Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Europe Blog (Part one)

YAY EUROPE!
Hello all,

I apologize for any withdrawals I've caused you with my lack of posts (that's YOU Miss Eaton), but I've just been too busy touring Western Europe. Yeah, that's right. I'm officially one of those snobs that can brag about their globe-trotting travels and make you green with envy. 

Originally, I was going to make one giant Europe Blog, but it is just taking waaayyyy too crazy long. I'll try to go in some sort of order, but no promises. I've had a hundred things to do since I got back and had a surprise vacation to California that has kind of hindered working on this gigantic blog. I would rather do one huge blog, BUT I know I may not have time to do that and may never post ANYTHING about Europe if I don't get at least a PART of this blog done. 

It was actually pretty great. I won't lie to you, I wasn't prepared for Explorica's tour. It was like traveling boot-camp. We walked at least five miles a day (or so I estimate, probably way more than that), stairs not included. Needless to say, my calves now look awesome (hooray!), or at least less like pale pencils.* We were extremely busy, waking up sometimes at 5 or 6 am and staying out (or awake) until midnight. It was lovely, but tiring. I planned on writing about everyday, but I only had time to write about the first eight days out of fourteen. Still, that's quite a bit. I'll give you what I wrote, and also a schedule of what we did that way, which I will copy from Either Melany's notebook or Explorica.com, because I do not remember any specifics. I blame jet-lag.

Jet lag is freaking killer though. Not only do I continue to stay up late editing pictures for you people because I can not sleep, but I keep getting up early. It's weird. I never get up early. Seriously. When I got back I felt a combination of volleyball two-a-days soreness and fatigue and fever of the flu. It was gross. I bought this watch in Paris that has the Mona Lisa printed on the face. It's AWESOME, but sooo unreliable. Mona is a shifty lady. One night I was up editing pictures and kept looking at Mona, who was telling me it was around 3 AM when I decided to check my facebook. So I go into the kitchen, and guess what time it is? FIVE A.M.. I was wide awake. Shifty, shifty, shifty Mona! Now I wear her simply because she's hilarious and quirky, and not at ll because she's useful. 'Cause she's not.



*Still pale, by the way. Two weeks of outdoorsyness and NO TAN FOR MARY. Insanity, I say! Insanity! 

DAY ONE

The plane to Cleveland is tiny and petite, but not too stuffy.  I am in a single isle, and to my left are two unoccupied seats. Tanner Jenkins sits on the opposite side of me, two rows behind, eating his trailmix and answering Mrs. Kieffer’s (a retired Albany elementary school teacher) questions with his many “Yes ma’m,” and “No ma’m,”s. It is a two or three hour flight from Dallas to Cleveland, and from Cleveland we head straight to London.

I look out the window and stare at the geometric shapes and wonder if the people who own the land plan out what their fields will look like from a plane. They always look so perfectly planned. They remind me of those mats I used to play on as a kid. You know, the kind with crayon-colored roads and fields that if you rubbed the wrong way would give you killer rug burn?  

It seemed as though at any moment I would see a giant three year sprawled across the horizon, playing on his crayon-colored mat. Maybe he would see our plane and pick us up between his peanut-butter-and-jelly-covered fingers and move us to a place that better suited him. Maybe he would see us and pick as up and begin saying, “Shoom, shoom!” as he spun us in circles. Maybe he would see us and do nothing at all.

Colt grabbed the seat behind me, and Alyssa took a seat across the isle. As for me, I sat in my seat pondering the Giant Three Year Old and tried not to scratch my face anymore. I was so freaking itchy. If things keep going the way they are, I’m going to look like a giant, walking tomato by the time we reach London. I took a benedryl back in Breckenridge, but all that did was make me pass out on Melany’s shoulder on the way to the airport.

I want to be excited about Europe. I really do. But I know if I start thinking about it, I’m going to start squealing, and I know no one on this tiny plane wants to deal with that. No iPod can muffle my squeals. I am also too busy worrying about coming back to America with a warrant out for my arrest. See, I left the US still having to send in my driving record, etc. for a ticket I received after running a stop sign in Austin. I gave everything to my parents, and I really hope everything gets turned in on time. But if not…BAM! Warrant  out for my arrest. Not. Cool.

Time for sleep.

EUROPE IS FREAKING EXPENSIVE.

Even if the American dollar was equal to Francs, Euros, or pounds, just buying a coke over there is more expensive than buying a fast-food meal in America.  It was usually three Euros for one coke, which is about $5.  And don’t think that going to an American place there will be any cheaper. In Switzerland, after I bought some crazy cheap clothes (even by American standards) from H&M, I walked down the street and bought an order of small fries and a small coke from McDonalds and spent over $13 American dollars.* I bought a lot of souvenirs, but I still spent more than double of that on food. And remember, we only had to buy lunch. Crazy, crazy, crazy.  I shoulda brought more peanut butter crackers.**

This is my example of how to save money while in Europe on souvenirs. If you didn't catch exactly what I did, I acted like I ONLY had eight Euro and deesssperately wanted that apron. Smile pretty, beg, and you can probably barter your way through saving a little. Or just be an idiot. I did both:

SMILE PRETTY TECHNIQUE: I was walking down a crowded street in France when all the sudden, I found it. Hanging amongst it's apron peers, I found the the most perfectest, cheesiest souvenir for my mother, an "I (heart) PARIS" apron.

Well I just had to have it. Buuuut, it was ten Euro, which is like $15, which is a little too much to pay for a cheesy apron, even if I had dubbed it the most perfectest. So before walking into the store to make my purchase, I sifted through my twenty Euro bills and found eight Euros in coins. 

I maneuvered through the door and between the abundance of tourist attracting things (none better than my apron, by the way), and found the purchase counter. Behind it sat a plump man in a white wife-beater. He was balding on top, but the rest of his white curls dangled below his ears and intertwined with his mustache in a very French way, even though he looked Italian.

Putting on my saddest face, I held out my coins and the apron and said, "Eight Euro?" He looked  me up and down, skeptical. Was I going to rob him? Was I going to steal the apron? He didn't even know, so he said, "No, that ten Euro. Take white instead."

I let my shoulders dip a little to portray the ultimate sadness his non-bartering was causing me, and told him it was for my mother. He looked me up and down again, his shoulders sagged, and he reluctantly nodded. 

IDIOT TECHNIQUE: I was walking down a crowded market street in Italy when I saw the prettiestest (cheap) cameo ring EVER.  I love cameos, and even if the thing looked like it came straight out of one of those machines at WalMart, I had to have it. It was one of our last days in Europe, and I didn’t want to come back with a bunch of unused Euros. So I went inside the tent, and asked the lady inside if she would take six Euros for it. “No,” she said with some weird mix of Italian and German accent, “That ring ten Euro. It antique.”

Well, I was curious to see if I even had ten Euros, so I dumped out my neck wallet on the floor and came up with eight Euros, which she did not accept. I then found some more coins that added up to 8.45 Euros or something, and by that point I think she was so annoyed with me that she just told me to take it. Woo hoo! See? Being an idiot isn’t always so bad.

*…No, I’m not kidding. Have the receipt to prove it and everything!

**When coming to Europe, BRING A TON OF FOOD. You will save so much money. I probably could’ve skipped lunch a lot if I had more peanut butter crackers. Sometimes I was starving and wanted to eat everything, but other times I really wasn’t that hungry and only wanted something small. And if I didn’t have cash, I was often put in the position where I had to buy at least ten Euros worth of stuff just to get an apple or slice of pizza with my debit card.

RUDENESS

Silvana (our tour guide) had just released us for a bit of free time in Rome, and all of us kids were much more interested in getting gelato than paying attention to where we were or what museums and statues were around us. After a while, you just. Stop. Caring.

I had been having trouble finding a working ATM machine anywhere, but knew I probably needed cash to get gelato since a lot of places in Europe only accepted cash for small purchases. But I was hungry, and the only thing I relied on to be edible was gelato, so gelato it was.

I followed Amanda, Keely, Courtney, and her mother to what looked like the perfect place to get gelato. But then again, Fools Gold LOOKS like Gold, but is it? NO. Only FOOLS think that.

I didn’t even want to think about what I wanted before I knew I could actually buy it with my debit card. Didn’t want to torture myself, ya know? So I grabbed the Italian Dude behind the counter’s attention and said, “Can I buy THIS (pointing to gelato), with THIS (pointing to debit card)? NO CASH, no cash,” I said slowly to the tall, dark, and handsome (and in a second EVIL) Italian behind the counter. 

He nods slowly, scrunching his eyebrows together as if to say, “Girl please, I got you.” But in Italian, of course. “What Flavor?”

I tell him Chocolate and Fragola (strawberry). And then comes the handoff: He hands me my gelato, and I hand him the debit card.

“No,” he says, sticking obnoxiously pointed nose in the air and closing his eyes in the most dramatic, annoying way. “Only cash.”

I went on to say something to the extent of how I had JUST asked him if I could pay with a debit card, and right when I began considering throwing the gelato at him, Amanda saved the day and paid for me. So sweet Amanda, so EVIL Italian Dude.

FUN FACTS

Despite the numerous arguments that emerged on this trip over the correct conversions from American money to European, I stuck with the conversion facts I got from Google. They apparently change a lot, but this is what I used.

1 Franc = $1.08

1 Euro= $1.55

1 Pound= $1.88

And last, but not least, PICTURES!












3 comments:

ashlee said...

I LOVED THIS!

shelbyisms. said...

BRING ON PART TWO! I AM SO HAPPY, I FEEL LIKE CRYING!

OMGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG, I'm a girl.

Marvelous Maggie said...

MARY! You did not tell me about your techniques! After reading the first one, I have a mixture of amusement, admiration, and shock. I can't believe that worked, hahaha.