March 2, 2006

Holiday Road

Sorry it took so long to update. Doesn't seem like I missed much, so I'll try to give the unedited and quick recap of the trip. I had every intention of updating the blog while I was gone...but each of our hotels wanted over 20 bucks for internet access. As I said before...I don't really need to talk to you all that bad to drop 20 bucks.

Anyway, when we got to Paris, my buddy took me to a PSG soccer game. I'm not a HUGE soccer fan by any means, but I thought it'd be pretty cool to check it out nonetheless. As we were walking in, the riot police were there, probably about 100 strong...with shields, batons etc. Needless to say, I was a bit nervous when I saw that...but we walked right past them and into the Parc Des Princes. The game was a bit sloppy, but fun anyway. It's amazing how much smaller the field looks in person than on TV. Oh well, it's still soccer and it kidna sucks. HOWEVER, right about then was when the fires started blazing from the stands on both ends of the stadium. It seems some of our Euro friends like to burn things in the middle of games, much to the delight of the rest of the crowd. (I'd kinda like to try that at the next Omaha Royals game)

Anyway, on the way out, some neo-nazi's who had attended the game decided to scuffle with the riot cops, and we got caught in the middle of it. Not too bad mind you...at least they didn't break out the pepper spray. But either way, it was my first experience with European soccer hooliganism. A great time was had by all, even though the home team lost.

Two nights later, we went to see Zebrahead and Reel Big Fish in Paris. Nothing too exciting, but had a great time hanging out with both bands, meeting the tech guys, roadies etc. Got to watch sound check and all that jazz, which was fun too. The highlight for me was standing outside the club as Matty and I got locked out. Meanwhile, a line of about 20 people are staring at him like he's from another planet. I look over at them (after about 3 drinks mind you) and say to them..."It's no big deal..see..watch." and I jacked him in the head, much to their delight. Good times were had by all, as both bands put on a great show.

Tuesday, we headed to Italy and the French Riviera. I would highly recommend traveling by TGV while in France if you get the chance. It's cool, because you not only get to see the beautiful countryside, but the damn thing goes almost 170mph, which makes a little jaunt through the country all the more exciting. More than once, I thought what might happen if a stray deer wandered onto the tracks. I'm guessing against a speeding train doing 170mph, it's gonna lose. Besides paying 2.5 Euros for a tiny (dixie cup sized) cup of coffee on the train, we got to Monte Carlo.

Monaco is one of the most beautiful places on earth. The city is built on a series of cliffs that glides down toward the sea. (See picture above). It is full of rich people, doing rich things and acting as though you are the dirty tourist that you are. It was outstanding. After hanging around the city for a day or so (it was colder than shit for some reason...I had always heard the Riviera was warm. Stupid me), we headed to Nice, about 20 miles down the road. What's so exciting about Nice (Nee-se), France? Two words: MARDI GRAS.

Now, I've been to the early stages of Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and I'm quite sure that is one of the most crazy, dirty, no bullshit places on earth where one can have a good time. New Orleans is exactly like you would expect. Nothing more, nothing less. Nice, however is Mardi Gras times ten without the beads. Why no beads you ask? Because nudity is already so widely accepted, you don't even need them. I'm not sure what Trent Lott would do if he saw a fully nude woman on a billboard, but I'm quite sure there would be several congressional committees set up to tear it down. Anyway, that's another rant for another day. So anyhow, Mardi Gras was RAGING through the town..which was littered with confetti, silly string, people..you name it. It was clean. It was crazy. It was all the best parts of New Orleans...without the filthy dangerousness of New Orleans itself. (Although no city on earth can touch New Orleans for food).

So the next day, it's time to head for Italy. I was kind of town, because Mardi Gras was so fun, I really didn't want to miss it. However, we had made plans to go to Turin, so we headed down to rent our car. Here are words you never want to hear on vacation, "I'm sorry sir, we have no record of your car reservation here." Uhhh, that sucks. Thanks to the good people at Hertz, Marriott forgot to inform me that I didn't have a reservation. Sucks for me. Oh well, we decide to check the train schedules. The train takes 4 hours to go 90 miles (go figure) and costs over $200 bucks to get there. (Gratsi Italy) So I have no car, no place to stay and a train ticket is going to cost me 200 bucks for the two of us just to get there. Did I mention the only hockey that night was the quarterfinals which were all sold out? Did I mention buying scalped tickets in Italy during the Olympics is a jailable offense? So with all this...I STILL was going to go...however the pull of Mardi Gras raging was just to great. Therefore, just 70 miles away from the venues, I stopped my Olympic quest on the edge of the Italian Alps.

Before heading back to Paris, we did venture into Italy on the coast. Pretty uneventful, although the city (Ventimiglia) was beautiful, as was the alps as a backdrop. We walked around...ate..shopped...spoke Italian...it was great.

We finished the trip by heading into Western France to visit some castles and the famous Mt. St. Michel, just east of St. Malo. Pretty nice sightseeing trip, but the weather SUCKED. I've been to France four times, all during the non-summertime, and this was by far the worst weather ever. But alas, we had a great time, took some great pictures (which I'll post this week) and enjoyed ourselves a great deal. On our way back home (where the border agents apprehended an Arab-looking gentleman who was on our plane...yes!!!), we ran into a lot of folks who were on their way back from the games. They assured us that without time to catch the busy bus system, and no tickets, we would have saw little more than the Olympic flame, and that's it. (The Italians even put a price tag on the medal ceremonies, for the first time in Olympic history. THANKS ITALY!!!)

So that was it. Back to the grind...back to the land of fat people and wide highways.

More to come I'm sure as I get over my jet-lag.

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