Friday, August 25, 1995

Europe Trip Pictures

Here are the pictures from my backpacking trip to Europe this summer for two months. My friend, Greg Brooks, traveled with me for the first month and I continued on for another month by myself.

Noah at Irish Beach in Rosslare
I had a tight budget of only 30 dollars a day so I didn't have much left over after food and lodging. I also had a two-month Eurorail pass that allowed unlimited train travel throughout Western Europe and also included ferry boat trips and select river boat trips.

Europe Trip Pictures on Facebook

Sunday, August 13, 1995

Europe Trip - Utrecht, Netherlands

I am on the plane home from my two month backpacking trip to Europe. I arrived in Paris this morning on a night train from Utrecht, Holland around 7am. This is the seventh time I have been in Paris on this trip, but mostly I used it as a hub that I quickly passed through. This last stop I wanted to go and visit the famous Louvre, but because of the subway bombing in July the lockers are still closed and there is no baggage check. There is no way I am going to hike through the museum carrying this heavy backpack. I guess I will have to make another trip here to visit the Louvre.

Postcard I bought in Arcachon
I had a fun time in Utrecht. It took me two days on trains to get there from Portugal. One of my brief stops between train rides was in Arcachon, France where I spent half a day at the beach, swimming and relaxing on the sand. I must say that I prefer the Atlantic Coast of France more than the French Riveria on the Mediterranean. More sand, less rocks. It was a nice little stop before taking a night train to Paris.

Arcachon Beach
Mireille Sennef, who I befriended in Ireland, met me at the train station in Utrecht which is right smack in the middle of Holland. She had her bicycle and she gave me a ride back to her place with me perched precariously on the back. We stopped for a beer at a nice little place and caught up. After a spaghetti dinner, we went out to a bar to meet her friend and I had quite a few shots before we walked home.

Postcard I bought in Utrecht, Holland
On Friday, I slept in late, explored a little of the town and hung out with Mireille's roommates watching the Track & Field World Championships from Goteborg on TV. Christoph arrived that afternoon and we all went out for pizza and then went to the bars and clubs till 5am. The Dutch people are very tall, I am 6'2" but I only felt average height around these guys. That is unusual for me.

Cooking Pancakes at Mireille's place
Saturday was a lazy day, we slept in till about three and hung around before taking a walk to the grocery store. A group of us made pancakes for dinner. All different types that I wasn't used to, made with ham, cheese or fruit cooked right in. Then it was time to say goodbye and I was given a ride to the train station on the back of a motorcycle. Much faster than the bike!

p.s. While we were at one of the bars on Friday night, one of our group accidentally pushed a full pint glass of beer off the counter with his elbow. Without a chance to think, I made a grab for the glass and caught it half-way to the floor without it spilling a drop. Everyone was amazed and I have to admit, I was pretty impressed with my self.

Tuesday, August 08, 1995

Europe Trip - Porto, Portugal

I arrived in Portugal on Saturday around 12:30pm. I spent most of the day walking around town wearing my heavy backpack looking for a bank that was open so I could exchange my money. I met two Germans, two Dutchmen and a couple from France at the first exchange place which was closed but had a sign saying they would be back in 30 minutes. We all set off together to look for another after we were informed that the guy wasn't coming back. After a long search, we were all relieved to find the only bank that was open, change our money and get a bite to eat together.

Noah in Porto, Portugal
We agreed to meet up again to go out for beers in Porto's old town Ribeira district later that night to celebrate. I met up at the French couple's little motorhome parked by the Duoro River that runs through Porto. They were really nice and shared with me some of the dinner they were cooking on their little grill before the others arrived. We all had a fun time hanging out at the bars and cafes and we stayed out pretty late. It was a long walk back to my hostel along the dark streets and I had a nice hang-over the next morning.

Square in Old Town of Porto
Sunday, I hung out with the Germans again and went on one of the guided tours through the cellars of the House of Sandeman, one of the port wine lodges for which this city is famous. Port is a fortified wine mixed with Brandy that was originally created to be able to survive long ship voyages. The grapes and the wine are grown and produced in the Duoro Valley and then sent down the river to the dock-side cellars in Porto where they are aged and blended with Brandy to create the finished product. We got to taste a nice selection of Ports at the end.

German friends in Porto
I took a bus to the beach on Monday and stayed there all day. At the bus stop, I had to catch some Portuguese girl who tripped and fell into my arms. The beach was very sunny, but it was a windy day. I had my first decently made hamburger in Europe at a little restaurant on the beach. The cook wanted to know my opinion on his expertise at making American hamburgers. Later that night, I had a big meal as well at a Chinese restaurant. Haven't had that for a while. As the end of my trip nears, I am really starting to crave Mexican food from home.

Porto Train Station
Today, I mostly relaxed and walked around the city after making reservations at the train station. I also bought a new book for 2,700 escudos to read on my long train rides up to Holland and for the plane flight home. I caught the 6:05pm night train to Irun, Spain a little while ago. I have three long trains rides to complete before I reach the Netherlands.

Friday, August 04, 1995

Europe Trip - San Sebastian, Spain

The ferry back to France from Ireland was nicer this time. I hung out with a fun group of people in the bar till pretty late at night so all the good spots to sleep were taken. I ended up sleeping on the carpeted floor next to the stairs in the lobby area. In the morning, I met a pretty girl from New York and we had a good time talking on the ferry and on the train to Paris. I was invited to come along to Amsterdam with her friends, but I decided to continue with my plans to head down to Portugal. That was a tough decision.

Postcard I bought in San Sebastian
I am glad I was only in Paris for a few hours because the city was extremely hot and humid. The night train to Bordeaux with a couple of guys from the ferry was pretty interesting. We were in a crowded train compartment with several French guys making hash cigarettes that they passed around. They would take the tobacco out of regular cigarettes and mix it up with some hash and then re-roll them. I didn't get much sleep that night in that smoky compartment.

San Sebastian Bridge at high tide
I arrived in San Sebastian yesterday in a morning train from Bordeaux. I walked all over the city with four Americans I met on the train but we couldn't find a hostel with available beds. One of the guys spoke fluent Spanish and he was able to find us two rooms in someone's house for the night. We met a nice guy from Hungary later who had the same problem. We snuck him in to our room and he slept on the floor.

Noah overlooking San Sebastian Bay
San Sebastian is a beautiful city in the Basque area of Spain. The city surrounds a small natural harbor with a little island placed in the middle like a pearl sitting in a oyster shell. The Old Town was crowded and fun to explore. They have lots of seafood here and we ended up eating tapas at a bar for dinner. I had four of them with a beer. Afterwards, we went for a walk to the top of the mountain that had a large statue of Jesus overlooking the bay.

San Sebastian church in Old Town
Today, I explored more of the city and then went to the nearby beach of La Zurriola for most of the day. It was nice to swim at the first beach I have been to in Europe that had waves. Nice! I'm still not used to the difference between American and European beaches. I was relaxing on my towel and two pretty girls came up and put their stuff down on the sand nearby. Not having bathing suits didn't stop them from wanting to take a swim as they stripped down to just their underwear bottoms right in front of me before jumping in the water. One of them asked me if I had a cigarette after she came out of the water, but I had just given the rest of my cigarettes away in Ireland. Sheesh!

Noah at San Sebastian beach
Now I am on a night train to Porto, Portugal. Lots of pretty girls on this train. I think Spain has some of the most beautiful women in Europe.

p.s. The Basque language is pretty unique looking to me. Every street sign seemed to have an abundance of z's, k's and x's.

Tuesday, August 01, 1995

Europe Trip - Tralee, Ireland

I have just stayed in Tralee for three days. It was very cool and for the first time on my trip, I totally relaxed. My first night in Tralee I went to the Abbey Inn for some Guinness with several others from Finnegans Hostel where I was staying. The pubs don't stay open that late here but they have low age limits. It was pretty unusual for me to be drinking beer in a pub next to a sixteen year old kid. Heh!

Abbey Inn in Tralee
This was the first time on my trip that I have stayed at a hostel with coed rooms. That might have been the reason the hostel was so relaxed and friendly with everybody hanging out together. It was nice to be the only American and hang out with a group of Europeans from Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Holland and other places. We would hang out on the front steps and go out to the pubs together at night. We would sleep in till noon, have breakfast, and do nothing for the rest of the day. It was great.

Roses in Tralee Town Park
The hostel was in a nice location right across the street from the Tralee Town Park. Tralee is famous for its roses and the park was full of them in bloom. We hung out at the park allot because the weather was so nice and sunny. We even got caught up in a water balloon fight started by some local kids.

Colorfully painted Tralee Church
On Sunday, while walking around the small town a bit I stopped to take a picture of a colorfully painted church. Two Irish guys who had just gotten out of the church service wanted me to take a picture of them. They were very interesting to talk to because their Irish brogue was so thick. I could only understand about every third word which was barely enough to get the gist of the conversation. One of them offered to buy me a pint if I saw him later in one of the pubs. He was pretty plastered when I bumped into him on the street that night, but he recognized me and took me to his favorite pub for a pint. That was pretty cool.

Irish Church Goers
Afterwards I met up with Florian, Mireille, Christoph and some others at a pizza restaurant where we stayed till around 2 am. Most of the group smoked cigarettes that they rolled themselves because it is cheaper. Since I don't smoke, I ended up giving my Marlboro cigarettes to Mireille that I had bought earlier in my trip. They are her favorites but are normally too expensive for her to buy regularly. I have never seen anyone smoke a cigarette after breaking off the filter before. Heh!

View of Irish Countryside from Train
I originally came to Tralee in order to visit the Dingle Peninsula where "Far and Away" with Tom Cruise was filmed, but I never got around to it because I was enjoying myself so much here. Oh well. Now I am on 7:30am train to Rosslare Harbor to catch a ferry back to the continent so I can head down towards Portugal.

p.s. I made plans with Mireille to meet up and stay at her place in Utrecht, Holland in about two weeks when she gets back home from Ireland.