London

For the most part I threw out my travel plan on London when I got here. I was never really happy with my London research. Thankfully London is full of things to do and what I came up with as I went was much better (patching things in production D: ). Also, compared to Iceland, London is incredibly affordable.

England loves their monarchy. I’ve had a crash history lesson on who killed who and why this week.

I spent all day Sunday at the Tower of London. I arrived after some light The Underground navigation and crossing London Bridge and joined a Yeoman tour. The yeoman was a great story teller and made the history of London tower entertaining and memorable. After the tour I saw the crown jewels. They’re stored in a giant walk through vault that we had to enter to view them. We weren’t allowed to take pictures, but they were very shiny.

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Then I went to see the white tower, which was the original tower of London. More than once I noticed connections between the stories told and the Game of Thrones or Wheel of Time.

That night I took the Underground across town to eat at a British restaurant I had looked up. It was called MotherMash, and I had Cheesy mashed potatoes with sausage and onion gravy. It was the best. I went back a few times… also sticky toffee pudding.

Monday I found out I was near ground zero of some Americans exercising their right to free speech and peaceful protest. Facebook was furious. It was the NFL game in London.

I went to see the millennium bridge and Trafalgar square.

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It turns out the British National Gallery was at Trafalgar  square as well, so I stopped in. The highlights were some Monet paintings and a Michelangelo/Leonardo/ Raphael exhibit.

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On the way home I passed Buckingham palace. I also went to go see the new Kingsman movie.

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Tuesday I took a tour of the Parliament building and learned about some of the traditions they have. Sadly no pictures, but they showed us where the House of Lords and House of Commons debate and explained how the Parliament functioned. I was pleased the tour guide asked if I was a local.

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Then I went on a Jack the Ripper tour and learned about his murderous rampage and toured the East end. Aside from the murder stories, the biggest take away was how much London has developed and changed in the last 100 years.

Wednesday I went to Stonehenge and Bath. Stone henge was interesting. They don’t know what it was used for. Bath is a small city west of London that had a few interesting things to see. Most noticeably all the buildings were the same color.

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Thursday I went to see Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical, School of Rock. It wasn’t quite as good as the movie but it was still good. The kids in the musical actually played the instruments in the musical, and at the end the pit orchestra left their seats to watch the kids performance.

 

After dinner I went to see the London Eye, and walked by parliament again before heading home.

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In high school part of my job was to run a Giant Ferris Wheel… I could totally operate the London Eye. I’m trying not to get thrown out though.

Friday I took a train down to Paris. Paris is one of the places I’ve been to before. Last time was 17 years ago with my friends Bruce, Meryl, and Kate, among others. Back then they used the Frank instead of the euro, and you had to get those before you left because atms might not work with American cards. Things are way easier now.

The train experience was almost as eventful as the first one. The train there was fine though. I went to see the Cathedral of Notre dame, had some tasty street food, went on a river cruise, and went to the top of the Eiffel tower. The Eiffel tower took longer than expected with a lot of waiting in line. It had way more security than I remember it having back in 2000 which was sad to see. The whole thing was fenced off this time. Afterward I ate dinner and returned to the train station.

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That’s when I found out “a signaling issue in the euro-tunnel” was causing “massive delays”. It turns out that after over two hours of standing around, not knowing if I’d be stuck in Paris without luggage, I won the train lottery. They cancelled all the trains scheduled to go from Paris to London before and after my train but not mine.

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Saturday I went to see Wembley stratum. Then while looking for lunch in a completely different part of the city i stumbled upon a NFL block party. Dan Marino was there and the Lombardi trophy was there. There was a huge line to see it. Thankfully I know a place back home where I can see six of them. Dan Marino likes to speak there as well.

 

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I’ve posted the rest of my London pictures here: London.

I’ve been traveling for a month!

Some things:

  • I feel I’ve been exceptionally prepared for extended travel luggage wise. It may be some of the best planning I’ve ever done. It’s been a successful proof of concept up to this point. I’ll have to see how things go in warmer weather.
  • I am very dependent on Google and Google maps. Thanks to Google I’m able to find interesting things to see and eat all around me, and then navigate to them. I’m also a subway wizard but that’s due to spending time in NYC. I could probably get around without Google by asking for directions but Google makes everything so easy.
  • I should have enough passport pages without requesting more from an embassy.
  • Speaking of embassies, three of my hostels were less than a block away from KFCs.
  • So far I’ve lost a usb cable, a glove and a hat. It was my favorite hat.
  • Stomach bugs are the worst. I was pretty much down for two weeks. I didn’t really see as much of Vienna or Warsaw as I had wanted.

Iceland

I’ve posted more pictures from Iceland here:

Gullfoss, Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss waterfalls, Þingvellir natonal park, the blue lagoon, and Geysir. Also unexpected Game of Thrones.

Iceland has about 330,000 people living in it, but received 4.4 million visitors in 2014. It seems widely accepted that the 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajökull which disrupted air traffic between the US and Europe were the start of the tourism increase.

Iceland is expensive. I’ve budgeted about 50% more for Iceland than anywhere else I’m visiting, and that turned out to be about right. That includes food, museums, and a replacement hat and gloves. I also had the unexpected expense of renting a car. Since things are so expensive here, I’ve figured out a few cheap places to eat. I can get a $10 pizza and $15 dollar Thai fried rice. I’ve also had more pork ribs than usual, mostly due to their proximity. The bottom line is, I’ve given up on eating Icelandic foods for the most part. I did have a hot dog that was made popular by Bill Clinton. It was very good.

The weather this week was not great. It rained almost every day, kind of like being home in Pittsburgh. It was also cold. I was slightly under dressed for the weather, but I could only pack so much in one backpack, and most of the places I’m visiting will be warmer.

I started in Iceland by visiting Þingvellir national park. It had some unexpected Game of Thrones, apparently a few scenes were filmed there between Arya and the Hound and their adventures.

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It’s also the edge of the North American tectonic plate. Our plate ends in a cliff and meets the lower Eurasian plate.

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And it had a very nice waterfall

 

 

Next I went on a two hour horseback ride plus a bus tour. I’m new to horses, I’ve only ridden them once in Montana. If you’re on a horseback riding tour and they give you the option to be in the fast group or the slow group, the correct answer is the slow group. I picked the fast group. Everything ended up fine but I was worried for a few minutes. This was my horse, Gift. It was way easier than my Montana horse.

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I met a couple from Pittsburgh from Regent Square on the tour, and a girl from Florida from Buffalo, and a retired hand surgeon from Japan who trained in the US.

We all went to see the Golden Waterfall and later nearby Geysers. Pictures won’t really do them justice.

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Finally we saw a Geyser which erupted every 4-8 minutes. Having seen Old Faithful, it was significantly smaller and not as much of a show, but still fascinating.

The next day I went on a walking tour of Reykjavik. We learned about much of Iceland’s viking history and recent history. I was supposed to try to see the northern lights but it was too cloudy.

I followed that up with a day at the Blue Lagoon. It was about 50 degrees outside but the water was perfect. For some reason when I bought the ticket for this back in April I picked the expensive option, so I got flip flops and a robe, and a free drink among other things. I spent most of the day there before heading back.

Tuesday I stayed in Reykjavik. I stopped by the Hallgrimskirkja cathedral where someone was playing  the pipe organ, and I went to the glacier exhibit in the Perlan museum. Then after two cloudy night, I went on a northern lights tour. We were lucky and got to watch the northern lights for nearly two hours. It was an amazing thing to see. The pictures didn’t really come out, you just have to see them.

Wednesday I went whale watching but we saw no whales. The weather was rainy and cold, and the sea was rough, so I didn’t feel like doing much after that.

Thursday I ventured out into the world, about two hours away from Reykjavik, to see Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss, two waterfalls that were near each other. I was able to walk behind  Seljalandsfoss, and climb to the top of Skogafoss.

This was Skogafoss:

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This was Seljalandsfoss:

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It was an easy drive from Reykjavik.

Friday I took a tour of Harpa Concert Hall. It opened in 2011 and was designed so that the acoustics could be changed to reverberate or not depending on the performance. It turns out I had just missed the Iceland Symphony Orchestra perform last night.

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During a symphony performance, the red curtains would be raised to expose the wooden panels. It seats 1600-1800 people in different seating configurations and stage sizes. They were setting up for an Ella Fitzgerald performance while we were there. There was also a reverberation room that surrounded the concert hall for extra reverberation if needed.

There were some things I missed in Iceland as well. There were some black sand beaches in Vik, which was close to one of the waterfalls I visited. I didn’t know about it at the time though. There are also glaciers to be seen that I missed, and pretty much everything in the East. I’m off to London tomorrow.

Warsaw

Land of Perogies. And lemonade? That was mostly what I ate in Warsaw.

These were meat perogies with bacon and onion gravy. I’m pretty sure the gravy part was just butter. It was delicious. I have to say though, I feel like the perogies in Pittsburgh are at least comparable. Pittsburgh has a big Polish population. I hadn’t heard of Perogies before coming to Pitt but I’m very familiar with them now.

Also everywhere had lemonade and some of those were pretty tasty as well.

I made it down to Warsaw’s Old Town.

Old Town was the site of some heavy fighting during the Polish Uprising in World War II. On the way I stumbled upon the tomb of the unknown soldier.

It’s guarded 24 hours a day, with hourly shift changes, much like ours in Washington DC.

I also saw the river walk, although the weather was rainy, so not a great day for it.

Then it was nap time. Still recovering from that stomach bug, so there was more napping than planned. The large amount of perogies helped as well.

Finally I was feeling better so I ubered over to the Uprising Museum.

The Warsaw Uprising was fascinating. I hadn’t heard of it before. Hundreds of thousands of civilians rose up to try to overthrow the German occupation. I highly recommend the Uprising Museum.

I met a lot of interesting people in Warsaw… Jackson from Vancouver who was there to teach English, Michael from Germany who is traveling for a year, and very friendly guy from the UK, where we lamented our respective counties political situations.

In other news a PSA, my identity was probably stolen, your too probably. Thanks Equifax. Now off to Iceland where I can hopefully return to action.

I’ve posted pictures from Warsaw here:

Oldtown, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, The Riverwalk, and the Uprising Museum

Prague

In Prague I was able to return to a more normal level of activity. We went to see the Old Town Square and the astrological clock and the Charles Bridge.

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We took a day trip to Český Krumlov, a small Czech town south of Prague. Going there we almost lost Nat due to some railroad construction and some miscommunication. On the way back our train was very late, and we almost missed our connection. I pick the best trains. Český Krumlov was very nice though.

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We spent a day exploring Prague Castle, and finally we went on a food tour which was delicious and very very filling. I’m having trouble getting pictures off my camera, I’ll need to add those when I fix my cable issues. Here’s a picture of a big rotating head statue though

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I’ve posted the pictures from Prague here:

Prague and our big train adventure

Vienna

I didn’t get to see as much as Vienna as I would have liked. We should have spent more time there. It was nice recovering in Austria though because they were making soft pretzels in the grocery store next to my hostel. We went to a beer garden and had some wienerschnitzel. Afterward we walked around the city and saw their biggest fountain.

Although I’ve seen bigger fountains…

We went to the music history museum which had a music science exhibit, the history of the Vienna Philharmonic, and history’s of Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, Handel, and others. It also had some really old instruments, like a box piano, a oboe and a flute.

Things I missed included the opera house which thankfully I had seen on a previous visit to Vienna. Then I hobbled off to Prague.

Budapest

Budapest started great and ended with what was probably food poisoning. I made it a disappointing 3 days without being food poisoned, and I’ve spent the last few days recovering.

I did make it to see the Chain Bridge where I was able to figure out how my camera worked.

I’m traveling with my friends Nat and Jen for the next two weeks. We went on an evening river cruise and met some great people from Chicago.

We had Lángos, a deep fried flatbread with sour cream, cheese, and bacon. I was sceptical but it was much better than it sounded.

Edit: Nat correctly pointed out that I’m unselling them, they were incredible.

On Tuesday we went to the thermal pools.

The one we went to had about 17 indoor and outdoor pools that were all naturally heated. Hungary was drilling for oil when they hit water instead.

Tuesday night is where I think things went awry for me. We settled on a not bad looking Hungarian restaurant. I had the Goulash, which is what I think got me.

That night we went to a riuns bar… I am not good at taking pictures it seems. It a number of bars built in abandon habitable buildings after World War II.

I went on a bike tour the next day even though I wasn’t feeling all that great.

I powered through it. Afterward I crossed the river on the chain bridge and took the incline up to meet Nat and Jen. That was the last thing I did in Budapest. Since then I’ve been fighting this stomach bug. We’re in Vienna now and had some things planed, but I may have to sit those out.

I’ve posted the pictures from Budapest here:

Photos from Budapest

Packing

It turns out everything came to 23lbs, so I’ll have to see how that goes. Thankfully everything fits with a little bit of room to spare. The first most important thing to do today is getting a Currito burrito from the Pittsburgh Airport. Its a very tasty chicken tikka masala burrito that for some reason beyond explanation, is only available in the airport. The result is that its usually the last food I eat before I leave Pittsburgh and the first food I eat when I come back.

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Literally traveling around the world

I’ve planned a 155 day trip around the world, leaving Pittsburgh on August 26th and returning on January 25th. Most places I’m staying 7-10 days and I’m planning on taking only a small backpack that weighs under 20lbs. Some highlights include the Blue Lagoon in Iceland, a Thailand national park, day trips to Paris and Mt. Fiji, a Robot dinner show in Tokyo, and Volcano National Park in Hawaii.

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