Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Accidental drinking and a good hangover cure

Last Friday night I met up with Bex and Kim for a long overdue catch up.   After wandering round Kings Cross for what felt like hours, we ended up in B@1 - mainly because they do a great happy hour until 8pm.

slightly drunk eyes on the left...

We (I) made full use of this, consuming many cocktails in a short space of time and as expected I was pretty hammered.  Requests to go to Rockaoke turned down (we shall return!), we headed home at a respectable 10pm with a pit stop at McDonalds, where I decided to pretend to the packed facility that it was my first time there ever as I had just escaped from living in a bunker, and was asking people what they recommended.  And also for some reason I answered to the name of Gupta.

After a sleepless night of making myself vomit and getting the drunken sweats, I uttered the ever repeated, meaningless words "I'm never drinking again" and got up early for our 8 mile walk round Box Hill.

I have a new love of hiking and the outdoors since coming back from America and have resolved to go out to the countryside more.  Bex and Dan agreed to join me on the hike - I sneakily didn't tell them it was 'strenuous' as I didn't think they'd want to come...and strenuous it was!

It sneakily starts off nice and flat in the woodland, before turning into lots of up and down hills that were steeper than the walk back up the Grand Canyon (no switchbacks!).

think the walking stick is a bit big

We were graced with beautiful weather - not too hot and not too cold, and after challenging ourselves to do the hike in 2 hours (it recommended 4), we did it in 3.45.  The fresh air and exercise was great for my alcohol riddled body and I am glad I did it!  Also, we saw a man walking 3 dogs on a lead, AND A CAT! It was the fluffiest cat I have ever seen and also very friendly and also it was being walked with dogs!!! Probably the most amazing thing I have ever seen in my life.

I do recommend the walk, we did this one and it's a fairly nice drive out of London, and a circular route with £4 parking should you fancy doing it yourself.

just a few of about a million steps


we made it!

I had (stupidly) arranged a date for Saturday night.  Unfortunately there was something about him that really reminded me of Mark Corrigan/David Mitchell and once I had that image in my head I couldn't get it out -  he was a no go from the first 5 minutes.

Sunday I met up with Gem and Colin went for some delicious Vietnamese food at Banh Banh - in my opinion the best Vietnamese food outside Vietnam. They have a small but well perfected menu and everything's cooked freshly in front of you.  We then went to the cinema and saw The Avengers movie - it's good, 8 out of 10 popcorns.  (Ironman for the bants and Thor for the looks - mmmm)

Very unrelated but I feel I ought to mention - if anyone wants to donate to Nepal, here's a good list of organisations you can donate to who are helping with aid.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

A miscellaneous list of 10 things

I got a bit over excited with my last post and posted twice in a week so now I don't have much to write about now. Here are some things that have happened.  Some of them I am really scraping the barrel with.

1) FRANCESCA AND DAVID ARE COMING BACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  This was the best thing I have heard in a very long time.  I don't really understand why but some weird passport issue has meant that they're coming home to meeeeeeeee. I feel really gutted for them that their adventure has had to be cut short and through no fault of their own and very unexpectedly, and sad for Amy that she isn't going to get the pleasure of their company any time soon, but also super super super stoked that I get to see them again.  The downside is they're then off again straight away to do Land's End to John O'Groats but at least they're in the same country as me and I can try and see them on weekends if they're in sensible places - or maybe we could have a big party in John O'Groats when they reach the end. I have missed them so so so much and I can't wait to see their tired little plane faces at the airport in June.

2) I got new shoes. I love them and the guy in the BMW in Sainsbury's car park loved them too because he told me.  They were my treat to myself on Saturday after mowing the lawn, doing a food shop, running chores in Peckham and preparing dinner for the evening. Also because I left my other pair of trainers in Death Valley. It was a very productive weekend.

3) Dan has an obsession with kitchen roll. I bought a 3 pack on Saturday morning and by Sunday night one roll was already finished. What does he do with it?! He did have a girl round and the house to himself....ewww the images I have in my head right now are a bit disturbing.

4) On the topic of Dan, I am currently listening to him and Marc talking in the kitchen.   Me and Liz are wetting ourselves with laughter as they're so weird. It's a sweet little bromance they have going on. I would write down what they're talking about but the conversation is jumping so quickly from topic it is impossible.  They're currently discussing which of the boyfriends (current and ex) who have visited the house have been the best and if they should get them an award or not. Weird. It's not clear if they know we can hear them or not.

5) Bread Ahead Doughnuts - oh emmm geeee. Today a guy at work brought in some for someone else's birthday, but the someone else wasn't in the office so we got to eat them instead (they had cream in so wouldn't last longer than a day).  Probably the most delicious doughnut ever - a proper fluffy doughnut coated in sugar (none of this Krispy Kreme Krap) pumped full of fresh vanilla cream. I highly recommend.  Also - another delicious thing to get is the Triple Chocolate Brownie Layer cake from M&S.  Probably the best thing I have ever put in my mouth ever. Try it.

6)  I joined a gym (with Marc - we got a family membership, how cute). It's brilliant, it's got a climbing wall, a squash court, badders courts, two gyms and a swimming pool.  And then I found out they're about to start trialling hot yoga and I got a bit emotional on the gym tour and the guy thought I was a bit crazy.  Tomorrow I'm doing pilates, and Sunday I am doing yoga and then swimming. I am excited to get back into a gym again - I missed exercise when I was away.

7) Which leads me nicely onto my next point - I was feeling miserable and PMSy last Sunday and returned to London in a weird mood, decided to go for a run. Dan kindly came with me and it was AMAZING. We did a route we've not run before so had no idea how long we were running for, and the first ten or so minutes were hell but then we got into a nice little rhythm and I almost enjoyed it! And when we got home the app said we had run 5.55km. Dead proud. And then Monday I walked home from work, and Tuesday I went for another run and it almost felt easy. I feel accomplished! Except that I should really be in the pool right now but I am feeling kinda sleepy and writing a blog post seemed more appealing. But I did walk home from work again today so there's that.

8) I am trying and failing to write a poem about purple, because Leanne wrote a great poem about pink and ended it with a slander about purple which happens to be my favourite colour. I have got as far as brainstorming purple things and that's it. I don't think I was made to be a poet.

Ideally I'd like to get my list to 10 to make it a nice rounded number but I think I'm going to have to end it on 8.  I have run out of things to say and barrels to scrape.   Oh wait I have thought of some stuff!

9) This blog, Deserter, is worth a read.  It often has me giggling on the bus.  I particularly like this article as it's a journey I myself have taken many times.

10) If you want something funny to watch on Netflix, their new show "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" is worth a watch. It has me lolling and binge watching.

Wahey, I made it to 10! Now I am wondering if I should take the one about boys out. but then I'd need to think of something to replace it with and I can't be arsed...wait I took it out! Ciao for now!

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

A very emo motivational message: the year of do.

I'm feeling more confident than ever.

I am writing this on the bus as it suddenly hit me and made me happy. (It also might have something to do with the fact I am quite possibly high on a big dose of max strength cold and flu medicine - the stuff is magical!)  I am often plagued with self doubt and insecurities so wanted to record how I feel right now. (No doubt tomorrow I'll not feel like this and read this back and laugh)

For once I feel happy I have friends over the world, instead of feeling lonely and left behind, I feel happy that my friends are happy on their adventures and they miss me enough to want me to come and visit. 

I've been trying to book a group weekend break to Florence since the beginning of the year.  Rather than be annoyed with people that they don't want to come on adventures with me, I'm understanding that my friends have different priorities and it's not personal, it's because they can't afford it, or are busy, or just plain don't want to - it's not because they don't want to go away with me as a person. (Hahaha, I hope)

The way I feel right now, I feel I could take on the world.  I feel like if I wanted to book a holiday to Croatia and no one could/would come with me, I could go alone and hostel it.  I can do anything. 

And so can you!  If there's something you have wanted to do for a while but haven't done it because you can't find anyone to go with, fuck it! Book it anyway!  It's forcing yourself out of your comfort zone and being all the better for it.  It's having new experiences and realising you can deal with them.  It's not relying on other people and having the epiphany that you can only rely on yourself, and that's OK, because the only constant in your life will be you, so you may as well get used to it. 

Life is transient.  Friends are there for a reason, a season or a life time.  It would be nice if the majority were for a lifetime but let's be honest, it would also be boring.   New people enrich you and teach you lessons, both good and bad. 

Carry on being you and liking you and give yourself a pat on the back.  You can do anything.  This is the year of DO!!

Sunday, 12 April 2015

America observations/general ramblings

Blindfolded at the Grand Canyon

Cripes I have been back nearly a week and it feels like I never left and it was all a dream.  I was very lucky and had no jet lag - I like to think it was down to my meticulous planning.  I had a night flight (9.30pm) that arrived at 4pm UK time the following day.  I went straight to sleep on the plane (missed dinner and everything) and then woke up about 4/5 hours later.  Then when I landed, forced myself to stay awake (to be fair it wasn't that hard) until 10pm that night. Low and behold - no jet lag! I mean I have felt tired this week, but no more so than I normally would on 5 hours sleep.

This post is just going to be rambling about America and stuff in no particular order.  I've got into the swing of things again (sort of) but when I first got back I did feel a bit bereft - it's really nice having someone drive you places and tell you where to go and what to do and where to sleep and how much you owe when the bill has been split, so it's been like my umbilical cord has been cut off this week...I think I got used to being reliant on someone a bit too quick and I liked it a bit too much!!!

I started to go through my photos but there's over 1000 of them and I need to edit them to make them resemble something decent so that's going to take a while. I think I'll do what I did with my Asia trip and do a photo essay post on it at some point when I have gone through them all.

Tipping in America is a bit confusing.  Unlike other places I have been to, there seems to be varying rules - like it's expected in most places, but some restaurants where you order at the bar you don't need to tip, and others you do. I got very confused and mostly relied on Ben to tell us what to do.  I also didn't want to tip if the service was pants, but I think the general consensus is you should still tip if it was crap.  The tax is also really annoying - in the majority of places we went to, the menus would state a price such as $4.99, so you'd expect to pay $4.99 right? Except they don't include tax, which would vary from state to state, so you'd end up with a bill of something random like $5.43 plus a $1 tip.  Means it's hard to budget for stuff. First world problems.

Iced tea in iced tea drinks machines isn't iced tea - it's just warm tea that you then have to add lemon and sugar and ice to.

The only good decent toilets I found were in Texas in Buc-ee's and they actually advertise that they have the best toilets in the USA.  Every single other toilet I went to had a really short door so you could see people's feet and legs (and sometimes their pants round their ankles) and if they were really tall you could see their heads when they stood up.  The doors are never flush with the sides and so you could peer through the gaps either side should you do wish.  I don't so wish!  One toilet even had shutter doors so you could see through the slats.  The toilets are also really low and shallow unlike UK ones which are more upright and deeper.  Who knew I could write a paragraph dedicated to toilets. What a weirdo!

One of the really great things about the USA is water from the majority of taps available is 100% safe to drink.  Might not taste so nice (some of the water in deserts is very chemically as it's been recycled and treated so many times).  But means you only have to buy a water bottle once and keep refilling it wherever you go - there's drinking taps in most public toilets and bars and restaurants were happy to refill for me too.

Don't go go the cinema if you've got a longhaul flight coming up - the movie selection on the plane is awesome.  ALSO the planes all have a USB socket now, so I recharged my phone and tablet on the plane with my USB cable, meaning I was ready to go when I landed.  Brilliant!

Ear plugs are amazing.  I have never really got on with them before, but I am a bit funny with things going in my ears (side note - I am in the market for some wireless headphones if anyone can recommend some - not in-ear ones).  However I got a free pair of ear plugs from the hostel in NYC and they were amazing.  A tad too big for my ears and so they hurt me a bit, but blocked noise out enough that I had some amazing sleeps away - even camping and staying in a hogan with 8 other people.  An eye mask is also brilliant - I am still using my free one from Emirates Business Class a few years ago (it's so soft and comfy).

Real pillows and self inflating camping mats are also amazing.  Pretty sure if I had roughed it with no pillow (my original plan was to roll clothes up into a scarf but pillows were less than $3 in Walmart) and had just used a Trek America camping mat I would have been a very grumpy lady each morning. Never overestimate comfort!

I have worked out how much my trip cost me, if anyone's interested.  Breakdown below:
Trek America tour: £1769 minus 20% winter discount - £1,415.20
Flight: £599 return
Shared room at the tour start: £65
Spending money spent: £1164
(this includes £76 for NYC hostel, £120 for optional activities on trek, £185 for the helicopter flight, £102 for the food kitty and a tip for Ben)
TOTAL: the most expensive holiday I have ever had £3243.65

Definitely worth every penny though! Kam Sa!

This week has been fairly busy.  Tuesday I booked to get the bedraggled mess on my  hair cut and coloured.  I love my hairdresser to pieces but he is never on time, so by the time he started working on my crows nest I had been waiting an hour already.  I bailed on getting it coloured as I was falling asleep in the chair, but he did give me a free toner treatment which has magically brought life into my dull barnet which is good news.  On Thursday I went to see a play at Southwark Playhouse with Liz and Sepha, it was called Wasted (written by Kate Tempest) and was good, the best way to describe it would be as the theatre version of Skins.  Friday I fell asleep on the sofa listening to the Serial podcast (no reflection on the podcast), Saturday I went to Putney to see the boat race, put a fiver on a horse and lost, and stayed out much later than I had planned, and hopefully made some new friends (does that make me sound like a loser?).  Sunday was the most perfect Sunday - the weather was beautiful, I had a free yoga class and swim, a sunny pub lunch and caught up with some old friends on the phone, one of which was the beautiful Barbra who I haven't spoken to in far too long.  Roll on the summer!

Photo by Ben Collier on Jonas's amazing camera!

Trek America Day 20 & 21: Death Valley and LA

Ahhh the final two days.  Sad times.

They were a bit of a blur and I was struck down with illness (drama) so this post may lack detail, sozzles.

We drove through Death Valley on our way to our campsite making some stops on the way. It's a pretty dramatic landscape - parts of Star Wars (original movies) were filmed there.  It's the lowest and driest part of the USA and also holds the record for the hottest recorded temperature in the world - 57.6°C in 1913, yikes!  In 2001, they had 154 days where the temperature was above 38°C.

We took a break at a ghost town which had a population of 5,000 in the 1920s until the gold dried up and everyone left, it was a bit eerie. 

We stopped at Badwater Basin, so named when an early explorer tried to get his mule to drink from the lake.  It refused so he assumed it was bad water, and the name stuck.  The mule refused because the water is very salty - when the lake dries up, what's left is a large salt pan.  Badwater Basin is the lowest point of the USA, being 86 metres (282 feet) below sea level.  

After Badwater we started a hike into a canyon, but I started to feel a bit funny and returned to the car, I think the heat made me a bit quiffy and I had a really bad tummy and spent the remainder of the trip with really bad stomach cramps, boo (or should I say poo!!) Shame really as the drive to our campsite was beautiful but I missed it all as I was a hot sweaty crampy mess in the back of the car too busy focussing on not being sick. Rubbish.

When we got to our camp the lovely Sarah set up the tent and I then lay down for a few hours, but I started to get a big FOMO rush so decided to join the others whilst they were making dinner.  I felt a bit better so joined them by the campfire where Julie told ghost stories in french, and I practised my french by trying to translate. C'├ętait bien!

The following day we drove to LA, our final destination.  It's a pretty drive through a noticably greener landscape than we have seen previously. We drove up Mulholland Drive and took a photo of the Hollywood sign (and a selfie, obvs), and then on to Hollywood Boulevard.  This is really pants and I don't recommend it - there's nothing to do apart from look at the floor and try and spot interesting people, otherwise it's a bit like walking up your local high street.  It's not as glitzy as I expected it to be.

Ben then drove us to Venice Beach, where we dipped our toes in the Pacific (cold) and wandered up and down the beach.  Venice Beach has a nice vibe to it, and there's a lot of cool street art.  There's also an outdoor gym called Muscle Beach which is used by men built like brick shithouses who will happily pose for photos and literally pick up girls to show how strong they are.  We watched a street dance show which was quite impressive then Ben took us back to the final stop, where we said sad goodbyes and waved each other off.  

It was a whistlestop tour of the USA but I really enjoyed myself and there's places I would like to go back to - like New Orleans, and the National Parks.  I have met some wonderful people and I hope to reunite with them again in my life - we have talked about doing a Korea 2016 reunion (if Kim Jong-Il behaves himself and doesn't start a war) and maybe Denmark later on this year.  

Some things to remind me of the trip that probably won't make sense to anyone else but those in the Trek Fam:

Kam Sa

Ja Sku Da

Thank you, Much appreciated

All I want is you to be my bride

What time is it? Selfie Time

Good job guys

That's shit, because it's a Samsung



Danish Vikings, Korean Tigers, English Queen

Friday, 3 April 2015

Trek America Day 18 & 19: Las Vegas

My Vegas trip in a nutshell: drank, partied, gambled, saw old men in mankinis, had a hangover, got stuck in a lift, slept a lot.

We had our last Walmart stop of the trip so I bought some sweets for back home (sorry guys you're all getting American candy) and a salad and ate in in the car park.  As we ate a guy drove up to us asking if we knew Greg Gibson.  We shook our heads, he cursed and sped off.  Ten minutes later he returned with a photo of Greg (who happened to be a really old man) but we still didn't know him, so he cursed and sped off again.  Bit weird.

We stopped off at the Hoover Dam which was pretty impressive, it looks like you could slide all the way down.  I think they're missing a tourist trick there.

We also stopped at a town on Route 66 that Radiator Springs from the movie Cars is based on.  It was very weird and just seems to be filled with shops cashing in on the Cars fame, the street is lined with old American cars made to look like the characters in the film.  There's also some weird quirky bits which you can see in the photos below.

We reached Vegas at 2ish and checked into our huge hotel, The Golden Nugget.  I love and hate Vegas in equal measure.  Actually I probably hate it a little bit more than I love it.  It's a place of pure indulgence, prostitution is legal, you can smoke indoors and you can gamble and drink till your heart's content. Sin city.

After camping for the past few nights in tiny towns and national parks, Vegas was a shock to the system.  Our hotel looked very classy but when you looked closer it's really just a seed pit.  It was massive, having three towers filled with rooms, a spa, 10 restaurants, a casino and a swimming pool that had a shark tank in the middle of it. Located in downtown Vegas, you step outside the hotel onto Fremont Street, an absurd strip filled with neon lights, hawkers and casinos.  Above is a covered area with zip lines attached - yes, you can zip line down the bloody street.  There's homeless people with signs saying they have stage 3 cancer standing next to an old man wearing nothing but a mankini, and he's standing next to a topless woman who has covered her nipples in glittery hearts, and she's standing next to a man with one leg and deformed arms who's playing the drums, and he's sitting next to a man dressed as a really bad batman and you can see the outline of his penis.  You get the picture. It's all a bit mental.

Me and Julie went for a quick wander to get some dinner and returned with necklaces given to us by some Chippendales men.  Their chests were so buff I wanted to lick them.  I refrained but I probably could if I wanted to, anything seems to go in Vegas!

We tried to chill by the pool for a bit but it proved impossible, Las Vegas is certainly not a place for chilling!  There were screaming children everywhere and they blast music in the pool area really loud, so we gave up and went to get ready for our night out.  We had all paid $35 each for a limo for two hours to give us a tour of Vegas.  There had been a mix up; we were expecting a stretch limo, we actually had a 40 seater bus, complete with pole and bar area.  Much better than a limo!!

Sun took care of the bar and we drank and danced on the bus until it was time to finish our trip.  It was so much fun that I would like  every night out to start that way!  I did wake up the following morning with sore thighs and huge bruises on my legs from falling over so much though.  It's hard walking on a moving bus.

We got dropped off at the Bellagio so we had a quick snoop inside, watched the fountains outside, then went to explore the rest of the strip.  We quickly got distracted by a casino (Caesar's Palace if you're interested) and spent the rest of the night playing roulette and blackjack.  I played it very safe (I was only really playing to get a free drink) and cashed in as soon as I had won, so came away with the grand total of 10 bucks.  Daniel managed to lose 100, and both Gen and Simon won over 100.  Gen was so excited by her win that she bought a bottle of champagne to celebrate which we drank into the wee hours.

It got to 2am and I was falling asleep and Daniel had fallen asleep, so we got a cab home when someone has the bright idea to go to a a strip club.  The taxi driver dropped us off at Spearmint Rhino (and refused to take me home) so I got out to join the others.  Luckily for me it was a crazy $44 to get in so we ended up back in the taxi to the hotel.  By the time we got in it was 3am so I tiptoed into my room so as not to wake Julie and slept till 10.30 the following day feeling a bit worse for wear. 

We began the day with a lunch buffet in the hotel then wandered up to the hipster bit of Fremont St.  It reminded me of Shoreditch.  Genevieve and I had a bit of an afternoon flutter in the casinos near our hotel where the buy-in is much cheaper than on the main strip.  I put down $2 on the roulette table and at one point was $35 up but got a bit bored and put it all on black and lost it all.  However the thrill from gambling and drinking in the afternoon made it worth it.  Sorry mum! Viva Las Vegas!

In the evening the girls had tickets to a magic comedy show.  It was the worst thing I've ever seen ever and I warn everyone against going to see him, he was called Mike Hammer and was one of those crap comedians who rely on taking the piss out of the audience to get a laugh.  I guess its always a bad sign when a comedian uses You've Been Framed videos as his warm up...he also made some sick jokes alluding to the fact he was a paedo when there were kids in the audience.  He spent more time arguing with drunk people than doing magic and it was a waste of $18, I'd have rather lost the 18 bucks in the casino than watch his show!

I was dead on my feet so lamely went to bed at 9.30 whilst the rest of the group went out in Fremont St.  A decision I regret now as it sounded like they had another great night, but in my defence I had a bloody good 11 hour uninterrupted  sleep which was well needed!

My great adventure is nearly over, we have one night camping in Death Valley, one day in LA then I fly home Sunday night.  I'm sad it's coming to an end!  I don't know how I will function as an independent adult again, I've got too used to Ben driving us round and telling us where to go and what to do and working out restaurant bills.   I can't even remember how to get home from Heathrow on Monday.  Maybe I'll just stay here forever ;)