Chapter 20: Tallest Man in Europe

Fun times with Devin, until we got kicked out of Norway. Read about our weird first four days. (Getting deported has to be a bucket list thing, right?)

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Saturday, October 30th


It felt like Jason’s alarm went off about three hours too early. I didn’t get home from the club last night until 4:30 AM, and we had a 10:00 checkout. I asked if I could take a late checkout, but we couldn’t do that on an individual basis with our private room.

Ah well.

Jason, Tara, Emma, and I grabbed breakfast at a Breakfast Club, popular chain in London.

We looked like the walking dead rolling in there, but the food was fire. After breakfast, Emma had to go home and feed her cats, and Tara headed out as well. Jason and I headed to our new hostel, where we checked in and took a fat nap. He got up after 30 minutes to go explore the city; I was passed out for a couple of hours.

We met up with Mark and Matt at 3:30 to ride the London Eye. For the uninitiated, the Eye is the world’s biggest Ferris Wheel. It costs $30 to ride, and the “seats” are massive glass pods that hold 20 or so passengers each.

The London Eye looks tall from the ground, but you can’t truly appreciate its size until you ride it. We were taller than all of the surrounding skyscrapers at the ride’s peak. The views of the city were phenomenal. The Thames River, Big Ben, Parliament, and every other landmark that American kids would recognize were right there.

Once our ride ended, the other guys decided to go tour the Tower Bridge and shop for Halloween costumes while I went to a cafe to write. I hit up my friend Michael, a NOLA native living in London, to come out with us that night. You might recall Mike stayed at my hostel in Barcelona, and he hung out with Tanner, Rylan, and me for a couple of nights.

He lived about 40 minutes from the city center, and we met near the river to grab dinner. My trip is really starting to come full circle: 16 countries later, I was reuniting with one of my first friends from Barcelona.

We grabbed some Korean food and beers and caught up on everything from his job and return to the states, to my travels, to our fantasy football leagues. The most interesting aspect of our conversation: a friend of one of Mike’s friends used to trade SPACs with me a few months back. He saw that I had started a travel blog, and sent it to their mutual friend. Which update did he send? The Barcelona one which included Mike.

Mike’s buddy texted him and said, “Yo, this guy who used to trade SPACs is writing a travel blog, and I swear I just saw you in it.”

Random SPAC guy, DM me on Twitter (Jack_Raines) or Discord (Barmelo Xanthony) or wherever we chatted. I’m curious who you are lol.

Small world.

Mike and I headed back to my hostel to grab Jason, and the three of us went to Mark and Matt’s hotel. The hotel was way nicer than we had expected, and I got quite a few stares when I walked in with a toga on. Matt dressed up with me, wearing a robe to be Hugh Heffner. The five of us plus Pau (she was still in London from the night before) made our way back to Simmon’s Bar. Again. lol.

The line was ridiculously long, so I walked to the front and asked if I could run inside to use the restroom.

“Sure, just come back out after.”

LOL yeah right. Disappearing into the crowd was the real move.

The rest of the group made it in a few minutes later, and Jason, decked in a Hawaiian shirt, befriended an actual Hawaiian guy in a Hawaiian shirt. Jason left earlier than me, and I stayed out for a while with Mark and Mike. I ended up having to walk home in a toga in like 37 degrees weather. Hardly ideal, and I was on the receiving end of a few obnoxious (but well deserved) comments from strangers.

Sunday, October 31th

I woke up at 8:30 to a text from Devin:

Devin Orr, my 6’7 (or 6’8??) friend had arrived in London. Devin and I were teammates and fraternity brothers at Mercer. He backpacked Europe a few years ago, and he actually quit the football team by staying overseas instead of flying back for camp in August 2018.


He showed up at my hostel at 9:45, and after Europe’s tallest bro hug, he asked me why they didn’t stamp his passport when he arrived. I had no idea. Maybe that isn’t necessary anymore; I doubt they would just let someone walk in without following protocol.

We headed to a local diner to grub. Devin’s southern manners were showing at breakfast. He called our server ma’am four different times. He has said ma’am or sir no less than 100 times in five days. The politeness is admirable, though it sticks out.

After breakfast he checked in to the hostel, and we took the tube down to the River Thames. I took Devin by all of the touristy stuff that I had seen the day before: The London Eye, Big Ben, etc. We watched a couple of street “performers” scam some tourists on one of the bridges.

Later that afternoon, we went to the British Museum. It housed the coolest and most extensive exhibits that I’ve ever seen.

Ancient Egypt. Etruscans. Incan Empire. Rome. China.

I had never seen a more complete collection in my life. We spent a ton of time in the Egypt section. It’s crazy how detailed their belief systems and rituals were, even 10 thousand years ago. After a couple of hours exploring the museum, we grabbed some beer and headed back to the hostel to watch some Sunday Night Football.

Side note, the UK time changed last Sunday. The US doesn’t change til next Sunday. This really threw me off when we were looking for football times.

We pulled up NFL Red Zone on my laptop, and two other Americans joined us in the lobby. These dudes, Kevin and Josh, worked for a start up in the States. Josh was an intern going to Columbia undergrad, and Kevin was a 30-something in management. They were in London for a work conference of some sort.

I thought Kevin was 23. His skin care routine in A1.

They had a Zoom call at 8, and the duo introduced us to their team before it began. Afterwards, we all (Jason joined us) went out for dinner and drinks. Dinner and drinks with new acquaintances is always a good time.

Jason and the other guys went to sleep, but Devin and I decided to go check out the nightlife this fine Halloween evening. We didn’t dress up (minus my Mike Vick jersey), but we headed back to Simmons Bar. Andy, the Hawaiian dude from the previous night, met us out. The crowd was decent, but nothing special considering it was Halloween. We checked a couple of other bars before catching the subway back at midnight.

Monday, November 1st

Devin and I booked a different hostel closer to downtown: The Astor Museum Hostel. We got up at 9:30 and moved all of our stuff over there. One of the workers recommended a 10/10 breakfast spot around the corner: Beck’s. This place slapped.

If you ever go to London, check out Beck’s. $8.45 for a full English breakfast and coffee. Im”becc”able value. 

After breakfast we walked around a few different parks, Westminster Abbey, and Buckingham Palace. Devin left to meet up with one of our friends from London, Sofie, and I went to a coffee shop to write. Sofie did an exchange program at Mercer one semester, and she went to a bunch of our fraternity events.

I met Jason and his friend, Rob, at an Irish Pub for dinner. They previously met in Japan, and Rob has been all over the place. He was a chemistry teacher in London, but he’s planning to move to Japan after Christmas to teach English. Devin showed up about 30 minutes later, and we ended up talking about guns in the US for a while.

I tried saying that they weren’t that big of a deal, and people over exaggerate US gun usage. Five minutes later, our friend Alek facetimed Devin. Alek isn’t a gun guy at all, and Devin answered to a live video of him playing with a glock. I stand corrected.

After dinner, Devin and I decided to go out. We thought that London would be popping on a Monday, but it was pretty dead. We met a half-American, half-Scottish guy at a different Simmons bar (there’s 8 of these in London I think) that worked in finance in London. My first impression: London finance bros work hard and play harder.

We hopped around to a few different bars, finally ending up in a Latin bar with some signs of life. Devin is normally a soft-spoken guy, but he said to me, “I know why you’ve been doing all this crazy stuff in Europe. You’re literally never going to see anyone here again. So why not do whatever you want?”

He then proceeded to jump on the dance floor in the middle of a group of girls.

Dude is a legend.

We headed back at like 12:30, I had a 9 AM train to catch.

Tuesday, November 2nd

I took the early train to Oxford. Oxford, England is home to one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious universities: Oxford University.

I’ve always wanted to visit Oxford, and one of my friends from Tifton, Nikki Vellidis, is pursuing a PhD at the university. It was good catching up with Nikki over lunch. She hadn’t seen anyone from the states in months, and I hadn’t seen anyone from Tifton since August. She’s also studying the coolest field ever: Roman Archeology.

She took me on an hour tour of the campus. All of the pointed spires, old stone buildings, and dimly lit pubs felt like J.K. Rowling’s world had come to life. Similar to Hogwarts students being sorted into four houses, Oxford students are places in several different “colleges”. Life imitates art.

I was exploring a history museum in Oxford when my phone started blowing up. This article that I wrote last week:

Got picked up by Market Watch, and my finance newsletter was exploding. Pretty cool moment.

I headed back to London at four, and Devin and I walked around town with one of our dorm mates, Mike (Not NOLA Mike). We met Jason for dinner, then Mike, Devin, and I made our way to an Irish pub. They had a live band playing upstairs, and the singer was crushing it. American music is alive and well in London.

Wednesday, November 3rd

We got deported from Norway today. Why? Because Devin is a “health hazard to the nation” LOL.

We flew from London to Oslo, Norway at 10, and we were supposed to fly from Oslo to Tromso (in the Arctic Circle) that afternoon. However, we got stopped by customs in Oslo.

I have a digital EU vaccine card. A month ago in Switzerland, I paid a pharmacy $30 to convert my US card to a European one. Devin has the physical US one.

Norway only accepts the EU card.

Devin got vaccinated in the United States two weeks ago. He has proof that he got vaccinated in the United States two weeks ago. He and I have the exact same proof, the only difference being that I downloaded a QR code in Switzerland as well.

But the border agents said he couldn’t come in because of his paper card. So we had to leave or fly somewhere else. We asked if he could take a COVID test and stay in Norway? Nope. Call the US doctor? Nope.

Was anyone in the airport wearing masks? Nope.

Did Devin have to wear a mask in the airport? Nope.

Does anyone in Norway take COVID seriously? Nope.

Did we have to leave anyway? Yep.

90% of COVID rules are less about effective virus management, and more about reinforcing preconceived ideas that haven’t adapted with data, and it’s frustrating.

The border guys said we could probably fly to Sweden if we wanted, which doesn’t make sense either. “Yeah you can’t come here, but you can go to the country next door that we have an open border with, and they won’t care.”

How stupid is that?

On top of it all, Devin had to pay over $160 to get a COVID test to return to London, where we had been six hours previously.

All my homies hate Norway.

So we flew back to London, paid $130 for a nice-ass hotel room, booked a nice Airbnb in Edinburgh, and we’re gonna treat ourselves to a good week in the UK.

Long fish and chips. Short Scandinavia.

I’m letting Devin write Chapter 21, should be interesting. Catch you guys in a few days.


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