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Published: August 31st 2011
Hey everyone, JPhill here again. It’s day 21, exactly three weeks since we left our home in California. Beaz and I are on a 9 hour train ride from Nice in the south of France, enjoying some of the most beautiful coastline scenery—very similar to California’s pristine coastline—on our way to party and relax (and repeat) in Barcelona. I wanted to take this precious free time to keep everyone updated on our travels since our last blog. Let me see, where did we leave off?? Ah yessss, after suffering through a miserable overnight train from Prague to Interlaken, Switzerland we stepped off the train into some of the most jaw-dropping natural scenery ever imagined..straight outta “The Sound of Music,” I swear! After sweating our asses off to get to the train station in Prague on time, trying to sleep, sweaty and sticky in some of the most uncomfortable seats ever (which we thought we reserved beds, but apparently there was a miscommunication), waking up in Interlaken was a dream come true. Interlaken (meaning between two lakes, genius) lies in a 10 mile wide valley surrounded by the Swiss Alps giving you a 360 degree view of stunning green and snow covered mountain-tops speckled with waterfalls and massive Swiss cabins and farmland where cows and horses live on such angled/steep hillsides I swear they’re about to tumble down any second. The lakes are so blue, they look fake..kinda like the water at Disneyland or something. I think I asked five times, “Are you sure they don’t color the water here?” Interlaken is so beautiful...I swear, not even the words of Ralph Waldo-Emerson can do this place justice. It was hilarious how gorgeous everything was, and I constantly found myself giggling and shaking my head in disbelief nearly the entire two days we spent in Interlaken. So, it might not come as a surprise that the town between two lakes is also an outdoor adventurist’s paradise – biking, hiking, skiing, paragliding, canyoning, bungee jumping, sky diving, etc. Just about anything you want to do, the Swiss make it happen! After being introduced to the doorman at our Hostel, the bigger than life St. Bernard (we named him Beethoven), we quickly tossed our bags down, rented some bikes and went exploring. We rode around one of the lakes for about an hour before finding a chill spot to go for a dip, again jaw dropping. One word to describe how the water felt: magical! It’s mystical powers revived our spirits (and washed the sweat and grime off that we accumulated after our torturous train ride). We traveled a little further and after coasting down a couple steep hills discovered (weeeeee!) we decided we should head back, plus the weather was starting to turn on us. After pedaling for 5 mins we were in the middle of one of the most intense downpours I’ve ever experienced. It came out of absolutely nowhere! Thunder, lightning, and even though it was still fairly warm…HAIL! Hahaha I was cracking up! Here we were riding bikes through Switzerland, pouring rain (now rocks of ice) and two California boys in our board shorts and tank tops (foreigners). After finally making it back to our lodge alive, we showered up and chatted with our new roommates, a couple girls from Georgia who had me constantly saying “yall” by the end of the night (no this is not a dirty joke). After getting acquainted, we all headed over to Balmer’s Lodge (apparently the one and only “spot” in Interlaken) and enjoyed a night of sobriety…psych, we got pretty scrambled and sweated it out on the dance floor. It’s funny how everywhere you go in Europe they’re playing the same music as back in the states: Music, the universal language!
After catching up on some z’s the next day, we grabbed some free grub at the hostel and headed over to AlpineRaft for a day of canyoning. We’ve both heard stories from friends about how much fun and exhilarating canyoning is, so we thought we’d see what all the fuss was about..best decision ever! Our canyoning crew consisted of two guys from Cal Poly who we partied with the night before and a dude from Boston..team USA haha! Our two guides, Richie and Sasha were two of the coolest, most down-to-earth guys with two of the most awesome jobs ever. Richie was a kiwi with a Mohawk and the funniest dirty jokes. “What’s the difference between jelly and jam?” lol He had been living in Interlaken for the past 8 years working as a canyoning guide in the summers and hitting the slopes of the Swiss Alps all winter long..just living it up. I was talking about how this is kind of the last “free summer” I’ll prob. ever have and he was like, “WTF, how’s that even possible” haha. Sometimes I think our priorities in the US are a little screwed up. Sasha, reminded me of a Swiss dread-locked Brendon Fraiser from a movie with Pauli Shore called “Encino Man.” He was hilarious and he didn’t even know it.
Suited up in double wet-suits, life jackets, booties, and helmets with derogatory sayings such as “Shocker” and “Mini Van” (mine said “SexBomb” and Beaz’s was “Dirty Sanchez,” appropriately since he’s been rockin the dirtiest stache ever since London), we headed off into the mountains about 45 mins out of Interlaken, the views again jaw dropping. We hiked down a few cliffs and after getting some safety instructions, like “Don’t do anything stupid,” and “Try not to die/drown,” we set off making our way through a canyon of huge boulders, waterfalls, cliffs, and natural slides; repelling 100 ft. cliffs over a waterfall and into a cave, then sliding on your back down a rushing natural slide in which you have to put your arms in just the right position to keep your head from being crushed from an overhang, and that was just the first run! Needless to say it was exhilarating, and you never actually realize how dangerous and crazy it is until it’s all over and you look back on every cliff you flipped off of etc.
None-the-less, I never felt unsafe thanks to our kick-ass guides. For those who ever get the chance to go canyoning somewhere, I HIGHLY recommend it! Don’t freak out though when you have to sign your life away before hand haha. After some beers and what tasted like the most incredible parmesan and salami sandwiches I’ve ever tasted (the mountains will do that to ya), we headed back to Interlaken. Once back at our Hostel, we headed to the pool and had some fun on an epic pool slide that propels you into the air like an acrobat. Beasle had to talk me out of going bungee jumping, using money as the issue, although I think he was really more concerned about leaving his wife, step-son, and bun-in-the-oven fatherless (understandable). All in all, Interlaken was…jaw dropping, and we wanted to stay a few more days if we hadn’t already booked a train out to Rome at 6 am the next day. I guess I’ll just have to visit you again someday Interlaken!
So onward to Rome…Be-salé here (Beasel)…that’s my Italian name abroad. You got to say it with your hands… “Be-salé” emphasis on sa le. Got to Rome from Interlaken and found our hostel very easily. Rome was huuuuuuuumid oh my god. Sweat seat sweat. The shower had little hot water and was slightly more than a drizzle. We showered none the less and headed out to get lost in Rome. First night out we hit up the Coliseum and Palatine Grounds. The Coliseum apparently at one point was estimated to hold upwards of 70,000 people. Though it’s been stripped you still get the enormity of what it once was…huge. Saw two Italian women get in a fight at an outside vendor. They spoke with their hands inches from each other’s face. And two men spit on each other on the tram. I couldn’t help but think that doing that in Cali and you may find yourself dead. Every twist and turn around Rome brought us to some ancient building. We dined that night on some quick food and snagged a bottle of wine and continued through to the Trevi Fountain. We each threw a coin over our shoulder in hopes that one day our travels bring us back to Rome, or so the legend goes. Peroni brew-has the rest of the night.
Day two found us up reasonably early and off to the Vatican and Sistine Chapel. The Vatican was ENORMOUS. Wow no expense was paid building this thing. I thought cathedrals in London and Prague were big. They were dwarfed in comparison. We took a wonderful tour of the Vatican and its grounds. Jay and I marveled at just about everything and it’s hard not to feel a sense of God inside such an amazing place, though the tour leaves out the thousands of years of persecution, blood spilt and wars fought over Christ. None the less it was quite educational. We then booked a tour through the rest of the Vatican including the Sistine Chapel. Before leaving for the tour, I asked the guide if we “will see the painting on the ceiling that the turtle did.” (my best Borat voice) She said “turtle?” “yes, the Ninja Turtle, he like a pizza and uses the knife, he a paint your ceiling, no?.” She didn’t get it, but it was worth the laugh. Anyways…the Sistine Chapel was beautiful. Hard to imagine one man painting something so amazing…and so different than all his contemporaries. We squeezed in St. Angelo’s Castle towards the evening gazing out over the Tiber River. We ate and enjoyed some wonderful food then hit up a small bar near our hostel and enjoyed a few beers.
Day three was spent visiting the Coliseum and Palatine grounds INSIDE. I was exhausted, to say the least…I told Jay we needed a day at the beach and if I see one more painting or marble stone sculpture I was going to put a bullet in my head. Jay promised the beach the next day. Jay called me “cranky.” And here’s the thing…I need my coffee in the AM. I REPEAT, I NEED MY COFFEE in the am. I am a spoiled American who craves LARGE cups of coffee. These coffee cups they serve are equal to one gulp…not enough I’m sorry. None the less, I kept my mouth shut, but Jay could tell…We decided to splurge for dinner that night outside the Pantheon and ended up having the best meal of our travels thus far. Chianti, pasta, filet…we did it big, and it was good. We were approached by a young woman who asked us if we were from California. We laughed and said yes…she explained that she and her friend had a bet. They were from San Diego and there was no way two guys with flannels and Rainbow sandals walking around Rome were Italians. What can I say, you can’t take the California out of us…even if we are from Visalia. And yes, if you’re from California “you surf.” Everyone assumes. Little do they know we go cow tipping… live in a place that has the worst air quality in America… and smells like shit. No, sorry, we just dress like “surfers.”
Day four was spent at the beach…thank God for that….All day at the beach. Yes, it’s true tops were scarce…though even for the 80 year old women they were scarce. Jay was appalled but I thought it was a true testament to the different attitudes women have of their bodies compared to American women. In America, if you got it, flaunt it. In Europe it doesn’t matter, flaunt it anyway. We got some sun and got back to enjoy a very expensive dinner once again. I love Chianti Classico…yum. We walked around a bit singing songs from our childhood on our way home and rested up. Starting Wed it would be a week-long of clubs and partying. Jay wanted to go out. I told him Jay I’m almost thirty, I have a pregnant wife at home, and the next week is Ibiza and Barcelona…give me a break. Well, hopefully there is still some Chico Wildcat in me…hmmmm. Above & Beyond, Sander Van Doorn, Calvin Harris, Chris Lake, Pete Tong, Felix Da Housecat. Amnesia, Priviledge and Space… and then Barca….I’ll have to find a way ;-) Here’s to Rome!! You wonderful city you!! I wish we could have spent more time together…my favorite country thus far.
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