Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Altercation aka Emily Goes to the Tour de France


In the spirit of memento, and dane cook, I would like to start this story out from the end.

So, then the old french lady goes: "well, why don't you just KILL ME?"

ok, now let's REWIND.

Saturday the weather was terrible, but we went to disney anyways minus sara's sick boyfriend. It was awesome. The rides were way better. I rode space mountain twice and almost puked. There were more loopity loops, a scarier haunted house, and the all time favorite, buzz lightyear's space blast which, for those of you who don’t know, is an interactive video game ride where you sit in a car that you can swizzle around so that you can shoot at various targets throughout the ride. There was also a swinging bridge which i promptly stepped on and fell/slid/caught myself by one arm tryingto bounce across. This french guy held his hand out about a second after i fell, as if he was trying to catch me, but didn't and i almost yanked my arm out of the socket. good times. good times. Anyways, after 9 hours of Disney i was worn out and more than a little nauseated. I went to dinner with Nanda and our other friend Diana and then went to bed.

Sunday was the TOUR!!!! Since it was raining and nasty, I met sara late after having breakfast at the breakfast in america restaurant. Then I had to change because no one told France that it’s July and it was cold. Anyways, i roll in about 1230 to see sara, the recovered boyfriend and their other friend who's like 20 and makes me feel old. I stole sara away for some serious tour de france souvenir shopping and 65 euro later I was decked out. well, everything was big cause i got it for my dad, but i put it on anyways cause it was fun. So anyways, we're standing at the barrier and waiting and waiting and waiting and around 330, our friend tara shows up and she's got a chair so i got to sit down for a little while. well, then i notice that this old french woman is pressing up against me so hard that 1) she is pushing me off my seat and2) if she were a man, we are so close, that i would be having her babies in approximately nine months. so after about 10 minutes of this i say in french, excuse me madame, you are pushing me. and she mutters something back like, oh i just want to see. so i get up and move closer to the barrier and stand. well then she comes up behind me and starts pushing me again. so i start pushing back with almost as much force as i can muster just to maintain the space that i have because this is the strongest old lady ever. so she says, “oh c'est pas vrai (it's not true!) “ and i say OH C'EST VRAI! and the pushing continues for another twenty minutes while i mouth to my friends that apparently this woman does not think I will bring the pain if she tries to steal my spot to see the tour de france. Which i will because at this point i am livid. So after a little more jostling, she says, “just give me alittle bit of space (in english)” and I say (in what I realize is a perfect impression of my mother at her most furious)“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.”

So then we continue to push each other. This goes on for at least another 30 minutes, until I hit her with a nice elbow to the back, after she pushes me harder and she says in english, “stop pushing me”, at which point i turn around and unleash the FURY. I start screaming at her in English, "Listen, i have been waiting for FOUR hours and i am not moving an INCH, so you better stop pushing ME." so then she says, "no it is you who are pushing me" and then the guy next to me jumps in and yells at her, "well we've been here since 8 am and you pushed my wife too and IT NEEDS TO STOP."

so then the old french lady says, "Well, why don't you just KILL ME?"
A friend snapped a photo of me and the lady right before we throw down.

Anyways, after that she backed off and everything was fine. It was just strange, no one was even coming to take a picture of and no one else was pushing. Furthermore, if she’d just asked politely, I would’ve totally given in and scooted over. But here in France, we do things the hard way. However, I got to see everything and the teams even went by slowly for pictures.
Team Discovery!!!So it was cool. I loved it and I have three tshirts, a water bottle, a bag, a hat, a keychain, two magnets and some bracelets to commemorate the occasion.


Thursday, July 26, 2007

When in Rome...Make Bad Jokes...

Italy was absolutely amazing! It was one of my favorite places yet, and not just because our hostel was air conditioned and none of my travel mates snored. That pretty much would’ve made the trip great by itself, but there was much, much more to come. Friday, I got in late, checked in and met up with my fellow IMBA’s Matt and Jeff. We had a few drinks and then went to bed because Saturday was going to be a big day.
Saturday, I insisted we get up early and go to the Vatican. This turned out to be a good choice because it is actually only open from 845 to 145 and the line is about two hours long. After wandering around St. Peter’s square and taking pictures, we were quickly recruited into a tour group, the prime draw being that the tour guide would wait in line for us while we stood in the shade/ate pizza. Worth every penny.
Pinecone courtyard at the Vatican.
It was incredibly hot, even in the shade, and the poor boys were in jeans because of the strict have your knees, belly, and shoulders covered rule. But we had a great tour guide who took us through the Vatican museums and the Sistine chapel. My favorite part was the hall of maps leading up to the Sistine chapel. We also saw the sculpture that inspired Michelangelo. The Sistine chapel was a little bit of a let down because unlike most churches, it’s not quiet and relaxing. Instead, there are 1000 people herded into one room like cattle, staring at the ceiling and taking illicit pictures (some even with *gasp* flash). All the while guards are shouting, no talking, no pictures, no talking, no pictures. So, although it was amazing, especially the fresco of the second coming of Christ on the wall, it was a tad anti climactic. St. Peter’s basilica was amazing. We almost skipped it after a 3 hour tour on hard marble floors in 100 degree heat, but I am so glad we didn’t. It was huge and gorgeous, just like everything in Rome.
Afterwards, we all agreed that some gelato was in order. And let me tell you, you haven’t tasted the satisfaction that is gelato until you’ve had it in Rome on a hot day. It was soo tasty. We walked around and rested for awhile and then set out to see the collosseum and walk to San Giovanni church to meet another IMBA. Kavita. Well, despite’s Jeff’s claims that he knew where we were, (he later claimed to have been joking, but no one believes him) our sightseeing of the collosseum was followed by an hour of walking in a giant circle, no where near where we were supposed to be. Upon arriving back at the collosseum, I made the executive decision to take a taxi to wherever the church actually was, so that we could sit down and wait for Kavita. Even though we basically got ripped off by the cab driver, no one cared because we were so tired and hot and the cab was air conditioned. Dinner turned out to be authentic and wonderful. We literally had 7 appetizers and were astounded to hear that we still had four courses to go (my kind of meal). It was really really really good. But it lasted until almost midnight, we missed the last metro and took another cab which is where we discovered that cabs are cheap and we definitely got ripped off by the other guy. Oh well.
Sunday, we slept in a little and then hit Trevi fountain, the pantheon, and the collosseum again. The line for the collosseum was really long, so we decided not to go inside and get some lunch instead. Then I had to leave for the airport, but not before I found some gladiators to take a picture with. It was a great trip and I can’t wait to go back and explore more of Italy when there are less tourists and no heat wave.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Kickin' Back in Amsterdam

I apologize for the belated blogging. All this traveling has been wonderful, but it is wearing me out! Amsterdam was absolutely lovely. I went with my friends, Josh, Nanda and Tara to celebrate Josh’s birthday. We stayed at the Marriott instead of a hostel and it was the first real mattress that I’ve slept on since January, so I was pretty excited about that. I was also really proud of myself for managing the transportation system and getting to the hotel by myself to meet the other guys. Friday night, we all got in late, so we went and got some food and chilled out at a cafe.
Saturday was pretty action packed. We walked through the flower market. I bought some flower bulbs for my mom and my grandma, although my mom says she won’t share. Hopefully, I can get them back into the US, without having to wrestle them from the long arm of the law that is customs. We had a great breakfast of dutch pancakes which are basically crepes with fruit on them. You don’t fool me Holland. I know you stole those pancakes from the frenchies!
Then we did one of the most fun things ever…we rented paddle boats and explored the canals on our own. And by explored, I mean we got mostly lost, ran into walls, and boated down the wrong side of the canal. But enjoyed ourselves immensely besides a leaky boat, and in my case, a wet backside from a joy riding speedboat that cut too close to us and absolutely soaked me. Mmm dirty canal water. Ain’t nothin’ better.
Other than that, we mostly just hung out, did a little shopping and walked the entire city. Sunday was great as well, we went to the Hard Rock Cafe, which, although touristy and American, allowed me to have a real hamburger and the best chocolate milkshake I’ve had in ages. Then, I continued to wander the city.
This is one of the many crooked houses.
I saw the Anne Frank house and the line for the Anne Frank house and then decided that was good enough for me. Then I checked out the royal palace and Dam square. After that, I was content to continue wandering the city and taking my ten billionth picture of the canals. So, it was a low key trip with little to no tourist-ing, but it was wonderful to relax. More on my trip to Italy tomorrow. Stay tuned!

Monday, July 16, 2007


The medieval city of Carcassone was incredible. It is a UNESCO world heritage site and also one of the one thousand places to see before you die. I decided to go there after my dad sent me an email and told me to think about checking it out, to which I said, why not? The town is situated in the south of France, about an hour from Toulouse. I stayed at a hostel that was actually within the medieval city, so that was pretty exciting. The hostel was ok, in that I was not sleeping in the street and it was cheap. There was, however, a troupe of smelly bikers who apparently lacked the knowledge of how the flushing apparatus on a toilet worked. When you’re sharing two bathrooms among 50 some odd people, this is pretty pertinent information. I did meet a very nice American girl who walked around with me. We bonded over the fact that neither one of us would have to take pictures of ourselves with one arm extended. It was so much fun to run around the castle. It would’ve been even better had I been five and I could have reasonably purchased a plastic knight costume and a sword that made noises like it was being unsheathed or like you were battling someone to the death. Actually, I should have just bought the sword, so that I could’ve defended myself against getting repeatedly slapped with the plastic and rubber weapons of mass destruction that all the kids were beating me with as they ran by in their excitement to be in castle town.
In an effort to get out of the extremely hot weather, I ducked into the friendly, neighborhood torture museum. It was disturbing to say the least. A lot of the things I had seen before, but there were some different tools that are the stuff of nightmares. I think the moral of the story is, it was not good to be a heretic in medieval times.
That night, my new friend listened to a French lady sing jazz in the theatre and dined on a feast of cassoulet. Now, normal cassoulet is a regional concoction of beans, duck, sausage and bacon. But I opted for the special Carcassone edition which was made with lamb and pigeon. Yes, I ate pigeon. Apparently, you can opt out of the pigeon, but in a split second decision, I decided to go for it. Who knows why I do the things I do. The waiter told me that some people are “allergic” so that’s why they can take it out. Yes, I have to think allergic=no I do not want to eat your rat with wings, lady. Anyways, I took one bite and it was not good, and my tummy said, what the hell? I didn’t finish it and felt bad because the waitress yelled at me and told me she punishes people who don’t finish their food. Ah well.
Sunday, I went on a tour of the ramparts where I learned the fake story behind the name of Carcassone. As the story goes, Dame Carcas was head of the castle. The city was besieged by Charlemagne for five years. The people inside the castle were starving and they were running out of water. So, Dame Carcas fed the last of the grain to a piglet and fattened him up. She then tossed the fat pig over the side of the castle and as luck would have it, the pig splattered its well fed guts all over the feet of Charlemagne. Well, this made Charlemagne think, if they can afford to feed a pig so well, then obviously this siege will never end. Let’s go home. And so, the siege ended and the people of Carcassone were so elated that they rang all the bells in the city in honor of Dame Carcas. In French sone means to ring, so Carcas + sone = Carcassone. Get it? Anyways, turns out Dame Carcas never existed and Charlemagne was never anywhere near Carcassone, but it’s a nice story.
The real story behind Carcassone is that it was once a great military stronghold, but then fell into disrepair when it was no longer needed. The people moved down into the valley and took stones form the castle to build their own homes. In the 20th century, an architect saved Carcassone from being destroyed and rebuilt it into the tourist fantasy that it is today.
We also got to see the theatre get set up for Michael Flatley’s (lord of the dance) performance. The theatre was really cool and if I could have stayed for the show I would’ve. I know it’s nerdy, but it would have been an interesting show to see, and think how much longer this blog would be.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Happy Birthday America! – Love, France

First of all, I apologize in advance for not having pictures of the following events. I really should be more prepared, but alas I was not. Anyways, July 3rd, I got to have a five course dinner with my division of seven people. I got suckered in by the free food and promise that it would be mostly in English since the Italian manufacturing team was there. It was not in English by the way. In fact, the common language is French, not English. That’s ok, it just means I zone out for periods of time when my brain gets tired and then don’t know what’s going on. Anyways, I was supposed to be listening to the conversation in French at my table, but really I was listening to the English people behind us having a conversation. They were singing which made me laugh and then the guy leaned over to another table and asked him if he knew the words to the American national anthem, to which the second guy responded, and I quote, “I would rather slit my throat.” At this point, I half snort/half laugh, loudly, forgetting that I am not supposed to be listening, and then the entire restaurant turns around to look at me. The second guy’s wife says dear you shouldn’t say things like that, you might offend someone. And he says, “who’s there to offend?” And she says, “well the American woman in the corner might have a problem with it.” But I didn’t, I just laughed. And then I wrote down the words to the national anthem for the other guy. I got stuck in the middle and was worried for a minute that I wouldn’t be able to remember the words and therefore be the worst American ever.
Then on July 5th, we had a fourth of july celebration at the office. I, of course, was not wearing red, white and blue and thus, not being a very good American. I made up for this fact by leading the office in a rousing rendition of the American national anthem. The other American lady in the office printed out the words for everyone and another guy found the music online. So it was quite hilarious. The frenchies kept asking me, “what is hailed?” although, it was pronounced what iz ailed? And I couldn’t explain it to them in English or in French, so I kind of pretended I didn’t understand and then drew everyone’s attention to the fabulous stars and stripes sweater that one of my cubemates was wearing. And there was booze. Because what is a French office party without alcohol? The special drink of the day was a caparinha, a brazilian beverage that is basically liquor, sugar and fruit. It was pretty serious and the general consensus was that it should have been served before the national anthem. All in all, an excellent way to celebrate America in France.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007


The east side gallery and the longest remaining piece of the wall.
This month is the month of travelling for me. I have something planned every weekend. I kicked off the travel extravaganza by heading to Berlin last weekend to visit one of my fellow Imba’s, Jeff. The most amazing thing is that I realized that I have never been to a country where I understood absolutely nothing, except perhaps for the word “toiletten” or something like that, which is probably pretty important. I got in late Friday night, so we basically just had a quick dinner of falafel and some drinks. I had a flaming mai tai, which was both scary and delicious.
Saturday, we basically walked and did touristy things from 9am until 3am. We were going to do a great walking FREE walking tour, but opted out because it was raining and windy. Instead we did the bus tour which was lovely, but you have to take pictures very quickly as you fly by the monuments. This bus tour had the option to get off, so we went by the bombed out church that has not been rebuilt as an homage to the atrocities of war. We also saw some incredible street performers and a chocolate bear that weighed 160 kilos.
At our next stop, we went to the checkpoint Charlie museum. It was hands down the best museum I’ve ever been to. Before I saw that, and the wall, I really had no idea what the conditions were like while the wall was still standing. It came down when I was almost 8, so I don’t think I ever really understood the significance until I was there. Anyways, at the museum, they have all kinds of contraptions that people used to get over the wall. These include, stories of tunnelling, ladder bridges, personal submarines, people hiding in welding machines, speakers, suitcases, etc. There were heartbreaking stories of families being separated and children of subversive east german families being taken away and adopted out to good communist families. Also, apparently there were many children who drowned in the river because anyone who tried to save them would be shot by the guards on the wall. Oh, and there were X rays of a guy who made it over the wall, but was shot with 200 splinters from the automatic firing tower and survived. I could go on and on. The best part besides the museum is that for two euro, you can get your passport stamped with east berlin and west berlin stamps. So, now I feel very cool.
We spent the rest of the day visiting museum island, the holocaust memorial, hitler’s bunker (which is literally a parking lot with an informational sign), the Reichstag and about a billion other places that I am certainly forgetting. Then we had a quick dinner and went on a pub crawl that’s organized through the walking tour people. It was the two of us and an assortment of 80 english, irish, Scottish, Australian, and german people. I had some german beer, but not being much of a beer drinker myself, I tried to switch to some kind of sweeter malt beverage. This was met with many incredulous and slightly disgusted looks and firm, “NO, we don’t have any sweeter beers, why don’t you just drink liquor? (and stupid American, stop bothering me with your silly questions when I’ve got more appreciative people to serve).” It was a great group, we walked all over berlin, until 3am when I was magically nominated the person to get us home even though I don’t speak a lick of german. I got us home alright, but not before I had more disgusted sneers at my pronounciation (re: butchering) of the german subway stop names, at which point I turned to the guy and said, “don’t YOU, make FACES at ME, I don’t speak German!” So, then he took his disgusted german self to the other end of the platform.
Sunday was a lazy day, we just went to the famous flea markets. Other highlights included seeing a guy on a motorcycle get hit by a car (he was fine.) and seeing a lady almost get in a fight with a guy who was twice her size. This is how it went down.
Older chubby lady and stocky wrestler looking guy get on the subway. Older chubby lady suddenly shoves stocky wrestler guy out of the way and sits down.
SWG: what’s your problem?
OCL : you were in my way.
At this point stock wrestling guy starts to walk away, when
Older chubby lady: you’re an *expletive*
SWG: (gets in her face) says something like, I don’t know what you’re problem is, but you are obviously an *expletive*
He walks away
OCL: you stink!
Way to get the last word in older chubby lady! Many thanks to jeff for helping with the translation. So that’s it. Next stop, carcassone, a medieval city in france and one of the 1000 places to see before you die.