Sara caused the deportation of a Cuban

Trip Start Aug 01, 2005
Trip End Oct 04, 2005

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Thursday, September 22, 2005

Highlights of this entry:

San Sebastian and its Film Festival
Night on the Nelsons in Andorra
"Cruise" to Italy
Killing pigeons in Venice

Before I go into the official entry, we've had so many incidents involving my passport picture that I feel obligated to share some of the stories. My passport picture was taken about 9 years ago. In it, I've got long hair parted down the middle, glasses, and an even more youthful looking face than I am sporting now (see the attached picture). While we rarely have to go through passport control at borders in the European countries, the few times that I've had to pull it out has caused several inspectors to question it's authenticity and to regard me with the utmost suspicion. I've even had one inspector flat out tell me that the person in my passport picture is not me. I've had laughs, double takes, and sometimes even triple takes. This is all made worse due to the fact that Sara and I can hardly keep a straight face when the inspectors ask for passports since we know what's coming. Thankfully, we haven't been detained yet. But if we aren't home by October 4, that is probably the reason why.

17-18 September

Upon a recommendation from my old friend Jon Byrom, Sara and I decided to brave the famous beaches of San Sebastian, Spain. Our hostel, while it didn't have a beach view, was conveniently located right next door to a fish market...which is pretty much the same thing...except not. Each morning, we woke up, took a deep breath, and then really wished we hadn't.

For some reason unbeknownst to Sara and I, the high has been 59 degrees here. But we came for the beach, and so to the beach we went - with only our swimsuits and goose bumps to keep us warm. Still, San Sebastian is amazingly beautiful and we managed to catch some rays without receiving too severe frostbite.

We were fortunate enough to hit San Sebastian during its annual film festival. The first night, we watched a film called "China Girl." It's an 80's film resembling West Side Story, but without the music. It had fits of both good and bad acting (and even worse dancing). The second film that we watched was called "Drabet" (which is Dutch for Manslaughter). The ticket agent told us that the film was in English. We were initially disappointed to find out that it was only in Dutch with Spanish subtitles. I say initially because we soon put our Spanish skills to the test and were amazed to find that we could follow the dialogue very closely.

19 September

Andorra is generally poopooed by our guide book and is surprisingly hard to get to. But in our quest to visit every country in western Europe, we had to make the trek. So we rented a 1.4L Renault Modus and drove up into the Pyrenees, between Spain and France, for a one night stay in Andorra La Vella (the capital of the country). And while we might have agreed with our guide book's criticism of the country's overemphasis on shopping and lack of distinctive character, we took a different approach with this visit. I risk insulting their modesty, but Sara's parents gave us a little spending money for the trip and we put it all to use in Andorra. We dubbed this grand indulgence, "Night on the Nelsons." Dinner was at a fancy French restaurant where we enjoyed gourmet salads, cheese fondue, and an expensive bottle of French wine. After we'd eaten ourselves sick, we got a room in the 5 star Plaza Hotel. The amenities were so complete that we didn't want to fall asleep. So we donned our bathrobes, ate our pillow chocolates, and watched movies until the sun came up (or at least made the attempt). Overall, Andorra is quite unremarkable. However, thanks to the Nelson's generosity, it turned out to be one of our favorite nights on the trip.

On a side note, today is my last day in the Army. Tomorrow, I officially join the ranks of the civilian unemployed.

20-21 September

We had been planning a cruise from Barcelona to Rome for about a month and were both very excited when we finally boarded. But our "cruise" ship turned out to be a cargo transport ferry. It had a swimming pool and hot tub without water, a snack bar without food, and a health center without any fitness equipment. But we did manage to score a private cabin and were doubly excited to find that they offered massages. I was the first to place myself under the hands of one of the worst masseuses in Europe. This aggressive Cuban woman obviously learned her moves from the Communist Center of Torture. After barely surviving the assault, I managed to silently warn Sara (who was already feeling seasick) of her impending doom. She wisely decided to cancel her appointment. We had not paid yet, but the woman had given us receipts for two massages. When she found out that Sara was canceling, she threw a fit and claimed that her boss would think that she was ripping the company off. Then she claimed that she would be fired and deported back to Cuba if Sara didn't get the massage. After all was said and done, we managed to clear things up with her boss and avoided paying for Sara to be abused.

The cruise ended none too soon and we hopped on a train from Rome to Venice.

22 September

There is a visible battle in Venice between the city's old world charm and it's reliance on tourism for growth (there are 12 million visitors a year and tourism is responsible for 70% of the city's economic growth). For us, old world charm lost the battle to the wave after wave of tour groups and even more numerous swarms of pigeons.

We began our day by exploring St. Mark's Cathedral in the heart of Venice. St. Mark's bone are buried in the alter in the center of the cathedral. In a separate section, bones, teeth, skulls, and shriveled hands of other saints were on display. Needless to say, our continual pursuit of morbidity was temporarily satiated.

Next, we ventured up a bell tower that gave us a spectacular panoramic view of the city. We followed this with a visit to the Palazzo Ducale (Doge's Palace) where we saw Veronese's masterpiece, "the Rape of Europa" and the world's largest oil painting.

As sunset approached, we decided to take the plunge and go for the obligatory gondola ride. After haggling with about five gondoliers, we finally found one that we liked (and liked his price even more). Though it was still outrageously expensive, it was our favorite thing that we did in Venice.

Upcoming events:
The Independent Republic of San Marino
Naples and Pompeii
Rome and dinner with Billy and Chistine Poorten

Until next time...Ciao.
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rickbranstetter on

Venice or New Orleans 2005
Somehow the quaint canals of Venice have lost their luster as a result of the continual scenes of the flooded streets of New Orleans on the nightly TV.

Cousin Michael and his family had to evacuate Houston as a result of Hurricane Rita. They made it to San Antonio and promised they would pay to have your garage door put back on. They figured that was the cheapest way to gain entry into your house. By the way your power had been off and most of your food had to be run down the garbage disposal. It stopped up real bad. Fortunately the toilets were working, until Kaitlin flushed a few of her little sister's diapers down them. They said they left a few bucks on the back of the toilet to pay the plumber.

fuschiaeastwood on

I dont know if it's me but the videos don't totally work for me. they come up and play but it's a second and I dont know if that's how it's supposed to be but my guess would be no...

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