Thursday, June 10, 2010

West Coast!

West Coast

Over to Vegas for the first time. Not ideally how I wanted to experience it originally as I was hoping to meet some other travelers on the way and not be doing the Casino's solo however I was only in town for 12hrs (1 big night). After a few loses on the tables I decided to give the nightclub in Caesar's Palace called Pure a go! Whilst waiting in line a flan-no wearing dreadlocked guy joined the line and I followed my instinct and asked him if he was Australian. Turns out he was and also doing the night solo so we joined forces. A few drinks inside before we noticed a much older looking guy in the VIP section trying to look allot younger then he was. Intrigued by this character who was making his way to the bar we decided to head on over and see what his caper was. After he heard our accent he turned to me and asked how we were going in the cricket. Being the most un-Australian when it comes to this backwards game I simply said — "better then you guys" as I had depicted his British accent. Our new found friend then brought the next round and after a few minutes talking to him and his 20's something gorgeous girlfriend he asked us if we new who he was. Anyway as it turns out we were in the presence of Britain's number one export when it came to poker playing. Disbelieving at first it wasn't until we were taken out of the club and to a poker room where a portrait was hanging of David 'Devilfish' Ulliot

The rest of the night was on him as he sent his girlfriend up stairs as he proclaimed he was showing these Australian's a great night in Vegas. The rest unfortunately due to Mr Devilfishes fame and desirability to uphold his unimpeachable reputation cannot be revealed. 

California is my last stop. I only intended on a short time here as I have traveled extensively through Cali a few years back when I did a road trip up and down the West Coast. This trip I spent most of my time in Hermosa Beach which is actually the first place outside of Australia that I had traveled to on my own. It was literally 10 years to the day since I was in town last so I ventured down to the pier and main area and was excited to see the hostel I once stayed in was still operating (Surf City Hostel). For those of you who have traveled and lived in hostels all over the world you too can associate special memories for your favorite hostel. For me, being 18 years old and experiencing what it was like to be so far away from you familiarities, friends and family was quiet an experience and one that I always recommend young people to try after high school. Often we are still to young to know where we want to go in life and what we want to do and I found being overseas taught me allot about myself and gave me some insight into what I wanted to do. Your thrown into and experience where you meet so many different people from every social and ethnic background. So many stories are shared, advice given and lessons learnt. I honestly believe I learnt more in a few months abroad then my last couple of years in school. Could be all the distractions I experienced going from a same sex school to a coeducational one for my last two years also…

So back to Hermosa Beach…it was allot more fun then I expected and stayed a little longer then I was supposed to. It's a really laid back place to go and visit for a bit. Everyone is in skate shoes and tees with baseball caps to the side…even at forty! Did a wee little trip to the snow Mountains just East of LA with a mate from Coachella to watch him and his band play in the local bar. Was quiet an experience and great to get out of the city and hang with the locals and Mike was friendly enough to let me crash in his pad just 100 meters back from the Hermosa Beach so that was rad! Met some great local girls in Hermosa also who let me crash at their's (200 meters from the beach) so a big thanks to Lizzie and Michelle. And of course Scotty Badham and the Virgin Atlantic crew who I partied with down at Long Beach who also put me up for a week at the Hilton. So LA was great with free accommodation making my trip a little bit more cost effective. 

One of the largest music festivals in America was on whilst I was in town so it felt fitting to head to this 3 day event located a few hours east of LA. For those music buffs…Coachella Rocks! The scene was set early when I pulled the green machine (van we hired) into the camping area and we began to set up our tent (i helped the girls as I slept in the van) when our American neighbor gets out of her car in her underwear, a pink too-too, face painted like a fairy and begins to put up her tent on her own! Fun times were to come! Music was pretty good with some highlights being Muse, 2 Many DJ's, The Dead Weather, Them Crooked Vultures, Tiesto, Vampire Weekend, DEVO, Thom Yorke, Orbital, deadmau5 and The Gorillaz! (The Full Line Up)


Also ventured up north to the wine regions for a taste of the Cali vino with a girlfriend who I met in Brazil. Still a long way to go in comparison to some of the Australian and New Zealand wines. Quiet expensive also in comparison but I guess it's their only wine region and ours are so vast. Stayed a few nights up here in Santa Barbara which is a cool little university town where everyone is a little more laid back then LA (excluding the Hermosa crowd 1 of which can be seen below). 

Next Stop…London which was not located on this signpost I found in Long Beach University even though "Wollongong" was one of the few destinations on here! Good to see "The Gong" has made an impression here in LA.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

East Coast!

From the South to the North I venture from Rio de Janeiro to New York City!! After spending all day with some Scandinavians hang gliding off the cliffs of Rio I race back through the cities traffic in a desperate attempt not to miss my flight that afternoon. The owner of the hostel had assured me it was only a 30 minute cab ride so I said my goodbyes with ease and walked down the stairs to flag down a cab. As per usual here in Brazil, the local spoke no English and my Portuguese was still appalling so the question as to weather or not I would make it to the "airporto" in time went unanswered with a baffled look as if I was going crazy in the backset with anxiety. The trip took just over an hour and a half and I had indeed missed my flight as boarding had been closed for just over 20 minutes. As 2 American's in front of me at the American Airlines customer desk swore abuse to the female representative at the price that they had been quoted to catch the next flight to NYC I instantly began to feel sick. I grinned the cheesiest of grins and tried to sound as distant to the two before me as I could with the most Australian accent possible and asked if it was possible to be seated on the next flight….

To my amazement there was a spot for me and surprisingly at no extra cost! This sort of customer service was uncommon for American Airlines as I would discover later on in my trip but I gleamed with joy as I only had a 2 hour wait and this flight was direct rather then heading south to Sao Paulo for a few hours. This was my 2nd flight that I have ever missed and in almost 200 flights thats not bad odds.

I arrived in NYC dressed in my summer attire from Brazil. Unfortunately the NY summer was not there to meet me and I was greeted with wind, rain 12 degrees Celsius. I made my way from NY down to Philadelphia where I was greeted by my cousin. For those of you who don't know, I used to live in Philadelphia with my cousins and as this was my first time back to America since 2003 I had planned a surprise or two. I had lived with my distant cousin Gary and his family; wife Ginny and kids Kyle, Conner and Shane. Gary had lived with my Grandparents in Sydney almost 10 years before this so I had grown close to him whilst I was an adolescent. Gary was born in county Tyrone in Northern Ireland and his younger sister Ciara had also not been back to America since 2000 so we had decided to surprise them all as she returned on the same afternoon. Some tears, a few swear words and allot of hugging went on when we absolutely stumped Gary and his two youngest who were also not filled in on our arrival. I stayed for a few days so that I could celebrate the St Patrick's Day March in Philadelphia (which is a few days before St Patrick's Day) and a spot of shooting at the local gun club then made my way to New York.

I had been to New York 4 times before and never really enjoyed my experiences. Mostly I put this down to not having enough money to see or do what I wanted. This time it was different and I really enjoyed my 2 weeks here. Accommodation is the most expensive part of your trip to NYC and is double what I paid for in any other capitol city within America. I was fortunate enough not to have to worry too much about this….Thanks Meli! Had some good times touring about the city and even though I never really like cities too much I could see myself living in NYC. I was blessed with the 1st few weeks of spring though and I am sure it's not the best spot to be in the colder months. Whilst here I got to see the St Patrick's Day parade and celebrate in the aftermath until sun up the following day. The NYC parade is the largest in the World and once we finally found it we were amazed to find that it wasn't really that Irish! Allot of people looked more Scottish then Irish in their kilts and I'm sure I could have performed a better jig then the Irish dancers. As I have been quiet slack with the writing over the last few months I am actually a long way away from New York as I sit here in a small bar having lunch in Carndonagh, Donegal which is where the monks of St Patrick settled after his death. 

From New York I ventured north to meet a friend Lisa who was studying in Boston. As this city is know for being one of the most Irish colonized American cities I found it to have almost identical weather conditions and it rained heavily for the 5 days I was in town for. Still had fun though and without the rain Boston is a very beautiful city. 

After 3 weeks of jacket and scarf wearing weather I was looking forward to hitting the beaches of Miami and soaking up some sun. Staying only a few hundred meters back from Miami Beach I got to do this most days. Great for sunbathing but horrible surf. Unfortunately it was more expensive then anywhere I had traveled to before in America including Alaska a few years back which was surprising. The night life there was overrated and definitely not my scene and I don't think I will be back anytime soon. 

Off to the airport for a flight to Vegas. I missed the check in cut off by 2mins and unfortunately the manager couldn't do anything as it's all controlled by computers. They even charged me for the next flight which was odd as my flight from South America was complementary because of the type of ticket I had (a One World Alliance Around the World) however here in Miami that didn't fly! So…finally a few hours later I was on a plane heading away from the east coast...