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Charging for bathrooms and the free market

Posted by Sean Blanda on Oct 17, 2008 in Commentary

We only asked ourselves: what would Adam Sandler do?

We only asked ourselves: what would Adam Sandler do?

It was 11 p.m. and we had just finished singing “Twist and Shout” to a very confused but enthusiastic group of Belgians. As I finished my drink, I gestured to the bartender that I was finished, and began cutting my way through the crowd to go to the bathroom.  For some reason, no matter the continent, I have been cursed with the bladder of a 70 year old. Right as I was about to reach for my French phrasebook to determine which door was for me, an elderly woman approached me and outstretched her hand.  Thinking she was a panhandler, I told her I didn’t have any money.  It was then she pointed to the sign behind her:

“Toilet: 50 cents”

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Brussels, Belgium, a review

Posted by Christopher Wink on Oct 13, 2008 in Commentary

Sean and I in front of the famed Mannekin Pis statue in Brussels, Belgium on Oct. 11.

Brussels wasn’t the first city in its own country - Brughes, Ghent and Ypres were hopping by the 14th century - but at one million strong, it is the modern jewel of Belgium.

Still, it is often called a stop-over. It’s a major hub of transit lines destined north through Amsterdam and south through Paris. We were told that it is boring and without sights to be had. A handful of young, haggard Australian 20-something travelers had Brussels as a resting stop - a few nights of drinking beer and resting for more worthwhile adventure.

Bollox.

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France and Brussels have funny keyboards

Posted by Sean Blanda on Oct 12, 2008 in Commentary

I’m usually a terrible speller, but my stupidy disorder is heightened in Brussells and Paris. Because WiFi spots are hard to come by, we have to duck in the occasional Internet cafe. The cafe’s are made for locals and all of the menus are in French or Dutch. But the real obsticle is the odd keyboard. Because Brussells is home to two languages, French and Dutch, they use the “AZERTY” layout. The AZERTY is very similar to the American except for a few subtle but obnoxious differences.  France, jumps on the AZERTY bandwagon as well.

Seriously, I dare anyone to try typing on this. There’s also the problem of typing using a French spell check that makes every word float on a red squiggly line of grammatical dissaproval, but I suppose that’s another post…

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Eurail first impressions

Posted by Sean Blanda on Oct 11, 2008 in Commentary

If you seen Eurotrip or had any friends take the post-college right of passage across Europe you get the deal about the Eurorail.  Buy one pass and tote around carefree in an oversized backpack speaking different languages and absorbing different cultures along the way.

Sounds too good to be true, right?

It is.

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Review: London, England

Posted by Sean Blanda on Oct 10, 2008 in Commentary

We’re lagging a bit, considering we’re leaving Amsterdam, but we wanted to review some of our experiences from London.

As far as foreign cities go, London likely takes the least amount of adjusting.  America’s former colonizer and longtime ally definitely has its own character and unique way of doing things, but compared to, say, the Eastern part of the continent, the US and UK are as similar as two countries can be with an ocean separating them.  The adjustments you would have to make are small, and most cultural differences are trivial at worst, and hilarious at best (just ask Chris).  Of course, most people that visit England will come talking about accents and remarking about these subtle differences.  But while the cutesy juxtapositions of cultures is reason enough to explore the city, there is lot more to this trip.

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The boy in the train station coffee shop

Posted by Christopher Wink on Oct 8, 2008 in Commentary

Worlds - yes, disparate worlds - come to some form of a cross-section in red-eyed, late nights in train stations.

Early Tuesday morning, we were doing that, surfing the intersection of the young and the acutely itinerant - being reminded of the sociological difference between situational and generational poverty.

We, three, were in a 24-hour coffee shop just before 1 A.M., waiting on a 6 A.M. train. A security guard recommended the spot, a few modern chairs off to the side where people buy cups of foam and cream. A young man, a year or two my junior, sat beside me, tapping his foot and twitching in his chair, regularly, if subtly. The kind of movements you might expect at 1 A.M. in a late-night train station coffee shop.

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8 people who define British stereotypes to Americans

Posted by Sean Blanda on Oct 6, 2008 in Commentary

Before we visit a place we have never been to, we often have only television and movies to give us any preconceptions.  In fact, we have dedicated a whole category chronicling our laughably scant knowledge of many of the place we are set to visit.  One country Americans do learn a lot about via media osmosis is one of our staunchest allies, and a popular destination for first time European travelers: England.

Ever since the days of the Boston Tea Party, America has had an odd love/hate relationship with its former colonizer.  Depending on who you ask, the British have bad teeth, amazing accents, and only eat fish and chips.  Below are 8 people, both real and imaginary that have helped shape the everyday American’s perception of England:

1. Every butler ever

Whether it is Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’s Geoffery or Mr. Belvedere, it’s a law of American pop culture that every butler be of British decent.  Apparently, there is some sort of butler college of high servitude in England that is just overflowing with qualified graduates.  Presumably they teach classes on how to civilize a raucous sit-com worthy family while quipping intellectually condescending one-liners.  Oh, and 90% are named Jeeves.

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