Looking back at 2018

I think 2018 was a pretty great year. I moved to a new apartment, which I really like, and started a new job that is challenging and rewarding. I enjoyed spending time with many wonderful friends, went on lots of great adventures, and saw a lot of fun shows.

I went to San Diego Comic-Con again for the 8th year in a row. This year I attended with gem, Antonio, and Kaleigh.

I cosplayed Fix-It Felix, Jr. again. And here’s gem as Lilo!

gem and I took Antonio to Zion National Park in Utah and to Vegas for his bachelor party. We did lots of great hiking in Zion…

…visited the Warner Valley Dinosaur Tracks…

…saw Cirque du Soleil in Vegas…

…went to Neon Museum of old signs…

…and went ax throwing in Vegas!

Antonio married Kaleigh! I was one of his two Best People. (He had one man and woman as his Best People).

Here’s Antonio Best Woman, Best Man, and groomsman.

My photo of Anela was shown in the OC Fair.

Here we are with the photo hanging in the gallery!

Christin’s photo of us was also shown!

I always knew that deep down I was a model.

My postcard collection was featured in the OC Fair as well. I entered it as a collection of foreign postcards. I’ve traded mail with 55 countries (up 3 in 2018) and 35 US states (up 8). Considering only postcards, I’ve traded with 50 countries (up 4) and 28 US states (up 8), having received from 41 countries (up 7) and 17 US states (up 5) and sent to 45 countries (up 2) and 25 US states (up 8).

I got rid of my mustache. Sometimes I miss it.

We got season passes to Universal and went a lot of times!

Sometimes I think about what could have been if I had purchased these sunglasses. The world would be blurry, but I’d look so fly.

Andy and Kaylin got married!

And more importantly, the bar served a variety of alcohol when it was supposed to be beer and wine only. Okay, the wedding itself was actually more important, but the drinks were still somewhat important.

The Imperial Sand Dunes made for a gorgeous (but hot) backdrop.

Christin, Anela, and gem were all beautiful models!

On the way home, we visited Salvation Mountain.

Tanaka Farms’ sunflower festival was fun and beautiful!

gem really loved the huge sunflowers!

Here’s Anela and me with Hello Kitty.

 

And here’s gem and me with Hello Kitty!

Anela and I visited the lavender festival, and she wore a Ukrainian outfit.

There were many photo shoots, although a lot of them aren’t ready to be posted yet. Here’s one of Angel Kawaii as Harley Quinn!

The Arts Alive and Street Painting Festival in Mission Viejo ended up being more fun than I expected, especially because there were over 50 fairy doors.

The Christmas treasure hunt was so fun. Look at the detail on the map Pete made!

2018 was the year of pop ups for me it seems. I visited Happy Place for the second time. Here I am with gem in the rubber ducky room! I still need to go through those photos…

gem and I went to San Francisco to visit the Museum of Ice Cream (and to visit our friends Matt and Katie).

The Sprinkle Pool was awesome!

gem took me to The Pizza Experience as a Christmas present. Photo ops and pizza?! Amazing!

This is how I work out now.

I had to see the Gudetama x Curry House collaboration with gem. Luckily the curry is delicious there!

And then there’s the Rilakkuma x Roasting Water collaboration too! I’ve been to two of their locations with gem for this collaboration, and I’ve visited the one near my house many times on my own.

And I can’t forget Aggretsuko’s DEN OF RAGE!!!

gem and I learned about ethics at The Good Place Experience.

gem took this photo of me as a luchador at Luzia. I really saw a ton of shows this year:

  • Cirque du Soleil’s Luzia under the Grand Chapiteau
  • The Book of Mormon at Segerstrom Center
  • Allegiance at the Aratani Theatre
  • The Unauthorized Musical Parody of Jurassic Park at the Rockwell: Table & Stage
  • David Sedaris speaking at the Long Beach Performing Arts Center
  • Cirque du Soleil’s Zumanity at New York-New York
  • Suburban Legends in Downtown Disney three times
  • Drag show at the Velvet Lounge
  • Goldfinger with The Suicide Machines, Buck-o-Nine, and Suburban Legends at the House of Blues, Anaheim
  • Dear Evan Hansen at the Ahmanson Theatre
  • Santa Claus Conquers the Martians at the Maverick Theater
  • Wicked at the Pantages
  • The Fury of the Aquabats 20th Anniversary show with The Aquabats featuring former Aquabats Catboy, Prince Adam, and Chainsaw and opener C.J. Ramone
  • Love Actually Live at The Wallis
  • …47 seasons of TV shows and 42 films (not counting repeated viewings)

What an action packed year! Can I cram as many cool things into 2019?

…oh and I also fractured my foot. Shhh!

Christmas treasure hunt

This Christmas my parents (I think mostly Pete) created a treasure hunt for the youngest generation – my brother, my two cousins, and me. It was super fun, and check out that awesome treasure map! I’m getting a little ahead of myself.

My Christmas card contained a note with the following message: A gift to divided not by millions or dozens, but rather between four Christmasey cousins… so, just work together and it will surely be a snap, all you need is a map and an app!

Below the message, as you can see, is a QR code. Scanning the QR code revealed the following: Consult the map and follow the lead, clues you will find to help with the deed. To discover the first step don’t scratch your head, just look for something big and…

When I texted it to gem, I got this reply:

Red!!!
Red! Go to the shed!

I told her that we were having Christmas Eve at my aunt’s and that the treasure was for Christmas day at my parents’. She said I should drive there right now, and then she said she was going to ride her bike there herself to find it, haha.

The next day, Christmas day, at my parents, we started our search and found this QR code on the side of the red barn in the backyard.

To find the next clue, don’t present a “Spaced Look”, to find what ye seek check the King’s _________________.

Now the last thing Pete posted to Facebook was a video of Rocky, their dog, walking in the front yard… right around the place on the treasure map labeled “Rocky the Fierce.” At first we looked around his computer thinking the clue had something to do with how he accesses Facebook, but then we went to the front yard to explore.

We found it – another QR code… and a compass!?

Now don’t get lazy, grumpy, strange and so forth, just proceed… 15 PACES DUE NORTH.

Using the compass, we aimed north and began walking.

Hidden in the flowerbed was this little container, and inside it was a note.

To decipher this clue fret no more, simply make your way through the castle door. The help you need couldn’t be any clearer. Just study this clue reflected in the…

Using the mirror in the entryway, we found our next clue.

This may be hard or it may be easy but don’t be vexed. Just use this number and ask in a… [phone number].

So I called the number, which was Pete’s. And then someone pointed out that I was clearly supposed to text.

In reply to my text, I received a QR code. James scanned it, and we got our next clue.

23 paces South, 19 paces West. Once you’ve arrived don’t be a silly goose. The clues reside under that which is…

Loose! It was under a loose part of the small wall at the edge of the property.

You’ve made it this far which is a formidable feat, for ancient kin of she what doesn’t eat meat. To uncover the next clue, go to that which is neither stoic nor slanted but rather in the spot that is truly _____________.

Enchanted!

We made our way to back yard, where the map was labeled “enchanted forest,” and found this clue.

Ready your devices at this moment of crisis… to receive the next clue you must play the odds, sing out loud this song as a call to the gods… Practice it just once and please stay in tune. If it’s treasure you seek it may happy soon… “I’ll take my Christmas goat on a banana boat or Continental Trailways bus!”

This was a Christmas-altered version of a song we used to sing from… something? Or maybe it was an inside joke? I have no idea, but we belted out our song. And get this – with four people watching us, no one thought to film us singing loudly in the backyard on Christmas about a Christmas goat.

Haley received our next clue.

If continuing this quest is actually your desire, you may want to look beneath the Funeral Pyre… 16 paces 196 degrees SSW.

Using our trusty map, we found the funeral pyre. I tried to pick up the whole thing, somehow thinking it was all glued together. It was actually just stacked, and the clue was under one of the top pieces. Oops.

Go back to the Castle, where the King mainly does dwell. Your clues lies not with a Knight or with a fighter but in an old texting machine called a _____________________.

Off to Pete’s office to look in his typewriter!

You may think the map maker a goofy buffoon, but to find the next clue look deep into the _____________. Solving the riddle is but part of this diddle. Upon arrival, curiosity to quench, perhaps you’ll need help from a magical Food ___________.

The first blank was sending us to the pool. The second one was obviously a reference to a term James uses for Mom – food wench!

And the QR code gets us this:

Like the rest who have done a quest, or maybe more like a dog without a bone, you’ll probably wanna use: Speakerphone! [phone number]

We also got this note:

Take heed of nearby surroundings and don’t play the fool… to help with this one you may want a tool…

Now I can’t quite remember if we called Mom first or if James and Haley fished the next clue out of the pool first. We saw it earlier in the hunt but knew it wasn’t time for it yet! I know at some point we called Mom, and I know we got the clue from the pool. I think she guided us to look in the pool perhaps.

Mitch grabbed and it and looked inside.

Hint: Just pull out the clue & take it w/u!Strange clues, or items to weight down the clue?

Hoist your freak flag high on the mast! Treat this request just like the last… [phone number]

The number was Uncle Chuck’s, but I don’t think we called. I know we went over to him, so maybe we called and he told us to come to him.

His clue was like one from a wise sage, and it probably even rhymed. Unfortunately, it was lost to time. But I know where it sent us.

Inside the frog were some gloves and a QR code with the final clue! We actually found this clue earlier when we were searching the Enchanted Forest, but the good King let us know we weren’t supposed to find it yet 😀

There really is a treasure, this is no trap, so do the right thing and look on the map. Just remember this last clue is not to be forgotten, your treasure likes beneath that which is rotten…

The flies on the map led us the compost, in which Haley found something…

A Wi-Fi range extender box… with a QR code on the side?!

Open “tp-link.com” in Safari

Okay, okay. I’m kidding. That QR code wasn’t actually a clue.

The box contained our treasure! One hundred dollars for us to split between the four of us! What a fun adventure! 🙂

2018 blogging in review

Every year I like to look at my blog stats. It seems a little pointless as I’ve practically stopped, but it’s hard for me to break tradition.

WebPageless

Kor’kron 501st

Polygons & Pixels

My music trends in 2018 with Last.fm and Spotify

Let’s take a look at my Last.fm account for last year, which I enjoy doing at the start of each year. The Orion Experience took the top spot. They weren’t even in my top 10 artists of 2017. Suburban Legends and The Aquabats also broke into the top 10 after not being in it in 2017. Звери dropped from number 1 to number 3, but Hayley Kiyoko went from number 10 to number 4.

Here’s my full top 11 (since 10 and 11 were tied).

Cosmicandy by The Orion Experience takes the top album spot, which isn’t a surprise to me because I’ve been listening to The Queen of White Lies, Obsessed With You, and The Cult of Dionysus off that album a ton. Get more info on arnas

Here’s the top 10 albums.

These were the top 10 tracks of 2018 for me. Only one song isn’t in English, just like 2017.

Spotifywrapped.com gives some interesting highlights from Spotify:

  • I started 2018 by listening to Для тебя by Звери.
  • The first artist I discovered was Big Black Delta… and I have no idea who they are right now.
  • I listened to 10,675 minutes listening to Spotify.
  • I spent 7 hours listening to The Orion Experience, my top artist.
  • My top artists were The Orion Experience, Camila Cabello, Suburban Legends, Звери, and Let’s Get It. I wonder how Last.fm doesn’t have Camila Cabello higher? I listened to her a lot. Sometimes Last.fm tracks artists with different names. For example, if a song features another artists, it might be considers “Artist A featuring Artist B,” separate from both A and B.
  • Top songs were We Don’t Care, Carnivore, Hit Me Up, Into It, and The Queen of White Lies.
  • Top genres were pop, indie, rock, punk, and hip hop.
  • My top 100 playlist was generated and can be found here or below.
  • I listened to non-mainstream artists 80% more than the average Spotify listener.
  • My oldest song played was “Did You Ever Have to Make up Your Mind?” by The Lovin’ Spoonful.
  • I listened to more Pisces artists, which Spotifywrapped notes includes Camila Cabello and Kesha, than any other sign. Hm, and I’m a Pisces too.
  • It suggested I broaden my horizons with this playlist.

I saw some concerts:

  • Suburban Legends in Downtown Disney – 3 times
  • Goldfinger with The Suicide Machines, Buck-o-Nine, and Suburban Legends at the House of Blues, Anaheim
  • The Fury of the Aquabats 20th Anniversary show with C.J. Ramone

And I watched some musicals:

  • The Book of Mormon at Segerstrom
  • Allegiance at the Aratani Theatre
  • The Unauthorized Musical Parody of Jurassic Park at the Rockwell: Table & Stage
  • Dear Evan Hansen at the Ahmanson Theatre
  • Wicked at the Pantages

2017 blogging in review

After 2016 ended up being my best year for views and visitors on WebPageless, 2017 ended up being one of my worst. That’s not super surprising, because I’ve been blogging a lot less. Check this GARAGE Archives Goondiwindi

 WebPageless  Kor’kron 501st  Polygons & Pixels  Total
 Since 1/2013  Since 9/2011  Since 6/2012
 Year  Views  Visitors  Views  Visitors  Views  Visitors  Views  Visitors
 2011  N/A  N/A  238  0  N/A  N/A  238  0
 2012  ?  ?  5,969  509  593  91  6,562  600
 2013  2,949  1,595  10,181  6,291  6,858  3,933  19,988  11,819
 2014  3,703  2,101  6,376  4,949  7,891  5,010  17,970  12,060
 2015  4,005  2,481  4,797  3,766  4,029  3,106  12,831  9,353
 2016  8,699  2,675  2,559  2,106  2,251  1,690  13,509  6,471
 2017  2,208  1,507  1,103  845  1,520  1,165  4,831  3,517

My most viewed article last year was an article from August 2015 – Pan-frying Pizza Rolls with Totino’s x MBMBaM with 834 views. That was a fun piece!

On Kor’kron 501st, my most viewed article was also from August 2015. How strange. It’s World of Warcraft: Legion – where’s the dance studio? and had 20 (yep, just haha) views.

Polygons & Pixels’ most viewed article was Papers, Please, Gamer’s Edition is full of collectibles from March 2015 with 96 views.

August was a good year for blogging for me!

My music trends in 2017

Using Last.fm makes it easy for me to check what I listen to most, and every year I like to look back at the previous year. Звери took the number one slot, beating out Distemper by a single play. Sia was my number one in 2016, and she dropped to number three in 2017.

The only artist from 2016’s top ten that made it to this year’s is Taylor Swift, who jumped from number ten to number five.

I always find it interesting that some I listen to some songs a lot but not many other songs by that artist. A lot of songs in my top ten most played tracks are by artists that didn’t make the top ten.

I actually only went to one concert in 2017, which is kind of crazy. I finally got to see Regina Spektor, who absolutely amazing and so cute live. She might have forgot the words to a song once or twice, and I don’t mind a bit!

SDCC 2017

SDCC was last month, and despite not getting tickets in the first round, I did manage to get a ticket again this year! I debuted a new full cosplay and a new pseudo-cosplay, which was very fun.

Antonio, gem, and I drove down Wednesday after work and had Berkeley Pizza for dinner. It was a short night, because we didn’t get down there early.

Thursday was the first time I wore my Tamatoa (the crab from Moana) cosplay. It was way too hot for it, but I enjoyed wearing it.

We met up with Tram and her friend Christian, and we spent most of the day with them. Maybe they’re good luck, because we got into Hall H for the first time. For reference, usually people line up overnight to get into Hall H. We heard an announcement that Will Smith would be in Hall H, which I just found silly. So what? It’s too late now. Antonio pointed out that maybe they announced it because it wasn’t full. He was exactly right. We walked right into the Netflix panel about Bright and Death Note. Will Smith was on the first half of the panel for Bright, and the whole thing was moderated by Terry Crews. It was pretty cool to be in there with them!

After Hall H, it was time for the Lick King’s Ice Cream Citadel! We got some tasty ice cream and posed with the Lich King! By then I was tired of my Tamatoa costume, so I changed into normal clothes because it was so hot. We had Greek fusion for dinner at Meze, at which we ate the last two years as well.

On Friday I wore my Magikarp Jump cosplay. It wasn’t 100% authentic at all, but it was fun. gem had the idea to use Boomerang for the video. Nice suggestion! We met up with our friends Krista, Kaitlyn, and David. I always run into Krista and Kaitlyn at the coolest places!

This was a day mostly for panels. I saw Robin Hobb: Beyond the Page first followed by Dare to Be Dynamite: Creative Vision with Pierce Brown, an author that gem loves. In the evening we watched a Mega64 panel and the Super Geeked Up Improv show, which was fun, although I wish there was more improv.

My favorite panel was Superstars in Children’s Fiction with Greg Grunberg, Lucas Turnbloom, R. L. Stine, Jarrett J. Krosocka, Jenni Holm, Matt Holm, and Molly Ostertag. We went because we thought it would be fun to see R. L. Stine, but we had no idea that Greg Grunberg, Parkman from Heroes and Wexley from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, would be there and is now a children’s fiction author. He was super nice! We chatted with him after the panel, and when I asked to take a photo of him and gem, his son (I think) offered to take one of the three of us.

My favorite part of the panel was when Greg asked R. L. Stine about the future of Goosebumps TV shows or films. R. L. Stine said he couldn’t comment. Greg told him that he’d trade him information about the next Star Wars movies. Too awesome.

gem wore her Woody costume, which was modified since last year. Previously she tried to keep it authenticate. This year it was more interpretive with a dress. I think she rocked it!

On Saturday, Antonio and I snuck in as professionals to skip the line. Yay. gem took some cool photos of me by the water in my Tamatoa costume.

I had to fight Maui of course. Why wasn’t he transforming? “Well, well, well. Little Maui’s having trouble with his look…”

There were a lot of great Moana cosplayers! Thanks to gem for taking so many wonderful photographs 🙂 There are more on my cosplay page.

We went to another tokidoki signing as always where Simone signed my tokidoki x Overwatch notebook. We also chatted with Jaycee, who worked for tokidoki. She remembered us from previous years, and we followed each other on Instagram.

Let’s not talk about waiting in line over an hour for a Star Trek panel but not getting inside. At least I got to chat with some cool people in line!

Kaleigh joined us that night, although we split up for a bit. gem and I hung out while Antonio met with her at the train station. We all met up briefly, but then that evening gem, Antonio, and I went to see the best brothers around, the McElroys! We watched My Brother, My Brother, and Me live in San Diego! It was really fun to see them in person. Too bad we didn’t get to talk to them. I had a question ready to ask, but there weren’t microphones on the balcony where we were sitting unfortunately.

On Sunday I wore a tried-and-true cosplay, Fix-it Felix Jr.! During a panel, I ran into Erin, a Vanelope von Schweetz cosplayer! We took some photos together after the panel. Her car was super amazing!

After chatting with her, we went to a Disneybound panel with Leslie Kay, Kit Leitmeyer, Loni Clark, Neil A. Williams II, and Sara Katz-Scher. It was pretty interesting to hear about how they come up with their outfits.

I ended the convention at the Disney group shoot! It was organized by Robert T Photography, who also took the photo above. You can see more of his photos from the event here on Facebook.

One videographer took video of us for the end of his cosplay music video. I’m in it briefly at the end as I dance around 4:51, but I’m right in front so you can see me clearly, haha!

 

Look how amazing this little Dopey cosplayer was! He seemed to have a great time with the other Disney cosplayers.

Antonio took this photo of me and gem in her Steven Universe cosplay! I think she did a great job with this. A lot of Steven Universe cosplayers carry a ukulele just as a prop, but this cosplayer can actually play it! Yeah!

There are plenty more photos of my Fix-it Felix Jr. cosplay here.

On our way out of San Diego, we stopped at Kafe Sobaka Restoran Pomegranate for Russian dinner. This is the khachapuri, which was filled with delicious cheese. Oh my god, I definitely need to eat this again. I also had chanakhi (lamb stew) as my entree.

And for dessert, I had sweet vatrushka with sour cherry and farmer’s cheese. Yum!

Until next year, SDCC!

European Vacation – Sweden

Sweden was the last country on my vacation, and I was only there for a single night. It was weird knowing that it was ending!

Everything seemed designed so beautifully in Stockholm. Check out this gorgeous bench!

We took a train from the airport to our hotel, but our first actual stop was to get McDonald’s. Anela might not have been with us, but we kept her tradition alive!

We stayed in the Långholmen Hotell, a former prison that’s now a hotel.

Out front, you can see what was once a guard tower!

Looks welcoming, doesn’t it?

Despite once being a prison, the rooms were cute and quite comfortable.

After checking in, we decided to walk to the downtown area. It was a fairly long walk, and it was freezing – a big change from Roma. It started raining too. You can see us on our walk at the top of this post. There were lots of cool boats to see as we walked, like Thor here.

There were nice views of the city as well. Stockholm was a beautiful city.

Despite the weather, gem looked very happy to be exploring Sweden!

I’m pretty sure this was a church, but I guess I can’t remember for sure. This was one of the first interesting sights once we reached the busier area.

I know your mother told you dessert would spoil your appetite, but we went ahead and got ice cream at Stikki Nikki before dinner. The owners were there and were super nice too.

We had dinner at a tapas restaurant called Café Tabac after we searched for traditional Swedish food and failed. Luckily everything was delicious here. We had a few drinks in honor of Yeffe, a super drunk Swedish man gem and I met back in 2007 in Vegas. (I might be misspelling his name.) We used to joke about how Yeffe loves to drink. “What do you think Yeffe’s doing right now? I bet he’s partying and having a drink.” Was he downing shots while we had dinner? It was ten years later. Maybe he was sipping a cocktail – an older, more respectable Yeffe.

These places are crazy. Does it even get dark in Stockholm?

We took some photos in front of Riksdagshuset, the Swedish parliament house, as we walked back to our hotel.

What a terrific view! Again, I’d like to point out that it’s midnight in this photo.

Here’s another shot of gem like the one from the previous evening. It was such a nice window 🙂

I tried to leave in the morning, but Antonio tried to keep me in prison!

All three of us sat separately on the plane back to LAX, which was disappointing. I watched Pan and Anastasia, both entertaining movies, and got some sleep too.

Getting back into the States was much more of a hassle than getting into Europe. Security took forever. Here’s gem with her security photo. The security photographs don’t seem too flattering!

gem’s dad picked us up from the airport with my car that I left with him. At his house, he shared with us a delicious lunch! He’s a great chef!

After three of the best weeks of my life and eight countries (10 if you include the Vatican or count UK member countries individually), we were back in the United States. I missed traveling immediately, but it was nice to relax.

If you’re reading this blog, you probably know me well enough to know I like tracking data and keeping spreadsheets. I walked 447 thousand steps while in Europe – close to 184 miles. That’s an average of 20k steps and 8.4 miles per day. Dang!

It’s a good we did that much walking too, because I’ll leave off with this photo. These are all the pizza we ate in Europe. Now of course I didn’t eat it all alone, but we certainly did a lot of eating! That walking balanced things nicely, because I had actually lost weight on the trip.

I enjoyed all the countries I visited. I know I didn’t stay a long time in any one country, but it gave me the chance to get a feel for many different places. More than any particular sight, I just enjoyed learning what each country was like. I can’t wait for the next time I get to travel internationally!

Thank you to gem for deciding to go to Europe and getting the ball rolling, my other wonderful travel companions, Anela and Antonio, and my European friends, Jessica and Andrew. You all made the trip what it was. Jessica, Andrew, gem, Anela, Antonio – you’re wonderful people. The trip would have been nothing without you. I’m so glad I got to spend that time with you.

European Vacation – Italy

Italy was the next stop on our vacation. We visited Roma, Pompeii, and Napoli seeing all sorts of fantastic sights, including Colosseo (the Roman Coliseum) shown above.

Our first stop in Italy was to play with this dog in an apartment building that we eventually discovered was not the location of our AirBNB. It might have been the wrong building, but it was a happy mistake that led us to this dog!

Our AirBNB was a large, lovely apartment with stone floors and great kitchen and bathroom. It was near the Piramide stop, and the Piramide Cestia gave a nice visual landmark.

Italy was the first country we visited that was actually warm. We were thrilled to be able to put on some shorts and leave our jackets at home, although I admit it got a bit too hot! We stopped for a photo in front of the Colosseo on the way to find dinner.

This delicious potato, sausage, black pepper, and extra virgin olive oil pizza was one of the best I had on the trip. We ordered it at Sapori e Delizie along with a ham, mushrooms, olives, and anchovies pizza as well as tiramisu and a cannoli for dessert. The second pizza was odd in that each quarter of the pizza had a different topping. How are we supposed to split that?!

We took our time walking home so we could explore, stumbling into Roma Pride. We caught it before it was at its peak, but it was fun.

For second dessert, we stopped at Il Gelato for salty peanuts, chocolate mad orange, and natural rice flavored gelato. This wouldn’t be our last gelato stop.

The next morning we started with the “Last Minute Roma” tour of the Colosseo with our tour guide, Isabella. Cameras weren’t allowed inside, but camera phones were. They could be brought inside in bags only. This proved a problem because we didn’t bring bags, but eventually they let me go inside with my DSLR on a shoulder strap. Once inside, there were tons of people taking photos. I don’t understand.

Naturally, I used it to take photos. Here’s a good shot of the upper areas as well as the lower areas. The ground floor of the Colosseum would have covered the area in the lower-left of the photo. Those were tunnels that ran underneath the floor.

Here’s a closer look right at ground level showing the tunnels. It was so cool to be walking through such an amazing structure that’s been standing for thousands of years. It’s crazy to think that I likely had ancestors who saw events here.

Some kind stranger was nice enough to take a photo of the four of us.

gem looked nice taking a short rest, although she also looks like she was questioning why I was taking a photo.

Anela and gem made friends with a horse outside the Colosseo too!

There was a small convenience store that sold this ice cream that Anela remembered liking from her childhood, so we bought some.

It didn’t look like much, but it was a nice treat.

Next we were off to the Vatican. What an amazing collection of art! Yes, I admit it wasn’t all obtained in the best ways, but I thoroughly enjoyed the museum.

I actually hadn’t realized they had such a large collection of pre-Christian art, which made for a pleasant surprise.

It must have taken so much skill and sophistication to properly capture the muscles and curves of the human body.

Look at the detail in the beard!

This was my favorite part of the museum. It seemed like the roof was glowing. Photographs don’t capture the beauty.

That didn’t stop me from trying though. Here’s a shot without us in the way.

The Vatican had a nice garden outside as well.

Even the spiral walkway was beautiful.

Not being a fan of heights, Anela didn’t seem to enjoy it as much as me, but she made it unscathed!

On our way out, we stopped by the Vatican’s post office. I purchased and sent some postcards while I was there.

We took a break from the Vatican to get some lunch at a oh-so-traditional Italian restaurant – McDonald’s! This bucket had three kinds of chicken. I think there were at least one type of chicken wing, but maybe there were two.

McDonald’s dessert game seems stronger in Italy.

After lunch we saw St. Peter’s Basilica, which was quite beautiful.

I liked the way you could see the rays of sunlight shining down.

Don’t they look lovely?

This looked really beautiful as well.

Back outside, we watched the changing of the guards.

And then we took a final selfie before leaving the Vatican.

For dinner, we bought an assortment of pizza from two fast pizzerias near our apartment. We ate a lot of pizza in Italy.

We started the next morning with a tour of Palotino and the Foro Romano (the Roman Forum). We walked through the Museo Palatino, which was short but had an interesting collection of marble samples from various regions. I jotted down “something square, Musea capitali” in my notes. Did we go there? What was that? I don’t remember.

Something tells me “LOSER” wasn’t there originally.

I don’t remember the significance of any individual building during the tour to be honest, but I liked some of these shots.

That’s a beautiful view.

This building looked really cool. I don’t know if I knew what it was at the time, but I don’t now.

Edit: gem identified it! This is the Altare ella Patria at Piazza Venezia. Thanks, gem!

Here’s a closer look at the flag and some detail of the building.

We walked to the Pantheon in Rome, a beautiful church built at the site of a former Roman temple.

There was a fountain in front that we used to cool off. We were really feeling the heat, so it was nice to dip our arms in the cool water. I sweat it was like a magic potion. You could practically see it rejuvenate Anela!

We took a nice photo in front before exploring inside the Pantheon.

We stopped by Federico Polidori’s leather shop. He’s known for hand-crafting leather goods. I actually bought one of the few pieces he didn’t make himself – an Italian army bag from 1955.

I had to haggle a bit, but I’m happy with it. It mostly got used to hold resumes and blank paper for interviews.

We stopped for pizza and pasta for lunch. I had cacio e pepe at the recommendation a friend. He was right. It sounds simple but was super delicious. Afterwards, we stopped at Very Buono Ice Cream for dessert and got another cannoli as well.

We wanted to visit a beach while we were here, so we took a train to Ostia Beach.

We got to play in the Tyrrhenian Sea, part of the Mediterranean Sea. I never thought I’d do that.

After splashing around, digging our feet into the sand, and collecting shells, we headed back toward our apartment. We had dinner at Novecentro Cucina & Pizza, across the street from our apartment if I remember correctly, and then headed to bed.

We started our last full day in Italy with Pompeii. Honestly, I thought it was underwhelming.

There were a few bodies in glass cases, but the bodies were removed from the ruins themselves, which I didn’t realize.

We still spent a lot of time exploring anyways. gem had to wait there so I could get a shot without other people being in the way.

Here Anela explores more ruins.

What are you pointing at, gem? I bet it’s the fact that the doorway was perfectly gem-sized.

After Pompeii, we headed to Napoli where we ate a ton more pizza. Our first stop was Donna Sofia.

We ordered two pies for the four of us, and they were both amazing. Dang, I’m hungry thinking about them.

After Donna Sofia, we went right next door to Di Matteo for more pizza. Unfortunately, it wasn’t nearly as good as Donna Sofia!

We split up to do some shopping after Di Matteo. It started raining soon after, which was bad news for gem and Antonio since Anela and I were the only ones with umbrellas. While we shopped. a man who claimed to be the best salesman in Napoli tried to sell us some socks. I guess he wasn’t that good, because I didn’t buy any.

When we all came together again, gem brought us another pizza – this one from L’antica Pizzeria Da Michele. She had read about it, and it was apparently quite well-known for its amazing pizzas.

It was certainly delicious!

We picked up some desserts which we ended up sharing with some other tourists from the US.

After getting back to Roma, I wanted to go back to Il Gelato. I convinced the group by saying I’d buy for everybody.

There was fun art on the mirrors too! Here’s Joy from Inside Out.

And here’s Elsa from Frozen.

And lastly, here’s Olaf!

The next morning we signed our AirBNB host’s guestbook and took a train to the airport. Unfortunately, this is where Anela parted ways with the rest of us. The only thing that could cheer me up was more pizza!

European Vacation – Paris, France

After visiting Bruges, Belgium, we boarded a train to Kortrijk, Belgium as the first leg our day’s journey to Paris. Going to Paris was the motivation behind the whole trip – to visit our friends Jessica and Andrew in Paris. There transportation strikes happening in Belgium, but we checked in the morning and the trains were still running.

The train ride gave a little more time for some Papers, Please, but our luck ran out when we got to Kortrijk. By this time, the strike caught up with us, and trains were no longer running out of Kortrijk. And because we already used part of our tickets, we couldn’t get refunds. We ended up taking a taxi from Kortrijk, Belgium to Lille, France. Once in France, we took a train to Paris. We were late, but we got there!

I’m guessing we went to our AirBNB first, but I honestly don’t remember that. I just remember heading to Frame Brasserie where Jessica was waiting for us. Andrew was in the kitchen, preparing awesome food. For my friends who don’t know, the two of them used to live near me in California, but Andrew accepted a head chef position at Frame Brasserie, a restaurant in Paris inside the Pullman Paris Hotel.

Here’s Chef Andrew hard at work in the kitchen!

Here’s one of the dishes he prepared – foie gras on banana bread. I didn’t know those flavors would go well together, but it was amazing!

I don’t remember what each course was, but I know that I was impressed with all of it. So good!

After dinner, we went upstairs to a little balcony where we were able to watch the light show on the Eiffel Tower. It was pretty breathtaking. I wasn’t expecting to be as amazed at the Eiffel Tower as I was. It was beautiful.

Andrew gave us a little tour of the rooftop garden as well, including the chicken coop. The chickens were sleeping.

Jessica walked us back to our AirBNB, and we stopped to admire the Eiffel Tower more on the way.

Only gem and I were interested in Disneyland Park Paris, so we spent the day there.

We stopped for breakfast in Main Street, U.S.A. where I got a croque monsieur. (That’s not normally found on traditional Main Streets in the States, but I’ll forgive them. This little bird wanted some too and took a piece right out of my hand. Disney magic!

After eating, we went straight to Discoveryland, which is like Anaheim’s Tomorrowland. Instead of being purely futuristic, it’s themed after historical French figures’ visions of the future, making it retro and steampunk. It was awesome.

We rode Space Mountain Mission 2, Disneyland Paris’ Space Mountain, twice in a row. It had a great steampunk feel to it and was one of my favorite rides there. The wait was seriously just a few minutes. Yes, it was a weekday, but I don’t think we ever needed to wait longer than 15 minutes. I think the one-day, two-park ticket was only about $50 (US), which is nuts. I guess Disneyland Paris isn’t as popular as the original.

Next we went on a walk-through attraction called Les Mystères du Nautilus based on Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Apparently there was a similar attraction in our Disneyland in the 1950’s.

After a submarine, it was time to hop in some cars for Autopia. I’m completely uninterested in the Anaheim Autopia but enjoyed the Paris Autopia!

When we heard that Buzz needed our help, we rushed to Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast to defeat the Evil Emperor Zurg!

gem even found a planet with her name in it – Gemkurnz!

After finishing with Discoveryland, we went to explore Sleeping Beauty’s Castle.

I like this photo of gem and the castle despite the people in the background.

The castle had many stained glass windows. I prefer the one of Maleficent, one of my favorite Disney characters.

There’s a little balcony area on top that you can explore too!

It’s a Small World’s tribute to America started with the old west. I really enjoyed seeing this.

It also included the New York skyline, the Statue of Liberty, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Hollywood sign (among other things).

For lunch, we stopped at Cafe Hyperion. I believe this was the Dark Vador burger. I couldn’t resist it. That’s also how I learned that Darth Vader is Dark Vador in French.

After riding Pirates of the Caribbean, we rode Indiana Jones et le Temple du Péril. Unlike its California counterpart, this is more of a traditional rollercoaster. It’s also the first Disney rollercoaster to feature an inversion! While I enjoy our more story-driven rollercoaster, this was an awesome ride!

Frozen had a little section in the park with a photo-op and some sort of performance. We didn’t stay for the performance, but we did get our photo taken before we had to rush to the second park, which we didn’t realize was closing soon.

Walt Disney Studios is Disneyland Paris’ second park, and it’s based on a movie studio.

There were a number of neat things to see in the park, especially walking through the Toy Story section that was built to a scale as if you were a toy.

The park had an excellent rollercoaster based on Finding Nemo – Crush’s Coaster. Two seats face one direction and two face the other direction, leading to awesome drops in which you’re falling backwards!

While we were inside Disneyland Park, we were wondering where the statue of Walt and Mickey was and just assumed they didn’t use it in Paris. We were wrong! It’s in Walt Disney Studios!

My notes also mention salsa, rock, and line dancing in Disney Village, which is like Paris’ Downtown Disney. I don’t remember that shoreofficewarehouse.com. Did we do it? Did we just see it?

I wanted to stop for a photo with the magic broom on the way out.

And we got one of gem as well!

Next it was back to Disneyland Park to talk to ticketing about our tickets. We had purchased tickets online in advance, which means we had printouts and not physical tickets. She was hoping for physical tickets as souvenirs. At first they said they couldn’t do it, but when gem got sad, the man got creative. He printed out one of each ticket variation and voided them before giving them to her. How nice of him!

Back inside Disneyland Park, I took a photo of gem with the greeter at Phantom Manor, which is their version of the Haunted Mansion. How spooky and cool! We actually went through Phantom Manor twice.

gem also had an encounter with Abu, who ran up to her and surprised her!

We did some shopping while in the park too. I picked up some gifts for people, but there was one gift that was just too big – a blue Buzz Lightyear figure. I have no idea why he was blue, but I wanted it for Henley. Eventually, I knew I had a solution. I purchased a big Disneyland Paris duffel bag and the toy. Now I could definitely bring it home!

We ended our Disney evening with a fireworks and light show. It seemed like a combination of Disneyland fireworks and a show like Fantasmic or World of Color. There were fireworks, but there were also plenty of lasers and projects. It was awesome!

When the park closed, we walked through Disney Village to the train, where we waited at least an hour or so for the train to leave. We were really packed in there. Then it was hard to find our way home because of construction causing street closures. We eventually found a McDonald’s with Wi-Fi that allowed us to contact Antonio and Anela. We had a key to get into the apartment, but we forgot the code to the front gate! I told Antonio what time I thought we’d be back, but we ended up taking much longer. This could have been problematic, because without Wi-Fi, my phone wouldn’t work. Luckily he happened to see my message way late – just when we got to the gate. Great timing 🙂

The next day we headed to the Eiffel Tower. The base was much bigger than I expected.

Here’s a shot looking up through the tower.

Unfortunately, we could only reach the second story that day because the rest was closed.

That didn’t stop us from enjoying the view anyways.

After we came back down from the Eiffel Tower, we met Anela, Andrew, and Jessica at the FRAME Truck where we purchased some tasty tacos. Jessica did a lot of planning for us so we could squeeze as much in as we can. Her help was invaluable!

gem looks quite thug. I don’t know what she was doing here, but it’s great.

They also brought us these delicious macarons!

After lunch, it was time to jump in front of the Eiffel Tower! Here’s Antonio, Anela, me, and gem.

And here’s Jessica, Anela, me, and Andrew. Andrew looks a little derpy.

Lots of people seem to lounge near the Eiffel Tower.

Either Jessica or Andrew took this photo of the four of us.

Here’s all six of us in front of the Eiffel Tower!

What do you do after appreciating the Eiffel Tower? Explore some creepy catacombs, of course. We played some Heads Up on our phones and variations of charades while waiting in line, but then it was time to enter.

The descent! Jessica looks too happy.

gem looks scary in the catacombs.

Jessica, don’t be mean! Don’t worry; she didn’t touch.

Lots and lots of bones.

After emerging once more, Andrew took us to She’s Cake. They use She’s cakes at Frame Brasserie.

We split a few different delicious desserts.

After eating, we visited the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris at Montmarte, which was beautiful.

Even the drinking fountains are beautiful in Paris!

When it was time for dinner, we stopped at Le Consulat.

We shared an order of escargot, which tasted very similar to typical shellfish. I enjoyed it a lot!

I did, however, have to figure out how to eat it.

After dinner, we walked past the Moulin Rouge.

We finished our day with a visit to L’arc de Triomphe.

The next day, we visited the Eiffel Tower so we could climb all the way.

It was a foggy day, but I had fun.

Here I am enjoying that view, but I felt I needed a closer look.

That’s much better!

Just look at that amazing view! Okay, the view was nothing but fog, but it was still cool.

I forget if it was this day or the previous Eiffel Tower visit, but we talked to some of the soldiers at the base. Side note, it’s still very weird to me to see soldiers with huge guns just walking around. Anyways, we asked for Anela to get a photo with them. Their reaction was strange. Some seemed to say no, some to say yes, and one walked away. After a moment, I realized what was happening. They were smoking when they weren’t allowed to be smoking. Some of them put out their cigarettes and one just walked out of view of the camera. We got our photo!

We went to a market to get some lunch. This pastry was super good.

We also sampled some pink cheese. That doesn’t look like my hand though. Whose hand is that? Anela’s? Oh well.

I managed to purchase cherries in French! It was terrible French I’m sure, but a bit of Rosetta Stone helped. Here’s our haul that we ate in Jessica and Andrew’s apartment. Not shown was the McDonald’s that we bought as well, including the Le Croque McDo. How French! Man, I’m getting hungry.

Just look at this pastry! We stopped at Le Moulin de la Croix Nivert for tarte aux pommes et Paris Brest, two amazing desserts.

With full stomachs, we visited Notre-Dame.

Next we quickly saw the Fontaine Saint Michel.

By that time, we definitely some crepes, so we stopped at Creperie de Arts.

The best part of Creperie de Arts? Le chat! This cat was just chilling.

We also stopped at Amoroso Gelato because apparently we just can’t eat enough.

Of course we visited the Louvre, but we were unable to go inside. Due to the flooding happening in Paris at the time, they were moving all the works to higher floors in case the water got into the Louvre.

That didn’t stop us from having fun and goofing around!

Look at these two lovebirds. <3

Here’s a closer shot of the building.

Speaking of the flood, here’s a look at the water. You might not be able to tell just how much water there is from this photo.

I wouldn’t want to go sit on one of those benches.

Those are cars. The Seine rose so much, cars parked along the river were now under water.

May gem present to you… the Statue of Liberty!

Here’s a shot she took of me in front of it too!

According to the journal I kept, which was just a list of things we did, we also visited L’arc de triomphe du Carrousel, but I can’t find any photos of it. I can’t believe I wouldn’t take photos, so maybe I just got them mixed up. Oops.

Edit: I did just get them mixed up! I added a photo 🙂

For dinner, we went to Frame Brasserie a second time. On this visit, Andrew ate with us rather than being in the kitchen. He had his staff keep bringing us additional dishes until we were full. Amazing. As I’d expect, everything was so good. Here’s a collage of everything we managed to eat. Keep in mind there were six of us please :0

Look, FRAME has a foosball table! I don’t know who won, but I know we had fun – probably because gem and I were both terrible.

Sadly, this is where we said our goodbyes to Jessica and Andrew.

Before heading to our apartment for the final time, we walked around the Centre Georges Pompidou, which was near where we were staying.

It looks like it’s inside-out! It’s definitely an interesting piece of architecture.

While we didn’t go inside, we were able to appreciate it from here.

I’ll end this post with a final shot of the Eiffel Tower. The next morning we left our little apartment and traveled to the airport to fly to Rome. Thanks so much to Jessica and Andrew for spending time with us, showing us around Paris, sharing delicious food, and everything else. I wish I could see you regularly, but Paris is just a bit too far to visit for a weekend!