Tag Archives: history

Thank You, Christopher Columbus

No, not this Christopher Columbus... though Gremlins, The Goonies, and Home Alone? Maybe we should have a holiday for him...

No, not this Christopher Columbus… although Gremlins, The Goonies, and Home Alone? Maybe we should have a holiday for him…

It’s Columbus Day here in the states and I actually have the day off… paid! The advantages to working for a giant, multinational financial institution are starting to pay off. I’ve decided to celebrate this most worthless of holidays by planting Spanish flags in random objects possessed by strangers, yelling at them to show me where their gold is, and spreading diseases to them that I brought over from Europe. Before I head out though, I feel like I need to sit on my balcony, have some coffee, and take a moment to remember all that Christopher Columbus has done for me.

Here’s a little known historical fact: Columbus came to America because he hated how close everything was. (Warning: historical facts may not be facts… or historical.) Can you blame him? I mean who would honestly want to live close by everything you could possibly want or need? Columbus set sail because honestly, he just needed some fucking space! This attitude has thankfully been implemented into suburban American culture. After having to endure walking to any of the small shops dotting the Parisian landscape and having a relaxing dinner outside with friends, now I get to drive through traffic to a chain restaurant and sit inside while deciding which one of the fifteen televisions I want to watch. Plus, there’s the obvious advantage of already knowing what’s on the menu. Now instead of wasting all that time exploring the menu for new food options, I can spend that time on my phone while waiting for my bloomin’ onion to come.

Another historical fact: Columbus hated water, fresh air, and non-processed food. Since he was born in Genoa, Columbus had grown up with a cool breeze blowing off the Mediterranean every morning, the smells of freshly baked bread he had purchased from the local bakery, and the taste of that bread paired with a locally-produced olive oil and a bottle of red wine from the vineyards nearby. He hated that life so much that he said, “Fuck this shit! I don’t care where I go, but I can’t deal this anymore. I’m just going to sail in the opposite direction until I run into any sort of landmass.” Unfortunately for Columbus, he died long before he could have discovered Cedar Rapids, where I currently reside. Thankfully, I can honor his memory by enjoying the genetically enhanced food at and endless number of supermarkets, all conveniently located outside of walking distance. Instead of the smells of that god-forsaken, award-winning local bakery, I get to enjoy the smells of a massive cereal processing plant that actually set off my carbon monoxide detector last week because my windows were open.

Columbus is having a really tough time of it lately. Some people would say that Columbus didn’t discover America, or that he was a miserable human being who should never be celebrated. However, I just really I just wanted to thank you, Christopher Columbus. If it wasn’t for you, my family might have never traveled to this country. I could have been born in some dump like London, Edinburgh, Dublin, Prague, Barcelona, Stockholm, Florence, or Vienna. I really dodged a bullet there!

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Thoughts from a Day of Wandering The Louvre

The Louvre is the largest museum in the world and houses countless priceless artifacts. It is said that you can’t see it all in just one day. I ended up walking every exhibit in around ten hours today. I wasn’t speed walking or anything, just sauntering until something caught my eye and then I would stop for a closer look. After I had seen everything, I walked back to specific spots I wanted to take more time in. Ultimately, I spent over eleven hours inside and I will definitely come back again. So how exactly do you tackle The Louvre?

Lots of people experience The Louvre in a way that fits them, so find the way that fits you best!

Lots of people experience The Louvre in a way that is meaningful for them, so find the way that fits you best!

The way I went about it happened by chance. I did not bring an ID with me, which is what the museum keeps as collateral for the audio guides for all the exhibits. So instead of listening to facts about everything I was looking at, I decided to put my headphones in, put some music on and start wandering. It ended up being a very rewarding way to experience the museum. I wasn’t concerned with what the most famous things in each exhibit were, or what was the most historically significant. Anything that caught my eye would send over in its direction to try and decipher its French description and maybe take a picture. I only lingered in a few locations, one of them being at the Venus de Milo.

Pictures do not do her justice.

Pictures do not do her justice

Most of the time when I was walking around, I really didn’t listen to the music. It was just background noise that was better than people lightly talking and shuffling their feet. I had picked out some nice, relaxing songs that just put my mind at ease. However, when I walked up to the Venus de Milo statue the Billie Holliday song I’ll Be Seeing You came on. I just sat down, not really thinking, just absorbing the moment, letting it overwhelm me. By the end of those three and a half minutes, I was nearly in tears.

I’m going to get the guide next time, that way I can learn about the history behind all of the wonderful things in The Louvre. For today, I thoroughly enjoyed wandering around arguably the world’s greatest museum at my own pace, even if that meant stopping to sit down and write about my day right here.

My own small perch next to The Winged Victory of Samothrace

My own small perch next to The Winged Victory of Samothrace

Layover in Dublin

After catching to red-eye from Chicago to Dublin I found myself with nearly a ten-hour layover in Ireland. Sidebar: fly Aer Lingus… one of the best flights I’ve ever been on. Blows our airlines stateside out of the water… not that it’s difficult. No point in spending it at the airport, even though it is an extremely good airport… time to wander!

Trinity College, home of the Book of Kells

Trinity College, home of the Book of Kells

I grabbed a bus out of the airport and made my way over to Trinity College, where they house The Book of Kells. This fantastically old manuscript, dated from around the beginning of the ninth century, has ornate illustration and Latin text and has to be seen. It is truly a work of art you can’t afford to miss. Christ Church Cathedral is also a good find. This nearly one thousand year old church was the first cathedral in Dublin and even features a stone bridge skyway of sorts.

The oldest cathedral in Dublin

The oldest cathedral in Dublin

Dublin truly is quite lovely. Even though it’s the middle of February and not exceptionally warm, everything is very green. Yes I know it’s Ireland and that’s kind of like saying Hawaii has really amazing rainbows, but until you see it for yourself, words don’t do it justice. For being their largest city, it’s still very quaint. I can only imagine what any other area would be like since I’m in one of the busiest spots in the country and it still feels intimate in a way.

As far as the downtown area, it feels like a cross between Main Street in small town Iowa and the Lincoln Park neighborhood in Chicago. If you know me at all, you’ll know I was instantly in love. I have only experienced the city for a few hours, but already I can get a sense of its soul. The population is very helpful and friendly. Everyone gathered in pairs at the small breakfast place I stopped at and they were all thoroughly enjoying the coffee, tea, and conversation.

I had been told that Anthony Bourdain did one of his Layover shows in Dublin, and I should watch it in preparation for my own. Unfortunately I only caught about half of the episode, but I did see a bar called Mulligan’s featured in the program. The bar was opened in 1782 and is supposed to be one of the most authentic pubs in Dublin. While wandering around downtown Dublin I happened upon it, right next door to where I ate breakfast. A gorgeous throwback, it was a favorite writing spot for James Joyce, where it’s rumored he wrote chunks of his classic, Ulysses.

From there I wandered towards O’Connell Street where numerous monuments and the Spire of Dublin form a median with shops and bars lining both sides of the street. While looking down I side street, I saw a pub named Brannigan’s. Anyone that knows me, or Futurama knows there was no chance I was going to pass up a pint there. After a pint and a friendly chat with the bartender of this rugby pub, I decided to have some lunch.

Bangers and mash with Guinness... healthy :)

Bangers and mash with Guinness… healthy 🙂

I decided on a British dish in Ireland, probably not the best move, but I was assured I wouldn’t be run out of the bar for doing so. Either way, it was fantastic pub grub that sparked up a conversation with an older couple seated next to me. We chatted about everything from the weather to reasons why people from the states don’t come over and visit various places in Europe. They were lovely people who wished me luck even though they had no idea what my name was.

Many people won’t be surprised to learn of how kind the Irish people can be, after all, it is quite well known. I found it to be true, and then some. Even their speech, while faster than ours, is filled with the same politeness you’d find from a Midwesterner or Southerner in the states. Ireland is quite similar to the Midwest, so if some of my Midwestern friends or family members have reservations about traveling to another country, I’d highly recommend giving Ireland a chance. The culture is different, but also somehow familiar. I’m quite confident you’ll feel at home.