Archive for the ‘Travel’ category


San Diego Comic-Con 2010

I’ve had enough time back home to reflect on the craziness and fun that is the yearly San Diego Comic-Con. This was the first time I attended Comic-Con, but it absolutely blew away any expectations I had for it.

Wednesday:

Had good flights from Louisville to San Diego (with a layover at O’Hare). The hotel (Sheraton at Symphony Hall) was only about five minutes from the airport and about the same to the convention center, that is without the crazy traffic around the center. The hotel is nice, with the exception of not having Wi-fi. Instead of wireless they have the old-school ethernet hookup on the desk. Luckily, I found an open wireless connection to hop on to, because I didn’t particularly want to pay for a wired connection daily. I went to Preview Night to pick up my badge and get nifty freebies. Many vendors were already setup and selling stuff on the floor. I had to go ahead and pickup the exclusive Doctor Who t-shirt at the BBC America booth.

Thursday:

So many people! I knew there would be a ton of people (the total attendance from the year before was around 125k, not sure what the on-site average is at any given point), but until you actually see how crowded the convention center is you can’t really picture it. I attended the “BSG, Caprica, and Beyond” panel with guests Richard Hatch, Michael Taylor, Bear McCreary, and Aaron Douglas. Not much new information, except that the BSG Orchestra is going on tour next year and possibly even play at the opera house in Vancouver. Also, Richard Hatch really seems to enjoy doing these panels. After the panel I mingled around the floor. I met Magda Apanowicz (Lacey from Caprica) and Aaron Douglas (Tyrol from BSG) on the floor and got their autographs. Also got a photo taken with Magda. The QMX booth is so amazing, the attention to detail they put into their recreations is amazing. I picked up a couple Firefly tees, a Jayne wristband, and a poster of the first Cylon war (as seen on Adama’s wall). I also picked up a Jayne hat from the CA Browncoats booth. At the end of the day I went to w00tstock, which was a couple blocks down from the hotel. w00tstock is a concert of the geeks put on by Adam Savage and Wil Wheaton. The highlight for me was the Rifftrax (MST3K also) guys doing a live riff of some PSA from the 60′s. I only stayed for about half of it, due to it starting late, because I wanted to go to the CA Browncoats screening of Serenity. It was great to see Serenity on the big screen with a room full of fellow fans.

Friday:

People lined up super early (as in before the convention even opened at 9:30) for Ballroom 20. I almost thought I wasn’t going to get into the room atleast for the first panel due to how long the line was. The beginning of the line inside the building wasn’t organized, no one knew where to go. Luckily I guessed correctly because I made it through the long zig-zag outside of the building and back inside to the room. I stayed in Ballroom 20 through three panels. The first panel was the SGU panel which had Brad Cooper, Robert Carlyle, Alaina Huffman, David Blue, and Ming Na. The highlights of this panel were David Blue and his geeky-ness and Ming Na. Either she is just naturally very bubbly or she had a few drinks before hand. Overall the panel was kind of boring. The second panel was the one I really came to see, Caprica. The panel had Ronald D. Moore, David Eick, Magda Apanowicz, Alessandra Torresani, Sasha Roiz, and James Marsters. This panel was more interesting than the first and had a new trailer for the second half of the first season, which unfortunately isn’t coming until January. The last panel was the Big Bang Theory. I was pleasantly surprised by this panel, it was really entertaining throughout the whole thing. Barenaked Ladies played the show’s theme with everyone in the audience singing along. This panel had the full cast of the show, the two creators, and moderating was WHEEEEEEEEATON! The last panel I attended Friday was the one for the Cape. This wasn’t so much a panel as an airing of a rough cut of the pilot. The pilot shows promise, but still needs editing work and such. The cast (including Summer Glau) and creators were there for a very brief panel after the airing. Rounding up the day I met Alessandra Torresani (Zoe from Caprica) and Ron Glass (Book from Firefly/Serenity). I was thinking about attending the live Rifftrax showing, but the line was much too long for the small room it was in.

Saturday:

Met Mark Sheppard (who has been in everything.. from Romo Lampkin in BSG to Badger in Firefly), who is such an extremely nice guy. I waited in the Guild line to get their autographs and pictures taken with them, two words.. Felicia Day. I got in line early to get into The Guild panel. I sat through the Sanctuary panel, which I’ve never seen. The Guild panel was pretty awesome, they aired the next unaired episode and the new music video “Game On”. The panel was held in the Hilton next to the convention and who did I happen to see… Joss Whedon. I called it a day fairly early on Saturday, ending my first Comic-Con experience.

Sunday:

Left out of San Diego around 1:30 Pacific, before the crowd hit the airport, and got back in to Louisville at 11:30 Eastern. Had to work the next morning, but sleep wouldn’t come.

I may end up going back to Comic-Con next year, if not I may try Dragon*Con, a less Hollywood controlled convention of considerable size, held in Atlanta, Georgia. Of course there’s Cyphan 2011 next year too!


Cyphan 2010

Last weekend I attended my first convention, Cyphan, in Wheeling, IL. This was a first year sci-fi/fantasy/horror convention, but it felt far from it. Everything was well planned and put together, Mike and his staff worked hard and it paid off tremendously. The first day had several seminars and of course the dealer hall was open. The dealer hall had some very nice products in it, especially at the steampunk booths. In the evening there was a costume show where everyone showed off their costumes, including a spot on 10th Doctor (David Tennant), Batman, and Number Six. Following the costume show was a magic show put on by Ron Fitzgerald. Ending the night was a very entertaining show put on by Hot & Heavy Burlesque. Saturday was absolutely filled with things to do. First there were two special guests this year: Battlestar Galactica’s Nicki Clyne (@nickiclyne) and Firefly’s Jewel Staite (@jewelstaite). Both had photo-ops, Q&A’s, and autograph signings. In the evening the Browncoat Bash was held, here Jewel and Nicki came out and talked to everyone. Right behind the bash was a wedding reception that had been planned to be happening at the same time as Cyphan, so that storm troopers would come in and do their thing. Closing out the night was the Imperial Ball, Jewel and Nicki joined in on the fun here as well, look around on their twitters or blogs and you’ll see some pics of them on the dance floor. The last day there wasn’t a lot going on as expected, but I managed to buy a few things at the dealer floor before I left.

Cyphan was worth every penny and I will without a doubt be attending next year. I met some cool people, saw some awesome costumes, and got to meet Jewel and Nicki.

Before attending Cyphan this year, I hadn’t planned attending any other conventions this year. However, I’ve decided to go to the San Diego Comic Con, in a few weeks. Granted it’s not the small personal feel of Cyphan, but it’s still something to experience.

I also have to give big kudos to United Airlines. The main zipper on my luggage got ripped off in the conveyor at ORD. I went to the United information booth to get some fragile tape or shrink wrap so I wouldn’t lose anything until I could get to some place that sold luggage. Instead of giving me shrink wrap, they replaced my luggage without hesitation. Thumbs up!


Days 16 – 17: London to the US

We spent most of the day yesterday hanging around the hostel. Two weeks of walking, travelling, and sleeping in new places, exhaustion has finally set in. The bar/restaurant attached to the hostel really does make the most delicious cheeseburgers. I got through a little over half of it and couldn’t eat anymore, they’re decently sized, but the reason was due to two weeks of eating smaller portions.

An interesting thing about England is that their food doesn’t have all of the preservatives that our food has it. Even the sodas don’t have the preservatives and even use real sugar instead of corn syrup. The food there is so much better for you and even tastes better.

We got up early in the morning, just shy of 4:00am so that we could check out and hop on a bus that would eventually lead us to Heathrow Airport. We would have taken the underground, but almost all of the tunnels were shutdown today due to maintenance. The bus completely passed up our stop, unfortunately. We ended up having to take a taxi.

Check-in at Heathrow also took forever, because in front of us was a group of tourists, over ten. They didn’t have their stuff ready and instead of all of them going to one check-in window they clogged up most of the open ones. We were also delayed on take-off due to software problems in their maintenance checklist program. The flight back to the states was a better one than the one coming to England.

Back in O’Hare in Chicago we already had a 4 and half hour layover scheduled there between the flights. However, storms in the area pushed that back for about another hour and a half.

After all of that I finally got home around 8:00 pm. So tired.


Day 15: Kiev to London

We checked out of the hostel and made our way through the street markets we had seen two days ago. As it had been on almost all of our other flights we had time to kill.

Going through customs and boarding the plane was once again an annoyance. Customs literally look back and forth between your passport and your face five times. Boarding the plane, there was a lack of personal space yet again, and combine that with a lack of deodorant.

We got into London fairly late. Luton Airport is a good distance outside of the city, so we had to find train tickets to get us back into London. Unfortunately the train was ending before the London Bridge exit. So we had to take the underground from the place where the train ended to London Bridge.

We quickly checked into the hostel, which was the first one we stayed at, and went to bed. It was after midnight at this point.


Days 13 – 14: Kiev

After we got up and got ready we got to talking to the hostel owner. After finding out that I did computer support, he offered to give us free lodging if I could fix the public computer. I spent probably 2 hours looking at the public PC as well as the office PC. I removed quite a few viruses from the public PC and it was running fine. Score.

This city is like San Francisco with all of the hills. Doing a lot of walking in this city is not for the fat American, let me tell you. During our journey around the city, we visited Independence Square, Friendship Arch, Saint Sophia’s Cathedral, and a couple other places I can’t exactly remember the names for. We decided to eat at McDonalds due to the language barrier. Although the language barrier proved to be just as big of an issue at McDonalds.

Come to find out that in general Ukrainians will not understand you unless you speak their language perfectly. They also pronounce Big Mac slightly different than it should be, and if you say it as it should be they won’t understand you. They are very nationalistic about their language. The hostel owner told us how they still have the mindset to do as very little work as possible as it was under communism. They still think doing a lot of work is stupid and doing as little as possible is the right thing.

Today we went out on a tour outside the city with the hostel where we were able to shoot AK-47′s.

For dinner we went to a place that the hostel owner suggested, which was right down the street. We went and set down. The waiter gave us a menu, which unfortunately was entirely writing with no English. We asked the waiter if they had an English version of the menu, he pointed down the street and said “fast food… McDonalds”. We went back to the hostel and asked the hostel owner and he said that it was a cafeteria style, you could go inside and point to what you wanted. We went back to the restaurant and sure enough on the inside it was.

Tomorrow we head back to London for a day then back home!


Day 12: Cologne to Kiev

We did a bit more walking around the city to kill time because the flight out wasn’t until about 8:00pm.

Boarding the plane, we found out quickly that Ukrainians do not have the same concept as a personal bubble. It wasn’t very pleasant. They didn’t line up in a queue at all. They were rushing like they were afraid the plane would leave without them. I can understand the reasoning behind it, considering they were under communism and they had to rush to get food and supplies. But times have changed, they’re no longer under communism.

We got to Kiev fairly late, almost midnight. It was a pain to get through their customs, due to the amount of time they took with each one and not having enough booths open to check.

We got a taxi outside of the airport to take us to the hostel. Taxi cabs in Kiev do not have seatbelts in the back seats, seriously. Out of all of the cities we had been in, Kiev is the one with the need for seatbelts because people here do not know how to drive. On the way to the hostel we saw a wreck at the other side of the road involving a semi and a car. Lets just say the person from the car was on the road in pieces.


Day 11: Dusseldorf

We took a bullet train out to Dusseldorf today, it only took about a half-hour or so to get there from Cologne.

The train station wasn’t near the center of the city, so we had a mile or two walk to the center, which is where all of the points of interest were. It was still fairly early once we got there so we walked the riverside seeing what all was there.

We stopped at the Dusseldorf museum and went through it. Unfortunately we found out that most of the attractions in the city shutdown on Mondays. The only reason that the museum was open was due to some political media thing going on.

We walked around the city for a good amount of time. We even found a couple Japanese stores in one area of town. I was a bit disappointed because I didn’t find any weird Japanese things in there. We took the bullet train back to Cologne.

Tomorrow evening we leave for Kiev.


Day 10: Cologne

Today we walked around the city more. We visited a Cologne history museum. Really other than that, there wasn’t really anything exciting. Cologne can definitely be done in 2 days.

Tomorrow we take a day trip out to Dusseldorf.


Days 8 – 9: Cologne

Once we arrived in Cologne yesterday, we were going to walk to the hostel, but the hostel was atleast two miles away and the map we had wasn’t exactly the best. We ended up flagging a taxi to get to the hostel. The hostel is a fairly nice hostel, similar to the hostel we stayed at in London.

We spent most of the day doing laundry and catching up on sleep.

For dinner we stopped at a German restaurant that was a block or two from the hostel. The served a lot of German specialties. I decided to try blutwurst (aka blood sausage or blood pudding) served with mashed potatoes, cooked onions, and apple sauce. The look of the blutwurst is basically of a steak, but that is where the similarities end. There is a unique texture to it when you bite into it, it’s not whole like you’re biting into a piece of meat. It has a really good taste to it as well, if you can get past the fact one of the ingredients was blood it is worth a taste.

Today we got up and began our trek around the city. We walked back down to the cathedral, which is literally right next to the train station. This cathedral is simply amazing when you consider the size of it and that it was finished over 300 years ago. The pictures I’ve seen of the cathedral simply do not do it justice.

We continued our walk around the city and ended up back at the hostel around mid-afternoon. We still wanted to go to the chocolate museum, but we couldn’t find it in our first trip. Later in the day we made another walk back down to the river, which isn’t far from the cathedral.

After a lot of looking we found the museum. There’s not a lot to say about the museum other than chocolate is also made there. From the sample of the chocolate I tried there, I can say it’s probably the best tasting chocolate I’ve had.

After the museum we grabbed some dinner and walked back to the hostel.


Day 7: Prague and on the train

Our train wasn’t leaving until about 6:30pm, but we had to check out of the hotel room by 10:00am. We stored our luggage with the hotel and walked around the city with no set agenda except to buy some souvenirs and see some stuff we hadn’t seen before.

We had a late lunch at a local Italian eatery and headed back to the hotel with hours to kill. We basically hung out in the hotel bar/lobby for several hours. We took a taxi out to the train station. The train station wasn’t very helpful, information-wise. All of the information booths we were finding were closed. We finally found a place to get information regarding the train out of there.

The train ride was an all-nighter, it took us out of Czech Republic and to Cologne, in the northwestern section of Germany. For the most part I enjoyed the train ride except for the pair of people who joined the cabin around 1:00am somewhere in Germany. We had already been asleep at that point and had to move some stuff to make room for their luggage.

We arrived in Cologne around 6:30am.