The European Adventure

So, this summer Casey and Rani went to Europe for 40 days, and here is their adventure. It is broken down into parts following their itinerary, and the links will take you to the appropriate place.

Part I Part II Part III
The Arrival Florence Berlin
Paris Rome Cologne
Lyon Venice The Rhine
Menton Salzburg Brussels
Portofino Vienna Paris
Pisa Prague The Departure

This is the path of distruction!!!11

The Arrival

They left their (Rani's) house around 3:00 AM to drive to San Francisco Airport for their flight, which had a 4-htheir stopover in SARS capital of the western world, Toronto. They arrived in Toronto without much trouble, although they noticed that instead of just saying everything in English, they repeat themselves in French for all those silly French Canadians. For Casey's first time being out of the country, he wasn't very impressed, but then again, no one expects Canada to be exciting. Finally, they get on the plane and arrive in Paris after sitting around eating candy, but this is where their trouble began. While waiting for their bags, they meet a French man who says that Charles de Gaulle airport is the worst he's ever been to since no one cares at all about you or your things. He was right, and they had to wait forever for their bags to start coming on the belt. Casey's first stop is the ATM machine in order to get some Euros for their first couple weeks, but his card's pin number is too long to input into the European ATMs. So, they are alone in France and have $200 American dollars for emergency money. They cash in $100 only to get 78 Euros back, and then take a taxi to their hotel near the Eiffel Tower. This is a 55 Euro trip, and the taxi driver, after spending the car ride telling them you can't trust gypsies and other people in Paris, tries to drive off with 10 extra Euros, but luckily Rani is a clever, beautiful girl, so she stops him and he immediately knows why because he's a rapist. They figure he was a gypsy-rapist in a Mercedes. They went into their hotel, checked in with a rather large lady who had lost her voice to smoking many, many years ago, and smashed their way up the tight, spiral staircase to their even tighter room. They have a bed and a bathroom, but you can't walk around the bed with their 3 bags in the room, and the bathroom definitely only fits one person at a time. This luxury hotel cost only $125 a night! It was then naked time because Paris is hotter than Satan's butt crack.


Paris is best known as the City of Love, but this is only true when one manages to move through the hot, sticky air. There is a plethora of dog feces sprinkled on the sidewalk, and when the wind blows the metro tickets and leaves get wedged in them. For Americans hating the French so much, the French seemed to act the same towards everyone - Ay em Franch, fuck ze world. Paris has its wonderful share of parks with fountains, benches, and all sizes of dogs eating waste in the fountains. They spent most evenings at the Champ du Mars, the park in which the Tour d'Eiffel (Eiffel Tower, if you couldn't figure that out) resides. It is a massive structure and a marvel of good engineering - something that the Italians lack. Every hour it sparkles like a gaudy souvenir lamp (or commemorative key chain that are sold by all the Indian guys). This is made possible by the thousand little flashing light bulbs placed all over the thing. It's a bit flashy for the classy Parisian tastes. It also seems that a high percentage of Parisians are thin, or at least beautiful - not in the vapid bimbo LA way, but in the sensual, pungent, dark-haired way. Another thing that must be noted about Paris is the metro system (subway if you're from New York). These underground trains form an extensive network below the basements of Paris, and make getting around the rather huge city a lot easier. They saw Paris by foot and traveled around Paris by metro, coldly refusing to give money to the beggars and street musicians. The last thing that Paris has mastered is the museum - the Orsay was a beautiful, artsy experience, and the famous Louvrehas one of the best collections in the world (which, unfortunately, cannot possibly be seen in a day as it is housed in one of the biggest museums in the world - they fainted and gave up after one afternoon). They also visited the Musée Picasso, which was a very fun experience for Rani, who is a worldly girl with a seasoned appreciation for good art. Casey...well, he respects Rani's zest for Cubism, but got a little pissed when he saw little wooden frames with pieces of string and crap glued in them that would sell for millions. The most interesting outing in Paris was had in the 80 ft deep (about 25 meters), 50 degree (11 Celsius) catacombs, which are filled with the remains of over 6 million Frenchies, all stacked in neat, macabre patterns along the walls. Rani was very excited to be able make hot love to the femurs...I mean, um, look into hollow, melancholy eye-sockets of the dead. Casey just concerned himself with not touching anything that might have dead-Frenchie disease festering on the bones, wanting to be neither dead nor French.


Lyon is apparently a very nice place to visit, but one may have better luck asking someone who has actually spent time there. Our favorite crazy couple spent just one evening there, complaining of the heat and finding a place to relieve hunger. Rani, who, by the way, is a very classy, sophisticated young woman, refused to eat at the shady looking place next to the abandoned, haunted discothèque, so luckily an agreeable place was found over a hill and through the back lots of some apartment buildings built in the 1960s. The only thing that outnumbered the flies and the temperature at this particular eatery was the elderly folk, who apparently, just like poor kids, like cheap food. The youthfully-challenged spoke slowly, yelled angrily, and one wanted to ignore their odd mannerisms but could not for the sake that the elderly provoke a sickening interest - exactly like American grandparents, except in French. It must also be mentioned that Lyon was the stop where the peculiar realization was made that the air mattress exceeded the tent in length by roughly four inches. This, fortunately, was only a trifle holdup in the sleeping experience, as the easy-going kids found that though the tent looked considerably obese in the front and rear, it was still possible to sleep with only a tiny draft, as the flap could not be zipped completely shut.


If one were to choose a metaphor to describe the weather for the French Riviera town of Menton, it would be boiling honey, but without the sweetness. We can derive from this that Menton is trés hot and trés sticky. And, if one were to choose a simile for the hill on which poor people camped in the seaside town, the most accurate one would be whatever that steep hill is to which Sisyphus was condemned. Perhaps Camus would have enjoyed the arduous journey up the rugged cliff twice a day, but the travelers to whom this story belongs did not. Other than that, it proved to be a very nice place for Rani and Casey to spend two nights. Menton was actually a last-moment escape off the major road after Rani, who is charming and intelligent, accidentally let Casey bypass Nice and Monaco. The campground (which we cannot forget was at the top of a cliff more formidable than any other ever) was situated in an old olive grove, and the toilets consisted of holes in the ground with little feet platforms to stand on. A hippy couple was camping close to our California couple, and they had a lovely yellow lab. Unfortunately, Casey forbade Rani, who can be compared to Princess Aurora in Sleeping Beauty for her affability with animals, to touch the well-mannered canine when its owners were not present. This was for her personal safety since hippys, being both dirty and smelly, cannot be trusted to raise a disease-free animal. A well-mannered old French man was met in Casey's attempt to confirm that he could use a small gas stove in the campground. The elderly French man pulled around a fat little dog on a leash, who, just like all the other dogs in Menton, seemed a) to be simply an accessory, and b) to be very, very hot and lethargic indeed. Casey and Rani followed the beckoning of this friendly man for over half an hour, trying to figure out what exactly this man was saying. It was thought, for a period of time, that the white-haired man was a coin collector. By and by a translator was found, and Rani and Casey listened as the elderly man explained (via the translator) that propane gas for the gas stove must be purchased with money, that money in Europe is different from the American dollar, that all European money is in the form of the Euro, and that dollars must be exchanged for Euros in order for European purchases to be made. Obviously, the old man was under the impression that Americans are very, very stupid, but Casey and Rani, too tired and surprised to explain their understanding of the European monetary system, simply thanked him. Luckily, the man gave Casey and Rani a free propane refill, thinking that even if they did figure out how to use money, they wouldn't know propane gas from dog poo on the street.
Since Rani and Casey are both physically well-formed people, they shed their traveling clothes for a bikini and swimming shorts (and yes, Casey was the one with the shorts) to swim in the salty blue waters of the French Riviera. There were not many people in the water, as the French seem to prefer lazily and clumsily walking over the pebbly beaches to lie down in the sun, browning their already freakishly dark complexions. The women (mostly all fat and/or wrinkly, though some very good-looking ones were spotted not far down the beach) bared their breasts to the sun at all times, and the men wore Speedos that did not fully protect the testicles from sunburn. Casey and Rani lounged on the beach on their cheap straw mats, which also doubled at chairs and tables back at the campground.
Menton proved to have many other highlights as well, including the odd road-sign that said "Baby Seduction," a man who tried to parallel park by banging up the cars around him, and the dusty antique shop with a raven that muttered in French, and at times made noises comparable to those of a cyborg serial killer or a very angry, small dinosaur. As it is a town of street markets, ice cream shops, fountains, and pretty, cobble-stoned streets, it is a place frequented by mimes and street artists (the first of which, by the way, brings terror to gentle, lovely Rani in unimaginable ways). Casey and Rani came across a street artist who specialized in hippy paintings made only with spray paint, newspaper edges, pallet knives, and pizzazz and flare beyond comprehension. This humble artist had that je ne sais quoi that instantly reminded Casey of his hippy father, who has a penchant for creating his own hippy art with spray paint. So, of course, they purchased a new-age-themed "painting" from the man, which was kept safe and sound every day until, unfortunately, Rani (who is very sorry, though one cannot really blame such a beautiful and well-meaning girl) lost it on the trip back home.


Portofino was a town recommended by a tour book, so Casey and Rani passed by Genoa and went to this small peninsula village on the Italian Riviera. After a long, scary drive on a practically one-lane road with many blind corners, they arrived at the picturesque destination. To their surprise, Portofino had one street, one parking facility, less than 200 residents, but still remained a huge getaway for the rich and famous. Walking the street down to the harbor, Rani and Casey passed by numerous designer boutiques, including Gucci and some very expensive looking shoe stores. The town, which had only four-star restaurants, seemed to be frequented by the rich and the beautiful. In fact, while Rani, who is well-learned in haute couture, was reading a Vogue magazine, she found pictures of models and their celebrity boyfriends on the beach of the very same seaside village. Anyway, Rani and Casey walked up hills past garden grottos and a very big kickass grasshopper, with whom they played while rich people forbade their kids to stop and watch with them. Stupid richie fancy pants. Portofino, by the way, seemed to be teeming with Americans, which would definitely lead one to the conclusion that Americans are rich and beautiful, though this is hardly ever so. It does seem that the top 5% of the rich and beautiful of America has been to this small place in Italy, along with our two poor travelers who happened upon it. Anyway, Casey and Rani, rather put off by the smell of money they didn't have, made their way to a small cove in which to swim. There they saw the beautiful houses built into the cliffs, the grottos and springs in the rocky walls, and a massive yacht off the coast. They waded in the turquoise waters, which lapped on the pebbly beach and over the picturesque boulders, and were entertained by the population of crabs living in the rocky wall underneath the spring, until it was time to get back in the Peugot, pay the 20 Euros for 2 hour parking, and drive to Pisa.


Getting off the Autostrada (toll road) proved to be a little more difficult than they first thought. They pulled up to a ticket window, and then were told to insert the ticket stub before paying. Rani handed Casey the ticket, then a 5-minute fiasco ensued. The ticket wasn't the right size for the slot, and Casey frantically tried everything to get it to work, which included sticking it in weird slots that didn't even exist. This, in turn, distracted Rani from her looking in the mirror, which she did a lot, since there is nothing else to do on long drives. Eventually someone waiting behind came up to investigate the hold up. Luckily for the travelers, he was a nice French man, and he immediately solved the problem. Casey handed him the ticket and the French man looked puzzled and asked them if this was a lotto ticket or something, then handed it back to them. Sure enough, it was the parking stub from Portofino, and not the ticket for the machine, which was still sitting in the center console. Rani embarrassedly handed Casey the correct ticket and then everything worked correctly. However, this was definitely not Rani's fault since she is such a lovely and wonderful girl and was obviously thinking about how wonderful it was to be a beautiful woman in Europe and not what silly little ticket was needed to get into Pisa.
It was fairly late in the afternoon when the adventurous duo arrived in Pisa, and following a borrowed map with campgrounds, they headed to Marina di Pisa. It looked alright from inside, and they went to inspect the bathrooms and water before committing to the site for the evening. The bathrooms were adequate, however the water tasted like, as Rani put it being the lovely flower that she is, ass-butt. This was probably due to the campground being very close to the beach and ocean, adding that butty flavor to any groundwater nearby. Rani didn't feel like staying in such a place, but Casey convinced her they would leave early the next morning and look for a new campground. The boiled their modest dinner of pasta, and Casey drained the scalding water onto a nearby tree stump. This unfortunately angered the resident giant ant colony, and they decided to swarm, much to the dismay of Rani who hates ants with fervent fury. While they were setting up the tent, the clouds started to thicken, and they awoke in the night to loud thunder and flashes of lightening. They put up the fly in a sort of half-attempt to keep dry for the night, and packed up the tent in the morning after the light drizzles had stopped.
The drive into the city of Pisa proved to be interesting in that many Italians drove in the oncoming traffic lane on their little scooters. This showed the Italian complete disregard for intelligence and helps to explain why they spend 60 percent of their income on clothing; if you're going to die young, you don't have any future to plan for. Our heroes found a parking garage and left for the leaning tower, but first had to deal with Rani's need for morning coffee. They went in, Rani got some coffee that was reasonably priced compared to Paris, and they both ate some breakfast pastries. After their morning meal, the young lovers walked on to the city and ran into another young couple that resembled a pair of pack animals heavily laden. They were from the bay area, but were backpacking through Europe rather than driving. Our pair was much better dressed and chic, especially the beautiful and talented Rani. Rani refused to talk to anyone who was from America on the trip, being the highly cultured lovely lady that she is, and so they conversed with Casey a bit about where the train station was located. Upon arriving at the courtyard containing any and all interesting sights in Pisa, they were met with zillions of tiny shops selling their cheesy wares. Rani approached one such vender and made a comment about how silly it was to buy a Coca-Cola shirt that also had the word Pisa on it. Casey then pointed out that the shirt did not say Coca-Cola, but rather Ciao-Ciao Pisa, written in the Coca-Cola style. To this, Rani squealed with delight and purchased the tiny shirt for her younger sister. Unfortunately, this was the cheapest thing in Pisa to be had, as the adventurers soon found out. To enter the leaning tower for 30 minutes, it would cost them 15 Euros each, and combined with a few other meager attractions in the same square (such as the Nazi-ruined frescos and cathedral), it was around 60 Euros. They were rushed to the top along with the rest of the tour group, and then yelled at by the Italian cop to return to the bottom since their time was up. People from all over the world in several different languages were coming together to converse about how big of jackasses the Italians were. After leaving the leaning tower, Casey remarked on how the only thing these Italians were famous for was screwing up something they were trying to build. This lead to the statement that Pisa was a "Pisa Crap."
There were several large and interesting paintings in the cathedral, however they were already getting burned out on Jesus art since it's so disgustingly abundant in museums. The area where the kept some restored frescos was very interesting, and the entire building was paved with the corpses of the believers. Rani spent a good while watching some pigeons making a nest and being otherwise pigeony, and Casey wondered why she was wasting batteries videotaping them. The couple then found a self serve place to eat and were amazed to see how much food the Italians waste when eating. They have several main courses and leave half of the food unfinished over the course of a few hours of eating. They are also very loud and boisterous while doing this, and when Italians unexpectedly or expectedly meet each other in public places, they are also extremely lively in greeting them. Drained from walking to the top of the tour, paying way more than budgeted for the day, and dealing with loud Italians, Rani and Casey returned to the car to drive to the next location, Florence. Unfortunately, they couldn't figure out how to get out of the parking garage with the crazy little token they were given, and had to be helped by the attendant. Apparently almost all of Italy is coin operated.