Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Movie: Social Network

I ended up watching The Social Network twice this month in theaters. Amazing soundtrack! It should get nominated for everything next year at the Oscars. I'm so not kidding. They deserve it.
It definitely makes me want to create a startup for sure :P

Friday, October 15, 2010

Travel: Euro Trip Part 15 - Eindhoven to Brussels

Day 15: At about 6 in the morning, H and I cooked breakfast (eggs, bacon, sausage, etc.) for everyone, using some of the groceries we purchased the night before. K then drove us to Brussels and, after a somber parting, B, H and I returned to PHL >> LAX. :(

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Travel: Euro Trip Part 14 - Amsterdam to Eindhoven

Day 14: After vising the Amsterdam sculpture in front of the Rijksmuseum, we had lunch at Van Dobben (again). We then caught a train from Amsterdam to Eindhoven, which was remarkably cheaper than our Paris/Thayls fiasco.
K greeted us at the train station and took us to the large, luxury apartment he was staying at, which, fortunately, was within walking distance from the station. It was so high up that I was able to enjoy views of the surrounding area. K and B brought back dinner for us, while H slept and I enjoyed the Netherlands' MTV equivalent.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Travel: Euro Trip Part 13 - Paris to Amsterdam

Day 13: The next morning, after breakfast, we purchased train tickets to Amsterdam. However, because none of us could read French, we somehow got mixed up and missed our train (no joke!). Fortunately, our tickets were the refundable kind and allowed us to board the next train an hour later. That evening, we arrived in Amsterdam and took a taxi to our hotel (NH Amsterdam Center).
While walking around the red light district, H randomly ran into a friend from SF. What a coincidence!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Travel: Euro Trip Part 12 - Paris

Day 12:  B and I had breakfast at a nearby restaurant that we ended up returning to the next day (that good!). When H woke up, we then climbed the stairway up to Sacré Coeur. We used the metro to get around to various places including the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre, and Notre Dame Cathedral. We had lunch near the Eiffel Tower.
Surprisingly, we had snails for dinner (of course!). That evening, the boys checked out the red light district near Moulin Rouge.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Travel: Euro Trip Part 11 - Champagne & Versailles to Paris

Day 11: We drove around randomly shooting vineyards and grapes. We took a tour of a champagne cellar at Domaine Pommery and did a champagne tasting, before heading off to Versailles.
After dinner in Versailles (which was an interesting experience because none of us could read the French menus), we bid K goodbye (we would later reunite in the Netherlands). He was kind enough to drop us off at our hotel in Montmartre before driving off with our only means of transportation.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Travel: Euro Trip Part 10 - Nice & Monaco to Champagne

Day 10: We did a quick look around Nice before heading to Monaco. Warning: GPS is totally useless in the maze known as Monaco. They do have a free bus though! Unfortunately, the casino wasn't open yet when we were there (too early!) -- not that they would have let us in, wearing what we did.
After Monaco, we did a 12-hour drive to Epernay, France. I <3 Autogrills.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Travel: Euro Trip Part 9 - Venice to Nice

Day 9: While K explored Murano, despite it sprinkling that day, B, H, and I had lunch near the Rialto Bridge. After picking up our car, we headed off to Nice where we had dinner in old town (Vieux Nice).

We've decided that this was the official song of our trip:

Friday, October 8, 2010

Travel: Euro Trip Part 8 - Venice

Day 8: We rented an apartment (through the Locanda Hotel Antico Fiore) in Venice for a couple days, which enabled us to take our time exploring the city. We had free pastries and juice delivered to our apartment every morning, in addition to the stuff already in our kitchen (so that was one last meal we had to worry about). We walked around the crowded St. Mark's Square (as seen above) just as everybody does. B and K ascended the Campanile, while H and I enjoyed the "scenery." The guys all had some gelato near the Bridge of Sighs.
We ended up using the vaporetti to get around. We had a late lunch at Lido and checked out the beach there. We took a vaporetto back, but rode it till the Rialto Bridge. That evening, B played interpreter for H, while K and I explored Venice by foot.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Travel: Euro Trip Part 7 - Salzburg to Venice

Day 7: Salzburg is The Sound of Music Central. I couldn't believe how many tours were dedicated just to that movie alone. I also couldn't believe how great our hotel's (Villa Carlton) location was. I highly recommend it. Plus, they provide free breakfast! Seriously, though, Salzburg is a quaint, little place. We checked out Old Town, Schloss Hellbrunn, and even the top of Hohensalzburg Fortress (Festung). There are awesome panaromic views from the latter.
After leaving Salzburg, on our way to Venice, K and B did a stopover at the Kehlsteinhaus. H and I hung out and chatted :). The best moments sometimes aren't tourist traps, ya know.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Travel: Euro Trip Part 6 - Vienna to Salzburg

Day 6: After having breakfast at a restaurant near Hostel Ruthensteiner, we left Vienna and went to the Seegrotte Hinterbrühl (Europe's largest subterranean lake). We then took a totally out-of-the-way detour to (I believe) Zell am See, Austria (pictured above and below). It had something to do with where the Band of Brothers took place (never saw/read it, sorry). I dunno. Our fearless leader, K, definitely ran this part of the itinerary. I just remember going paparazzo on a couple swans.
We arrived in Salzburg late that night.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Travel: Euro Trip Part 5 - Vienna

Day 5: In Vienna, we predictably stopped by places such as Hofburg Palace and the surrounding area. B and K visited the Mozarthaus, while H and I went sunglasses shopping!
After we regrouped, we then visited the Osterreichische Galerie Belvedere to see The Kiss (by Klimt). I actually saw an elderly couple kiss in the manner depicted in the painting while standing in front of the painting! Cutest thing ever!
The picture taken below is B standing near a statue on the museum's grounds (they wouldn't let me use my camera indoors!).
That evening, we stopped at a Greek restaurant near the museum and ordered off the menu, requesting that they only serve us traditional Austrian food (schnitzel, sausages, etc). We were their only customers and they must have been thrilled with the feast they prepared for us because they not only gave us free house wine, but free desserts as well! Consequently, we were late to our ballet at the Opera House/Weiner staatsoper. We ended up ditching it midway anyway, and opted for getting lost in the city on our way to and from the Danube Tower/Donauturm Wien (where we had coffee). I'll never forget that night. Vienna is absolutely gorgeous.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Travel: Euro Trip Part 4 - Prague to Vienna

Day 4: After gorging on our hotel's courtesy breakfast buffet, we ventured out to Prague in the daytime. Our first task was converting euros and dollars into something usable. We took care of that by going to an ATM and then breaking our large bills at a grocery store where we purchased a water and the infamous iced tea -- the latter of which got K sick. Once in central Prague, we made stops at places like New Town (Wenceslas Square), Mala Strana, Old Town Square, the astronomical clock, Charles Bridge, and, of course, Prague Castle. We did an awful lot of walking and stair climbing that day in addition to noticing an obscene number of Thai massage parlors everywhere. B was mistaken for a drug dealer several times because of how he was dressed. Having left his pair of sunglasses at my place in LA, we, thus, began the search for the perfect pair of sunglasses for H.
We had dinner at the hotel before heading out for Vienna.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Travel: Euro Trip Part 3 - Berlin to Prague

Day 3: B and I woke up the next morning and bought H a "birthday" cupcake from the cafe below our hotel. All four of us then walked from East Berlin to West Berlin stopping at places like Berliner Fernsehturm, Brandenburger Tor, Reichstag, and Berliner Dom. After checking-out, we went to the Berlin Wall for obligatory photos there as well.
We then drove to Prague, getting a little lost along the way and practically running out of gas. We checked into Hotel Troja which was conveniently next door to a police station. K was concerned about the car getting stolen during our trip, especially in Prague. So, that comforted him. That evening, we went out to a fancy dinner followed by clubbing in downtown Prague, in honor of H's birthday.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Travel: Euro Trip Part 2 - Brussels to Berlin

Day 1: Three of us (B, H, and I) flew LAX >> PHL >> Brussels, Belgium. Our fourth friend, K, was able to meet up with us at any of the following three airports: Dusseldorf, Germany; Amsterdam, Netherlands; or Brussels, Belgium. I checked airfare for a month before finally settling on a cheap US Airways flight to Belgium.
Day 2:  We arrived in Brussels in the morning, took forever to clear customs (omg the long lines!), only to find K NOT there waiting for us as expected. After spending a fortune at a phone booth (I'm so not kidding) calling K to figure out where he was (he wasn't answering his phone!), K finally did arrive -- just an hour or so later than he was supposed to. We greeted each other enthusiastically despite our initial panic, not having actually seen each other in about a decade. B met K for the first time and K was amazed to see how much H changed. When we got to the car, I couldn't believe 4 adults + all our luggage would actually fit in this tiny, typical European-sized vehicle (H was worse than I was in terms of packing!). After cramming it all in, we did a lightening fast tour of the Grand Place and surrounding area, took obligatory shots of the Manneken Pis (ha, ha), and ate some authentic Belgian waffles.

We did a 9-hour drive to Berlin, stopping a million times along the way, catching up on what's happened in the last 10 years, and going way, way, way too fast on the Autobahn.

That evening, we ate at a super crowded/popular restaurant in Germany and made the mistake of asking to take home our leftovers. The waiters simply could not believe our request and the people at the next tables laughed. At first, the waiters suggested that this was only possible on weekdays, but definitely not on a Friday night. Only then did I remember from my German classes that this is a "no-no" in Germany. It worked out fine though: they let us take home our delicious leftovers and we tipped American-style :).

Friday, October 1, 2010

Travel: Euro Trip Part 1 - Pre-Flight Notes

I just got back from a 15-day trip to Europe with B and a couple good college friends (H & K). I will be posting this in parts, seeing as how this would otherwise be too massive as a single blog entry.
Here are the quick stats:
  • $2,000 budget per person INCLUDING airfare from LAX, food, lodging, toll fees, etc.
  • 8 European countries (Belgium, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Italy, Monaco, France, and the Netherlands)
  • 13 European cities (Brussels, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Salzburg, Venice, Monaco, Nice, Epernay/Champagne region, Versailles, Paris, Amsterdam, and Eindhoven)
  • 15 days
  • 1 free car (will not explain this further)
  • Unlimited free gas (will not explain this further)
  • 1 free and really huge apartment in Eindhoven, Netherlands (will not explain this further)
  • 2 laptops (our own) and 1 TomTom (free) for navigating
At some point during our trip, we split up, said goodbye to our car, and had to rely on the rail system to get around (talk about an adventure!). But as you can see, we didn't exactly have to slum it, given the freebies we were working with. Still, getting the Lonely Planet: europe on a shoestring didn't hurt ;).