day ruined by watching this shitty thing happen IN BROAD DAYLIGHT. But still, I felt so bad for them and it really bummed me out. Not to mention the fact that now I was on edge.

I went over and asked what happened. I apologized for not helping. As we were talking the police drove by and though they tried to flag them down, the good-for-nothing cops, who had looked over and everything, kept on driving. They were as useless as I had been.

Depressed and a little scared, I remembered that I had written the address to the pub on a word doc on my phone and walked all the down to where it was. I feel like perhaps it must have moved because I definitely don’t remember the walk being that far.

Regardless, I got a seat, ordered a pint and then looked at the food menu. I’d wanted a burger but they told me they were out so I ordered something else. I ate and used their wifi only to find that the Hammersmith station, the one I’d gotten off at to switch trains, was acutely much closer to the pub than Ravenscourt Park.

After finishing my meal I paid and walked to Hammersmith Station. Apparently however I’d entered on the wrong side of the road and it didn’t connect via underground tunnels. This would not have been a problem had it not just started to sun-shower.

I dodged raindrops while crossing the street, then took the tube to Surrey Qauys where I eventually found my way to the Air BnB.

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2018 Monaco Grand Prix

Possibly one of the most famous posters of all time is for the 1931 Monaco Grand Prix. I think -and perhaps as a car and graphic design fan I’m biased- many people, if you showed it to them, even if they didn’t realize what it was for, would tell you they recognize it, having seen it at one point or another in their life.

As a kid I know I saw it… somewhere. It’s one of those things, one of those moments or memories that I can’t quite pinpoint, but one that imprinted a lasting mark in my mind. As I grew up and began to learn more about racing and geography, cars and poster design, I realized that it was part of a style of travel posters that ranged from the 1920s to the 1960s.

These posters have taken on an iconic status in shaping how people viewed the world. They give the viewer a glimpse into the “jet set” life of travel, aviation and other forms of advertising for things such as alcohol and automobiles. They showed us the world, not as it is, but as we’d like it to be.

It impressed upon me so much that I knew one day, I needed to be an attendee at this glamorous, exclusive, prestigious and famous sporting event. It is probably third in notoriety behind the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Indy 500. However, it is certainly the most famous race on the Formula One calendar.

Names such as Juan Manuel Fangio, Stirling Moss, Jackie Stewart, Nikki Lauda, James Hunt, Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton have all raced here and given their all for a chance to stand on the highest podium in the winners circle. And so, finally, after years of talking about going, I’ve made the trip to see the Monaco Grand Prix.

monaco-grand-prix-1931-poster-by-robert-falcucci-1337

(I wrote the section above on January 13, 2018. I then wrote and posted a skeleton of this post on the 29th of May and fleshed it out and updated it on June 17th)

It all started on December 3, 2017. I had been in cahoots with my buddy Dan to plan our next vacation. We had decided during a face-to-face we had back in November that we wanted to go somewhere in Europe for our next trip, however, we didn’t know where. On December 3rd I wrote him what my plans were and added in addendum that I was interested in going to one of the big races; Le Mans, the Nurburgring 24 or the Monaco GP.

Between December and January I reached out to my co-worker Xander whom I knew had gone to the 24 Hours of Le Mans before as well as several other races. I asked for how best to maximize my time if I decided to go to the Monaco GP. He gave me some great tips and opened my mind to some things I hadn’t previously considered.

It was at that point, either consciously or subconsciously, that I made the decision that, no matter what, I was going to the race that year. My plan with Dan was to have something booked by January 1st. However, after a few back and forth emails and text messages, Dan had not given me a straight answer but gave me the green light to move forward and book a trip that he would choose to either join me on, or not join me on.

Before purchasing anything else, I bought my tickets to the race. I was locked in. I had to go to at least France/Monaco in late May. I then proceeded to book the rest of my trip over the coming months and thus, the trip I ended up taking is the one featured in the previous and following posts.

Europe – Day 3: Nice – Day 3

Sunday – May 27, 2018

I woke up at ~6am without the help of an alarm. I planned my morning for tomorrow on my computer, figuring out how I would get to Cannes, what train to take and from there what train to take from Cannes to the airport. I got showered and dressed and took the 7:38am train from Nice to Monaco.

In the months leading up to the race, I was nervous about getting a good spot as my ticket for race day was general admission in Secteur Rocher. This is the section the peasants go to which is located near the last corner of the circuit. There are no official seats here but rather a grassy hillside upon which people sit.

In researching the section, I read stories of people going there days before the race just to chain and lock their folding chairs to trees in order to secure a good viewing spot. I started game planning, getting a lock ready to bring with me, a sign that said reserved and tape to tape it down. I was even planning on buying a folding chair that I would either sell or throw away after the race. I was a wreck.

Eventually, realizing how crazy it was to worry about all of this which is out of my control. I decided to not think about it. As race day approached my plan was just to get up super early and take the first train from Nice to Monaco. However, knowing the day would be a long one, I decided to let my body tell me when to get up.

While on the train to Monaco, I overheard two young guys sitting behind me talking in perfect english. They were clearly American. I turned around and chatted with them for a bit, asked them where they were from -Upstate, NY- and what their plans were for the day and the rest of their trip. They told me that they didn’t have tickets for the race but wanted to just be there and see what they could see.

Upon arriving at the train station in Monte Carlo, I followed the signs and the crowds and headed straight to Rocher. I climbed the hill and found to my surprise that, though there were plenty of people there, it wasn’t as packed as I thought it would be. I scouted around for a few minutes, found a spot, then moments later got up and sat a few feet further down where I would claim my spot for the rest of the day.

IMG_8811The view from my spot in Secteur Rocher

I got to this new and final spot by ~8:30am. To be honest, based on what I had Googled and what I had in mind, my “seat”/view could not have been much better. I had a clear view of the last corner, part of the starting grid, the entrance to pit lane, the chicane near the grandstand in the distance, and a few other key parts of the track.

On top of that, the thing I was most happy about was that I had a straight on view of the jumbo screen. Not that I wanted to come all the way to Monaco to watch the race on TV, but it would serve as a good way of keeping track of the action that wasn’t happening right in front of me, as well as what lap the racers were on and what position everyone was in.

GrandPrixCircuit_01The track layout

I was sat near some British guys who were about my age and had been there since 6 or 6:30am. We chatted for a bit and quickly had an unspoken bond amongst us of looking out for each other.

The first entertainment of the day was from a corner marshal. He was walking the track collecting cones that no longer needed to block off certain sections. However, rather than just pick them up with one hand and stack them inside of each other with his other hand, he got a little crafty.

In one arm he held the stack of cones upside down. In the other, he grabbed the next cone, placed it on the toe of his sneaker and kicked it into the air so it would flip end-over-end and land upside down in the stack of cones. It was funny and pretty impressive. The whole section laughed and cheered and at the end, the corner marshal took a bow.

Our next form of entertainment came when we got to watched a McLaren (initially I thought it was a Senna but upon reviewing my photos, it looks more like a 570 or even a P1) take hot laps of the circuit. I think it was taking VIP clients or anyone who had paid for this experience for a lap or laps around the track.

Eventually at 10:30am, the first race of the day began. It had been relatively quiet and not much had been happening for a while. Then the was a loud roar of engines which grew and grew until finally from the left side of the final corner, out of an underground tunnel or car park, came a fleet of race spec Porsche 911s. This was the Porsche Supercup series and their race went from 10:30am to 11am.

IMG_8876Porsche Supercup

The Porsches took a few formation laps before lining up on the starting grid. As they were going around, I used the opportunity to get a few practice pictures and videos in. I wanted to know what angles looked best so that I’d be ready for the main event. I also experimented with the monocular/”camera lens” I’d bought for my phone. It was a zoom lens and gave me a good view of some of the parts of the track which were further away.

After their race ended there was a break until noon when the next race began. This race was for the Formula Renault series and lasted until 12:30. These cars look like smaller versions of F1 cars and again was a good way to prep for the GP.

IMG_8878Me with some of the Formula Renault cars in the background; as you can see the section filled in even more

After their race ended, it got overcast and windy. Eventually a few drops of rain even came down. I was really hoping the rain would hold off as I did not have any rain gear/protection with me.

Additionally, I needed to pee but didn’t want to leave the section to walk all the way down to the toilets. I had been eying some bushes nearby and eventually got the courage to go over to them. I asked the people sitting near them if they minded if I did my business and they told me to go for it.

Relieved, I went back to my spot. The Brits near me congratulated me on my bravery. Soon after that, former F1 driver Nico Rosberg addressed the crowd with a wave from the entrance of pit lane.

IMG_8885Nico Rosberg in the sunglasses in the bottom right

Shortly after that, the national anthem of Monaco was played. At 1:40pm, following the national anthem, was the driver’s parade. This is where a truck drives around the track with the drivers on it allowing them to wave to the crowd as they go by. Somewhere amongst all of this, the pit lane was also graced with the presence of former Red Bull F1 driver Mark Webber.

It was either during or right after this that two dudes snuck in and sat in front of us. I was pissed because we had been there all day to get these spots and here these two assholes were getting just as good a view without really putting in the “effort”. I wasn’t prepared for it and I wanted to tell them to fuck off, but I also didn’t want to get into a fight and I didn’t want to get ejected from the section.

Instead I was passive aggressive to the guy in front of me. I stretched out my legs and ground my knees into his back. He looked back at me a few times, once he even tried to smile at me. I was not having it. One time when he looked back I just said “What?” and gave him a grimace.

First a Renault Megane RS pace car (or whatever) took a lap with full lights and sirens. Next the Mercedes AMG GT R safety car followed by the Mercedes AMG E63 Wagon safety car took a few laps. Then there was the formation lap by the drivers and finally, at 2:40pm, the race then started.

IMG_9063Vettle chases Ricciardo through the last corner

After the first few laps, I got into a good rhythm of looking a the screen and looking at the cars as they went by. However, as the pack spread out, it got more difficult to balance the two.

In the middle of all this, I tried to balance getting pictures and footage while still being present and watching the race with my own eyes, rather than through the screen on my phone. Eventually, after about 20 laps (the race is 78 laps) the guys in front of me left! Shortly after they left, the sun came out.

Due to the layout of the circuit and how narrow it is, there is not a lot of overtaking that happens at Monaco. Most of if happened at the back of the pack which was less interesting any way. Because of this however, it is crucial to secure a good spot in the starting grid and earn pole position.

The front of the pack was dominated by the racers I was most interested in watching. Daniel Ricciardo followed by Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Riakkonen. Because the order did not change, I was able to know when they would be passing by the final corner and could visibly notice how the split time between them expanded and contracted lap by lap.

Despite the fact that it looked at points like Hamilton was gaining on Vettel and might overtake him, he ran out of laps and just did not have enough time to close the gap and make his move. Thus when the race ended two hours later, the spots for first, second and third place were the same as they had been at the beginning with Daniel Ricciardo taking the win. When it was finished, all of the yachts in the harbor blew their horns to signify the end of the race, as is tradition.

I was happy to see it go to Ricciardo for two reasons, 1) because he had gotten screwed out of the win in 2016 due to a bad pit stop and 2) because it meant that Vettel didn’t win. I was routing for Hamilton but Ricciardo was a good second choice.

As things settled down after the medal ceremony I said goodbye to my new British friends and left Secteur Rocher. When I got to the top of the hill I bought a sandwich, a croissant and a drink. I walked down the street with the merchandise on it and walked through the official gift shop. As I continued down the street I came across the line for the train which was super long.

I was not planning on leaving Monaco yet anyway so I decided to go a different way. I ended up near section K1 of the grandstands and took the walkway to section Z1 where I had been during the final practice section and qualifying. I walked to the back side of the section on my way out to the street and got caught in a long line to go to the elevators. Eventually I was let through where I bypassed the elevators and walked out the garage exit to the sidewalk.

I walked up hill on one of the streets and ate lunch sitting on a ledge overlooking Port Hercules. After I finished eating I walked up a bunch of stairs and made my way to the pavilions. I went all the way down to the end only to be stopped by a fence and had to turn back.

I then walked down a different shopping street, walked down some stairs and back in the direction I’d just come from. I went into an upscale mall where I tried to use the restroom but it was locked.

IMG_9130My view from the ledge where I ate lunch

I continued walking, having to go through a security checkpoint before continuing down the side walk. All I wanted to do was to find an open section of the street because I wanted to walk the circuit before going back to Nice. I went across a bridge to the other side, through some back garden and ended up in Casino Square.

Despite the fact that the road was not set to re-open to the public until 8:30pm, when I got to the square at 7:20pm they were removing the barricades. I walked down part of the uphill straight section of the circuit and took a few pictures.

IMG_9143Turn 3 heading into Casino Square

I then walked back and considered going into the casino but assumed they wouldn’t let me in based on how I was dressed. I then walked down a set of stairs that led to the Fairmont Hotel and got a picture on the hairpin, the slowest corner, though perhaps the most famous, on the F1 calendar.

IMG_9146The “Lowes” Hairpin

I then proceeded to walk the track, picking up the nubs and bits of rubber (to be kept/given as souvenirs) which had flown off the tires as the cars went screaming by. I walked all the way to the second to last corner.

There I veered off the track for a quick detour. Though I had gone the day previous, I walked along Port Hercules to look at the team paddocks one last time. Afterwards I finished walking the track before making my way back to the train to go back to Nice.

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Europe – Day 2: Nice – Day 2

Saturday – May 26, 2018

I woke up this morning at around 6:45am all on my own, no alarm. I thought I had overslept and considered going back to sleep, but I knew I had a lot to accomplish today and an early start would be good for me.

After getting showered and dressed, I hopped on the 7:34 light rail train from my Air BnB to Vieille Ville. I wasn’t sure how or where to purchase a ticket so I just hopped on, assuming I could pay on board like I would the Green Line in Boston. Turns out, I was wrong.

IMG_8641This cool fountain thing in Nice

When we got to the next stop this “fare police” boarded the train and checked everyone’s tap cards. When he got to me, I had no card for him to check. “Passport,” he said. Oh merde I thought, it was LA all over again.

The officer continued to walk the train still holding on to my passport. I kept an eye on him and even considered following to make sure nothing happened to it. At the next stop he got off with me and explained that there was a fine. My ignorance was no use and I got slapped with a 60 Euro fine.

IMG_8649The Nice coastline (it’s pronounced niece you uncultured swine)

This was shitty, real shitty. And yet, for how bad it was, it could have been much worse. For one, my citation in LA was twice as expensive. For another, I got my passport back (I was lucky I last minute decided to bring it with me). For a third, I didn’t get arrested or go to jail. And Finally, though I only allot myself 50 Euro a day to spend in cash, I had an extra 20 Euro (two 10s) from the previous day still in my wallet.

I paid my fine in cash and was given a citation that, from what I understood, could be used as a train pass for the rest of the day. Defeated, I walked the rest of the way to the waterfront. I was really upset because a) that was more money down the drain and b) because it was so stupid and made me feel like a child.

IMG_8652The yet-to-be-mentioned memorial… keep reading

I tried to walk it off and take some beautiful photos of the Nice coastline. I then found this memorial that was very beautiful and tried to make my way to Castle Hill. I quickly realized however that it would involve walking up many, many stairs. I was already sweating due to the humidity and frankly, I didn’t have the time.

I decided to walk back a different way than I came and ended up in one of the areas I wanted to explore.

Vieille Ville

Vieille Ville is this very tight, closed in, narrow back alley streets part of Nice. There are farmers markets and thrift shops and restaurants there. This literally brightened my mood as the buildings are all brightly colored pastels of yellow and green and blue.

IMG_8653Vieille Ville

I passed a crêperie I’d like to try, though I’m not sure I’ll have the time. I then walked out of that section and back onto the main drag. I waited for a train to take me back to the area of Gare de Nice-Ville.

This time I used the on platform ticket machine and bought a ticket for 1,30 Euro. This really bother me that I’d been fined 60 Euro for dodging a 1,30 Euro fare.

Gare de Nice-Ville to Gare de Monaco-Monte-Carlo

Back at the station there was a huge group of people who I knew were all bound for that same place as I was. It looked like some were allowed to just show their Grand Prix ticket as passage onto the train, but I wasn’t risking it, I bought a round trip ticket (despite the fact that no one checked it going in either direction last night) for 8,20 Euro and boarded the 8:47am train to Monaco.

While on the train, I wrote to this point in my notebook.

Monaco

I got off the train and followed the signs and the crowds to the section on my ticket, exiting from a different place than I had the day before. At the end of the hallway there was a woman selling official Monaco GP merch. Normally I don’t buy this bullshit but I knew I wanted a program as my only souvenir, and, using the last 10 Euro in my wallet, I bought it.

Afterwards I continued following the crowd and, after a bit of confusion, found my way to my section, Z1. I found a spot to sit/stand but then remembered that I’d wanted to get a proper breakfast. Unfortunately most of the restaurants in the area were lunch/dinner spots that only had croissants or didn’t take credit cards.

IMG_8667Formula Renault (I mistakenly refer to it as Formula 2)

I walked back and watched a Formula 2 race which went from 10am to 10:30am. This gave me good photo practice for when the big boys hit the circuit. Once the Formula 2 race was over, I headed out of the fenced in area to seek food in the real world.

I took a weird turn and ended up heading past this beautiful church I’d heard about. The weird turn lead me to an uphill path back to the train station. In there I went to get food but they too only took cash. I went to the ATM and took out 20 Euro. I don’t even want to know what the service fee was for that.

IMG_8772Kimi Raikkonen during the F1 practice session

I ate my brunch and at around 11:30am, headed back to Z1 for the 12pm practice. I got a spot right against the fence again and took in the 3rd and final practice session for Formula 1. You can instanly tell the difference between F2 and F1. The cars are bigger, faster and louder. Plus I actually recognize the cars and could pick out the drivers. Now I know what it’s like to be a person who follows sports.

I was expecting this to be many things but the one thing I wasn’t expecting was the smell. High octane fuel has a very specific smell.

After practice as over I went and sat behind the little bleachers where I drank some water, read some of my recently acquired program, edited some of my “Live Photos” On my phone and picked a photo to post to Instagram.

I then had the urge to use the restroom and figured I’d better do it before the 3pm qualifying session. I was directed to a restroom but unfortunately it was for a restaurant and the Maître d’ wouldn’t let me use it unless I bought something. One 8 Euro beer later and it was the most expensive pee I’d ever taken. This was shaping up to be an expensive day for me.

The qualifying was arguably better than practice because the guys we really going for it, all fighting for the fastest lap time to secure Pole Position. It was also nice because, despite my second helping of suntan lotion, it was shadier. Daniel Riccardo ended up securing Pole which, if it wasn’t going to be Lewis or Valteri, I’m glad it was him. I’m especially glad it wasn’t Vettel.

After qualifying I found the street I’d seen in a YouTube video where all of the merch vendors are. Earlier, before qualifying, I’d seen a man with a certain hat that I wanted to buy and asked him where he bought it. He had told me the spot and this street was it!

IMG_8778Lewis Hamilton during the F1 qualifying session; Hamilton went on to qualify 3rd

Eventually I found the booth and found the hat. It was in my budget, so I bought it. I’m being purposely secretive because if the person who the hat is for is reading this, I don’t want them to know I got it. Then again, I’m sure he or she could easily figure it out.

After the merch run I climbed the hill to the Prince’s Palace; Monaco is a Principality after all. I took some pictures of it, and watched the changing of the guard. The views on the way up as well as the views from the top were unbelievable. Port Hercules is undeniably magnificent.

IMG_8803The Castle

To top it off, there was a second Formula 2 race happening and, because I had a ticket was able to watch some of it from atop of this… well, I guess mountain. Next I tried to find Monaco Top Cars Collection but despite the kind woman at the gift shop’s directions and my dying iPhone’s Google Map help, I couldn’t figure it out.

It was just as well because my feet were very tired and it was, according to Google, “Closing Soon.” Instead I walked the same hill down to the city below and made my way back to the train. The way the signs told me to go was different from the other three ways I’d gotten there before. This one involving a long underground, yet lavish tunnel.

IMG_8804The rest of the courtyard

A lot of Monaco can be accessed by underground tunnels. It’s crucial in some areas to access parts of the grandstands without having to cross the circuit.

Eventually I got to the point in the tunnel where I was not able to keep moving due to all of the people in front of me. Apparently to avoid overcrowding on the platform, the police on allow a certain number of people to get on at a time. This makes sense but kind of bummed me out.

IMG_8809Part of the F1 Circuit and Port Hercules as seen from the edge of the courtyard

To make matters worse, when the crowds were allowed to move again, we were stopped once more for about 10 minutes before being allowed to enter the platform area. I used the time to journal.

Gare de Monaco-Monte-Carlo to Gare de Nice-Ville

I got on the 5:35pm back to Nice arriving a little after 6pm. Once back I stopped into the same grocery store to get a cheap “dinner” and then went back to the Air BnB. Once back I ate my food and caught up by typing out all of these posts so far (6pm-10:45pm).

I literally hadn’t had the time write anything since getting here but now that I’m caught up I should be able to stay on top of it… maybe.

Despite the fact the there was a little hiccup at the beginning of the day and despite the fact that I spent so much money (I’m afraid to look at my credit card bill), today was really great.

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Europe – Day 1: Nice – Day 1

Friday – May 25, 2018

Continued from previous post

CDG

I arrived at Charles de Gaulle Airport (outside of Paris) at 11:05am local time. The first thing I did was to go to the bathroom. Next was passport control, followed by me taking way to many pictures of the enclosed moving sidewalks. I walked around for a bit before entering the outer section of Terminal 1.

I took a lap around the outer circle of the terminal before stopping at the posh grocery store Marks and Spencer. I bought some food and then when out and proceeded to demolish everything, I was very hungry (I had some dope yogurt and other stuff) and thirsty.

After eating I went downstairs to bottom level of the terminal where I took a lap up to the point where I found the outdoor smoking section. There I went outside to admire the criss crossing moving sidewalks from below.

Version 2Moving sidewalks in Terminal 1 at Charles de Gaulle Airport

After that took the took the CDGVAL train to Terminal 2 where I needed to board a second plane to get to my final destination. I thought I would be able to see the Concorde (maybe I’ll go to the Intrepid when I get back to NY) they have on display as I remember seeing it the last time I took the CDGVAL. I saw it from my plane while we were taxiing but didn’t catch it on the train.

I walked to Terminal 2D remarking along the way how nice an airport CDG is. I then walked to the easyJet section where I finished my croissant and tried to finish most of my drink before heading through security. I then went through security, found my gate and sat at it.

There, I got things organized and put my contacts back in before getting up to double check I was at the correct gate; I was. Once back I wrote to this point, looked through the the free Paris Worldwide magazine I’d procured before getting up to board. Unfortunately I had to check my bag at the gate, but, I got to fulfill a lifelong goal, board plane by stairs from the tarmac!

IMG_8576Boarding the easyJet A320 from the tarmac at CDG

On top of that, we got on at the back, which was good for me because I was, as it turns out, seated in the very last row, middle seat. I was a little bummed by this but the woman -Victoria- on the aisle was very friendly and we chatted for a bit before takeoff. Apparently she was there as part of a bachelorette party that was also headed to the Grand Prix.

CDG to NCE via easyJet A320 (1hr 35min)

The flight left Paris at 3:20pm. Though it was turbulent intermittently throughout the flight, I took a nap. I was so tired having basically not slept since Wednesday night and I was still in my same clothes and felt gross and it seemed like it was still Thursday.

Eventually we touched down, quite hard I might add, and this time disembarked from the rear.

NCE to Gare de Nice-Ville via 99 Bus (25 min)

I arrived at Nice Côte d’Azur International Airport at 4:55pm. Once inside, I found my baggage carousel (there were only like three of them… it’s a tiny airport) and my luggage soon arrived.

IMG_8579Nice Côte d’Azur International Airport

I then tried using the airport’s Wi-Fi to message Beatrice, my Air BnB host, via the Air BnB site. But, no matter what I did, it didn’t work. I then put that on hold to find the stop for the 99 Bus which would take me to the center of Nice. I asked a worker where to find it and in his broken english, he told me where to go.

Once I got to the platform however, I saw a sign that said I needed to purchase the ticket in the terminal. So I walked back into the airport and got my bus ticket. I then walked back to the platform where I once again tried to message Beatrice.

I found one of her messages in my Gmail and it had her phone number in it. I texted her and shortly after, the bus came. Eventually, while on the bus, I got a response that she would be waiting for me when I got to her place.

Gare de Nice-Ville to Air BnB on foot (10 min)

The bus dropped off a bit further away from the station than I expected but luckily with a combination for pre-trip Google-mapping and the directions she had written me, I was easily able to find her place.

IMG_8581Gare de Nice Ville

When I arrived (at around 6:15pm) however, I didn’t know which doorbell to ring. As fate would have it, one of her (I’m assuming) neighbors was outside the building, saw me and let me in. He told me to take the elevator to the top floor, go up the extra flight and she’d be waiting for me. And, just as he foretold, she was.

Air BnB

Beatrice showed me everything I needed to know about the room, then left. I immediately took a shower, got changed, got my things together and headed for the train station.

Gare de Nice-Ville to Gare de Monaco-Monte-Carlo via train (30 min)

I had a bit of trouble figuring out the ticket vending machine but luckily one of the attendants spoke english and taught me how to do it. Next I walked to the platforms, the only problem was that I didn’t know which platform my train would arrive on. The ticket didn’t tell me and I didn’t see any signs on the platform.

Eventually I found a departure board, but, since Monaco was not the final destination of the train I needed, the departure board wasn’t very helpful. However, I eventually realized that regardless of the final destination, I knew when my train was supposed to leave. So I saw the one that matched and went to the station to catch the 7:25pm to Monaco.

Monaco

I arrived in Monaco at ~8pm. I followed the crowd up the escalators, through the shops, up the elevator and out the main entrance of Gare de Monaco-Monte-Carlo. Despite spoiling it for myself a bit via Google maps, basically nothing could have prepared me for the site I was not faced with. Monaco was immediately stunning.

IMG_8589The first thing you see upon exiting Gare de Monaco-Monte-Carlo

Being that I’d never been there before, I didn’t really know where to go so I followed the road that headed downhill and winded through the mountains. Eventually I got to the bottom where I found myself at the final corner of the circuit.

I followed the groups of people and ended up walking down the port area that runs alongside the team paddocks. I had seen a YouTube video which featured a woman who had an all access pass for the various tribunes. In it she walked past this area but I assumed one needed tickets to access it. However, because people need to be able to get to their yachts, it’s open to everyone.

IMG_8596Panorama of Port Hercules with the Grandstands and mountains in the background

180 degrees behind me were the paddocks for all of the F1 teams. Despite the fact that there was a fence, I was again amazed at how close we were allowed to get. After walking all the way to the end of the port, I turned around and made my way back to the main road where I then began to walk the track.

IMG_8604McLaren paddock

There was a security checkpoint and then you were in the party. The famous restaurant La Rascasse, for which the second to last corner is named, was bumpin’. It was a full on party filled with models and dancers and women on stilts.

Though it was on my list of things to see, I couldn’t tell if there was a line to get in. If so I couldn’t work out where it started. Plus I was so overwhelmed with all of the things I wanted to get done on this first night, that I decided to keep moving.

IMG_8609La Rascasse

After moving past all of the distractions, I began my reverse walk of the track. To my left was the elevated pit-lane and makeshift restaurants. There were DJs posted up on stands. To my right was the Grandstands and beyond that, Port Hercules.

I passed a stand that had a beer and slice of pizza combo for 10 Euro. However, again, because I was in the frenzy of trying to take everything in, I didn’t allow myself to pause for even a moment for a sustenance break. Besides I had plans to try and get dinner at a little cafe or something. Little did I know what a bad decision this would end up being.

IMG_8613The track; all of the aforementioned debauchery is taking place behind me

I passed la piscine (the pool) and continued onwards to turn 12. As I rounded the corner I continued to walk past all of the yachts to my right. The one that stood out was the Williams Martini Racing yacht painted in the Martini Racing livery.

Not that it was any bigger or more glamorous than any of the other enormous boats parked next to it, but merely the fact that it was right there parked amongst all of the “regular” rich people’s yachts.

That’s the cool thing about this GP, because it takes place within the confines of a small city, everyone is forced to share the same space. Thus, your odds of running into someone famous (though I didn’t) are actually pretty high.

As I continued up towards, and eventually past the Yacht Club de Monaco, I saw two pretty cool cars. The first was a BMW Z8, not extremely exotic, but somewhat rare. The second was a McLaren 720S. Being that this car is only about a year old, it was cool to finally see one in person.

Both of these were casually street parked along the metal barricade that divided the sidewalk from the circuit as casually as you’d see a VW Golf. Soon after, I made my way through the famous tunnel that runs beneath the Fairmont Hotel. It was crazy to finally be in a place I’d seen in so many videos and thought about visiting for years.

Exiting, I rounded the corner, walked under the overpass, (passing a silver Lamborghini Huracan along the way) up the hill and to the left to the famous “Lowes” hairpin. This is another iconic section of this track that I’d dreamt of visiting.

IMG_8620The “Lowes” Hairpin

Behind me was the Fairmont Hotel. In years past when I toyed with the idea of going, I saw track facing balcony rooms going for as much as $30,000 a night during the race weekend!

The parking lot out front was filled with a toy store of dream cars. Things from a Ferrari 458 Spider to a Lamborghini Aventador to a Ferrari 812 Superfast. My favorite however was the understated 50s era Porsche Convertible. This car was less vulgar and much classier than the others.

I continued to make my way up the hill, stopping to walk through this garden/park area before emerging in Casino Square.

IMG_8633Casino de Monte-Carlo

There I was greeted by the Cafe de Paris. Despite the prices on the menu, my plan was to grab dinner there. However, despite being let in (after passing through yet another security checkpoint) and looking at a menu, I was told that a table for one would not be open until 11pm. It was only around 9:20 and I was not about to wait around just to spend too much on food.

I continued through Casino Square, which also had some fabulous cars on display, a headed over to Les Pavillons Monte-Carlo. Les Pavillons Monte-Carlo are a group of shops that together look like eggs or the Sydney Opera House or Spaceship Earth at Epcot or some combination of the three.

IMG_8637Les Pavillons Monte-Carlo

All of these boutiques are high end brands (that I’ve never heard of before) for things like clothing, purses and shoes. The store were closed but it was cool just to look at them. It felt a bit like a theme park or something.

I then walked up a road, up some stairs and looked back at Les Pavillons and Casino de Monte-Carlo. Cut to a montage of me walking up more stairs, and though the city. I was looking for any sort of restaurant that might be open. Eventually I did find a pizza place but they were closing as I got there.

On the way back to the station I got lost, but after asking several friendly strangers who amazingly spoke English, I was able to find may way back.

Gare de Monaco-Monte-Carlo to Gare de Nice-Ville via train (30 min)

I was very hungry having not stopped for food when I had the chance, so I decided to hit up one of the vending machines on the train platform.

Unfortunately, unlike the ones that work flawlessly in Japan, this machine ate my money… twice. I was out 6 Euro, was bummed… and still hungry. Defeated, I sat on the platform and waited for the train.

While I was waiting, an older woman whom I’d spoken too while trying to figure out the vending machine came over and chatted me up. She and her husband were from Calgary, Canada, though originally from Manchester, England. She told me all about their trip and I told her about mine.

Eventually the train arrived and I took the 10:35pm back to Nice, chatting with her (Janet) and her husband Gareth the whole way.

Gare de Nice-Ville to Air BnB on foot (10 min)

I got back to Nice a little after 11pm. On the way back to my Air BnB I hoped there might be a restaurant or pub that was still open. As luck would have it there was a grocery store, and being that it was a French grocery store, everything looked great.

I grabbed a sandwich, a croissant and an Orangina (my drink of choice while in France) and headed back to the Air BnB. There I ate my dinner and then, exhausted, went to bed.

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New York to Paris to Nice

Thursday – May 24th – Day 0

After months of planning/waiting, the day had finally come for my grand European vacation.

Red Hook to JFK via Subway and Air Train (1hr 30min)

IMG_8534Emirates A380 coming in for a landing at JFK as seen from the (A) train

I left work at 6pm and walked to the Carroll St Station (6:20pm). There I took the (G) to Hoyt-Schermerhorn where I switched to the (A). I took a crowded (A) train to Howard Beach/JFK, along the way seeing an Emirates A380 coming in for a landing. At Howard Beach I switched to the Air Train and took it to Terminal 5.

JFK

I arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport at ~7:30pm. My initial plan was to go to Terminal 5 and explore the TWA Building, just because it’s cool. However, upon arriving at the Terminal 5 station, I noticed that they were doing construction. Apparently they are turning it into The TWA Hotel… which looks like it’s going to be dope.

IMG_8536TWA Building as seen from the AirTrain

Defeated, I took the Air Train back to Terminal 1 where I got off and did self check-in at the Norwegian Airlines kiosk. I then went through security where, upon coming through on the other side, I almost forgot my laptop. Thankfully security allowed me to run back in and get it.

After getting my shoes back on and putting everything where it needed to be, I walked to my gate. To my surprise, the section of the terminal I was in was really shitty. There were barely any food places, the seating area was unorganized and there was no good place to line up to board your plan. A perfect case study for urban planning or whatever.

I walked around to the other section with the other gates but it was equally crappy. The only positive to the other side was that there you could at least see the plane you were about to board (planes included both an Air France and a Korean Airlines A380!). I couldn’t even see my Norwegian 787. Bummed, I called my sister and we chatted for a short while.

After that, I went in search of food. I was going to get a crappy sandwich at one of the no name vendors but they wanted $14 for it so I was like eff that. I ended up getting a substantially better sandwich at Starbucks for, to my surprise, less money. I then chilled for a bit and, as I’ve recently come accustom, tried to get at the very end of the line to board last so that I’d spend as little time on the plane (while it wasn’t moving) as possible.

JFK to CDG via Norwegian Airlines B787 (~6 hours)

Once on the plane I was happy to find I was assigned a window seat. I was sat next to an older French couple who spoke little english as I would later find out. The plane pushed back from the gate at 10:05pm EST. As it was taxiing to the runway, the IFE was active. Surprised, I watched an episode of Family Guy all the way to takeoff.

We started off by flying over Long Island before heading north over CT, MA and then the Atlantic. Knowing it was on the IFE (having checked online a month or so ago) I decided to watch The Shape of Water. It was good to be able to see it again, but they edited it as if it were on cable TV, which was lame.

After the movie I ate the rest of my sandwich before getting up to get a drink. Norwegian is so low-cost, not only do they not provide a meal for you, they don’t even provide a snack or a drink, including water! I had to get up and go to the back of the plane to ask the flight attendant for a small cup.

I then slept for 2 hours. When I woke up I watched an episode of The Big Bang Theory then wrote to this point in my notebook. After writing, I read some of the latest issue of Time Out Magazine, watched some TV Shows and before I knew it, we were over Paris. In the distance I could see La Tour Eiffel!

cont’d on next post

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Rainy Day Adventure

Despite the fact that I knew it was supposed to rain today, I wanted to make the most of it and go on an adventure. I figured that since it was going to be crappy out, I’d do an indoor activity.

I woke up at ~7:20 and got ready for the day. I decided that I’d go to The Met first thing in the morning to avoid a crowd. Unfortunately, everyone else in New York had the exact same idea. I left my apartment at 8:55 and when I arrived at The Met at 9:55 (it opens at 10), the line was down the front steps and down the sidewalk.

IMG_8509Saw this on the way to the exhibit

I got in the line, but to my left, noticed that there was a much smaller line for this little side entrance. Intrigued, I decided to give it a shot. Shortly after, I noticed that the sign said that this was for groups only. Worried I had made a big mistake I started to scheme, feign ignorance upon entry.

Once in the doors I found that no one was checking if you were in a group. On top of that, though there was a line for people with bags -I had my backpack- no one stopped me. Good thing I didn’t have a bomb!

IMG_8514Found this in the Asian art section; saw one exactly like it at a museum in Melbourne, oh deer

I passed all of the sheeple and went to a kiosk. Using my membership card, I had my free ticket in a flash. I then breezed through one of the galleries on my way to the coat check. A worker stopped me to check I had a ticket (bet you thought I didn’t you douchebag) and told me to take off may backpack (yes sir… douchebag).

Luckily no one was at coat check so I got my bag checked by a nice man who commented on my Luke Skywalker Lego Mini-Fig keychain on my backpack. We then had a micro conversation about the show The Toys That Made Us before I bolted to the Public Parks, Private Gardens Paris to Provence exhibit.

IMG_8516The America Wing, one of my favorite parts of The Met

Exposition, exposition, I ended up staying until 2; a total of 4 hours! I did not plan on hanging out that long, but I ended up finding some hidden nooks and crannies of the museum I had never been to before and I got a much better mental map of how things, specifically the things I like, are laid out.

Got my backpack, left the museum, hopped the (6) to 51st street, transferred to the (E) and got off at Court Square (Queens). I roamed around a bit and after a quick Google map redirect, headed in the correct direction. Along the way to my 2nd destination I passed a chicken place. I was very hungry so I made a mental note to hit it on the way back.

Shortly after passing the chicken place I reached my destination 24-10 44th Ave. This seemingly unassuming auto-body shop was the location of Luftwaffe Automotive, the fictional(?) auto-body shop featured in the 2007 Wes Anderson film The Darjeeling Limited (which I recently rewatched).

IMG_8521“Luftwaffe Automotive” from The Darjeeling Limited

After basking in it’s glory for a bit I made my way back to the chicken place and got some food. I sat and ate for a bit but wasn’t able to finish my food. I asked the guy for a box and he said, yeah, bring your food up here, I’ll box it up for you. This was a feat I could have accomplished on my own but was a very nice gesture. He then joked with me about how his wife is the same way with her leftovers.

Afterwards I left and got on back on the (E). I took it to 42nd St where I switched to the (R) (I think) and took that to Prince Street. I walked to 23 Prince and arrived at my 3rd destination, Filipacchi. I went there specifically to check out the Ural motorcycles I knew they carried.

Upon entering, the first thing that stood out is that the handle to their glass door is the butt of a Beretta or some hand gun. The second thing I noticed was that this was one of the coolest stores in Soho. They carry everything from motorcycles, to gear to boosted boards to off-road skateboards to one wheels… .

IMG_8523Ural motorcycle with sidecar

I walked around for a bit (I also learned about Cleveland Cyclewerks, which they also carry) and eventually got to chatting with one of the associates. He invited me to sit on the Ural and told me all about it. Apparently it has a parking brake, a reverse gear (unheard of on most motorcycles, but this one has a sidecar… so…) and 2 wheel drive! He pointed out the drive shaft that connects the rear driven wheel of the motorcycle to the wheel of the sidecar. This blew my mind.

After hanging out for a bit and eventually even chatting with the manager, I learned that they occasionally do demo drives (apparently Ural had just hosted one last weekend or something) and they invited me to stop by some time for a test drive! I think I need to do a bit of a refresher course before I feel comfortable enough to do that but it’s good to know. Reading Hells Angels by Hunter Thompson has really gotten me to want to get on a motorcycle again.

After finishing my conversation, I made my way to my 4th and final stop. I took the (6) to Chambers St where I switched to the (J) and took it to Myrtle. From there I walked to 123 Melrose St. This is the address of a new housing development that is being built. I entered a lottery to possibly move in once it’s finished, though I did just sign a two year lease on my current place.

IMG_8525Flushing Ave Station – (J) train

The place looks really cool and I’d love to take a tour of the building once it’s finished. After a walk around I made my way back to the (J) and took it to Lorimer where I switched to the (G) at Broadway and took it to Fulton. From there I switched one last time time to the (5) at Atlantic Ave and took it back to my apartment. I got back at ~6:30, not a bad day.

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Epic Bike Ride or How I Ended Up In The Bronx

This morning I woke up and sprung to action, making a list of all of the things I wanted to accomplish and setting to accomplishing them. After getting showered and dressed and brushing my teeth, I decided to embark on a bike ride.

I really only had two things I wanted to hit on the ride and I knew if I put it off for any reason, it wouldn’t happen. The weather was 55 degrees which is perfect, nearly. A little chilly, enough for a light hoodie. You’re a bit cold but the energy you exert ends up keeping you warm without making you sweaty.

11:30am to 12:00pm – Apartment to 188 Prospect Park East

I’ve known for quite some time that the esteemed Nighthawk Cinema is planning on opening a second location on the East side of Prospect Park. It is set to claim the location once held by the now defunct Pavilion Theater.

I rode the route I thought was correct based on the Google Maps search I’d done just before leaving my apartment. However, a cursory glance lead to slight miscalculation on my part which made me re-route and, on take two, I arrived at the work sight flawlessly.

IMG_8394The Pavilion Theater, soon to be Nighthawk Prospect Park

The site, at least from the facade, was much less far along than I thought it would be. I thought they had said it was supposed to open in the spring, but I might be making that up. It’s no rush, I’m just excited to see it as it’s closer to me than their Williamsburg location, which, though I’ve been too and looked at from the outside, have yet to see a movie there.

After taking a few pictures of the marquee, I headed to destination number two.

12:05pm to 12:25pm – Prospect Park to Domino Sugar Park (Williamsburg)

My next destination was the Domino Sugar Park. Technically my destination was the park right next to it, as this park is still under construction. I first read about this park in an issue of Time Out magazine.

IMG_8395Panorama of the Williamsburg Bridge and the Manhattan skyline from Grand Ferry Park

This too I had thought was set to open in the spring or in May, but according to an article I read on my phone while sitting on a bench in Grand Ferry Park (the adjacent park), it is set to open in June.

After resting and chilling on the bench for a bit, I headed to destination number 3.

12:35pm to 1:10pm – Williamsburg to Long Island City via Greenpoint and the Pulaski Bridge

I hopped back onto my bike and into the Kent Ave bike lane, making my way through  Greenpoint and briefly stopping at the Manhattan Avenue Park before taking the Pulaski Bridge into Long Island City (Queens).

It had been a long time since I had ridden over this bridge and to my surprise I found that they had added Jersey Barrier to block off the far lane to dedicate it to a bike path. I thought this was a great way to separate the cyclists from the pedestrians and to decrease congestion.

I rode around trying to find the same street I’d taken on the 4th of July to view the fireworks. I rode to the north end of Center Blvd and dismounted my bike to sit on a more posh and shadier (it was more in the shade, not sketchier) bench.

IMG_8397View from shady bench

Eventually I got back on my bike and rode along the waterfront, passing the iconic LIC Pepsi Cola sign, to Hunter’s Point South Park. This is my favorite spot in Long Island City and is one of the places I used to bring my students when I was an instructor for Bike New York.

After hanging out in the park for a bit I made a few laps up and down Center Blvd trying to find the exact street from which I view the fireworks on the 4th of July. When I was satisfied that I’d found the correct street (of which I am still not 100% certain), I headed to destination number 4.

?  – ? – Long Island city to Randell’s Island via Astoria and the RFK Bridge

I rode up to Vernon Blvd retaking the path I rode with my Bike NY students underneath the 59th Street/Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge and through Queensbridge Park. I popped out the other side and back onto the bike lane.

I took it passed the Roosevelt Island Bridge where I paused to leave my co-worker Jonathan, who lives on Roosevelt Island, a voicemail. I also took a pic of a Mercedes Maybach because, wtf are you doing in Queens?

IMG_8403Mercedes Maybach in Queens

I continued down Vernon Blvd, rode through Rainey Park (another spot from my Bike NY days), passed the Socrates Sculpture Park and through the Hallets Point (projects) waterfront bike path.

I made my way through Astoria to Astoria Park. I then rode through the park to the pedestrian entrance of the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge. I had driven, or rather been driven on the RFK Bridge while on the bus to or from New York but had never traversed it under my own power.

It reminded me of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It is much higher than the three bridges that connect Brooklyn to Manhattan and is significantly longer. However, the ride down the ramp from the bridge to Randell’s Island is a worthy payoff.

? – ? – Randell’s Island to The Bronx

Once on Randell’s Island I continued north and made my way onto the Central Road/Randell’s Island Connector bike path. This lead me, inadvertently, into The Bronx. I had no idea I’d gone over a small bridge and into my third borough of the day.

? – ? – The Bronx to Central Park via the Madison Avenue Bridge

I exited the bike path onto E 132nd Street, passed Pier 132 (not an actual pier) and took my first right onto Willow Ave. I rode up to E 138th Street and took a left onto 138th to head West. After passing the Cypress Ave subway station, I took a few minutes to get my bearings.

I eventually continued on 138th street and crossed the Harlem River via the Madison Avenue Bridge into Manhattan; my fourth borough of the day. I continued west on 138th until I reached Malcom X Blvd where I turned and headed south. I knew that this would lead me right to the 110th Street entrance of Central Park.

? – ? – Central Park to President (bodega) via the Williamsburg Bridge

As I was approaching the entrance I briefly considered taking Central Park West and avoiding the crowded park. However, knowing that most of my ride through Manhattan would consist of few turns and essentially be filled with long straight stretches, I decided to take the scenic route.

After emerging at the Columbus Circle exit, I went around the rotary and headed south on Broadway before cutting over to 9th Ave. I took 9th all the way down to 14th where I cut over to 2nd Ave.

While on 14th Street I came across a bus that was starting to pull away from the curb. Standing in the street between the sidewalk and the bus was a tiny older woman with an oxygen tube in her nose. She was waving at the bus driver to open his door and let her in, but she was too small for him to see.

Defeated, she made her way back to the sidewalk to wait for the next bus. Seeing this, I caught up to the bus and waved and yelled to get the driver’s attention before he pulled away from the curb. To my amazement, he saw me and opened his door.

“There’s an older woman who wants to get on the bus,” I said to the driver, “can you wait for her?” A little confused, the driver nodded. I yelled back to the woman, “Ma’am, the bus is waiting for you, you can come back.” Eventually she heard me and slowly shuffled back to the bus. The driver said to me, “I thought you were yelling at me because I was gonna hit you or something. Thanks for doing that, that was great. You’re awesome man!”

I was really happy to have helped this woman and that I got such a positive reaction from the driver. It’s moments like this that give me faith in people. We gave each other thumbs up and I rode on.

I took 2nd Ave all the way down to Houston, across Houston and onto Chrystie Street then left onto Delancey and then onto the Williamsburg Bridge.

I slowly made my way up the Williamsburg, and, as expected, my legs began to cramp. I had by that point done at least 25 miles with essentially no breaks and no food besides my small breakfast. I barely made it to the top and, once I did, dismounted my bike to give my legs a break.

I stood to the side of the bike path and let my legs stretch out. I must have looked like a winded wuss who couldn’t even handle a relatively easy climb. I literally could not move my legs. I was in so much pain and the cramps were so bad that there was nothing I could do but stand still.

After a few minutes it subsided and I decided to punk out and ride back down. I could hop on the (F) at Delancey/Essex and take it to Carroll Gardens. I mounted my bike again and began the downhill. As I rode, I got a second wind. I didn’t want to bring my bike with me on a crowded train. I didn’t want to punk out. I had come so far under my own #PedalPower, I could survive another 5 or 10 miles.

I turned around yet again and, struggling, made my way over the crest of the bridge, down the other side and back into Brooklyn. At the bottom I turned around and made my way back to the waterfront and to the Kent Ave bike lane. I made my way out to Franklin Ave and took a right on Dekalb Ave towards Downtown Brooklyn.

I passed Fort Greene Park and eventually took a right onto the Fulton Street Mall. I took a left onto Smith, a right onto Schermerhorn and a left onto Court. I rode down Court for a bit before going right onto Sackett before eventually taking a left onto Columbia and arriving at President bodega.

? – 5:00pm – President (bodega) to Red Hook Crit

Because I didn’t have my lock with me, I took my bike into the bodega. I figured they wouldn’t mind and, as expected, no one said a word about it. I ordered an Italian Sub and grabbed an Arizona Ice Tea from the fridge. After my $10 transaction, I took the short ride to the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal in Red Hook.

I followed some other cyclists to the Red Hook Crit, a foot and bike race two of my coworkers had told me about. I was due to meet one of them at 4:30pm but by the time I got there, set aside my bike and found a loading dock to sit on, it was a little after 5pm.

I called my buddy Darryl and found out that he wasn’t there yet. Even when I’m late to things I’m early. Good thing I didn’t rush to get there by 4:30. I sat on the dock, ate half my sandwich and drank some of my drink. Eventually I got up and walked around a little bit.

The day, which had started out chilly and had gotten warmer was now getting cold again. The sun was going down and clouds were rolling in. I was exhausted but I wanted to meet up with Darryl since I’d already come all this way. I looked at my phone, it was 6:13pm. I decided that if he wasn’t there in two minutes, I was gonna bounce.

Moments later I looked over and there was Darryl and his girlfriend Jess, riding over to greet me. I told them this story which you’ve now read and that I was cold so I was going to need to leave. After hugging both of them, I headed back to my apartment.

6:15 to ~7:00pm – Red Hook Crit back to my Apartment

I took the half hour or so ride through a dark and chilly Prospect Park. I returned home with a sunburn and bloodshot eyes. My lips were chapped from dehydration, my neck was sore and my legs were shot. I had survived a seven and a half hour day out on my bike.

The first half, the adventure part, the way there, all the way up to the point where I got to The Bronx, that part was cool. It was the whole ride back bit, particularly the Williamsburg Bridge that killed me and was less fun.

EpicRideA rough idea of my route starting at the bottom right and ending at the bottom left

I learned to always wear suntan lotion and a hat (that’s what you bought it for dummy) and to maybe stop for more breaks or for food. That said, I’m proud of myself for pushing through the pain and not punking out and taking the subway. My trip totaled somewhere between 35 and 40 miles. Tomorrow will be low key.

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