Monday, December 24, 2007

NM, AZ, NYC & Boston!

Translated that is..New Mexico, Arizona, New York City & Boston. These are all places ive been to over the last week or so - its funny because it feels like i've been in the States a lot longer than 2 weeks since i've packed so much in! So im going to break it down under those place names to catch ya'll up on what ive been up to :)

New Mexico
I stayed with my friend Nicole in a small town called Silver City in the southwest corner of the state of New Mexico. Its a nice little town with some cool shops & Mexican restaurants. Nicole took me to this cute little Mexican restaurant called Jalescos for lunch which was nice. Had proper traditional Mexican food which you just dont get in NZ! They have the best tortilla chips over here which they often serve as an appetizer at Mexican restaurants here. Anyways at this place i had an enchilada taco - tasted great! :) While i was in Silver we also went into Walmart which was cool - so much variety, its a massive store. Think The Warehouse meets Kmart but better quality stuff i think. Altho some say Target has better quality things than Walmart! so i really dunno :P

Anyways we went on our roadtrip my third day in the States, and we went via the Black Hills up to Albuquerque. It was beautiful driving thru the hills - dark trees with heaps of snow on them, it looked really striking. As we were coming out of the hills we saw a coyote! It was standing on the side of the road and just stood there eying us up as we drove by! hehe. But it was still cool to see a live one. Wouldn't want to be anywhere near one though. We stayed at a Holiday Inn at Albuquerque and then went and explored Old Town! :) This quickly became a fave place for me, had such a cool little village full of diff and interesting shops - many of which sold handmade Native Indian jewellery and pottery. There was also a church in the middle of the village that was built in 1706 and has had services ever since then!! Its a beautiful looking church and i took some photos of it - it was often on ABQ postcards in lots of the stores. Albuquerque is also famous for its hot air balloon festival it has at the end of Oct/Nov (i think) each year. While in Old Town we went to another Mexican restaurant which was really nice too. This time i had traditional tacos which were real nice - so filling!

Arizona is the state next door to New Mexico, closer to California side of the country. It is really dry, flat and dusty but has awesome things! From the Grand Canyon to Sedona to Phoenix to things like their cactuses and even the state license plates - they were all cool to see :) Grand Canyon was absolutely awesome!! You really have to be there to grasp how magnificent it really is - words and pictures will never do it justice (hehe as we were entering into Arizona i saw a cool sign that pretty much summed this up - "Take a breather before we take your breath away" & it had the image of the Grand Canyon in the background!) The day we were there was a beautiful day (in fact, the weather during the whole of our roadtrip around NM and Arizona was perfectly blue skies!) and you could see right across most of the canyon. The lady in the gift shop said just the weekend before it was snowy and the visibility really bad at the canyon so im so glad we were blessed with great weather so it could really glow in all its glory. Even though it would have been nice to have visited it in summer, it was good visiting it in winter b/c you could get a park easily (in summer its bumper to bumper up the road to the South Rim) and not be too crowded at the differnet viewing platforms. Plus there were still a fair amount of tourists there to (including a group of Russians and Asians). The South Rim looked so pretty with sprinklings of snow! One of my fave viewpoints was the Grandview Point, which you can stop at if u go east around the South Rim - there was heaps of snow here and it was cool seeing a diff angle to the rim. Also along the way to this particular viewpoint there were several elk (male & females) grazing on the side of the road! we pulled over (as did most others) and took photos from the safety of the car. Got some really great shots and they didnt seem to be too disturbed at all - they barely glanced at the cars. It was great seeing and being able to appreciate the elk in daylight, but it sure isn't fun coming across them at nighttime! On the way up to Grand Canyon National Park (we stayed at a place just outside the park) it was pretty dark since we left Flagstaff (the nearest town) after dinner. As we were going along we suddenly this movement not very far in front of us and had to slam on the brakes very nearly hitting this elk! Then we saw a whole lot loitering near the side of the road heh. So we took it real slow and careful as we carried on but we made it there safely.

On the way back from the Canyon we stayed the night in Flagstaff which is a nice little town nestled in the mountains. It is situated at quite a high altitude - 7,000 feet. On the way from Flagstaff to Phoenix the following day we went via Sedona as so many people we'd bumped into had told us to go see Sedona. It is a little mountain resort town nestled in the hills (but much lower down) and has great shops. I was surprised to see some trees still had colour in their leaves even while there was snow in the background! But it made it look even prettier. We had a look at the shops all along the main street and had lunch there too (yep at another Mexican place, except this one prob wouldn't be quite as traditional as the others we went to).

Following this we spent 2 days in Phoenix at this lady Suzy's place. She's a family friend of Nicole's family and is lovely and has a beautiful house too. She lives in a gated retirement village community which has its own community hall, big golf course etc etc. And all the residents have golf carts! Suzy let us drive her golf cart around the village which was fun :) always wanted to drive one hehe. Hers was all decorated with Christmas lights as they'd had a competition for the best decorated golf cart. We also went and did a bit of shopping in Sun City West (western Phoenix) and went to a Chinese restaurant for dinner - the first place i've been served by people who didn't have American accents hehe. The food was good. The next day we went to Suzy's friends Christmas party thingy for a little bit and it was here that I finally got to try some real lemonade - it was so funny, they were all shocked about how back in NZ we consider Sprite and 7Up to be lemonade! So they wanted to rectify that quickly and introduce me to the real thing. Have to admit, took me awhile to get used to it not having bubbles but it was nice tho and reminded me a bit of lemon cordial. Kinda thick in its texture.

On the way out of Phoenix we stopped at this awesome Swedish furniture store they have here called IKEA. It sells really good quality stuff for really reasonable prices :) Im even thinking about ordering some stuff online hehe.

Then we got to Tucson and went to a shopping mall (first mall i went to here) and had a look around and i bought some things from Bath & Body Works and Aveda (Nicole's fave makeup/body store). Then we went to this place Applebees for dinner - was good food here too :)

Then on the 18th (the following day) i flew over to Hartford, CT. So overall i really enjoyed being in the southwest (NM and Arizona) - the weather was awesome and Phoenix in particular felt most like Auckland temperature wise - pretty moderate and not cold at all! Oh yeah and i saw a ton of those famous cactuses too! They are all over the show - in people's gardens, along the road...even in the median strip island things in roads!

New York City
New York, New York! So cool to finally get to the Big Apple and see all the famous sights and sounds you see and hear in movies! In the two days we were ther (19th and 20th), me & Alisa managed to pack in a lot :) We were fortunate enough to be able to stay at her flute teacher's place in Upper West Side, it overlooked the Hudson River. We did A LOT of walking around NYC (it is not a city for those don't like walking heaps!) but it was the best way to get a feel for the city and get a picture of the multicultural fabric of the city. The first day we were there we managed to score half price tickets to a play at Broadway! We saw August: Osage County which has received rave reviews from all the big critics and we both really enjoyed it :) Then we went and had a look around Times Square and did some shopping. Then we went to Carnegie Hall and were stoked to be able to get tickets for only $20 to see Handel's Messiah! We were seated waaaay up in the heavens of the auditorium (beautiful decor inside!) and i think i had a touch of vertigo as i sat down and looked all the way to the stage. It felt like if i stood up and tripped over i would fall all the way down to the bottom hehe. But i got used to it and the choir and orchestra did an awesome job. Was mine and Alisa's first time hearing Handel's Messiah in its entirety. The next day we walked around Fifth Ave and past Central Park etc. I went up the Empire State Building which was awesome - really great views and it really helped me get my bearings for the city. I was so glad i did the audio tour which is where u pay a bit more to get this walky talky type phone that has this fictional native New Yorker Tony who speaks to you on it as you walk around the viewing platform. At different points of the platform are numbers so u just put in the number at each point. There was about 6 of these points all up taking in the different views of the city: North/NW, West, Southwest, South, South/SouthSE, East, and North/NE. It was also cool because you found out little tidbits about the city such as where the Titanic was supposed to have berthed. Oh yeah while i was in the gift shop up there i came across another Kiwi girl! We were both looking at the fridge magnets when i noticed she had a NZ flag patch thingy on her backpack. So i asked her if she'd been to NZ and she was like 'Im from NZ, im from Wellington!' hehe :) so that was cool. Anyways after i'd been up there (Alisa didnt go up coz she'd done that the last time she was in NYC), we went past Rockefeller Centre, Ground Zero (there wasnt much here but it was good looking at the memorials tho and you could see they'd started work on laying the foundations for the Freedom Tower to be completed by 2010), Statue of Liberty (we took the free(!) commuter ferry boat to Staten Island which goes by it hehe), SoHo and Greenwich Village. So it was an awesome two days and we were so tired by the end of it - mostly our shoulders from carrying our schoolbags and other bags!

I really liked Boston, went and saw it yesterday (22nd) and me & Alisa walked the Freedom Trail which was fun :) It is red brick line that takes you past all the really historical parts of Boston eg the cemetry where Ben Franklin's parents lie & Paul Revere, Boston Gardens (with the duck statues! its a mother duckling with her ducks), Paul Reveres house, Boston waterfront (where Boston Tea Party occurred) etc. There was a ton of snow around and it got quite cold as night set in but we stil had fun tho and managed to get some really arty looking pictures of various buildings.

I'm now currently typing this from my friend's place in Philly (Philadelphia). But i'd better sign off for now as its getting more on Philly later. Merry Christmas everyone!! xox

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Hello from the USA!

Well i made it here safely :) Had a pretty good flight over - loooong tho. Got sick of being cramped heh but I managed to get a few hours sleep which was good & am not feeling too jet lagged - the No Jet Lag pills seemed to have worked which is great! :)

Flew into beautiful weather in LA - blue blue skies with not a cloud in sight & I also spied quite a few palm trees right next to the airport. What struck me though as we flew into LA was just how populated and sprawling it is - barely a square inch of green with no buildings! So i can understand more clearly why hardly any people like living in or near LA heh. Anyhow got thru immigration & customs fine, the only problem was the lines which made it take a little while to get thru. Which also meant that i just missed out on being able to check in for my connecting flight to Tucscon, Arizona as i got to the counter past the 45min cut off (they're really ruthless about that cut off!). Fortunately the lady was able to put me on the next flight out to Tucson which was 6 hours later. So i managed to while away the time writing in my diary and reading etc. But have to say I wasn't too impressed with LAX - its a pretty inhospitable airport in terms of facilities. No eating areas and barely any seating outside of security areas. I was expecting at least a McDonalds to be on the outside but nope. Auckland International Airport would leave it for dead like that! But everyone that I talked to there and here (in NM) are real friendly & helpful :) My friend picked me up from Tucson and then we drove 3 hours back to her place here in New Mexico. Along the way we nearly hit a skunk! All i saw was a big black & white thing crossing the road heh. Apparently they come in different sizes and this was a fairly large one that we saw. I'm still getting used to being on the other side of the road - still have to think twice about which side of the car I need to sit on! heh) and also their money and prices etc. Their prices don't include tax so thats a bit annoying. Haven't had to tip anyone just yet though. Went to a Mexican place for lunch today which was realy nice - had an enchilada taco :) One cool thing about the food places in the States is that its not just big food chains like KFC, Wendys, BK, McDonalds etc like we might think - theres little restaurants that are unique to different towns and states.

So now i'm sitting here typing this from Silver City, New Mexico :) Its a little town of about 10,000 people but it has a reasonable amount of shops etc. Heaps of people here drive pick up trucks (oversized utes basically) as quite a few people have ranches etc. I went to Walmart for my first time today and it was pretty cool - so much variety here in everything! You can get large size in pretty much anything too - from lollies to even toilet paper!

Tomorrow (Wed here) me & Nicole are heading off on our roadtrip thru New Mexico and Arizona which includes goin to Albuquerque (a pretty historic place) and of course the Grand Canyon! So i'm excited about all that :) Oh yeah Nicole was telling me that part of Transformers - the desert scenes that are meant to be set in Kuwait - were actually filmed right her in New Mexico at this place called White Sands. So thats pretty cool :) NM seems to be gettin more popular as a filming destination.

Well i better leave it here for now, will probably blog again at the end of this week just before I head off to visit Alisa :)

Take care,

Monday, December 03, 2007

Blog Revival!

Hey all,

Well well well, its been awhile since i last posted! Anyways thought i'd just let ya know that i have added reason to kickstart this blog again as i head off on my US trip a week today :) I leave 10th Dec. Will try and post as much as I can while im over there :)