Hola de Puerto Rico! Arrived last Saturday but as you can see have had little time to blog… Actually don’t have the time now – I’m too busy relaxing y estudiando por mi clase de espanol. Oh yes, if you missed it I’m here in Puerto Rico relaxing, visiting w/ my friend Kathy and attending a Spanish Immersion program (one-on-one instruction for 3 hours / day). Yes I may in-fact be obsessed with schooling 🙂 So… here’s the wrap-up of events thus far. I’m going to “pub talk” 🙂 this one to save a bit of time.
What To Pack:
Nothing but skirts & dresses are necessary. If you’re a women don’t even try leaving your place in anything else. You won’t fit in.
Running Clothes & Shoes
Where to go / What to Do:
The Brickstone: Try the Category 4 Hurricanes but don’t be surprised if your memory fails you at somepoint during the night. Possibly after meeting a few dutch pilots.
Bombares: I’ve never entered a place that better represents a “greasy spoon.” Must be a local. Must add sugar. Must add lots and lots and lots of butter. Doesn’t matter what you order it’s all good (todo bien).
The Streets of San Juan: Picturesque cobblestone, bright colored buildings, lots of nooks and crannies, parks & plazas.
PH3 (Hash Hound Harriers): A “drinking group with a running problem.” 5-6 miles in Pinones through the streets, along the beach, on the boardwalk. Make sure to stop at the street side shack (i.e. beer check #2) 1/2 through the run. Watch out for the garbage, emaciated dogs & women screaming at you to stop running through her yard. Oh and the crooks that broke into everyones cars and stole about $6,000 worth of stuff from my group. Odd thieves to take my $5 and leave the $1 bill. That’s all they got from me. Thank god they didn’t touch my camera (yes, I apparently attract thieves while I travel – see previous blogs – and ironically it’s always my camera that they leave behind). The “hasher” group is AWESOME… consists of “three’s company”, “R Kelly,” “EMT” “One-Inch Punch” “Ankles for Earrings” “Chapless Ass” “Pies Negros” “shitty titty” No-fucking-name-Dave (just named “I’m the bitch”), “gringo fucker,” no-fucking-name-Ian, no-fucking-name Mia and then me and another newbie were virgins.
Sat. Night in San Juan: Bar hop – The brewery, twice at nueyoriquen for some salsa dancing a trip to The Brickstone for some karaoke (watch out for the Gringo who clears the bar w/ her singing…. what? apparently they don’t like “Jack & Diane” in Puerto Rico 🙂 Plan for a 4:00am call time.
French Cafe in Condado: Go there for some “Vitamin G” on Sunday morning w/ new found friends met at HHH.
Oceanpark Beach: Unbelievably picturesque. Stop at the beach side cafe for a late lunch. Order the Arabian Platter.
First Step World: Ummm…. my host person doesn’t know I’m coming and has no idea what I’m talking about with the “spanish immersion” program I’m enrolled. Where the hell am I going to stay for the next two weeks?
Sunday nights in Old San Juan: Seriously, the entire neighborhood fills the Plaza at night singing what can only be related to as “campfire” songs, enjoying the company, etc. There must have been 200+ people there.
Nesol Spanish School: Hope that Jose is your instructor… and maybe you’ll luck out with one-on-one instruction like me. Though he does pretends he doesn’t know English so you’ll really really be forced to speak spanish. This place is awesome but lessons get harder and harder every day.
El Morro: ANOTHER UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE CHECKED OFF MY LIST!! This place is huge and unbelievable. Must stop!
The Bus: Slow but only $.50 and Ruta Una busses come around often.
Kathy’s Place: An open air casita that overlooks the Bay of Puerto Rico. SOOOO NICE! Also a good place for a “latenight but not necessary” drink after Fri / Sat night partying.
First Tuesday of the Month: Art Galleries stay open late and everyone is out and the streets are packed!
What to Eat / Drink:
Cafe con Leche: No matter where you go – from the coffee kiosks to the cafe on avenida de Ponce de Leon you can’t beat it! Typical Cafe con Leche costs between $.50 and $1.07… no Starbucks pricing here!
Plantain: Plaintain chips, plaintain tostones, plaintain fried ball thing, plaintain with goat cheese…. todos bien!
Fried Food: Never seen or eaten so much fried food in my life. But again… todos bien!
Agua Viva restaraunt: Great seafood – too bad I don’t eat it! Who knew that there was veggie paella available? Good company w/ Kathy & Jared.
La Tamarind restaurant: Try the white sangria and everything else on the menu. Cuban black beans, puerto rican rice & beans, plaintain, yuca – everything Puerto Rican.
Baccarina: place the Pina Colada was invented. Didn’t know this when I walked in randomly desiring a Pina Colada and a break from the heat.
Bodega Chic: DO NOT PASS THIS PLACE UP! Looks like a hole in the wall bar BUT the food is awesome awesome awesome. Chef / Owner owned a restaurant in New York before retiring for a more peaceful pace in San Juan. Order the Mojito (best you’ll ever have!) but don’t be surprised if the bartender requires you to show proof that you’re local before he’ll make you one. And I quote “who told you to come in and order a mojito?” Good thing we knew someone…
El Bottey: Another dive that locals consider one of the best places to be in Old San Juan. ORDER 43 ON THE ROCKS WITH A SPLASH OF MILK. It’s my new dessert drink – you can only find it in Puerto Rico but damn is it good!
What to expect from the Boriques (locals):
Locals are locals. Quick to kick you out of a place that you don’t belong… unless of course you’re a women and have a good smile.
The women: As Kathy says “it doesn’t matter what size they are they own it” and oh my goodness is this ever true! My new favorite game is to walk down the street and watch all the men part like the sea. I’m telling you we could all learn a few lessons from the women here!!! And most American men could learn a few (lot) of lessons from the chivalry that still exists among the Puerto Rican men.
Don’t be surprised if you run into the same people over and over and over again. The locals are a small community and always out and about.
Don’t be surprised if the man at the coffee kiosk charges $1.07 for your coffee. You give him $2 and he takes $1 saying “bring the $.07 tomorrow. And then rememebers when you show up the following day w/ the change.
One kiss on the right cheek for everyone!
Well dressed people. Men and women alike. Don’t dress down but less is more here.
Other Shout Outs:
Running the streets of San Juan!
Yoga overlooking the bay in the mornings
El Meson’s fake roast beef
Kathy for putting me up, taking care, etc.!
Street Cafes, People Watching & Slow paces
Autobus Ruta Numero Uno
Lucy & Roxy the Danes I met while running the streets
But Two thumbs down to First Step World’s host family program, the killer mosquitos, the traffic coming into Old San Juan and the bus driver that left me at the bus stop today.
Flying to Culebra this weekend (island off PR)
SoFo Festival tonight – kinda like the Taste of San Juan
Hash Numero Dos esta fin de semana (this weekend)
January 15, 2007
Phoenix, Arizona… relfecting on London, Dubai, Tanzania & Zanzibar
After 40ish hours in flight traveling some 12,000 miles – I have arrived back home very tired. Unfortunately, my luggage didn’t make it with me — it’s somewhere between Africa and London. I slept a few hours and it’s now 2:30am and jet lag or jet forward depending on how you want to think of it is catching-up with me (can’t sleep) so I jumped on the computer to write down a few reflections from the trip.
First off I’ve now decided my theme for 2007 is “live in the moment.” I did so many things during this trip that I could never have dreamed possible before the opportunities arose. There was no set schedule at anypoint in the trip (except for the days that we were on Safari but even then we weren’t on a time schedule) and because of this we were all open to whatever opportunities came our way and goodness knows there were many of them!
The secondary theme of this year should be “Hakuna Matata” (It’s amazing how accurate the Lion King actually was including with it’s Swahili). We’ve also created a new phrase… “I’m Hakuna Matata-ing my way through it” meaning you’re working on not stressing about life or a particular stressful situation…… and remembering that there are no worries!
At somepoint during the trip my travel partners became more like family (though I admit we’re a bit of a disfunctional family!) and I am really glad to have had the people with me that I did. Spending 3 weeks with friends (and I will also note here we had 2 ex-couples on the trip) could be a recipe for disaster but somehow we worked and traveled well together and learned a lot more about ourselves in the process.
Speaking of family, there were a number of times during the trip when I was reminded of vacations or holidays with my own family. I have always appreciated (though sometimes not verbalized) the fact that my parents took us on a gazillion trips when I was growing up. I feel incredibly blessed to have experienced so much of the U.S. and world because of their emphasis on family vacations and roadtrips.
One reason I love traveling, road trips, and family vacations is the simplicity and serenity that comes with it… during the trip we watched almost no television, drank the occassional beer or two but never really in-excess, played a crap load of cards and dominoes, read a few good books and were extremely active. It’s amazing how much clearer life becomes when you get rid of all the annoyances of everyday life like TV, cell phones, the social scene (and all the drama that goes along with it!) This trip has also most certainly made me reflect on who I am and the people I want around me to leave footprints in my life. There were times during our travels I was reminded of summer camp, camping in general, trips to the boundary waters, Nor’ Wester, lakehouse(s), family, friends and “family friends.” I really do feel blessed… at many points I wanted those family, friends and “family friends” there to see what I was seeing or experience what I was experiencing. Soogy’s space says it best “Live for the times that you will always remember with the friends you will never forget.”
Early on in the trip, while in Bath actually, the group created “Pub Talk.” As you may guess, we were in a pub when the activity was created… everyday (or every activity) thereafter we noted on a piece of paper the activity, experience, place (For example, “Ngorongoro Farm House” where we stayed the first night on Safari) and then everyone wrote down the first thoughts that came to their head. This is seriously the best vaca game ever created to help remember the times (and I’m not just saying that since we created it). Unfortunately, I’m the beholder of said cards and 1/2 of them are currently in the missing luggage. To give you an idea here’s everyone’s comments on the Ngorongoro Crater (my favorite location on Safari):
“Ngorongoro Conservation Area”
Katie: W/i 20 minutes we were in-between a pack of 10 lions, eating lunch with the hippos and seeing vultures steal our food.
Heidi: A lion stalking through the grass directly at you… can you get more national geographic than that? maybe if it was narrated by Morgan Freeman.
Jamie: Flamingos, Frolicking zebras, super close lions, pain splitting bumps… all overclipsed by the amazing techocolor scenery
Rachel: Where did my chicken go? Clearly these roads were made by a man… descent hurts the boobs… oh ascent hurts too… damn! Wow, so many different terrains. Wow, those zebras ____ … no wonder all the females are prego.
Jonathan: Please pronounce “Ngorongoro” because I can’t.
David: The crunching of bone and shredding of flesh will haunt my dreams for weeks!
Jesse: Don’t dismiss the Black Rhino’s. You may not get up close and personal but there are only 13 in the world. Think about that.
Soogy: Easy Lion!! Gabriel taugh us what “Ngorongoro” is – the sound of the bell on a bull.
I laugh and smile even now when I read over our Pub Talk comments. This is definitely one tradition I’m taking back from this trip for other vacations….
You may be wondering about my only required purchase for the trip…. the infamous Xmas tree ornaments. Mission Accomplished: I already have 2 from London so didn’t purchase one there. Picked-up a small one in Bath. I nabbed one the first day in Dubai… good thing since it’s the only one I saw! And I’ll have to take the wooden elephant I purchased in Tanzania, drill a hole in it and make it into an ornament.
So much was accomplished on this trip… My favorite moments were: Les Miserables in London, the Lebanese Restaurant in Dubai (and dancing with the Iraqis!), the Ngorongoro Crater day on Safari, Swimming in the Indian Ocean and generally hanging out, eating, playing cards and enjoying a campfire among friends 🙂 So it is 21 days, 12 flights, 4 continents, 3 safaris (desert, african & ocean) many locations, cultures, foods later and I have gained so much knowledge about the world we live in and myself… definitely the trip of a lifetime. “Pace Car to Back-up”… Roger that!
Peace, Love & Happiness.
January 12, 2007
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Stone Town, Zanzibar
No pictures let alone words can do justice to my time in Africa… but I wanted to document a few occurences to give you an idea of what my trip here has been like. I think I’ll reflect a bit more on the 40 hour haul I have home (ugg!) and write a bit more when I arrive back in AZ (ugg ugg ugg… can’t believe I’ll be back so soon!)
– We saw so many animals, trees and our Safari guide particularly liked the birds.
– The first day at Taragire we were amazed when we were literally 5 seconds into the park and there were 3 elephants 15 feet from the dirt road…. along the way we discovered that EVERY animal (see comments below) is EXTREMELY close in proximity.
– Giraffes are gigantic near-by or from far away…
– Lions growling 20 feet from the car definitely warranted an “oh shiza”
– You can’t imagine the scene of what seems like a gazillion zebras, wildabeasts, Impala’s, water buffalo all playing with eachother in the middle of the Ngorongoro crater. They’re everywhere.
– Within a 20 minute period we were in the middle of a 10 pack of female lions (about to hunt the zebra that were less than a 1/4 a mile away) literally the lions were rubbing up against the Land Cruiser (our guide says this is only the 2nd time in the 3 years he’s been traveling that he had the opp to be so close ) then having lunch not too far away next to a pond with Hippos when an Eagle swooped down and stole Rachel’s piece of chicken right out of her hands.
– Even our guide got excited when we saw the Cheetahs napping in the grass…
– Only 13 Black Rhino’s in existence and I’ve now seen 2 of them.
– The ascent out of the Ngorongoro Crater is hair raising to say the least
– But, again, whole new appreciation for Toyota and the Land Cruiser (of course, I would have prefered a Land Rover!)
– The first place we stayed at Ngorongoro Farm House was amazing…. and the stars!!! Though we never could figure out where the Southern Cross is located…
– The second place we stayed was a made-up Masaai village where hot showers were a scarcity but the camp fire was excellent
Then onto Zanzibar…. which is a little island off of Tanzania – a slice of paradise:
– The beaches were amazing – crystal clear water and white sand.
– Thursday Happy Hour was relocated to Baobob Beach Bar on a secluded beach on the far side of the island where the drink special was the “snakebite”: i.e. rum, lots of crushed lime and a cup of honey. Pass and choose the Kilimanjaro beer.
– We ended up snorkeling (the “ocean safari” portion of on this trip) in the Indian Ocean where the fish were not exactly abundant but it was fun none-the-less. Of course I could have passed on seeing the 3 eels.
– The Serena Inn where we stayed was right on the Indian Ocean. There’s just something peaceful about going to sleep and waking up to the sound of the ocean.
– Of course one night I woke up to mortar fire and machine guns (with blanks in them) – apparently the locals were celebrating their revolutionary independence. The front desk called to let us know there would be “fireworks” at midnight… apparently “fireworks” is another word for “firearms” here.
– Then the flight back to Dar from Zanzibar was filled with 1/2 the government (Vice President, Minister of Cabinets, etc.) who were apparently on ZZ for the independence celebration. We’re still wondering how Martin Warioba knows SO many people here including too many people in the government.
So now I have 5 minutes left on the Internet so I better go… My long trek home starts this afternoon – lasts about 40 hours on 4 different planes so I’ll be back later on Sunday. I can’t wait to share the pictures…. though I’m still not quite ready to come back yet I have to admit. Just seems odd that it’s the weekend and school starts on Tuesday! My has time flown……
Hope all is well back home!
P.S. I do miss everyone and have thought a lot about individual people that would have liked parts (or all) of the trip. JVB (my bro) HAS got to Safari one day… a fisheries and wildlife major can’t pass this up! And the pooches…. every animal reminded me of them 🙂
January 07, 2007
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
HABARI FROM TANZANIA!
Current Location: New Africa Hotel in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania!!
Not too much time to write….. so this maybe a quick one. First, the flight into Tanzania was just like we like it — uneventful! Although there were a few interesting characters. The best way to explain Tanzania is to compare it to Costa Rica. Which isn’t surprising since I think they’re both about on the same latitudinal line. It’s really nice weather, if not a bit humid. Got in yesterday and met up with my friends with no problem. We have people in from travels everywhere and Martin (the local) here as well. Jamie & Heidi have been here for a few days and sounds like had an amazing experience thus far. I completely didn’t know what to expect but can say that so far I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how nice Tanz actually is. Went to dinner last night in a restaurant that seemed like it was in the middle of no where, however, when you walked up the stairs, through all the plants we were greeted by this awesome place that looks like it belongs in a five star hotel on the beach in Maui. No, not kidding and that’s not what I expected. People are really friendly too. So I’m off today to fly to Arusha in Northern Tanz and then first thing tomorrow morning we start our safari. Plan is for Ngorongoro (staying at the wildlife lodge there) then Lake Manyara (staying at a different lodge there) and a few other places. Everyone is really excited.
I wish I had more time to write about the Desert Safari we went on because it was definitely a trip – actually the pictures and movie clips I took would do more justice anyway. Essentially, we took a Toyota Land Cruiser (I was in the way back – 3rd row seat) into the desert and tour of the sand dunes. Or I should say “tour.” You’re seriously on a roller coaster speeding up and down the dunes, sliding sideways at a 45 degree angle down the side of the dunes, twisting up and down and around. For the entire tour you feel like the Land Cruiser is going to roll but no… I have a whole new appreciation for Toyota. Was fun but definitely brings a whole new meaning to “living in the moment.” We saw a great sunset in the desert… had dinner outside in the desert, was freezing (Dubai apparently is unseasonably cold right now). Actually, I have a really funny story about the sunset – or it’s funny now not so much then but I can’t do it justice over the blog so remind me when I get home to tell everyone.
Okay, better get going so I can meet-up with mi compadres…. Hope all is well with everyone!
January 05, 2007
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
If there is one word to describe my experience in Dubai thus far unfathomable would be it. Since Rachel & Soogie got here we have been non-stop on-the-go and experiencing things we could never have imagined. Essentially, Rachel’s dad has a business partner in Dubai, Mohammad, who has been taking care of our travels here. Her dad also came in the night that we got here so between the two they have arranged for us to experience every ounce of Dubai and the Middle East. I’ll try to explain though I’m sure my words won’t be able to do this segment of my trip justice…..
Rachel & Soogs get in and we have Mohammad’s driver, Ali, come get us at 4:30p.m. to take us around the city. He takes us everywhere on the new side of town. We go to Jumeriah to see the only 7 star hotel in the world, he somehow gets us past every gate guard to see other hotels, buildings, the HUGe houses in the area, etc. This is completely Vegas on steroids. The properties are unbelievable. THERE IS CONSTRUCTION EVERYWHERE! Dubai is only 40 years old, and the newer part has all gone up in the last 10 years. We heard that 15% of the world’s cranes are currently in Dubai. It feels like they’re building LA in a decade or two, seriously. We take pictures along the Gulf, see the Mall of Emirates, etc. Mohammad picks us up at 8:30 to take us to dinner at Teatro – a nice chic restaurant hear our hotel that serves unbelievable food.
Yesterday, Ali picked us up to take us to the Mall of the Emirates…. he takes us on a few hours of detours first. We go to Deria, which is old Dubai, see the Gold Market, the fish market and really see all the different cultures and people throughout the Middle East. Ali is hilarious. We then end up on this River / Canal (no idea what it’s called) and get out. We end-up on a water taxi to tour Dubai. I can’t even explain how modern, chic and unbelievably beautiful Dubai really is. We see the Sheik’s sisters house (oh, before this Ali has taken us past compound after compound that the Sheik owns – they’re all HUGE), golf courses, beautiful hotels, parks, etc. It’s like a very new version of Orlando or Miami… gorgeous. After the water taxi tour we continue on our way to the Mall of the Emirates but of course Ali takes us past another hour or so worth of places – the Sheik’s residence, his workplace, where pirates used to hide, the bank that holds all the rich Emirates money, we drive up the Emirates towers drive and end up going into the second Emirates tower where it looks like every wealthy Arabic (and we can now tell where everyone is from by what their garb is) from Saudi Arabia to Iran is doing business. We go past the world’s largest horse track and then through the Camel races. We finally make it to the Mall of the Emirates which is HUGE. There’s an indoor ski mountain inside this mall – it’s the world’s largest mall. We spend time shopping and end-up only with one purchase – from the grocery store inside the mall – for cough drops, water and razors! This is a small miracle since Rach & Soog especially love to shop (good thing there’s still no room in our bags).
The best part of the entire trip so far, however, was dinner. We all went to a Lebanese Restaurant for dinner reservations at 10:30… we seriously ate until 2:00 in the morning and didn’t leave until 3:30a.m.! My body has no concept of time these days since there is no schedule for eating, sleeping, etc. There was hoards and hoards of food at this restaurant. At about midnight there was an arabic singer, around 1ish the Belly Dancer started. She was AMAZING. I can’t even explain. The entire room was completely alive with everyone cheering and dancing around – drinking some licorice concoction and smoking Sheish (what American’s call hookah – a very weak tobacco that’s flavored with anything from Strawberry to Cappucino). It seriously felt like we were at a wedding reception. Around this time Mohammad told us that the tables around us he could tell were Iraqi because of their accents…. based on what’s in the American media, etc. you would never have guessed that these very wealthy / chic individuals were who we’re at war against. It’s all sooooo surreal. It was even more unreal when 30 minutes later the last singer started and we were all together on the dance floor dancing arabian-style (which believe me, we had some dificulties with but was so much fun). Unbelivable. Unreal. I wish I wouldn’t have had my camcorder stolen but I was able to take a few movie clips on my camera. I think i’m still in awe of the whole experience.
But, our trip in Dubai isn’t over partaking in a dinner ceremony and making it back here later this evening. I can’t believe everything we have experienced. I feel incredibly lucky and completely thankful for this trip…. we would never have been able to experience everything we have if it hadn’t been for all the help we’ve gotten!!!!
Hope all is well back home!
January 03, 2007
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
The “incident”, Dubai and more…
Oh yes, there has now been an “incident” on the trip (though nothing to be concerned about, everyone is fine). So the last day in London Heidi & Jamie left to fly onto Tanzania. The rest of us, including 4 flatmates & significant others, went out for an Indian dinner. Was VERY good food…. then walked back to the flat. Got in and discovered Barrett’s laptop missing but Jesse’s was sitting right next to it so thought Susan (flatmate) must have taken his on accident thinking it was hers. I walk down to the room I was staying in and found it strange that the rug looked disturbed and my clothes from the previous night were in the middle of the floor (not where I left them). Looked down and the camcorder that was charging (and converter) were missing….. yup, can you believe this!??! There flat was burglarized while we were at dinner. Very strange – though – 3 laptops stolen (we counted and figured there were 8 available in the house no idea why they didn’t take the others), the camcorder, DP’s ipod, camera (not mine) which was right next to $40 which was NOT taken, and a toilettries bag. Yes, that’s right – a toilettries bag which thankfully didn’t have the owners Malaria pills in it. And my camera which was sitting right out in the open also wasn’t taken – only the camcorder & converter of mine (thankfully since Mom just gave the camera for Xmas). So, needless to say I didn’t sleep well that night for fright that someone was still in the flat (though we did check every closet and nook in the place). I had also just taken my Malaria pill with possible side effects of: “the feeling that someone is trying to harm you” yes, that’s what it says in the instructions for this apparent drug. Luckily, I didn’t have any side effects including the anxiety, hallucinations and depression that were likely. I did, however, have a few vivid dreams.
So did make it bright and early on my plane to Dubai. Emirates is an AWESOME airline. On the TV in front of you they not only have the 15 TV channels w/ movies, but 40 music stations AND about the same number of video games. Yes, that’s right. I played Tetris on the way to Dubai (other games available were everything from Poker to Chinese Checkers). I will say it is VERY strange looking at the airview map and seeing that you’re flying over the border or Iraq and then over Saudi Arabia to get here. Dubai looks just like Phoenix from the air…. and actually not too far away from it on land either (desert wise).
The best way to describe the city is to say it’s somewhere between a cross of Miami (beaches), Orlando (Disneyland) and Vegas (hotels, nightlife, etc). It is definitely one big work in process. There’s construction everywhere…. very very very modern city that is only 40 years old. Apparently voted “safest city” by Conde Nast too…. I can definitely tell. This may also be the most diverse place I have ever been as well. I only wish I knew the different sects each of the robes identifies. So, anyway, got in late last night… Rachel & Soogie are arriving shortly. So, have just worked-out, relaxed and enjoyed the FABULOUS hotel we’re staying at in the meantime.
I do hope everything is well with everyone back home! Based on the time-change, I figure I’m officially half-way around the world at this point 🙂 Oh – and impressively I haven’t had much jet lag despite the 7 hour change in London and then another 4 hour change here in Dubai.
January 1, 2007
A Flat in London, England
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE! The theme of last night’s new years is…. apparently the English don’t celebrate like we Americans do. There were a TON of people in Piccadilly Circus (think of it as London’s version — well sort of — of Times Square or at least it has a similar look with all the lights and huge screens) which had no ball drop, no happy new year written on the screens just about a million or so police officers in neon green jackets and a heck of a lot of foreigners.
So backing the train-up…. yesterday went to the Natural History Museum which was fun but apparently not the thing to do on a Sunday when every local has holiday and thinks the best idea is to bring the kids to a free museum. Lots of crowds. A few too many Herbie’s (bottlenecks) in the Mammal exhibit and couldn’t even get into the Dinosaur exhibit but did see a fascinating demonstration on sediment. LOL. Jamie has a friend in-town we met and went to a local pub for lunch…. then thought it was a good idea to walk to Buckingham Palace – not such a good idea when it’s freeeeeeezing out with lots of wind.
Last night for New Years we had reservations at Senor Sassi’s — cute small little Italian place near Harrod’s. I had an amazing Crepoline de formaggio (basically a crepe w/ ricotta cheese, spinach and some creme sauce). Was really really good. Went from there to a pub in Leicester Square… Turns out this place was like Scottsdale-East. Not a usual pub but more of an American place…. but it wasn’t too busy (surprise surprise) and so we hung around there playing pool and enjoying our beers. Just before midnight we walked through the tundra of people and police officers in Leicester Square went towards Trafalgar but didn’t quite make it with all the people and actually ended-up in the wrong direction in Picadilly Circus. You’d think there would be a 10-9-8…. etc. Or at least a Happy New Years music or SOMETHING. Everyone stood there looking at the screen (which never said anything other than Sanyo) and a few minutes after mid-night a few amateur fireworks went off and we called it New Years. Was actually a lot of fun even though there was no official blowing of the horns, toasting which champagne (which we actually did before that and then again a few hours later). Bars also close a bit early here so went back to Scottsdale-East bar had 1/2 a beer and was kicked-out because of closing. Ended-up back at the flat (after partaking in a Falafel) playing Spoons, rummy & tricks (lots of card games on this trip). So now it’s 12:45p.m. I’ve been up for a few hours and everyone else is still sleeping……. Maybe it was the 5a.m. bedtime!
Alright…. off I go to get some coffee (love the espresso here!) Happy New Years everyone! I’m off to Dubai tomorrow so hopefully will be able to write after I get there from somewhere!
December 31, 2006
London Edition Volume II
Happy New Years Eve! I just left what I now know is loving called the K-house (KJUK or YWCA in Norweigian) by those that frequent the place and have moved onto stay w/ my friend’s friend’s flat for the next two day before departing for Dubai 🙂
So as I mentioned in my last blog, my friends came in on Friday morning and I ended-up meeting them out at Paddington Station to greet their arrival. Oh, before that went to the British Museum that morning. Glad I went — I can’t believe how much archelogoical finds the museum had. I spent about 3 hours there and only got through about 1/3 of the place! Just enough to see the Enlightenment, Africa, Greece & Egypt exhibits. I must say I think my favorite was the Tree of Life that artists in Mogadishu created out of disassembled / cut-up machine guns.
So anyway, my friends came in and we hung out the rest of the day in Camden Town where they’re staying. They were all quite jet lagged so walking around the local area seemed most appropriate. Camden Town is not the typical tourist hang-out… there’s lots of markets, lots of interesting characters (think everything from goth to grundge) – it’s an interesting place to run into what looks like every 1980’s London rocker!After having a cider or two and some chips I vamonosed along back to Holland Park before it got too late to take the Tube. Then when I got back to the house dressed for bed and then was asked by one of the roommates if I wanted to go with the Norweigian girls for a beer at a local pub…. Good times and interesting talks.
Okay – I’m going to rush this along since I’m about to go have coffee w/ Jesse while Jamie & Heidi get ready. Long story short – and I’ll write more tomorrow – ended up in Bath yesterday. Went to the Roman Baths, Jane Austen Centre, the Pig & Fiddle and almost made it to Stonehendge but the tickets were sold out. Still having a great time and Jamie, Heidi, Jesse & Dave are great travel partners…….
December 28, 2006
British at Heart
Oh yes, I have arrived…. safe and sound with no major flight issues except for the fact that turbulence was so bad over the Atlantic the flight attendance could barely get out of their seats! Yes, and we know how much I like flying over water!!
So yesterday after I got in early morning I spent an hour in the custom’s line…. and another half an hour in the Tube line… and another hour on the Tube… before I checked into the Norwegian YWCA. As mentioned before you have to either be Norwegian or a women under 30 to stay there. I’m the only one in the entire place that qualifies based on the latter. The others, however, are trying to claim me as one of their own. Apparently I look like a Norwegian because I’ve already had 3 people ask if I’ve checked my ancestory for N roots. LOL – I told them yes have checked, and the closest I can get is Lithuanian (a collective… Ahhhhh, yes.)
So, yesterday I set out to explore Holland Park and have to admit that my first purchase in London was…. drum roll please…. Starbucks. Don’t sigh, I NEEDED some tea and the first place I encountered was a Starbucks. So I resisted. And then the second place I passed was a Starbucks and gave in (they’re everyother block here, seriously!) So after my usual Grande Earl Grey – 2 bags I walked around Holland Park and then into Notting Hill where I ended up at a cafe partaking in my favorite past time……. People watching while drinking more tea. I love the English! I figured it best to get out of my own neighborhood and explore some more – looked at and memorized a map from a bookstore (can you believe I didn’t bring any of the London maps I own) I decided my mission was to walk to Harrod’s. I’ve never been there before and it’s on the “list.” My bones were frozen by the time I hit Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. So I made a detour into the Museum of Science for two purposes……. first, warmth. Second, my 20 year old brother and cousin whooped my butt at Trivial Pursuit over the holidays and so I figured I may be able to pick-up some much needed knowledge in the museum. That didn’t last long…. I almost fell asleep in the Space exhibit and still wanted to make it to Harrod’s so I continued along my way. I won’t bore you with the rest of my walk but will say that I arrived at Harrod’s to discover IT WAS CLOSED! Yes, closed. Apparently their big annual sale starts today and so yesterday they were preparing. I looked through the windows and saw 50% Burberry signs — I almost died. I put that on the list of things to do today…. Ended up back at the Norwegian home via Tube (no way was I going to walk another few miles in the cold) and hung out for the night with the other housemates.
Today, woke up not so bright and early (jet lag) and made it downstairs just before breakfast was ending. Housemates informed me of the joy of the Oyster card (for the Tube and Bus) and ended-up back on the Tube making my way to Liecester square. Mission was to score 1/2 price tickets for some show today. Got tickets for a 2:30 showing of Les Miserables for cheap. Spent the rest of the morning walking – to Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace just in time for the changing of the guard, past Parliament, past Westminster abbey and back to the West End in time for the show. Oh – I did get in a coffee and more people watching right before the show. I could write for hours on my findings but I won’t bore you with the American vs British Country fashions. I will say I can spot an American a mile away (as I’m sure others can spot me).
AMAZING. Absolutely freaking AMAZING is the only way I can describe Les Miserables. I can hardly sit through an hour and a half movie but this 3 hour show had me entralled through its entirety. So many symbolisms, meanings, lessons and principles that I think I could probably see it many many times before catching everything. That’s the only bad part about traveling alone…. no one to analyze and discuss with!
So…. I’m having a great time so far. My friends actually get in tomorrow. I thought I was going to meet them on the 30th to make our way up to Bath, however, just saw one of them online and have now revised plans to meet tomorrow 1:30 at Paddington station. I can’t wait to see everyone else too…….. I’m hoping to get in another show before I leave on the 2nd. I still have the British Museum on my list of things to do — hopefully tomorrow morning. Oh and Harrod’s never did happen today…….. apparently Dubai is not the only place that has a shopping holiday and based on the sales I probably wouldn’t have resisted. I also eyed a few wool coats that I don’t need considering I live in Phoenix. With no room in my pack everything would have had to be sent back anyway. That’s what I need to keep telling myself — no room, resist, Katie 🙂
Alright… off I go….