80 Year Old Man

Day 24 April 30, 2010

It’s hard for me to believe that we’re officially half way through our trip as of this past Thursday.  It’s even harder for me to believe that there are Hooters restaurants here in Switzerland (I mean, can you believe that?!?!?  Crazy talk….).  At least we actually arrived in Switzerland, though.  After the whole crazy business with the volcano (during our first week of traveling, no less…) and the helpless feeling of wondering how we’d get out of London, let alone any other country, it feels good to be back on track again.
What doesn’t feel good is the stiff 80-year-old-man feeling I’ve had all day today after hiking down Rigi mountain yesterday afternoon.  We spent a ridiculous amount of money on rail passes here in Switzerland and are determined to take advantage of them – which basically means that we caught the first train we could find to climb whatever mountain trail showed up first (the lovely and fantastic – Rigi Kulm Mountain).  What we didn’t account for was how devastatingly sore we would be the day after a 10km hike down a mountain with some of the steepest inclines I’ve ever attempted.  I suppose it didn’t help that I was in flip flops or that a hardy pair of Swiss hikers whisked past me saying, “You vore zee right shoes, yah?”  The right shoes, indeed…  Lets just say that we’ve developed a deep appreciation for escalators.
It’s our first day of rain today, though, which has (thankfully) kept us on trains or indoors for most of the day.  Our hosts (the parents of Bethany’s childhood friend, Nichole) graciously offered to come along with us on a tour of Swiss Parliament to translate the guided tour that’s conducted entirely in German.  Since I can really only speak about two words in German (‘nein’ and ‘farfignugen’ really don’t get you very far around here…), the translation was greatly appreciated.  I definitely never would have been able to understand the beauty of Swiss politics without them.  Talk about a country that really puts power with the people!  I know that no one is perfect, but it would be wise to look into the Swiss way of running a country.  I don’t know if I’ve heard of a healthier or stronger system…
Then again, there was a cheese vendor at a local produce market this afternoon whose shirt read:
The only good system is a sound system
Few truer words have ever been spoken.
Anyway, I do feel it’s important to mention here that, as much as I love everywhere we’ve been, nothing could have prepared me for the love I now have for Paris.  While I have self admittedly avoided that city like the plague, it honestly became my favorite part of the trip and I’m seriously going to have to investigate any options I’ve have to live there for awhile.
But one day at a time.  For now, we’ve got another half of the trip to experience and enjoy – as soon as all of this 80-year-old-man soreness clears up….

More videos!!!  Last Sunday night, Bethany and I finally got a chance to swing by Shakespeare & Co. – a bookstore directly across from Notre-Dame with books in English and French.  Not only is it lined with books (perfect for Bethany) but it also has a piano tucked away upstairs (perfect for me!!).  A truly magical place if you ever get a chance to visit….  I haven’t played piano for any length of time for what feels like an eternity, so this was my one chance to finally get some time in.  Granted, it became more ‘performance’ time since handfulls of people stopped by and stayed for awhile (thanks to those of you who did!  made my night!!) – so I didn’t really get any ‘practice’ time in (not nearly as many people want to listen to that….).  But still!!  It was a piano!!  And I got to snag it!!  For over four hours!!!  Thankfully a girl named Marjorie helped me tape this latest installment of “Thick Skinned”.

A Week in Paris…

While I haven’t blogged about it yet, our plans got seriously derailed when our flight to Italy was cancelled indefinitely and we could only get ourselves as far as Paris.  So…we have a week in Paris instead of in Italy.  Definitely not a reason for complaining but I was so looking forward to Cinque Terre and Italian bread with wine.  The bigger problem, though, is that I haven’t managed to find a piano anywhere in Paris (which is completely killing me….). So…I finally resorted to accompanying myself by clinking on the pitches found in glasses in the apartment of our friend, Henri (desperate times call for desperate measures, no?). Here’s a cover of Edith Piaf’s “Si tu n’etais pas la” direct from Henri’s kitchen!

PIANO!!!!

Yes, I know that Iceland had a HUMONGOUS, historical volcanic eruption and, yes, I know that this is probably the most significant news of the day….BUT…who in the WORLD can concentrate on ANYTHING when I FINALLY FOUND A PIANO IN THIS TOWN!!!!!!!!!!  Seriously – I’ve searched and asked everywhere from pubs to personal living rooms.  Not a piano in sight.  Until today!

Rumor has it that there’s a man named Ali (http://www.myspace.com/alilawrence) busking throughout the streets of York, England with his red piano (on wheels!  brilliant!!!).  I finally spotted him with my traveling buddy, Bethany, and she graciously videotaped a small street session.  

So.  Without further ado – here is my very first European performance (brought you to you hand-made-special-like by Ali and his traveling red piano)

*Head over to www.myspace.com/jessicaripkamusic to hear the full song for reals!

These Last Remains

I should mention that today is my last day in Ireland.  I should also mention that I’m currently in the Shannon airport of western Ireland.  This is significant mostly because it’s nearly 11 at night my time…..and my flight doesn’t take off for another 10 hours or so.  After 5 smooth-sailing days in Ireland, we hit a bit of a Hostel snag and didn’t manage to find a place to stay other than the airport terminal.  So…here we are.

I find this especially amusing because earlier today we literally were on what felt like the edge of the world while hiking the Cliffs of Moher.  There’s obviously the typical way of experiencing the cliffs – you park your car, you pay your money, you walk a few feet and pay more money, you take pictures that you’ll show to all of your friends whenever you tell them you’ve been there, and walk away feeling like you can check it off of your list.  Happily, Bethany and I are not the kind of people to be so easily satisfied.  Instead, we drove around the maze of stone walled farms, parked outside of an open gate and asked the owner himself (his name is Peter) if we could walk the perimeter of his property to experience the cliffs up close.  He obliged and wished us well as we went on our way.  Over four hours and probably more than a total of 8 miles later – we felt like entirely new creatures.  There’s something about being a mere 10 to 20 feet away from what’s more than likely a 700′ drop into the ocean that reminds me of how small I am.  Not only that but the ruins along the edge dating back to 14th and 15th centuries instantly makes me wonder what will be left of my life in 600 years time.  And somehow the waves of that sea have witnessed it all – watched in slow motion the passage of time and all of its significance.

For now, I sit in the airport surrounded by the temporary – waiting for my flight to arrive and wondering what will remain at the end of this trip and beyond.

But enough deep mushy sensitive talk!  Bethany and I drove all over high heaven today and decided to come up with a game to pass the time.  Nothing like singing every song you can think of in operatic falsetto!  Here’s a peak at one of our better numbers:

Saturday 4/10/10 Day 3

The best thing about international travel is that few things make you feel more like a large bumbling guerrilla on heavy sedatives.  Between the drop in temperature, the serious lack of sleep, the change in language, and the in-flight meal for dinner arriving just 2 hours before they pass out orange juice and coffee for breakfast, my victorious arrival on Dublin’s shores felt more like the last dry heave of a beached whale.  Still, we arrived safely, which is the best thing to hope for.  And if I can manage to keep us safe in this new-fangled rental car on the back roads of Ireland, then I think we’ll have done well for ourselves. 

For the moment, I think we may have done TOO well.  We experienced a classy if a bit greasy hostel for only 10 euro right in the heart of Dublin (which includes a classy little breakfast!  But no free parking – which basically means you’ll drive around Dublin for 2 hours trying to find a spot that doesn’t cost 20 euro.  Still, check out our dear Abraham House, for sure, if you’re here.  Just don’t bring your car….).  We willed ourselves awake for the day by trespassing through Trinity College while nursing cartons of orange juice (only 70 cents each! And it keeps off the scurvy!).  The advantage to having a travel companion, I’ve found, though, is that there’s someone there to catch you in the event that you wander sleepily into oncoming traffic.  Trust me – bring yourself a buddy if you’re ever jetlagged.

Thankfully the jetlag has worn off now that we’ve settled in and had at least one night of 13 hours of sleep.  I’m writing from the upstairs guestroom of a seaside cottage owned by Jean, a lovely host we met through couchsurfing.org whose hospitality is as exquisite as her location (although, God help you if you try to find it.  With directions like “Take the road through town, turn left after a few miles, then turn right after you’ve run parallel to the sea for a bit…”, I wasn’t sure if we’d even find it ourselves…).  She’s graciously let us stay with her for two nights along with two German girls who are carrying four times the luggage we are but are fantastic company.  Were we not venturing off further to 5 other countries for 5 more weeks, I’d be inclined to live the rest of my life here.  Instead, we’ll settle for a brief tour though the peninsulas here in the southwestern part of Ireland and soak up all of the stories we can.  Thankfully we’re awake enough now to enjoy them and won’t have to struggle through another day like we did in Dublin.  At least, not until we come back home.