Hey Hollywood! 

America, Uncategorized

What better way to end the trek than a day in Hollywood. A new movie starring Ryan gosling was premiering tonight and I was basically just wandering the boulevard hoping I might spot him, catch his eye and he would fall in love with me immediately.Then we would run away together and he would build me a house and row me down the river every afternoon at sunset.

Anyway, that obviously didn’t happen, so I compensated by spending money in forever 21 on new clothes because the ones I was wearing felt horribly unflattering and were obviously the reason Ryan and I aren’t eloping right now.

Hollywood is an interesting place though. I dislike it as much now as I did when I was here in 2001 and yet it is still oddly fascinating. 

I managed to find the Harry Potter hand prints outside the Chinese theatre and get lost in the tackiest souvineer shop I’ve seen all trip. 

We finished at our LA hotel and not quite ready to leave, those of us staying an extra night went out for pizza together. 

I am finding it difficult to even sum up the last three weeks. I’ve made so many new friends, seen so many incredible things and basically rediscovered life on the road as I do on every trip. 

There is something exciting about not having concrete plans and living simple out of a suitcase. Having the freedom to meet people from all over the world in hostels and on the road is such a privilege. I love watching the countryside change from day to day and the beauty nature hides around the world never stops being amazing. 

These kind of trips always leave me inspired to see more, do more and be more.

Next stop, Hawaii. 

A bit of craziness in New Orleans

America, Uncategorized

Alligator hunting was not the fearsome experience I had hoped for, but still loads of fun.

Like many travellers before me, I had big expectations of New Orleans. I heard so much about how quirky and fun it was to hang out there and I imagined myself decked in beads wandering the colour filled streets in the evening and alligator hunting through the day.
As we pulled up out the front of our properly lush hotel, a delightful man appeared by our group. We didn’t realise what was happening until he tried to follow us into the lifts from the hotel lobby. 
I think he was on something illegal but a few of us notified staff and hung around waiting for someone to deal with the situation. In true Aussie style, we cracked a beer and just hoped he had left.
Our first night out involved trying authentic Cajun food. Due to my seafood allergy I had to settle for chicken gumbo. Frankly I was disappointed.

 Firstly, my landlord made me a much better gumbo a few days before I left Australia. Secondly, they didn’t offer us dessert despite the fact pecan pie was clearly on the menu.
I mean can you believe the nerve? I got the impression we were considered “just tourists” so it didn’t really matter if we enjoyed the food or not.
Out on bourbon street, it was far less seedy at night. Well, either that or it was just too dark to see. The music wasn’t as good as Memphis and I felt the vibe was lacking (possibly because, as I later found out, it was a Tuesday). 
In defence of New Orleans however, both the hurricane and the hand grenade were delicious cocktails and most of the group couldn’t feel their faces by the time we got back to the hotel. 
Sensibly, I managed to palm off most of my hand grenade to others in the group.

Delicious cocktails made for a fun night and a rough morning.


We did also take a tour of a swamp to spot snakes, turtles and alligators. 

Again, I really enjoyed this but I have done something similar in the Daintree rainforest at home and seen crocodiles that could happily eat a human in one gulp. I also recently had a funnel web spider infestation in my house and just before I left for the trip, my brothers best mate was attacked by a shark.
So when I saw a non-venomous tree snake sleeping on a branch I wasn’t overly impressed and I definitely wasn’t concerned despite the gasps of horror from the other Americans on the boat with us.

The scariest thing was having an ice addict chase our car down the road trying to get in and wading bare foot through knee deep floods to get back to the hotel entrance. 
It poured with rain throughout the second afternoon and we stayed put in the hotel for a nap before venturing out for a wander to get coffee and beignets.
Did the sensible thing for dinner and shared a cheese platter with some red wine in a slightly off the the beaten track pub. Much more pleasant.
Night time was spent on a ghost and voodoo tour of the French quarter. Our guide was definitely a bit of a nut bag but she was great, and super knowledgeable on the history of the city. Surprise surprise, I didn’t see, hear, feel or get photos of any ghosts, but I did learn a lot about New Orleans and its debauchery. I fell a little bit more in love with it after that. With more time I would have made the trip to Frenchmens street for some proper music. I think the city was starting to grow on me and perhaps if I’d done this it would have made the New Orleans experience a little more enjoyable. Luckily the company was good and we still had fine despite the crazies and rain.

 

The best kind of blues in Memphis

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The original Sun Studios microphone which Elvis, BB King and Johny cash have all brushed their lips over.

Walking through sun studios is an experience I would recommend to anyone with even a modicum of interest in blues and country styles of music. 

It is where so many greats started their music journey.

Elvis Presley was one of the earlier artists to record and they hated him. The secretary liked him and kept pushing for him to be considered for something more, however it took more than a year for this to happen. 

It made me feel so much better that someone like Elvis started small. There is hope for me yet! 
Aside from the inspiring stories of success, it was special to stand in the recording room and imagine the nights of music that must have taken place there. 

We also made a stop at Graceland, the home of Elvis. I loved the jungle room with its shag carpet ceilings. 

 

Graceland

 
His is both an inspirational and tragic story. In some ways, I like that we will never see him as an old man. He is preserved forever in youth. He still makes hearts bleed after all this time and while I wish everyone a long life, since he didn’t get this, I’ll just keep swooning. 
Nights in Memphis are like nowhere else. Both nights we spent out on Beale Street, we found a fantastic blues band to sit and listen to. The people here are so talented and yet they play for free every night, living off tips. 
If you ever get the chance, check out Cowboy Neal the real deal guitarist. He entertained us on Tuesday night for over an hour with his next level guitar skills. I just sat at a bar, drinking cheap American beer, tapping my cowgirl boots to original songs that I had never heard in my life but we’re so easy to listen to I could have stayed forever. 

Memphis reminded me of Wollongong. Grungy, a little dodgy (there were two drive by shootings while we were there) but so much character. 

Take me back anytime. 

“Freedom is not free”

America, Uncategorized

After a day wandering through Washington DC, it became unequivocally clear that there was plenty of truth in the quote used at the Korean War memorial, “freedom is not free”.

The capital is an incredible place. Clean, grand buildings and an auora of professionalism and sophistication at every compass point.

A lot of it however, has been made possible by extreme sacrifices. This applies to every aspect of American life. 

We wandered through the monuments and I particularly enjoyed the Lincoln memorial. The reflection pool is brilliant, though given the ovcat day there was little reflection from it. 
  

Once the monuments had been ticked off, we moved onwards to the museums. I split from the group to go to the newseum. It was the best museum I’ve ever been in. 

Partly because it was specifically interesting to me as a journalist to see the history of media and how it has developed over time, and the way things are represented in the media now.

It was eye opening in so many ways but especially how many are willing to die for their story. To get the truth into the world. 

Journalists during 9/11 were among the only people in New York not fleeing the city. Instead they were running towards danger. 

Overseas, journalists congrats the conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Iran are being killed for no valid reason. Some have been taken hostage for two years before being beheaded by Isis. 

Others wrote something a government didn’t like and were killed for it. 

It really put Australian media into perspective. 

these are the faces of journalists who have e been killed on the job. There are hundreds, and space to add more.

  

Unfortunately the capitol is being done up so there is scaffolding all the way around the dome.

 

As we drove out of New York, I definitely looked back

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Here I sat fror an entire morning, devouring the New York Times from cover to cover. #lifegoals

There was something we needed to do before we left New York. Visit the original Magnolia Bakery in the West Village. Up to 69th we trekked in search of the ultimate American baked goods. 

After spending 10 minutes feeling overwhelmed by cake, I selected a lemon slice to go, took it to Central Park and read the New York Times from cover to cover. This took me until lunchtime. It was a perfect New York moment and a fabulous way to finish the week. 

Actually the New York Times is such a great paper. It is so internationally focussed and the articles are long enough to go into depth about big picture issues. This is the kind of content I miss living in a small town sometimes. People don’t care so much about Chinese scandals and my articles are never long enough to go into an in depth analysis. Even if they were, our stats say people hardly ever read past the first few lines of our stories. On a sunny patch of grass in Central Park, I gave writers the courtesy of reading their work in full and took the time to care about things happening in the world that were in no way related to me or anything I do. 

We blundered our way to New Jersey later in the afternoon to start the next leg of our trip. Luckily our driver took pity on us because a it turns out, the Hilton airport hotel is not within walking distance from the airport at all. 

It is a bloody nice hotel though. Luxurious enough I could probably holiday here without leaving the room. I dare say it will be the last of the luxuries for a while. We even had dinner at the restaurant and didn’t share a meal… 

Tomorrow we will make our way to Washington DC, and so begins our trek to the other side of America. 

Girls who stare at goats

America, Uncategorized

I spent a good portion of Thursday morning making friends with goats at the children’s zoo in Central Park. 

A visit to the Central Park zoo is a must in New York. Just for the juxtaposition. In the middle of this concerted jungle are a few bears, red pandas and a tropical rainforest oasis. 

Also, there are goats you can feed. Which I did because they were adorable! 

NIBBLE: feeding my new little friend at the Central Park (children’s) Zoo.

It did occur to me  that children growing up in New York may only ever get to see animals like this, up close in the zoo. There was a cow there and it had no grass to graze on, only a gravel pen. It sort of just stood there looking sad and I wish I could have told those kids that cows are normally happy and fat.

  We spent a good portion of the morning wandering through the zoo before lunch at the Model Boathouse in Central Park. It was a real sex and the city moment, people watching and drinking coffee. I was tempted to hire a little model boat to drive round but then I watched this guy completely ruin his and I decided it was too risky given my lack of model boat driving experience. 
  
The other highlight of today was the American Museum of Natural History. There is so much to see here and I could have spent a few days exploring just the evolution of humans section let alone the rest of the place.

We must have spent a solid few hours the but to be honest, time is a bit meaningless in New York. You just do what you want to do until you are sick of doing it it. 

As the whole day was Central Park themed, we walked back through strawberry fields which is the memorial dedicated to John Lennon. 

Everyone was singing beetles music and chilling which was nice, so we did the same. Eventually it was the lure of the Hershy’s shop that pulled me out of the sunshine and back into the city.

I displayed an excellent level of self control, purchasing only one king size Reece’s pieces peanut butter cup bar to share with Kristy. As many of you know, this kind of restraint when it comes to food is almost unprecedented for me. 

CENTRAL PARK: jumping to make dure everyone else in the park knows about my tourist status.

First bite of the big apple

America, travel, Uncategorized

 Arrived in New York after nearly 30 hours of travelling. Hadn’t showered, changed my shirt or brushed my hair. It was unfortunate we were unable to check in at 10am when we rocked up in the hotel lobby but I took comfort in the fact there are heaps of people in this city who look and smell  worse than me.

Not wanting to waste a whole day, we started wandering in the direction of Starbucks for coffee. Nek minnit… Find ourselves at the top of the Empire State Building. 

  

HIGH: 86 floors up, gazing downtown towards the Statue of Liberty.

 
We had been told to expect huge lines and to pre book tickets because otherwise we would spend all day in lines, buuuuut not only was there no ticket line, there was also only a 15 minute wait to head up top. You go through this long winded explanation of the building’s heating system and how it was built but we skipped that in our eagerness to reach the view. I can say with certainty, the building was warm and the sights were amazing.

My travel bud Kristy may be the only person in the world who appreciates books as much as I do. So it seemed fitting that in our zombie-like states, we took refuge in the New York State Library. Wandering through places where the great thinkers of our time have also wandered always gives me comfort. No matter where you are in the world people always value knowledge. I love that the more knowledge I seem to aquire, the more questions I have about the wold. It’s easy to see how academics become consumed in their studies.

The New York State Library houses a lot of amazing work, but it is also a magnificent building I could spend all week in and still feel like I hadn’t seen at all.

THINKING: I wish i could say I was thinking great, life changing thoughts but actually , I was eyeing off the pretzel cart across the road wondering if I should get one for lunch or stick with my salad wrap.

Fast forward through an emergency stop at Forever 21 for new tights, a nap and a quick supermarket trip, we hit the Hard Rock Cafe in Times Square for dinner. I am definitely in a New York State of mind. 

  

Brace yourselves, I am heading to America and it’s going to be epic

America, Uncategorized

 

Kristy is my American adventure buddy and will be putting up with me for five and a half weeks of road tripping goodness from one end of America to the other.

Well, a year later than I had initially planned, I am eight weeks out from another adventure.

My friend Kristy and I will be heading across America on a five and a half week road trip that will start in New York and finish in LA, before we fly to Hawaii for a relaxing break before heading home.

We will stay in hotels, hostels, camp sites, and do a lot of sleeping on the bus.

As with any of my trips, the most frustrating part is the lack of time. There will be a lot of quick stops in many cities and only five days to explore New York.

We will take a tour to the Statue of Liberty crown, re-enact a proposal on the top of the Empire State Building, pretend to be our favourite Sex in the City characters as we cosmo sip our way around the New York nightlife and spend a night on broadway.

We both suffer severely from a condition called The Hangries. It’s when you get so hungry, the hunger channels to anger and… well… it’s unpleasant. So we have come up with an eating schedule that incorporates bagels, supersized fries, single pizza pieces and a lot of coffee in order to preserve our friendship.

We plan to make stops in Washington, Memphis, New Orleans, Santa Fe, Las Vegas and a bunch of other mega cool places that I can’t wait to explore.

A lot of people have told me I am crazy for spending all my money on travels and I have a couple of comebacks.

One, I hardly make any money, so saving for any grown up stuff like a house is off the table.

Two, bon voyage bitches.

 

 

 

 

 

Microadventure: Lake Conjola

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So even though this started out as a once a month challenge, I have decided that you can never be sure when you might feel an adventure coming on. Best not to have too many rules.

A couple of friends came down over a weekend, and I decided to take them out to Lake Conjola. Somewhere that everyone talks about, where most people I know went camping as kids, and a place I had never seen.
We packed an adorable little picnic and just kept driving until we got to the end of the road.

The end of the road at Lake Conjola.

The end of the road at Lake Conjola.

This gem is less than 15 minutes from where I live and full of all the Wildlife Australia has to offer.
It is the kind of place that I can imagine would be packed out in summer. Nowhere like this can stay a secret for long.
In the winter though, we had a table to ourselves, as we lounged around in our short sleeved shirts, eating a ham and cheese sandwiches, solving the problems of the world.

IMG_2315

Lake Conjola local.

Road Trip to Walwa

Australia, Road Trip, travel, Uncategorized

I hear you asking… “Where the hell is Walwa?” Well don’t worry. That was my exact reaction when I first met my friend Rob and he was telling me where he grew up. That was back in around 2012. A couple of years on, I still consider this kid a good enough friend to road trip 7 hours down the road for his 21st (Actually 22nd- but he just pretended he was 21 in order to throw a killer party), and he still considers me a good enough friend to extend an invite.

I decided to make a weekend of it, as it is rather a long drive. So on Friday afternoon, after I finished work, I jumped in the car and drove down as far as Wagga. That drive basically consists of strait road and unvarying views for about 500km.  Just in time for dinner, I pulled into my friend Sarah’s place where I stayed overnight.

On Saturday morning, feeling a lot less tired, Sarah gave me the grand tour of Wagga. It was cool to check out, as a lot of my university friends came from here, and it was nice to visualise all the things they used to talk about, especially the Wagga beach.

The infamous Wagga "Beach"

The infamous Wagga “Beach”

It doesn’t look like much but the banks of the Murrumbidgee River are actually quite picturesque. I can only imagine all the kids growing up here, and the antics they must have got up to. While it definitely has sand, the beach does lack a couple of key beach features, such as waves, seagulls and somewhere to buy hot chips.

Saturday afternoon, we met up with a couple of other friends and hit the road again, down to Walwa, which is just on the border between NSW and VIC. We drove past a lot of farms and my friends were explaining to me the impact the drought a couple of years ago had on the land here, and the floods that then followed. It really seems almost like a different world. That sounds silly, but I suppose at home, we never saw the full effects of any of that, as we are on the coast, in a very temperate climate. We get plenty of rain through both winter and summer. Farming needs such a precise weather pattern. It seems such a risky business!

We drove into Rob’s place and it was absolutely stunning.

Just your average driveway, where you actually can't see the other end of it.

Just your average driveway, where you actually can’t see the other end of it.

The party itself was a lot of fun. I got to catch up with a lot of friends from all around the state, and we partied well into the night. It was so great to hear about all the things that have happened over summer. I got a bit of a shock when I walked into the cool room to grab a beer, and found a dead, half butchered cow hanging up over the top of all the drinks. As it turns out, a couple of days prior, Rob had been rounding up cattle and a pregnant heifer had run into the gate after he had shut it. She had died so they thought, “oh well, we’ll just eat her”! Crazy farm people. I guess there is nothing else you really can do!

I only retired to bed when it got too cold to stay out any longer. It was about 5 degrees, and this is supposed to be a summer night! We camped in a little shed, and rolled out of bed on Sunday to a glorious day.

2015/01/img_2399.jpg

Woke up to this…

After some much needed bacon and egg sandwiches, and a strong coffee, we set off back to Wagga, I had a quick lunch stop, then shot back up the Hume to be home in time for dinner.

There’s definitely no place I would rather have been this weekend.