Europe: The Running Diary

We’re heading for Venus, but still we stand tall.

When booking my Olympic travel, I was set on extending my European stay. With the Dew Tour being held in OC, MD the weekend after the Olympics, my time is limited, but it is not everyday you get a free flight back from Europe, so to that, I said “YOLO, let’s have some fun”
Originally, my plan was to stick around London and take two days to see all the sights. Parliament, Buckingham Palace, Abbey Road, Baker Street, all the football grounds. However, I was fortunate enough to have a couple hours every morning to see those sights and more. As such, I need a new plan for the two days. And this is the part where my over-ambitiousness could get the best of me.

Sunday Aug 12
430 – After a night on the town, I crawl into bed. The promo team in NY is done for the games, so there is not much for us to do at the IBC. The goal is to wake up. Get to the IBC at some point. Wrap up things there, put together a plan for the next two days, then go to Hyde Park and just chill for a while

1045 – The alarm goes off and I am downstairs within 2 minutes for our free breakfast. Eggs, hash browns, bacon, waffle, fruit, muffin, cereal, and OJ. Yes. That was my first breakfast each and every day. Easily my favorite meal for each of the last 21 days

1109 – Kev emails me saying that he has a ticket for me and Laura to the Closing Ceremony. Original plan for the day goes out the window.

1205 – Get off the hotel shuttle at the IBC. After grabbing a snack, I polish off the last of my Olympic work done and start trying to figure out what the hell I am going to do the next two days.

1220 – Decide to have lunch instead.

1320 – Book a ticket to Dover, England. A tiny coastal town in the English country side. Allison has a London bonus day as well and she wants to see a castle. Supposedly, there is a sweet castle in Dover and awesome looking white cliffs. Mission. Chill there for a day without cell service

1321 – Laura tells me we are taking the 1400 bus back to the hotel. Need to check out tomorrow morning and I have 3 weeks of clothes to pack. Will be setting up shop in Liz’s room since she will be working here until Wednesday

1335 – Debate with myself. Do I want to pay $300 to go to Paris for 10 hours?

1338 – Answer. Yes. YOLO. Try to buy a one-day ticket to Paris off the Eurostar site. Chase refuses to let the payment go through. This may be a sign.

1348 – After another 10 minutes of searching for other options. Find a site that is based in America to buy Eurostar tickets to Paris. This site may or may not be fake. Looking forward to not having a ticket and $300 less on Tuesday.

1354 – After a long payment process I receive a fake confirmation, shut down my computer and sprint to the bus.

1430 – Start the ole packing process

1509 – Flato and I ditch the Hyde Park plan and go on one of our patented London Adventures. All we do is pick a random stop we have never been to before and walk around.

1545 – Get off at Bermondsey and walk the Thames Path. After a very Piccinich decision making process we settle on eating at Pizza Express

1550 – We think it is weird that everyone here eats pizza with a fork and knife (foreshadowing)

1610 – Literally sit on Tower Bridge to eat our pizza. Boss move. Things take a slight downturn when we open our boxes to find out that they don’t cut pizza into slices here. Go animal style and just rip the pizza apart with our hands. Oh yea, we didn’t grab napkins either
1725 – Get back to the hotel. An hour nap sounds awesome, but if I lay down, I may not get up

1740 – Walk over to West India Quay to just sit. It is marvelous

1840 – Board bus for IBC

2015 – Walk into stadium for the Closing Ceremony

2115 – Madness, Pet Shop Boys, One Direction. What a start

2135 – Guess they didn’t have enough budget for a hologram John Lennon. No worries, I’ll settle for the jumbotron version singing Imagine


2137 – Whoa, 3D Lennon statue on stage!


2210 – Russell Brand sings Pure Imagination, introduces Fatboy Slim who plays then spins while Jessie J, Tinie Tempah, and Taio Cruz sing their hits. There is still like 2 hours left and this already might be the best concert I have ever been to.

2218 – London would get ultimate props is Rick Astley came out next. How often do you get the chance to Rick Roll the entire world?

2235 – I think my life is about to get spiced up!
2247 – Freddie Mercury! Some faith in Humanity has been restored

2256 – Jessie J sings We Will Rock You while the rest of Queen plays

2320 – Carnival!

Monday Aug 13

000 – Well that was a pretty f-ing awesome.

130 – Arrive back at the hotel and once again crawl into bed.

900 – I’ve been sleeping fairly well in London, but sometime I have been falling into these dreams where I think I am missing something for work and I can’t fall back asleep. This morning I woke up 3 times thinking I missed my train. Not fun

903 – Eating my last breakfast at the Hilton. Fun.

1000 – Officially packed and checked out.

1001 – Try to sign online to confirm all my train details, but apparently the second you check out, you are barred from the free wireless.

1002 – Since Allison hasn’t come down yet, I steal her identity and sign into the free wireless as Allison Ashenofsky, room 503

1045 – Get to Liz’s hotel to drop off my stuff. The key she gives me doesn’t work. Piccinich Effect. That was expected

1047 – Since I don’t think it is possible to talk the front desk into giving me a new copy of Liz’s key, I try a different move. Get out of the elevator, walk straight to the concierge desk visibly holing Liz’s dead key and ask if I can leave my bags there for the day. They oblige and ask if I will need a cab to the airport when I return. I decline. Beating the system FTW

1051 – As I walk out of the hotel I remember that my bag has a big “Hilton” tag on it. Hope they don’t connect the dots. Eh, if they have a problem, they’ll call me

1052 – Eff. The number on the tag is my American cell number which has been off for a month. Can’t wait to come back to London to no bags

1149 – Board the train to Dover!

1244 – Little Girl: Some people make sandwiches with 10 pieces of bread

1251 – The little girl’s sister is now picking her nose and licking her. fingers

1300 – Little Girl: (As the snack cart goes by) What about the trolley?!

1322 – Holy Shit. Rolling Hills. Endless Water. Cliffs. Awesome.

1344 – And it looks like we are walking through the ghetto of Dover. What the hell is Citizens Advice?

1410 – Stop into a supermarket to buy lunch consisting of American Fried Chicken Cold Cuts, rolls, caramel biscuits, some kind of sliced cheese, and 750mL of smoothie

1430 – Make it to Dover Castle.

1500 – There is a plaque here that commemorates the time the Brits were fighting the Germans in France but they were losing so they ran away. Makes it sound like the best damn retreat ever.

1530 – What the hell am I doing here. I’m giddy like a school girl

1535 – Picnic time!

1545 – Walking thru one of the old towers, there is a rogue hallway that is pitch black and smells like piss. We decide to walk down it anyway. We justify this by saying “adventure!”

1555 – English Father: “Get your knickers out of your mouth”

1615 – Medieval Tunnels of the castle. Holy crap this is cool

1625 – This castle was for King Richard and King John. AKA the same King Richard and King John from Robin Hood!


1631 – Where is Friar Tuck!  Side note: this is probably one of my top five Looney Tunes shorts of all time.  Yoinks and away!

1636 – There are holograms in this castle of warriors and servants. Dover castle has a better budget that the Closing Ceremony.


1640 – THRONE ROOM! RED LIONS! LANNISTERS! REIGNS OF CASTAMERE!


1645 – Every room in this castle is furnished with things and you can touch pretty much anything. Unlike America where they don’t want you to touch anything

1700 – Castle gift shop. No Game of Thrones merchandise. Sad Face. Castle closes in an hour

1715 – This church was built in the year 1000 and it is still in use. Ridiculous

1717 – To recap. Dover Castle is comprised of a church built in 1000, a lighthouse that predates the church, a castle built in 1745, and a WWII military stronghold consisting of a mansion and secret tunnels

1720 – Starting to drizzle. Damn you Scuba Steve

1745 – Trying to get a nice shot of the White Cliffs, but it is hard to get away from the ugly Port of Dover. Our solution: “Let’s walk on that highway overpass. That should give us a nice vantage point.” We justify this by saying “adventure!”

1747 – We are really not supposed to be walking here. Regardless, we carry on

1845 – Walking back to the train station, we see a set of stairs asking to be explored. Since we need to be back in London soon, we pass saying that if there isn’t a train in the next 45 min, we’ll come back.

1850 – Arrive at the train station, next train to London Bridge is in 7 minutes. Millhouse!

1857 – Board train back to London

1915 – Finish eating the picnic leftovers. Innocent Pomegranate, blueberry, acai Smoothies are delicious. No wonder it is the official smoothie of the London Games

2045 – Walk over Tower Bridge for the last time and meet Liz on our way to a NBC staff party

2055 – Party is at the London Operahouse! Don’t see any taking Das Boot challenge though. And the pretzels are much smaller

2352 – Arrive back at the Tower Hotel and they didn’t throw out my bags! Yay!

Tuesday August 14

640 – Should I bring my passport. Yea. I guess so. Just in case

657 – Depart the hotel. Only 699 pictures left on my camera…hope it is enough.

720 – “The train is now ready to depart, I do fancy your patience ladies and gentlemen”

727 – Still underground. Train is at 754. Shouldn’t be too hard to make the train.

730 – Make it to St. Pancras. Run to the terminal, then immediately stop and admire the building. Picture taken.

734 – Leisurely walk to Eurostar departure gate. Notice Paris train says “Closing.” Start worrying. Notice airport like screening. Start worrying more.

735 – Would feel like a royal jackass if I missed the train to Paris

738 – Make it through security. Frantically ask employee “I’m on the 754, is that bad?” She directs me to the late people line.

739 – Despite the fact there are 10 people behind me, I’m still shaking. Who needs caffeine

740 – Passport stamped. Glad I brought that. Up to three stamps! Can see how this could be addicting.

744 – Start cracking up while boarding train to Paris.

746 – And there is a crying baby in my coach

754 – Train is moving.

756 – French Announcements!

805 – Just put up an out if office message in French. That should cause confusion

Time Zone Change: Entering +1
(2010 Related Immature Laughter)

1044 – The kid next to me is watching The Wedding Singer on his PSP. I find myself wondering if he is watching in English or French

1117 – It has dawned on me that I don’t know a lick of France. In addition, I spent the 6 months leading up to London studying Google Maps. This should be fun.

1122 – Just paid .70 euro to go to the bathroom

1124 – And it is raining in Paris. Weak Sauce

1308 – This is a little harder than I expected. After walking to Sacred Heart to take in the view, I set out to find some food. Went to what looked like a deli, and asked for the parfait. They looked at me like I had three heads. After aborting three subsequent restaurants, I settled on a cafe in Palace Vendome. I feel like an American Idiot. Wish I knew some french. However, I can wait to have some delicacy known as French Fries.

1330 – Found Champs-Elysees. I can see the Arc de Triumph at the end, but something tells me this isn’t a short walk.

1409 – My assumptions are correct. And I didn’t even realize it was all uphill

1425 – I am very curious how many miles I will cover today

1454 – There she is. Le Tour de Eiffel. Even bigger than the one at Kings Dominion

1505 – The line for the elevator is way too long. Going to take half the day. Dagger. Was looking forward to going up

1508 – OOOO Stairs! And only 5 Euro for the exercise. 678 Steps.

1515 – Photobomb is the same in french and English

1549 – Successfully climb the stairs to the second floor of tower and back down. In celebration, the sun finally comes out

1551 – I’m a Slave for you is playing loudly somewhere. Turns out there is a teenage dance recital in the bandshell nearby. Odd

1615 – LE BAGUETTE! Trois metres!

1619 – I am getting a lot of dirty looks while making the Baguette Super .gif

1625 – Will I rue the day I cross Rue Cross? Doubt it.

1655 – Le Baguette cest fin

1643 – I am covered in baguette

1723 – The Pantheon is pretty cool. Name makes it sound Greek.

1731 – Found the stoop from Midnight in Paris. Now just need to sit here for another 6.5 hours until F Scott Fitzgerald shows up

1744 – Hour 6 of walking. Starting to lose steam. Must. Find. Strength. To. Storm. Bastille.

1807 – Just need to see Notre Dame and the Louve and I’ll be done. I should write a book of hurricane tours of major cities

1824 – I praise St Pats. But Notre Dame blows it out of the water both in beauty and number of tourists in the area.

1900 – Louve. Check. Mission accomplish. Now to see the sunset behind Le Tour de Eiffel. Cest Magnifique

2000 – Stop at a supermarket to get a smoothie to give me the energy to finish up the trip. They only have shitty Innocent flavors so I go with Leader Price Framboise Myrtille.

2012 – I can see Gare Nord. Exhausted, but pissed that I could have sat by the river for another 30 minutes

2015 – Total distance covered: 25.1 Kilometers.  Almost 15.6 Miles.  The route almost looks like a bad ass warship impervious to wild fire.  That doesn’t even count the 1356 steps of the Eiffel Tower

 

 

2040 – Two passport stamps in one day. Fun! Some Nights!

2045 – Looks like the 2113 train will be delayed. The 2013 is leaving in 5 minutes. So it looks like mine will be delayed by at least 30 min. If that is the worst thing that happens, I’ll consider it a blessing

2106 – An announcement is made in French. It is followed by a French groan. This a bad sign

2107 – English announcement. Our train is in the station but needs to be cleaned. Estimated boarding time: 2120. That is followed by an English groan.  Could be much worse. The groan wasn’t really needed

2121 – If I was in the baby car on the way here, I think this is the Sorority Car now. Sounds good, but I forgot how obnoxious Americans can be. I’ve heard one girl say the word douche 10 times in the last minute

2133 – I am looking forward to actually having conversations with people.  Today has consisted of “Bonjour” followed by pointing, followed by “Merci”

2138 – I haven’t connected my camera to my computer since Friday. I have 1052 pictures to upload. I hit the over in a span of 4 days. I have problems

Time Change: GMT
2315 – I woke up today in London and my contacts were really dry

2332 – Next time I come to London it is going to suck having to pay for my own Oyster card

Wednesday August 15

0005 – Make it back to Liz’s hotel. Shower and make it into bed by 0025

543 – Wake up. See the sun. Panic. Bolt Up. Run to phone. Get there seconds before my alarm goes off.

600 – On the way here I went from Tahoe to Reno to Salt Lake to New York to London in 24 Hours. (Seems like yesterday and years ago at the same time). This time around I’m doing Paris to London to New York to Ocean City in 28 hours

615 – On the tube towards Heathrow. Flight leaves in 4 hours. Don’t want to leave any doubts.

635 – I am on Delta Flight #4. Easily the lowest number flight I have ever been on

743 – Make it through security at Heathrow. Jolly good process except for the American Woman who apparently has never been on a plane before in front of me.

750 – Said American works for NBC News. Great.

820 – Head over the Delta lounge for the first time ever. Holy crap. This is amazing. No wonder it is so expensive to fly.

905 – Flight 4 to JFK now listed as “Gate Open” Ta-ta Delta Lounge

915 – See someone wearing a “I heart NY” shirt. Think to myself: not as much as me

916 – Guess everything is a contest to me…

918 – Apparently Gate Open means the plane is here but the gate is not open to the public. Can see how that is too long for a screen.

922 – Coming into today “Sleeping the whole flight home” was a huge favorite over “organizing pictures.” The gap has narrowed considerably.

940 – Sleeper seats again! International Business Travel Rules.

1140 – Pictures won until now. Delta also beats Continental since I can fully lay down without curling up in these seats

1450 – I ask the Flight Attendant if they have any Delta Biscoff cookies. She give me a “why would you want to eat that crap look” and says “I could go back to coach to get you some if you really want. How about I just get you a chocolate chip cookie?”

1455 – Ok that cookie was probably better, but still…

Time Change: GMT -5

1245 – We are early but stuck in a holding pattern due to traffic at JFK

105 – And the plane is low on fuel. We are being diverted to Philly. If I am able to get my bag, this could be a blessing in disguise. If I still have to go to NY. F Me

123 – Landed in Philly. I could literally see Pat’s what a tease

138 – We are refueling here on the tarmac and then flying to NY. Expected. Red Bull will give me driving wings.

208 – Still waiting for fuel trucks. Hunger rising

300 – Filled with fuel. Heading to the runway

328 – Still sitting on the runway. Thunder storms in NY have halted traffic. We are first in line to take off when they do start allowing flights in

335 – Emails piling up. Not looking forward to the next week. Real life sneaks up to you quick after the Olympics

438 – Finally touch down at JFK. Can’t wait to go to Wendys.

553 – Bags reach the carousel. First food purchase in the states: a cruller and an oreo donut from Dunkin. I’m not proud of it but it was literally the first thing I saw

615 – In line at Hertz. About to complete the transportation trifecta. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles in a single trip

800 – Finally make it out of NY. Damn rush hour. Didn’t miss that

900 – Pizza Hut stop. Buy two energy drinks. Just in case. Desperate times call for desperate measures

1100 – Energy drink number 2 opened

1118 – The metaphorical energy drink that is Call Me Maybe comes on the radio. Double energy

Thursday August 16

1212 – Make it to the Hojo Plaza in Ocean City. Another chapter starts. Now if only I had a good way to end this one…