Sunday, September 27, 2009

Paris, France - Day 18

This morning, I woke up at 8am sharp and got my running clothes on. Today I was on a mission to run around the Disneyland Park loop. Where my village is located, I'm about 1 - 2 miles from le Parcs Disneyland. The cool thing is that there is this HUGE loop that goes around the entire park and I've been dying to run around it since I got here ~3 weeks ago. I saw it from Google Maps while uploading my other runs around here. I could tell that it wasn't too big, but big enough to take a little over an hour or so to do. As it turns out, I put it off until the very last day I'm here, but it made for a great run and if I come back, you can bet I'll be doing it again.

I headed out the door around 8:30 am and was loving the morning sunrise over Montevrain. About 2 miles into my run, I saw another runner (who had passed me earlier) pushing a broken down car down the road. I ran up on them and began to help push. We pushed the car for about 100 meters or so and then went on with our morning run. We introduced ourselves to one another and then that was it... We talked for the next 5 miles. This guy's name was Sebastian, and he is one of the nicest guys I've met over here. He and I talked about all kinds of stuff, from marathon times, to French strikes, to the health insurance crisis in the U.S. He kept me company from about mile 2 to mile 7 and it made the morning run to go very quick. I gave him my email address, but I forgot to get his. Hopefully, he is able to find that I have a domain attached to my email address and then stumble upon this blog. :) He and his friend Gregory travel all over the world and I told him that when they come to the states to email me and maybe we could meet up for some coffee and more conversation. Thank you for a wonderful morning Sebastian! Enchanté! :)

After my run, I cleaned up and then headed over to Bob's apartment for a bowl of cereal and some coffee. Immediately after that, he and I came back here and we've been in my apartment all day, working. We worked from about 11am until about 10pm. We had a few breaks here and there, but we really stayed focused since it was my last day here in France.

I must say that my time here in Europe has been more than amazing. How often are people asked to travel to Paris, France for 3 weeks simply to work on a laptop computer in a very safe and rather plush "all expense paid" apartment complex? I know the answer, and it's "not often". Honestly, I couldn't ask for a better job than the one I have now.

One of my major highlights was being able to spend 3 days with Dariush in Paris, France just hanging out. We simply walked everywhere and got to see all the sites around the city. We haven't got to hang out like that since 1995 when he was in the states living with my family. Here we were almost 15 years older having just as much fun together as we always did back then. Thanks for a great time crazy man! We should definitely do this again, but next time with our wives and children. :)

Then to make this trip even MORE amazing, I was able to fly over to Bucharest, Romania and visit Volli and Yiorgo for 3 days. It was great to finally meet Volli's beautiful wife, Stefanie and get to know her a bit. And, Henry was awesome!! I love that kid. I went over there knowing very little about Romania, let alone Bucharest... Ok, I went over there knowing NOTHING about Romania or Bucharest. Therefore, it was great to get to experience such a different place with my two other brothers. The next time we all meet up, we're going to be taking Larissa, Greece by storm. Right, Yiorgos!? Thanks for a great time last weekend brotha's!! I had a blast and will never forget it! For as long as I live.

Most of all, it was very cool to get to spend time here in Montevrain with Bob. All of our communication is typically done over Skype and through emails. Believe it or not, Bob and I knew each other for almost 4 years before we ever actually met face to face! I had no idea what he looked like, and he only knew what I looked like from my MSN instant messenger picture. The thing that I like most about our relationship is that he doesn't act like a boss toward me, but rather treats me like a peer. He maxe me fele like I yam akshully smarte tue. We're both big geeks, so it was very easy to just sit around and talk about geek stuff with him when we're not talking about... well, geek stuff. :)

Bob, Jennifer and I appreciate everything you've done for the family. Not only for this silly little trip to Europe, mais pour tout. Also, thanks for allowing me to spend time with my close friends on your watch while over here. We both knew that were fighting a tight deadline with this project, but you were very understanding and actually helped us make it happen. That said a lot to me and meant a lot to both me and them. I hope to see you again soon... outside of Skype, of course. :)

Luc & Bob @ the Louvre on Sept 26th, 2009
Thanks, Bob!!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Paris, France - Day 17

Wow, today was a great day! However, before I get into the events of the day, I have to share my experience from last night.

I published yesterdays post around 2 - 2:30 am and was getting ready for bed when I heard a knock at my back door. I knew it had to be one of my neighbors, so I opened up the door and Michel (one of my neighbors) was inviting me over to his place for some wine.

I said "No, thank you, I'm getting ready for bed." But he insisted that I come over and hang out for a little while. I thought about it real quick and gave in. I mean how often do I get invited to a party at 2:30am in France?

When I walked into his place, it was a cloud of smoke and they had a poker table setup with a few drunk french guys sitting around yelling over the music. Which, by the way was George Strait blaring on the stereo. I loved it! I'd seen some of the people in there from around here, but there were some I'd not met before. Amazingly, one of the guys was from Montana of all places and he was a Blackfoot Indian. He was extremely drunk and I had a harder time understanding him then I did the French people there. I hung out for about 20 minutes, then came back to my apartment with even more wine in my system now. I thought it was very cool that Michel came over to invite me to his place. I had a great time!! I forgot to take my camera, so no pics... I came back and chatted with Jennifer for a while longer, and then fell esleep until around 5am!!

I woke up around 10:30 am and worked at the table with Bob until around 1pm. Then we all headed into downtown Paris for a fun filled evening on the town. We started at St. Michel and the first stop was the Notre Dame. One of the guys that is here on business with Bob's other (full time) job is a Purdue alumni and he was able to "pay his respects" to the beautiful cathedral that shares the same name with his arch rival back in the states. ;) From there we walked past the Hotel de Ville and Pont Neuf over to the Louvre and then we slowly strolled down the Champs Elysees. We snapped lots of pictures and just took our time enjoying the perfect weather. It was about 75 degrees Fahrenheit today and the sun was shining brightly; simply perfect for a relaxing stroll through Paris. I was able to grab a chocolate banana crepe at a little crepe stand and it was absolutely delicious. I wish I had known about these banana ones earlier in my trip, I'd have had one every day. Maybe it's best I didn't know about them actually...

A little further down the Champs Elysees we came upon the Jardin des Tuileries. The weather was so nice that it was very crowded with people today. The whole city seemed to be thriving with tourists and locals. It was so cool to see so many people just lounging around in the grass drinking wine and just having little picnics. I sooo can't wait to bring Jennifer back here and have a day or two to kill here in Paris. This place was just as beautiful (if not more beautiful) today than it was when Dariush and I came here two weeks ago. The leaves were already starting to fall and I bet it is absolutely gorgeous in Paris during the fall season.

From the Tuilerie gardens, we actually made a pit stop at the Haagen Dazs on the Champs Elysees and sat on a bench to enjoy our ice cream and coffee. The sidewalks were still bumping with people and the traffic was chaotic (as usual). After our ice cream, we headed up just a little further to the Arc de Triomphe. It was very cool to see tonight because the sun was on it's way down and it looked more majestic with the lighting hitting it from such a low angle.

After snapping a few photos of the Arc de Triumph, we walked down past Place du Trocadero. This allowed us to see the Eiffel Tower with no obstructions in our way from quite a distance. The Eiffel Tower looks amazing from this angle. It's hard to take a bad picture of the Eiffel Tower, but especially from la Place du Trocadero. The water fountains and beautiful greens leading up to the Eiffel Tower mixed in with the setting sun perfectly and it made for a very nice evening to be killing time in downtown Paris. We didn't go up the tower because the lines were over a 1 hr wait at every corner. Sorry Kathy and Madam Waite, I didn't get to enjoy that glass of wine from the first deck like you suggested. Maybe next time! :)

We hung out around the Eiffel tower for quite a while and actually got to see a really fancy light show around 8pm. I took a movie to show you what it looks like:

After killing a lot of time by the Eiffel Tower, we decided to take the metro back to St. Michel so we could do some shopping and drink some wine at a corner restaurant out on the sidewalk. We ended up sitting down at a place called Latin St. Germain. If you go to Paris, you should definitely check this place out. It was exquisite and the prices were hard to match. I had a keash along with the fish and rice. It was amazing!

Day 17 in the bag. T minus 2 days til I see my girls.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Paris, France - Day 16

Today started out very boring, but progressively got awesome. I woke up at 9am and decided not to my morning run today. Instead, I ate a quick bite of breakfast and got right to work. While working through the morning, I headed over to the other apartment and stole a 1.5 liter of water, some coffee beans, some filters, and the coffee pot. I brought it all back to my apartment because it didn't make sense for me to go over there to make a pot of coffee and stand around chugging it like an addict. Therefore, I finally decided to just unplug it and bring the whole thing back to my apartment instead. Derr... :P

Around 10:30, I gathered up my pile of laundry and headed across the parking lot to the laundromat. While it was washing, I was able to get some work done. About 2 hours later I brought it back here and strung it out on my balcony to let the sun dry it. The weather was beautiful today, so it didn't take long for my clothes to dry at all. Throughout the day there was a lot of activity going on in my area, so I was able to go out and talk to some of my neighbors. We stood outside and talked for about a half hour at one point and just had a good time trying to communicate with one another. I am starting to feel like a local around here... And "Gosh darnit, people like me!"

I left all of my windows and doors open all day. The breeze just swept through my apartment while I coded at my table. I spoke to Jennifer and the girls before they got on the bus, and we're all very excited about my return home on Monday.

The rest of the afternoon was mostly just me working at my computer until around 7pm.

Around this time, Bob and his coworkers came back and we all headed over to their place to hang out on the back patio and enjoy the nice evening weather. It was a very cool 75 degrees Fahrenheit here in Montevrain today and we sat on the back patio eating bread and sausage, and cheese while enjoying some fine wine. It was the perfect French evening.

After relaxing out back on the patio, Bob and I talked a bit about some work related things. And he actually got me good tonight. I'm usually pretty quick with things. It's just how I was raised. But, he got me.

We were all hanging out in the kitchen after a few glasses of wine talking about something. I don't even remember what, now... (?) However, at some point Bob says "Oh man, that sounds like an 'ID 10-T issue to me'...

I said "A what?"

He said "An 'ID 10-T' issue...".

"What's that?", I said.

He says, "Write it down!"

So I grabbed my pen and wrote it down. I took a loooong look at it, and said: "I have no idea what this is."

Then he says: "Well, that's gotta stand for something!"

Immediately I knew the answer was in the text, so I read it with a different set of eyes and saw: idiot


Hook, line, and sinker!

Around 1am Jennifer hit me on Skype and I was able to talk to my girls for about 30 minutes or so while she was cooking dinner. They showed me all the cool stuff that Jennifer got them at the 3 Bags Full sale. I just sat here and enjoyed hearing them talk to me. It's the simple things like this that I miss the most from home. I realized tonight that there are times when I let my girls talk to me at home and I simply don't "listen" to them like I should. Tonight, I made sure that I listened to them and stayed very focused on what they were telling me, rather than drifting off into my own little thoughts while they talked. They were soooo excited about the toys that Jennifer got them and they were destined to get me excited too. I really can't wait to get home and enjoy all of these everyday "kid conversations" again.

Jennifer also told me that her insurance claim on her foot is finally settled! Best of all, it was settled in a civil manner. It sounds like this "Todd guy" is in big trouble for the way he treated her on the phone a few weeks ago. Good! Nobody should be treated that way, especially my wife. I'm not happy because he got in trouble (although, he did deserve it), but I am happy that Jennifer can finally stop worrying about the bills that have been piling up because of it after all these months. Thank you to whoever escalated her case!

Look how happy Jennifer was about telling me the outcome:

Here it is going on 2am and I'm really tired. Tomorrow, we are heading back in to Paris for one last day of fun before I head back to les Etats Unit. Rumor has it that we will be going to the top of the Eiffel Tower and walking down the Champs Elysees. I can't wait! I'll be sure to take pictures of the world from the top of the Eiffel Tower and post them on here.

Check out this picture of the beautiful sunset we saw over the French countryside while chilling on the back patio tonight:


Paris, France - Day 15

Today was another great day in France. I woke up at 8:30 and headed out the door for a run to town. The plan was to run into town, get some groceries and then take the bus back here to my (suite) village.

It was sprinkling a little bit, but not enough to worry about getting soaked. I was hoping that it didn't start raining too bad though because I had my camera with me and it doesn't play well with water (duh). Instead of running directly to the city center of Montevrain, I decided to venture off to the east a little bit so that I could get some new scenery this time. It turned out to be a great little course, and I tallied up about 1.5 miles.

When I got into town, I was able to get my shopping done at the grocery store. I ended up with two apples and two banana's (this time I weighed them), a box of apple juice, a liter of Pepsi, a box of pain au chocolats, and a couple of pre-made deli sandwiches. I was much more confident in the super market this time now that I knew how to handle the whole 'check out' situation, and I even knew were everything was at this time. By the time I got out of there, it was 10:35am, which was the same time that the bus left from town back to my village. I thought, that I would just kill a little time and wait for the next bus @ 11:10am. However, but the time I got back to the bus stop, it was 10:50am and I knew that I had about another 20 minutes til it came, so I just decided to walk. It made for a good little morning adventure to town.

When I got back to my apartment, it was just work really. While I sit here in my apartment, I see a lot of activity in my back window. A few times I've had my french doors open and have started conversations with some of my neighbors. I'm actually getting to know some of them. For example, the neighbor who lives two doors down is a very young fellow named "Jonathon". Mind you, it sounds totally different with a French accent; like "Jhean au teh". I only know this because I had him say it about 5 times before I realized he was saying "Jonathon". :) He and his girl friend live in the apartment and they have a lot of pets: 2 cats, 2 dogs, & 1 rabbit. The rabbit actually chases the cats, it's pretty funny. I took a small video the other day, but the rabbit didn't attack the cat like I hoped it would in the video, so it's not worth uploading really...

Of course, he always has some friends over, so I met a couple of his buddies too. His one buddy's name is Michel and he's from Holland. He actually speaks very good English and has been to the states a few times. His other buddy's name is Clement, and he's from Rome, Italy. They are all in their early twenties and they couldn't believe it when I told them that I was 31. Apparently they thought I was their age, and were blown away when I told them I lived on a farm with a wife and 3 daughters. I kind of felt old for the first time in my life after the shock factor settled. :) I must say that it's kind of cool to know some of the locals here in the village now. I see them out and about and can actually greet them by name now.

As the day progressed, the weather got really cool, not "weather cool", but "neat, cool". The clouds were still hovering over our village, but there were patches of sunshine and it turned out to be a beautiful night actually. Around 8pm Bob and his team had come back from their day jobs and I headed over there for dinner. Tonight we had chinese food; that's "french-chinese" food. After dinner, Bob and I hung out at the table and capped off a bottle of wine and talked about work until around 1:30 am. After our little meeting, I headed back to my apartment and literally crashed. I remember stumbling up the stairs and laying in bed. Day 15 was in the bag... 4 more days til I can see my girls.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Paris, France - Day 14

Today was actually packed with a lot of goodness. I woke up around 8:30 and decided that I was going to run around some places I'd never been. I only wanted to run about 3 miles or so, and I had an idea of where I wanted to venture to. Therefore, I headed out the door around 9am with my Garmin, a stiff back, and a bad case of bed head.

I turned left out of my village and headed down a familiar street. This street only stretched for about 0.5 miles, and I knew that there was a road off of there that I'd never been on and I was gonna see where it led. The weather was perfect and it was early enough that if I did get lost for a mile or two it wouldn't be such a bad thing.

This road that I ventured down took me past some of the most beautiful country side I've seen in a while. At a few spots along my run, I was literally overlooking about 10 miles of rolling french hills coated with fog and layered morning dew. No matter how many pictures I took, I knew it would do no justice to the actual scene. It was the perfect setting that defined natural beauty. It was quiet, just a bit chilly, and you could still smell the morning. It was awesome! I took my time through here and just looked around at all the cute little french houses along the way. The street was very narrow, not like any roads in Ohio really. From this little road, I came out to a little town (or village) with a few restaurants, pubs, and pharmacies. I snapped a few photos:

At the time, I didn't know what "S.A.N du Val D'Europe" meant. I thought it was a sign put up for "out of town" runners to use that would point the way back home. Unfortunately this wasn't the case, and in hind sight: duh. I found out later that it's actually a service that assists the development of companies around here to get over various hurdles like business formalities, etc... This is a bit similar to what Volli is doing with his company, CityCompass in Bucharest.

From the castle, I really got lost. I was turned around and some of the roads I was running on had a few turns and so forth so I didn't know if I was turned around or what. At one point, I actually ran down a main road which I don't think was just a regular road, but rather a "highway" of sorts. It sure felt like a highway; there were no houses, no sidewalks, no nothing, just a road with trees on both sides for a mile. It didn't bother me one bit and I just kept on trucking. By the time I got to a major intersection, I was able to kind of find my bearings. I saw a sign for Montevrain and knew that I had to be heading the right direction. I went with my gut and headed that way. As luck had it, it was the right turn and I made it back to my apartment with a nice 5 miler behind me.

I even took some video's along the way and put them all together as a single 5 minute movie if you're interested.

Warning: This is my first time running and filming at the same time. Have a puke bucket nearby if you are prone to motion sickness. I also recommend that you keep your hands near your volume controls; there are very quiet parts and very loud parts. If you want just turn the volume down and enjoy the French scenery.

After my run, I came back to the apartment and decided that today was "laundry day". I gathered my euros and headed to the laundromat, across the parking lot. Four euros later, I had my clothes spinning uncontrollably and I was face first into my laptop for the day. An hour later, I got them out and strung them all over my apartment to dry. Today was an absolutely gorgeous day, so my shirts got a front row seat to the sun show off the balcony in my bedroom.

The rest of the day was pretty uneventful. I snuck back over to the old apartment around 3pm and slammed a few bowls of cereal, some cookies, some pringles, some coffee, and a handful of pretzels. Around 4pm, I was able to talk to my girls over skype and that really made my day. I really miss them all and can't wait to see them next week. We've already started deciding which restaurant we're going to eat at after they pick me up from the airport. The fact that we were even having this conversation made me realize that the day is very near...



So anyway, around 8pm, Bob and his team came back from their jobs and we all had bow-tie pasta with bread, wine, and German beer for a late dinner. After dinner I came back and finished yesterday's post and wrote up today's post.

Tomorrow is another run day and I may walk to town again to purchase some different munchy foods. I think I've eaten all the good stuff from the old apartment. :)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Paris, France - Day 13

Today was a pretty eventful day. I woke up @ 9:30 and immediately packed my stuff into my luggage. As it turns out, there are a few other people that will be staying here in the apartment, so I had to get my stuff and move to another apartment that was down the road a ways. I knew I had to hurry because I wanted to take the walk into town again to run a few errands before starting my day.

While packing all my clothes, I realized that I brought WAY too many clothes with me. I've been here in Europe for almost two full weeks now, and I've only worn half the clothes that I packed. The only items that I ran out of were t-shirts, but even those I've been able to wash a few times and wear again. I have so many socks, underwear, shorts, pants, and running clothes that I know I'll never wear though. There's actually 2 pair of pants that I've not worn yet, and have no intentions on wearing anytime before I leave. There's also a few dress shirts that I'm not going to wear either. This means that all this stuff is nothing more than extra baggage. Crap!

So I was able to get everything packed up into my bags and moved over to the new apartment by around 11am. As soon as I walked in the door, I simply laid my luggage down and headed back out the door towards town. I wanted to mail a few letters to my girls today so that they could get them before I return to the states next week. I considered taking the bus into town, but the bus didn't come for another 30 minutes and I knew I could be there by that time, so I just decided to walk. It's less than a 2 mile walk to town and I thought it would be good to just get some fresh air anyway.

When I got to town, the post office was pretty crowded so I waited in line. When it was my turn I explained to the lady in my best broken french that "Je voudrais a envoyer c'ept lettre a mes petite jolie au Etats Unit" (or "I would like to mail these letters to my little pretty's in the United States". She rattled of a bunch of french and the only thing I caught was "strike" which meant that they would not be able to mail my letters. I then switched to English and said "You can't mail my letters?" delivered with a look of total shock on the side. She then told me that I could mail them through some machine though. So she took me over to the "mail machine" and I had to weigh each letter individually before I could put them in the drop box. We went through all this hassle only to find out that the machine doesn't take Euro bills. I had to have the exact amount in coins (or "les piece"). I wasted about 20 minutes in here for nothing.

She couldn't change my bill either because of the said "strike", so I had to go somewhere else and get change for my 20 euro bill. I decided to go to McDonalds and order a good ol' fashion American meal. I (of course) got the Big Mac meal and asked the lady for "beacoup de piece s'il vous plait". She gave me about 7 euros in coins, and I headed back to the post office. When I arrived I had to get back in line all over again, just so the lady at the desk could help me through the french prompts again. I know my sister and Madam Waite are holding their heads in their hands right now, but c'est vrait. About 10 minutes later, I had printed the correct postage stickers and mailed the letters to my girls. I was now ready to check the bus schedule.

Low and behold, the bus wasn't coming for another 25 minutes. I decided to hoof it back to the apartment. C'est bon! About 1 mile back, I realized that I was forming a nasty blister on my left foot from my Chaco's. Ouch! Apparently these things weren't made for power walking like I thought they were. I'd never developed a blister from my Chaco's before, but I've been doing some intense walking here in Europe and I think my feet were finally telling me to put some shoes on.
I got back to my apartment around 1:00 and it was time for a shower and work. At around 5 o'clock I realized I was getting hungry, but I had no food and no way to get back into the old apartment which was packed with snacks. I knew the front desk would be closing soon, so I ran over there and had them make me a key so I could get some food. With the key, I was able to make a pot of coffee, slam down some pain au chocolat's and eat a couple bowls of cereal. I knew I wasn't going to be going out to dinner tonight, so before I left, I grabbed a banana, a jar of mandarin oranges, a box of apple juice, and a bottle of water. That was going to be my dinner, and I was perfectly fine with that.

That was pretty much the rest of my night. I talked to Jennifer a few times thoughout the day, so it didn't feel like I was totally disconnected from the world. However, around 12 midnight I'd had enough fun for the day and called it in early... If you know me, you'll know that 12 is early for me. :) Honestly though, I had full intentions on posting this last night, but I was whooped. Therefore, here it is a day late and a euro short...

Monday, September 21, 2009

Paris, France - Day 12

Today was a work day. Period. I woke up at noon after a long night and sat at the table in my apartment here working. I worked from about 12 until 8pm, then Bob showed up and we ate dinner with another guy that's going to be staying here for a few days named Terry. We had some yummy egg rolls (or something) and chased them down with wine and coffee. After dinner, Bob and I talked about various work items, and then that was really about the gist of the day... However, there was some excitement that went on last night though that is definitely worth sharing. :)

When Volli and Stefani dropped me off at the airport yesterday, I sat around for quite a while waiting for my flight to board. My flight was delayed about an hour and then the flight itself was very long for me. I was so tired and my legs were cramping so badly. The plane couldn't land fast enough and I only got about 20 minutes of bad quality "shut eye" on that 3 hour flight back to Paris.

When I got back, it was almost 12 o'clock midnight. This meant that the information booth in the airport was closed and I was at the mercy of the computerized train ticket machines. Unfortunately they don't accept euro bills. They only accept euro coins or European credit cards. Neither of which I had in my posession. Therefore, I had to ask a nice fellow to buy me a train ticket with his credit card and then I paid him back in euro's. The ticket was 13.75 euros and then I made my way down to the train which would head into Paris about 20 minutes later.

In order to get back to Val D' Europe, I had to switch trains in Chatalet Les Hales. Here, I waited about another 20 minutes and it wasn't fun at all. The metro would get crazy busy, and then totally empty over and over with every train that stopped. When it got empty, it got kind of freaky, but I didn't let it get to me too much. There was a passed out bum sitting on one of the benches and he had puke all over him and on the ground in front of him. It smelled like beer and he just sat there upright the entire time while people walked by him staring. I was getting sick to my stomach after smelling it for so long, but I wasn't about to go far from where I was. If I missed this train back to Val D' Europe, I'd have to stay here all night. No thank you!

By the time I got back to Val D' Europe, it was almost 1:30 am. I had full intentions on walking back to the apartment because I knew Bob would have an early morning and was probably already in bed. I was almost looking forward to it actually. As it turns out though, Bob was waiting for me to give me a ride back to the apartment. Cool!!

When we got there, we were locked out. That was actually the reason why Bob was at the terminal waiting on me. Apparently his key card was demagnetized and he couldn't get ahold of anybody since it was so later on a Sunday. He decided to go down to the train station and pick me up. He was hoping that my card would unlock the door. I think he said he arrived @ 10:30 and he had been there waiting on me since then... Wow!

So we got back to the apartment, and sure enough... my card didn't work either. We stood there trying to call the 24 hour maintenance service, but they never showed up or called back. Instead we took matters into our own hands and were determined to break in! It was either that, or sleep in the car.

I tried the ol' credit card trick with the key card to see if I could jimmy the latch, but to no avail. Bob tried pounding the window open with the palm of his hand... still no luck. He then looked up at the second story window and said, "if only there was a way to get up there".

We both knew that the window was probably unlocked, but we had to get up there to see if that was the case. Luckily, I got some mad climbin' skills from working in the tree service business years ago. I was sure I could get up there, and it was really the only way we were going to be able to sleep comfortably, so I made the ascent.

I very quickly got up onto the first window ledge with no problems. In order to get over to the roof, I had to stand on Bob's shoulders and he walked me over to it, while I balanced against the wall. I jumped up onto the roof and then reached over to slide the window to see if it was opened. Sure enough, it opened. Sweet!! Now I just needed to figure out how to get into the window. It was about 4 feet away from me and about 12 feet off the ground. I stood there for about 30 seconds thinking about how I was going to do it, and then just decided to try it.

Success! I pushed myself up and shimmied into the windows onto the floor of what was actually my bedroom. I walked downstairs and unlocked the front door to let Bob in. We were so happy that it worked. We unloaded his car and then sat around and talked til about 3 or 3:30.

After that, I came upstairs and talked to Jen on Skype for a while and she told me all about Daizi's birthday party. So cute!!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Bucharest, Romania - Day 11

First things first... Happy Birthday Daizi!! My littlest baby is 3 years old today. I am so bummed that I missed her birthday party, but I did get to talk to her today and Jennifer put pictures of the party up on her Facebook account. Therefore I at least got to see pictures... It looked like a lot of fun and I can't wait to get home to kiss and hug my big 3 year old!!

Also, Happy Birthday Mom!! Her and Daizi share the same birth date. I joked with Mom 3 years ago that I would never have to get her another present from that day forth. She could just be happy knowing that she shares the same birthday as Daizi; the present of being a Grandma. :)

Ok, now onto the events of the day. Today was a great day. Stefani woke me up around 9 am because she was heading out for a 4 miler around the park and wanted to know if I would like to join her. I got ready and off we went. It was very nice to run with her and get to know her a little mono e chicka. :) We talked about all kinds of stuff and just enjoyed the pretty morning. Towards the end of our run there was a small outdoor festival setup, so we stopped and looked around a little. As it turns our Yiorgo and I couldn't have picked a better weekend to come visit them. There were festivals all over Bucharest this city because it was the 550 year anniversary of Bucharest. We couldn't have planned it any better.

When we got back, Yiorgo was babysitting Henry... AGAIN! :) No, but Volli had left to go get some coffee and various pastries so that we could all have a nice breakfast before we started our "last day" together. Stefani quickly made some scrambled eggs with ham and cheese and we all sat around and had a great breakfast together when Volli got back. It was absolutely delicious and we all just enjoyed each other's company. I sure am gonna miss these guys and this great city...

Shortly after dinner we all gathered around and called Jennifer on Skype. Yesterday, I had called my Mom, and told her to be at my house @ 7am so that we could all get together and talk before we had to part our separate ways. It would be 2pm here in Bucharest and that would give us just enough time to talk and then get Yiorgo on his plane back to Greece. To my surprise, my Dad was in town as well, so it was great that he got to sit and talk with us too. As I said earlier, today was my Mom's birthday and I'm sure having Dad there and being able to talk with Volli and Yiorgo along side me over here in Romania made for quite an excellent birthday present. We sat and talked for almost 45 minutes. We were also able to introduce Stefani and Henry to my parents. Of course, we we talked to the girls for a while as well. Unfortunately I didnt' get to speak to Jennifer too much since we were running pretty late as it was... :(

Talking with Mom and Dad
The 3 malakas talking to my 3 angels
Immediately after the call (and I mean immediately), we scurried out the door to the airport so that Yiorgo could catch his flight back to Greece. We made it to the airport with only 10 minutes to spare before his flight started boarding. We said our good bye's and off he went. I had full intentions on staying at the airport and hanging out until my flight boarded @ 8pm. However, being as good of hosts as Volli and Stefani were, they weren't hearing of it and they took me out of the airport and we hung out some more. We stopped at a local italian restaurant and ordered some dishes to go. While Volli sat in the car waiting on the food, Stefani and I took a walk with Henry near a lake and just enjoyed each others company at a very slow pace. She is such a nice girl and I can totally see why Volli married her. Once the food was done, we took it back back to their place and had a nice dinner on their terrace while Henry sang to us. :) After dinner, we hung out for almost an hour and then they took me back to the airport.

Spending these last 3 days in Bucharest with Volli and Yiorgo has been unbel-ievable. Really. I mean, how often could this be done in a lifetime? 3 friends with crazy lives getting together in Romania to hang out for 3 days. We were able to catch right back up where we left off with one another almost 9 years ago, when they were grooms men in Jennifer and I's wedding. It's like we didn't miss a beat after all these years. It's obvious that Volli and Yiorgo are the best of friends and it's an honor to be hanging out with them over here in Europe. I'm sure they'll be meeting up again in the next year or two. However, for me I don't know when (or if) I'll be able to come back. I can honestly say that this trip to Europe my favorite trips of all time, and these malaka's had a lot to do with it. I've made memories these last three days that will last a lifetime!

Volli, and Stefani: Thank you for a great weekend at your awesome apartment. You have a kick ass little boy and I can't wait for my girls to meet him and shower him with kisses. I now know how hospitable a good host should be; you both set the bar and ensured that Yiorgo and I didn't pay for ANYTHING!!

Volli, it was amazing to see you speak so many languages as freely as you wanted to. As much as you may think I'm kidding, you really inspired me to think about picking up another language or at least mastering my french skills. Great job on using your brain, dumb ass! :)

Stefani, it was great to meet you and I hope to see you again very soon. Thank you again for accepting me into you home and picking on your husband with us. Volli is a lucky man to have you as his wife! You are what us Hardbarger's call "Good People" :)

Yiorgo,.. I mean YIORGO!!! :D I had a blast with you this weekend. It was fun to scream your name from across a restaurant after a few too many drinks... Ok, a lot too many drinks. :) I sure hope that Jennifer and I can come and see you in Larissa soon. I'll never forget how Volli made us babysit Henry that day. He just brought him out and handed him to you and then went back to sleep. :) Too funny!! You guys are such good friends and it shows each moment you're together. I feel lucky to know that your friendship started in my home town... Hell... In my house!! :D Now, you ride my @#$#@% #@*&!!!

Peace brotha's! See you soon!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Bucharest, Romania - Day 10

Today was another great day. As I said in my last post, I woke up with a pounding headache from the events that took place the night before. Volli and I contemplated another run around the lake to help get rid of our hang overs. However, since Stafani and Henry were both awake, we decided to wake up Yiorgo and take a walk in the park instead.

We got to the park and walked for a bit, and then found a nice little coffee shop with some wicker seating outside under a nice roof. Therefore we all went in and sat down to enjoy some coffee and conversation. While we were sitting in here it began to rain a bit, so we stayed a bit longer and Stefani and I enjoyed listening to Volli and Yiorgo bicker back and forth at each other about various topics.

From the coffee shop we walked back to Volli & Stefani's apartment and did a few things before heading into town to tour a different part of the city. Volli drove us by a lot of cool sites. There was a communist ruler about 20 years ago that really did a lot of damage to the city. His name was Nicolae Ceauşescu and he basically used his power to get whatever he wanted.

If you want details, I encourage you to read the Wikipedia section. However, for me I was able to see first hand what he has done here and Volli told me a lot about how he tore down entire villages and made the people move to blocks so that he could build huge monuments in his honor while making the poor people pay for it all. In the Wikipedia article I read where he would send well fed cows and food to fill local markets so that when he would visit with TV camera's the city appeared to be thriving, when in reality it was completely the opposite. When people would try to write letters or speak up to have change, they were dealt with harshly by the secret security. He was overthrown in 1989 and killed 2 hours after he was captured. The city is still paying the price for what he did to this great city.

Anyway, we had a great time in the city and walked around looking at various buildings and streets. There is actually a bad stray dog problem here in Bucharest. It goes back to Ceauşescu because when he kicked people out of their houses and moved them into blocks, they were not allowed to take their pets with them. Therefore, the dogs and cats were moved out onto the streets to fend for themselves. It was not uncommon to see dogs walking around the city center with no owners. Pretty sad if you ask me...

We shopped at a little market where vendors were setup and they sold various pieces of work. I actually got to change in a 20 euro bill for about 85 ron (Romanian currency). They look very similar to euro in my opinion, but other might argue otherwise. The place was really neat and it was really cool to be in an authentic eastern Europe outdoor market. They were even playing music that sounded Indian and I'll remember how it felt to walk around and not be able to communicate with the locals. One guy told me the price of an item he was selling using his cell phone. :) Very cool!!

We wound up a nice little resaurant and ordered 4 different pizza's to choose from. As if you can't tell, Volli, Yiorgo, and myself can put some food away and I think Stefani will be a bit worried when we all decide to come back in the future. :) It was great to sit around and talk about Volli & Yiorgo's history back on Day Ave, and we all realized how so many things had to come together to form the friendships that we had today. Volli was transfered to the house across the street from my house from another house in Akron, Ohio when he came over from Biberach. Yiorgo was transferred to our house from a broken home in Pataskala. They became friends, and introduced me to my wife, and we're all still very close friends. It's amazing how things like this happen when you really sit back and try to replay the events of the past to see where you are today. Stefani learned a lot at the table today (both good and bad). :)

After dinner we headed back to the house and chilled out for a few hours. Volli and Stefani took a nap and Henry got to hang out with Uncle Luc and Uncle Yiorgo for about and hour and a half. We had a good time and it was great to just hang with ma brotha and our nephew. :) We ound out that Henry has a crush on Yiorgo's girlfriend, Vaso. Yiorgo was talking to Vaso on Skype and Henry would complain until we put him in front of the camera to see her. It was pretty funny. :)

We woke Volli up around 7:15 and we all got ready to go out for our last night on the town together... We headed to a very fancy restaurant called La Cataline. It was the perfect place to eat dinner. We met up with Charles (the crazy french guy) and Yurris, along with his 3 friends from Belgium. The beers were tall, the dishes were exquisite, and the portions were enourmous. We had a great time sitting around laughing and were preparing for a long night at a local Romanian night club.

It was a fun filled night with flaming drinks and crazy techno music. I met some very cool people this night and... well... we all got really drunk. :) Yes, I still love Romania!

A flaming drink for Volker
Volker chugging the flaming drink with a straw (GO GO GO GO)
Yiorgo and I with a flaming shot, compliments of Volli. The women beat us over the head repeatedly until the shots were gone while everyone chanted. :)

Toward the end of the night. :S