Monday, November 30, 2015

Updates and Plans

I know I was really bad about keeping up with this, but I've been working a lot on my other blog (Universal Jetsetters), trying to up my page views and actually get to a point where I can start monetizing it. So unfortunately, this has fallen behind, but now that I've got a bit of a plan for the other one I should be able to divide my time more evenly.

Thanksgiving was great and it was so nice to see extended family who I haven't seen in a while. And I love to eat, which isn't news, so stuffing my face with all that delicious, yummy food (and wine) was wonderful.

The weather was unusually warm the past couple of weeks, but so far the past couple of days have been a typical winter. Cold, grey, and rainy. It's nice though because I don't like how the past couple of weeks have been so warm (it doesn't feel like it's almost Christmastime!).

We finally have a somewhat plan for what we're doing in the coming months so I'm pretty excited for that. We're going to be here until the 23rd, but then we're going to go back to the UK for Christmas, but then are coming back again for our family friends' wedding party on New Years' Eve. Then we'll be in the US until the 7th and will then head back to the UK. Through a combination of miles, points and good deals we really haven't paid much at all for all of the flights (thanks also to a generous Christmas gift from my parents). I also got a part time job working in the shoe department at Macy's for the holiday season, so while we're just here hanging out at least I'll be doing something productive with my time. It'll be good though because I love shoes and I get a 20% staff discount, and that's pretty cool.

Unfortunately, I got very wrapped up in the sales this weekend and bought a coat and 2 pairs of pants. The coat was a Christmas gift from my parents, but we didn't know what size I was so we ordered 2 in a different color each, but then this morning we woke up to find a bunch of fashion bloggers had reviewed it and it's now sold out of every size in every color. Glad I ordered when I did! Hopefully one of them fits though since I most likely won't be able to order another. I will let you know when they arrive!

Other than that I haven't got a whole lot to report on, so I'll have an update on things later this week.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Other Things We've Done

Since we got the US we've done a lot considering the time we've been here. In between our trips though we took one day to do something a little crazy but I was so excited by it. I've had silver (the lowest tier) on Delta Air Lines for a while now, but I was so so close to gold we chose to spend a whole day flying around the US so I could finally get gold. Michael has gold, which is why we've had access to lounges and such in the past year, but I was much closer to qualifying for this year than he is so we both thought it would be good for me to get it for this next year.

We had a crazy early start of 3 a.m. and flew from DC to New York, then to Toronto. I'd never been to Toronto, or Canada for that matter, but this trip was purely to get the miles for my status and not visiting so hopefully I'll be able to make it there eventually! We could see the city from the air though and I got a Canadian stamp in my passport so... that counts, right? In Toronto we went outside and breathed some Canadian air and I had a Canadian Tim Hortons (super exciting) so we kiiiind of were there. From there we flew to Cincinnati, then we were going to Atlanta and back to DC, but due to a slight delay we managed to snag more miles by routing ourselves to Memphis, then Atlanta and then to DC.

We got in just after midnight but I got all my miles, got my gold status and it was super exciting. I know you're all thinking I'm a bit crazy, but hey, that's alright. Because now I have access to lounges, priority boarding, priority bag drop and check in, etc. on my own accord and that's pretty cool.

Other than that, I've been reading a lot of Agatha Christie novels through my Australian library book app. I asked the library before we left Melbourne if I needed to renew my subscription each year but it's every two so I get one more year out of free books before I lose it even though I no longer live there. I'm totally loving Christie's Hercule Poirot books. In the past I hadn't read much of them but after a couple I totally fell in love with the character because he's peculiar and hilarious and brilliant, and I'm in awe of Christie's ability to craft these stories with such crazy endings that I would never suspect.

In other news I've had an annoying cold that seems to be taking its sweet time going away. First I had a sore throat, then I was congested and now I have a cough. Here's to hoping it's gone by the end of this weekend! 

I realized I wrote this whole post yesterday but completely forgot to publish it. Oops! Sorry about that! 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Ohio And Shenandoah

I know I said I was going to do a post yesterday about Ohio but I ended up not doing it because we took an impromptu trip to Shenandoah in Virginia! Not the best weather but it was super fun so I'll do a post now on Ohio and that to make up for it.

Ohio was great and I got to see a lot of people so that was super nice. We flew in and out of Columbus and the first night we stayed on the outskirts in a town/city called Dublin. We did mean to do stuff in Columbus but instead we ended up driving all the way out to see the Longaberger basket building, which sounds crazy but I heard about it a long time ago and we thought it would be awesome to see in person. Although a bit nuts, I'm glad we went because I got a really good kick out of it.

Longaberger basket building

On the drive back we passed a town called Newark and we stopped to look at the court house, but then ended up thinking the whole town was pretty cool and old fashioned so we parked up and walked around for a while.

Up close at the courthouse as the sunset

Former prison and now Sheriffs HQ

The courthouse

Also the courthouse

Old Midland Theater

We had a great time there, but by the time we were done we were quite tired and hungry so we just went back to our hotel, had some beer and (unfortunately) watched the news about the Paris attacks (which had just happened). We went out for some delicious Indian food and went to bed.

The next morning we drove to Cincinnati and met up with my friend Stacey from Miami, who lives there, at her apartment. We got our stuff together and headed into the city to do some fun stuff. Although Miami was only 45 minutes from Cincinnati I've only ever been in the city twice and I haven't seen a whole lot of it so Stacey showed us some of the highlights. We went to Findlay Market first and walked around (and I almost bought popcorn in every shade and taste known to man), then to Washington Park, walked that area a bit, went to Fountain Square and finished off by these swings on the waterfront that Michael and I had discovered a couple of years ago.

Fountain at Fountain Sqaure

The fountain and the ice rink

On the swings

Washington Park

After all of that fun stuff we headed back to Stacey's apartment and made a delicious dinner and had wine and chatted. It was a super fun night and we were so sad to say goodbye we invited her to come spend the next night with us in Oxford!

The next day we drove to Oxford and we met up with my friend and former housemate Krista, who came to visit me in Australia. We had a yummy lunch at Wild Bistro, our favorite (and one of the only) Chinese restaurant in Oxford. We walked all around campus and I finally stepped on the seal! It is a BIG no no to step on the seal when you go there; it brings you bad luck and it's said if you step on it you'll fail your next exam. I'm not superstitious, but it seemed silly to risk it. This time though I finally got to do it with NO fear because that diploma is mine so HA. We also bought some stuff from the bookstore (not books! I bought some Miami socks and a t-shirt), got a coffee and hung out uptown. It was super sad to say goodbye, but Krista had to drive back to Dayton and had work the next morning.

Me and Krista

Upham Arch! The best part of campus

We met up with Stacey about an hour later and had some drinks in the hotel room before heading out to dinner. We had a great night just hanging out and it was nice to get in some extra time since we haven't seen each other in over a year and Skype just isn't the same.

It was really nice to be back in Oxford again and see everything again, although the changes they're making to campus is really not cool. Stop painting the beautiful red bricks white!

The next morning we got up early and then drove back to Columbus for our flight. Even though we were only there for a few days I feel like we did a lot and it was so great to see friends again I haven't seen in a while so I'm super glad we got to go.

As for Shenandoah, it's a valley in Virginia with a national park that my family and I used to go camping and hiking at all the time when I was younger. I hadn't been in a while and Michael had never been so we decided to make a trip there. We'd talked about going for a while but hadn't really committed to a time and as we looked at the calendar we realized we had awkward commitments in the way to give us a clear two days in the future so we just decided to go yesterday and stay the night and come back today.

We stayed at a hotel about an hour from the park and by the time we got to the park it was beginning to get very foggy and grey, so doing an actual hike wasn't really a very good idea. Instead we did a few short hikes and drove around looking at the various overlooks. We saw a bunch of deer, but no bears, which was sad but we weren't there long enough to increase our chances. Eventually the fog was beginning to get so thick we couldn't see anything so we headed back to the hotel.

Unfortunately today the weather was pretty gross today, only not just fog but lots of rain so even if we wanted to do anything in the morning we really couldn't. We hit a ton of traffic on the way home due to the rain and the fact it was rush hour so that was bad timing. Overall it was a really nice trip though and it was nice to go to the Shenandoah again after so long.

We've been doing some really fun stuff while here in the US and I've really enjoyed it, but I'm sorry I've been so bad about blogging about it. Tomorrow I'll write a post about all the stuff we've been doing in between these trips, so look for it!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Dallas and Mexico

I know this post is so insanely late and for that I apologize. I think not having much of a routine here in the US has made it very difficult for me to get my stuff together and while that's not an excuse I'll try and keep up with it again. I'm going to do a post on Dallas and Mexico today, Ohio tomorrow and a post after that of everything in between, so look out for them!

We had a great time in Dallas and it was great seeing Leah, my roommate from Brussels, who lives close by. We all went to this rodeo in Fort Worth, which was pretty fun. There was lassoing cows, barrel racing, and more, in addition to this strange "game" they played with very small children. They released a bull (a sheep for the much younger kids) with a piece of tape attached to its neck and all the children had to run around and the first to get the piece of tape won. A very weird game, but hey, it's Texas so I guess it sort of made sense.

Us at the rodeo

We stayed in a different area within the Dallas region each night we were there and got to see a lot of extra stuff. The first night we stayed over the border in Oklahoma and went to get a delicious Chinese buffet that cost us the grand total of $17. We saw some really pretty lakes and took a walk around one of them where we saw these bizarre creatures in the water that zoomed around and we couldn't decide if they were small fish or some sort of larva beetle. We never did find out.

We went into Dallas only on one day and to be honest I wasn't all that impressed by it. There was some cool stuff, like we saw where JFK had been shot, and saw a pretty museum, but it felt just very corporate and less like somewhere where people live and hang out.

A museum

JFK memorial

Other parts of the city

That x in the road you can just make out is where JFK
was shot

After Dallas we flew into Cancun. Unfortunately our plane was broken so we boarded but then all had to get off and change terminals to get on a new plane. Not that we were intending to do a whole lot that first evening anyway, but we got in quite late and didn't do a whole lot. We did, however, discover this little shack with the cheapest, most delicious quesadillas I have ever had. After that we went for a short swim on the rooftop pool of our hotel.

The next morning we went to the beach and had some drinks while lounging in the sun. Luckily we had an umbrella so I didn't turn into a total lobster, but we also had access to the pool and the ocean so we went swimming in both throughout the day. We were lucky and even though they said there would be rain that day it stayed sunny and clear skies the whole day.

The beach

My caipirinha 

The chairs we were sitting in

The walkway leading to the beach

It was a lovely day, but the next day was when we went to Chichen Itza, which was pretty awesome. We left around noon the next day and we decided to take the free road, as opposed to the toll road, not only because it was free but also because people say you get a better sense of the area by going through a bunch of little villages. While that was true, I have to say the sheer number, and size, of speed bumps on that road was about the most aggravating thing I have ever experienced. Plus the speed limits in Mexico make very little sense and they'll have tons of signs on one stretch that all contradict each other. Not to mention they are implausibly slow. When we arrived that afternoon it was so insanely hot, in the high 90s (about 35c) and very very humid, so the thought of walking around outside to see Chichen Itza was pretty painful. Instead we went to one of the cenotes across the road with plans to do Chichen Itza the next morning as soon as it opened.

The cenote we went to is called Ik Kil, and although we knew it was the most touristy one it was the most convenient so we chose to go anyway. Of course, as we predicted, it was jam packed with people, but regardless it's super impressive with the huge vines and just the sheer depth of it. I went swimming briefly, the water was so nice and cool, but it was so crowded we didn't stay long. I'm still glad we saw it though because it was one of the coolest things I've ever seen. Plus, they've been around since the Maya-- and that's pretty cool.

After that we went back to our hotel across the road and swam in the pool there and had some dinner. We ended up getting quite a storm with a ridiculous amount of rain, but it did lead to some awesome photos.

The next morning we got up early and arrived at Chichen Itza 10 minutes after it opened (still the number of tour groups there was kind of ridiculous). The grounds are huge, which isn't surprising considering it was a city, but it was all really awesome. The main pyramid, El Castillo, was the first thing we saw, and while it's super impressive the other parts of it were just as awesome. It's hard to believe this has been there since about 600 AD, the fact it's been able to withstand nature that long is crazy to think about as well. We were there for a couple of hours and the sun was just as hot as the day before by the time we left, but at least we got it in when it wasn't so bad.

El Castillo

I believe this was part of the Temple of Warriors

The observatory

Part of the nunnery 

A wall with skull depictions (called the skull platform)

I really enjoyed walking the grounds and photos definitely don't do it justice. The plaques they had by each building/ruins were really informative. We also saw the Sacred Cenote where the Maya sacrificed people, something that, to be perfectly honest, freaked me out to see in person. I don't really have many good photos of that one though. We saw it towards the end and I was a bit worn out from the heat it didn't really occur to me to take a photo.

The plan was to drive back to Cancun from Chichen Itza, but we decided instead since we were all the way out there and we wouldn't be back in Cancun in time to do much anyway, that we would drive to Tulum and see the Mayan ruins on the sea. It's the only city they had (or at least we've found) on the coast and it's really cool. Unfortunately, we were there in the early afternoon and the heat was so paralyzing we saw the main bit and then left. I honestly feel as though the heat in Mexico was worse than what I experienced in Thailand, and I have no idea why that is.

Nonetheless, we saw the main temples and buildings, I took a few photos, and then we found the largest bottle of chilled water we could and went back to the car. I'm glad we went, but I wish it wasn't so hot so we would have had the chance to see a bit more of it.

On our drive back to Cancun we encountered some serious rain, on the highway too, and I could barely see anything. People were driving with their flashers on and visibility was, at most, a few feet. Seeing as Mexico is quite tropical we were hoping the rain would pass just as quickly as it came and we'd be in the clear, but alas it kept raining and raining and raining. Although it did stop occasionally, and wasn't nearly as hard as on the highway, it stormed pretty consistently with thunder and lightning for that last night and the next morning.

We arrived to the hotel that night back in Cancun and vegged out and had some beers and room service because I was tired from all of the driving and you'd really be surprised the toll heat can take on you. Plus, with the storm we wouldn't have wanted to go on the beach or in the outdoor pool anyway.

The next morning we got up early and had plans to go for an early swim before our flight in the afternoon, but the weather was much the same. Instead we went for a short walk and watched the storm roll in, but once the wind picked up and the sky was very dark we decided it was time to go inside.

At first when we walked outside it was dark, but not too bad

Storm beginning to roll in

About 10 minutes later the same area was significantly darker

Just about to head back inside

We had some breakfast at the hotel and then got our stuff together and headed to the airport. Luckily it was just rain and didn't affect our flight in any way, but still I was pretty pleased with the weather we had. We had a full day of sunshine for our beach day, and no rain when we were outside looking at the ruins at Chichen Itza or in Tulum, so overall we did very well.

The trip was so much fun and I'm really glad we did it, and I'm super excited to have seen two ancient Mayan cities. I apologize again for this post being so delayed, but I promise to get better about it and be sure to look out for my post about Ohio tomorrow!