Hey guys, guess who plans vacations on like, two weeks notice? (I can dissect my motivations for this, but you probably don't want me to. The ones that aren't versions of insanity are: "I have been telling [livejournal.com profile] look_alive and [livejournal.com profile] zolac_no_miko that I was going to come visit for about two years and now they're going to scatter and if I don't come visit soon I will have been a liar." Which may, in a certain light, also be a version of insanity.) So yeah...

I AM GOING TO PORTLAND AT THE END OF THE MONTH!* Where I will get kidnapped by gangs of kids on fixies and visit the ocean and grow an epic beard and attempt to instigate fisticuffs between restaurant owners over whose foods are more hyper-local and make everyone's week as awkward as possible by not actually being there on any weekend days. Plus or minus a few of those, (except the last, which is a certainty). I dunno guys, anything is possible! Actually, since it looks like I'll be poking my nose around the city in the afternoons, anyone have any suggestions?

* You may have used a larger font and the blink tag, but you are not more excited than me, Ms No_Miko!
evilhippo: hippo (46 [internets])
( Oct. 24th, 2010 06:25 pm)
I realized I never finished up the last days of London, and since I am incredibly bored this afternoon (I've read, I've written, I cleaned and made soup and made bread and I'm still bored) I guess it's time to finish that story.

Hopefully there aren't too many details that have been lost between then and now )

And finally, to bring this whole story arc to a close, since I ran out of space so quickly on Flickr, I've dumped practically every picture I took into a couple of scrapbook galleries: London and Paris. I haven't pared them down to just the pretty ones, nor have I edited any of them, so beware that there are a lot, and not all of them are good. But that's how trips work, so I don't think I'll be editing them anyway.
evilhippo: hippo (50 [journey])
( Oct. 14th, 2010 10:48 pm)
So guys, weird not to have me obsessively updating, isn't it? (Probably not, really...) But, with a rocky work-week mostly behind me, I finally have enough time between getting home and passing out to finish writing up the London leg of the journey.

Fannishness, chip and pin machines, incomprehensible transit, and a failed theory on time travel fiction. )

Actually, this is taking far longer than I thought. I will have to finish this up tomorrow, because I'm still partly on a backwards sleep schedule, and I kind of like waking up at 6:30 in the morning and having time to eat breakfast and get things done before I leave for work, so I'm going to try to stick with this nonsense schedule as long as possible.
evilhippo: hippo (119 [quiet])
( Oct. 9th, 2010 02:30 pm)
A favorable wind over the Atlantic put me into Toronto a fair bit early. This is both boon and... considerable disadvantage. It's technically about 9:00pm for me, and I still have another eight hours of today left. And I am starving. I spent most of the flight reading Sherlock Holmes (I ♥ iBooks sometimes. Mostly because it allows me to read in dark places without hurting my eyes. Such a fantastic invention), and in the back of my mind I was endlessly daydreaming about finding some good Indian food when I get back. (Something I missed in London, much to my regret, as one of my goals was to get take-out curry. Because... I have weird goals.) Unfortunately Hyde Park doesn't have any Indian food, so I might have to get take-out from one of the overpriced places downtown and drag it back to my apartment. Along with my luggage. And in a few hours I'm not sure I'll be awake enough to pull that off. I'm already flagging a bit. (I think we've officially hit the point in the day where my body is starting to go "Hey wait, why is there still sun? It's been more than 14 hours and there's still sun, something unnatural is afoot!")

So, I suppose, in lieu of anything else to do, it's summary time! )

Still a half-hour left before my flight boards. This is going to be a long day, indeed.
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It's the end of my last day. The fact that I'm officially out of important things I wanted to do makes it a little bit better that I have to leave tomorrow. (It's going to be the longest day ever... 12 hours in airports and on planes, then I need to stay up until it's a reasonable time to sleep, Chicago-wise. Now that I'm finally adjusted to time over here. Adjusted enough, in fact, that I had an absolutely epic dream last night about the Doctor going all vengeful Time Lord and interfering with the past, which delighted me until I realized it was the set-up for me and a group of anonymous friends to star in some kind of Seinfeld-type comedy where all of us were vaguely horrible people and those that we'd wronged in the past showed up at random in various different time periods to have their revenge. There was a guy in black leather boots with crosses on the toes that was after me, because I'd done something to his disabled son. He chased me through ancient Rome, and in a stable in medieval England. Tonight, I think I will probably dream of stairs.)

So, today... Paris learns how to confuse me and earns several cool points, simple questions je ne comprends pas, I see a lot of bones and take a two-hour lunch. )

Lessons Learned: Cities should not rename streets. Catacombs are cool. I have had enough walking for the next year or so. Or at least the next month. Week... at least a day. Minus the walk to the train station tomorrow. And around the airport. Sigh.

I'll admit, I'm actually, just a little, looking forward to getting home and going grocery shopping tomorrow. I have come across so many open-air markets here and I really want groceries. I'm tired of sandwiches and meals-made-by-other-people. As good as they've been, I keep seeing all these fishmongers and produce sellers and someone offered me a bag of mushrooms tonight that I would've gladly turned into something if I, you know, had a kitchen. I wish I could take one of these markets with me, because I know shopping at home just isn't going to be as exciting at all. But at least it'll be food I know the names of, and that I can turn into whatever I want.

Oh, there are also three more pictures for today. There would be a lot more, but I've hit my monthly limit on Flickr. They could use some polish anyway, though, since they were almost all taken underground.

I also sent out the rest of the postcards today. You can expect them... some time after I get back.
evilhippo: hippo (115 [hippo])
( Oct. 7th, 2010 08:37 pm)
Two updates in a day, sorry guys. But there are more pictures now, because I have more than half my battery left and I might as well abuse it (there are actually more than that, but I'm running out of bandwidth on my Flickr for this month). There are pictures from the tail end of Paris, London, and just a few minutes ago.

My little walk up to Sacre Coeur was... not little. I'm not sure if this was overlooked in anyone else's study of Paris, but the thing is up a freaking mountain. (Chicago is flat, okay, so this thing is a mountain.) Stairs! Holy stairs, and people. So, my eternal disdain for stairs further cemented (they are now above cobblestone streets, which had surpassed them only recently when I was walking around Bankside in London and twisting my ankle every few feet), I made my way up to the top, dodging tourists, buskers, and peddlers. It was an adventure. And what a view! What a giant rabble of people. Suits and students and all other sorts. They kicked us out at 7:30, so I went in search of food. I ended up with a sandwich and a chocolate croissant, which I ate while walking to the Moulin Rouge. It's amazing the difference between this part of Paris and the part south of the river. In stark contrast to the tiny alleys, austere storefronts and quaint restaurants and cafes of the rive gauche, I just found myself on a giant mountain and then walked down onto a boulevard full of neon-signs and sex shops (mostly in tandem).

Also, the Moulin Rouge is right next to a Quick, which seems to be France's answer to McDonalds (most of them are right next to McDonalds). And across the street is a Starbucks. I... on one hand I find this very appropriate, and on the other... have they no shame?
evilhippo: hippo (114 [in transit])
( Oct. 7th, 2010 06:44 pm)
I am still alive! Despite the best efforts of London traffic and pedestrians and the Tube and scaffolding and everything else in London that was out to get me. It's always hard to pick up again after a few days of not writing, and I don't think I'll get around to transferring the London leg of the trip out of my notebook until I get back. It seems like every leg of the trip has had some odd sort of rationing. The first couple of days in Paris when I wasn't sure I had enough cash, the last day in Paris before London with no batteries left, London with no internet... I would've written something last night and then posted it up this morning before heading out, but I loaned my laptop to this Australian girl in my room so she wouldn't have to pay by the minute just to transfer her pictures off of her SD cards.

So. Let's see. Slightly abbreviated, but still a wall of text. )

Lessons learned: London, I am not finished with you, not by a mile. Paris, it is time for dinner and taking care of the rest of those post cards. (Some of you got London postcards, which I mailed out this morning. The rest of you will be getting the Paris ones I'm sending out tomorrow. Turns out I have no idea what to write on postcards, so please don't hold it against me if I resorted to complete nonsense by the time I got to yours. I love you anyway.
evilhippo: hippo (24 [derelict])
( Oct. 5th, 2010 09:48 pm)
Officially in London. I've a lot to write about, but the internet here is pay-only and I only had 50p in change, so I'm not on for long. Suffice to say this city is trying to kill me, what with the tube being nonsense and... most other things being nonsense, and people being incomprehensible despite speaking English. Gosh I wish I didn't fall for cities that abused me so.
This one may be short, since I'm sitting on the public computer here in the hostel. We are officially on Battery Rationing, until I get to London tomorrow and buy a power adapter. (The secret justification here is my secret plan to secretly go to grad school in the UK somewhere. Yes.)

So, originally I was going to have to censor this for the benefit of my mother, who didn't want me to go to the Eiffel Tower for fear that I'd be terrorism'd. But! Since today was kind of a crapshoot, I don't have to worry about that.

No pictures today, unfortunately, due to the battery situation. They'll go up soon enough.

Rain, pain, and travelling with an international menace )

So, I think today was the first day I spent completly conscious and mostly not jet-lagged. And of course I have to leave for London tomorrow. It's great timing, because I'm almost done with my list of Big Things to Do in Paris, but at the same time... I'm just starting to get comfortable here and this city is amazing, and I know once I get back I'm really only going to have one more day to do things, and that's sad. Oh man. (I guess this wasn't that short after all.)
So, now that I'm no longer as likely to pass out in front of major landmarks... today was a lot more manageable. I found neighborhoods that made a lot of what I saw yesterday make more sense. Here I am, making my official retraction on Paris being "homogeneous." Here I am also saying I think the part north of the river is kind of pants. But that might be because it's Sunday and most everything was closed. That's absolutely no excuse for how far I walked in search of a bottle of water, though. Maybe I'm just really, really bad at this but it should not be possible to walk miles without coming across a store that sells cold bottles of water.

Of course, there are more pictures today. You know the drill.

And then, further attempts to stay awake. )

So, what I learned today: Just because an area is interesting to me, or historical, does not make it "touristy." Touristy is very definitely independent of what I think of something. It is actually possible to turn the wrong corner in Paris and end up somewhere you don't want to be. And slowly, slowly this city is clicking into place for me, and even though I am still severely out of context here, it's starting to make sense in and of itself. The architecture is relentlessly (almost disconcertingly) consistent, but at least there are neighborhoods that aren't sorted entirely by what they are selling.

tl;dr I walked, and then walked some more. And then there was some walking, and a bit of walking and more walking. Also impressionists and walking, Oscar Wilde and walking, medieval relics and walking, and walking with walking and hipsters and tourists.
evilhippo: hippo (45 [shock])
( Oct. 2nd, 2010 08:57 pm)
Okay... I really don't know where to start this. (This is mostly a way to keep myself awake past 9:00 here. I feel like I've been up since Friday morning at 5. Which... I sort of have, if you don't count the three and a half hours of half-conscious sleep I got on the airplane).

For those of you uninterested in a wall of text about how many things have tried and continue to try to defeat me, there are pictures! Cliquez ici! Tomorrow's ought to be a little less typical-touristy, but today's aren't too bad.

C'est un mur du text? )

tl;dr Brain fail from overwhelming city. Will sleep and figure things out later. So far... things are amazing. Also I have not thought about work once, nor do I intend to, even though I forgot to put my out-of-office message up and so should technically be checking my e-mail.
evilhippo: hippo (21 [omg-alchemist])
( Sep. 26th, 2010 08:52 pm)
All right. It's Sunday night and I'm not packed, I barely know how much cash I'm bringing with me, I don't know how to get from the airport to my hostel or from my hostel to anywhere else, and I've got to train three people tomorrow and somehow get all of my various work projects to be about a week ahead by Friday. Also I have not improved my French even the slightest bit in the last month, even though I've been meaning to.

I am basically going to be non-responsive for the next two weeks. I'm sure I'll natter on in entries, but I don't think I'll be paying attention to anything beyond that. So, if anything important is up, let me know now!

And here's the important part from my end: POSTCARDS. I plan on sending them from Paris before my trip is over. If you want a postcard, send me your address (if you think I have your address, I guarantee you I DO NOT). Heck, you can anonymously leave any address in a comment here and I'll stick some random name on it and send it there, I don't even have to know it's you. Heck, I don't even have to know you. Also, these postcards will almost certainly not contain the truth about my trip, but will hopefully be entertaining and/or pretty and also sent from abroad, like proper postcards should be.

Edit, Tuesday: No point in making another entry that's basically just me giggling and then going freaking crap, Paris, maybe I WILL bike everywhere. I'm used to a train system that... covers different areas. Rather than running in parallel diagonal lines. Or whatever's going on there.
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evilhippo: hippo (27 [help])
( Jul. 31st, 2010 02:17 pm)
So, this is mostly for my own benefit. I've been doing a lot of poking around on various sites trying to figure out what I want to do for accommodations in Paris and London. I've been kind of lucky stumbling across a lot of interesting options, but I'm having trouble deciding what to do.

I started out poking around on CouchSurfing, which is promising but daunting. I don't really have a couch I'm comfortable loaning to strangers, so I feel like the deal is rather lopsided, plus I don't have a way of looking less like a random creeper before hopping off to Europe, unless I go socialize with the Chicago surfers, which, me being me, is kind of a tall order. (I'm easy to find on there, if any of you are on there and similarly without contacts to vouch for you and make you look less like a creeper). Also a solid majority of the people hosting in Europe are male, and I'm not entirely comfortable staying on some strange guy's couch that I found on the internet.

So, some interesting serendipity while reading the NYT late at night led me to AirBnb (and a couple of other similar sites, but this seems to be the most reasonable one). It's been fantastic for Paris (I think I'm going to be staying here for at least the first two days I'm in the city), but for some reason Londoners find it okay to charge a minimum of about $30 to stay on their couch. Dear goodness someone is renting out their floor for £7 (~$11) a night! I found a couple of decent spots in people's spare rooms, but it's still expensive, so I may end up hostelling it or just couch surfing in London. But the appeal of picking out an actual apartment and living there for a few days just seems fantastic in comparison to a hotel stay, or even hostelling (which, while fun, just brings to mind the image of college dorms and unsecured luggage).

Then there are things like this, which make me wish I had a travelling partner so I could split the cost and stay there. I mean, how cool would that be, on a barge tethered outside the Louvre? Seriously! I'm actually considering just dealing with it and paying the 90 euro a night to stay by myself because it has the potential to be that cool. However, this is also something I found via the NYT, which means it's probably already booked into oblivion.

I think, as you can see by the progression of things in this entry, my plans for this trip are getting more and more esoteric. I'm also planning on asking (probably via CS) if anyone in Paris will teach me how to make a baguette properly, because I just can't seem to get it right. Actually, so far my plans are pretty much: get to Paris, put my stuff wherever I'm staying, hop on a Velib bike, look around. I think Sunday night I'm going to Musee D'Orsay, because it's free (it's either that or Monday night, I don't remember which offhand). Check out cafes, poke around in some shops, do a lot of walking. In London things are a little more solid. There are a few museums I want to check out (all random and free, like the Clockmaker's Museum and the Hunterian Museum), and I intend to visit the University, possibly in an attempt to gain admission. Things I am NOT going to do are decide to nip off to Dublin instead of going back to Paris or trek out to Stratford-Upon-Avon and... who knows what I'd do there, but it'd probably involve a seance or a heist. I think I'm also going to try to catch some sort of play/theatre thing/concert in both cities, but I don't know what, where, or how. Other than that, I think I'm just going to wing it.

I'm also weighing the options of similarly renting out my apartment while I'm gone, but chances are fair that my landlord would catch me and I'd get into a lot of trouble (perhaps I could ask them to say they're house-sitting?), and I don't know if I trust strangers not to steal my stuff, even when bound by the internet's arbitrary rules. It'd be an easy way to recoup the costs of staying on the houseboat, though... and most of the rentals I see in Chicago are almost as crazy-expensive as London, so if I put my apartment out, even at $50 a day I'd easily make up most of what I'd be spending on shelter abroad. Decisions, decisions...

(Tangential to this, after looking at the words I used for link text here I started to wonder what you get when you actually search google for things like "this" and "here". Apparently when the internet is being inspecific with its links it is generally trying to Rick Roll you, or educate you on the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster or with Urban Dictionary (in the case of "this") or get you to download programs and add-ons (which is overwhelmingly the case for "here").)
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evilhippo: hippo (84 [victoly])
( Jul. 3rd, 2010 05:48 pm)
Je vais à Paris! I have a lot of brushing-up to do on my French, and a lot of studying to do of winding streets and nonsense transit (apparently they have public bike rentals, though, which sounds absolutely fantastic).

Point being, now that I've finished waffling on the matter: I'm going to spend a week in Paris, from October 2 to October 9! And now I'm going to have to decide whether I want to nip off to London for a day or two in there (I probably will, if it won't cost me that much). Thankfully, the hostel situation looks reasonable, so as long as I don't sit around waffling forever over whether I want to go to London too I should be okay.

Yaaaay I'm going on a real vacation for the first time ever! (I can't believe I just spent that much money. And I've committed to spending so much more, because I'm obviously going to have to eat, and get around, and buy interesting things. Oh man.)

Vacation!

Yaaaay!

So, any recommendations on what I should do while I'm there?

Edit: Aaaand two days in London, the 5th and 6th. Woo! I am not sure I haven't gone mad, but if I'm going to vacation for real, I might as well do it properly. (Honestly, after booking the tickets I did a little dance. I am such a geek. But... eeeee, Paris and London! Finally!) I wonder if any of this will finally trigger some kind of fraud protection on my card...
evilhippo: hippo (74 [closer look])
( Jun. 13th, 2010 12:00 pm)
So, now that I've gone and trapped myself again, I think for the sake of my sanity I need to take a real vacation. I haven't ever had one of those. I think things will have settled down by the end of August, so my plan is to pick a city, spend a week there, do the tourist thing for a few days, and then just wander and see what I can find. Also, I aim to get some use out of my passport, since I've already called off my Canada plans (no music festivals this summer! Agh!).

I just can't decide where, exactly, I want to go. London is easy, and probably a good place to start, but I think if I spend some time reviewing my French I could survive almost as well in Paris. Those are my top two choices. But I'm also coming off of a very unhappy and unstable couple of months (and all I have between me and more of them is hope), so I'm not against throwing myself into a city I could be completely, hopelessly lost in, like Tokyo (though most tickets to Tokyo are almost double those to London and Paris, so I think Tokyo is a For Later plan. And probably For More Than a Week).

My goal, someday, is to be able to do this every year, though I know that's a long way off. This plan is already going to dent my savings, but dear goodness it is necessary right now, because I have to shake off this feeling of being trapped.

So, what do you guys think? Where should I go? I know there are a lot of places that haven't even crossed my mind yet, but should've. Barcelona? Moscow? Amsterdam? Hong Kong? Sydney? I'm leaving out lush, foresty real vacation-y places for now, because I want to explore, not... catch malaria and break both of my ankles. (I know myself. That would happen. I'll stick to probably getting hit by a double-decker bus or getting clobbered with baguettes or accidentally becoming a pop idol or something other or refrigerator.)

[Poll #1577942]
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