Posts Tagged With: America

Itchy feet

This year, thanks to dealing with breast cancer, isn’t supposed to be a travelling year. I have set myself to plan for a holiday next year so as to celebrate being clear and free of the cancer (one can hope) and to celebrate the fact that I will turn 40 (I can hardly believe it). Strangely enough, it is not daunting me that I will hit that big milestone. As a single woman without kids I should be terrified as it will mark a big scary jump on my biological clock but somehow, because of aforementioned cancer, it has lost its scariness. I suppose being faced with a life threatening illness (even if it hadn’t reach the heavy stage) makes you appreciate all the potential birthdays you will get.

Any how, this was not meant to be the subject of this post. I am not here to talk about my boobies or my ticking clock but about my itchy feet!

I am not sure I will be able to wait until next year to go on a trip somewhere I haven’t been. First I have been invited to spend the weekend in a plush hotel in Barcelona early June. That’s one of the privileges of my job. It’s what called a FAM trip – don’t ask me what FAM means, I don’t actually know; what I do know is that it means a free weekend away flights and accommodation included, thank you very much! I have already been to Barcelona so I have done all the touristy things to do there.

NYC Skyline, courtesy of Google Images

NYC Skyline, courtesy of Google Images

Yesterday, one of my colleague was talking about trying to find a destination in Europe for a 5 days trip and I was giving her ideas of where to go and that made me long for a break away. I then went onto lastminute.com to see where I could go for 4/5 days myself (so I don’t take too many days off) and by myself (so I don’t have to rely on anyone else to be free) but without actually doing a group tour holiday and my eyes settled on New York. A city break would be ideal and I have never been to the Big Apple.

As you may have read before, I have a tendency to obsess a little when I start thinking about something like a holiday so of course, I went straight to Amazon and bought myself the Lonely Planet New York City guide so I can start looking at what I can do over 4 days and where would be best for me to stay without having to spend my time in the transport and be safe if I travel alone.

NYC Skyline, courtesy of Google Images

NYC Skyline, courtesy of Google Images

I am thinking I could go in Sept/Oct this year considering I will have been done with all the active treatments relating to my breast cancer (I have finished chemo end of March and I am about to have the operation on 21st May, so I should be finished with it before summer starts…well if summer ever starts here). It will be the opportunity for me to check out the city that is the background for many of my favourite tv shows, such as CSI:NY.

NYC, courtesy of Google Images

NYC, courtesy of Google Images

Considering the operation I am going to have and the fact that following removal of lymph nodes you have increased risks of infection, it might not be possible for me to so my African safari next year or even go anywhere which requires shots so I might have to go back to the drawing board for my grand holiday.

NYC Skyline, courtesy of Google Images

NYC Skyline, courtesy of Google Images

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Categories: Dreams, North America, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

USA Tour: My final day….4th July

It was sad to say goodbye to a few people on the night before and on 4th I had to goodbye to my little gang…Heather, Melissa and Steph all left late afternoon. I had originally decided to go back to Santa Monica to hang out and see the fireworks but after seeing how long it took yesterday to get from there to the Hacienda, I gave up on the idea.

Achim was staying until the 9th but moving hotels. He was going to a hostel in Santa Monica. As I was due to leave early on the 5th, he kindly agreed to go watch the fireworks from El Segundo (we asked the hotel if there was going to be some around) and then make his way back to his hostel instead of me trekking the 2 hours back.

We spent part of the day by the hotel pool but the fog hadn’t lifted and we were literally shivering after we enjoyed the really hot jacuzzi. We spent the rest of the afternoon in the hotel patio, chatting away and reminiscing some of the funniest moments. You could tell that everyone was slowly losing his sparkle from having to say goodbye. Finally the time came and it was just me and Achim left. We decided to go explore where the fireworks was going to be to see what wee needed to plan for.

People were already getting ready and marking their spot in the street with deck chairs and blankets. The whole area had been cordoned off so there was no traffic.

The fog had finally lifted by late afternoon so it was warming up.

The fireworks were going to be launched from a baseball stadium which had been all closed off and you could buy a ticket for $3 and get a seat in the arena and enjoy the pre-fireworks concert. We decided not to.

We walked back towards the hotel to go get some supplies for an impromptu picnic. Originally we had thought of going to dinner in one of the restaurant and then wander back for the fireworks but seeing that a lot of people were already claiming space all around, we decided it would be safer to buy some food and drinks and lay our towels out and wait for the big bang… It took a while for the sun to set and we were so close to the airport that we think we saw Steph’s plane take off…

I am sure that the fireworks would have been nicer on Santa Monica but as it stand it wasn’t too bad…

I tried to take a few pics with my Nikon Coolpix but not easy without a tripod…

We left just before it ended as Achim wanted to be the mass exodus so he could catch the shuttle bus back to the airport, where he could catch another shuttle bus to get to Santa Monica…it took him about 2hours even at that time of the night… I am glad I didn’t have to do.

I had been lucky to have been alone in my room the night before so I was a little surprise to find that I had a room mate on my way back. She was also returning from a trek. We chatted briefly and then I turned off as I wanted to be at the airport in plenty of time…you know me, I am a nervous traveller 🙂

My flight was at 11am and I got there for 8.30am so I had plenty of time to kill. Did a little last minute shopping. I had started to develop the cold that had gone around the bus in the last week of our tour so I bought some medicine to help. I also had my first McDonald…somehow, throughout the journey I had managed to avoid it…not really out of choice as I like to try out McD in the countries I visit as they always have a “local” speciality. In India I had a McMaharaja which is a chicken curry burger, in Thailand I had a McThai…which is also chicken curry type but did taste different…and in LAX I had a breakfast burrito…which is not something you get in Europe for sure!

My flight back was dreadful. My cold developed full tilt and I think I got myself a fever at some point. I couldn’t sleep despite my earplugs and eye mask because I felt hot and cold all night and I couldn’t breathe with my mouth closed and I can’t really sleep with my mouth open. I watch a couple movies but I didn’t want to spend the night doing that…I was really happy to land on Friday morning and my commute back home was long…I wasn’t supposed to go to bed on arrival so I could control the jet lag but between the sleepless flight and the fact that I felt absolutely dreadful, I didn’t last very long….long enough to take a well deserved shower and to call my Nan to reassure her that I was a live if not well…

I had 3 days to recover from the jetlag before I was due to start at my new job…unfortunately for me, jetlag decided to kick the night before my first day and stayed with me for a few more nights…of course it did.

Taking stock…

My big highlights were:

San Diego

The Grand Canyon – of course

Yosemite – for the accomplishment of the hike

Baseball game and Alcatraz in San Francisco

Santa Barbara – the whole town actually, it felt like a place I could live in.

The people… I was worried about the American people…they can have a bad reputation for being obnoxious, loud and little too much overly Christian….throughout the trip I discovered how nice and friendly they can be, I was impressed by the customer service everywhere we went (regardless of tipping convention) and I didn’t get too much Christianity shoved back at me.

My fellow travellers…we had an amazing group and I am hoping to stay in touch with a few. We are already talking about when we see each other next and I believe the first reunion is going to be in Zurich (Steph’s haunt) to go skiing. Then, it should be Aberdeen…

And here’s for the memories

More Burt Reynolds action

The girls

 

With the top boys…

 

LAX in Vegas

 

Limo action in Vegas with Lisa and El

 

With the lovely Heather…

 

I can’t wait to go back out there…The country lived up to my expectations and the people surpassed them…Now I want to see it all…I want to go to New York, I want to see Miami, New Orleans, go to Boston and see Washington and I also want to see Canada…. Until next time…

Chymeera

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USA Tour: Day 11 – San Francisco – Part 2 (30/06/12)

So…this was our final day in San Francisco and it helped me changed my mind about the city.

So far, I had been underwhelmed with the city. I had enjoyed the cable car ride and the baseball game but that was pretty much it. The city itself hadn’t wowed me as I expected…This was about to change.

So the planning for the day was: people with tickets to Alcatraz were going there in the morning and those without were staying with Mel for a nice breakfast and a drive around the city. We were all due to meet back at 11.30am to then go to Ashbury Heights (the hippy quarter) and then the Golden Gate bridge…

First hitch, our tickets included a trip to Angel Island and unfortunately, this was the first stop so we weren’t due to get to Alcatraz until noon. Ooops… Rachel left a message to Mel and we set out to enjoy our day…and that we did. I absolutely loved both island..it was beautiful and interesting at the same time.

The boat ride was really nice. A bit windy and chilly but sunny enough that it was enjoyable and we got to see San Francisco Bay under a beautiful light

San Francisco harbour

Windswept…and again, someone who doesn’t know how to use my DSLR…I should have kept those shots with my compact. Then again, being blurred means you can see all the imperfections 🙂

Alcatraz Island – at this stage, we were just passing through…

Bay Bridge

Arriving at Angel Island

Angel Island is a State Park and is known as the “Ellis Island of the West” as it housed the Immigration Quarantine park for a long time. It also was a military base for a while and still has some of the civil war barracks and hospital.

We spent 2 hours there, going around the park on the mini train.

It has beautiful views and there is a spot there where you are supposed to have the best view of the Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge…that is if the fog is kind enough to lift…unfortunately for us, it didn’t and we didn’t see anything.

Old civil war time hospital. One of the oldest construction still standing on the island

Period dressed reanactment

The Golden Gate Bridge…in the fog

Old baracks

Immigration triage

Most of the Far Eastern world immigrated through this point but also some of Europe. Although it was mostly Chinese and they were detained sometimes for months, like prisoners. Families were separated. There were some famous poems which were engraved on the wooden walls.

Being on the clock, we didn’t get to go inside any of the building. This is a shot of the free postcard you get with your ticket. It’s an image of one of those poems.

We didn’t get much time to eat as we were due back on the boat to finally get to Alcatraz.

I had been looking forward to this part. Again, hugely influenced by famous movies like Escape from Alcatraz and The Rock.

I also discovered that Alcatraz wasn’t always a prison…

The Rock

Before being a federal penitentiary, Alcatraz was of course a military base, then later on a military prison.

After the prison closed, it became the centre for Indian rights activisms.

See more info on its history here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alcatraz_Island

Of course, the audio tour centres around its time as a prison…

Cell blocks

I didn’t take many pictures inside…it felt a little disrespectful somehow and I was just so fascinated by the audio commentary. If you go there, do not hesitate to do it. The sound effects are amazing and you feel like you are living it. It is a little creepy even. Unfortunately we had to skip through a lot of the parts as time was running out and we wanted to get the first boat out. We were already way out of schedule to meet up with the others on the mainland. On the way out, we passed through the gift shop where one of the former prisoners there was doing a book signing. I didn’t buy the book as I knew I wouldn’t read it but it was amazing to see someone who had lived through this place, especially after having heard of the dreadful conditions there and having seen the size of the cells…Definitely not the luxury some prisons offer these days…there were no human rights activists for them back then…

Trying to meet up with the others once we were back at Pier 33 was a lot harder than expected. Rachel was liaising with Mel and it wasn’t going well as she wouldn’t tell us where our next step was and insisted that meet up with them at the Golden Gate Bridge even though chances are we wouldn’t have time to walk it and the bridge was in the fog so much that we wouldn’t see much. We took our time though walking between Pier 33 and Pier 39 as Lisa wanted to go to a souvenirs shop she had seen the day before and didn’t think we would have time after we met up with the others…then we struggled to actually find cabs to get to the bridge…we finally got there, to see that the bridge was invisible and we definitely didn’t have to walk it…we got in the van and returned to Pier 39! We were a little annoyed that we had to pay for cab fares when we could all have met back there without having to rush back or if she had told us we were going to go there after, we would have wasted time before and had met back with her earlier…this wasn’t good planning at all.

This is what we got to see of the Golden Gate Bridge…

Walking around Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf gave me back the excitement for the city though…

We had some free time on Fisherman’s Wharf until 6pm. Some people went into the Hard Rock Cafe…it was too busy for me and I wanted to walk around and do a bit of souvenirs shopping. Achim came with me… Later on, we were all due to meet up at Pier 20 to go on a catamaran cruise…I wasn’t too keen as I tend to be sea sick on small boats.

Amazing sea lions chilling by the pier

I shouldn’t have been worried by the cruise…it was one of the best nights we had…there was snacks served and we had all 3 drinks tokens. We shared the ride a other groups and I had a jolly time and thanks to my little acupressure bands, I didn’t get sick at all!

It was misty, windy and chilly on the boat, but luckily they had spare parkas for everyone! I regretted coming in my flip flops though as my tootsies got quite cold!

Once out of the bay though, the weather improved and we were treated to a beautiful sunset.

Mr Piggy enjoying the ride…

Left to right: Steph, Heather, The Finisher, Rachel, Tash, Melissa and James

There was another trek group with us and their tour guide decided it would be fun to wrestle on the net, pitching his group against ours, starting by a match between him and Mel…I have to admit, this was the funniest thing ever…I filmed it and it is a shame I can’t really add it here!

We sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge, still in the fog, and the weather turn called again.

Fog City Diner on Battery Street

After the cruise we went for dinner at a posh diner called Fog City Diner

The decor was quite cool and the food was really nice…It was a perfect end to what turned out to be nearly a perfect day…

Girl vs Food: Green Thai Mussels….it was creamy and had a strong kick to it but quite delicious. I enjoyed that very much and the mussels were ginormous!

Next Chapter: Santa Barbara

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USA Tour: The planning…

It is not an easy thing to write about a trip that you have been back from for a few weeks already. I always set with the best intentions on keeping a log of the daily activities and try to post to the blog whilst travelling but I always end up not having the time or the energy to put down the words.
So here I am, 6 weeks at least after I got back and decide to try to record what I can remember. I am sure, some of the memories will have faded and some will now be tainted with further knowledge but it is still fresher than in 10 years time when I really won’t remember all the details…

It all started last year, when I decided I had enough of waiting around for my friends to be available or ready to travel with me to the States. I mean, this is hardly a trip you want to do on your own, but at the same time, trying to convince 2 or 3 people to take 3 weeks off and commit to travelling together for that length of time can be tricky. I had been hoping that at some point I’d meet someone with whom I could do it but unfortunately it hasn’t happened yet. Then the last couple years have been tricky with all the recession issues, the being made redundant and the not having the guarantee of a permanent job for the following months…I kept telling myself, next year I’ll do it… Last year, I threw caution to the wind and decided it was now or never (well maybe not never, but basically the time was right) for me to take the plunge and go visit the country I had been dreaming about since I was 15! Growing up I wanted nothing more than to go to California, especially LA as all of my favourite shows were based there and I had a very glamorous view of it.
Living in the UK and having travelled a little and met incredible (and sometimes not so much so) people from around the world, I have had the chance to re-evaluate where I wanted to go…California was still where I wanted to go, but I had changed my desired city to San Francisco, having heard that LA isn’t as exciting as TV shows make it sound.

So, the decision was made…I was going to go and wanted to go to California. I also knew that the lasted I wanted was to travel alone…I hate that. I am not as adventurous as I would like to be and I have often admired and envied those people who can just pack up a rucksack and go travel on their own. The truth is I get scared easily and therefore I knew I needed to do a group thing. However, I didn’t want to end up in a group with only couples or pensioners so I had to choose my operator carefully….lucky for me, I came across TrekAmerica very quickly and from the get go, I felt that this was the solution for me. The Westerner2 BLT tour they offered seemed to be ticking all my boxes: visiting a few places in California, including SF -tick; Grand Canyon -tick, small group -tick, good for independent travellers – tick, 18-38 age group -tick! It only took me a week of ermm-ing and aah-ing before I confirmed the booking and then the long wait started.
The trip was booked for June 2012 and we were in Nov 2011!!

 

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