Showing posts with label tourism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tourism. Show all posts

Tour of Our Bungalow in Mexico

Sorry about the very bad quality. The Internet connection here is slow and anything that isn't super compressed would take hours to upload. Oh, and after watching it I just realised that I have three mosquito bites on my cheek - thanks Flip camera !

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San Blas or Bust

After a fairly long few days, we arrived in San Blas in the Nayarit region of Mexico yesterday afternoon. We left Phoenix just before noon and as our plane forced its way up into the sky over the desert, I was ready to go but also a little sad that six weeks has gone by so quickly.

Due to a budget flight, we didn't go to Puerta Vallarta direct but went via Dallas and the entire flight I had the theme song from the show of the same name running through my head: "Ba, ba-ba, ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba, ba, ba-ba, ba-ba-baaaa!"

I remember watching that show every Friday night as a kid with my grandparents - Sue Ellen, Bobby, JR. Those were the days! We spent about an hour in the Dallas Airport and I am a bit disappointed to announce that the hair was neither terribly big nor the accents terribly Texan. They did have a lot of BBQ restaurants in the airport though.

After arriving in Puerto Vallarta, were immediately and stupidly ushered into a situation I was completely unprepared for. I am a stereotypical Canadian in that when people try to speak to me, I have trouble not stopping to listen. When they talk and talk and talk, I feel rude just walking away - even if they are trying to sell me something I don't want or need.

Walking out of customs at the PV airport takes you down a narrow hallway flanked on either side by people yelling out to you, holding signs and generally acting like they know you and understand exactly what you need.

"Hola! Lady, where you staying?"

"The Flamenco Vallarta." (Admittedly, responding was my first mistake.)

"You go here - talk to that woman. She represents your hotel."

"Okay." (Second mistake.)

From that point on and for about ten minutes we were amiga and amigo'd by a woman who clearly didn't represent our hotel and who was trying to sell us any number of things from a cab ride, to breakfast, to a friggin' deep sea fishing expedition. Finally, Dan got tired of my polite nodding and ushered us the hell out of there only to have me run into the arms of a dodgy cab driver who charged us the equivalent of about $20 (USD) for a five minute cab ride to our hotel. Yeah, I'm a sucker and Dan was not impressed. I'm going to have to get this under control before we go to India, if we go to India.

Our night in Puerto Vallarta was nice once we got over the irritation of being taken for a ride. Here are some pictures:

After one night at the Flamingo, we got up early with the task of trying to work out how to get to San Blas. We knew it would be by bus, but we had conflicting information about where to catch it, how much it would cost and how long it would take. Due to our rip off cab ride the day before, Dan was pretty intent that whatever we were going to do, it wasn't going to involve a cab or any opportunity for me to be suckered in. Just short of putting tape over my mouth and making me promise not to talk to strangers, we set out with enormous packs on our backs. We were originally going to catch the bus to Walmart, where we were told we could take the Silver Line bus to San Blas but after being admonished by our hotel clerk, we headed in the opposite direction to catch a bus to the central station. Did I mention that my backpack weighs about 100 pounds and although it isn't as hot here as in Phoenix, the humidity is insane and probably feels even worse because we're accustomed to the dryness of the desert. So by the time we'd completed the ten minute walk to the bus stop, I was pretty much soaking wet.

There's this thing about city buses in Mexico that the guide books don't tell you - they don't stop unless you flag them down and often, you don't know which bus to flag down because the destination is painted on the front window by hand and isn't always easy to read. After flagging down the wrong bus once and watching half a dozen pass us by we lucked into a meeting a very friendly man who, was originally from San Blas. For a small tip, he accompanied us on the right bus (which he kindly flagged down) and took us to the station where we would catch the Pacifico bus direct to San Blas. He was a really nice man; it was his birthday and he told us how difficult things had been since the recession because tourists weren't coming down as much. He works at the Westin Hotel and seemed hopeful that things would get better soon. We had a two hour wait at the Pacifico station with only one disaster; a bottle of suntan lotion spilled in my bag and got all over the outside of my laptop, peeling off some of the finish. It still works fine but now it has a bit of character in the form of a shiny-looking chemical peel in one corner. It's scary to me that something I rub all over my skin has the ability to peel plastic off a Mac. Some photos from our wait at the Pacifico station:

The bus actually arrived on time and to our relief it was air-conditioned and nearly empty. The journey took about three hours but would have been less except for quite a lot of construction along the road. It stopped every now and again in small towns where little boys would jump on and try to sell us homemade tacos, pop and Doritos. About an hour outside of San Blas, the scenery changed from dense green jungle to one of small, colourful seaside communities. The ocean smells and looks like heaven and these places are filled with colour and food, children running around and people riding vintage bicycles.

It hasn't all been perfect (more on that later): I am already covered in angry red mosquito bites and there's been one slightly ugly bout of stomach upset but I love looking at this place and I love the slow, sleepy pace of siesta and late dinners. More on San Blas tomorrow ...

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The Mission, Tucson and Tombstone

A few weeks ago Dan and I drove to Tombstone , stopping in Tucson on the way. When I was about 16 I went on a choir tour to Arizona - yes, I was a choir geek - and I remember visiting an old mission outside of Tucson. It was really beautiful and I was determined to go back.

Usually these kinds of memories are best left in the past and turn out to be not nearly as lovely as they are from a distance, so I was prepared to be disappointed. But it was beautiful. It's on the south end of Tuscon, so there's a dusty drive along the highway that loops through the town and just when you think you've gone too far, there it is, rising up out of the desert like a big white glowing castle.

According to Wikipedia the Mission San Xavier was founded in the late 1600s by the Jesuits:
Outside, San Xavier has a white, Moorish-inspired design ... No records of the architect, builders, craftsmen and artisans responsible for creating and decorating it are known. Most of the labor was provided by the local Indians, and many believe they provided most or all of the artisans as well. Visitors entering the massive, carved mesquite-wood doors of San Xavier are often struck by the coolness of the interior, and the dazzling colors of the paintings, carvings, frescoes and statues. The interior is richly decorated with ornaments showing a mixture of New Spain and artistic motifs.Native American ... At least three different artists painted the artwork inside the church. It is considered by many to be the finest example of Spanish mission architecture in the United States.
After exploring the Mission, we headed into Tucson for lunch. The center of the old bit of the city is very pretty with colourful old Spanish colonial houses with bright, cute gardens.

Our last stop was Tombstone, which is about an hour south of Tucson. It was kitschy and depressed - like a Disney exhibition long forgotten. The old Western streets were interesting enough, except that there was nothing authentic about them, and the few stragglers in the town that weren't tourists like us looked like they'd taken a wrong turn somewhere and couldn't ever make their way out again.

Here are some photos. there are more on my Flickr

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Zinnias Antiques and Retro Store in Phoenix, AZ

A few weeks ago, on a particularly sweltering day, Dan and I went antiquing. We didn't intend on buying anything, but were looking for some cool, retro shots to use on Contentini (where you can also see more shots of some of the things we saw). We hit three places - Zinnias, old town Glendale and a gigantic antique warehouse on the edge of the number 15 highway.

Of the three, Zinnias was my stand out favourite. It is located in a large warehouse space, but unlike the place off of highway 15, it wasn't overwhelmingly big. The staff were really friendly, which is notable considering we wandered around for close to a half an hour and took photos of everything. Before we left I bought two old photographs for about $1 and even then they were nice and invited us back. Dan considered buying a giant album of postcards from the 60s but thought better of it given that in a few weeks we are moving on and it would add considerable heft to his luggage. It was amazing though - dozens and dozens of strange postcards someone collected over years. And some of them were even filled out.

Antique shops in America are very different to those in the UK. Over here, the focus is on things from the last hundred years, with a particular focus on kitsch and chotchke. Vintage telephones, cameras, toys, jewelery, postcards, figurines - mostly from a period of time that still seems tangible. I may not have lived in the 40s, 50s or 60s but their influence is still so present that they feel familiar to me; more familiar than relics from the 1700s, as lovely as they may be.

If you aren't boycotting Phoenix and you're looking for a lovely way to pass some time, I highly recommend Zinnias, located at 724 W Indian School Road.

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The Dangers of the Desert, the Grand Canyon and Other Adventures

To see more photos from the Grand Canyon, visit my Flickr set. Sorry some of the text above is a bit fuzzy - not sure how that happened and don't have time to fix it.


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London's Highgate Cemetery

Last week, Dan and I spent a cloudy Sunday afternoon exploring the the east side of Highgate Cemetery. It was an amazing, forgotten world of stunning and occasionally disturbing tomb stones. I was most touched by Paul Foot's simple grave, which is an excerpt from Percy Bysshe Shelley's The Mask of Anarchy:

Rise like lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which is sleep had fallen on you
Ye are many - they are few

Other notables are the graves of Karl Marx and Douglas Adams.

One of the stranger sites was the above series of pictures featuring a woman that had been torn up and then carefully set back together near the entrance to the cemetery. Very strange. There had also obviously been some mischief around the cemetery, which could be seen through acts like the positioning of a damaged angel statue (it had no head) on top of a grave on it's back, as though it were a corpse. There are, of course, plenty of stories about the ghosts and vampires of Highgate Cemetery - including a crazy story about a group of students who got caught up in it in the 70s.

We didn't see any ghosts, but it was a spooky experience. I am quite keen to go back and explore the west side of the cemetery, which apparently has Egyptian tombs and catacombs. It costs £3 to get in either side of Highgate Cemetery and admission goes towards an organisation charged with sustaining and protecting it. Well worth a visit.

You can see more photos of the cemetery on my Flickr page, here.

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Travel in 2009

In addition to moving from Cardiff to London this year (yay!), I've also had a great time of exploring new places and re-visiting others I'd never been to before. So, for posterity sake here's the list (* means I'd never been before):
Places I visited but didn't include on the list because I was either there fleetingly, so often that it didn't feel like a journey, or because the place is too familiar include: Regina and Regina Beach (Canada), Swansea and Ystradgynlais (Wales) and Detroit (USA).

I am really looking forward to the next year and the journeys it will bring. I'm especially excited at the prospect of getting to Japan, India and Italy, which have all been at the top of my list for a long time. Really, I am just very lucky to be in a position to travel so much and, as an added bonus, to do so with someone I love. (Barf, right?)

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Photos from Manchester

Manchester Art Gallery, originally uploaded by oladybug0.

I've just posted a bunch of photos from our November 2009 trip to Manchester. You can see the rest here.

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I'll Get You My Pretty!

Can someone please buy me some ruby red shoes? Think of all the money I would save on air fare.

In the spirit of the Wizard of Oz and other wind storm related things, London sounds like it's blowing away tonight. Seriously Saskatchewan, tonight London's gale force wind takes the prize.

Unrelated to stormy weather (I hope) - tomorrow le garçon and I are heading to Manchester where he is giving a talk about brilliant webby things. We are staying up there overnight and spending Thursday exploring the city, which, based on this website, actually looks like it might be cool.

Anyone out there from Manchester? Any tips?

Sweet dreams my pretties.


These lovelies found via adnspirit.

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USA East Coast Trip Pictures

NYC - Street Art, originally uploaded by oladybug0.

I've posted most of the images from my east coast (Boston and NYC) work trip we took in mid-October on my Flickr.

You can see the entire set, including images from the lovely Harvard University, here.

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Oh, the Places You Will Go!

In North America Dr. Seuss is a big part of the young life and imagination of a lot of kids. From children's classics like Green Eggs and Ham and Hop on Pop to, probably his most popular work, How the Grinch that Stole Christmas (also made into a short television animation that plays faithfully every year throughout the holiday season), Seuss is one of those icons of young imagination in North America. I was surprised to find that a lot of people in the UK have never heard of him, or if they have only distantly.

I didn't discover Seuss' Oh, the Places You Will Go until high school when a friend gave me the book as a gift as encouragement for something or other.

Today is your day.
You're off to Great Places!
You're off and away!

This is pretty much it throughout the book only said in different rhymes. In a few pages and a few hundred words it encapsulates what endless self-help books and Dr. Phil episodes are constantly trying to tell us: that as individuals we control our destiny and can do amazing things if we set our minds to it.

Of course I know this is somewhat naive. I am privileged in a lot of ways and I know that were it not for opportunities I'm afforded because of a lot of factors I was lucky enough to get at birth, it would have been much harder to choose then the book makes it out to be. Despite this, I've carried this book around with me for years and whenever I feel like I need a pep talk, I pull it out. It is currently sitting on the bookshelf in the new London flat.

In mid-October I will have been in the UK for a year - first in Cardiff and now in London. When I think about how much my life has changed over the past 12 months and how many things I've been fortunate enough to see and do, my head spins a little. I know that I am really lucky and I am trying my best to not take it for granted and to enjoy it.

In the past year I've moved from Regina to Cardiff and then again to London. I've traveled to around the UK and have been to Berlin, Paris, Istanbul, Indianapolis, New York, Monterrey, Carmel, San Francisco, Yosemite, Calgary, Banff, Lake Louise, Toronto and Niagara Falls. I've met someone wonderful and am really, truly happier then I can ever remember being.

Enough sap. Here are some pictures:

Cardiff, Wales right before I moved to London.

The lavender and genuinely lovely, furry bumble bees in the garden at our new London flat.

Dan and I (reflection) outside a lovely Mexican restaurant last week in the wilds of Northern California, on the drive between Yosemite and Monterrey.

Pretty good year.

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p-jackie-amy, originally uploaded by oladybug0.

My boyfriend is lovely and in addition to the Holga, he bought me a sweet little Fuji Mini Polaroid Camera, which takes the cutest little instant photos in the world.

The Flickr set includes my girl Friday's birthday, a trip to Toronto (and the lovely Crystal) and some lovely London times.

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Escalator Etiquette and Other Notes

(Image from here.)

I've had a bit of a rough day and feel a bit like whinging. There's no real reason for this, just an overall sense of aggravation and frustration, which is mostly unjustifiable.

I love London but sometimes living in a city that pulls at you the way it does, a city that allows for so little personal space, grates. Most days I am so much in love with all that I get to see and do here that I barely notice the inconveniences of jamming my body into the hot tube every morning, but today everything felt like a challenge. If I had to pick one thing that annoys me the most it is the men and women who line the busiest streets and intersections pawning off London's free dailies - London Lite, Metro, etc., etc. They block doorways, entrances and sidewalks, their insistent arms jutting out in front of you, all but forcing you to take one. I'm not sure how their employers instill such passion in these people who surely must be poorly compensated for their time but almost without exception approach each passer-by with an almost religious-like zeal. Take what I have! Take one! When I am really at odds it takes everything in my power not to tell them to kindly take their paper out of my face.

The first time I visited London, I remember getting on an escalator going down into a tube station and like so many newbies to the city, I planted myself firmly on the 'wrong' side of the moving stair. In London everyone is in a rush all the time and to enable those people, the proper thing to do is to stand on the right hand side of escalators to leave room on the left for those people who are in such a great rush that they choose to walk. Instead of being told gently to move to the right, I am pretty sure that someone yelled at me and maybe even shoved me a little bit. I felt embarrassed and a little annoyed at the rudeness. It's amazing how many other non-Londoners share this exact same experience.

When my mother was here visiting a few months ago, I warned her in advance about escalator etiquette and as a result I am pretty sure that the only one reminding her to move over was me. She remarked quite a few times on how rushed people were in London and now, instead of commiserating about the rudeness of Londoners, I found myself defending them. In a city filled with thousands of people, most of whom are commuting good distances on a daily basis, it is easy to find yourself pushing, trying to get in front of slower people and even desperately impatient when others don't follow the rules. Tourists are fair game because, especially during the summer, they are everywhere. This isn't to say that I don't try to be polite when I tell someone to please stand to the right so I can get past, but now instead of empathising with them, internally I am shaking my head just a little.

Here are the top few rules I wish someone had told me before that first trip to London:
  1. On an escalator, always stand to the right so that people can walk to the left.* If you use crutches or can't walk at a reasonable pace, please stand to the side.
  2. Never travel on the Tube at rush hour unless you absolutely have to. There are thousands of people who are forced to cram onto those tiny bullets and if you aren't one of them, you should really try to not compound the situation.
  3. If you are going to consult a map or book, it's best not to do so at the top or bottom of busy stairways, in doorways or smack in the middle of a sidewalk. The same rule applies for taking a photo or having a mobile phone conversation that brings you to a standstill/near crawl.
  4. Get out your Oyster Card or travel pass before getting to the gates. It's not cool to stand in front of a gate rifling through your bag while other, more prepared people, wait on you.
These are really pretty basic things but when you aren't dealing with the day to day push of the London grind, it's easy to overlook them. It will make for friendlier Londonders and a nicer trip.

Now if only we could think of a way to address all the free paper pushers.

*Rule doesn't seem to apply to escalators at Westfield Mall if my trip tonight was any indication.

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