Florida Keys Road Trip, Florida

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Our adorable ‘family’ hotel room, whipped cream and peach vodka drinks & a fabulous rooster

Day 1

1 February 2014
This morning we had to reign all of our belongings back into our suitcases(with way more organisation that our departure from LA though – that’s for sure!!!) and head over to meet our airport shuttle we met a Canadian woman who was asking us about our trip. I was staring at the ground because all I could think of was food or coffee and how the heck was I going to go driving on the other side of the road, two years after I had done it last time. Jemma however has a very open and welcoming face and people want to talk to her ;). The woman had just come from Tobago and was stopping in South Beach briefly before heading back home to the crazy (seriously) sub-zero temperatures in Canada. When we mentioned t we were heading to Peru, she told us it was OK but you can’t see Macchu Pichu before midday, that Peruvian food was disgusting and that we should go to Uruguay (or another country we aren’t going to instead). Which is always super frustrating when a stranger basically shit cans the place you are going to and you should “just” change your trip. Thanks, but kindly go away.

Our delicious food - we were eating away the fear of no place to sleep....
Our delicious food – we were eating away the fear of no place to sleep….

Soon enough our shuttle rocked up and we went around to each of the South Beach Hotels to pick up passengers. One lady left her purse at her hotel and actually asked the driver to turn around when we weren’t half way to the airport. Forgetting that most of us had planes to meet etc. we got to the airport and lined up for our cheap-as hire car. We had originally wanted a jeep but decided that $270 was probably a waste for only three days. So we had booked a micro or compact car for only $70. However once you add the tax and the mandatory toll pass and then the extra driver and the tank of fuel it came to about $250 which is still pretty good. We were a bit bummed out that our jeep had turned into a compact car but then again we aren’t overly large people and we only had one suitcase each.

We got down for our compact car but ended up in a Mazda sedan which is most excellent because my car at home is a Mazda and it makes driving on the other side of the road and sitting on the other side of the car a little more bearable!! We hit the road and it went nearly as terrifying as the first time I drove overseas back in 2012. Our last GPS was named Susan but this time we decided to call her Juanita – for a little more flair. Juanita was a bit hit and miss with her directions. She would either give you 50km notice or 1m notice.

First up! The swamp tour! We had already done a really awesome swamp and gator tour in New Orleans but we also really wanted to go on a fan boat in the Everglades. We drove out towards Florida City where the Everglades Alligator Farm is near and the sky was looking pretty dark and scary but hey, humans are water proof and it really was not that bigger deal. Heading down the South Dixie Highway, we passed Walmart and Jem’s eyes almost teared up she looked SO happy! (let us for a minute acknowledge that even with the help of Juanita, we could not work out where we were going or where South Dixie Highway was…it was..in front of us.

Snappy!!
Snappy!!

Oh, and we almost got killed when the most interesting example of overtaking occurred in the middle of said highway).We made it to the Alligator farm, paid our cash, bough little pellets and wife’s the baby alligators and then went to the gator show, we really only wanted to hold ‘Snappy’ and then go on the fan boat and head on our way to Walmart. Jem and I have worked out express tourism pretty well. When you fly all the way from the Southern Hemisphere you don’t really have time to kind of stand around and take three hours to do something you can snap out in one. However America is a pretty hard country to do that in because the pace (aside from the cities) is pretty cruise. So we watched the Alligator show, jumped in and got our Snappy photos and then ran to the fan boat ride. We jumped on and they told us that we were likely to get a bit wet. However the rain turned into a torrential downpour once we were out there and we were not at all prepared and got so soaked. It was so fun though, it’s just water. One woman took her iPad on and they guide told her it wasn’t a great idea and she ignored him. Suffice to say she was saturated and seemed so pissed off her belongings had gotten wet. Jem and I were soaked through and looked like we had gone for a swim.

Gorgeous Key West :)
Gorgeous Key West 🙂

Next step was Walmart and we stocked up on child size ponchos and snacks for our few days in the keys, we also scored whipped cream vodka for $12 (it’s $49 back home), peach juice and soda water – come at us peach pie / chupa-chup drinks! We out our child ponchos on and my large head immediately tore right through it. Kids ponchos are made for children, you know, in case you didn’t know that. Idiots. We had no hotel for the night as we figured we would just drive along and see what happened. We had stayed in Key Largo last time so we we keen fora. Change and maybe make our way to Islamorada. We had a hotel booked in Key a West for the following night so we really could stay wherever we wanted.

Turned out to be much harder than we initially thought. We drove all the way to Marathon and stopped for an amazing dinner at this little shack on the water. The hostess was crying and really surly and I might be speculating here but she had break up face. Seminole who had just been dumped. She was only 16 or 17 and it was written all over her face. It was hard to not stare at her actually because she was kind of rolling her eyes whenever she had this it someone. She just did not want to be at work. There was a hens night at the table next to us and quite frankly the bride should reconsider her friends. She wanted to dance and they all sat around not dancing and staring at her. Like cheerleader / sorority friends but without the actual love and appreciation of your friend. Jem was pretty close to going and dancing with her because it was so awkward. It was also only 5pm on a Wednesday. Worst hens night ever.

We jumped back in our car and went in search of our hotel for the night. Most of them said no vacancy and it was getting later and it was getting darker and we were starting to worry. We pulled into four or five hotels which looked bearable but none had vacancy. We started to swap looks like oh shit we may actually be in some trouble here. We passed some which we absolutely were not going to be checking because they looked absolutely terrifying. But then it was almost 8pm and we still had no hotel so we tried one last one which looked dodgy but beggars can’t be choosers. Jemma ran in and ran out two minutes later with two thumbs up.

Have you ever seen a cuter face outside Walmart? Jemma and Carl
Have you ever seen a cuter face outside Walmart? Jemma and Carl

We had agreed to take any room at all, we would share a bed if. Had to. Luckily there was one room left and it was the family room. Two beds, a lounge rooms and a couch and we scored a laundry as well. The guy who checked us in was asking Jemma a lot about New Zealand, if they spoke English, what was their main food (I had a typical Aussie giggle when she said lamb). He was the nicest guy who has ever checked us into any hotel. It was meant to be. So we had a night of snacks and delicious peach whipped cream drinks and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.

We love coconut shrimp and iced tea....took us 2 years to get back to this place but we love it :)
We love coconut shrimp and iced tea….took us 2 years to get back to this place but we love it 🙂

Day 2
We woke up this morning in no real rush because we were only an hour away from Key West anyway. Went driving and found the Dolphin Research Centre which do the dolphin tshirt painting but for $65 on top of a $28 entry feel it didn’t really seem worth it so we headed down to Key West. Driving the keys is fun. The rain from the previous day had cleared up and the weather was a absolutely gorgeous so we were having a good time. We made it to Key West and got our car park permit and decided to look around. The last time we were in key west we only did a day trip and I was really sick so it wasn’t very fun. We dropped our bags off, grabbed the camera and the money and were all prepared for an afternoon of sight seeing. We walked approximately 30m and saw a sign which say 2 margaritas for $5. So obviously the walking stopped. There was a cool band playing and the pla is covered in bills which have been written on and then stapled to the ceiling and walls etc. Jemma was saying that if you tried that back home people would be ripping it off and be attempting to buy drinks from the pub. I agreed with her. Scungey bastards ;).

We decided to get on the conch train which drives around but for $29 no. So we walked to the southern point monument for photos, walked back through town, found the famous key lime pie, split a slice because in less than a week we had just about split our stomachs on delicious American food and went back to the hotel because we could check in and it was absolutely boiling. Not at all temperature which is appropriate or favoured by the two shade hunters which we are. Turns out the bar on our level also opened at check in time so we decided on a couple of beers on the roof too while looking down on the Main Street. We started to realise that we were almost done with our ore vacation vacation and in fact we were heading to South America the day after tomorrow. Which was when we realised that we had learned zero Spanish and we were in some serious trouble. Jemma had “Dos (insert alcoholic beverage name here) por favor” down which was a good start but other than that. Not Spanish. We both had every intention to learn but just didn’t. We knew we would be fine once the tour started because we would have our Spanish speaking guide but. Did have two full days on our own and we were going to be on struggle street.

Look how cute we are?!
Look how cute we are?!

We went on a bar crawl that night with a pretty fun host, some of the people in the group were pretty cool and the bars we went to were alright. The first bar Jemma was pulled up on stage by the singer to sing along to blurred lines but when he told her to twerk he was met with a pretty “no effing way” stare. There was a free drink at each of the bars we went to and the drinks were strong. It was actually a pretty fun night!!

Day 3
This morning we made our way back to Miami, the weather had turned again and we figured the sooner we dropped our cars off and made it to our hotel, the sooner we could organise our bags and get our washing and get mentally ready for our trip to SOUTH AMERICA!!!
While we were doing our laundry, this guy that was the only person while we were in there, stole not only our money for the machine but stood there and made out like he hadn’t. It was so painfully pathetic and just because he was too,say to go get his own change, doesn’t mean you steal off two girls who were in there before you. So there were a lot of choice comments made by us about those who steal and to be honest I don’t know if he was actually bright enough to realise we were talking about him. We ate at IHOP and enjoyed our delicious American serving sizes and our iced teas.

Day 4
This morning we had a late check out from our Miami Airport which was excellent – seeing as Jemma and I are trying our hardest to get as many sleep ins as possible under our belt, knowing full well that sleep ins and Contiki tours are not exactly best friends. So we. Hacked out at 12, had our suitcases and backpacks and handbags perfectly packed and gels and liquids in baggies and perfectly weight distributed luggage. Getting better at this!!

The alligator master!!!
The alligator master!!!

We got to the airport at around 1pm, our shuttle driver showed us a picture of his gorgeous daughter with perfect Ariel Little mermaid hair and my jealousy went through the roof! Or envy ya be a better word for it actually. ANYWAYS we made it to the airport and checked in after much confusion over the self check in passport swipe, dropped our bags and made our way through security. The nerves had set in because we were actually going to South America and we had not learnt Spanish and we had no idea what we were going to come across.

Florida Keys road trip = happy hearts!
Florida Keys road trip = happy hearts!

It was our first American Airlines flight which boarded and left on time but not before we saw that Philip Seymor Hoffman had died, I would have thought that the frenzy in the TV would have been reflected in the crowd of people but I think we were the only ones who reacted. It was weird!! We realised almost immediately once we got on the plane how far out of our depths we were with everyone speaking Spanish. We were in the second last row and had the pleasure of smelling toilets the entire flight and Jem copped a whiff of child’s shitty pants 3/4 of the way through.

My neighbour kept staring at me and reading anything I wrote which had always freaked me out. Mind your manners and maybe try to be discreet when you’re gawking. Jem’s seat belt wouldn’t really tighten up and she found a very suspicious gooey oozey looking substance all over the seat-belt and I found a dirty latex glove shoved into my seat. Do NOT want to know what had happened in our seats. I had a guy in front of me who was quite openly sneezing without covering his mouth and I knew, I knew I would be catching his cold. Ah the perks of flying!!

 

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Miami, Florida

Albert: Oh God, I pierced the toast!

Armand: So what? The important thing to remember is not to go to pieces when that happens. You have to react like a man, calmly. You have to say to yourself, “Albert, you pierced the toast, so what? It’s not the end of your life.”

– The Birdcage

Bye Bye LA!
Bye Bye LA!

 

29 January 2014

Day 1
I’m going to star thus one by highlighting the mental lack of efficiency when it comes to boarding planes in America. We have learnt that a departure time is not a true departure time and sake goes for boarding times. I feel like there is a way better way to go. Starting with the crazed swarming of the boarding gates by the people waiting to bet on the plane. Here’s a hot tip. If there is announcement that says to take your seat because boarding hasn’t begun, maybe take that advice on board. Standing at the gate, shooting daggers at the people crowding the waiting area and just basically being beyond disgusted in ourselves and our hangovers, we boarded about forty minutes after we were meant to. We scored the side of the plane that only has two seats tiger and that was very, very welcome!!

We scored a newly married or just generally hot-for-each-other couple in front of us with some pretty serious “petting”,smooching and ousting the seats so far back I thought I was going to lose my kind. Though I think our state of hangover may have actually helped with the four and a half hour flight, as though we were so busy trying tobreath and survive that we weren’t worried about the normal creature comforts you are after! 🙂

Hello Florida!

Landing in Miami, we picked up our poorly packed luggage trying to guess what we must have left behind because we (and by we I mean Jemma had to pack for the both of us) like wild animals and forgot to tip housekeeping or check out. (Sorry!!). Our free South Beach Hotel Shuttle Service came along soon enough and we were on the way in our party bus, smelling like booze and travel and beyond ready for our hotel goodness!! Check in was easy, we had just missed happy hour but to be honest booze was the LAST thing we wanted anywhere near us after the night before. The bartender was trying to tell this pushy European that she was not interested in speaking about politics or religion and it was not a happy conversation and didn’t he want to enjoy his vacation. He was being pretty pushy and she was getting pretty fired up. Jem and I were both ready to tell him to maybe shut up but he went outside to smoke his European cigarettes and ponder his next antagonistic conversation (disclosure: I have no idea what he was smoking and maybe he wasn’t thinking of wanky conversation topics but also, maybe he was…).

Our gorgeous Princess room for 2!
Our gorgeous Princess room for 2!

Our room was adorable! Chandelier hanging from the roof, bottom cushion type bed heads and pink stitching. A huge closet and decent size bathroom. Most of all it was a room and it was 9:30pm and we hadn’t slept on well over a day and was half so we were excited. We decided against our much needed showers and went searching for foods. Found a burger shop, smashed burgers and fries and coke and then went looking for snacks for our wild night of tv watching. We have six weeks overseas and if you go hard every single night at the start then you are screwed for the rest of it!! Also, way to go USA with the Ben and Jerry’s in stick ice cream form – looks like a magnum and tastes like amazing. Hello Cherry Garcia goodness. Though I won’t lie in saying I was close to getting an entire pint (pints?) of different flavours. Home to long hot showers and removing of gross plane germs because we sat in front of someone on the oaken who basically coughed and spluttered some feral hybrid version of pig/swine/bat flu all over us. Slept like babies!!

Day 2
We woke up this morning, or rather, mid afternoon ready for food and action. Decided on exercise clothes because we should attempt to do some form of activity while on our trip. So we geared up, slathered ourselves in sunscreen and hit the road. We were met by an incredibly friendly bar tender. The type of bartender your mother and boyfriends warn you about. The kind of bartender that makes you NOT want to experience the free happy hours and be in any other part of the hotel. Which is hard in a boutique hotel. I mean, he was very friendly and was smiling and I am sure it is the type of welcome many, many women enjoy but as Jem put it, he was at Level 100 and we needed him to be more Level 5.

South Beach!
South Beach!

Anyways we had a giggle and took off, quickly. We decided to walk towards the beach and found that we were actually really close to Mango’s Tropical Cafe, which we knew we wanted to check out. We had heard that locals hated it but it seemed to be part of the South Beach experience. We kept walking until we found the strip of coffee shops and restaurants for breakfast. It had a bit of a sales feel to it, you couldn’t really walk along without being pounced on by the hostess to sit and enjoy. We walked about five or six places up and this one place had nice music and we were warmly seated and offered orange juice. We ate delicious omelettes and shared a fruit salad and with the two orange juices later we were staring at a $55 breakfast. Which back home, is normal but in the States – no, no!!

*Free* fish bowl, actually free and actually enough alcohol to kill a fish.... :)
*Free* fish bowl, actually free and actually enough alcohol to kill a fish…. 🙂

Next stop was a stroll up the strip and then it was boiling hot and being shade hunters we decided that maybe shopping was more on the cards. Ran home to get changed, bartender again tried to get us to the bar and we bolted upstairs, got changed and hit Victoria’s Secret. We had a guy helping us there, which was fine but hearing a man ask you what kind of “panties” you are looking for is unsettling. I don’t care where you are from or how open minded you are ha-ha. After dropping a little more $$ than we should have, we headed back to the hotel because it was drinking time. We had decided we needed some pre drinks before we went to The Palace for our dinner and Drag Queen show!! Unfortunately our bartender was still there and demanded a group hug. We got out of that pretty quickly and jumped into the worlds slowest elevator and awkwardly hit the “close door” button while he was asking us to fashion show our new purchases. Ick.

Fish bowls make us happy :)
Fish bowls make us happy 🙂

We headed off up the street in search of drinks because it was so uncomfortable staying at our own hotel for free drinks. We went back to the main strip and we’re coaxed into eating at this one place because we could have a free fish bowl drink. Which seemed like a scam but two sips in and we realised that it was indeed a fish bowl of Long Island iced teas. We had a bit of a look at the beach and then headed back. We are too white to be in the sun for too long. Also we both hate the sand. Judge away.

We had showers and got changed and then decided to have some drinks downstairs. Bartender was a bit full on and I went to the 7-Eleven for a maximum of five minutes. Wen I got back Jemma had a loom of terror on her face. This guy had obviously invaded her personal space and he was sitting next to. Her so I sat on the seat to her other side. He tried to get me to sit in his lap and I was very clear that it was never going to happen and I was definitely not going to do it. Again, I’m sure many girls lap it up but it’s too much for us and I am very, very happy in my relationship and if I found out that my partner had sat in the lap with some lady bartender overseas I would be livid. He got the hint and we bailed outside. Jem let me know that bartender had said some very startling and inappropriate comments to her while I was gone.

Amazing fresh breakfast and only $50...next time ask for a menu!
Amazing fresh breakfast and only $50…next time ask for a menu!

We were sitting outside having a good old laugh at the guy and he brought us some more free drinks “Sex on the Beach” – ewwww. Then these two incredibly attractive girls came screaming (woo girls) into the hotel and it was as though a switch flipped for the bartender. He went from Level 100 to Level 1-Basic Bartender. So either one of those girls was his girl or he was interested in. It became way less uncomfortable.

Soon enough it was din dins and Drag Queen time!! We headed off to the Palace and ordered more Long Island Iced Teas and waited for our amazing show. The food and the show did not disappoint. Thank you Tiffany Fantasia for an amazing evening! So much fun and such amazing bodies and a lot of drinks and laughing. Great night out! We raided 7-Eleven for armfuls of American snacks for. Our late night TLC binge fest. Although the judgement of my server for my twinkles, cheese, Cheetos, pop tarts and ranch chips was not welcomes. Shhhh you. I don’t live here!!!!

Tiffany Fantasia!
Tiffany Fantasia!

Day 3
We slept in until almost lunch time on our second morning. We were loving the sleep ins! We were all pumped to join the hop on-hop off bus which made its way around town but not for $39 we decided to walk as far as we could instead. We stopped outside this house which had people in front of it the day before to try and work out what it was. Turns out it was the Verace mansion. Trust us to totally overlook that. We kept on walking and decided to find Cuban food, since we weren’t heading over to Little Havana and instead walked up to Espanola Way, Havana 157. Which was on a cute alley way. We ordered the specials and a few drinks(strictly non alcoholic after our over indulgence at the Palace the night before). It started to rain once our lunch was over and either way we would be walking through the rain and headed up to Lincoln Road Mall for some shopping.

Shopping wasn’t hugely successful though because for some reason (booze and carbs mostly) Forever 21 size LARGE does not fit me. Way to make me feel terrible shop!! It was pouring down once we got done ere and there was no way we could leave so we decided to find the ugliest things we could and go try them on. I couldn’t zip anything up because according to Forever 21 I should be shot and buried out the back with all the other size 14 gigantors. However I saw Jemma dance around Ina. Jumpsuit and do some pretty amazing dance moves and being happier than any other girl in the world. So it was well worth it!!

Ah the beach...which we photographed from the boardwalk and with shoes on and then ran away #shadehunters
Ah the beach…which we photographed from the boardwalk and with shoes on and then ran away #shadehunters

We escaped and ran through the now torrential downpour towards H&M and one of the restaurant girls basically ran in front of us to try and make us loom at her menu (mind you she had an umbrella) she didn’t receive the greatest response from us. We ended up getting back to the hotel soaking and freezing and decided on an afternoon of snacks and American TV. Although we could have gone without the extreme judgement from the 7-Eleven guy for more snacks (we can never go there again).

We had Mango’s that night and were both keen for a somewhat early dinner and with intention for no drinks we both ended up with big flamboyant and fruity cocktails – yummo! The food was good, the show was fun but the additional side show is really what took the cake. As Jemma and is sat up on the balcony, drinking our passion fruit and commit monitors and eating our chicken and staring down onto the show..Jemma’s face dropped and she pointed out something that was going on on the dance floor, in the light – for all 20 people in the venue. It wasn’t even 9pm on a Wednesday night. There they were am old couple snogging each other stupid. It was like watching two 18 year olds at the end of the night at your local, when the lights are turned on and the DJ has packed up. The two who are quite obviously going home to bang. It was intense. It wasn’t a bit of a kiss it was hard core making out. The tongues lashing wildly at each other and the old guy grabbing the old ducks bum and rubbing her breast (just the one). Bent over making out, furious passion.

Mangos!
Mangos!

It was kind of commendable. Until it became uncomfortable. We shouldn’t have been watching but they were just all there. It was when old mate went UNDER the shirt and into the bra that shit got real. I have never seen Jemma react so strongly towards something. You could have had singing and dancing parrots riding tropical dressed monkeys on that stage. They were no longer getting our attention. We couldn’t look away. That old man was pulling and tweaking that woman’s nipple (just the one) while darting his tongue in and out of her mouth.

All I could think of was how it was probably like some creepy old snail slowly darting in and out of her old lady mouth. Sure that’s ageist but do you know what else it was? Disgusting. I guess their foreplay was over though because they finally left and we could go back to watching the show. Before any of you judge me – I was not actively staring down into the dance floor to look at the, I wasn’t walking around poking my face into every dark corner to find making out old people they were just THERE where everyone could see them!!Photo 29-01-2014 9 48 19 am

We didn’t buy delicious snacks at 7-Eleven after the earlier judgement from nosy pants cashier but we did find a bottle-o and buy classy tinned margaritas and head back to our hotel for our last night in our super cute pink and white hotel room. We did however spend about five minutes freaking out over clamato flavoured beer. I thought it was just a flavour but Jemma told us that it was actually clam. Clam flavoured drink. I’m sorry, why is this a thing and more importantly, who drinks this?!?!?

Thank you South Beach, for three days of fun, I wish we could spend a week with you!

Los Angeles, California (our super tourist L.A in a Day!!)

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Hollywood – my own personal star ;), The Bangles & our night at the Rainbow Room
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Our 12 hour flight turned into 17 hours, Jemma’s sleeping buddy and our much awaited Starbucks once we landed at LAX!

Auckland – LA

January 25th 2014

In true “us” style the trip started dramatically. It seemed NZ had decided that it was an awesome time for torrential rain downpour and Jem’s flight was running Kate. Luckily our plane was delayed by about am hour. It was such a mad rush to clear security and to get on the plane that we didn’t really have time to think about the 12+ hour flight ahead of us. I like to think we have mastered the plane outfits and packing for comfort down oat which is good.

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Mel’s Diner – delicious drinks, huge portions and a Hollywood Icon!

We ate our dinner, drank (thanks for the judgement hostess on my two drinks), popped a sleeping pill and said our good nights in the hope to get 6 hours or so (which never happens but it’s a nice thought all the same).

It must have been when we were 8 or so hours into the trip that we found out that our plane was being diverted to Honolulu for a medical emergency. Jem and I were too groggy and tired to really understand what was happening. Full credit to the paramedics and air staff involved though because from the time of the announcement to the time we were back in the air it was only about two hours. It meant another 4.5 hours on the plane so we slept here and there As the plane was descending into LA and we were feeling the full effects of our jet lag and 17 hour crossing the date line haul, I remembered that I had this little jet lag pressure point document in my bag. I still don’t know if it was a placebo type effect or if it worked but we both felt way less disjointed and groggy and just lt tired instead. A massive

improvement to what we were feeling before.

We carried this older ladies bag off the plane for her as she was travelling alone (with friends but they were all separated). She was 89 and she was sick so we felt really badly for her. She told us that she had been in NZ and had gone jet boating and took a helicopter up to a glacier. Coolest old girl I have met in a long time.

Grabbed our bags, grabbed a giant Starbucks each and jumped in a cab almost straight away. Our cab driver was from Algeria and was one of the fried list cab drivers I have ever had. Take note terrible australian cab drivers – 80% of you are rude and have gross cabs. He told us that we should definitely try the two best places for burgers. First option was In and Out Burger. Which Jemma and I didn’t have the heart to tell him we had tried a couple of years ago and HATED. The second option was Chick a Fill. Which we have only heard down our way as being super homophobic. So that’s a no from us.

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Seeing the sights in our express hop-over, one-night Special in Hollywood 🙂
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Posing!

Our flight delay basically meant we only had a couple of hours before sundown but also meant we could check in straight away.
2 express showers, one bag explosion and a few texts back home later and we were out the door. We figured we had time to do a few LA sights before making our way to a Whiskey a Go Go to see the Bangles (score on the tickets). Had dinner at Mel’s Diner, ran around the Hollywood Walk of Fame, grabbed some super tourist shots of the Chinese Grauman Theatre and were harassed not once, but twice by what I think was Asian-pink-haired Sandra Bullock in a space suit. Or it was just a space person but I’m going with my first option a la gravity. She was persistent but look lady, you aren’t famous, I’m not here for you and I do not pay to be in photos with non famous people. Bugger off.

One bathroom break later and I came back to Jemma who said that we were sitting with someone who was part of a band which was quite popular in our high school years. QUITE popular. At first I didn’t believe her but after some super secret squirrel googling in the bathroom, it was confirmed. I came back to the table and Jemma made it pretty clear that I was to “play it cool”. So I slipped on my super not at all fan-girl top and attempted to play it cool.Now this is where the night gets interesting. We went to the Roosevelt hotel for a drink. Then we decided that it wasn’t our scene and decided to head to Hooters (more our scene) but it looked pack and the crossing lights were red and it just seemed like too much of a hassle. So we went the other direction and ended up at buffalo wings – a giant sports bar. We sat down at the bar, started watching what we thought was the Super Bowl and drank our giant beers. In true Courtnie & Jemma fashion we were talking at a million miles a minute. Jemma was watching the game and then asked if it was just her or if the players seemed kind of old and unfit. This guy next to her piped up and explained what game it was and who the players were. Cue conversation.

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Happy holiday snaps!

What made it even crazier was that our new friend was also going to see The Bangles at ‘the Whiskey’. So we scored a ride in his car service with him and his friends. At first it really seemed like his friends f*cking hated us be uses I guess they were used to groupies or whatever but we already had our own tickets and there was no sexual vibes coming from either of us. So then everyone was really accommodating and lightened up a bit. The Bangles were awesome, Jem and I scored new friends in one of the VIP tables and invited our new famous friend to come and sit with us haha. Ridiculous. We ended up taking our new friends and following our new famous friend to Rainbow a Room and having more drinks. We met some adult-entertainment famous people and Jem even bought a rose for one of them.

An incredibly horrific cab ride home for me and a pretty non-classy arrival at the hotel, we made it home. We had our own version of a rock star ending to the night. If by rock star you mean Jemma attempting to babysit me. I definitely owe you one Jem.

We realised we probably could not have topped the night and were completely exhausted from our international, across-the-date line transit. Decided that rather than the awkward goodbyes, the sneaky fade-away was our best choice.

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Worst hangover on record.

Our alarm for our shuttle to the airport went off at 7am and me being still hung over and impaired, turned the alarm off because I did not feel like getting up. Then kind of slept with one eye open watching the alarm clock. Weighed up the options of missing the flight and explaining that to Jem as well as buying new flights to Miami and promptly told Jem at 7:46 that we had 14 minutes to get ready.

That was the worst 14 minutes of my life. I remember packing nothing. I felt like hell and if falling over and dying was an option I would have taken it. We JUST made the shuttle but that was a horrific ride and getting through security and making the plane was horrendous. We did make it though!! Our express one night LA stopover had taken us places we did not think possible and we are still shaking our heads. We can never out do this night. Ever.

PS> Worst hangover on record for me in the last two years. Easily.

NB: No Housekeepers were harmed too drastically by how we left that hotel room, to our knowledge.

Brisbane, Australia – Auckland, New Zealand

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THE FIRST LEG – Brisbane to Auckland

25 January 2014
Day 1
Somehow I slept like a log – I wonder if the fear I used to have the night before a flight no longer exhibits itself as restlessness and instead squats inside of me like an albatross in my stomach.

Had a beautiful brunch down at river bar at eagle street pier, overlooking the story bridge in Brisbane. It’s nice to sit with the ones you love the most and have a coffee and a meal and to have a laugh.
It’s my first time travelling without my giant rip curl cabin bag and actually abackback and my checked in baggage and handbag. I know Ioverpack but when I went to Europe I was overseas for 4 weeks, USA and Canada was 5 weeks, second USA trip was 3 weeks and this trip is 6 weeks. So nervous is an understatement.

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Hello, New Zealand!

Have I over packed? Yes. Interestingly enough I have also under packed. It’s a bit difficult trying to pack for the cold when you have been sweltering in 35+ degree heat in sunny Queensland. I tried to pack jeans and I threw up in my mouth a little even thinking about it! I guess I’m thankful that we aren’t going near any of the northern states with the absolute bat shit polar flex thing that’s happening.
Saying goodbye to my parents almost made me cry and saying good bye to my man at the departure gate was hard to. I guess where we are (un)lucky is that we already do long distance so this is just double our usual time apart. The dirty granny ciders in the airport bar with each other helped.

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Not a bad view for my first hotel of 6 weeks

Flying Air NZ is my favourite and I love their ads. That might have something to do with my secret obsession with LOTR and the Hobbit though. I’ve had my butter chicken and apricot frangipani cake. I’m sipping my Pinot Noir and trying to find something on he airline tv I can focus on. I get mid air ADHD and can’t focus or commit to one show. I get crazy FOMO when it comes to entertainment. Scored a spare seat next to me.

Tomorrow I’m going to walk around Auckland because I refuse to need extra large pants at the end of this trip.
Day 2
Super impressed that wifi is pretty much standard wherever you go now. Even if you have to pay ($10 per 24 hours) it gives you that opportunity to stay in touch with everyone.

Pretty Harbour
Pretty Harbour

I had every intention of performing some kind of cardiovascular activity today but Auckland is wet and rainy and windy. I did purchase a small umbrella for about $6 at the Korean shop next door. Actually I went for the $5 one but the clerk told me that it was made in Taiwan and the $6 one was made in Korea. I have no idea what that means but Korean umbrella came with me. No Sky Tower for me. No visibility! So a breakfast while scamming free internet and messages back home.

Emperor's Lounge - worth every cent of $40
Emperor’s Lounge – worth every cent of $40

Caught the bus back to the airport with my 26kg worth of (at the start of the trip – shitballs). Now sitting in the Emporer Lounge at the Auckland International Airport. Wine, showers, food and couches. This is how you wait for a plane. We leave in a few hours. So not looking forward to the 12 hour flight but definitely looking forward to being back in the states!

Happy Australia Day!
Happy Australia Day!

So nothing too strange as yet except for just now. I was in the bathroom. There are several. I’m in the only closed one. So this old lady tries to get into mine. I was all “occupado” and so she keeps shaking it, the lock flips and the door opens. I kicked it shut. Must have kicked the door into her. So then she starts saying “how rude” and walks off. And so the weird travel stories begin.

 

Oh! Happy Australia Day!!! I never go anywhere without my vegemite ! So have celebrated aptly I think!

Can’t wait to see Jemma and get this trip started! 🙂

 

It’s almost here!

476.

The number of days we officially started counting down to until our next adventure. However, I was meant to go to South America four and a half years ago. Life happened and somehow I found myself on a *safe* Contiki trip, solo, in Europe. I know it might seem like solo + Contiki don’t really go together, but for a 23-year-old, waving goodbye to your family and friends and taking off to the other side of the world (why are you so far away from everything Australia?) for 5 weeks is, technically, solo.

Man did that decision work in my favour! Not only did I have an amazing trip and experience 7 countries VERY QUICKLY (that trip was like the 15 items or less isle at the shops in terms of touring), but I met some amazing people. It wasn’t just me who took off solo for that Contiki European Vista either, across the ditch, was a lovely little kiwi by the name of Jemma, who was packing her trusty suitcase ‘old-red’ and getting ready for her solo adventure.

The rest, as they say, is history. Now the two of us take off wherever and whenever we can. We have seen Europe, the States twice and some of French Canada together and Jem has visited Brisbane three or four times and I finally made my way to beautiful Christchurch this year. It’s a pain in the arse when you live in different countries but we still have an amazing friendship and a lot of laughs.

I can’t believe I have only 33 days before I spend a glorious morning in my beloved Brissie, probably scoffing down some ridiculously calorific brunch with my parents and my man, before I walk through the security gates and through to customs at Brisbane International Airport.

I will probably misplace my passport and ‘supporting’ documentation three to four times from the point where I go down the escalator to when I do get to the customs person. I will go through my normal paranoia of how happy is too happy when you are going through customs and whether or not they are judging me for the amount of eyeliner I am wearing in my 2008 passport photo.

I’ll probably realise I am wearing the wrong outfit for the flight and that I have two hours to cool my heels at the airport. I will then get the shits because my wisdom tooth extraction one week before Christmas robbed me of my holiday money and try to over-anayse the limited funds I do have for the trip and work out if it will last the trip (it totes will not).

I will get the weird little butterflies I get when I get on the plane and I hear the “on the right hand side thank you Miss Blake and welcome”, I will drop my stuff when I am trying to get ‘organised’ and into my seat and I will unpack, re-pack and then accidentally put away things that I need in my seated area on my flight. I would have thought that with the multitude of flights I have taken I would have learned to minimise. Nope. Lip balms, phone, travel diary (or maybe iPad now because I have one?), mints (gum is rank, mints are delish), earphones, book (whatever it is I will read less than a third of it and it will become one of those things that takes up a portion of my handbag), hand sanitiser, tissues and eye drops.

I’ll realise I have forgotten to pack something but by then it won’t matter because I will be in my seat, the awesome Air NZ video will play (last check Betty White was the star!) and I will have a smile as wide as the Cheshire cat because I will be heading overseas, doing what I love the most – travelling.

I am a vacation-taker. I have a lifestyle I enjoy and I have little to no interest in backpacking or spending months in south-east Asia. I’d rather save my money, book myself on a tour and know that I have a bed every night. That doesn’t make my way worse/better or right/wrong it just makes it different, my hat goes off to backpackers! I wish I had the guts :).

I did get a bit wild though and quit my job, experienced the rush of freedom. I mean, I have a new job lined up now but for a minute there I felt very eat, pray, love-ish. Except for being silent in india and cleaning floors and praying, no thanks.

OH! I also anticipate a huge portion of the trip will be me obsessing about the hotel we are staying at in Peru which has no walls. NO WALLS.

contiki adventurer
Our next amazing Contiki – The Adventurer – starting in Lima, Peru

It’s cultural right?

Christchurch, New Zealand

Christchurch, New Zealand

Dedicated to Jem-Jem 🙂

11th October 2013

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So Jemma and I, when talking about our friendship and the logistics of it, often say that we ‘visit each other’. That might be true but it is also a straight out lie. I have never visited Jemma. That makes me a shitty friend. Jemma has come over to Australia countless times, once she was in Brisbane but thanks to phones not working, I didn’t even get to see her. I basically need the friendship card waved in my face. Sure, Jemma tries to make it sound less horrible by saying that her sister lives in Brisbane, which is true, so she comes here more, but the thing is she doesn’t come here ‘more’, she just comes here. I don’t go there.

It doesn’t take a geography genius to work out which out of Brisbane and Christchurch are nicer to visit. In case you were wondering (and you really shouldn’t be unless you aren’t from either Aus or NZ), it is Christchurch, or actually, anywhere in New Zealand….except maybe Auckland actually…the two are probably equal in that respect.

20140403-131653.jpgSo, by some miracle, and thanks to an unwarranted automatic credit card increase, I found myself buying some cheeeap as cheeeps (yeah that’s right, we say it way worse than the kiwi’s) flights with good old Virgin/Air New Zealand to go and visit Jem in October.

One carelessly submitted annual leave form (its not really an option, I won’t be here type submission) and I was packing my suitcase ready to get to NZ. Jem had assured me that as it was October, the cold snap was gone and I could probably get by with a jacket. Jem must have reconsidered that statement, as previously mentioned, I am a weak Queensland and anything below 15 degrees to me may as well be the Arctic. I was one step away from asking Mum for her amazingly colourful thermals when I decided to just suck it up and stop being such a sook.

Friday morning rolled around and it was flight time, with a curbside drop and a smack on the bum, Mum dropped me at the airport and it was time to get my NZ on. I had only been to NZ a few times, once in transit and a few times to the Northern Island, this was to be my first South Island experience and I was beside myself with excitement.

20140403-131708.jpgAs we started to land in Christchurch and looked out my window (anything under 4 hours I can handle window seat because I don’t need a bathroom break)…and, I, squealed, like the little girl I am. There was snow. Snow on the mountains (have never seen snow, can you even comprehend that?) also, way to fulfill a stereotype NZ, there were sheep, adjacent to the runway. Do you know what we have adjacent to the runway in Brisbane? Dirt. No sheep. No big fat, fluffy, white, happy as hell, sheep. With mountains and green grass and snow and perfection, I could see flowers in the grass. Now you’re just showing off Christchurch. Do you know what colour my grass is? Painful. It’s painful, spiky, sharp, razor brown painful coloured. Where it is anyway, where it isn’t just clumps of dirt. Stupid Queensland.

Anyways, met with the friendly face I miss terribly when I am back home, Jemma and I headed to her parents house, which she was house-sitting and dropped my bag off and then we went for a quick and amazing tour of Christchurch. Most of us know of the tragic 6.3 magnitude earthquakes that hit Christchurch in 2011, causing millions of dollars in damage and tragically taking close to 200 lives and countless injuries.  I didn’t have the chance to see Christchurch before the earthquakes but there is something to be said about the resilience and good nature of the Christchurch-ians (?) when you see their city. Whilst it has not been rebuilt and there is sign of the earthquake damage everywhere, they have done their best to work with what they have got. The renewal (re:start project) of Christchurch was kick-started with the (shipping container) City Mall. The mall is made up of around 27 stores, each store within a shipping container. It is quite cool to walk through and see, if you can separate innovation from tragedy. Jemma told me that it (the mall) was smacked with an intellectual property lawsuit from London Boxpark Mall, as they feel that their ‘idea’ was pinched. Who in their right mind, chooses to sue a city which suffered a devastating loss and may never be rebuilt? They aren’t stealing your idea, you idiots, they are doing their best to bring back a feeling of normalcy to their city. You really come across as some insensitive idiots.

20140403-131703.jpgJem and I then did what we do best, and decided on a gas-bag with vodka diet cokes and some delicious Dark and Extra Stormy cocktails at the Pedal Pusher….hello delicious! It got to around 6pm and I realised how cold I actually was and met with a good-natured eye roll from Jem, we headed back to her place so I could rug up into something warmer. To think it was only 6 hours before hand that I was sweating bullets back in Brisbane wearing jeans in mid-October and now I was freezing. Jem and I decided on tackling the duty free bottle of vodka before we went out to dinner.

Dinner at Cortado was amazing, a tasting plate of goodness, deep fried calamari,  delicious fried cheese with RASPBERRY sauce (you read that correctly boyfriend, raspberry – not cranberry, as we have continued to argue for the last 6 months) and other treats. Then we walked back to Jemma’s parents house in the FREEZING* cold to get stuck back into the vodka. Vodka led to cat hangs, blurry photographs, watching This is the End and laughing, sooooo much laughing.

20140403-131733.jpgDay 2

We both woke up with pretty impressive hangovers and decided to frock-up for our winery day, which had seemed like a spectacular idea the day before but now seemed incredibly difficult, thanks to our voddy-hangovers. Jemma and I headed out into the countryside and went to a few wineries, did some wine tasting, spoke to a pretty cool lady, Susanne, who gave us tastes of the good stuff. Then our stomachs were rumbling and it was time for lunch. Our last, and gorgeous stop for the day was Pegasus Bay Winery, where we had the MOST delicious platter for two, accompanied by amazing wine.

Then we took our romantic selves on a secret-garden-esque post lunch walk. I wanted to take my shoes off and just run around the gardens, because the grass, was GREEN! Long and flushy and plentiful and green. Those of you who have it, take it for granted! Try and run around barefoot in my front lawn and it will end up looking like a horror/slasher film starring your feet and lower legs (possible movie idea?).

As we were leaving the winery, driving down the road, windows down, wind breezing through our hair, looking at the wildlife and just generally soaking in the beautiful-ness (it’ss a word) of New Zealand, a bee sent from the devil himself zoomed into the car, landed in my hair and then the screaming begun. This thing was like a flying dollar coin (the aussie dollar coin, not the weird tiny kiwi dollar coin 😉 ) – buzzing, buzzing the death song of its people. Jemma had that sedan pulled over and she was out of the car, I was out of the car. There was screaming. Then as I opened the boot to see where the bee was, it lunged at me in another depraved devil-bee attack. We survived though. Jemma, we survived. WE are survivors.

20140403-131727.jpgWe needed a time out with the cows and sheep for a minute to recover before we got back in the car and headed home. I witnessed some pretty impressive road **rage** and tail gating, it all started to come together why Jemma wasn’t overly confident in driving the Interstate 15 back in 2012, there are two lane highways in Christchurch, max.

Soon enough it was time to head back to Christchurch and get ready for our night out, Jemma had organised a night out with her girlfriends and I was pretty excited to meet them, albeit nervous as hell about being the one with the ‘funny’ accent, for once. It was really nice to get my drink on with a new group of girls and to meet Jemma’s people :). I brought spotlight on myself when I found vegemite packets I had stashed in my jacket, who even knows when (I do know that these same packets were in my jacket 3 months later in South America). We went to a pretty cool little bar in town, had too many drinks, ate too much food. There was an awkward bucks night which somehow implicated **one** of the girls (not me but she shall remain nameless), there was some table dancing, there was some inappropriate booth conversations, ok there were a lot of inappropriate conversations, there was a dude in a pink popped collar who was the epitome of ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’. There was some shrub-jumping and running after a cab (yep – me), there were more hilarious moments on the way home. There was a three-way phone call to my boyfriend back home, there was Whittakers PB chocolate (the greatest EVER) and then there was sleep.

Day 3

20140403-131717.jpgWaking up close to lunch time and feeling the alcoholic feats of the night before, I stumbled into Jemma’s parents kitchen and…met Jemma’s parents! I was pretty happy, because they are fantastic and you can see why Jemma is the bomb :). They told us all about their trip they had been on, we had a few laughs and then we decided drinking was a good Sunday idea. So we drank and we laughed and we watched Teen Mom 2 and Catfish, ordered pizza’s and THEN! We rode bikes! Fabulous, vintage, hard to steer around corner, bikes. It was one of the best afternoons I had for the entire year. So much fun! Also, my elated behaviour with the bike riding, scored me a bike for Christmas from my boyfriend :). Later on we watched The Notebook and, um, thanks to the amount of alcohol in me, I cried in front of Jemma’s parents and Jemma and they made a quick escape to bed. Sorry guys.

I loved it, I can’t wait to go again. Christchurch rocks, people from Christchurch rock and I wish there was a bridge between the two of us.

Not a bad way to spend a long weekend with Jem, in the waiting months for our gigantic trip :).

*FREEZING: a temperature below 12 degrees to people from Queensland, Australia.

**FREEZING: Classified by the kiwis as sub-zero temperatures, sleet, frozen livestock and icicles.

**Rage**: People from Christchurch engaging in road-rage is actually kind of adorable. It was annoying but it makes you think of pissed off Canadians and you appreciate that people from Christchurch are a million times nicer than anyone else in the world. FACT.

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