Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Bi-Weekly Travel Photo #1

When I view this picture, the first thing that strikes me is HOLY BOOBS! After all, I did weigh about 20 pounds more than I do right now.

But that aside, I am reminded of sunny days in France.

It was June 2006. Or was it 2005? Either way, I was nearing the end of my 3-month long stint in Europe. I was staying at the Marbella hotel and it was hot out. Boiling hot, sizzling, stiffling. I took off around the town as the sun was threatening to go down, taking advantage of the nice light and the evening breezes that sweeped off of the Atlantic.

I'm wearing blue Birkenstock-like sandals that I had picked up in Nice. I remember that they gave me blisters but I am guessing it didn't matter to me at this moment. Either that or I tried to match my shoes to my top...braless top too, my how times have changed! The skirt was perfect for those sweaty, sticky days, this one I had scored two months earlier in Oslo, Norway. The bag, which I still use today, is by Mango but I have no clue which European country I bought it in.

This picture reminds me of being brave and approaching strangers to take your picture (and also taking a leap of faith, you never know when one might run off with your camera a la European Vacation). It reminds me of experiencing the Atlantic Ocean properly for the first time. It reminds me of doing things, many things, by yourself. It reminds me of taking pictures NOW to show to people later, and in that mind set, it's almost like they are traveling with you. It reminds me that being a backpacker doesn't mean you can't dress nice (though I really should have worn a bra). It reminds me of being absolutely broke and not knowing whether I would be able to afford a taxi ride to the train station or food for the next day. It reminds me of jazz music floating up from the beach and of creepy French guys that hit on you when all you want to do is be alone.

It reminds me of Biarritz and if you want to learn more/see more photos about that trip, please click here.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


What do you mean I've already done a Disneyland post on this blog?

Apparently, I can't remember what I have written on this thing half the time (if you've noticed, I've used the same blog titles a gajillion times in my other blog).

Anyway, I guess Disneyland is just awesome.

You know what else is awesome? Planning my next getaway.

See, school and then the job that will hopefully follow the school is getting in the way of my travel plans this year.

I could take an estimated two weeks off and volunteer in Spain/Italy again but...wanna know something?

I'm freaking sick of Europe (though not Paris, oddly enough).

But I just feel if I go to another European country it's gonna feel like a huge case of the "same old, same old." So, where will I go with a said two week vacation, in say, October or November?

*Visit my family in Norway and Finland (yes, it's Europe. But it's free accomodation and it's quite different from the south)

*Explore Eastern Europe, like Prague, Budapest, Istanbul?

*Go on a GAP Adventure tour of Peru (flights to Lima can be very affordable)

*Or just go to whatever warm climate my parents end up in this winter (my guess is Mexico...AGAIN)

So far, the GAP Adventure tour of Peru - the Inca trail, Andes, Matchu Pichu - is garnering the most interest from my itchy feet. I plan to fully do South America next year, independently, going to Guyana perhaps (part of my bf's family is from there, though you would never guess it), then Brazil, Argentine, Chile and Uru/Paraguay. But a guided adventure in the Peruvian Andes may just be what I'm looking, I really like llamas.

Your thoughts and/or recommendations?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Disneyland Secrets

So, in case you didn't know, which you probably didn't, I just got back from Disneyland last week. Yup, somehow my New Years virus subsided just long enough for me to get better for Disneyland and then come back with a vengence upon my return. Regardless, I had one of the best Disneyland trips I have had in a long time and I wish to share my secrets with you.

*Go in January, right after New Years.

Why? Because the park is still open late, the Xmas decorations are still up (including the Xmas Fireworks display which drops fake snow on Main Street) plus Xmas themed rides like The Nightmare Before Xmas's Haunted Mansion which is FAR superior to the normal haunted mansion, but the majority of the crowds have gone home. And in general, the hotel prices in the area drop a little bit too, since the holiday rush is over.

*Go when it's RAINING!

Again, this tends to happen in January/February. When I first learned it was supposed to rain for our four days there, I was a bit put off. But then I learned that when it rains or even looks like it might rain or be cold, the local population stays away. And the locals (LA, Anaheim, etc) are what make up for 50% of the park's visitors.

We were lucky. The night we arrived, LA itself was flooding and we had to navigate deep puddles to get to our hotel room. But the next morning, the worst was over. It still was damp and the sky was threatening to open, but it never did. Instead, we experienced the park like I had never done before, all the while with umbrella on hand and dressed in our trenchcoats and rainjackets, just in case.

The lineup for Space Mountain was FIVE minutes! That meant we just walked on (since it took 5 min to get there). Same went for Indiana Jones, Pirates and Splashmountain (actually, we rode Splashmountain TWICE in a row because there was no one lined up!)

Of course, it HAD to rain once and it did on our second night. We had experienced an awesome morning so we werent too gutted that it was pouring that evening.

Let me tell you. Disneyland in the dark, pouring rain is EERIE! Imagine walking down Main Street - the music is playing but there is no one around. NO ONE! EMPTY! This made navigating the narrow streets of New Orleans Square even more atmospheric.

It also made for a great oppurtunity for us to hop on the rides that always have the longest lines...

*Finding Nemo and Peter Pan's Flight always have the longest lines

Even in the pouring rain we had to wait 20 minutes for Finding Nemo's Submarine Voyage, but let me tell you it was worth it. Not only is the ride awesome and so well done, but that ride ALWAYS has AT LEAST a 40 minute line. Even like 10 minutes after the park opens. People just RUN there! It's crazy but to be fair, the voyage itself is actualy quite long.

And Peter Pan...I don't know why. It's a fun kiddy ride, and it's really neat to look at but the line up is always at least a half hour. WHY? I have no clue. But regardless, when the weather is bad, take advantage of it and do those rides.

*Some rides are best avoided

Ahem, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, anyone? Can someone please explain the story behind that, I mean what I got out of it is that we are in a car and then we go to a bar and get drunk and we keep driving and then the cops catch us and we go to court and are sentenced to prison and then suddenly we are hit by an oncoming train and we end up in Hell. THE END. The ride is over, just like that. You're dead and in Hell. Try explaining that to your kids.

*Wake up super early

This goes with the bad weather. The earlier you are in the park, the better chance you have of getting the most done. My advice is that if you get the passes that include early admission mornings, USE THEM! You get to go in the park an hour before it opens and this is worth the 6AM wake up. Then get prepared to wait in line before the gates. Bring a book, sit on the ground, whatever, but it's awesome when you are the first ones through the gates. Besides, even waking up at the dead of dawn, you still have all the energy in the world, cuz HELL, you're going to DISNEYLAND!

*Use your FastPass wisely

The Fastpass is a great option and I recommend pimping the hell out of yours. We only used ours once on Indiana Jones on the last day because it was finally sunny and it seems everyone came out in droves (though the lines stil didn't go past 20 minutes - we were complaining at that point, forgetting that in the summer they can be 160 minutes). Because you can only Fastpass one thing at a time, when the park first opens, head for your favourite ride. Ride it, then Fastpass it after and then head to your second favourite ride. The wait times should still be minimal and then when the lines really begin to build, you're thankful for your Fastpass.

*Avoid Weekends

We couldn't but if you can, do. Saturday is the busiest day, with the locals and vacationers out in full, stroller-pushing force.

*Don't eat in the park

Although we couldn't resist a pulled pork sandwich, the $15 price tag I could do without. Save your money and eat outside the park. Though a churro is always a good bet if you are feeling snackish. Mmm. Churro.

*Have a strategy

Wake up early and enjoy the park at it's quietest for a few hours. Go back to your hotel (always stay at a hotel within walking distance, trust me, no matter how much cheaper it is, it's not worth it) and nap, swim, relax, eat. Come back to the park at dinner time when a lot of families are sitting down to eat. If you've seen the parade/fantasmic/fireworks once, you've seen it all - take these times to line up for the most popular rides as a lot of the crowd will be preoccupied with the latter.

*Remember to smile

Now I walk around with a permagrin for my entire stay, but when screaming kids, tired feet and churro-upset tummy's abound, remember where you are: The Happiest Place on Earth. Enjoy it, live in the moment and don't give a rat's ass if you feel like a grown-up moron lining up to meet Goofy.

And beware of Tigger. He can get a little cheeky at times.