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

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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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A.D.M. Was Here: Benelux and Strasbourg (and a Mugging!)

Some building in Brussels.

Some building in Brussels.

On some weekends while studying in London, I made excursions out of the UK to go to other parts of Europe. Sometimes, I went on unofficial trips alone or with classmates and, other times, the class would go on a sort of field trip together. These class trips included Benelux (Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg) and Strasbourg.

King’s Cross and the Eurostar

As I mentioned in an older post, I was staying in a flat near King’s Cross (which I’d only heard of beforehand thanks to Harry Potter). It was about a ten minute walk away, across the street from the local Burger King and McDonald’s (and, I think, a Pret a Manger).

Nearly our entire class of law students were to take a train from London to continental Europe. I lazily assumed that meant we were leaving from King’s Cross and walked there dangerously close to the departure time only to learn that the Eurostar train didn’t leave from King’s Cross, but from St. Pancras. Though the two stations were literally across the street from one another, it feels super far when you’re late for your train.

Hustling over there, I got to the Eurostar security check and saw substantial lines of people waiting to get through. Talking to a Eurostar employee, I told her about my dilemma and she unexpectedly ushered me through security to get me to my train. I essentially cut in front of dozens of people who arrived to the station on time, making me feel both like a jerk and kind of like a boss at the same time (the theme for this post is me feeling like a jerk).

A glimpse of Brusels, then Luxembourg and the American Military Cemetary

Street in Brussels.

Street in Brussels.

An underwater train and a long bus ride later, we arrived in Brussels for a walking tour. The guide told us a bunch of stuff which I no longer remember, though she pointed out some nice places to get chocolate, restaurants specializing in mussels, and government buildings. Then, they packed us back into the bus and shipped us off to Luxembourg.

Judging from the fact that I have this photo of a Luxembourg hotel in the middle of the night, I think we stayed in Luxembourg. I don’t recall anything interesting happening that night, though I assume I drank with some classmates. Actually, this might have been the place where my classmate spilled red wine on the hotel couch.

Ho Hotel in Luxembourg

“Four Star Ho—” Yeah . . . sorry.

Luxembourg

Luxembourg is pretty.

The next day, we were given a tour of the city, and brought to the Luxembourg American Military Cemetary where many World War II U.S. soldiers were buried (if I recall correctly, many of the bodies were eventually moved to the U.S.). It’s always a little heartbreaking seeing the grave of an unknown soldier.

Unknown Soldier Luxembourg

“Here rests in honored glory / a Comrade in arms / known but to God.”

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A.D.M. Was Here: Seoul, South Korea (서울, 대한민국)

A few summers ago, I went to Seoul to study abroad, taking a class I believe was called International Business Law (It concerned mostly pragmatic issues companies face when they do business abroad, and a whole lot of history about the South Korean legal system. Sort-of-fun fact: prosecutors in South Korea are from the top of their law school classes and, unlike U.S. prosecutors, they have a more direct role in investigating crimes, making them like a hybrid attorney-detective—awesome. Sorry, I’ll get back to the travel stuff.).

Another clumsy arrival

Airport Limousine Bus - Incheon to Seoul (Lotte Hotel)

I have no idea why I took such a crappy photo. Younger-me sucked at taking photos. My guess is that I just wanted to take any photo with some Korean text (한글) in it.

My plane landed sometime in the evening and I bought a ticket for the last so-called Airport Limousine Buses for the day which took me from Incheon International Airport to the center of Seoul. For a while, I was the only person waiting outside for this bus, so I was a bit worried that I’d somehow missed it entirely. As you can see in the accompanying image, a handful of other people eventually showed up.

Dropped off in downtown Seoul, I pulled another A.D. Martin and lugged my bags around for a ridiculous amount of time trying to find the Best Western hotel I’d Google’d prior to leaving Los Angeles.

I didn’t find it.

So, I gave up and checked into a nearby hotel instead. The nearest one was Lotte Hotel, but it was a bit out of my price range, so I walked next door to the President Hotel. If I remember correctly, it cost me around $120 which was rather pricey for a student, but I needed some place to leave my crap for the night. A few distinct memories of this hotel: all of the other guests were Japanese for some reason, and I couldn’t get onto the wi-fi there.

The next morning, I took a taxi to Kookmin University (국민대학교) which was sort of built into the recesses of the mountains in the north of the city. If I was a better photographer I would’ve taken a photo that showed this off.

The apartment building they dangled before me before snatching away.

The apartment building they dangled before me before snatching away.

When I went to the front window of the dorm I was supposed to be staying at and tried to tell the security guy that I was there for the study abroad program, he brought me next door to an apartment building and showed me to a considerably large one-bedroom suite with its own bathroom and living room. It was too good to be true. The thing with the guard was that he spoke less English than any random student I could have grabbed on campus.

Turns out the dude thought I was a visiting professor of some sort (despite being in my mid-twenties at the time and looking like I was in my early twenties) and brought me to the wrong place (actually, through one of my classmates, I later met a young-ish South African woman who was in Seoul teaching English and living in one of those apartments).

Dormitory D for international students. The undergrads we met later were jealous that we law-abroad folks got 4-bedroom rooms to ourselves.

Dormitory D for international students. The undergrads we met later were jealous that we law-abroad folks got 4-person rooms to ourselves.

Some school faculty guy eventually showed up and corrected the mistake, and they sent me to my dorm room. Being a law student studying abroad, however, I at least got a 4-bed ensuite dorm room to myself (yep, still had my own bathroom).

Undergraduate curfew…

Student art at Kookmin University

Some random student-made art on campus.

The funny thing about the dorm was that the front door automatically locked itself at a certain hour (I think it was 11 PM), enforcing the undergraduate curfew on us (I think you could get out, but then you wouldn’t be able to get in without calling people and waking them up). That was pretty ridiculous, considering the fact that my law classmates and I were all in our mid-twenties or older (there was also a thirty-year-old, and a guy in his—I’m not really sure—forties or something).

But the Way East of Kookmin University

Convenience store behind our dorm. Ah, the memories.

So, whenever we were out late doing grownup things, we were locked out until 5 AM.

One of the law students from Hawaii eventually made friends with some of the undergraduates living in the dorm, and introduced the rest of us.

The undergrads showed us a way to sneak back in. It involved a bit of climbing and being of a certain slimness to get in through a window in the basement, but it worked. Some of my larger friends had trouble getting in, but we made use of it a handful of times.

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