A look at the least important things in life

The Screwdriver Diaries: European Edition, Part Two

If you missed part one, click here or watch this video of a polar bear learning to walk.



Awesome signage.

It’s delicious. In Italy, it’s also expensive; I tried on my wine-drinking britches because it was cheaper to do that than drink beer in Italy.

I tried everything in Ireland. Aside from Smithwick’s (my go-to dinner beer), I tried not to have the same thing twice in Dublin. This was helped along by the fact that we found the Porterhouse, a Flying Saucer-like place that had all kinds of beer from all over the world and brewed their own stuff on the side.

I didn’t understand people that refused to try new stuff overseas. On our pub crawl, one guy inexplicably kept ordering Coors Light. Branch out a piece man, try something new.

Staying awake to get adjusted to the time difference

We got on a plane in Nashville at 2 p.m. (CT), flew two hours to Chicago, flew nine more hours and landed in Rome at about 10 a.m. local time. The first day was a bad day; never plan to do anything of importance the first day after that kind of plane ride except yell at your significant other and be angry and tired because if you don’t get adjusted to the time difference you’ll be all screwed up the whole trip.

The Ugly American and the tourist hassle at Spanish Steps

I tried to keep from being the Ugly American on this trip. I attempted communicating in Italian, and I tried to honor local customs, be patient and generally remember that I was visiting someone else’s home and should be on my best behavior.

That being said…

On the Spanish Steps, we were harassed every few seconds by guys trying to sell us flowers, water, this, that and all of the other. They were pushy, there’s no other way to say it. And maybe I was jet-lagged and a little pissed off anyway, because these assholes were ruining my experience, but it eliminated my wonder about how Americans got such a bad rap in foreign countries. If that’s the reception everyone gets, I’m sure not everyone is as Zen-like as myself; of course people snap, as well they should. Piss off, flower dude; I’ll let you know if I’d like to give my lady a rose, thanks very much.

'The Papacy with Rapacity!'

‘The Papacy with Rapacity!’

Vatican Radio

‘From God’s House to your house, this is Il Papa Radio, live from Vatican City!’ – Programming introduction if I ran Vatican Radio

Watching soccer in a foreign country

Happiness and sadness are pretty universal, and watching Brazil get their brains kicked in by Germany, in a room full of German fans, in Italy, was really really fun. The Brazilian people in the next room, which we could see, were less happy.

Service at restaurants

I’ve worked at restaurants in the States. I know two things matter more than anything else: full drinks and a quick experience. People are willing to eat whatever you bring them as long as you do it quickly and keep the Budweiser/Coke/water coming.

None of that matters in Europe. After eating out every meal for 12 days, it became apparent that the service staff did not really want to interrupt the meal for any reason. At the end of the meal – and the meal was only ended when all drinks and all food were consumed – there was a time there where we were too polite to ask for the check and the staff was too polite to come disturb us, so the whole thing devolved into a weird game of impolite chicken for 15 minutes at the end of EVERY SINGLE MEAL.

Apartment dwelling

I bet it never stops being weird to live across the street from the Colosseum or any other thousand-year old relic, but society had to continue to rise around the ruins. But waking up, throwing open the blinds and saying, “Huh. There’s Vatican City again,” is probably a little surreal.

Student District

Hey...what's that?

Hey…what’s that?

San Lorenzo was a fun, relaxed place (during the day; apparently it gets pretty wild at night) where I had my first Italian pizza, which was delicious, and where Sarah had this wine, which, well… use Google Translate.

Literary Pub Crawl

Here’s what I don’t understand.

We went on this literary pub crawl, which is exactly what it sounded like – guys acted out bits from Joyce or Beckett, then we’d all have a pint, then we’d go to another pub and along the way, they’d act out something else. We ended by watching the World Cup and everybody was probably well over-served, and then we all walked home.

So needless to say, I had a great time.

But apparently, there was a couple that left in a huff because “there was too much drinking going on.”

A couple of things here:

  1. Ireland?
  2. Pub crawl.

I have no idea what these people were expecting; everything in Ireland revolved around alcohol in some way. I assume these same people were dissatisfied with the Guinness tour because there was too much alcohol and not enough focus on barley production.

Losing a person in the Vatican Gardens

The folks in Italy seemed to know that when leading a tour group where English is the second, third or fourth language, simplicity is key. So we spent a lot of time following umbrellas when we were on tours. I called one lady Mary Poppins for most of an afternoon. I had been drinking a bit.

Anyway, there were various points during these tours where we had to count up and make sure we were all still here and in the Vatican Gardens, we came up one short. And all hell broke loose.

Serious-looking men in suits carrying guns rolled up. A search was quickly executed. We were all ordered to stay where we were. And while this story would be a lot more interesting if some ne’er-do-well had broken away from the group with intent to do harm to the facility or the Pontif, it turns it she forgot a guy had gotten sick right before the tour started and decided to stay behind. So that was anticlimactic.


‘Hey, visit our castle and kiss a rock’ – Strangest tourism advertisement imaginable


Disappointingly, the one day it rained on us in Ireland was here, but the Blarney Castle was pretty enough to make up for it. Blarney was the prettiest spot we saw, in my opinion, despite the fact that the main attraction is kissing a rock.

Last Call in Ireland

I don’t go out to bars nearly as much as I used to, so I can’t recall the last time I shut the joint – any joint – down on a Friday night. Or a Tuesday, for that matter.

Yet somehow in Ireland, I found myself getting caught up in last call on no less than three occasions. After the first two, I did my research. Turns out, most places in Ireland shut down between 10:30 and 11 p.m. which is around the time most bars in America get cranked up. So on our final night, I made sure we went to a place that claimed to ‘stay open late’. Late turned out to be midnight. Now perhaps it was just my bad luck that we weren’t around on a Friday and were traveling most of Saturday (apparently this is when all the fun happens in Ireland), but I never expected to be last called three times. I’d be more upset but I visited the Guinness Storehouse and the Jameson museum by noon on two of our days in Dublin.

Abbey Theatre

The National Theatre of Ireland is smaller than a medium-sized college auditorium. We saw a fun Irish play called The Aristocrats. I think it was funny.


Willy Wonka has nothing on Arthur Guinness.


As mentioned, we were doing these tours early, because they got pretty packed. Jameson was more fun – the guide was funny, the tour was concise and I got to try four different whiskeys, so it’s pretty easy to worm your way into my heart like that.

Guiness was an impressive specimen – seven floors of history, demonstration, beer and food. Honestly, it was like Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, except with beer. Guinness also had a neat, bright white room that heightened your sense of smell, which was further exacerbated by wafting the smell of beer, malt, roasted barley and hops at you in a big white fog.

Abbey Theatre

The National Theatre of Ireland is smaller than a medium-sized college auditorium. We saw a fun Irish play called The Aristocrats. I think it was funny.


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