This is the roller coaster at the Mangyongdae Fun Fair in Pyongyang, North Korea. It was definitely the scariest roller coaster I have ever been on, considering the safety restraints didn’t work and there were thick layers of rust on the tracks. But I survived, and even managed to film the ride while holding on for dear life (and I’m pretty sure camera insurance wouldn’t have covered a device carelessly ejected out of that roller coaster).
Well, here it is – the only video I have filmed in which I feared for my life during the process.
This is the footage I foolishly shot of our ride on the loop roller coaster at the Mangyongdae Fun Fair in Pyongyang, North Korea. When your harness doesn’t work on a loop roller coaster, perhaps the best course of action is to place your camera in your pocket and hold on for dear life. For whatever reason (some may call it insanity), I didn’t. I figured that if I was going to fall out/be thrown out of the roller coaster, I might as well capture the entire incident on film so that it could be replayed a million times on CNN.
At the beginning of the video you can hear a baffled U.S. Imperialist asking, in reference to his fellow passenger’s harness, “It doesn’t lock down?!” After spotting the loop for the first time, I then ask our guide, “Hey, we don’t go on that loop, do we?” He said no. Obviously, he had no freakin’ clue what I was talking about.
Bonus: You get to hear me scream.
You might want to fast forward the video a little bit as well, because it takes forever for the coaster to climb up the hill. And apologies for the horrible camera work, but, well, you know…
I love the Eurostar. Whoever decided to build a tunnel under the English Channel is brilliant, and I shall a raise a pint in their honor next time I’m at the Anchor. I love the thought that I can take the RV1 bus from Bankside to Waterloo train station, hop on the Eurostar, and arrive in Brussels or Paris within 2:30 hours.
In January I took the Eurostar to Paris and a few days ago I took it to Brussels. Moira and I left London around 8am and got into Brussels before noon. We dropped our stuff off at the hotel and went to Grand Place, which is the main square of Brussels. Absolutely beautiful and, of course, full of tourists.
Our first task was to find an ATM that would give us Euros (seeing as Britain has stuck firmly to the pound sterling, our currency with the Queen’s portrait was useless). Now, you would think that this would be an easy task, right? Well, it wasn’t. NONE of the ATMs within walking distance of Grand Place had money. Let me repeat, THERE WERE NO EUROS IN BRUSSELS, THE CAPITAL OF EUROPE. We decided to check out the EU area, where all the EU government buildings are, and perhaps find an ATM that would dispense Euros so that we could purchase waffles and Belgian fries.
Luckily, we managed to find a working ATM in the EU area, and then went off in search of the seat of European power. We stopped in front of the European Commission:
and then headed to the European Parliament, which is home to this funny looking statue:
We also walked through a huge park, which has, among other things, a street named “Avenue John F. Kennedy.” How cool is that?
After touring the EU area, which was really not that impressive, because, well, I don’t know, modern glass buildings just don’t scream powerful like the Capitol or Kremlin, we headed back to Grand Place for dinner. Now, this is where the trip takes a turn for the worse, because it was then that the Belgians tried to kill me. You may recall that when I was in Paris, the French tried to kill me with bad cheese. Well, the same thing (food poisoning) happened in Belgium, which makes me suspect that the French speaking countries of the world have some vendetta against me. You see, this time, I decided that it would be ideal to order a traditional Belgian dish, moules et frites (mussels and fries). BAD IDEA. I love mussels, but these mussels did not return my love. I ended up puking my guts out throughout the city of Brussels, starting at the Grand Place and eventually ending up in front of some official consulate type building that belongs to the French government (Fitting, no?), in full view of four CCTV cameras. So, watch for footage of me on “Belgium’s Funniest CCTV Videos.”
When I woke up the next morning, though, I felt absolutely fine, so we headed off to Bruges, a city that is a one hour train ride away. It’s cute…sickeningly cute, actually…see for yourself:
Canals, old buildings, boat rides…absolutely beautiful. The city seemed like a Disney theme park, it was that perfect. And, to prove how good I felt the day after my food poisoning episode, I had a belgian waffle covered in cherries and whip cream for breakfast, a portion of fries drenched in mayonnaise, gnochi gorgonzola, and numerous Belgian beers. A little food poisoning won’t stop me from enjoying Belgian food (OK, granted the gnochi isn’t Belgian, but whatever). And for those of you who think “fries with mayonnaise? gross!” then I urge you to try it. The mayonnaise won me over in December, after a trip to the Lowlander in Covent Garden. Ketchup? No thanks, bring me they mayonnaise!
Oh, and the citizens of Bruges love their bikes:
Some other random stuff about Brussels…
They have a huge atom statue:
But, the most well known Brussels feature is apparently this fountain, which is called Mannekin Pis:
I kid you not, every souvenir shop has tons of products with this fountain on them (mugs, bottle openers, shirts, whatever). In Paris, all the stores have mini Eiffel Towers. In Brussels, they have mini Mannekin Pis statues. So weird. And has anyone else noticed that all the souvenir stores in Western Europe are the same? You can walk into a store in London, Paris, or Brussels, and no matter what, they will all have the same Brazil soccer scarves and 2Pac and Che flags. It’s quite annoying, actually. Why would I want to buy a 2Pac flag in France???
Oh, and another weird thing about Brussels is the metro. They play Britney Spears and Mariah Carey over the loudspeakers in the metro…swear to God, “Hit me baby one more time” was playing while we were waiting for a train. I quite liked it, too. Also, you can basically ride the metro for free – there are many stations with no staff, and there are no gates to stop you from entering the metro without a ticket. It is the oddest thing I have seen in terms of public transportation. (Of course, being good Americans, we actually purchased a metro pass).
The rest of my Belgium photos are here. Nothing too exciting, though.
Brussels is a great city to visit, especially if you like chocolate, waffles, fries, and beer (Belgian beer = best beer ever? Yes, I think so!). Just be sure to stay away from the mussels. Ugh.
So I WAS going to the library today, but it was closed! Yes, the LSE library was closed the day before school starts…ridiculous. Since I have no way to do any research on the role of women in Soviet/Russian society (how…boring?) I uploaded a few more photos from Paris. I had a lot of fun with my digital camera…too much fun, in fact…407 photos…a bit of overkill, I think. Katerina showed me how to tweak a bunch of the settings on my Canon A80. I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve always shot most of my photos using the “auto” setting, but no longer! Now I actually change the settings and play around with different shots…end result is, much cooler photos. Anyways, here are a few photos:
Arc de Triomphe…with scaffolding, of course.
Arc de Triomphe
After looking at the Arc de Triomphe, Katerina and I went down to the underground area to sit down for a few minutes. There was a group of French veterans talking to each other. They were wearing their medals and brought French flags with them. As it turns out, every evening at 6:30pm, a group of veterans rekindles the flame (in honor of the unknown soldier) at the Arc.
At the Arc looking towards the Champs-Elysees.
Me in front of Napoleon’s Tomb at Les Invalides.
OMG! Napoleon was ripped!
Also at Les Invalides. I was trying to go for the “Dr. Strangelove” look.
Kat and I at Versailles
Kat and I were in Paris from January 4-8. We took the Eurostar train (the one that goes under the English channel) from London. We saw most of the typical sites: Eiffel Tower, Napoleon’s Tomb, Notre Dame, Versailles, etc. Napoleon’s Tomb was awesome because, well, what can I say, I love reading about Napoleon. We also went to Versailles, but honestly, it wasn’t that impressive. I was really looking forward to seeing Versailles because while I was in St. Petersburg in 2002 I visited Peterhof, which is known as the “Russian Versailles.” Russia totally wins on this one. Compared to Peterhof, Versailles is ghetto.
After visiting the palace we wandered around the city. Really nice place…people walking around with their kids and pets, going from store to store to purchase the ingredients for that night’s dinner. How crazy is that, families actually spending time with each other! Those crazy French family values, I swear, they are going to be the downfall of civilization! We went into one of the bakeries and bought a baguette and then went to the market and bought some brie BUT this is where the trip took a turn for the worse. After devouring our baguette and cheese, we headed back to Paris…well, later that night I was sick as a dog. FOOD POISONING! That’s right, the French were trying to kill me! Damn! Seriously, I don’t remember that last time I was that sick. The next morning I was totally wiped out…stayed in bed until the afternoon. Kat went and walked around the city while tried to recover from my attempted assasination by cheese. I requested that she bring me back a Coke, the remedy for every sickness (as far as I’m concerned) and damn, was it good. Ah, Coca-Cola, how I love thee! After I was feeling better we went to Notre Dame. Interesting church…gargoyles on the outside…home of the hunchback Quasimodo, etc. They also posses the crown of thorns that was allegedly worn by Jesus Christ (mmm hmmm) and when we were at the church they were in the middle of Mass, and they brought it out so people could kiss the glass case it was laying in…yeah, Catholicism and all that jazz.
The food was alright…I don’t really like French food very much anyways, but the bread was amazing and so were the crepes. That city is way too freakin’ expensive, though. I thought London was expensive with the exchange rate, but I think Paris is even worse. Four euros for a coke…are you freakin’ kidding me? Oh well.
Eh, what else happened over there…
Our hotel…get this…was called “Hotel California”…how random is that. Oh, and speaking of the hotel, it had very thin walls. Case in point: Friday night I put some makeshift earplugs in because our neighbours had their TV on pretty loudly. I fall asleep but am awakened at 2:30am by aforementioned neighbours, who are in the throes of passion and not ashamed to let the entire city of Paris – nay – the entire European continent know about it. I thought for sure that I must have been having some extremely odd dream, but surely I wouldn’t have dreamt of a French woman screaming “Oui! Oui!” at the top of her lungs. It was quite odd. I finally fell asleep again, and when I woke up in the morning Katerina said “Hey, last night did you hear…?” and we immediately started giggling incessantly. Really, it was hilarious…I guess you had to be there. I know this incident will provide a few laughs for many years to come, though.
Living in the U.S., you see a lot of French bashing (like those “Boycott France” bumper stickers with the French flag crossed out…and the whole freedom fries incident…my God, is half of the United States populated by pre-schoolers?) I never encountered any rude French people (perhaps the biggest stereotype?) but I am still a bit perturbed that they tried to kill me with their cheese. Oh well.
So, overall…France…nice country. I like it…I really do. I’d like to go back there someday…but first I want to go to Germany or Italy…hopefully during spring break. Wow, class hasn’t even started and I’m already looking forward to spring break. This is bad.