Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

May 2009 bring you peace and prosperity.

Have a great start to your new year!

Create, inspire and be inspired!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Winter Hike

Aj and I went down to the bike shop and rented some snow shoes. These things work great and we were able to cover close to four miles in a little over an hour in a half in over 2 feet of snow. It is really cool "paving" you own trail and cutting through the woods in the snow.

Check out some pics:


Stay warm!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Finals

Nothing beats a week full of final tests along with below zero temperatures....as if getting out the door to go take a comprehensive could be any more motivating when you have to wear three layers.

Finals are officially half over for me, I had my Marketing test on Monday and my Chemistry final last night. In the past I have never been to rattled by finals week but this year I have let Chemistry get to me. I do not enjoy the class very much and have a hard time putting the time into the class that I should. Nonetheless, I crammed on Monday night and all day on Tuesday and I feel alright about how the exam went.

Up next I have my Kinesiology final on Thursday morning at 8 and my Entrepreneurship exam at 10:15 then my brain will shut down for break. I am looking forward to spending some quality time with my family and seeing AJ for the first time since September. It will be a nice way to close down the year and start a new one.

Take care and stay warm!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

ITS COLD!!!

Man, it seems every year I forget how fricking cold it gets here!

It is currently 5 degrees outside (-13 Celsius for those crazy Brits) and that's not including the wind chill. It is beginning to become a bit embarrassing walking into class and it appears as if I am crying because my eyes water while biking in the cold.....maybe I can convince my professors that they are tears of joy for being in their class (yeah, right!).

The winter is always a hard time to try and accomplish things that require more energy than cuddling up under a blanket and watching Christmas movies. The days are cold, daylight is limited, and we are more apt to staying indoors. What happened to the days when it was sunny outside and it's easy to be upbeat and motivated to get out and take on the day, workout, ect. Nothing seemed harder than those 6 am lift and run practices in January for wrestling only to have another punishing practice at 4 later that afternoon. I dreaded waking up to that alarm, sleepwalking outside only to be met by the below zero temperatures and the upcoming hell I was about to go through. But somehow it got done.

I didn't feel as if I had anything to say before I started writing this blog so I talked about the weather and it has now led to motivation and getting something accomplished. Pretty ironic that I feel negative about the cold and I am now talking about motivation. So maybe the lesson is that although you may feel lousy and down because of the weather, but don't let it affect your outputs. Feel lousy and do it anyway (fittingly the motto for all wrestlers, right AJ?). Just know that with time "this too shall pass," tomorrow is a better day, and now is a better now.

Until next time,

Create, inspire, and be inspired.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

San Francisco

I just received conformation yesterday about a trip to San Francisco I applied for this January. I will be traveling there with 8 other Luther students for 10 days exploring Internet technology and how it has changed marketing, communications and the operations of every business in our society. The trip takes place from January 12-23 and I will be able to visit companies and key people in the valley including entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, engineers and marketing professionals. Some of the companies we will be visiting include Google, Apple, Facebook, TechCrunch, and more recent startups.

The majority of our trip will be spent in Silicon Valley, which is is home to the people, places and power sources that drive the technological world. This trip will help me gain both theoretical and tactical training in the diverse field of online marketing and social media optimization, as well get the opportunity to speak with leaders in this industry and explore the companies they represent.

Along with the opportunity to visit and speak with these technological leaders, I will be able to explore the city of San Francisco which I am very excited about. I have never been West of Arizona and have always wanted to visit California. I will be posting about my travels while I am there so stay tuned.

Otherwise, enjoy the snow!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The hampster wheel.....

This time of the school year is where I really find my days flying by. Classes are busy as ever and it seems as if everything get piled up at once. Classes become more tedious and it is harder to find the motivation to study. Sometimes it feels as if I don't know where the time goes. I wake up and my day is full keeping busy doing so much that I am to tired or don't have the time to do more of the things I truly enjoy.

Over the past few days I have come to the conclusion that I need to rid myself from the blinders of repetitiveness by constantly asking myself: How do I feel? How's my life? What do I want? Am I getting what I want? If not, why not?

As it turns our for me, thinking can be suffocating. I over think to many things and let my mind talk me out of the things I am actually capable of. This was true for me with wrestling in about any big stage or match I can think of and took my focus off the things I believed in. It is the same now for me in school and life.

Creating our thoughts is based on what we want from life and is a necessary part for devising the means necessary to achieve it. For me and everybody else, our thoughts are intimately connected to achieving the realization of our desires. I am a believer in the power of the mind and I realize the need to break the simple routines of my life and create the environment I seek in life.

The problem is that I have gone through this routine many times and it routinely ends up with me micro-analyzing my life. So my new goal is to not become trapped by this dogma and have the courage to follow my heart and intuition. Everything else is secondary from here on out. I need to trust the fact that if I pursue my passion, results will follow. It boils down to just believing.

It not the fact that I don't believe I can do anything, it's just the thoughts of failure and what if's that trap me. This is why I am excited for Thanksgiving break. It will be nice to unwind, spend time with my family and hopefully get some of the things done that get put off during the labors of school. My family is the best when it comes into believing you can achieve anything. They are always supportive of whatever it is I am interested in and are always willing to help, regardless of how impossible it may seem.

So if anybody else ever doubts themselves, although it may seem lame, rent the movie Kung Fu Panda. It came recommended to me and turned out to be a lesson I needed and inspired me to write this blog. There is no secret formula to success and happiness, you just need to believe.

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.

Monday, November 3, 2008

16 Things I Wish They Had Taught Me in School

Here is an article my friend stumbled upon. Some very interesting thought provoking ideas.

1. The 80/20 rule.

This is one of the best ways to make better use of your time. The 80/20 rule – also known as The Pareto Principle – basically says that 80 percent of the value you will receive will come from 20 percent of your activities.

So a lot of what you do is probably not as useful or even necessary to do as you may think.

You can just drop – or vastly decrease the time you spend on – a whole bunch of things.

And if you do that you will have more time and energy to spend on those things that really brings your value, happiness, fulfilment and so on.

2. Parkinson’s Law.

You can do things quicker than you think. This law says that a task will expand in time and seeming complexity depending on the time you set aside for it. For instance, if you say to yourself that you’ll come up with a solution within a week then the problem will seem to grow more difficult and you’ll spend more and more time trying to come up with a solution.

So focus your time on finding solutions. Then just give yourself an hour (instead of the whole day) or the day (instead of the whole week) to solve the problem. This will force your mind to focus on solutions and action.

The result may not be exactly as perfect as if you had spent a week on the task, but as mentioned in the previous point, 80 percent of the value will come from 20 percent of the activities anyway. Or you may wind up with a better result because you haven’t overcomplicated or overpolished things. This will help you to get things done faster, to improve your ability to focus and give you more free time where you can totally focus on what’s in front of you instead of having some looming task creating stress in the back of your mind.

3. Batching.

Boring or routine tasks can create a lot of procrastination and low-level anxiety. One good way to get these things done quickly is to batch them. This means that you do them all in row. You will be able to do them quicker because there is less “start-up time” compared to if you spread them out. And when you are batching you become fully engaged in the tasks and more focused.

A batch of things to do in an hour today may look like this: Clean your desk / answer today’s emails / do the dishes / make three calls / write a grocery shopping list for tomorrow.

4. First, give value. Then, get value. Not the other way around.

This is a bit of a counter-intuitive thing. There is often an idea that someone should give us something or do something for us before we give back. The problem is just that a lot of people think that way. And so far less than possible is given either way.

If you want to increase the value you receive (money, love, kindness, opportunities etc.) you have to increase the value you give. Because over time you pretty much get what you give. It would perhaps be nice to get something for nothing. But that seldom happens.

5. Be proactive. Not reactive.

This one ties into the last point. If everyone is reactive then very little will get done. You could sit and wait and hope for someone else to do something. And that happens pretty often, but it can take a lot of time before it happens.

A more useful and beneficial way is to be proactive, to simply be the one to take the first practical action and get the ball rolling. This not only saves you a lot of waiting, but is also more pleasurable since you feel like you have the power over your life. Instead of feeling like you are run by a bunch of random outside forces.

6. Mistakes and failures are good.

When you are young you just try things and fail until you learn. As you grow a bit older, you learn from - for example - school to not make mistakes. And you try less and less things.

This may cause you to stop being proactive and to fall into a habit of being reactive, of waiting for someone else to do something. I mean, what if you actually tried something and failed? Perhaps people would laugh at you?

Perhaps they would. But when you experience that you soon realize that it is seldom the end of the world. And a lot of the time people don’t care that much. They have their own challenges and lives to worry about.

And success in life often comes from not giving up despite mistakes and failure. It comes from being persistent.

When you first learn to ride your bike you may fall over and over. Bruise a knee and cry a bit. But you get up, brush yourself off and get on the saddle again. And eventually you learn how to ride a bike. If you can just reconnect to your 5 year old self and do things that way - instead of giving up after a try/failure or two as grown-ups often do – you would probably experience a lot more interesting things, learn valuable lessons and have quite a bit more success.

7. Don’t beat yourself up.

Why do people give up after just few mistakes or failures? Well, I think one big reason is because they beat themselves up way too much. But it’s a kinda pointless habit. It only creates additional and unnecessary pain inside you and wastes your precious time. It’s best to try to drop this habit as much as you can.

8. Assume rapport.

Meeting new people is fun. But it can also induce nervousness. We all want to make a good first impression and not get stuck in an awkward conversation.

The best way to do this that I have found so far is to assume rapport. This means that you simply pretend that you are meeting one of your best friends. Then you start the interaction in that frame of mind instead of the nervous one.

This works surprisingly well. You can read more about it in How to Have Less Awkward Conversations: Assuming Rapport.

9. Use your reticular activation system to your advantage.

I learned about the organs and the inner workings of the body in class but nobody told me about the reticular activation system. And that’s a shame, because this is one of the most powerful things you can learn about. What this focus system, this R.A.S, in your mind does is to allow you to see in your surroundings what you focus your thoughts on. It pretty much always helps you to find what you are looking for.

So you really need to focus on what you want, not on what you don’t want. And keep that focus steady.

Setting goals and reviewing them frequently is one way to keep your focus on what’s important and to help you take action that will move your closer to toward where you want to go. Another way is just to use external reminders such as pieces of paper where you can, for instance, write down a few things from this post like “Give value” or “Assume rapport”. And then you can put those pieces of paper on your fridge, bathroom mirror etc.

10. Your attitude changes your reality.

We have all heard that you should keep a positive attitude or perhaps that “you need to change your attitude!”. That is a nice piece of advice I suppose, but without any more reasons to do it is very easy to just brush such suggestions off and continue using your old attitude.

But the thing that I’ve discovered the last few years is that if you change your attitude, you actually change your reality. When you for instance use a positive attitude instead of a negative one you start to see things and viewpoints that were invisible to you before. You may think to yourself “why haven’t I thought about things this way before?”.

When you change you attitude you change what you focus on. And all things in your world can now be seen in a different light.

This is of course very similar to the previous tip but I wanted to give this one some space. Because changing your attitude can create an insane change in your world. It might not look like it if you just think about it though. Pessimism might seem like realism. But that is mostly because your R.A.S is tuned into seeing all the negative things you want to see. And that makes you “right” a lot of the time. And perhaps that is what you want. On the other hand, there are more fun things than being right all the time.

If you try changing your attitude for real – instead of analysing such a concept in your mind - you’ll be surprised.

You may want to read more about this topic in Take the Positivity Challenge!

11. Gratitude is a simple way to make yourself feel happy.

Sure, I was probably told that I should be grateful. Perhaps because it was the right thing to do or just something I should do. But if someone had said that feeling grateful about things for minute or two is a great way to turn a negative mood into a happy one I would probably have practised gratitude more. It is also a good tool for keeping your attitude up and focusing on the right things. And to make other people happy. Which tends to make you even happier, since emotions are contagious.

12. Don’t compare yourself to others.

The ego wants to compare. It wants to find reasons for you to feel good about yourself (“I’ve got a new bike!”). But by doing that it also becomes very hard to not compare yourself to others who have more than you (“Oh no, Bill has bought an even nicer bike!”). And so you don’t feel so good about yourself once again. If you compare yourself to others you let the world around control how you feel about yourself. It always becomes a rollercoaster of emotions.

A more useful way is to compare yourself to yourself. To look at how far you have come, what you have accomplished and how you have grown. It may not sound like that much fun but in the long run it brings a lot more inner stillness, personal power and positive feelings.

13. 80-90% of what you fear will happen never really come into reality.

This is a big one. Most things you fear will happen never happen. They are just monsters in your own mind. And if they happen then they will most often not be as painful or bad as you expected. Worrying is most often just a waste of time.

This is of course easy to say. But if you remind yourself of how little of what you feared throughout your life that has actually happened you can start to release more and more of that worry from your thoughts.

14. Don’t take things too seriously.

It’s very easy to get wrapped up in things. But most of the things you worry about never come into reality. And what may seem like a big problem right now you may not even remember in three years.

Taking yourself, your thoughts and your emotions too seriously often just seems to lead to more unnecessary suffering. So relax a little more and lighten up a bit. It can do wonders for your mood and as an extension of that; your life.

15. Write everything down.

If your memory is anything like mine then it’s like a leaking bucket. Many of your good or great ideas may be lost forever if you don’t make a habit of writing things down. This is also a good way to keep your focus on what you want. Read more about it in Why You Should Write Things Down.

16. There are opportunities in just about every experience.

In pretty much any experience there are always things that you can learn from it and things within the experience that can help you to grow. Negative experiences, mistakes and failure can sometimes be even better than a success because it teaches you something totally new, something that another success could never teach you.

Whenever you have a “negative experience” ask yourself: where is the opportunity in this? What is good about this situation? One negative experience can – with time – help you create many very positive experiences.

What do you wish someone had told you in school or you had just learned earlier in life?

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Monday, October 27, 2008

Night Shift Bike Race

On Saturday night I participated in my first actual mountain bike race. Since the race was a night race, I was finally motivated to spend the money on a much needed light. Bought the light on Friday afternoon, charged it and put it on the first time for the race....not a very good idea.

The race stated at the bottom of Quarry Hill Road with a mass start. Once we reached the top I was with the front pack up the service road to Fred's for the start of the single track. Probably sitting around 15-20th and then I realized my light was mounted in the worst possible place for riding. My light pointed directly in front of my tire allowing me to only see about 3 feet ahead of my bike. This made my ride more or less reaction riding than mountain biking. I pushed my helmet to the back of my head and rode the race with my neck cocked back as long and often as I could. I ended up fishing the race in 54 minutes and 36 seconds and placing 30th overall out of 53 riders. Not quite what I wanted but for my first race I will take it. Next year I will have a better idea of where to place my light, the pace I need to push and the better condition I need to be in.

The race itself was a great experience. It was described as a competitive, yet friendly ride and that was a perfect description. Trails were in great shape, race organizers and volunteers put the race together perfectly, and the weather was pretty ideal. The after party/awards at T-Bocks was also a great way to cap it off as well.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Fall Break

From last Friday until today Luther had our fall break. Although it was only 3 days off of school, it was a much needed break. I was able to get a lot accomplished during my time off as well as get caught up on some rest.

I went riding with my Dad on Saturday night and the weather was absolutely perfect. We ran into around 5-10 deer roaming the woods and rode until dusk. The times when my Dad I and are able to get out and ride is always fun and memorable.

Later on Saturday, Jeff asked me to urban ride with him, Travis and some other guys from out of town. I had never urban rode before and did not have the optimal bike for riding but thankfully Travis was able to lend me one of the bike shops. For those who don't know urban riding is similar to bmx, only the bike is more comparable to a mountain bike with full suspension. At first I wasn't sure how much it pertained to mountain biking but many of the skills were complementary such as creating your own line and negating obstacles.

I learned a lot by watching the guys urban ride and realized I need to improve in a lot of different areas to become a better rider. Looking back I wish I would have been more fearless but instead I was timid and held back more than I should have. Regardless, I had a great time and hope next time will be different.

Besides riding, the other plan for my fall break was to travel to Racine, WI with Ally to visit her roommate, Kathleen. The 5 hour drive was broken up by a quick (2 hr) stop at Blue Mounds State Park. I rode while Ally slept and was presumably bored. We then spent two nights in Racine and Kathleen's house and had a great time with her and her family. We checked out the lakefront, pumpkin farm, a favorite local restaurant, and did some shopping.

Now reality checks back and classes have resumed. My focus now turns towards the night race this Saturday night for my first night ride ever.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Adventure Race

On Sunday, I competed in Luther's Second Annual Adventure Race. The race consisted of a 5 mile canoe, 12 mile bike, and a 3 mile run. My roommate, Aaron, and I competed as a team in the event by canoeing together and biking and runing alone and then averaging our times. Over 70 people competed on a day featuring 80 degree weather, gusts as high as 30 mph, and beautiful fall leaves covering the ground.

The race started with those who were kayaking alone in groups of four with two minute intervals between the next group. Aaron and I started in the middle of the pack and were able to catch up and pass a lot of kayakers. Fortunately we never tipped and stayed dry throughout. The unfortunate part was the wind. We would be paddling as hard as we could and it would seem as if we were not moving. People were literally getting their kayak's turned around from the wind alone.

After the canoe we started the bike. Knowing what the route was beforehand, we knew it was going to consist of 2 long gradual climbs and short, fast downhills. Since my mountain bike is a single speed, it would have not been efficient to ride on the flat surface through town and I would have lost a lot of ground. Aaron and I decided to ride my geard bikes at home. The initial plan was for me to ride my Dad's and he would ride the "Green Machine." After a broken chain link and some other work on my Dad's bike I deemed it unridable for the race and turned to Anne's old Trek 720. Problem was the gear shifter on the right was broke so my only gear options were 1x7, 2x7, and 3x7.....cowboy up! Aaron was the pace setter for the ride and I was suprisingly able to keep up givin my bike specs. The ride ran through town, Palisades Park, onto the gravel portion up Quarry Hill, and down to Luther.

The run was the part that got me. I don't know how Aj was able to move his legs after biking for 112 miles. For the first 1.5 miles it was hard to just keep a steady pace and maintain decent form. It felt like I had never run before (the fact that the run started out on a trail that was incredibly uneven, filled with logs, dips, and crazy turns didn't help). Once I got to the top of college farm things finally got better and I was able to maintain a steady pace on the downhill and back to campus.

My total time was 2:04:04 and Aaron's final time was 2:08:11. I finished 10th overall and Aaron placed 13th. Overall I was pretty satisfied with my results. My only goal was to push myself as hard as I could and finish. Next year we will win the race.

Special thanks to my Mom, Judy and Cat for being great support. I know they made Quarry Hill seem a lot shorter for Ally. Pics are not uploading for whatever reason and I will continue to try until they are uploaded.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Bring on the weekend!

Talk about a full week.

I had 11 classes, 2 tests, and a quiz along with 16 hours of work. Who is ready for the weekend?

Weather has been nice enough to be able to continue my bike commute to work logging over 50 miles alone from my dorm room to Wal-Mart and back.

Wrecked my mountain bike rim last weekend attempting to conquer the log ride. Went head over the bike while my tire became lodged between the log and the ground. Luckily my shoulder broke my fall. After I got that fixed I went out on a great ride last night before work with Aaron, Derek, and Joe. Only lasted around an hour but we were able to cover some ground.

This weekend is the Adventure Race that Luther is putting on. Still need to make some adjustments to my Dad's bike so I don't have to spin on my single speed on the flats. He broke his chain this past weekend when we rent riding so I took it into Deke's to get it fixed. I am excited to compete this weekend and ready to go. I will either run or bike again today and do something light on Saturday to stay loose.

I will give a race report either Sunday night or Monday.

On a side note I found an article that in New Zeland they are placing bicycle assembly stations in the international termial...how cool is that! New Zealand is widely regarded as one of the ultimate destinations for bicycle tourists — good climate, friendly people, stunning vistas. I hope to visit there some day. If only the US was as supportive and bike friendly as other places in the world.....

While AJ supports his "Save Gas, Burn Carbs" stickers I plan on sporting one of these patches onto my bag.



(Insert catch phrase here)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Cub Rant



Never would I have thought it would end like this. Not so quick, not like this.

One day, the top team in the National League and a favorite to win the World Series for the first time in 100 years. Four days later, gone.

Worse than last year, and worse than '03 for me. I still remember Brant Brown dropping Rod Becks fly ball in '98 at Milwaukee with my Mom. It seems as if every great Cubs memory is becoming replaced with total letdown. Six months of great baseball and 97 wins this year have all went to squat.

It is almost as if my belief has turned from a "It's Gonna Happen" attitude at the beginning of the year to a "Who gives a shit, It's Never Gonna Happen."

Every Cubs fan starts the year with that belief that this is the year! THIS is the team that can do it! Eventually over the course of the year the losses build up and the belief slowly fades away. But not this year....

We had the losses, which were followed by 8+ game win streaks. We had no apparent weaknesses. Solid starting pitching to start and then we added another ace in Harden to give more hope. Great bullpen and great hitting. Every time our bats were down, somebody stepped up. This was the way our year went for 162 games. We were the best team in the National League. Everything was in place. This was the year to break our 100 year curse.

An ESPN writer explained that this was no choke, that happened in 2003. It wasn't a collapse either, that would be too nice of a way to explain it. They simply failed to even show up. Now labeled a playoff irrelevant team after nine straight playoff losses.

But will I quit on the Cubs? Hell no, I'm a Cubs fan. Albeit a very pissed off one....

I'll recover of course and the anger will fade as well as the "It's never going to happen" attitude.

Because of course....there is always next year.

Monday, September 29, 2008

TFTD (Thought for the day)

A friend of ours was walking down a deserted Mexican beach at sunset. As he walked along, he began to see another man in the distance. As he grew nearer, he noticed that the local native kept leaning down, picking something up and throwing it out into the water. Time and again he kept hurling things out into the ocean.

As our friend approached even closer, he noticed that the man was picking up starfish that had been washed up on the beach and, one at time, he was throwing them back into the water.

Our friend was puzzled. He approached the man and said, "Good evening, friend. I was wondering what you are doing."

"I'm throwing these starfish back into the ocean. You see, it's low tide right now and all of these starfish have been washed up onto the shore. If I don't throw them back into the sea, they'll die up here from lack of oxygen."

"I understand," my friend replied, "but there must be thousands of starfish on this beach. You can't possibly get to all of them. There are simply too many. And don't you realize this is probably happening on hundreds of beaches all up and down this coast. Can't you see that you can't possibly make a difference?"

The local native smiled, bent down and picked up yet another starfish, and as he threw it back into the sea, he replied, "made a difference to that one!"

-Jack Canfield

Friday, September 26, 2008

Biking


For whatever reason I am unable to upload the pictures I took from last nights bike ride so the one above is somebody else until I can upload mine. I moved out of my comfort zone and tackled the log ride on the Back 40 (trail). This log ride sits ten feet above the ground and is about 1.5-2 feet wide. While it is just as wide as any trail we ride on, it is hard to think that when you are 10 feet up on your bike in the same amount of space.

On my first attempt I made it across until the 2x6 you see at the bottom right on the picture when my front tire went off the edge and I went flying. The experience of crashing is always fun but I think the majority of that feeling is because I have never been seriously hurt. Hopefully that day never comes. We have video footage of the crash and I will try to upload it when I have more time. When you are mountain biking, if you aren't crashing you are not having fun. Or when we ride with my Dad, if there is no blood it wasn't a good ride. My next attempt I crossed it cleanly and I am now hooked on riding them at least twice every time we ride.

Mountain biking is an awesome way for me to get a workout while still having a good time. I have started a group at Luther where a bunch of guys get together and bike 1-2 times a week. Numbers fluctuate quite a bit because of schedules but we always try to get some quality rides in. Also, on the second Wednesday of every month there is a local time trail at 6:30. If there is anybody reading this who wants to join, please come. Any questions just ask.

Also on the calendar is the Adventure Race here at Luther on October 12. It is a five mile canoe/kayak, 15-mile bike and 3 mile running race through the greater Decorah/Luther area. Race begins at 2:00pm. I will be participating and canoeing with my roommate Aaron. Although it is just shy of an Ironman by about 120 miles, I will still consider it as an accomplishment. Also, if anybody has a road bike they would like to lend me it would certainly be more fun than riding my fixie.

A thought to think about today from Alice in Wonderland (lame I know):

Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?
The Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to
Alice: I don't much care where.
The Cat: Then it doesn't much matter which way you go.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Risk


To laugh is to risk appearing the fool.
To weep is to risk appearing sentimental.
To reach out for another is to risk involvement.
To expose feelings is to risk exposing your true self.
To place your ideas, you dreams before the crowd is to risk their loss.
To love is to risk not being loved in return.
To live is to risk dying.
To hope is to risk despair.
To try is to risk failure.
But risks must be taken because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.

The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing and is nothing.

He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but he simply cannot learn, feel, change, grow, love, live.
Chained by his own fears, he is a slave;
He has forfeited freedom.

Source Unknown

The place that 99.9% of people spend 99.9% of their time is within their comfort zone. It is an area where everything in life is relatively easy and exertion is minimal. Not necessarily an area of complacency or carelessness, but that zone where life is set on cruise control. If things get too difficult people back off. If things get too easy they step up a little bit. Some challenges are faced, but the risk is minimal and people are rarely over-extending themselves in any direction. This includes simple everyday tasks, but can be applied to life in general. The "comfort zone" is where most people spend most of their time.

I'm not saying this is a bad area. Everyone, myself included, spends time in this "comfort zone" and if I didn't have a comfort zone I would go insane. The key is baby steps, push yourself a littler further with each challenge you meet. It may be something as simple as smiling when you are having a day and don't feel like it or lending a hand to those in need.

One of the best examples for risking it all and stepping outside of his comfort zone is my brother, AJ. For somebody who once HATED to run, he has found a new passion by pushing his limits and discovering another part of pain/life that he has never experienced and few ever will. His mentality to risk it all has changed his life-imagine what it could do to yours.

Only a person who risks is free! Reach out and leave your comfort zone and live each day as a new opportunity to make your dreams come true.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Is it October yet?!


It never gets old.

For the first time in my life the Cubs have made back to back postseason appearances. Watching, listening and following the Cubs has been a large part of my life and I cannot wait to see how far they can make it this postseason.

Now if only the Twins can make it as well so all of my friends can have something to cheer about in October and won't have to listen to me rant about the Cubs all the time.....

Monday, September 15, 2008

Carpe Diem!

This is the beginning of a new day.

You have been given this day to use as you will.

You can waste it or use it for good.

What you do today is important because you are exchanging a day of your life for it.

When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever; in its place is something that you have left behind

...let it be something good.

Are we wasting each day waiting for it to be over with or are we getting the most out of the day and ourselves? Laying around each day will not give you results. Sure, everybody needs a day to lie around once and a while but how often are you doing it? Boring people have boring days.

Seize the day! Make more time for yourself to enjoy YOUR life. Do the things that you want to do. You will quickly see how it effects your life as well as others.

Friday, September 12, 2008

A change of pace....

I got a laugh out of this and thought I would pass it along.

"My Next Life" by Woody Allen

In my next life I want to live my life backwards. You start out dead and get that out of the way. Then you wake up in an old people's home feeling better every day. You get kicked out for being too healthy, go collect your pension, and then when you start work, you get a gold watch and a party on your first day. You work for 40 years until you're young enough to enjoy your retirement. You party, drink alcohol, and are generally promiscuous, then you are ready for high school. You then go to primary school, you become a kid, you play. You have no responsibilities, you become a baby until you are born. And then you spend your last 9 months floating in luxurious spa-like conditions with central heating and room service on tap, larger quarters every day and then voila! You finish off as an orgasm!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Where from here?

It has been a while since my last post and I have debated keeping my blog going. At first, my blog was intended to cover my travels in Europe and keep everybody informed about the incredible opportunity that was laid before me. I would have never been able to travel and live in Europe as I did without Anne and Sandy especially, but the rest of my family and friends helped make it all possible as well. The experience I had was something that I can never repay back.

So what am I getting at? Each day we are presented with the opportunity to be a part of something great. Be it work, school, cooking, or simply making it through the day. Some days it is easier to find motivation for what we are doing and other days we have to dig deeper. However, there are always two constants, we make up our minds and if we can't, there is always family and friends to help make things we do possible. I know that if I am ever having a bad day I can go to my Mom, or if I need help with school or am struggling with making a decision I go to Dad, and if I need somebody to tell me exactly how it is I go to Aj.

My network of family to go for help is unmatched.

So instead of dedicating my blog to Europe, I am going to dedicate it to all of my family and friends who I have learned so much from. They have helped shape (change) me into who I am today and are an even bigger part in helping me figure out where I am going. Hopefully with me sharing more of my thoughts and experiences with everybody, you can learn something from me as well.

At first I thought my blog should carry a constant theme (Europe) but instead I am going to do exactly what a blog should be about--whatever I am feeling. Some posts will be about my life, my family, motivation and the things I enjoy.

In Aj's blog he talks about attitude a lot and how it can change your day. If you can change one day, you can change your life. So how do you make a change in you life? In the end it's all about being able to change....

When you change your thinking, You change your beliefs;

When you change your beliefs, You change your expectations;

When you change your expectations, You change your attitude;

When you change your attitude, You change your behavior;

When you change your behavior, You change your performance;

When you change your performance, You change your life!

Anybody still reading? Let me know if you are, leave a comment!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


While Aj has been wearing out his tires on the road, I prefer to ride off-road. To me, it offers everything a bike ride needs from dirt, logs and gravel to the climbs and my favorite downhills. Besides, if you have not been outside the past five days, you are not living. The weather has been absolutely perfect. Mid to upper 70's, low humidity and sunlight. It already feels like fall and I am enjoying every minute of it.

Jake and I have been riding the past few days together and we decided to take a camera out tonight and fool around. We biked the Twins Springs area that we rarely ever ride because it is away from most of the trails. There is a pretty good climb to the top on the trail, but most of our fun came on the spring.


Aside from biking, I have been working most every day at Pepsi. Reality has checked me back in and I move back to school on Sunday. I am looking forward to seeing everybody again and having a room again.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Killing Two Birds With One Stone

I am now a proud new owner of another bicycle after a week or so of using my mountain bike to trek across town, I decided the need for a commuter bike was necessary. A lighter frame and skinnier tiers have made my rides to work and friends houses much more efficient and less time consuming. If you are thinking about riding your bicycle to work, grocery store, class, and for your around town errands here are some of the reasons that helped make my decision.

#1: Saving Money

People are always complaining about the rising price of gas and food. My bicycle gets about a million miles to the gallon and is the most efficient way to get around town.

#2: Better for You

Your time is valuable and what a better way to fit in exercise during your daily routines.

#3: Better for the Environment

This can be your gift to share with others. No pollution, no noise, no congestion=no-brainer.

#4; It's Fun





"Driving a car versus riding a bike is on par with watching television rather than living your own life."

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Nordic Mess

My past few days have been filled, along with the rest of Decorah, with lots of Norwegians and craziness around town. Sarah came up for two days to watch Catherine dance and hang out. Along with her, lot of my friends from Luther and high school who I don't see very often were in town. It was good to see everybody and spend time together but it was hard at times to find time for everything along with work thrown into my days.

I was able to get out on the trails to mountain bike in the beautiful weather and watch my sister dance at night. She is a Nordic Dancer and this is her final year of being in the "younger" group of dancers. Watching the dances has become more enjoyable over the years and she does an awesome job.

Life has been pretty crazy since my arrival home. It is hard to imagine I will have been home two weeks on Tuesday. I had wrestling camp for 4 days which I always find enjoyable. The team I coached was from Big Lake, MN. My team exceeded their coaches expectations for the camp, most of which I credit to my coaching abilities. But seriously, it was fun to show kids new moves and to turn around and see them pin a kid with what I had just shown them in their next match. For the first time in my three years of being a counselor at camps the kids and coaches have already asked to have me as their counselor again next year. Looks like I must have been doing something right.

Now that the town is finally back to normal hopefully things will settle down this week. I plan on getting some reading done along with lots of mountain biking. Cubs have a big series with the Brewers I plan on watching as well. Hopefully they can keep things together the second half and make it to the post-season....but I've learned not to get my hopes up to high.

Go Cubs!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Home

After a long day of traveling yesterday, I have finally made it home safely. My flight left London at noon, which meant I had to leave Anne and Sandy's flat around nine. My Mom was wondering if I was sad to leave Anne, Sandy and London. After some thought, I don't think sad was an emotion I had during these moments. My outlook is more of a, "see-you-later" than the dreadful, "goodbye." All of the experiences, laughter and memories are something that will stick with me forever and help shape me into who I am, so the way I see it, there are no goodbye's. As much as I will miss spending time in London and Europe, the time spent bonding with Anne and Sandy will be more missed.

After making my way through security I had some time to do some airport shopping and grab a bit to eat. My flight seemed to go by as fast as a seven and a half hour flight can go. I avoided the airplane food and stuck to the unlimited free drinks to help pass time. The real experience of flying home was my connection to Minneapolis. My flight was behind schedule and I was off the plane around 3:15 in the afternoon....my flight to Minneapolis departed at 4:15. I had to make it through customs, pick up my bags, and back through security again before I could get to my gate. It was a rush and very stressful, but I made it.

After my two hour flight to Minneapolis, my Mom and Ally met me by the baggage claim. We stopped at REI and grabbed some things for home and then I drove back. Somehow, I was up until eleven o'clock central time. Change that over to the time difference in London, and I was up for 22 hours. My body has adjusted pretty easily to the difference thus far and I am hoping it stays that way. It feels good to be home and see my family and friends again.

Now, I have to let reality set back in and get back to work. Stay tuned for a list of some of the interesting things I learned while across the pond in my next post.

Cheers!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Ireland


During the middle of last week Anne and I flew to Dublin for a short, two day trip. We found out that two days is about the maximum you should spend in Dublin. It has a fair amount of places to sightsee but otherwise, Anne recommends viewing Ireland by touring through by car and visiting the small town atmosphere. Regardless, I really enjoyed Dublin and what it had to offer. The people were very friendly and we had some interesting conversations with a few locals at dinner. Anne pointed out to me that although the Irish are very friendly, they may also just be noisy. They were all very interested in our political thoughts and who we were voting for. The elections play a very large part in how things work over here, more notably, the housing market.

Aside from mixing in with the locals at the pubs and restaurants, we did the tourist part as well. Naturally, we had tours of the Guinness Brewery and the Jameson Distillery. Both were very entertaining and educational for those wondering. We both learned a lot about the process for both liquids and why they are so great....and yes, the Guinness is much better in Dublin than elsewhere in the world.

When we weren't partying while sightseeing we were able to see the Book of Kells at Trinity College along with Kilmainham Goal (Jail) and Dublin Castle. For the abbreviated stories of these treasures: the Book of Kells (circa 800 AD) contains the Four Gospels of the New Testament inscribed into calf hide in very intricate detail. Very impressive to see. Kilmainham Goal was a prison built in the late 1700's which held many leaders of the Irish rebellion. The jail provided us with a lot of Irish history along with many stories of escape attempts. We were also lucky enough to view the beautiful St. Patricks cathedral, the largest church in Ireland.

Sorry the blog is a pretty quick run-down. It is around 12:30 am in London and I will be in the air in less than twelve hours....time for some sleep!

As always, never stop exploring.

Cheers!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Back from Dublin

Anne and I are back from our few day trip to Dublin, Ireland. We are still in the process of detoxing all of the Guinness and Jameson from our system.....updates coming up shortly.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Efficiency is intelligent laziness

A rainy day in London can provide you with the perfect opportunity to relax. Anne, Sandy and I woke up this morning with intentions of playing a round of golf which was only to be spoiled by a forecast of rain and wind. Although my opportunity to golf in England may have been spoiled, it saved me from lots of disappointment and faulty math and provided us with the opportunity to watch the greatest match ever at Wimbledon.

If you were unable to watch Roger Federer and Raphael Nadal's match today, find some time and watch it somewhere. Their five sets, which we watched every minute of, offered an exhilarating performance of power, grit and perseverance. The weather here changes so quickly, which caused two rain delays during their play. At times it looked like a normal summer day and then almost instantly the skies would turn gray again and rain would appear. If I were back in Iowa, the weather would almost certainly mean a tornado watch would be in place.

After the match ended, Anne and I decided to try and recreate the infamous Happy Joe's taco pizza. Nothing tops Happy Joe's for Anne, so we figured if we got anywhere close it would be a success. The pizza wasn't nearly anything like the original taco pizza, but it was more than enough to satisfy.

On Tuesday, Anne and I take off for Dublin, Ireland. I am very excited to see the shades of green and get my hands on a real Guinness.

The Tourists Have Arrived!



July and August is peak season for tourists in Europe and it was easy to tell a difference on the first day of July. In July, the weather is supposed to be better and the days are longer, along with the queues. A piece of advice for if you visit Europe, there are better deals, less lines and less crowds if you travel opposite of these two months. On the other side you may be forfeiting some great weather. Either way in London, you still need to be prepared for the weather because it can change instantly. To the right is a great view of Big Ben, the Eye and part of Parliament along with a mass of tourists.

With the tourists arriving, they are also helping me feel more like a local. I have figured out London pretty quickly (with a lot of help from Anne), and I have had several people ask where something is or a certain street and I am able to explain where it is. A simple feeling that makes me feel more like a "temporary local." Below is a picture of "Buck House" or Buckingham Palace that I took while walking back to Anne's.



On Friday, Anne and I headed to the south bank to visit Shakespeare's Globe and the Borough Market. This replica of the original Globe Theater is built as it was in Shakespeare's time. It serves both as a museum and a working theater featuring many authentic Shakespeare plays and modern plays. During our tour, a play was in rehersal which allowed us to watch their practice.

After our tour we walked to London's oldest food market, Borough market. This place has it all from flowers to organic fruits and vegetables to some mouthwatering fudge. It has hundreds of stands featuring their freshest goods to sell that took a lot of will power to turn down. I ended up getting some excellent seafood paella before we walked back to Anne and Sandy's.

On Saturday, I went to Westminster Abbey to view the greatest church in the English-speaking world. This is the place where all England's kings and queens have been crowned and buried. It seemed very much like an indoor cemetery with over 3,000 tombs, but its architecture was beautiful. I wish I were able to take pictures, but you are not permitted to inside. Inside the cathedral also sits the Coronation Chair. The gold-painted wooden chair has been carved with some graffiti, but its significance is unprecedented. It has been in use since the early 1100's.


By the time my tour ended, I was lucky enough to grab a seat and hear the evensong performed by the Westminster boys choir. Hearing this musical meditation is one of the most pleasant ways to view the church in the way it was intended to serve.

Until next time, cheers and God save the Queen!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Hastings to Rye


Anne and I "conquered" a beautiful hike yesterday with her hiking group from the AWC. We took the train from London to Hastings where our hike began. There was a lot of low cloud, rain and mist for portions of the trip but that did not detour us from having a great hike and marveling at the wonderful scenery.

There were seven women and me so I figured I was in trouble. I always knew the experience of having two sisters would pay off somehow. But seriously, I had a great time. Everybody on the hike was very welcoming and lots of fun. It was my first actual group hike and is something I would like to do more of when back home.

Our hike took us out through the town of Hastings (below) between some vegetated bluffs along the southern coastline. Once we were through many of the up and down climbs we had a pretty flat hike through some quaint retirement villages on the coast. We hiked through many pastures filled with sheep and cows, along with their droppings, which we tried to avoid like land mines.


Our ending point was the town of Rye where we caught a train back to London. In all, our hike was around 20 km or approximately 12 miles.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Feeling Cultured

Last night Anne took me to experience my first musical, Les Miserable. Memories of listening to the musical cassette came flashing back and it was nice to be able to understand what was actually going on. The play was very well done and was more enjoyable than I imagined. I will definitely try to get to more plays when I have the opportunity.

Today, Anne and I went down to Canary Wharf to visit the Docklands. We went to the Docklands Museum and went through their Jack The Ripper tour that was very interesting. It took us more than an hour to go through some of the stories, police reports, pictures and evidence that had been retrieved from his victims. I learned that "Jack" is to this day still an unidentified cereal killer. He targeted the "unfortunate," otherwise known as prostitutes in the Whitechapel area. Because his identity has never been confirmed, there are many myths surrounding the murders which we had to sort through. I have came to the conclusion that there was more than one killer, but who really knows?

Afterwards, we walked across Tower Bridge, which is often mistaken for London Bridge. From there we took a city boat to Westminster and walked back to the flat, about 3.5 miles. It was a beautiful day and was the hottest of the year, a scorching 82 degrees with no humidity. The weather here is perfectly suitable for my taste and I will have a tough time adjusting to the hotter, more humid temperatures in Decorah.

Tomorrow Anne and I are heading to the southern part of England for a hike with her hiking group. The hike will total 12 miles and should be lots of fun. Our train leaves around 9:30 and we wont arrive home until later in the evening. It will be nice to get out of the city and enjoy some beautiful England countryside.

As always, take care.

Cheers, bye!

Monday, June 30, 2008

Stay Left


On Tuesday afternoon after Ally left, Anne and I hopped onto the bikes and decided to check out Wimbledon. It was about an hour bike ride from Anne's flat to the grounds and it was pretty interesting biking in a big city. Cars seemed to be pretty aware of us and we did not have any close calls. Aside from the riding, Sandy's bike shoes had me stumped when we got home. I spent about 10 minutes just trying to get out his shoes.

Because tickets to Wimbledon are pretty ridiculous (1500 pounds=3000 dollars), we biked around the grounds and were able to hear some of the action. There is a queue for tickets where they resell the tickets after people have left for cheaper prices, but the line was extremely long. The facilities are top notch, obviously, and we have been watching a fair amount of tennis at the pubs and at home.

Anne and I also went to the Imperial War Museum this week. The museum is much bigger than we expected and we did not get through all of it in four hours. It featured exhibits from WWI and WWII along with a Holocaust memorial. War machinery covers the first floor from submarines to tanks and they even were having a James Bond exhibit. We plan on going back to check out the rest of the museum before I leave. Below is a picture of me next to a preserved piece of the Berlin wall.


We have spent many of the past few days taking advantage of the good weather and biking around London. Anne, Sandy and I went for a nice ride yesterday to Richmond Park which is about a 40 minute ride from Anne's and offers some "off-roading" gravel trails. The park is huge and it was nice to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city for a while.

Last night was the EuroCup 2008 final. Spain and Germany battled it out and to our delight, Spain won 1-0. Football here is a huge deal and even though this cup wasn't as anticipated here because England did not qualify, people were still very excited. Some friends of Anne and Sandy came over for the game and ate dinner with us.

Tonight I will be going to my first play with Anne, Les Miserables. It will be exciting to see since I can still remember listening to the soundtrack on our way to school when I was little. I will post about my experience afterwards.

Ciao!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Home Sweet London


Ally and I left the hotel in Paris around 6:15, approximately four hours after we arrived back to the hotel. After a slow, should have been anticipated, French customs to board the Eurostar, we were on our way to London.

We got back to Anne's flat around noon, unpacked, showered and waited for Anne and Sandy to get back from Spain. Then, we decided to take a walk through Westminster and show Ally some of the main historic parts of London. My guided tour took us past Buckingham Palace, St. James's park, Parliament, Big Ben, The Eye and through Trafalgar and Leicester Square, and Piccadilly Circus. Afterwards we came back to the flat for a wonderful dinner with Anne and Sandy.



On Monday, I decided that Ally needed to see the Tower of London. We saw the Crown Jewels and took the Beefeater tour. Ally actually enjoyed the tour more than she though she would and learned a lot about some early history of London. From there, we walked along the Thames towards Parliament and grabbed lunch. We found a place making a seafood paella outdoors that we really enjoyed. We then walked to Piccadilly Circus to shop at Lillywhites, which is similar to Sheild's in Iowa, only 10 times more crazy. Ally found some clothes to buy and I even bought a jacket, my first souvenir purchase overseas.

Unfortunately, on Tuesday Ally was scheduled to fly back to Decorah. I took the tube with her to the airport and made sure she got checked in correctly. We had a great trip and I am extremely glad she was able to come over and explore Europe with me. Many great experiences took place and we learned a lot about Italy and France along with their culture.

Friday, June 27, 2008


On Saturday, Ally and I planned a packed day to finish off our greater Europe tour and get the most of what Paris has to offer. We were out the hotel by 8:45 and walked to the Louvre. I grabbed a few patisseries for breakfast while Ally had some fruit....good to see where my priorities are.

The Musee du Louvre is Europe's oldest and biggest museum. You are greeted by the glass shaped pyramid in the U-shaped courtyard of the 16th century palace. Filled with statues from Michaelangelo and paintings from all sorts of eras; it is also home to the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo.


We were selective with the parts of the museum we decided to see since the museum is so vast. Witnessing many works from the Greek and Roman empires and Italian paintings from Raphael and da Vinci. A 5 million euro glass wall holds the Mona Lisa paining from Leonardo. I sort of expected the Mona Lisa to be a large painting that would take my breath away....it wasn't. Though very impressive, it didn't blow me away. I am glad we were able to witness it in person.


After our walk through the Louvre, Ally and I wandered along the river Seine and found a market area with a grocery store. We bought some vino, a baguette, meat, cheese and chocolate and sat along the river for lunch. Our sandwiches were huge and extremely filling, but well worth it.

After lunch, we walked to the historic core of Paris, the Ile de la Cite. We started our walk with the Notre-Dame Cathedral. This 700 year old cathedral was breathtaking. Filled with history, beauty....and tourists, the church is decided to "Our Lady" (Notre-Dame). The stained glass and gothic architecture is something else. Everything inside and outside the church tells a story and is incredibly detailed. The spire, gargoyles, and statues only add to the churches beauty. Notre Dame was different from many of the other churches I have visited overseas and is one of my favorites.


From the Notre Dame we walked along the river to the Deportation Memorial dedicated to the 200,000 French victims of Nazi concentration camps. It is a very moving site and you feel very secluded from everything even though you are in the heart of Paris. The memorial does a excellent job of drawing you into their experience, symbolizing the disappearance of the city, surrounded by walls with only the sky above and a tempting glimpse of the unreachable river.

From there, we walked to the residental neighborhood of the Ill St. Louis. It is a neat island area filled with classy boutiques, sorbert shops and restaurants. We ate some sorbert at an incredible shop. Ally and I decided on melon as our flavor of choice. It literally tasted like they finely chopped and froze muskmelon into a sorbet and put it on a cone.

While we devoured our sorbet, we walked to the Latin Quarter while passing the many green bookstalls selling used books, vintage posters and souvenirs. Within the Quarter we visited the hidden Sainte-Chapelle. A triumph of gothic architecture is a cathedral of stained glass. Something that really made me think of my mother and something I know she would love to see. It is one awesome place. There are 15 panels or 6,500 square feet of stained glass with more than 1,100 scenes depicting the Bible. Ally and I sat down in awe staring at this magnificent work of art and architecture for a while and I had trouble leaving. The Bible states that light is divine and the stained glass truly captivates it here at its best.

After the Chapelle we walked through Pont Neuf to the metro stop and jumped on the subway back to our hotel. After a quick rest stop we headed to the Eiffer Tower for our ascent to the top....at least that was Ally's first plan. The 1,000 plus foot ornament is much larger than it looks in pictures and is quite massive. Built to only impress, it certainly fulfills its duty and did not disappoint us. You don't appreciate its size until you walk towards it for a close view. Ally decided that she could handle the first and second platform which were at 200 and 400 feet.

We took the elevator up instead of the stairs (you can take them to the top, which I will do someday) and then took the stairs down. With the city lieing before us, we were offered some sweeping views. We went up at the perfect time, just before dark and were able to view the sunset along with the thousands of people filling up the Champ de Mars. However impressive the tower is to see during the day, it is at its best at night. The tower is filled with lights and thousands of flashbulbs flash all over the tower when it first lights up.
After our journey up the tower, we walked to our river cruise that we had missed the night before. Our boat had a open upper deck which offered some great views of the City of Lights. People were correct, Paris is lovely from the Seine. Our one hour boat cruise offered some awesome views and even better people watching. Turns out that the summer solstice was taking place that Saturday and is one of the biggest events/parties all year. The banks of the Seine were completely packed with people drinking, dancing and listening to music. The bridges were filled and unfortunately, people were pouring beer onto the boat from above. Ally and I were spared from most of the showers but others were not so lucky.

After our tour we walked back to the Eiffel Tower so Ally could say goodbye to its beauty. The Champs de Mars was still flooded with people at 1 in the morning partying but Ally and I had an 8 o'clock train to catch in the morning so our party was ending. I will try and upload pictures to my picasa web albums as soon as I get the chance.

Back to our home base in London!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The City of Light


A city that offers tremendous amounts of history, art, fashion, food, wine and romance-traveling to Paris was a no-brainer for Ally and I. We took a night train from Nice that took around 12 hours. It was interesting cramming into a 6 bed car with four people you don't know and can't communicate with because they speak a different language. To make matters more difficult, neither Ally or I slept well and Ally woke up with a migraine.

Nonetheless, we were determined to not let some bumps interfere with our vacation. We took the metro towards our hotel and dropped off our bags. Our hotel was only a block off of the Champ de Mars so we walked there first to check out the infamous Eiffel Tower. We sat on the grass and ate some breakfast and Ally laid down in attempt to calm down her headache. We had an interesting encounter with a scam and ended up loosing some granola bars, but no money or harm was done to us.

When Ally felt well enough to start our expedition, we walked to Napoleon's tomb (above) and the Army museums. We toured through the French military museums that featured Charles De Gaulle and a tribute to the victims of WWII. Another wing of the museum featured a great exhibit covering WWI and WWII. Ally and I learned a lot about the French perspective on the war and I learned about many events that I was previously oblivious to. Since I have been back in London I am reading a book Anne gave me called "Wine and War" that is very interesting. It covers stories about how the French protected its most precious wines during the Nazi reign. I would recommend it to anybody who enjoys wine or WWII history.

Along with the Army museums, Napoleon's tomb highlights all of the museums. Napoleon lies dead inside several coffins under a grand dome covered with gold. His tomb is surrounded by various French war heroes along with his brothers.

After visiting the tomb, we went back to our hotel to check in, shower and take a much needed hour long siesta (nap). We then walked from our hotel to the Eiffel Tower, through the trocerdo, to the Arc de Triomphe (below). The Arc de Triomphe is a magnificent work of art and there is no triumphal arch bigger. Napoleon had it built to celebrate his victory at the battle of Austerlitz.



This arc is the center for any event of significance. Twelve converging boulevards circle around the arc and it sure is a circus. Ally and I were not sure how to reach the arc until we found the underpass...I would have felt pretty stupid walking around the whole circle unable to find out how to reach the arc. Many monumental events (friend or foe) end here including Napoloens funeral, the arrival of the Nazi's, return of Charles de Gaulle after liberation and today the Tour de France finish line is here. The arc was very impressive to view in person and is much larger than I expected.

From the arc, Ally and I wandered Paris' most famous boulevard, the Champs-Elysees. This boulevard acts as Paris' backbone and features many high end stores, car dealerships, cafes and restaurants that lead to the palace gardens. It is a long street that offers some great views for walking. We ventured in and out of some shops, mostly the ones that we could not afford.



Our "walk" concluded at the palace gardens in front of the Louvre where we walked from there to find a place for dinner. After checking out many menus and lots more walking we finally decided on a place to eat.

We learned that dining in France is a way of life. Books and lives are dedicated to this subject and we were smack dab in the middle of Frances cuisine. Since Paris does not have a style of its own, I decided to go with the only native thing, French onion soup for a starter. I ordered the menu which is a fixed price, three course meal while Ally got an incredible salad and shared my meal with me.



Afterwards we walked back to the Eiffel Tower to sit on the grass and watch it light up (at 10:30). When we arrived we were met by hoards of people covering the grass drinking wine, beer and dining out. It was only fitting for us to join in so we ran to a grocery store and grabbed a bottle of wine to drink on the lawn in front of the Eiffel Tower. It is interesting in European countries there is no open container laws so you see people wandering the streets drinking everywhere. We experienced some of the most entertaining people watching ever and witnessed the large amounts of garbage people leave all over the Camps de Mars.


After witnessing the Eiffel in the peak of its beauty at night, we walked around the City of Lights mesmerized by its beauty. Our goal was to catch a twilight cruise of the River Seine but we ended up missing the last boat of the night because I was craving some crepes.....it ended up being a good thing because our cruise on the last night was much more entertaining. Instead we just wandered around the river and made our way back to the hotel to rest up for a packed day tomorrow.

Stay tuned for the rest of our Parisian adventure!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Nice is nice

Bonjour,

Crossing over from Italy to France seemed like a pretty easy transition....well, I think the beaches had something to do with it. Our destination was Nice (sounds like "neice"), with its beautiful Alps-to-Mediterranean surroundings we decided this would be a great place to relax. This was the city that celebrities from London used to flock to escape the rainy weather years ago. When traveling we want to feel like locals, so that is what we did.

Nice is a charming old town with a grand beach front promenade and was lovely to walk around. The city lit up at night and we were lucky to have such beautiful weather. This stop on our trip was not meant for visiting museums, but to simply lay by the beach and relax after six hours on a train.

We took the train from Florence to Milan and had to wait an hour to catch the train to Nice. The ride offered some great scenery ranging from the hills of Tuscany to the Cote d'Azur coastline of the Mediterranean. Once we began to see the sea, Ally and I became intolerant of the train we were on and were teased by the beauty before us. Two hours later, after staring at the beaches we were finally laying on one.



The beaches in Nice are far from sandy. Covered in rocks, I had a difficult time maneuvering without sandals. We were however able to situate ourselves in the rocks and lie down for a nice tan/burn.

Our next stop is Paris!

Salut!

Florence


On Monday morning Ally and I boarded the train for our hour long ride south to Florence, Italy. Our ride traveled through the rolling hills of the Tuscany region in northern Italy. We saw some beautiful rolling hills and sprawling vineyards from our crowded train couch. The Tuscany region is most notably known for its wine production and one of our favorites from our trip, Chianti.

Florence, or Firenze in Italian, is the capital of the Tuscany region. It is the home of the Renaissance and the birthplace of our modern world. Although Florence is a small city, we found it to have some intensity. Markets sweep across the city and everybody is trying to sell you some leather. Our hotel was near the cities largest market area in the San Lorenzo square, tucked away from the main tourist sites. We had some difficulties finding our hotel and Ally was not pleased to find we had to walk up four flights of stairs with our bags to reach our room. Also, this was our first hotel that made you leave your key at the desk while you are out and we were pretty skeptical about that, but everything worked out fine.

We took off from the hotel and began to dig into the Renaissance culture. After getting our bearings around the city, we found out that there is much more to the Renaissance than art. To them, art applies to all areas of life beyond paintings and statues be it food, fashion and speaking. We found the best way to experience this was to walk around this charming city is while eating our new favorite treat, gelato. Gelato is an Italian ice cream, much better than any ice cream I have ever had. You are practically eating art with its very dense and flavorful taste. Ally and I were on a mission to try as many flavors as possiblle; I think on our last day we each had three servings! We justified it though by walking everywhere all day and she ordered the fruit flavors while I stuck to the chocolate and even tried a riso flavor (rice). Firenze is said to have Italy's best gelato and we were not let down.

We did a lot of sightseeing in Florence and were able to view one of our favorite works of art here. The Accademia museum houses Michaelangelo's David, the Renaissance man. We learned a lot about this historical statue and its meaning for the birth of humanism. David is symbolic for a break with the past from man being a playing of the supernatural to a confident individual. Florence was surrouned by many powerful city-states and David was to the be mascot of Firenze during their break their power. Michaelangelo's statue is enormous and portrays some of the finest work of art known to man. (Below: David, Ally and I waiting in line for Accademia)

The rest of the museum had other interesting Renaissance paintings and sculptures that caught our interest as well. Another museum we visited was the Bargello. A museum dedicated to sculpture is the house to Donatello's David, the first male nude to be sculpted paving the way for Michaelangelo's David. It also had many other sculpting works my Michaelangelo spanning three floors.

One of Ally's most frightening experiences occurred when we climbed to the top of Firenze's gothic cathedral, Duomo. The church is beautiful, covered with pink, green and white Tuscan marble and a stunning dome (below). We learned that the church was built with an uncovered dome because the technology was not yet discovered to build a dome. Their Renaissance style of thinking gave them confidence to believe that the challenge would be overcome. This domo and church become the model for all other domes to follow.

463 steps later and we reached the top of the copula for a grand view of Florence (above) and the hills of Tuscany. Ally got freaked out inside the dome where we were pressed between the wall and a railing, with a great view, (more frightening to Ally) of the church below. She pressed through and realized how much she would have missed if she didn't make it to the top.

Our hotel included breakfast which allowed Ally and I to spare on lunch and splurge on some savoring dinners. My favorite was a hand made tortellini we ate at the Osteria del Porcellino. It had very large noodles for tortellini and was covered with cheese, nuts and pears. It may have been the slowest meal I have ever eaten because I did not want it to end. We even topped it off with another Italian favorite, tiramisu.



After dinner, we spent our nights eating gelato and hanging out at our favorite spot in Florence, the Ponte Vecchio. Ponte Vecchio is Florence's most famous bridge and is lined with shops filled with gold and silver. It was a perfect place to people watch and listen to people playing music on the bridge (below is a view of the bridge from Piazza Michelangelo during the day from across the river). We were lucky enough to have great weather and witness some beautiful sunsets (first picture) here since the sun did not set until around 22:00.


Up next, we prepare for our train ride to the Cote de Azur in southern France.

Ciao!