Monday, October 22, 2007

Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Our day of sightseeing in London was pretty non-eventful in terms of anything too crazy happening. We visited the Imperial War Museum to check out an amazing collection of War Posters they have gathered. Government has employed some ridiculous tactics to garner support for war. The museum also housed an exhibit devoted to camouflage, which is not a small science. Seeing how much money has been devoted to killing human beings is a bit staggering. If you find yourself in London and in the mood for a museum, I definitely recommend the Imperial War Museum.

After the museum, we rode the London Eye, the world's tallest observation wheel. I'm not exactly sure what an observation wheel is, but the views were pretty spectacular; although at no point can you see the tower bridge. After the eye, we marched towards the tower bridge and made our way back across the Thames in an effort to meet up with some of Mick's old colleagues. That did not pan out as planned so we headed to Brick Lane to take in some of London's delicious indian food.

Feeling pretty knackerd, we almost called it a night but Mick and I rallied and met up with my cousin-aged uncle, Anil. Mick and I were initially denied entrance to the clubbish lounge, but Anil's excellent negotiating skills saw us through the top-hat wearing doorman's guard. Inside, Mick passed me his credit card and told me to make it rain. When I ordered 3 shots of patron, 2 vodka-tonics and an asahi that totaled 70 pounds, he regretted his words. Each shot of patron rang in at 13 pounds - that's $26 a shot. Jeebus H. That pretty much called the night for us and we wanted to be at our best for the Fulham-Derby County match in the morning.

We met up the next morning with Anil for some brunch near his amazing pad in Notting Hill. In line ahead of us at the restaurant were a russian-mob son and his not so attractive girlfriend. A table for 2 and a table for 4 opened up simultaneously so one would expect that our party of 4, and their's of 2, would be sat simultaneously. Not so. The russian mob boy asked to be sat at the table for 4 so we were forced to wait longer. That would never happen in NYC.

The Fulham match was pretty awesome. Craven Cottage is set back in a very quaint, rural part of West London, just past the border of Chelsea. We encountered many, many Americans before, during and after the match. The match itself ended in an intense 0-0 draw. Despite being down a man, Fulham controlled the play and probably deserved to win the game. For some reason, Kasey Keller did not start but Anton Niemi was impressive. Clint Dempsey, Carlos Bocanegra and Eddie Lewis all put on good shows. Benny Feilhaber lived true to his words and did not even feature in the substitutes list. Shockingly, we did not drink at all during the match. When I walked up to the concession stand before the match, I was informed that they are not allowed to sell alcohol until halftime. When I tried at halftime, they said that I could no longer buy alcohol because the second half had just started. What a stupid system. You basically have 12 minutes to buy beer.

From there, our night began. We headed to a pub near Anil's flat to watch England and South Africa play in the Rugby World Cup final. Rugby is an amazing game because despite being so brutal, the fans are very civil and hooliganism is never a threat. The pub was packed solid and provided no thuggish-doorman to prevent people from pushing the occupancy to an excess. As I was pinned to a wall, I motioned to a South African fan posted at the bar to order us some beers. We exchanged beers and cash baseball game style. A fine moment of drinking camaraderie. The English fans cheered on their team by belting out the chorus to the song Swing Low, Sweet Chariot. The history of why they sing that song can be found here. Despite England's brave efforts, they could not withstand the South African discipline and fell 15-6. We celebrated anyway and made it official with car bombs. We were a little hesitant to order car bombs in London, but the bartenders acquiesced after Mick offered up the recipe.

From there, very little is remembered. One more post will follow this offering up my comparative analysis of the three places we visited on this trip. Then, I'll keep my fingers off the Blackberry until January, when we take on Sweden in LA.

Friday, October 19, 2007

London Calling

Last night was pretty subdued. The boys acquiesced to my desire to pay homage to the birthplace of the Hard Rock (if the HRC london, as it exists now, is not actuallly the original location of the HRC, do not tell me). That officially makes it 2 visits to the HRC on this trip (Barca; Basel did not have one). Afterwards, we visited Richard Branson's shop and picked up some local tuneage.

Today, were off to visit the imperial war museum and ride the London eye. As I write this, we are on the platform of the tube and I am holding an empty water bottle. Not having rubbish receptacles at tube stops or train stations = god damn osama bin laden. Seriously, Osama, I am going to kick you in the ovary.

Another random thought: I had to abandon my toiletry liquids when they forced me to carry-on my luggage so that I could make the flight. As such, I had to buy some new toothpaste in Barcelona. It has aloe vera in it. My teeth feel silky and smooth.

London Baby!
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Thursday, October 18, 2007

A Tight Place

Wow. Last night is a total blur. After I finished my business at McClean's (note to all those lactose intolerant: steaming milk does not prevent milk from destroying your insides), we headed to the Rathaus to take some pictures before heading to the meetup spot to get matchfit. We did a quick interview predicting a US win and shared in on some of the journo's chestnuts while Luis ate gelato for the neunzenth (19th) time. Roasted chestnuts taste like butt, but are apparently not so bad if you dip them in ice cream.

We met Erin (who existing readers will remember missed the Venezuela trip), Mark and Mike. Mr Pickwick's proved to be a suitable drinking establishment as they were very agreeable to our desires to drop some pre-match car bombs, and shockingly, they were not outrageously priced.

We stopped off at home on the way to the stadion and were pleasantly surprised to learn that Mick's luggage had finally arrived from Paris. Upon arriving at St. Jakob Park, we were greeted with shouts of "Oooooooh Esssssss Ahhhhhhhh!" Several young swiss offered us beers, taught us swiss songs and taught us some swiss drinking customs. Apparently, the way to cheers is to hold your beer out, at which point your cheersing buddy smacks your beer, then you take a swig, pass your beer to your buddy, then you smack the beer, then he takes a swig. Awesome.

The stadium was spectacular and there was a large contingent of Americans, prolly students, confined to the upper deck. Fortunately we were seated in the VIP section which meant that we could drink in the stadium. The match itself was crap, but due to Clint Dempsey's deft touch, die US Boys clinched a rare win on European soil.

Post match, we head back to Pickwick's where we met up with Alex from nyc and more carbombs were dropped. Pickwick's has a yard long glass hanging behind the bar which they'll fill with beer. If you finish the beer within 3 minutes, the beer is on the house. It's called "the Challenge.".They basically could have hung a sign up with my name on it. I knocked the yard down with at least 20 seconds to spare. Luis has video proof.

After we shut down Pickwick's, the USA drinking team marched on to the late night haunt called Red Rocks, stopping for donner kebabs on the way. We were soon joined there by several members of the US team. Props to Jay, Heath, Seitz and Benny for joining in for a few rounds of car bombs. After we shutdown Red Rocks, we embarked on a questionable Bataan death march to get home.

In jollly ol' London now. Hopefully will hit the Hard Rock tonight. Apparently the alcohol of yesternight did not impair my memory that much.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

VE Day!

Wow. We won in europe! Holy shit!
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Mick has finally arrived although not without first enduring more travel drama. His backpack is still in Paris which will require us to alter the gameplan today.

Luis and I have been touring the city all day and have seen just about everything there is to see in Basel. Its a beautiful city with interesting people. We have seen graffiti that ranges from the communist sickle, to "F*ck the Police" to the omnipresent "Thug Life".

Luis and I had lunch outside the Rathaus. We each had a sausage and had some scalloped potatoes in cheese sauce. Awesome indeed. A swiss guy from Zurich explained to us that many people don't care much for the Swiss national team and prefer the local club, FC Basel Young Boys. That prolly explains the lack of atmosphere. Hopefully that changes closer to matchtime.

I'm sending this blog from the comfort of the McClean in the train station. Gotta love clean public restrooms.
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Wilkommen a Basel!

Luis and I continued our tour through Basel by paying visits to the Cathedral and the Rathaus (city hall). Despite being at the French and German border, Basel is decidedly a German city. They speak German, eat germanic foods, and well, even act German. Like circa 1938-1943 Germans. As we approached the Rathaus, which was built in the early 1500's, I commented on how welcome I felt when I saw the US flag hanging alongside the Swiss flag. That welcome quickly faded when an old man struck up some conversation with Luis (who is conversational in deutche) and said "USA heute auf Auschwitz" which apparently means that today, the USA is going to Auschwitz. Way to keep it classy you damn nazi.


Basel Live Blog - swiss miss

In a sharp contrast to our catalan adventures, Luis and I woke up before the sun and have set out to take in the city before the match today.

Because I am actually alert, I am going to live blog the days events as they happen.

First stop this morning, the St. Alban tower for some hot chocolate. We've all had delicious swiss-miss growing up so we were excited to try the real thing. Umm, its the exact same here except the envelope says "Chocolate en Poudre" and "Made in France.".

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Meetup in Basel.

Okay, we found an English pub in the center of Basel. Its called Mr. Pickwick's. It's right at a part of town called Barfusserplatz - which is in the main part of town and on almost all of the tram lines.

For those of you not in town yet, this city has an amazing tram system. It gets you around super-quickly and operates on the honor system: which means its free for Americans.

The match is at 8 so let's meet at the pub at 4:30. It looks like its a 15 minute ride to St. Jakob park, so we'll leave the pub around 6:45.

You can text me at 646 696 8875.

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Three days in barcelona = a total blur. Luis, leo (luis's friend from argentina) and I met up saturday afternoon and set out in search of a bar with a good atmosphere for the Spain-Denmark match. We were unsuccessful. Granted that the match was meaningless as Spain had already qualified, we were shocked at how little the people in Barcelona cared about Spain. Perhaps the Catalan apathy was caused by the Castillian display of dominance when cancelling the match with the US.

Of course, no one was more disappointed by the lack of the match than us and, left with no other choice than to drown our sorrows in beer, we embarked on a 3-day Catalunyan bender. One night, Luis and I made friendly with a middle-aged english couple at an Irish pub as we watched Argentina get crushed by South Africa in the rugby world cup final. After dropping a couple of car bombs in the tank, the couple and luis and I set off to a club to continue drinking for no reason. Or so we thoguht. Turns out the english couple had ulterior motives. After several rounds, our friend john propositioned luis and I (separately, and me before luis) to continue the night them. Wow. Quick way to end the night.

We did take in the sights and paid the requisite visit to the sagarda familia and la perdrea. Gaudi definitely did drugs. I wonder if the sagrada familia will ever be used as a cathedral or if it will only persist as a tourist trap.

We also paid visit to a place affectionately known as the champagneria - a small bocadilla that serves awesome manchego cheese and chorizo and cheap, cheap bottles of cava. Its near las ramblas on the water end. Definitely worth a visit. The place gets packed so head there early.

We're in Basel now. Mick is meeting us tomorrow. Ill post deets of the meeting place shortly.

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

On the road again . . .

Just landed in Barcelona and the trip is not off to an awesome start. Mick managed to miss his flight and it looks like his trip just got listed as doubtful. Apparently, he tried to check in just after the cutoff time and they bounced him.

Oddly enough, the same thing nearly happend to me. My flight was scheduled to depart JFK at 5:20. I tried to check in at 4:14. Uh oh - they moved the departure time up to 5:10 which means the cutoff time was 4:10. A little sweet-talking and blatant betrayal of my sexual orientation and I'm through though!

I'm supposed to meet Luis in a couple hours and I urge all of you who know Mike Mick to email him (or leave comments berating him) and urge him to meet us in Switzerland or London.

Oh yeah, the plan is a few days here - head to Basel on tuesday, catch the US-Swiss match on wednesday (its on Fox Soccer I believe) - then head to London on thursday and catch Fulham (USA) take on Derby County. Potential to see 5 americans on the pitch at once in an EPL match.

If anyone has any suggestions for Barcelona, Basel or London, please pass them along.

Probably gonna drink beer and watch Euro 2008 quallies all day today though!
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