Sunday, 20 October 2013

How We Almost Broke Up

Nothing grows without love.
In the past I've touched on how stressful travelling together long term can be on a relationship. What I didn't realise then was how much suckier it can get when you take that already strained relationship and remove the fun holiday parts from it. Things just go from bad to worse.

No distractions, no swimming with seals or lying all day on the beach. It's just you and him sleeping in his sister's living room with no windows on an air mattress annoying the hell out of each other because you don't have jobs or that many friends. All day, everyday.  Little things turned monstrous and by week four I made the executive decision to move alone to my own sister's place a suburb away to give us some space. This only served to make things worse unfortunately as I guess we weren't actually actively acknowledging the problem. 

So after a massive pow wow that left us both exhausted at 3am in the morning I left for Berlin with friends for the week.  Just before I left that morning I carelessly asked Kevin to look after a small pot plant someone had given to me as a welcoming present. Then I left, not knowing what would be left of our relationship by the time I came back.

We agreed not to contact each other that week but that didn't stop me from mentally and emotionally obsessing over it all week. This was a critical decision and though I did my best to not burden my poor friend with all these complicated relationship issues I couldn't help but shed some tears in her presence. After thinking that we were going to break up and crying all night about it whilst listening to Taylor Swift, I realised that something that made me that unhappy can't be right. With some wise words from other friends who have been in the same boat, I decided it best to wait til the dusts setttles on our London life before doing anything drastic. We were under a lot of external stress which would hopefully be temporary.

Once I got back to London, Kevin had made the arduous trip to Stanstead airport and was there when I stepped off the plane. My heart swelled. But it was awkward, no one not knowing how to approach the situation. But upon arriving home, Kevin showed me my little pot plant I had forgotten about, telling me about how he googled how much to water it and how he was rotating it in the sun throughout the day to keep it in good shape. And that's all it took I guess. That dying little pot plant became symbolic of our life together and the fact that he had tried so hard to keep it alive gave me hope that things would work out if we both made some effort.

Two days later Kevin found us a place to live and a week later we moved in. I started work 3 days afterwards and things are truly amazing now. I guess in the darkness of the first 5 weeks it was hard to tell if things were inherently wrong with our relationship or if external stresses were making things bad. Now that we've got all creature comforts of life back like natural light and personal space, I know that we do have something great here and I'm so excited about the next 18 months in Europe.

How can you be unahppy with a view like this to wake up to?

Saturday, 14 September 2013


OK I'm starting to get into the swing of things. We've gotten a lot of the boring stuff out of the way like getting a national insurance number (like a tax file number) and opening a bank account with Barclays. Now, it's time to have a bit of fun.

All it took, was the weather to turn bad and suddenly I felt, yeah, this is starting to feel more like London. Getting into the London groove has entailed countless warm hours at a cafe, sipping chai lattes and chatting to old friends. Also I went speed-dating! Don't panic, Kevin and I are still going strong after celebrating our 9 year anniversary. No, this was for housemates. It's run by and basically you wear a sticker with your name, price range and the area you want to live in and just meet other people who you could possibly share house with. You get a red sticker if you are looking for a room and a white if you've got a spare room.

I wasn't actually looking for a place yet since Kevin's sister has kindly shared her apartment with us rent free til we find a place of our own. So since there's no pressure we figured we'd find jobs first so we can look for places nearby work. But a friend of mine was going to this gig so I figured I'd come along and be her wing-woman.

Well it turns out that I too found some lovely people that would actually like to live with Kevin and I, so we might be moving out sooner than later if they have a decent place for us all. I guess when opportunities like these arise you got to be flexible with the 'plan'. 

I also discovered that London's first cat cafe (following the success of those in Tokyo) was opening up soon! Ten minutes from where we live! I think we all know by now how much I love cats so this is certainly right up my alley and I am so excited about it I'm hoping to be involved with it somehow. Toni Nguyen, cat hostess. Has a nice ring to it. Anyways, they will likely be recruiting within the month but tomorrow I'm heading over there to help out with some of the set up stuff so hopefully more opportunities arise. Otherwise it's back to being a vet for me. They both involve cats so it's all good.

Anyways, I'm really excited about London now and after speaking to some other Aussie expats it seems completely normal to feel a bit of shock/depression/displacement once arriving here so I'm glad I had the support network I did and now I can finally relax and enjoy myself. More from me soon.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

The Transition

I've been a lost soul since arriving in London. Unable to write the numerous NYC posts I had planned. Constantly tired and overwhelmed. Admittedly I've been feeling a bit depressed. New York was the final chapter to our grand adventure now I've got that sad, empty feeling you get when you've just finished the best book you've ever read.

What now?

There's an mounting pressure to return to reality. We've had to face a growing pile of paperwork in order to prepare to re-enter the workforce. And find a place to live. And do our taxes. Thinking about everything on this 'to do' list stressed me out so much in my first few days here I would wake up in a flurry throughout the night and my stomach was always in a tight knot.

Today, it feels as if I did nothing as I mostly lounged about the house, eating jack fruit and reading Eat, Pray, Love. But in fact, I spent a large part of the day re-writing my resume that I submitted to be part of the opening on London's first cat cafe. I'm unsure that anything will come out of it but the point is that it was something and I was really excited by the prospect. 

It likely would have been easier if we had gone straight from our Sydney life to this London life, but having absolute freedom for the past 6 months has made our current lifestyle here seem lack luster. I'll give myself a two week grace period from life in general to process this change and then I'll get around to rebuilding life here. We'll see what happens.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Holy Shit, I Love New York City

OK, I've written four different posts about New York City and none I have been happy with. I just can't seem to capture the spirit here without using super lame words like 'magic' and 'buzz'. So instead I'm just going to tell you about tonight. 

It's currently 5.30am in the morning. I'm writing a blogpost because I'm still hyped up from the two whole ciders and shot of whiskey that I had earlier tonight. And as you may or may not know, that is WAY over my usual limit. It was Sophie's (our roommate) birthday yesterday and we all had a bit of a house get together at the Spritzelhaus. We're in Williamsburg, Brooklyn so it being super trendy but in a nonchalant way is a given.

It doesn't sound that exciting on paper, drinks at a local german beer house. But it has been one of the best nights of my life. All of our roommates have been so crazy awesome in our airbnb place and have made us feel so much at home. Sophie is this amazing photographer/creative but looks like sexy fairy (and yes, I did mention this to her multiple times over the course of my drunken evening). It's a compliment so it's fine and not at all creepy in my books. Isaac, who sings and laughs all day and smokes weed (very happy to share with us btw) all night out in the courtyard is also, super nice. And Maria and Greg who have the most romantic story and again, so nice. But you know, not nice as in boring, white bread nice. Like LOL, WTF, OMFG crazy nice. 

And then there's their friends who are now our friends too like Coop, Camp, Schlomeet and Mosche. Holy shit, we have made a lot of friends here in New York now and we've been here 3 weeks. It's beautiful and wonderful and I can't tell you how much I love this group of people like they were old buddies that go way back. We all went on a road trip to beach together, we went to Congee Village, we have had constant periods of just 'hanging out' in various places around the house. On the stoop, in the courtyard, at the local meatball shop. The options were limitless.

Hanging out at the beach.
Hanging out on the stoop.
I've been watching a lot of HBO 'Girls' since I got my new laptop and my body clock won't let me sleep til at least 4am (which is terrible since there is construction next door and we are woken up by incredibly loud jack hammering everyday at 8am).  Anyways, Girls is set in Brooklyn about young people just hanging out and getting into weird but kind of cool situations, I'm kind of feeling like we're all in our own version of 'Girls'. 

Anyways, we just drink and smoke weed and have awesome conversations all night until the angry Polish neighbour yells at us and tells us we have 10 minutes before she calls the cops with the exception of Sophie who has the angelic voice of all the Disney princesses meshed together so she would be the only one who is allowed to continue talking. Then we just go inside to Isaac's room and continue our rambling because this house has no living room. 

I can't verbalise why this night was so special for me. It was better than getting in free at MoMa (famous NY art museum), or riding the Staten Island ferry and seeing the statue of liberty, or even doing some amazing shopping. It was just a night I could be me, people liked me for it, and I felt like I belonged here in this house with these people. This has been the grand finale. Because it doesn't really matter where we go and what sights we see. And the end of the day, it's the people we meet and the experiences we have with them that has made this amazing journey what it is and why I love the shit out of New York City. Mad love for you guys. 

p.s. I'm sorry if this post is not quite the usual coherent collection of words I come up with, but again, I am drunk and it's now 6am. 
p.p.s It is now 8am and I just went for a jog across the Williamsburg Bridge because I was still feeling hyped up and now I'm very sleepy.
p.p.s I've been told that the angry Polish neighbour was actually saying that she could hear Sophie's voice the most (probably because it's so distinct) but not in a good like I had thought. 

Monday, 19 August 2013

The Quarter Life Crisis

Somewhere between 25 and 30 years of age, one begins to do a lot of thinking. Is this job what I really want to do for my whole life? Is this person I am with the person I want to be with forever? Am I truly happy? Those deep life questions that rarely have an immediate answer. You stop the aimless wandering of youth and want to stride more purposefully, even though you're yet to know which direction you're heading. 

It does seem that we're spoilt as a generation. We have more gender equality, more disposable income, the capacity to find new careers, the opportunity to travel to virtually anywhere in the world. The older generation would certainly find our haphazard way of living selfish but I'm sure they would have liked to be given these choices as well. And that's just it, there are just so MANY choices for us. It's intimidating.  

In the past few years, many of the Gen Y people I know have made radical life decisions. They said 'fuck it' and took on new careers, carried through creative ideas, started businesses, had a family and a lot have taken on the idea to travel. We are all now officially adults. And just as we're realising that we're adults we're panicking that at this very point in time we may not be the person we were hoping we'd be.

Am I the person I want to be? Absolutely not. But I am more so than what I was last year and the year before that. In fact if I met the person I was five years ago, I'd probably be very annoyed with her. But that's a good thing. This continual shedding of one's shell. If at 28 I can look back and see progress, I'm looking forward to a similar reflection at 35, and 50. And hopefully when I die at a nice ripe old age of 90 I can look back without regrets. I think 62 more years is plenty of time to do everything I wanted to do. Surely.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Texans Take Their Ribs Seriously

What's the first thing you should do in Texas? Well eat some BBQ meat y'all. And Franklin BBQ in Austin is pretty much an institution. It's fame is so widespread that there are some very specific things you need to know about this place before you even think about coming here. Firstly they open at 11am until they run out of food (which is roughly around 1pm). Then that's it, see ya later. Come back tomorrow to try your luck again. And if you showed up at 11am thinking about having some ribs for lunch then that ain't happening because you're probably going to be at the back of a very long line, sweating it out in the Texan heat and worrying about missing out.

Going to Franklin's is like going camping. You need to be prepared. Firstly it's going to be hot. 40 degree kind of heat. So I froze some water bottles the night before to keep us hydrated and cool. I also brought sunscreen and borrowed an umbrella. Because standing around in the sun for 3 hours unprotected is a terrible idea. 
A lot of people brought those portable camping chairs. Excellent idea as sitting on the concrete  cuts off circulation to your legs and bum pretty quickly, as we found out. You can also hire chairs from a very entrepreneurial fella who sets up shop every day at 9am across the road. See what I mean when I say this shit is serious. 
$5 per chair, pretty good deal.
So I haven't set my alarm clock for awhile now. If I wake up at 10am then the day starts then. It's a holiday after all. But today, 7.30am I was up and ready to go. Luckily we were only 6 blocks away so we walked and even at 8am we were not the first there. But we were 4th which was pretty good and soon after the line pretty wrapped around the building and all the way across the parking lot which is about two blocks long. 
We had brought books and our ipods but luckily we had a very entertaining line mate, Ella, who had come into Austin for a drug prevention convention. She had spent 28 years in the NYPD as a detective and had a few awesome stories about her time there and some great life advice on being a short, black, woman in a predominately white, male workforce. The hours flew by, we had cool breezes, had some shade and before we knew it, people were quickly packing away their deck chairs and ready to head in. 

Chillin' like ice cream fillin'.
We ordered 2 pounds of pork ribs and a melt in your mouth pound of beef brisket which was probably one of their smaller orders they got that day but it still added up to a hefty $60 (including tax and tip). We sat down with Ella and the conversation continued. For some reason she mistook 'Toni' for 'Peggy' so I was Peggy for that day but I didn't mind. It's a nice name and I didn't have the heart to correct her. The meat was so tender and juicy yet full of a rich and sweet BBQ flavour. The ribs had so much meat on them that just fell off and you smear it one of the three BBQ sauces they had to offer and you're in BBQ heaven baby. 

It was super hot by the time we finished our meal and the walk back was uncomfortable compounded by the meat sweats we were having.  Needless to say I was in dire need of a quick shower and a long nap. Overall, going to Franklin BBQ wasn't just a meal, but a true Texan experience. Yeeeeehar!

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Southern Hospitality

'I have always depended on the kindness of strangers'.
Blanche DuBois, A Streetcar Named Desire.

If you're too young to remember the actual play written by Tennesee Williams you may recall the Simpsons adaption where Marge plays Blanche in a local production and Ned Flanders plays the primal Stanley. I was very interested to discover that the play is actually based in New Orleans.  In fact, they even have a competition once a year where actors battle re-enacting the inflamous "STELLLLA"!" shouting scene here. We even stayed near Elysian Field's Ave in Marigny which is where Stella lives.

Now the infamous line about the kindness of strangers at the end of the play is meant ironically as Blanche is actually getting committed to a mental institution by Stanley after he rapes her. But down here in the South, there's a ring of truth to it regardless of it's orginal context. People are just so damn nice here. 

We flew into San Antonio in Texas, where the elderly owner of our airbnb place had offered to pick us  up from the airport despite it being quite late. He then preceded to show us around the neighbourhood and took us out for a drink (even though we were exhausted from traveling all day). In my suspicious mind this was quite alarming as we had just met him, we were in his car and we were driving down unknown, pitch black, narrow roads. Was he getting us drunk on purpose?! 

No (as we are not dead in a shallow grave in his backyard) he ended up been just an overly hospitable, harmless man who just couldn't stop talking about his first cousin, a famous jazz musician and kind of creepily flirting with young waitresses, pretending to know them. He was just lonely I think as he did take us out and paid for our riverboat cruise which ended up being dinner and a drink as well. Though I don't know if it was worth it as we then had to endure his endless monologue, omg, he was just so old.

These were ACTUAL conversations we had.
After a very long 24 hours we bid old George farewell and drove ourselves to Austin. We had such an awesome time in our week here thanks to the hospitality of our airbnb host Aleza, who was the opposite of George! She was our age, so friendly and funny PLUS she had two awesome dogs for me to cuddle all week (they probably got a bit sick of me). She even invited us out dancing one night which was really cool as Austin is the live music capital and she taught us a bit of Columbian salsa like dancing. There was an easygoing, casual feeling in the bar and it was just really easy and fun to talk to people and do a bit of dancing. I wish Sydney had more casual places like this. I even got in wearing thongs (flip flops)!

And now, we're in New Orleans. Just on a simple trip to the local grocery store for a poboy, we met a lovely elderly African American man and his wife waiting for their order who just struck up a conversation with us and shook our hands and wished us the best of luck (in a really genuine way) when they took their leave. Just after, we were chatting to the Vietnamese owner of the store who showed us his recent holiday picture in good ol' Cabramatta in Sydney. And THEN we saw a crazy lady walking towards us ranting and swearing for no reason but when she reached us, instead of verbally abusing us as we expected, she paused, smiled and greeted us with a friendly 'Hey y'all'. We are constantly smiling from the kindess of strangers in the South. It's infectious in the most beautiful way.

It'll probably be a rude shock once we hit New York. I can just picture the old stereotype now "Haye wortch it, I'm warking hare!". I'll just try to keep up my Southern manners for as long as possible.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Top 5 Things To Do in Yellowstone National Park

1. Check out Mammoth Hot Springs
These amazing geothermal waterfalls and rock formations make some stunning photographs with the bright oranges and sulpurous whites. I have yet to see anything like this.

2. Take Instagram photos of Grand Prismatic Spring
It's hot and smells like rotten eggs but the springs in Yellowstone again, make some beautiful photographs. The bright colours are due to thermophilic bacteria which form the rich reds, yellows, blues and greens in these pools.

3. Swim in the Boiling River
I went on my birthday and it felt like the fountain of youth. It's a natural river that is also fed by a hot spring river making it lovely spot to sit for hours if you can find a spot that has a good mix of both hot and cold waters. 

4. Swoon in the West Yellowstone Discovery Centre
I loved the bird talk where they brought out this tiny owl called Arcadia who was the size of a cup. Cutest thing ever! It was a good place to check out bears, wolves and bald eagles up close as they are pretty hard to spot in the wild.

5. Pretend You're David Attenborough in Hayden/Lamar Valley
Thousands of bison and their babies (we went mid July) is quite the sight. We were lucky enough to have them cross the river and get really close to us. We also spotted heaps of other animals like a grizzly bear, pronghorn deer, osprey and normal deer. Amazing when you can see these animals in their natural habitat.

Friday, 2 August 2013

Happy blogaversary!

It's been five months exactly since we left Sydney and I thought it'd be a good time to pause and reflect for a moment.

First up to every one who is reading my poorly proof read posts, I just want to say a big thank you! Your comments and kind words always fill me with a heartwarming joy and makes me feel closer to you despite the distance. To those readers from Russia, I wish I knew who you were and wonder often about you considering you are my third largest reader demographic. Please feel free to introduce yourself so if I am struck down by a New York taxi tomorrow I can die fulfilled.

Is this who you are Russian readers?
Life on the road can sometimes be a lonely one and just knowing that I can still share this part of my life with others has allowed me to appreciate this journey even more and document in a way that I can look back on years from now and experience it all over again. I only wished that my friends who are on their own exciting paths would share more in-depth stories of their lives online. Please think about it guys, I promise I will read all your blogs!

And finally I made y'all a present! It's a picture of Amelie as a unicorn.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

A Tightass in Seattle

For those that are unfamiliar with the term it's not as gross as it sounds. It just means that you think very carefully about how you spend your money. I've always tried to spend my money wisely, but the last few days has really showed the extent of how far I'll go.
Every city has a few touristic sites it has on offer, whether it be a zoo, rose/Japanese garden or large monument. The majority of these rarely offer anything new and really interesting and the ones you do end up going to you do so for the sake of saying that you've been there, with a few photos to prove it. And they are usually stupidly expensive which is why only tourists go.
I often prefer to just get a feel of a new city we're visiting by strolling/biking around the different neighbourhoods, eating a awesome local restaurants and try to find free local events/fairs/festivals that are on. Our first day in Seattle we went to the 'wooden boat festival' and signed up for a free sailing lesson on a vintage wooden sailing boat. Now this is an example of just normal non tightass behaviour. Sailing lessons in Sydney are really expensive so who wouldn't jump at the chance for a free one right?

Well later that day we were walking around downtown Seattle and a guy offered us some help because we were staring at the street map for awhile. This guy ended up working for a timeshare company and asked us if we would be willing to go to a sales 'presentation' in exchange for $70 worth of tickets to Seattle's attractions. Now I would have normally walked away from these scammy-feeling deals but he was offering tickets to see the Chihuly glass garden which was the ONE paid attraction that I was willing to part money with after I fell in love with his installation at the Bellagio in Vegas. We also got the visit the space needle (like centrepoint tower in Sydney) as part of the deal.
I thought the presentation was going to be this boring powerpoint presentation in a big room full of equally tightass people and it was going to be SELL SELL SELL. But actually it was a smallish room and it was Kevin and I talking one on one to this young, friendly guy whilst eating free cake and sandwiches for 1 1/2 hours. We all knew that no timeshares will be bought that day (even though he was offering a heavily discounted rate of just $18 000) but he did his spiel, we got free cake and at the end we walked away with free Chihuly tickets. Huzzah! We also got a $25 restaurant voucher but it was an expensive restaurant we probably would spend another $50 there anyways because entrees would start at $20 or something.
So we went the space needle (which was ok but kind of boring) and Chihuly glass garden (which was stunning and of the likes I have never seen before) but this unused restaurant voucher was eating at me. There was no minimim spend on it so it would be like throwing away money if we didn't use it right? Even if we just had dessert there just to use it up? Kevin told me to forget it as it wasn't worth the effort but at the end of the day my tightassness won and I found myself rushing to this fancy pants waterfront restaurant to order two desserts and a clam chowder to takeaway 10 minutes before closing time.
I knew it would annoy them and I palpably felt how cheap I was being as I handed over the extra 25c I owed them but I have reached a point of such zen-like tightassness that I no longer care what people think of me as long as I'm saving money. To which the ultimate goal is not to hoard like Scrooge McDuck and just look at it but to put it to better use like buying as much ice cream as I want.
Best thing at the space needle was seeing this guy, remind you of anyone?
And since Kevin didn't even want any of the two pieces of cake or clam chowder I ended up sharing it with some folks at the hostel and bought their love through free food. One girl was eating a microwaved bagel with grape jelly for dinner for god sake and another guy was eating canned spaghetti that looked a lot like Hills I/D canned food (dog food). They were really happy about my offerings and happy to hear me yammer on about how I obtained all this free cake. And as canned spaghetti guy says "any story that ends with cake is a good one", and so ends mine.  I will now go lie down to nurse my bursting belly.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Fireworks Are Fun!

We were meant to be in Seattle for Independence Day but we ended up staying in Portland for 3 days longer as we couldn't bear to leave it earlier. As life would have it, this worked out in the most awesome way possible. There were a few places we could have went to watch the official fireworks that night but we thought it would be more interesting to buy our own since they are illegal in Australia. So that afternoon we walked down to the local fireworks stand with our hostel buddy Blake and bought an assortment of goodies to blow up that night. We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing, playing frisbee, drinking tea and eating scrumptious gelato from Salt & Straw. I was kind of hoping for a more exciting day but hey, at least we had fireworks.
 So whilst we were frisbeeing in the backyard Dave the compost guy* came by and casually invited us to his friends house party with the promise of food and lots of illegal fireworks that one of them had gotten on an Indian reservation or something like that. I was a bit hesitant freeloading off a stranger's party but Dave being the nice Portland guy that he was assured me it was more than fine. So as awesome as our current frisbee game was we abandoned it to search for the 'red house with the canoes in front of it' since Dave came on bike and had to quickly return to the party with the coal.

The house we arrived at was as Portland as Portland can get. It was a lovely red, wooden two storey building with fairy lights at the front, communal fire pit and vegetable garden in the back. The food was all vegan but actually tasted really good and even looked amazing thanks to all the edible flowers they had used from their own backyard. We met Molly (one of the housemates who lived there) who looked like how I imagine Blossom** would look 20 years on. She was so nice and seemed genuinely happy for 5 complete strangers to be in her houses, scoffing down her beautiful food and drinking her organic punch.

There was a MASSIVE pile of fireworks by the front door that looked like a pile of Christmas presents under a tree. The piddly pile we had brought to the party was almost embarrassing but it was nice to contribute something to the festivities.

So after an initial introduction of blowing some fireworks off the roof and some fire dancing courtesy of our new friend Ryan (who appeared to be a pyromanic with circus skills) we all piled out on the road for the  real fun to begin. The one firework I was most intrigued by was the chicken one that we brought. It had the firework in it and a balloon attached at the butt end. So after making a hilarious 'why did the chicken cross the  road' joke I lit that baby up and what unfolded cracked everyone up.
 The chicken spun around a bit and then made a loud exploding noise and sparked a bit. Then for the finale the balloon inflated which supposedly represented it laying an egg. It was yellow after all. Afterwards it was a good hour of consistently blowing stuff up which included a watermelon cut in half with an explosive in it and then taped back together. There were firework wands that would shoot sparkles right out as you hold it up and really big ones that you light up and run away really fast.

Being that close to the action was surreal and a little scary. There was one big one that blew out sideways rather than up and scared the bejeezus out of everyone. We all had ringing ears for awhile but after the initial shock wore off the fun continued. All the neighbours who had their cars parked on the street got scared about how big the blasts were and moved their cars out of the way but were still surprisingly nice about it.
 So with smoke filled clothing and singed fingers we eventually said our goodbyes to our new friends and the best thing was being so warmly thanked for crashing their party and getting the longest, warmest hug I've ever received in my whole life by Molly. For me it was one of the craziest and best nights of my life filled with noise, light and kindness but for them, it's probably just another day in Portland. 

I love you Portland.

*Our hostel was also a community centre where Dave was running a compost program and we went to a compost skillshare he ran one morning. 
** Blossom was a 90's TV show about a quirky yet charming teenage girl with a distinctive hat.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

My LA Family Part 2

After 3 weeks of wandering about we arrived back in LA to catch an early flight to Portland. And like last time my Aunt opened up her home to us for the night. It also gave us a chance to meet the rest of my LA family which included my Aunt's other children Don and Melanie and their respective spouses Katie and Jake. We had a really fun family gathering that night where we were taken to this awesome Asian buffet that best of all, had sushi. And not just rubbish rolls like in Vegas which consisted of mostly tuna and cucumber. Bleh! No, this place had the good stuff, nigiri rolls and endless amounts of it. There was heaps of yummo asian food there and this place was far superior to the ones in Vegas but the highlight was just to get to know my cousins better.

Most if not all of them are accountants for Disney which is kind of funny. Melanie moved from Disney to CBS where she gets to go to these mad industry sales where you can buy stuff they use on the sets of tv shows like CSI. You can buy furniture, clothes and pretty much everything they have on set and it's super cheap. She bought a cabinet for $25 and the guy working there told her she can have for free whatever she can fit inside it. Which ended up being a lot of clothes including suits worth a few hundred bucks with the tags still on them. I love a good bargain story and this one takes the cake. 

Another moment of the night was when Melanie was feeding Don's 6 month old, Wyler, some banana pudding. It was like pacman in his invincible stage where he runs around gobbling everything up frantically. "MORE PUDDING!!" his eyes and mouth demanded even though he can't really verbally express what he wants just yet. It's hard to describe the hilarity of his facial expressions and I wish I took a photo but I think I was having a parallel experience with my endless about of sushi and hence was a bit distracted at that point. 

Needless to say I wish we could have stayed longer with them as it really felt like being at home and that's a nice feeling after for months of being a foreigner.

Friday, 12 July 2013

You Had Me at Hello, Portland

I've known for awhile now that I don't belong in Sydney. And a big part of my reason for traveling is to find a place that does feel right. If I could imagine a place with all of my favourite things, it would have the following:
- fantastic gelato shop with crazy flavours
- delicious dessert bakery
- lots of greenery and the smell of jasmine flowers everywhere
- well looked after dogs and cats everywhere
- high number of craft shops and markets 
- bike riding culture
- lots of friendly, chilled out people 
- nice weather
- Asian food

Portland ticks all these boxes and so many more, that within hours of being here I knew I never wanted to leave. I'd never have thought I'd want to be an American what with their stuffed up health care and ridiculously expensive college system but I find myself increasingly jealous of these Portlandians with their relaxed lifestyles and creative outlets. 

This really feels like a utopian society where people enjoy nice things like hand crafted clothes and macaroons for breakfast yet haven't become all pretensious and douchy about it. In fact, we're constantly being hello'd at or told to have a nice day by complete strangers. One lady even complimented my dress (and she wasn't in a store trying to sell me something). But you know what this town is missing. Terrariums. And I know just the person. But somehow I don't think the US immigration office will take that as an acceptable reason for permanent residency. So until I can find a way to weasel my way back here I will just have to watch lots of episodes of Portlandia (which I'm told is quite accurate) and put birds on everything.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

A Random Post For a Random Place - Vegas

Before Kevin and I arrived in Las Vegas we joked that we were going to be party so hard we would wake up the Hangover style in the San Francisco Greyhound bus station. But the reality of the situation is that I don't gamble. I don't really like strippers (sorry Kevin). And we didn't really want to go to any shows. So what were we going to do for our five days in Las Vegas?

We filled up our time surprisingly well actually. Firstly we were very pleasantly surprised at how large and nice our queen room at Bally's was. And it was right in the middle of the strip too. We spent most of those hot days lounging about by the pool, trying to fill in the gaps of my glaring thong tan (that's flip flops to you non-Australians). It's actually been years and years since I had a holiday doing absolutely nothing so this was a nice holiday from our holiday. Then when the temperature dropped we wandered about the strip, checking out all the free attractions of the various big hotels there.

Loving our room. Ahh space, I've missed you.

The best by far was at the Bellagio. Their fountain show every fiften minutes always offered something new and would never fail to bring a smile to my face and a tap in my feet. Then going into the hotel itself is like walking into Alice in Wonderland. I LOVED the large stained glass flowers that covered the ceiling that was done by Chihuly. And then there was the conservatory which had it's own aviary full of coloured finches and different displays full of colour, birds and other magical elements that was really inspiring. It felt like I was inside a giant terrarium!

Then there was the aquarium and free show at Caesar's, the wildlife habitat at Flamingo's and the canals at the Venetian. They were pretty cool too and helped to fill up some time but because everything felt a little artifical and just not quite right I wasn't falling off my seat impressed. They also had a fake eiffel tower at our hotel, a fake pyramid and a fake statue of liberty. It was all a bit crazy and over the top. But that's what Vegas is all about I guess.

What was truly spectacular however was the day tour we took to the Grand Canyon. Instead of just a big hole in the rock like I had thought it was, it was more of a landscape of layers of rock and large structures of interesting shapes and colours. Yes it was pretty hot but we got ice cream and enjoyed just wandering around the different vista points. We didn't have time to do any trails there but we weren't really keen on it anyway because of the extreme heat.

The other impressive thing we saw was the amount of food people can eat. We knew it wouldn't be the best but we thought we should try the many buffets in Vegas with the 24 hour Buffet of Buffet pass which allows you go into 6 different hotel buffets as many times as you want for that period of time. We timed it out so we got four meals out of it, which isn't bad for $50 per person. The best was breakfast and on the spot crepes at Paris and the dinner at Spice market buffet in Planet Hollywood. The prawns were awful but the crab legs were good and we ate A LOT of them. Needless to say, I over ate at every meal and was left nursing a stomach ache for a lot of that 24 hour period. An experience for sure but I was relieved when it was over. The same could be said for my Vegas experience overall. 

Unlimited cupcakes!! Stomach inducing for sure.
Showing some restraint.