my DIGITAL pictures

July-August 2010

My vacation of 2010 to Europe: London (UK), Copenhagen (Denmark), Malmo (Sweden), Amsterdam (Netherlands), Brussels (Belgium), Zurich (Switzerland), Nice (France), Paris (France).

Day 1 - 8 July 2010
London, UK

Arrived in London @ 7 AM, sleepless (only got about 2 hrs of sleep on the plane).

walked around London. Saw Big Ben, Parliament, The Eye, Tower Bridge, and Millennium bridge.

went to sleep early, around 8 PM.

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Day 2 - 9 July 2010
London, UK

woke up around 4:40 AM. tired and sleepy. kids are making a lot of noise.

went to russian visa center. they said that it would take 2 weeks to get visa. I'd have to surrender passport for 2 weeks - no good. will visit russia next time.

went, on foot, to hype park, buckingham palace, and kensigton palace. it was a nice, long walk. came back on the tube.

in the evening spoke with a room-mate from Italy. 22 yo Serena. really nice girl. she's trying to get a summer job in London. apts in London are about 100 pounds per week.

Day 3 - 10 July 2010
London, UK

visit Natural History Museum. got a picture with Charles Darwin.

in the evening met Daniel who introduced me to Agathe, Olivia and Arellie , 3 french girls (all 18 years old) and Daniel's friend Enrique. we went to a club called Road House. loud and nasty.

Day 4 - 11 July 2010
London, UK

went to Soho, wandered around north part of town

in the evening watched the FIFA World Cup 2010 final between Spain and Netherlands. spain won.

went to downtown London to celebrate their win. a lot of spaniards were celebrating it. we ended up in Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circuis

Day 5 - 12 July 2010
London, UK

wandered around town, went to Buckingham Palace, Covent Garden

went to a bar in the evening

Day 6 - 13 July 2010
London, UK

Daniel went to meet up with his friend and I traveled the city with the girls.

in the evening we all met up and went to a Bar/Pub. but in London pubs close at 11 PM so we had to come back to hostel and get some beers at a hostel's pub.

Day 7 - 14 July 2010
London, UK

went to the National Gallery with Daniel at Trafalgar Square. saw some Van Gough and Monet paintings. really terrific.

went to a Noel Coward Theater with Daniel, Agathe, Olivia and Arellie to see a play called 'Enron' - good play and good plot. too bad it's real

Day 8 - 15 July 2010
London, UK

went to Science Museum and Hide Park.

went out to a put (Agathe and Arellie) and girls got drunk

Daniel left for India (4-month contract in rural India)

Day 9 - 16 July 2010
London, UK

Arellie woke up late and the girls left without her.

me and her went around town for a little before we met up with the girls at Victoria and Albert Museum.

at night we went to a Karaoke bar.

came back to the hostel, went to sleep.

Day 10 - 17 July 2010
London, UK

Olivia woke up late so, me and Agathe and Arellie went by ourselves. we went to the London tower bridge and then to the Museum of London.

after that the girls went shopping and I went back to the hostel to work on my ANNIE 2010 papers (both of them were accepted).

in the evening we went to a typical british pub. I, as always, ended up getting a couple of pintes of Guiness.

then Olivia joined us and we went to a Karaoke bar.

went to sleep around 2 AM.

Day 11 - 18 July 2010
London, UK

said good bye to the girls in the morning and then went to the town for a breakfast.

arrived at Stansted Airport around 3 o'clock (had to take a train from Liverpool station). the airport was absolutely deplorable: alot of people and nowhere to sit (nor recharge batteries)

flight was NOT on time

arrived in Copenhagen about 30 minutes late

attempted to purchase a metro pass but both credit card and debit card were declined (no or wrong PIN)

had no cash (used it all in London)

called REI visa and after about 15 min on a phone was given a new PIN

got bus ticket and got on a bus. some good samaritan (Tasha) helped me find the right exit

got to the hostel around 1:15 AM, just in time before they closed at 2 AM

Day 12 - 19 July 2010
Copenhagen, Denmark

got up early (5:30 AM) - still suffering from throat pain

went to the town. it's a typical european town; nothing opens until about 9:30 or 10 AM.

walked around the city center. no museums or galleries or gardens. just walked.

found the mermaid but she's gone to Shanghai, China for World Expo 2010.

came back to hostel. met room-mates: canadian girl from montreal (Sarah), guy from Chicago, russian girl living in Canada, and a couple from Turkey. nice people.

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Day 13 - 20 July 2010
Copenhagen, Denmark

got up early (5:30 AM) - still suffering from throat pain.

more touring of Copenhagen.

went to King's gardens, Botanical Gardens (part of university of copenhagen - bloody hot and humid), Denmark's National Gallery, and National Museum (small).

so many people riding their bikes. streets have extra lanes for bicyclists.

Day 14 - 21 July 2010
Malmö, Sweden

went to Malmö. it's a small city. much smaller than Copenhagen.

had to change money (danish korona to swedish korona) because not many shops would accept danish money.

that's one of the problems with europe, that anywhere you go, you still have to get the local money.

germany and france should be the only country where you can only use Euro.

even in Sweden there are Poles.

back in Copenhagen met a girl (Tasha). she had a problem with bike (the back fender was loose and rattling) and I offered help. we went for a coffee/tea and talked afterwards.

*** random comment about Copenhagen/Denmark ***

alot of people recycle (poor people collect plastic bottles and aluminum cans from garbage cans and turn them in, for a credit, at local supermarkets)

at a restaurant in Malmo got a beer. I was offered a light beer: 4.5% - lol!!!

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Day 15 - 22 July 2010
Copenhagen, Denmark

woke up early. checked out of the hostel. did the laundry. wandered around the town.

it sort of rained all day. more like it was overcast.

took a boat cruise around the town.

took a night train (18:30) from Copenhagen to Amsterdam (10:30) - the ticket was 1311 danish korona.

Day 16 - 23 July 2010
Amsterdam, Netherlands

travel was rather pleasant. an Iranian guy plus two fathers with two daughters were in the same cabin. sleep was durable. but 16 hrs on train is long.

got to Amsterdam. it was hot and not as humid as expected.

people in Amsterdam cycle. a lot.

went around the center of town. it's just like the pictures show it; plenty of canals and boats and people on bikes.

Amsterdam is a lot bigger than Copenhagen.

briefly entered into red light district - naked women lure customers (negotiations take place half way through the door frame).

Day 17 - 24 July 2010
Amsterdam, Netherlands

visited Rembrandt Museum and Van Gough museum. both were really good.

went on a canal tour of Amsterdam.

got a train ticket to Brussels.

walked around center of Amsterdam some more.

all the bars/pubs/restaurants carry only a small selection of beers but all are served in glasses customized to a beer brand.

Day 18 - 25 July 2010
Amsterdam, Netherlands

missed free tour of amsterdam

then went to museum of amsterdam where, by a pure coincidence, met up with Olivia and her boyfriend. total coincidence.

went walked to the south-eastern part of the town, right by the zoo.

stopped by an "argentinian" restaurant, operated by muslims from Iran. all the waitresses were Polish though.

witnessed something funny; a polish couple stopped by looking for work. they had work for the girl but not for the guy (again, because all the waitresses were polish)

Day 19 - 26 July 2010
Zaanse Schans/Amsterdam, Netherlands

went to zaanse schans - old dutch city. it's only about 20 minutes north of Amsterdam. it has alot of old wind mills.

apparently, the declaration of independence was written on a paper produced by one of those mills.

the whole city (really, really small) smelled like cocoa.

got some Belgian beer, really strong - 8.5%.

Day 20 - 27 July 2010
Brussels, Belgium

woke up early, checked out of the hotel in Amsterdam and headed for train station.

trains from Amsterdam to Brussels run every our at xx:53 starting at 5:53 AM through 10:53 PM

I planned on taking the 9:53 AM train. however, it was cancelled. as a result, the next train, at 10:53 AM, was overcrowded.

arrived @ Brussels Central and had to take another train north, to Brussels Noord.

hostel room was upgraded (I suppose overcrowding???) to a 4-bed private room (good upgrade - positive set of circumstances aka. got lucky)

went around Brussels. the city is small and has a bit of a 'wanna-be-big-town' feeling. there are a lot of poles (found a poster advertising Kaczynski for president)

found a focal point of the city, called Grand Palace (talked to two polish street musicians). also came across the Palas van Brussel.

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Day 21 - 28 July 2010
Brussels, Belgium

went on a short tour of the city, mainly east, south, and south east. visited the belgium parliament, european parliament, Cinquantenaire, Haalepoort (tower, south of the city).

by accident found an ATM that (finally) let me take some cash (euro) out.

I lost my map.

the weather is strange. yesterday it was gorgeous, today it rained and was windy. and then it cleared up and was really hot (25C).

Day 22 - 29 July 2010
Brussels, Belgium

it was sunny in the morning and then it rained.

went to the Atomium. it took just under 1 hr to get there. then walked back to the city center. got a ticket for earlier train to Zurich (7:42 AM).

went to a little exposition of Salvador Dali and bought a painting: The Divine Comedy. good buy.

after the buy went to a restaurant and had a nice diner. a waiter told me that "bush is not crazy. it's the people that elected him are crazy"

after that went to see a movie "Inception" - what a drag.

Day 23 - 30 July 2010
rich, Switzerland

left Brussels in the morning, took the train to Zurich (7:42AM), and got to Zurich with no problems (3:51PM).

it turns out that most Swiss don't speak english. will have to learn some german and get a dictionary first.

walked around the town. got Raphy a gift.

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Day 24 - 31 July 2010
Grindewald, Switzerland

met Brad and Dominic. went to Bern (details to be filled later)

*** ***

most of the hike was down hill (pretty steep) not good for the knees. but the view was simply breathtaking.

the hotel/hostel is owned and operated by a Scot that is impossible to understand. but it's located in a beautiful valley.

the waterfall that we visited (11 francs) was really beautiful and cold.

Day 25 - 1 August 2010
Grindewald, Switzerland

*** ***

the hike was long and a bit strenuous but otherwise fine.

Dominic was a bit tired and we had to (sort of) stop alot, primarily because of his knee - alot of the hike was up or down, which is not good on the knees (also my own hurt a little).

came back to Zurich around 8:00 PM. got a hotel room. got dinner (it rained, pretty hard). went back to hotel around 11 o'clock.

Day 26 - 2 August 2010
rich, Switzerland

walked a little around Zurich in the morning

at noon, went to ETH (zurich polytechnic) to meet with Brad Nelson.

met with Brad and some of his students. got a short tour of the labs. set up more meetings for the next day.

in the evening, went out to dinner on the lake.

Day 27 - 3 August 2010
rich, Switzerland

richard went for a run in the morning and I read Gulag Archipelago

we had a meeting with Kartik and Olgac at ETH. it was positive

in the evening we went out with Brad and Dominic for some beers and pizza (Richard owns me about $140)

Day 28 - 4 August 2010
Nice, France

left Zurich early in the morning.

took 4 trains to get to Nice: Zurich -> Milan (Milano Centrale) -> Ventimiglia -> Monte Carlo (Monaco) -> Nice (Nice-Ville)

the train ride was nice but overcrowded, especially the train from Ventimiglia (the very last stop in Italy) to Nice (the train was so hot, no AC, that you could feel the sweat dripping down your back).

walked around the city a little bit (in the evening).

walked to the port, and then along the boulevard. french are nice (somewhat) and pay attention to their appearances: alot of people cycle and roller blade.

from a street painter got a painting for my parents (a couple of boats on a sea).

got to the hostel in the evening and met 3 girls staying in the same room. 2 from Wales and one from Poland, currently living in Dublin.

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Day 29 - 5 August 2010
Nice, France

the girl from Poland is Paulina. we had a breakfast together.

Paulina had to check out and check back in, so she left in the morning and I stayed in a hostel to work on papers (ANNIE 2010).

it rained all morning long and then some more in the afternoon and evening.

met up with Paulina in the afternoon and we went to Matisse museum.

walked around the town some more, got dinner, and then got drunk together.

Day 30 - 6 August 2010
Paris, France

got up early and took the 9:30 AM train to Paris (TGV is a high speed train, but it still takes about 6 hrs to get to Paris - flying is still faster)

got to Paris a bit late, about 20 minutes. so much for high speed train (I finished "The Gulag Archipelago" on the train).

not many parisians speak english.

but... also not as many french smoke. probably the least smoky town in europe. even less than Zurich.

got to hostel around 6 (metro was relatively clean. the first train was fully automated. the 2nd was beyond full - travelling in rush hour)

the area of the town is full of arabs who always try to sell you something - cigs or train tickets.

went to the town: Notre Dame, Champs De Elise, Triumph Arch. walked back to the hostel. the walk was long but got to see the town.

the part of the town where I'm staying is full of sex shops (moulin rouge) and small shops.

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Day 31 - 7 August 2010
Paris, France

woke up "early", or around 7 o'clock. found laundrymat (a guy was sleeping in there) and a market right by the hostel.

got a Q'ran CD, grapes and 3 tunas. europe has the greatest grapes on earth. can't get enough of them.

internet is free from 9AM to 10PM. outside of these hours you have to pay - stupid froggies (waiting on the net now).

plan of the day: Louvre & Eifel Tower. time allowing some additional town roaming.

Louvre was terrific. I didn't get there until just before noon. I stayed there for over 3 hrs and I still didn't see more than a half of all of their exhibits.

Mona Lisa was terrific (so many people surrounded her that it was impossible to get to the first line) and the Statue of Venus was even more mesmerizing (apparently she's made of 2 pieces).

but the best was a small portrait of Chopin by George Sand. that's the most famous painting of his.

then onto the Eifel Tower. it took just under 1 1/2 hrs to get in. then, the 2nd level (elevator bypassed 1st level), and into another queue (another 30 minutes).

by the time I got to the top was over 2 1/2 hrs after I got to the bottom of the tower. but the view was spectacular. Probably worth the wait.

and you could see clouds on the horizon. literarily. north paris was covered in clouds and you could see it raining. pretty badly.

so, by the time I got to the bottom (on the top it was really windy), it started to rain. I walked back to the hostel (didn't get there until 10:30 PM), I was soaked.

Day 32 - 8 August 2010
Paris, France

got up early with no particular plan.

went to the downtown, the road to the downtown is as follows: Boulevard De Magenta, BD De Strasbourg, BD De Sebastopol. and that puts me right by Notre Dame.

got gifts for everyone: some paintings, apron for Mon, shirt for Raphy.

went to BD St Michel. found a flyer to a Chopin concert. wandered around town waiting for the concert.

went to Palais Du Luxemburg (took a short nap there - it almost rained). really beautiful palace in the middle of a beautiful park. reminiscent of Lazienki Park in Warsaw (though much smaller).

did a little loop towards the Ministere Des Affaires Entrangeres, and then along Siene towards the Eglise Saint-Julien-Le_pauvre, which is where the concert took place.

located on Rue Du Saint Julien Le Pauvre, is the oldest church in Paris, dating back to XII century.

concert started at 6PM and went to almost 8PM. first 20 minutes were Beethoven stuff. but the rest was all Chopin.

the guy was good, really good. maybe even too fast for his own good. a couple of pieces felt like he played them too fast. but it was nice.

after the concert went to Sheakespeare Book Store and bought a book on MLK.

went back to hostel (along the route stopped by a local pub where two feminists were discussing their sexual preferences).

in the evening checked to a new room (was relocated) and got ready to go to sleep when a roomy showed up. Sam, 28-yo female from Guadalajara (Mexico), currently living in Barcelona.

man, oh man. why do all of the good ones are always taken. she's beautiful, smart, and knowledgeable.

Day 33 - 9 August 2010
Paris, France

wandered around Paris aimlessly.

went to a palace of Luxemburgh and another basilica (xxx, made more grandeur than the one in Rome/Vatican). in it, in the middle, there was a pendulum used as a clock, showing all 24 hrs. each hour is advanced because of rotation of the earth.

in the basement, there were many important people buried. notably Voltaire (not sure), but definitely Pierre and Madame Marie Sklodowska-Currie. took pictures, met some Poles.

eventually stumbled at a military museum (the Grand Palaise, right across the river, was closed).

they had a bunch of exhibits, dedicated to French Army. however, to be honest, they hadn't had anything to be terrifically proud of, since Napoleon.

their contribution to WWII was marginal and WWI was primarily won because Germany got internally weak and isolated.

but, the south entrance to the museum features Napoleon's grave. in the basement of the cathedral there was a chair-like coffin where he's buried.

at night went to Moulin Rouge to see a show. a bit expensive. OK, much too expensive - 80 euros. but hey, how many times have I been to Paris, right??? (plus, the girls were very pleasant to look at...)

Day 34 - 10 August 2010
Paris, France

last day in continental europe.

my roomy, Sam (I think I have her name right), suggested that I should visit Versailles. oh man, what I great idea.

I went to Gare Du Nord, a train station near the hostel. I got the ticket for 9:12 PM Eurostar train to London and a train to Versailles.

while on a subway in Paris (actually, while getting from one train to another) was "randomly" pulled by the Paris' finest for a personal inspection.

they found my pocket knife and didn't like my explanation as to why ("geez, if some SOB pisses me the f**k off, so that I can stab them and get movin' on).

spent the next 10 minutes explaining that it was a joke.

Versailles is located at the suburbs of London. it takes about 1 hr to get there (4 -> 8 -> C). it costs 6.20 euro (round trip) but it's way worth it.

I stayed for over 2 hrs in the waiting like. I should have bought the tickets at the train station (it would have been about half that time, or I should have gone to other entrances).

once in, the garden is beyond spectacular. it took about 15 minutes of brisk walk just to get to Antoine Palace (will need to look up the name).

but the park is huge and immaculately perfect. they played XVII century music in the park (the nap was peaceful and well suited).

the Chateoux was a bit disappointing (not sure what I expected). it was beautiful and spendidly magnificent. but, I'd expected, that the king's quaters would have been bigger.

perhaps it's the fault of the gardens, so big and overwhelming.

there was a copy (I think this is the copy of the painting in Louvre) or Napolen crowining his wife, empress Joséphine de Beauharnais, where he took the crown from popes hands and crowned his wife himself. to show how powerful he was.

came back to Paris a coupel of minutes early to visit, what was thought errously, a mosque (The Sacré-Cœur Basilica on Montmartre , a church right by where I stayed).

got the Eurostar on time (had to go through a security screening, and fill out a declaration form (forgot my London address)).

while on the eurostar train, got into an argument (damn beer) with a brit who criticized two froggies (didn't understand them, but communicated via hand gestures) for talking on a cell phone (but the kids who were running and screaming didn't bother him - odd).

got a strong (11.5%) Dutch beer on the train (actually bought it before boarded the train).

before checked in at the hostel, picked up another beer and got a nice buzz (buzzed Robert is a different Robert).

when checking in, got to talk with the clerk (I suppose I flirted a bit - I said that she had a terrific smile) and one thing led to another and... the last night in London was VERY enjoyable (Sammy made me regret leaving europe even more. invited her to visit me in Zurich. will see if she will accept the invitation - gave her my email. so we'll see).

Day 35 - 11 August 2010
London, UK

well, this is it. got up early, went to grocery store, and left for the tube.

flight to Houston (Houston-Bush airport - I got in trouble for using profanity, because I was cursing the texan airport, that it should be bombed just like bush bombed afganistan and iraq) was delayed.

other than that, no major set backs...

except until I got to the US.

not sure if it's all the chocolate that I ate on the plane, or the late turbulence but (or all the beer that I had last night):

1. the terminal in Houston, TX was renamed George W. Bush Houston International Airport - and that really pissed me off.

2. when I got to the custom border, there were about 3 times as many US citizens but about the same number of windows open for the non-US citizens

3. by the time I got to the check in window I was in a fighting mood. so I got into a bit of an argument with the agent. I told him that I was discussed with the name of a war criminal and that I had to land at this airport. I might have used the f-word, upon which he told me that I could be arrested for verbally assaulting the agent. I told him that it's BS and that I was not assaulting him. he gave me a tired and dirty look and told me to go on. he didn't stamp my passport so I had to ask him for that.

4. then I needed to get to terminal A. so I got on a train from Terminal C to terminal A, as indicated by a sign. but, once the train got to terminal B it turned around and went back to Terminal C.

5. so I had to look for a shuttle (not clearly marked) to go to terminal A. while on a shuttle, I got into an argument with "a veteran with messed up knees" - she didn't understand my argument about being doped into illegal invasion of a country.

6. can't find my american cell phone to check my messages and call my sister/brother-in-law.

7. texas makes me angry...

8. I already miss Europe.

9. women are fat and ugly.