Monday, June 15, 2009

6/16 Rome

6/16 Rome

I apologise once again for not having daily updates for over a week. I have not had a computer to work off of. But anyways I will try and bring you all update as best as possible.
When I departed the Uk, my group was headed to Belgium. We spent 2 days in Brussels, 2 days in Gent, and a day in Brugge. For the most part this part of the trip was not very organized like most of us expected it to be. We got to tour a few EU buildings, got lectures at each building, and had the Chief Economist from NATO come talk to us over dinner. Besides that, several Belgium Beers were sampled as well as various chocolates. I'm sure I did several other things but my memories a bit foggy at the moment, its all a big blur. From Belgium, me and several others headed to Amsterdam for a couple nights. The highlights of Amsterdam was the Anne Frank House, Van Gogh Museum, and the Heineken Brewery. The atmosphere of the city is um very unique and was quite an experience just to walk through.

Then 4 days ago I had a really really long day which ended in Rome where I ended up running into some people who looked related but weren't as good looking as me. In the past few days we have been all over Rome and have done a ton of walking, some of us are in better shape than the others. The first night we just walked to the Repubblica and around some of the surrounding area to get our bearings. We ended the night with some delicious Gelato.
On our first full day in Rome, we did a hop on hop off bus tour. It took us around to several sites around the city but was not very informative. It played music with the occasional dialogue about some ancient building. After the tour, we decided to do some exploring on our own. We headed to the Trevi Fountain and cooled down by the fountain. From their, we made our way to the Pantheon. This was an incredible building. On the way back to the hotel we stopped in one of the hundreds of churches located around Rome. It was called the Santa Maria Degil Angeli. It looked very plain on the outside, but was breath taking on the inside. Many of the churches here are like this. I can't wait to go inside St. Peters.

The next day started with a tour that took us around the Colosseum, the Palatino Hill, and Circo Massimo. Our guide was very informative on both ancient Rome and his country men in general. The weather has been pretty hot out, so most of the time we are dehydrated and getting sun burnt, but its part of the experience. We came back to the hotel for a short nap and then headed out to an area called Trastevere. This area was recommended to us by both Roy and our guide. We enjoyed a very good meal and decided to head back to the hotel to call it a night.

Yesterday we went on the Official Angels and Demons tour. We followed the Path of Illumination to the four alters of science; Santa Maria del Popolo, St. Peters, Santa Maria Della Victoria, and St. Agnes in Agony. The tour ended at the Castle of Saint Angelo. It was a very interesting tour that made me want to reread the book. After the tour we did some shopping around, cuz apparently some people like to go on vacation to shop. I don't get it. We came back to the hotel for a 2 hour rest and then headed to the meeting point of our second tour. This was a night tour of Rome that covered the topic of dark Rome. It hit the highlights of the famous executions and killings that took place in Medieval Rome. The tour ended around 11:30, just in time for us to find a late dinner. Overall we spent about 12 hours on our feet today, which meant some people were very tired and sore.
Mom & Dad Inside the Castle Of Saint Angelo
The Colosseum

On the Bus Tour
(The Ugly Child Had To Step Out Of The Pic)
Castle of Saint Angelo

Inside the Colosseum
Fountain of Trevi

The Pantheon
Inside the Pantheon
(I am Told The Light Only Shines On THE CHOSEN ONE)
(just informing you of the legend)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

6/1 - 6/3


Today was my last day in Ireland. Drew had booked an earlier flight home than the rest of us. He wanted to see some things before he left, so i decided to go with him. Several people in our room were not happy that we had gotten up early. Oh well its not like they didn't keep me awake so I don't really care. Drew and I headed to Trinity College. We wanted to see the Book of Kells. We had gotten to Trinity College about 20min before the exhibit opened. We walked around the campus for a bit, and then went to get in line. There was a big group from France already in line by this point. I figured I had taken some French over the years and tried to hold a conversation. I am a bit rusty to say the least. The convo quickly switched to English but the lady I was talking to was pleased that I had tried to speak French. The Book of Kells was written on calf skin in 800ad. Its pretty old. I wanted to take a picture but I wasn't aloud to. Oh well.
The rest of the day was spent enjoying this nice weather at one of the local parks. We just laid out in the sun and took a nap. There was a 10k cancer walk going on that ended near the park we were at. There was a band playing at the finish line. We enjoyed the music and the dancing of a drunk old guy. It was very entertaining. It was now time to get to the airport and head back to Bristol. I didn't have any troubles with security this time. However, our 45min flight ended up being delaid by 2 hours which sucked. When we got to the airport we looked for a cab to take us back to Bristol. The airport taxis wanted to charge us £80 for a cab of 4 people. To get to the airport it cost £25 for a cab with 4 people. We said that was highway robbery and refused to pay. Luckily I still had the cab company's number in my phone from our trip to the airport. I called them and they came and picked us up for £25. Our cab driver was appalled when we told him how much the airport was going to charge us. I am just glad that it worked out.


Lets see, today we had to start doing the whole class thing again. Our sessions were on globalization for both companies and cities. This professor was actually able to keep my attention and wasn't a boring economist. We played a game in class to give us a view of world trading. We were divided into 4 groups and given an envelope with resources in it to make paper cut outs that could be sold for money to the bank. My group got the most money to start with and the most resources. The other groups had to come trade with us so they could make money. One of the groups did a shady deal with us. We were trying to get more paper so we could make more money and we traded a pair of scissors for it. The paper that was given to us was not usable for the game, so we kinda got screwed. It all worked out in the end because my group had the most money in the end.

After dinner, I met up with the rest of my group to work on our project that we are presenting on Thursday. We got a good chunk of it done pretty quickly. When we were done working, i convinced Evan to come the casino with me. Going to the casino probably wasn't the best idea but i hadn't been to one in awhile. I ended up loosing £40 on the night. Well technically £39 because I kept a £1 chip to add to my collection of casino chips. When I was in the bus on the way home, I realized that I had forgotten the book that I was reading at the casino. I called up the casino and they had found the book and told me I could come back the next day to pick it up.


This mornings session started out pretty boring. I think it was on international alliances and why competitors work together. Once again it was an interesting topic but it was delivered in a monotone voice that just read everything off of a powerpoint slide. I wasn't the only one struggling to stay awake. In the afternoon, we went on a field trip to take a look at a local business. This business made glass and is called the Bristol Blue Glass company or something like that. We got to see how the glass was made and Dan was even given the opportunity to try blowing the glass because it was his birthday. Besides the building being extremely hot due to the furnaces that are kept at a temp over 2000* F to melt the glass, it was an awesome experience.

After we left Bristol Blue Glass, Paul (our program coordinator) took us to a bar and bout a round. We just sat around in the bar and gave him feedback on the program. When i finished my drink i ran to the casino to go pick up my book that i had forgotten there the previous day. Today was also Dan's 21st bday. So we made sure we went out and that he had a good time. We started at the coronation tap the has a special cider there that is only sold in half pint glasses due to its alcohol content. We then headed to a couple more bars. The girls had gotten pretty drunk so me and Sean ended up being the soberish chaperons. Andrea ended up getting sick at the bar and got kicked out. We took that as the cue to get everyone home. When i got in the taxi i discovered that i did not have my phone. I had used once all night and put it back in my pocket after i used it. I searched the cab, the bar, and the city centre and could not find it. I'm pretty sure i did not leave it anywhere, and think someone stole it. I am really hoping that one of the girls turns up with it tomorrow. oh well.

Temple Bar
Monk Ruins
Bday Boy Shaping Glass

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

5/29-5/31 Dublin

I apologize for the delay, did not have access to a computer and it took awhile to get caught up.


Today we had only one morning session. It was originally supposed to be a full day of classes but everyone had to get to the airport early to catch flights to Dublin, Paris, and Amsterdam. So our program coordinator was nice and canceled class for the afternoon. I forget what we did in class on the 29th, the last several days have been a blur of activity. It might have been on corporate social responsibility and ethics but it could of had something to due with finance. After classes I went to the computer lab to work on updated my blog and made the mistake of not looking to see when the next bus went to the City Centre. I had scheduled a cap to pick a group of us up from the City Centre at 2. I got on a bus around 1:20 and was told that it would take 35min to get to the City Center. Well the bus driver was right and I got there at 1:55 and had to start looking for the place that the taxi was supposed to pick us up from. I found it and got there at precisely 2, right on time. I had an interesting experience going through security at the Bristol airport. Its not like this is a thriving airport, it only has one terminal. Anyways, I walked through the metal detector and it beeped. The guy told me to take off my shoes I did so and turned around to walk back through the machine. He told me to stop before i got to it. Confused I turned around and discovered he wanted me to get a pat down. It ended up being a 5 min rub down. I didn't really want to get to 2nd base with the airport security guard, and plus he didn't even buy me dinner first. I WAS VIOLATED. It turns out it was the button on my jeans that had set off the security devises. Didn't know it was a crime to have a button on my pants. Oh well it makes for a good story.
The flight lasted about 45min. However we sat on the plan at the gate for an additional 15min before they let us off. Ireland's custom were pretty easy to get through, they barely looked at our passports. From there we grabbed a coach and headed to Dublin and checked into our hostel. There were 10 of us staying in the room again, this time all 10 were guys so they room quickly took on the pleasant smell of a muggy sweat. After some dinner, we decided to experience Ireland's culture and headed to the Temple Bar area. Dublin is very expensive so I did not buy many drink but the rest of the group dropped a small fortune on alcohol. We didn't stay to late and went to head back to the hostel. About 1 min after we got out of the pub, 2 drunks decided to pick a fight with the 2 bouncers of the bar. It was very entertaining to watch the drunks get the crap kicked out of them in about 6 seconds. Great way to end the night. Well this is where the night ended for some of us, the others stayed out a bit later and woke us up when they got home.


Our hostel provided a very nice complementary breakfast for us. We had the option of cereal, porridge, bacon, eggs, sausage, baked beans, fruit, and toast. We had gotten up early to make sure we could go on the Wicklow tour. When we got to the tour bus they did not have room for a group of 13, so we made reservations for the following morning. At this point everyone was awake and outside so, it was best to go see some of the sites. Without a map, we made our way through Dublin and arrived the the Guinness Brewery and took the tour. It was a very interesting self guided tour that ended in the gravity bar, which is on the 7th floor of the building. The bar is a circular room that provides a great 360* view of Dublin. It was a great view of the city and its surrounding countryside. We also got a free pint of Guinness at the bar, i thought I would be funny and tried to order a Heineken. The bartender laughed and gave me a Guinness. I'm not really a fan of it, but i figured it was part of the experience and did not want to be like the girls and give it to someone else. Due to some of the alcoholics in the group, we ended up spend 3 hours at the brewery, which in my opinion was 2 hours to long.
After we got everyone out, we had a quick lunch and then headed across the river to visit the Old Jameson Distillery and take the tour. This tour was also interesting and informative. At the end of the tour a few were selected to do a whisky tasting and everyone else was given a glass of whiskey. I like the whiskey, it was pretty good. After the tour, most of the group headed back to the hostel to take a nap, but several of us wanted to see the other sites and headed out to explore. We had finally got our hands on a map to help us with this. We walked through the Medieval & Viking area of the city. Didn't really know much about the buildings we were seeing but they looked cool and I took several pictures. From there, we headed to St. Patrick's Cathedral and Dublin castle. We didn't go inside either but took pics of the buildings themselves. We were getting hungry so we headed back to the hostel. It turned out that the rest of the group was getting dinner as well and planned to go on a guided bar crawl that night. The guides were kinda of shady, it felt like we paid 10 Euros for a wrist band that had no use. I was bored for the most of the bar crawl because I didn't want to pay between 5 and 6.5 euros for a drink. For those of you who don't know what that means in dollars, 1 euro is about = to 1.3 dollars last I heard. After the bar crawl ended, i kinda felt like the chaperon and made sure everyone made it back to the hostel. Once again the drunks in the groups were loud and kept most of the others up for a little longer than we wanted to be awake for.


Today was my favorite day in Ireland. We went on the all day Wicklow tour. It lasted from about 9am to 6:30 pm when we arrived back in Dublin. The tour took us through the hills of Wicklow. It was absolutely gorgeous. The pictures I took of the area do not do it justice at all, it is something that you have to experience yourself. This area appears in parts of several movies. To name a few: Braveheart, Saving Private Ryan, and P.S. I Love You are the ones that i remember our guide mentioning. The Guinness family also has their house in these hills, I would kill to wake up to that few every morning. We drove through the area that Paul McCartney spend a day and came away with the song Yesterday. We made a couple stops, several of them being quick photo opportunities and others were at the reconciliation centre in Glencree, and the Valley of 2 Lakes. The reconciliation center is known recently as the place where the peace between the Republic of Ireland, and Northern Ireland was worked out, and where peace talks between several countries in the Middle East took place. The Valley of 2 Lakes contained the ancient ruins of early monk establishments. These building were constructed with stone and did not use any mortar or sand between the stones. When we were about to leave this area, another coach was trying to get out of the parking lot. It could not due to the poorly parked cars. Our tour guide had mentioned earlier that the Irish people don't park their cars, they just abandon them were they feel like it. In order for that coach to get out, several guys from the tour car had to manually move some of the cars in the way. They did not but them back after the bus had gotten through, it would have been entertaining to see the reaction of the owner of the car when they came back to it. We had one more stop in a town for lunch. Our guide told us a good place to eat but after we ate we discovered that we could have eaten across the road for half the price. Oh well the food was good.
On the ride back, Nick decided to take a short video of me being a bobble head. I had fallen asleep and my head was acting like a bobble head. He was entertained by it and took the video. I'm sure he will pass it on to me at some point. We got back to Dublin around 6:30 and decided to find some more food. That night a small group of us went to try and find a hotel that had some Irish Step dancers performing. We were told it would be at 10, but when we got to the place we discovered that they had performed at 9:15. We were a bit disappointed, and decided to go check out Temple Bar. It was a neat pub but we weren't sure what it was supposed to be famous for. We enjoyed the local music for a bit and then headed home. We played some cards, and decided to go to bed. Just as we were getting ready to do that guess who came home? The loud drunks, so once again some of us were kept up a little later than we wanted to be.

Medieval Building (don't remember its name)
Old Monk Building

This Bridge Appears in P.S. I Love You (if anyone cares)
The Guinness Lake & Wicklow Hills

Wicklow Country Side
St. Patrick's Cathedral
Got In Trouble
Outside The Guinness Brewery