Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sunset in France, Sunrise in Belgium

Living so close to the Belgian border has its advantages. You can go to Brussels in about twenty-five minutes, experience some beautiful country-side, get some fries with mayonnaise, or you can pile into a red Mini Cooper at three a.m. and drive to an outdoor rave that doesn't end for three days.

There's something truly invigorating about cruising into another country in the middle of the night, doing 160, just to listen to some very intense drum and bass with a few thousand other ravers. It almost didn't even seem real while it was happening. I had to take a moment to step back and realize the reality of the situation.

Dave's brain: 'Yes, I am in a different country than I was when the evening began. Yes, the sun is coming up. And yes, the music seems to be getting louder'.

Feels like the whole thing was just a dream.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Radiohead covering 'Ceremony'

One of my favorite bands covering one of my favorite songs by New Order.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Amsterdam: The land of illicit behavior, canals, and...bad ribs?

So a few days ago I went to Amsterdam for a night with a few friends. The trip was kind of on a whim, but seeing as its close to Lille, why not?

First off the train ride there was absolutely horrible. Some advice: Don't take four-hour train rides when you are deathly hung over. It makes the trip seem twice as long. Despite all four of us having awful hang overs, we made it to Amsterdam without too much trouble. Other than nearly missing our connecting train...

Any one who has been to Amsterdam knows that place is packed to the brim with people, and can be kind of overwhelming. There are bike lanes between the sidewalk and street (everyone...and I mean everyone rides a bike there). I even saw a bicycle traffic-jam. True story. I used to think crossing streets in foreign cities could be tricky at times, but Amsterdam takes the cake so far. Not only do you have to maneuver around cars, but immediately after wards, deal with dozens of cyclists coming right at you.

Its kind of a shock to your system. Especially after heavily medicating at one of the various coffee shops around the city. The first few hours of being Amsterdam were almost terrifying. Buskers everywhere asking for money, the sweet aroma of various controlled substances pouring out of shop entrances, signs that print a language that is more confusing than anything I have ever seen, Italians trying to coax you into their shitty eateries. By the way, it turns out that in the more tourist-centric part of town, all that is offered in terms of food are Argentinian steakhouses, (who happen to all serve the 'best all-you-can-eat ribs in town'!) and Italian pasta bars. You know something is awry when every steak house has the word 'rancho' somewhere in its title, and literally every one of those 'rancho's' serve the best ribs in town. No joke, there were about four of them all within a one block radius of one another. As it turns out, these ribs are terrible. Surprised? I wasn't. I guess in my altered state of mind I simply could not resist the call of 'all you can eat' ribs for under thirteen euro. Needless to say I did not get a second round. Lesson learned.

Aside from the tourist-centric parts of the city, its actually quite a beautiful place. I have never wanted to own a boat more than at that moment. The idea of cruising down a canal in a small motor boat to get to where you need to be made me want to throw my Canadian passport in the trash. Probably would have regretted that one.

All in all I truly enjoyed my time in Amsterdam. If I can suggest one thing, visit the torture museum. It will make you extremely thankful that you do not live in the Middle Ages. Not the most cultured place to visit, but we were short on time. And we got a discount from some nut handing out cards for the museum. The Van Goh museum will have to wait for another trip.


Why doesn't hip-hop sound like this any more?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Keepin' it local (May 17th Journal Entry)

Walking down the street today Andrew and I witnessed the locals wearing plenty of blue, white, and red. This could only mean one thing: League 1 action. We continued down to the local sports store. Where, sure enough, highlighted right on the door was the time for the home match of Lille vs. Nice.

Without batting an eye we were on the metro, heading to the stadium. We hit a wall when we arrived, as there were only 'Presidential' tickets left. These are the most expensive seats in the stadium. I suppose acting on impulse, we both got tickets side by side. After all...these had to be amazing seats, right? To our surprise our seats were basically on the pitch...the only problem was we were about twenty-five feet from the sidelines. Our view was impeded by television microphones, banners, and the team benches. We could still see, but trying to catch a glimpse of mid-field action was a problem. Who would have thought Presidential seats could be so shitty?

The only thing that saved the game for us was the crowd, and the ability to smoke cigarettes in the stands.

However another blow was struck when we ordered two beers, only to find out they merely non-alcoholic. What a disgrace.

With the draw, Lille's chances of continuing on into a better league were hurt. Along with our taste buds.

What in the hell...

These demon-babies were amongst the first things I saw after emerging from the train station here in Lille. They line both sides of the main road that leads to the train station from the center square. I wonder what purpose they serve, other than getting whoever approved to have them erected fired.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Leaving Paris (May 12th Journal Entry)

This morning was extremely frantic. I had a train to catch at noon, it was already 10:30 am. Not all my stuff was packed, I had to check out of the hostel, and take a long metro ride to the train station. In my hasty packing job I managed to leave a rather nice shirt at the hostel. God dammit.

I threw my forty pound bag over my shoulder and got the fuck out of there as quickly as possible. Rushing with such a large bag made me really think if I actually needed all of this crap. No time to think about that though. Luckily for me the metro was more or less empty the whole way to Gard du Nord, so I didn't get too many scathing looks from Parisians as I hauled this monstrosity onto the metro.

When I got into the station I went over to an automated ticketing machine to pick up my pass that was reserved over the internet. My heart sank as the machine told me my credit card made no such reservation. A quick run over to the human-operated toll booth solved my issue, as they were able to get my ticket. Sometimes technology really isn't the quicker option.

I got onto the train without any other trouble, and enjoyed the French countryside between Paris and Lille at three-hundred kilometers an hour. Arrived in Lille just on time, with Andrew waiting for me.

First thing we did was fill our bellies with a Royale with Cheese (they DO exist), and to wash it all down we enjoyed some tasty 1664 beers. What a country.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Jaxx, they're back.

Basement Jaxx's new(ish) single 'raindrops' from their upcoming album Scars. Personally thought it was cheesy at first, but it has grown on me in a big way.

  • Guilty Pleasure? Fucking dope.
  • Hockey Night in Paris (May 10th Journal Entry)

    Today I woke up absolutely hung over. The night before I had gone out with three nice American girls from who go to UConn, and drank under the Eiffel Tower for most of the evening. Upon returning to my hostel and after they crashed, I stayed in the reception lounge to chat with two other Americans from California along with the very friendly owner of the hostel, Pablo. Pablo is a jolly Samoan from Hawaii who managed to start this very successful establishment. If anyone is in Paris and needs a hostel, find the Aloha. This is why my hang over was so awful. Pablo and the Californians were shooting gin, and insisted I joined in. Big mistake. It resulted in heated political debates, and to my own astonishment, they did not know we Canadians had our own currency. 'Do you use the Euro or US dollar up there?'. Mother of God I thought. On that note I decided it was time to retire as I was feeling rather wobbly from the liquor.

    After nursing my hang over for most of the afternoon, I realized that Canada and Russia were playing each other in the Gold medal game for the IIHF World Championship. I had seen a pub called 'The Great Canadian' on my way to the hostel, so I phoned ahead to be sure they would be playing the game. After a quick metro ride I was there. Sitting on the patio which was right by La Seine, I met a fellow hockey fan named Max. He hailed from a town about 400km east of Moscow. One can only imagine how desolate his hometown is. Turns out he was in a band that just finished cutting an album in Toronto, sharing a studio with Tokyo Police Club. I have since forgotten the name of his band...Utopia? Utopians? Who knows.

    I quickly found myself surrounded by Russians which surprisingly enough was a nice change, I had never watched an international hockey game with fans who were against Canada. Admittedly, conversation was difficult at times for they were constantly switching from French to English, and back to Russian. Sadly our Canadians came out the losers in a hard fought 2-1 loss. Ilya Bryzgalov, the Russian goalie stood on his head most of the game, and I am convinced he is the only reason they came out on top. My new Russian friends were graceful winners, buying me a couple of pints to drown my sorrows in. I happily drank my beer, and stumbled back to the hostel for a nice beer-induced slumber.

    Tuesday, May 19, 2009

    NHL in Hamilton?

    Obviously being from Hamilton (the capital of the world) myself, I would have an extreme bias towards the pitch from Jim Balsillie (CEO of Research in Motion) in purchasing the Phoenix Coyotes with intentions to move them to Hamilton. Yes, I am aware that the term "Southern Ontario" is being thrown around, but any one who has really paid attention to this knows Balsillie wants the team in Hamilton. And seriously, who the hell wants to go to Kitchener for an NHL game? City rivalries aside lets focus on what really matters. The fans, and what it could do for the city.

    Hamilton is chocked full of rabid NHL fans who are hungry for their own team. I can only assume (call me naive) locals would gladly abandon their other teams in favor of their own, local franchise. I'm looking at you Maple Leafs. On top of that just imagine the rivalry that would be stirred up between the Maple Leafs and a team in Hamilton. Both cities already seem to have a large amount of animosity towards each other. What better place than an NHL rink to vent our issues with one another? Or perhaps after a saturday night game, on King street...with bats. I'm getting ahead of myself. There's no denying healthy, strong rivalries are good for the league and only intensify interest in games.

    No doubt Copps Colliseum (the likely home of the team) needs a large overhaul, but its not impossible. Just imagine what an improved sports complex that houses an NHL team could do for the downtown area. It could be the knight in shining armor our city has been waiting for. We might actually be able to push out the porno theatres, failed bars, bingo halls, along with the many crack heads and drunks that make our downtown so charming. And for God's sake do something with Jackson Square. Demolish it for all I care...on second thought, maybe keep the drunks. They'll be useful in fighting the away fans.

    Boule, and an old friend. (May 6th Journal Entry)

    I woke up very late in the afternoon as I recall, around one or two pm. A good thirteen hour sleep to get the trip off on a well-rested foot. After spending some time with Sophie in the late afternoon, I went out for a walk and found this:

    Poor Marilyn.

    I returned to Sophie's neighborhood later that evening and continued to explore, where I ended up watching several dozen men playing 'boule'. Taking pictures was a tricky affair, as it looked like these men would not like some Canadian photographing them. The crowd was immense, filling the grass embankments that surrounded the dirt in the center of the roundabout. This game seems to be a variation of bocce...or maybe the other way around, I don't know. Either way the object of the game seemed to be throw the big iron ball as close to the small ball as possible. Simple enough, but there's probably something I missed.

    There were about seventy-five people playing and watching, with four games going on at once. The game is kind of a big deal here.

    Later that evening I went to meet my old friend Andrew, it had been about a year since he left Canada for France. The evening was full of many drinks, basically carrying on our conversation from where it left off. The Roc-Pile was semi-intact again.

    Hang over in the works:

    Monday, May 18, 2009

    French gangsters...Locals only.

    Rushing the pitch in Marseille has never been so badass...or lame. You decide.

    Returning to where it all began...(May 4th/5th Journal entry)

    In classic personal fashion, I had left packing for my four month odyssey until the very last few hours of being in town. I remember sitting at Yas' house after inhaling some tasty but prohibited herbs and it hitting me like a ton of bricks that I was leaving the country in less than fifteen hours. Panic washed over me as I raced home to pack everything I thought I would need. I wish I could say I had two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high-powered blotter acid, a saltshaker half-full of cocaine, and a whole galaxy of uppers, downers, screamers, laugher's, but this is not 1971, and I am not the good doctor of journalism. Packing my clothes made me come to realize I need to expand my wardrobe, 'this is rather pathetic' I thought.

    I stayed awake most of the night, pondering whether or not I had everything I would need...if I missed something, well, too bad. What I had would have to do. Of course I was awoken by my mother in a frenzy, stressing over us not making it to the airport in time for my 9 pm flight. We got there in time, and I was left on my own.

    I sat at the airport bar guzzling rum and cokes while watching a replay of the Canada/Finland game that I had not seen yet. Watching the shootout was a stressful affair as we came out the losers. Fucking matter, not an elimination round. With that in mind I got in line for the plane as it was boarding. Good thing that game finished or I may have missed my flight.

    The whole flight over I was calm and collected, watching the movies and shows that were available in these new kick ass Air Canada planes. You get your own touch screen and can select whatever you want. It hadn't hit me what I was doing until I actually landed in Paris. 'Shit' I thought. This could have been a huge mistake...then I got through the exit tunnel. I began to feel almost giddy, laughing to myself. To an observer I probably looked insane. Not a good idea in the Paris airport, these security guards carry fucking assault rifles.

    Luckily an old family friend Alex was there to meet me at the airport and give me a ride into town, I was totally gassed. We hung out for a while, chatting and catching up as we hadn't seen each other in quite some time. Then it was off to my sister Sophies place, where I would stay for the next two nights.

    What an exhausting 30 hours...


    I figured since I am gone from home for so long this would be a good way to keep my friends up to date on what the hell it is I am doing over here in Europe...Considering I am a lazy person and can't be bothered to write several e-mails a week, perhaps this could be a better medium to keep in touch. In addition, a place where I can put down my inner ramblings about the world. Assuming people are actually going to read this, (don't you have anything better to do?) I apologize in advance for any grammatical errors that you may come across. There will be run-on sentences aplenty.

    Whether or not I actually keep up with this new venture remains to be seen. I tend to start things that never get finished...its just my nature.