A.D.M. Was Here: Paris, France

After being ferried over the Adriatic from Greece, I jumped on a series of trains up to Paris. Arriving in the middle of the night at a hostel in Montmartre, a district of Paris known to me only as the location of the Moulin Rouge, I secured my bags and walked around the neighborhood before I attempted to get some writing done in the lobby. While trying to be productive, I noticed a tall, skinny guy with a  giant beard pacing the lobby and mumbling to himself; he was somewhat unnerving.

I doubt I got much work done (probably ended up on Facebook) before I eventually tried to settle in for the night. I couldn’t sleep, though; the room smelled like ass. More accurately, it smelled like you’d expect it to smell with five sweaty men trying to sleep in relatively close-quarters with a window opened only a crack (couldn’t let too much of the Winter air in).

Not a fan of man-stink, I went into the front desk and asked if it was possible to switch rooms. The guy up front, who I’d spoken to briefly while I was writing, was nice. However, the hostel was booked up. There was a guest who hadn’t shown up to check in yet, though. Seeing as how it was after midnight, it was possible the guy wouldn’t show at all. Neither of us felt comfortable stealing the guy’s bed right away. So, I sat and waited for a while before we began to look into alternatives.

The front desk guy said, if I didn’t mind, I could sleep in the common area or the laundry/storage room. The problem with the common area was that it was filled with people’s bags, guests would be coming in early all morning to get their stuff, and there was no way to turn the lights off. That seemed somewhat acceptable, but he also took me into the back to show me the laundry/storage room.

When the hostel guy put the key into the laundry room door and turned, there was a snap. The key broke and he and I worked for a bit to finagle it out of there before we could get inside. The laundry room itself was fairly large, and he could get me some kind of mattress to sleep on in the corner. However, he then also informed me that hostel employees would come in early in the morning to wash sheets and what-not. By this time, it was about three in the AM and he and we decided that I should just steal the no-show’s bed. So, I slept in a non-smelly room. Evidently, unlike the other five men, my new roommates had heard of showering. The only caveat was the creepy, pacing beard guy was on the bunk above mine and he didn’t seem like he slept all night.

The next morning, having not been murdered in my sleep, I checked my bags and joined a tour. It was another free Sandeman walking tour (you tip the tour guide at the end). The group met in front of the Fontaine Saint-Michel—

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Archangel Michael standing on the back of Satan; Fontaine Saint-Michel.

The tour brought us down the Seine, past museums and toward some park where you could see the Eiffel Tower in the distance. On the way, we came to the Pont des Arts, a bridge on which the rails were covered with “love locks”—padlocks couples put onto the bridge before throwing the key into the water as some sort of symbol of their unending love. The government decided to destroy these people’s love by ripping the railings down (the cumulative weight of the locks was getting hefty and posed somewhat of a danger, plus the locks  looked rather ugly from afar—like a dump site full of scrap metal).

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The Seine, I think.

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Some of the love locks on the Pont des Arts.

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More locks.

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Some locks had cuter (or more depressing) words than others.

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The Louvre with horrible lighting.

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Whatever the hell park this is.

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People who don’t enjoy being photographed.

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It’s no London Eye, but at least its surroundings aren’t as cluttered.

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People, trees, and a lot of sky.

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Pretty much my first view of the iconic tower.

After getting our somewhat distant glimpse of the Eiffel Tower, everyone tipped the guide and the tour disbanded. There was an attractive young woman on the tour alone who, naturally, gravitated toward me. I don’t recall how we started talking; she probably asked me where I was from. While the others dispersed, we decided to continue being touristy in a group of two.

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A.D.M. Was Here: Athens, Greece

The bus from Sofia brought me into Greece and, after a pit stop in Thessaloniki, I went straight down to Athens where I stayed for two nights (i.e., more than I’d stayed in the previous three countries combined). I spent these nights in the Apollo Hotel which was reasonably priced and only a short subway ride to the city’s main attraction: the hills and temples of (and around) the Acropolis.

Now that I think about it, I may actually have gone from Bulgaria into Greece on Christmas Eve as opposed to Christmas day. Anyway—

After finally getting some rest in a proper bed (and not the Train from Hell as described in my last post), I took the subway in the A.M. to Acropoli station and began to explore. The first place I tried to get into was the Acropolis to see the Parthenon, but the place was closed for Christmas.

It wasn’t a big deal, though, I just had to come back the next day; there was still a lot of Athens to see. Somewhat aimlessly, I wandered southeast to the Arch of Hadrian and followed the road up to Zappio Megaro where there were a bunch of people doing holiday stuff, and tiny horses which now reminds me of Parks and Recreation:

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Arch of Hadrian. Not to be confused with the other ones in Italy or Jordan, or Hadrian’s Wall in Northern England (aka The Wall keeping out the Wildlings).

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The view of Temple of Olympian Zeus… from over a fence.

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A.D.M. Was Here: Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Bucharest, Sofia

To reflect the way I rushed through these cities, I’m squeezing them all into a single post (secondary motive: to finish writing about my prior travels a bit faster; there are still a number of countries to get through).

Prague, Czech Republic

A friend from law school, let’s call him Mr. Sarcastic, let me stay at his family’s place in a quiet part of the city. He picked me up at the train station and we took some sort of public transit to their family’s apartment where we kicked his younger sister out of her bedroom. I took my Mr. Sarcastic’s crappy bed, he took his sister’s considerably fluffier bed, and she was banished to the couch in the living room. Not my idea.

Longest escalator I've ever seen.

Prague Station’s escalator is probably the longest I’ve ever seen.

After leaving my bags at the apartment and before going out for the night, I ate some random food Mr. Sarcastic’s mom set out for me (ham cold cuts, I think). My friend’s mom, through my friend as a translator, gave me advice not to drink any liquor due to recent incidents of counterfeit stuff in the region causing people to go blind.

So, Mr. Sarcastic gave me on a night tour of some areas of the city. It was getting close to Christmas so there wasn’t much partying going on; but there were holiday decorations and a Christmas market. We finished the night by drinking a bit at some club called Karlovy Lazne.

Prague at Night 01

Prague at Night 02

The next morning, Mr. Sarcastic brought me to see Prague Castle and its hodgepodge of architectural forms. If I recall correctly, the variations are due to the fact that Prague was a major seat of power for a long period of time, which brought a broad range of intellectuals there, including architects.

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St. Vitus Cathedral

St. Vitus Cathedral

St. Vitus Cathedral's interior.

St. Vitus Cathedral’s interior.

While I did some touristy stuff at St. Vitus Cathedral, Mr. Sarcastic ran off to the post office (I think). It began snowing while I waited for the dingus to comeback (actually, it was nice).

Prague St Vitus Cathedral 03

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1st Anniversary Post: Top Posts and the State of the Novel

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I set up camp on Wordpress a year ago to connect with other readers and writers, and establish some internet presence while I tried to get my novel published. As far as publishing goes, I totally failed, but I’ll get to that later. First, some fun blogging anniversary stuff—

The Best of A.D. Martin Posts:

Sex definitely sells—well, according to my post statistics, anyway.

Without looking too closely at all the facts, the posts which garnered the most clicks over the life of my blog—by quite a large margin—has been:

1. Two Seasons of Arrow, Seven Women for Oliver Queen; and

2. Cool-ish Actors, Annoying Characters

Pointlessly Shirtless Men of Arrow: Slade Wilson, Oliver Queen, John Diggle, and Roy Harper

Yeah, people click on these guys.

For the post about Arrow, the post seemed to have built considerable SEO which helped it to show up in Google results somewhat prominently (as I write this, if you search for “Oliver Queen” and “Women,” the post will be in the first page or two). I also noticed that not long after I made the post, someone awesome linked to it on the IMDb discussion board for the show. Thanks, anonymous person!

Aimee Teegarden

I should probably watch Teegarden’s newer stuff.

The SEO of the Arrow post aside, there is one thing these two posts have in common: attractive people. By coincidence (not by design; I wish I were that clever), the images displayed on my “Top Post & Pages” are of shirtless vigilantes and Aimee Teegarden, for the Arrow and “Cool-ish Actors” posts, respectively. I think it’s fairly safe to say that most people find Oliver Queen, Mr. Diggle and Ms. Teegarden pleasant to look upon and this seems to have played a part in giving these posts a higher view-count than my other posts.

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A.D.M. Was Here: Berlin

Coming back into the Eurozone after Scandinavia, the price of food and lodging seemed super-reasonable. My train out of Copenhagen brought me to Hamburg where I had some time before the next leg of my journey to Berlin; I spent that time at a Christmas market eating Christmas-y snacks (assuming you count deep-fried dough covered in Nutella as a Christmas snack).

Hamburg Christmas Market

Christmas Market in Hamburg

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A.D.M. Was Here: Scandinavia

After my trip to Iceland, I returned to London for a one-night pit stop. One weekend into the winter break, most of my classmates had already left the country. Many went back to the United States to spend the holidays with their families, and a few others went off to do some more traveling. I prepped myself to do the latter.

I moved my luggage from the flat in Bloomsbury over to my law school’s building and packed about seven days’ worth of clothing into a canvas “holdall” bag from Marks & Spencer. The clothes would last me two weeks as I rode the rails around Europe as part of my self-imposed rite of passage to become a full-fledged pretentious writer (note: I washed my clothes at a hostel in Athens halfway through the trip).

The first stop on my solo trip was Scandinavia.

Oslo, Norway

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A.D.M. Was Here: Bavaria (Munich and Ludwig’s Castles)

From Rome to Munich

Yep, a lame wingtip photo.

After my would-be adventures in Italy with my fellow law students, I flew solo from Rome to Munich. I spent the first night wandering on foot for a few hours.

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Marienplatz

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The next morning, I headed off to Dachau to visit the concentration camp. Like the Anne Frank museum in Amsterdam, the entire experience was rather somber. Going into the gas chambers gave me an unexpected chill. It’s a creepy space to walk through and I did it backwards, first seeing the room where they incinerated the bodies, then walking into the “shower” room where they murdered all those people and finally seeing the slots outside through which they dropped the gas canisters.

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Incinerator.

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Gas chamber.

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Gas canister drop slots.

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“Work makes [you] free.” Right.

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A.D.M. Was Here: Italy, Revisited (with Grumpy Law Students)

In the middle of our semester in London, I went with some classmates to Italy. One of our friends set the itinerary, booking all of our lodgings, and telling us where to be on which days. Travel arrangements, for the most part, was the responsibility of each the individual. So, we round up making our way to Venice in smaller cell groups.

Venice

Our first stop was Venice, which was more of the same from my first trip there (minus random, fun hostel people). Venice Again Venice Again 2 Venice Again 3 Bologna

We stopped in Bologna only because it’s the birthplace of Kappa Sigma, a frat to which one of our classmates belongs to. Emboldened by the spirit of his fraternity’s forefathers, this guy overcame his fear of heights and climbed with the rest of us to the top of the Golden Assay, a tower overlooking the city. Bologna The Golden Assay Before the tower, we went to a restaurant called Da Cesari for lunch and walked around chugging a giant bottle of wine. Da Cesari supposedly has awesome rabbit ravioli, but I made the mistake of ordering some pasta with Bolognese sauce which was rather mediocre.

Florence

Rushing out of Bologna, we got to Florence around sunset. When we were shown to our hostel rooms, I was thoroughly grossed out by my gassy male roommates, particularly since the space was so small. Unable to find lodging elsewhere, I stayed in the other room with my other classmates (yep, I’m that high maintenance).

We had dinner at Da il Latini—easily the best meal of the trip. Once seated, we were given an unlimited amount of food of whatever the kitchen was preparing that day, and unlimited wine. The meal included three or four types of meats, two pastas, and some other stuff. My personal favorite was the chicken liver spread over a slice of toasted baguette-like bread. We asked for an extra plate of those. The meal was capped off with some limoncello (lemon liqueur).

A bit of bad luck the next morning put most of the group in a foul mood—in contrast to the last night, I was super laid-back and relaxed for no explicable reason. The first morale-drainer was our hostel’s lack of hot water. It was winter, and our only bathing option was a cold shower. I was the only one who went ahead and showered anyway. Next, we ventured back to the train station and found there was a labor strike, halting all trains for the day and stranding us in Florence. Continue reading

A.D.M. Was Here: Scotland and the Republic of Ireland

Other trips I took during my semester in London had me going solo to Scotland and, later, with some classmates to the Republic of Ireland.

Edinburgh

Sometime after the car trip in Southern England with classmates I hardly knew, I booked train tickets for a solo excursion to Scotland.

Most confusing name in the Isles (probably not actually, but close enough)

The entire time I was in Edinburgh, I had no idea how to pronounce its name. It wasn’t my fault, though. I blame the wonky spelling which came from the mixing of old school Celtic and English. For those of you who don’t know how to say Edinburgh, here’s a hint: it’s not “burg” as in burger; it’s more like “bur’ah” (the “gh” has a French quality to it).

Side note: the Scottish Gaelic name for the city, Dùn Èideann, sounds a lot cooler. Particularly because of its similarity to Dúnedain (the fictional race in The Lord of the Rings to which Aragorn belongs, and the reason the character looks to be in his 30’s when he’s actually 88).

The Castle Rock Hostel: a whole lot of awkward (not the hostel’s fault though)

Castle Rock Hostel

The nights I spent in Edinburgh were at Castle Rock Hostel. From the entrance of the hostel, you could see Edinburgh Castle. Inside, there were a lot of common areas where you could sit, chat, drink and eat. Most of the employees were travelers who worked in exchange for lodging (not an uncommon situation for hostels). After my first day of exploring, eating, and drinking, I came back to the hostel and actually tried to work on my novel (I’m not sure if it had a title yet, but it definitely wasn’t called REMNANT OF US yet). Having a beer or two still in me, I didn’t get much work done.

While working, I was invited to join a group of folks from several different countries (France, Spain, and—I dunno, probably Australia ’cause I like to say Aussies are everywhere). The French guy was teaching them to play Settlers of Catan and no one seemed to care. So, unsurprisingly, the French guy won.

Later, I was trying to find a place to watch my stinkin’ Netflix and wound up in a room which was supposed to be a spot for people to sit around and listen to records. However, the Spanish girl from the Catan game showed up with her temporary American love interest. In a misguided attempt to seem sociable and interesting in front of the Spanish girl, the American kid kept talking to me about music and his unorthodox college (rather than ignoring me and letting me sneak away), and then a fourth person showed up and set up camp in the record room.

Don’t feel too bad for the kid, though. Eventually, the young couple found some alone time in the loft above the dining room. I know ’cause I walked in on them making out while finding another Netflix-friendly spot (spring for a hotel, kid!). That wasn’t even the most awkward thing that happened at the hostel.

On another night, some other couple in my co-ed dorm room decided to have sex in the corner while everyone was sleeping. Lucky for me (if you can call it lucky), I was so tired I didn’t care and just passed out.

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