I know I’m getting closer to Turkey when I start seeing Ottoman architecture in the landscape…I once saw a picture of Mostar in a catalog and noted it as a future destination so here I am. The Ottomans, like the Romans, were remarkably tolerant to all sorts of religion which resulted in Mostar becoming one of the most ethnically and religiously diverse place in Europe. Muslims, Christians, and Jews once lived without conflict here.

While it suffered a great deal of devastation during the Bosnian and Herzegovina war in ’93, as can be seen by bullet hole riddled buildings all over the place, most of the architecture is rebuilt..Still, it’s magnificent to behold. People are amazingly friendly and accommodating. This is in contrast to Croatia, where I did not feel welcome at all – Croatia is beautiful place and I’ve manage to capture some grand landscapes of Plitvice National park, but hospitality pale in comparison to Poland and Bosnia Herzegovina.

On this video, I was exploring the Neretva river overlooking the Stari Most (bridge), built around the 15th century by the Ottomans when a song broke out. There’s a storm brewing in the horizon and you can clearly see storm clouds spinning above the bridge. Not soon enough there’s a dude jumping off the bridge to a round of applause. I don’t know if it was intended or it was a dare from friends, but it was quite dramatic and comical to say the least :)

I came to Europe because I’m fond of history and I’ve read a lot of history books…But history as they say is written by the victors…History says the Ottoman Empire were tolerant to all religions but yet there was the massacre in Armenia which I wouldn’t have known had I not met the Armenian man in Lithuania to shed light to the matter. Much is to be deciphered in the old world…So much to learn and so little time for me here…What I’ve read in those text books, doesn’t quite jive what I’m learning here person…

Bikini Beach, Amalfi Coast

Bikini Beach, Amalfi Coast

Bikini Beach. Driving through narrow Italian roads in the Amalfi Coast is an exercise of controlled insanity. It’s pure chaos and drivers have complete disregard of any known rules or laws of driving. People drive on your lane trying to pass another driver just to shave a few seconds off to get to their destination.

They park anywhere and everywhere, including the lane you drive in. I’ve had one instance of a car parking right behind completely blocking me off so I can’t get out. It’s sometimes comical and sometimes just plain aggro. I was talking to this lady from Palo Alto and she said she loves driving here because everybody just does whatever they want and you get to do the same, nuts! But it’s well worth it when you get lucky to find a spot to park and just enjoy the view.

What if I told you raw ground beef is a delicacy? Would you believe me? Well, if you’re more cultured than I am, you’d probably know this as Steak Tartare. I ordered one at restaurant in Brussels since it was recommended and is their specialty. On the menu, it said Steak Americain…That’s something like American Steak right? No matter how I tried to like it, I just couldn’t. The texture is too foreign to me and the flavor even stranger. My company, Jose, who I met at the hostel didn’t fare any better.

Jose was here for the Tommorowland festival, which is and EDM (Electronic Dance Music) festival similar to EDC (Electronic Daisy Carnival) that I go to in Las Vegas. That would’ve been a fun event to go to, but I didn’t plan it ahead and tickets are impossible to get. I explored Brussels with one of the guys, Jose, and it was the most confusing drive I’ve ever done in my life. The street signs are alien enough and the fast paced, drive on the train tracks, way was quite overwhelming. I didn’t spend too much time exploring Brussels, daunted by the road no doubt, and decided to call it a day and head out to Brugge.

Mounted Police

Mounted Police

Not Exactly Steak

Not Exactly Steak

Brussels

Brussels

Luxembourg, a country so small you would believe it just a mere city. It’s the world’s only remaining grand duchy. Something always drew me in to Luxembourg, perhaps it’s my fascination with medieval castles and history. It also helps that wine is cheap there.  Much can be seen and done in a day in Luxembourg.

Luxembourg

Luxembourg

Luxembourg

Luxembourg

Houffalize Luxemburg

Houffalize Luxemburg

Luxembourg

Luxembourg

Luxembourg

Luxembourg

Luxembourg Countryside

Luxembourg Countryside

Luxembourg Countryside

Luxembourg Countryside

Luxembourg Countryside

Luxembourg Countryside

Luxembourg

Luxembourg

Luxembourg

Luxembourg

Luxembourg

Luxembourg

Luxembourg

Luxembourg

Luxembourg

Luxembourg

Luxembourg

Luxembourg

Luxembourg

Luxembourg

Luxembourg

Luxembourg

Luxembourg

Luxembourg

Luxembourg

Luxembourg

Luxembourg

Luxembourg

Luxembourg

Luxembourg

Luxembourg

Luxembourg

Luxembourg

Luxembourg

Luxembourg

Luxembourg

Luxembourg

Luxembourg

Luxembourg

Luxembourg

Luxembourg

Luxembourg

Vianden

Vianden

Vianden

Vianden

Vianden

Vianden

Vianden

Vianden

Vianden

Vianden

Vianden

Vianden

Vianden

Vianden

DSC02519

Vianden

Vianden

Vianden

Vianden

Vianden

Vianden

Vianden

Vianden

Vianden

Vianden

Vianden

Vianden

Vianden

Vianden

Château de Vianden

Château de Vianden

Luxembourg Countryside

Luxembourg Countryside

Luxembourg Countryside

Luxembourg Countryside

Luxembourg in a day

Luxembourg in a day

Potted Flowers and Stairs

Potted Flowers and Stairs

Luxembourg in a day

Luxembourg in a day

Luxembourg in a day

Luxembourg in a day

Luxembourg in a day

Luxembourg in a day

Luxembourg in a day

Luxembourg in a day

Luxembourg in a day

Luxembourg in a day

Luxembourg in a day

Luxembourg in a day

Luxembourg in a day

Luxembourg in a day

Burg Frankenstein

On my way to Darmstadt I picked up a couple of German hitchhikers at a gas station. They’ve been waiting for hours and I was dozing off from the long drive so I decided company couldn’t hurt. This turned out to be the best decision I made on this trip.

They given me important information about laws and driving habits of Europeans…damn those round-about! First, red is red unlike the U.S. Where one can turn right on a red. Second, people use the left lane on the motorway(freeway) for passing, not for fast drivers. It was quite amusing watching motorist go fast on the left lane to pass a car only to slow down abruptly because he/she switched to the right lane only to encounter another slow driver and have to go to the left to pass once again. This zig zagging pattern was quite entertaining to watch, and never did I once see anyone pass another driver from the right lane…well except me, prior to know the rules.

Previously, another couch surfer at my host in Paris (an Opera singer in Germany who came from Canada) told me that if I was driving in the countryside, input the word Schloss (Schloß) and it will pull up all kinds hidden surprises. Schloss is a word for castle in Germany and it turns out there’s two words for castle (learned courtesy of the hitchhikers), the other is Burg.

The difference is, age. Schloss is a more recent castle and Burg is something that is older. My host in Darmstadt had told me of a Burg about 10 kilometers south of where she lived, called Burg Frankenstein…This is rumored to be the same castle to have influenced Mary Shelley’s book but there’s no proof of that, all that is certain is that this Burg has always been called Burg Frankenstein long before the book ever was written.

On my way out towards Luxembourg, I saw a Sign with a Scloss, I simply followed that road all the way up on a forested hill and lead me to a remarkable find…Schloss Auerbach!

 

Schloss Auerbach

Schloss Auerbach

Schloss Auerbach

Schloss Auerbach

Guillotine Auerbach

Guillotine Auerbach

Burg Frankenstein

Burg Frankenstein

Burg Frankenstein

Burg Frankenstein

Burg Frankenstein

Burg Frankenstein

Reims

Reims

Sainte-Menehould

Sainte-Menehould

Reims Cathedral

Reims Cathedral

Sainte-Menehould

Sainte-Menehould

Reims

Reims

Reims Cathedral

Reims Cathedral

Globe and Ceiling

My second and third day in Paris was spent exploring museums such as Le Lourve and Chateau de Versailles and perusing the local farmers market in Belleville. As it turns out, my ever so gracious host, Alain, worked for the Ministry of Culture and has a all inclusive pass into government owned museums such as Le Lourve, which I can’t even put to words the grandness of it’s scale.

Alain, told me he’s been visiting the museum for years and still haven’t managed to explore all the rooms. The museum has been a symbol of France’s storied past and home to famous artist’s work such as the Mona Lisa, and is she ever so popular! While she’s surrounded by equally impressive pieces of art, she’s the bright star that garnered all the attention.

I slowly and stealthily worked my way through the crowed to get a glimpse of her beauty. Small in stature as she is, I can see the magnificence of such work. I also marveled at other artist’s work, such as Veronese, who produced equally impressive paintings.

The next morning, we went to the local farmer’s market. I was expressively impressed with the quality of produce being sold. Nowhere to be found is the typical “Organic” label that I was used to back in the U.S. You see, GMO’s aren’t sold or allowed to be sold for human consumption. The U.S. Can learn a thing or two about this…

 

Belleville Farmer's Market

Belleville Farmer’s Market

Belleville Farmer's Market

Belleville Farmer’s Market

Belleville Farmer's Market

Belleville Farmer’s Market

Belleville Farmer's Market

Belleville Farmer’s Market

Belleville Farmer's Market

Belleville Farmer’s Market

Belleville Farmer's Market

Belleville Farmer’s Market

Belleville Farmer's Market

Belleville Farmer’s Market

Belleville Farmer's Market

Belleville Farmer’s Market

Belleville Farmer's Market

Belleville Farmer’s Market

Belleville Farmer's Market

Belleville Farmer’s Market

Belleville Farmer's Market

Belleville Farmer’s Market

Belleville Farmer's Market

Belleville Farmer’s Market

Belleville Farmer's Market

Belleville Farmer’s Market

Belleville Farmer's Market

Belleville Farmer’s Market

Belleville Farmer's Market

Belleville Farmer’s Market

Belleville Farmer's Market

Belleville Farmer’s Market

Belleville Farmer's Market

Belleville Farmer’s Market

Belleville Farmer's Market

Belleville Farmer’s Market

Belleville Farmer's Market

Belleville Farmer’s Market

Belleville Farmer's Market

Belleville Farmer’s Market

Belleville Farmer's Market

Belleville Farmer’s Market

Belleville Farmer's Market

Belleville Farmer’s Market

Le Lourve Entrance

Le Lourve Entrance

Globe and Ceiling

Globe and Ceiling

Collection Borgheti

Collection Borgheti

Michelangelo Pistoletto

Michelangelo Pistoletto

Francesco Raibolini

Francesco Raibolini

Andrea Mantegna

Andrea Mantegna

Vitorre Carpaccio

Vitorre Carpaccio

The Triumph of Titus and Vespasian by Giulio Romano

The Triumph of Titus and Vespasian by Giulio Romano

Giulio Pippi

Giulio Pippi

 

 

Trocadero Gardents at NIght

Culture shock….Forget what you think you know about a place and just go there to experience it for yourself. No amount of research, books, or Google is going to prepare you for what you will encounter or experience. You’ll have no idea how ill prepared you are when the inevitable happens…Just go through the motions and enjoy the ride….

Speaking of ride, motorcycle riders in France are extremely aggressive. There’s been several occasions where I’ve witnessed riders ignore traffic and ride through red lights. Being that this is my first time in Europe and with sensory overload with everything going on around me, apprehension sets in. I decided I wasn’t going to drive around in Paris knowing parking is going to be horrendous and having to deal with aggressive drivers.

Through research, I found a spot where I can park the car and take the metro to Belleville (where my couch surfing host presides) for 6 RUE a day in Saint Église de Pantin station, which turned out to be free when I left. My first impressions of Belleville when I exited the station was…What the hell, I’m in China Town. Victorian buildings lined by Chinese shops bears an uncanny resemblance to the China Town back home in San Francisco.
It was a welcome relief that my host Alain was a fluent English speaker, as much as I believed English was widely spoken language here, that couldn’t be further from the truth. I once started a conversation with: “Parlez-Vous Anglais?” I learned very quick never to do that again. Alain is a very gracious host, he lived in a two bedroom pad in heart of Belleville which is a buzz-ling multicultural section at the center of Paris.

Alain gave me a personal tour of Belleville where I discovered amazing street art, were it not for him I would’ve take it for a lowly graffiti, and an amazing vista of Paris at Parc de Belleville. Since the 1980s musicians and artists have cohabited with the indigenous working class and Chinese communities and utterly coated the walls with illegal artwork.  He also showed me around at Parc des Buttes Chaumont, which featured intentional artificial features such as fake concrete trees, fake man made waterfalls and the feature I really liked: Temple de la Sibylle, inspired by the Temple of Vesta in Tivoli, Italy, and perched at the top of a cliff thirty meters above the waters of an artificial lake.

Alain has lived in Paris for twelve years and knows the city inside out, although he freely admitted that he discovers something new every time he shows couch surfers around. Belleville, according to Alain, has gone through a influx of immigrants from Arabs to Chinese and is constantly evolving.

There’s Chinese ladies clad in black in just about every corner in Rue de Belleville and I thought they tourist guides at first, Alain quickly dismissed that notion. He told me that they were prostitute who have been lured out the villages with promises of riches but they end up in servitude. It’s sad that such a thing is still rampant in this day and age, but I won’t let that thought mar an otherwise wonderful experience in the neighborhood of Belleville.

 

What the fuck is wrong with you?

What the fuck is wrong with you?

Eiffel and Sports Car

Eiffel and Sports Car

Eiffel and Sports Car

Eiffel and Sports Car

Eiffel and Sports Car

Eiffel and Sports Car

Eiffel at Night

Eiffel at Night

Eiffel and Sports Car

Eiffel and Sports Car

Foie Gras Across the Catheral

Foie Gras Across the Catheral

Eiffel From Down Under

Eiffel From Down Under

Trocadero Gardents at NIght

Trocadero Gardents at NIght

Belleville Street Art

Belleville Street Art

Belleville Street Art

Belleville Street Art

Belleville Street Art

Belleville Street Art

Belleville Street Art

Belleville Street Art

Belleville Street Art

Belleville Street Art

too_many_luggage

Packin’ Large

It was a cool dark morning in July, and the clocks where striking thirteen. Maybe it’s the feeling of grogginess from waking up at 3 am or the several glasses of wine with good friends the night before. But the surreal feeling of displacement by choice finally got to me. All my bags are packed and ready to go, this is really happening, I dropped my condo, my car, my debt and move to Europe. I’ll be sleeping in the car, pitching a tent where it’s allowed, and sleeping on other people’s couches.

Couches? Yeah, you see, there are rich resources out there built by community of travelers who have bonded to make traveling more accessible and affordable for everyone. One such resource is: CouchSurfing. Couchsurfing is a neologism referring to the practice of moving from one friend’s house to another, sleeping in whatever spare space is available, floor or couch, generally staying a few days before moving on to the next house.

I’ve posted my itinerary and have received several invitations to CouchSurf at other members couches, especially in Paris. I was to stay at member’s couch in Fontenay Aux Roses but at the last moment the member decided to cancel. This last minute cancellation has caused some grief as I have not planned any other accommodations. Fortunately, several members have invited me to their couch to cover the nights missing and interestingly enough, I was to detour to Reims because there was a couch available. However, a friend of mine told me about a Chateau that doesn’t have a lot of tourist…hmm, another detour might be in tow.

Flower Field Near Juilly

My first day in France didn’t go as smoothly as I’ve planned. The debacle started when I scheduled the shuttle to pick my up from home at 4:30am for a 10:30am flight. I barely got any sleep and while the shuttle was on time, it got to the San Francisco International Airport at 6:40am. While being early is good, I could have used that extra 2 hours of sleep. This set the tone for the next misadventures that follow.

Meaux Buildings

Meaux Buildings

Cathédrale Saint-Étienne de Meaux

Cathédrale Saint-Étienne de Meaux

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The airline flying out of Chicago to Paris was delayed for 4 hours and once it finally took off, I could not get any sleep. I arrived at Charles De Gaulle airport groggy and lost. I couldn’t find the Renault Eurodrive at Terminal 3. It turns out you had to take a TT Car Transit to the Renault parking lot, it took a few Information Booth traverses to obtain this information.

Flower Field Near Juilly

Flower Field Near Juilly

Wheat Fields near Meaux

Wheat Fields near Meaux

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Obtaining the car (Renault Captur), however, was smooth and I was up and running in minutes. Though it’s been a while since I’ve driven a manual car, I managed to get going with just a few wrong gears engaged, I’m just a tad bit rusty. I booked a room through AirBnB and my host was located in a small commune in north central France. I thought I entered the address on the GPS correctly but apparently not. It took me a while to get used to driing on the road which littered with those crazy roundabouts, which caused me a lot of grief. Often times the GPS would miscalculate when I enter one and I either overshoot or undershoot the exit and end up exiting to a different region/town/commune.

Window Detail

Window Detail

Captur on the Field

Captur on the Field

 

 

 

 

 

 

To say I’ve been lost a dozen times is an understatement. Unfortunately, the MIFI service that supposed to be working everywhere in Europe doesn’t work so I couldn’t use Google maps to help with the situation. Combine this with fairy tale like countryside and the sensory overload of everything going around me and you have a recipe for interesting photo ops.

I eventually figured things out after exploring the countryside between Meaux and Claye-Souilly and I also found the address at Juilly. I popped open a bottle of French Merlot, purchased at a ridiculously low price of 2.85 RUE and proceeded to catch up on sleep…roughly 14 hours of it.

 

99 Cheap Bottles of Wine on the Wall

99 Cheap Bottles of Wine on the Wall

Meaux Historic Alley

Meaux Historic Alley

Meaux Historic Center

Meaux Historic Center

Afternoon Drink

Afternoon Drink

Meaux City Hall

Meaux City Hall

DSC01925

DSC01924

DSC01904

Cathedral

Church in Town

Church in Town

DSC01910

DSC01911

The River Marne

Typical WIndow in France

Typical WIndow in France

Juilly

Juilly

Memorial

Memorial

World War 2 Town

World War 2 Town

DSC01871

DSC01875

DSC01872

Tree Hugger

Tree Hugger

I have a confession to make, I’m a tree hugger.  What the heck does that mean anyways?  Another word for a hippie?  Someone who tie themselves to a tree and washes plastic bags for reuse?  No, I don’t do any of that.  I don’t, however, own a car or drive and use only public transportation when available or ride a bicycle as much as possible.  90% of my diet consists of sustainable resources and I don’t use tap water to water my lawn or drink bottled water.   I don’t print or use paper to create my invoices or letters.

The reasons for the drastic drop in my carbon footprint and live a carbon negative lifestyle wasn’t born out of my desire to be green or echo friendly.  Given a choice, I’d rather have the extreme convenience to be able to go far and anywhere at will with a car but I totaled my car and haven’t bought another one since.  I went on a Pescetarian not to be sustainable but for health reasons.  I don’t use tap water to water my lawn because I sold my house.  I hardly use paper anymore because my industry is in Information Technology where we automate and use electronic means to communicate.

I realize there’s some argument that climate change is a natural occurrence of the planet but the general consensus amongst scientist is it’s caused mostly by humans.  The obvious one is automobile emissions which based on my estimate; I was contributing at least 5.3 tons of greenhouse gas per year.   The not so obvious ones are watering the lawn with tap water and buying bottled water.   Bottled water, apart from being ridiculously expensive for being just water, may have travelled half way round the planet through vehicles that use non-renewable energy.    Tap water on the other hand also creates much carbon in its creation.

At a global scale, it has been estimated that livestock (including poultry) contribute, directly and indirectly, to about 9% of total anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions, 37% of anthropogenic methane emissions and 65% of anthropogenic nitrous oxide emissions, which together amount to about 18% of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions estimated as 100-year CO2 equivalents.  The indirect effects contributing to these percentages include emissions associated with production of feed consumed by livestock and carbon dioxide emission from deforestation in Central and South America, attributed to livestock production.  Aside from this, it’s obvious that consuming too much meat is detrimental to your health which is the primary reason why I don’t eat meat.

So I guess I might as well embrace (literally) it, I’m freakin’ hippie tree hugger  ;p

Post Navigation

 
%d bloggers like this: