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Archive for September, 2009

Just like I had started -and continue- to lose track of the days, I began to lose track of what country we were in while on tour. We moved through them so fast, and with such long bus rides in between, you would have to keep diligent notes to remember where was what and what was when. I did this for about the first.. two days. After that I just collected flyers or papers or phone numbers from Italian men to help me keep mental outlines of the days. Unfortunately, when I got lost and left behind in Vienna, all the keepsakes and postcards and papers I had kept got lost and left as well. So I’m going to dig into the vast depths of my cranium and try to recall all the best of whatever those places and people were.

Today, I’ll be kind to my still tired mind and start in Nice. Day 5 of sleeping with strangers and their snores. Now, usually snorers don’t bother me. I have my big sister to thank for this. From a young age I have had no qualms identifying the snorer and waking them up/smothering/smacking them with a pillow. Sweet sister used to wake me up with her snoring from across the hall, and after some trial and error and angry awakenings, I found the pillow smack to be most effective. Better still, the snorer rarely remembers the pillow pounding the next morning. Although I feel confident doing this to family, friends and campers, I’ve found I lose confidence when faced with elderly women on planes and tent mates. But really, its a petty complaint. Listening to snores from my tent and those surrounding me as I try to sleep under the Swiss Alps or on the French Riviera is hardly as bad as it gets. The lady on the plane is a whole different story. And had I not been afraid that she wouldn’t wake up if I pillowed her, I would have put that complimentary ball of fluff to good use.

Wait, what was I talking about? Ah, Nice. First night we head to the beach before dinner, local amusement park after. Rode shotgun on two rounds of bumpercars and couldn’t stop quoting Mitch Hedberg. (“I want to be a race car passenger: just a guy who bugs the driver. Say man, can I turn on the radio? You should slow down. Why do we gotta keep going in circles? Can I put my feet out the window? Man, you really like Tide…”) More entertaining than the park was the walk, where we passed a pizza stand with no pizza or ingredients, and a go-kart park with a broken kart under the sign. Less entertaining was being woken up early in the morning, not by snorers but by pranksters. Piles of chairs and ‘wheelie bins’ were being deposited in front of my neighbor’s tent, which sounded funny, but laugh out loud funny was the prank that didn’t happen. Jamie and Shane tried to steal a chicken and put it in Jacob’s tent. Like, seriously? Waking up to a chicken flapping around, freaking out in your tent? So much more effective at stopping snorers than pillows. Forget feathered pillows, go straight to the source.

On the way into Nice the next day we stopped for a tour of a perfumary. Except Sean, Heather, Jamie, Shane and I kept going. We skipped the tour and climbed into the town. We saw some amazing cars, took some precious family photos, and almost got ran over by donkeys on their way to breakfast. We took this as our cue to head back to the bus, but not before grabbing some beer and fruit from the grocery store. We were headed for the beach, and I knew from my days as a girl scout to always be prepared.

Cracked the beers as we jumped off the bus and began our search of cliffs off which to jump. The boys did several jumps, I took about three minutes standing and worrying before jumping and getting spanked by the ocean. That’s what you get for trying to defy death and gravity. The French police were unamused by our antics and wagged their fingers at us from their scary little boat. We knew they meant business and headed off to find trouble elsewhere.

Markets, beaches, grog shops and more beaches. That night we went into Montecarlo and I ate pizza breadsticks and tripped off sidewalks realized I would never quite fit with the rich and fabulous. But, whatever.

Speaking of fame and fortune, who wants to make me famous? Or employed? Turns out grownup -or pretend grownup- life is expensive. Soooo, lemme know if you have some profitable ideas or rich friends. Or, tell everyone you know to read this, then I can sell all my readers to get advertisers and write about more adventures! But really. I’m heaps of fun. I’m never boring. And I have skills.

Up next, Florence and Rome. Space Electronic Disco and dogs under umbrellas. Stay tuned. Or don’t. But don’t let me catch you snoring.

Hmm, that looks like more fun than sniffing perfume. Let's go.

Hmm, that looks like more fun than sniffing perfume. Let's go.


Turns out this adorable picture opp actually captured them licking a trash can.

Turns out this adorable picture opp actually captured them licking a trash can.


Ass that ran me over.

Ass that ran me over.


Nice beach

Nice beach


Equally nice looking beachers.

Equally nice looking beachers.


North Americans adjusting to rock beaches.

North Americans adjusting to rock beaches.


Forgot to take pictures at Montecarlo. But here's a snapshot of the next generation of self-made millionaires. The boys trying to open their own bar at the campsite.

Forgot to take pictures at Montecarlo. But here's a snapshot of the next generation of self-made millionaires. The boys trying to open their own bar at the campsite.


Clutching to something familiar-ish after letting go of my sanity and jumping into a canyon. Hook em!

Clutching to something familiar-ish after letting go of my sanity and jumping into a canyon. Hook em!


I couldn’t find the racecar clip, but if you’ve never heard Mitch Hedberg, go watch and become obsessed.

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Pre-post entertainment

Hello from London! Not sure where to begin on the updates. My Contiki tour is over, and I’m starting to plan my next three weeks of travel and poverty. Laundry is in the washer, lunch is in the microwave, and a comfortable bed is upstairs calling me for another nap 🙂 I’m going to get some things in order and update a little later. But I did upload my canyon swing/bungee jumping video for your viewing pleasure, so until then, enjoy this!

Yes, after many deep breaths and a dumb question to the instructor, I ignored all rational thought and, connected to only a scarily thin rope, I bunny-hopped off the platform into a 6 second free fall. It was terrifying, and I was certain I was plummeting to my death, frozen in a ridiculous interpretation of one of the most ridiculous elementary school dances of all time. But I survived. And then complained that we only got to do it once. And took a picture with a longhorn. Which I will upload later, because I don’t have my camera next to me. Texas fight!

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I believe it was the wise philosophers the Pussycat Dolls who once said “be careful what you wish for cause you just might get it, you just might get it.” Truer woes have never been howled/meowed. I have been reaching the end of my patience with the amount of bussing and craving the solitary travel days of olde when my wishes came true. I’m now in Vienna after two days in Florence Rome and Venice.
There’s too much to update and I’m writing this from my ipod laying on the concrete outside the closed reception office because it’s the only pocket of wireless so I’ll keep it brief. Plus I’m super eager to get back to my tent and soggy sleeping bag that have been acting as air fresheners in my sleeping quarters. That’s thanks to the remodel Rome helped us out with, installing an indoor swimming pool in an attempt to “pimp our tent” (tv series coming spring 2010).
Actually, I don’t think I’ll get to share any stories after all. Battery is about to die, shocked since I’m always so good at keeping things charged. Such a tease huh. Don’t know when I’ll get internet again, it’s so expensive here, like everything. Anyway me and my Contiki cough are going to count sheep til morning. I’ll try not to be jealous of their warm coats and mobility. Love and miss y’all. And horns for national champs, try and wreck that. Boom!

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Hiiiiiiiiiiiii. It’s been too long. But I’m back in Florence for the day and found my favorite internet cafe and the world is good again. Actually, my parts of the world have been phenomenal, going bungee jumping and paragliding and cliff jumping and to Nice and Montecarlo and Pisa and everything else.

Let me backtrack a bit and update on the first few days of the trip though. When I said whirlwind, I had no idea how true that was going to be.

The night before we left I somehow ended up with my own hotel room, which was really nice, but not at all conducive to changing my antisocial pre-tour mentality. It was a rough night of sleep due to the Grease themed party getting rowdy under my window, and nightmares of missing the bus and searching around Europe with a U-haul in tow.

But I made it onto the bus, despite a slight bit of oversleeping. I had laid out my clothes like Mommy always taught me, and hurried my butt out the door. After a few catatonic hours on the bus I found out I was sitting next to one of two Canadians and behind the only other Americans on the tour. The Aussies and ‘Kiwis’ dominate the demographic, with a few South Africans and others thrown in. We traveled pretty much all day, took the Ferry and finally ended up in Paris. Tents in hand, dumbfounded looks on our faces, it was time to set up camp. Somehow, we got the tents up. I was little help, as the only other time I attempted to pitch a tent it was in the pouring rain after drinking for nine hours. I will say though, I’m now a bit of a pro and our tent is usually first up.

Night tour around Paris feeling like an Asian tourist jumping off the bus, cameras ready, snap snap snapping away. Ended up at the Eiffel Tower at sunset, fended off the merchents peddling keychains and purses and light up berets. Watched a duo juggle fire batons and lost track of time, jumped on the bus as it was pulling away. I’m a little worried about their policy of assuming if you’re not on board on time you’re having a BTE.. better time elsewhere. So I amy be putting the ‘Where to Find Us’ sheet to use at some point on this trip due to my chronic inability to be on time.

Which was made clear again as I missed breakfast the next morning, opting to stick with London time rather than convert to French time. Made it into Paris. Felt like I spent the morning runing around, feeling the pressured knowing everyone would be asking ‘what did you do’ ‘what did you see.’ Also, the toilets were difficult to locate, so that accounted for a lot of my haste.

Passed an hour reading and people watching in a nook I found on the bridge, went to Musee D’Orsee and wandered around some galeries and stores. Ran into two of the Aussies headed for a drink and listened to their stories over a pint. Their day had been a bit more .. extreme. Bike riding in and out of traffic shirtless around Paris. I knew then that I had found some travel buddies.

Great dinner at a resturant where the black toothed accordian player kept the atmosphere classy by playing the chicken dance. Honestly the idea of a ‘fancy’ dinner is a bit ridiculous since everyone has a distinct lack of ‘smart’ clothes in our backpacks. Also, my idea of getting ready has changed from putting on makeup and doing my hair to wiping off smeared mascera and gathering hair into whatever style best hides teh grease and sweat.

After dinner the other Americans, bike riding Aussies and a few others went to a pub but stayed a bit too long and ended up missing our bus. Or maybe we missed it because we rode the train toward Disney Land for several stops before realizing, quite disappointingly, that was the wrong way. No worries though, a quick hour walk and we were back to the campsite. I’ve seen worse, and surely less entertaining walks. Parks and playgrounds and baskets of leaves kept us lauging the whole way home. Another night in the tent. Felt like a veggie at the grocery store getting misted every time I accidently touched the tent. Woke up cold and damp but ready for Switzerland.

Wednesday was another travel day. Nice, in theory, to read or write or sleep or socialize, if that’s your thing. But we sit. For hours and hours. Which is not really something I am capable of doing, so it is quite painful. However, the view at the end of the day made it worth it. We had arrived in teh Swiss Alps, and I already knew that I would not want to leave. Ever.
This timer is doing it’s thing, and I need to figure out some plans for post tour life, so I’ll update on Switzerland next time. But yes, I bungeed. And paraglided. And ate a meat pie.

jessie 004 My view from my nook on the bridge in Paris.

jessie 005 In Paris we went to an Irish bar right by the famed Moulin Rouge.

jessie 021 Sean, Heather and I after the Canyon Swing. Three crazy Americans.

jessie 010 Getting ready to paraglide around the Swiss Alps. We had to wear helmets for this, but not bungee jumping. Perhaps they think paragliders have slightly more sense and are worth at least pretending to save. Let Darwinism take care of the bungee jumpers?

jessie 012 Heather or Sean paragliding over the Alps. Seriously, it felt like we were in fantasy land.

jessie 009 Peace, Alps, and hiking boots.

jessie 006 Dom, Josh, Jamie, Jacob and Shane. Never a dull moment.

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Switzerlove

Bungee Jumping or Canyon Swing? And paragliding.
That’s the plan for today, I’m in Switzerland under the Swiss Alps. It is absolutely amazing here, I might get lost and stay forever. I’ve never seen anything this incredible, and we got to upgrade to cabins last night so it was nice to not sleep in a tent!

The tour is good. I was worried about the other people. That maybe the girls would be into girly things, like showering or wearing not hiking boots. And there are plenty of those, but the only other Americans on the tour are great and we are in a cafe planning today’s extreme adventures. Last night there was a big party at the campsite where you were supposed to dress up as something ‘p’ so there were a lot of sexy police officers and porn stars and pregnant and priests ect. but I think I was the first pupae the party had ever seen. I had just woken up for a nap so rolled out in my sleeping bag and stayed for a drink before heading back to bed. Had to be ready for a day of adventure today.

Paris was outstanding as well, and tomorrow we’re off to the French Riviera. I have pictures and videos of fire dancers in front of the Eiffel Tower, but I’ll have to upload them later. My duck is flashing, which I think means times up.

Wish me luck, hopefully I’ll be alive to update yall later.

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I think there must be something about me that makes people decide “hm, this looks like a girl to whom I’d like to tell my life story.” I’m not complaining, it’s always interesting and generally these talkative types have great stories to share. After making it into London to meet up with my tour group I walked around trying to find somewhere to buy more moleskins but ended up at a coffee shop talking to Lewis and hearing about his girlfriend and two sons and his life in Sydney and travels through Europe.
The only thing I dislike is when the convo turns to me and I’m supposed to reciprocate with on the spot entertaining anecdotes. The prompt “tell me about yourself” makes me a little sick to my tummy and I try to think of ways to turn the attention back to my new bff. “I’m Jessie.. I live in Texas, I haves mom a dad three sisters and a rabbit named Babbit. Actually it’s my sisters rabbit. Do you have or like sisters or rabbits?” I can usually have an hour long conversation without revealing much more than that. And this past week I really could have answered with any fictional life story, and sometimes did, but I think these next three weeks I’ll have to be a little more truthful and a lot more outgoing in my social interactions.
Walking into our group meeting made me a little uneasy, it’s been a while since I’ve had to meet and interact with so many people. Traveling alone has let mebeas reclusive as I want to be, but now it’s time to put on my charming shoes and make some friends. Too bad I don’t have a pair of stylish ankle boot sandals to alert everyone I how cool I am.
We meet at six tomorrow morning to weigh our bags and head to Paris. So that will be nice, since I’m a natual charmer in the morning. If you find dragons or mutes or snapping turtles charming.
And so starts the next chapter of my trip. Away we go, y’all.
Time for shower and book and early bed. I am too much party.
It’s 8pm here in London, and OU still sucks. Dreaming of Texas football and queso and mexican martinis.

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Made it from Florence to London without any problems, which worried me because whenever I don’t mess up something where there are so many chances for error, I feel I’m building towards an even bigger “oops”. Truth.

Apparently it’s a legal requirement that you have the address of where you’re staying upon entering the UK. Well, I was so busy updating this lovable blog that I ran out of time and didn’t write down the address of my dad’s generous friends who were opening their doors to me. Rather than pay the 1,50 euro, I figured I’d figure it out later. Fortunately, I was able to verbally charm the passport checker while administering mental head-slaps, and I made it into the country. I paid 3,88 pounds to get the address and hopped on a train I hoped would take me to Thames Ditton. Though where that was I didn’t have a clue, since I didn’t think to look at a map. The airport had a convenient print out machine that gave you your travel schedule, but somehow I grabbed one for a traveler headed for London Bridge. I was almost falling down in exasperation, but in an unlikely moment of preparedness, I had written the on-screen directions into one of the three notebooks I tote around. After confirming the directions with a kind tea-guzzling man in a camo Fila hat, I was off to a train, an underground an overground and an overground.

I arrived at the Guslers’ and I am so happy to be here. They took me along to their family dinner at a local pub where we had fish and chips and beer. On the walk home, it started misting. Pretty much exactly how I pictured London, and it’s lovely. Plus, being in a house with a family – and a computer! – is wonderful.

Things have been going pretty smoothly, no major catastrophes to report. Spent my last day in Italy just lazing around. Had a picnic of a pear, a bag of chips and a twix bar in Piazza Santa Maria Novella, which reminded me a little of the west mall. took a nap and did some reading. Later it was pizza and beer as I watched the sunset over Firenze from Piazza Michelangelo. Today was spent in transit from Florence to Genoa to London.

Without any outrageous story to share, I’d like to take a minute to talk about bathrooms and footwear and planes. As separate topics, though I’m sure in combination there’s a whole other discussion.

First, bathrooms. I never know quite what to expect the first time I use a bathroom in a foreign country. Here, you must pay, here they’re called toilets, here you share towels, here you must take t.p in with you, here you squat and aim at hole, here there is no toilet so find bush. Whatever the difference, I find a stall can provide a much needed moment of solitude from the craziness outside. When leaving the USA, I found the diaper changing table to be an ideal surface on which to unpack and repack my entire backpack. And as an added bonus, I smelt of baby powder for the next few hours. Not sure why bathrooms have always interested me, I suspect it began in my youth. My mom once said she wanted to write a book on bathrooms across the country, critiquing and documenting her findings for other travellers. Typical, the analyzing doesn’t interest me a bit, but I could fill notebooks with musings on bathrooms. Now, that would make Leonardo proud.

And a quick word on footwear. I’ve only been gone a week, but did I miss the emergence of the ankle boot sandal trend? Women everywhere are wearing these.

Ankle boot sandals?

Ankle boot sandals?

I can see them being useful for mothers of “ankle-biters” or perhaps athletes trying to correct an embarrassing sock tan. But I kid. If I had room in my suitcase or money in my bank account I’d be looking for a pair of my own. Instead I’ll be alternatively sporting my hiking boots, sperrys and flops. They go perfect with any outfit, how adorable.

Planes- I used to think the luggage carts that carry checked bags drove all the way to the destinations. Powered by some super jet engine and exempt from all rules of the road, I excused the wait at baggage claim because I knew they had a lot of driving to do. Now whenever I see them loading luggage under planes, I get a little disappointed. I also used to think that bras were for catching leaky breast milk and anyone with dark sunglasses and a blazer was a secret agent. Silly Jessie.

Anyway. I’m meeting up with my tour group tomorrow to begin a whirlwind trip around European cities: London, Paris, Florence, Rome, Venice, Vienna, Prauge, Munich, Heidelburg, Amsterdam. If you have any travel tips or friends/family in those cities who would want to meet me/feed me/fall in love with me, let me know!

Cheering on the horns from over here, probably in my bed. Texas Fight!
Also, Carrie introduced me to this great band, Fleet Foxes, and I want to pass on the recommendation. They’re amazing.

Not sure why I took this at night. My room for three nights in Florence.

Not sure why I took this at night. My room for three nights in Florence.

From the outside.

From the outside.

View from the campsite. Amazing.

View from the campsite. Amazing.

Piazza SMN, relaxing, eating, sleeping, fending off gypsies.

Piazza SMN, relaxing, eating, sleeping, fending off gypsies.

The Guslers, kind and wonderful friends of my dad and uncle.

The Guslers, kind and wonderful friends of my dad and uncle.

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