Wednesday, April 28, 2010
the kates are homeward bound! here we are in la guardia airport, waiting for our very last flight, after checking our packs, over paying for fast food, a quick stop at the body shop (natch), and fumbling thru security for what feels like the hundredth and is unfortunately the last time.
thank you to the friends we made on our way, our lives would be far less full and our minds far less open without you . sending love to london, canada, berlin, norway, atlanta, melbourne, frankfurt, texas, ireland, aachen, chicago, brazil, paris, poland, bangkok, scotland and sweden.
and to our minnesotans, endless thanks for the emails and messages along our way. they kept us sane and grounded during our crazy adventures, and when surrounded by 24 hour friends and fleeting intimacy, we took ineffable (good word) comfort in the security of love from home.
so now we prepare for our next adventure. pack light, live long and travel far. lovefromkt
Our last couple of days in Australia flew by. Our day and a half in Sydney contained a lot of walking, beautiful parks, my 5th and KT's 7th viewing of Wicked, which has now been seen on 3 continents, and a view of the Sydney Opera House on a beautifully sunny day that did not disappoint. Although it felt like we had more travel days than not, we got back to Melbourne in time to see our darling Swedish friend before flying back to the States. After a 13 hour flight and a 39 hour day, we arrived in New York, ready for more adventure.
New York! Walking in the rain for three days, it is amazing that we did not get sick but we couldn't let a little precipitation stop us. Our first night KT and I walked all around the Upper East side in the POURING rain; ruining our clothes, our boots, and having one last rendezvous before meeting up with KT's friend Maggie and our Alyssa the next day. Lyss and I took a ferrry in the rain to Liberty and Ellis Islands while KT got to know downtown Manhattan. Like most cities we have visited, a large chunk of our time was spent walking in the city, Central Park, and our neighborhood. We took a stroll through Columbia's campus as if it were our own, even popping into the Pulitzer School of Journalism.
Broadway is one of the major draws of New York so naturally we spent a good amount of time at shows. A spur of the moment matinee rush brought us into Rock of Ages. We laughed through the entire show and left in an amazing mood, spending the next two days singing the numerous 80's rock songs that appeared in the show. Constantine (yes mom, from American Idol ;-)) was the lead and he was fantastic. Our last night we saw In the Heights, full of sass and latin dancing. Very different than anything I have ever seen with a great cast, music and story. Another evening was spent at Stand Up NY, a comedy club where we saw six comedians, most of whom we recognized from Comedy Central. The entertainment in this city is like nowhere else.
I am sitting at the counter, in the diner on the corner. Tom's Diner, AKA the Seinfeld diner, provided a delicious meal with Lyss and her friend Sasha. And as we are all big How I Met your Mother fans, we quested for McClaran's Pub, actual name: McGee's. Drenched and freezing, I thought about ordering tedmosbyisajerk.com (jerk chicken wrap), but went with Marshall's Mac and Jack. Delicious.
The food, friends and fun we have had in NY has been a great way to end our trip. One last adventure, easing us back into an American lifestyle. And although we were two of very few backpackers in this city, it has treated us right. A nice shower, sweatpants and my own bed are calling my name. It's time to go home.
Sunday, April 25, 2010
After cairnes we headed down to the delightful hippie town of byron bay where we stayed at a hostel called the arts factory. there were murals on every wall, a pool and beach volleyball court, lots of bugs and always a good selection of tunes. people rarely wear shoes here, at the hostel and in town, which i found quite fun, but made for rather filthy feet :-) the arts factory had many options for sleeping quarters, including teepees and tents in the woods, but we were in a typical dorm which was just fine with me- i have enough bug bites!
here in byron we were finally able to jump out of an airplane!!! talk about a maaaad rush! i could not imagine a more exhilarating feeling on the planet, leaping (more like falling slowly forward after your tandem master pushed you...) from 14000 ft! kate and i both ordered dvds of our dives; videos and pictures we are waiting til we are back home to see, so we can share some of our excitement! AMAZING!
we also learned to surf on one of the nicest beaches in byron bay. i was far more nervous for surfing than skydiving- you cant screw up a skydive, but surfing... what a disappointment if you couldn't get up! fortunately i stood on my very first try and so did kate! our instructor mitch was incredibly encouraging, always finding the correct thing i did on an attempt even after a spectacular fall:-) we were out on the water for about 4 hours, and by the end we really got the hang of it, even learned to steer! it was exhausting but a really great time.
the arts factory had a talent show that night, so kate and i picked up a box of goon (ridiculously cheap slash terrible box wine that never actually says wine anywhere on the box! very popular with the youngins in australia) and headed to the show, which took place in the woodsy back yard of the hostel. there were some pretty great acts, but my favorite was cockatoo paul, the head dude at the hostel, who played drums with his feet, guitar with his hands, and alternated between playing the didgeridoo and singing, all at the same time! kate and i then rounded up a pretty cool crew of peeps and played 5 ducks, an awesome category drinking game i will be teaching at this month's schmenebo beertastic bonanza if anyone is interested!
byron bay had a very different vibe than anywhere we've been thus far, both at the arts factory and in town. it was a simpler life than we've experienced anywhere else in australia, the kind of lifestyle that i find to be perfect for vacations, but not for "real life". at least not for me.
one week of crazy travels left! ahhhhhHHHHHH!!!!!!! lovefromkt
Thursday, April 22, 2010
The following day, however, was not perfect. It was raining. Our 10:30am skydive got bumped back to 12:30 and then cancelled all together. Our next two days were booked up so we had to work out some kind of refund. Rats! So after getting ourselves excited and ready 3 times now, we settled in for a grouchy day on the couch. It ended up getting better as we hung out with our new friend and got to see some more of the town. I even ended up winning a 2 for 1 skydive from a paper airplane contest, which I gave away, but was still pretty proud of!
Thursday, our 3rd day in Cairnes has been my absolute favorite day of our trip. We went White Water Rafting. It was absolutely brilliant. Such a thrill. We have a million bumps and bruises from this adventure but had so much fun. We were so giddy all day, talking and laughing with our great crew. We had the only all girl raft, with the exception of our guide Chase, but he took us over parts of the river that other boats went around because he believed in us that much. I also got to steer the boat and was offered a job on th spot because of my amazing abilities ;-) Such a good time!
Our last day in Cairnes was spent out on the Great Barrier Reef. We went snorkeling and KT went Scuba diving. My ears would not allow me to go down but KT said it was beautiful and really cool to be able to touch different things on the ocean floor and see the reef from below. Although the coral attacked us more than once, snorkeling was really fun too.
We spent our last night in Cairnes with 5 out of the 6 people in our hostel room. We all hung out on the balcony and then went out in the town together. So many new friends who we fall in love with and then have to say goodbye to. 24 hours friends are great but exhausting. The next morning we were picked up at 5am to head to the airport for our next adventure.
Cairnes left us with many bumps and bruises, but great stories to go with them. Australia has been good to us so far.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
we stayed at a hostel called nomads melbourne. we made good friends here, friends we knew for more than 6 hours which was a welcome change. having to say goodbye so quickly and so often has been even harder with our new friends than it is with all our new favorite cities.
on saturday night we were invited to a friend of our roommate's housewarming party. we got a bit of a taste of life here for twenty somethings in the city, away from the land of other backpackers, and it turns out the ability to appreciate cheap wine is a skill necessary all over the globe!
we went to see an AFL (austalian football league) game, the west coast eagles against our very own north melbourne kangaroos. kate and i bought scarves and got our face painted and cheered with gusto for a game we didn't really understand. it was sort of a cross between rugby and american football. there was 36 players on the pitch at a time, wearing practically no protective gear. it was pretty intense. come on roo boys release your inner beast!!
there is an international comedy festival happening in melbourne right now, continuing i believe for another few weeks, and kate and i were lucky enough to see a few acts around town. while visiting federation square we saw two gentlemen from quebec who could lift and fling each other about with absurd ease, very slapstick style comedy, and just last night we saw several stand up comedians in the lobby of our new hostel, habitat hq in st. kilda.
the art and music scene here in melbourne is delightful, and i am seriously considering getting a work visa and coming to live out here. there are some cities where you feel like you're vacationing, and others where you feel at home. melbourne was welcoming and exciting, filled with people who take a lot of pride in where they live. i hope to see myself back here some day. lovefromkt
After sweating our butts off in the city for a few days, we were ready for some ocean. The overnight bus, which we thought would be so convenient, ended up taking over 18 hours to get us to our island resort, but once we got there, it was all worth it.
The view was breath taking, the water pristine, and our bamboo bungalow a quick 2 minute walk to the ocean, 1 minute to the pool. We spent most of our time on this island relaxing and soaking up the sun. Our afternoons were spent in and out of the ocean, building a sand turtle named clive (which our swedish friends later watched get peed on by a pack of dogs, sad day!), jumping into the pool and making friends. The town was not far down the road so we ventured there for the occansional meal, and once in a successful quest for a frisbee, but mostly stayed near the resort during the day.
A couple of our evenings were spent on a beach called Haad Rin, the most touristy part of the island, about a 20 minute taxi ride over death defying hills (with signs saying dangerous terrain, experienced drivers only) from our resort. Through all of our travels when we mentioned that we were going to Thailand we were asked if we were heading to the Full Moon Party on Koh Phangon which lead us to this island in the first place. On the 30th of March we headed to Haad Rin for the biggest beach party you can imagine. We went with a group of Swedes (Helen, Felicia and Matias) that we had met at the resort and had an amazing time! Over 8,000 people drinking out of buckets with neon paint on their bodies danced the night away. There was fire limbo, which KT and Matias mastered, and a million things to see and do.
We also spent our last night on the island with Helen, Felicia and Matias on Haad Rin, smoking a hookah and enjoying the beach. The weather, while still hot, was much more enjoyable as we could jump into the pool or run into the ocean any time it got to be too much. The beautiful view and great new friends made Koh Phangon a great success, I would highly recommend a trip there, especially for the Full Moon party ;-)
Sunday, April 11, 2010
After koh phangan we headed to a larger island called koh samui. some of us got a rather wicked nasty sunburn in koh phangan so our time in koh samui was spent less relaxing on the beach and more in long sleeves. and with the heat from hell this could be pretty terrible. but not on bike day! kate and i decided to brave the terrifyingly hectic roads of thailand, left side driving and all, and rented scooters! the first twenty minutes or so were rather terrifying. we were going about 40kph-- the speed limit mind you-- and everyone else mustve been going about 100kph. vans and other huge vehicles passed very close to us and other bikers swerved all around us. we were the only people on the road wearing helmets. but after we started to feel more in control of our bikes it became pretty exciting! and the wind on the road kept my skin cool for the first time in days. we took the bikes to see the grandmother/grandfather rocks, some pretty hilarious rock formations on a beautiful viewpoint. we did some hiking around in the jungly areas as well, but flip flops and the heat and bugs brought us back to the comfort of our bad ass bikes pretty quick!
we went on a day safari while here in koh samui which gave us some of the best and worst experiences we've had thus far in thailand. we got to go elephant trekking which was remarkable! we rode on an elephant name samgee, a well behaved baby boy who was very sweet and let us pet him and ride on his head which apparently is not uncomfortable for them. hopefully. we learned later that it was a very good thing that samgee was so well behaved or we had have seen the terrible way that the trainers enforce orders with the animals. we went to an elephant show, a monkey show, and a crocodile show, and the treatment of the animals was pretty terrible. they stabbed at them with giant spear things and pulled on their ears and the monkeys were all in full makeup and clothing, all for tourist entertainment. it was sometimes quite hard to watch. but during the elephant show an elephant played tug o war with 23 guys and won rather easily. now that was impressive! also on the day trip we got to ride on top of a jeep thru the jungle, swim in a waterfall, see a mummified monk, go to the magic buddha garden, and eat a traditional thai lunch. all in all a good day!
everything was beautiful on koh samui. the hut we stayed in was tiny, stuffy, and the bed was a board covered by a sheet, but we were feet from the ocean and always had a nice breeze. it was a delightful place that perhaps without my skin burning like a mo fo it would have been one of my favorites:-) lovefrom kt
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
In our two weeks here, we have not met a single American. The closest we have come was a number of Canadians on Koh Phangon, but not a single person from the States. Bizarre, right? Most of the people we have meet are European, several from the UK and Sweden. And most of them are on much longer trips than us, traveling from six months to over a year and a half. Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Nepal are frequently where these travelers are coming from or heading to. It is a different kind of travel. A gritty, honest kind of travel that I have come to love.
The Thai people are also quite different. Still very nice, but being constantly approached by tuk tuk and taxi drivers is getting quite old. They start off by asking where you are from, because clearly we are not from here, but it quickly becomes apparent that they just want you to agree to pay an outrageous amount for them to drive you somewhere you don't really want to go. We were walking to Burger King and a man approached us asking where we were headed, we told him hoping that he would leave us alone as it was only a few streets away, but no. He tried to convince us that it was closed and he could bring us somewhere else. No thanks, guy. We walked to BK and of course, it was not closed. A rather strange way to acquire customers... We have also come into contact with several very friendly and helpful Thai people, especially at our hostels which have made our stay in Asia a pleasant one but the differences is demeanor and interaction are very apparent.
we spent a few days in bangkok at a hostel called the phiman water view. it was a lot of fun and cost us about 6 bucks a night! we stayed in a dorm style bungalow right on the river so we had a fantastic view, especially at night. The bugs here were a bit out of control, even with our individual musquito netting around our beds. fortunately we made friends with bug spray;-) we had to walk thru winding back alleys to get to our guest house, and on that walk we essentially trampled thru many thai people's homes. the rooms were all open and their every possession and activity was available for us to see. the difference in lifestyle was most evident here, far more than on the islands where we were living in tourist land.
my favorite part about bangkok is the food carts. wherever you go, during the day or all hours of the night, there are stands of fresh fruit and juices and my personal favorite, raw meat on a stick that they cook in front of you that only costs about 50 baht (less than 2 bucks!)
we ventured to the islands after our short stay in bangkok, and after being unable to cool down for 4 days, the trip to the ocean was more than welcome. not that i don't enjoy the thais regularly commenting on me being the whitest and sweatiest person in sight! sending all my lovin back home, along with a serious jealousy of your reasonably temperatured environment. lovefromkt
Saturday, March 27, 2010
14. art on every street corner
13. our first taste of good weather
12. the most romantic bridge in the world
11. montemarte and the artists quarter
10. climbing thru the walls in the catacombs and coming out filthy
9. crying in a phone booth outside the arc de triomphe
8. Nadia, Alejandro, Jacob and Emile, our delightful roomies
7. prince cookies, frites, and red wine in paper cups
6. serenading kate with phantom music outside the opera house where the show is set
5. naps in a garden while listening to a charming gent with a guitar
4. Fraser our Scottish tour guide and Kayla our Canadian tour guide
3. conversations with Parisians in a combination of three terribly broken languages
2.The Rodin Museum and all sculpture acting
1. night time walks with lights and rain
beautiful. gorgeous. wish you were here! lovefromkt
Friday, March 19, 2010
We said goodbye to Tim and headed to Berlin to meet Simon and Sarah, our next remarkably generous hosts. After another inevitable train struggle we arrived in Berlin and had a relaxing afternoon planning our next days adventures while the snow raged outside. Weather has not been our friend thus far, but it has not stopped us from spending most of our time wandering outside!
Following helpful advice from S and S and also a fascinating walking tour we ventured to the Brandenburg Gate, the Berliner Dom, Museum Island, The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, Checkpoint Charlie, and many other beautiful and tragic historical sights in the city. We stood simultaneously in East and West Germany, sat on the ground above the old location of Hitler's bunker, and stood where his body was found. K and i are both becoming enthralled with all things WWII. If anyone has any good books on the subject, I would love to read more when we return home.
The hostel where we stayed in Berlin was called the Helter Skelter, a noisy and sometimes rather smokey place with rockin tunes and wonderful people. The lobby was a very socially welcoming place, and we made many grand new 24 hour friends. It is becoming quite difficult to have to say goodbye so often. K and i both got tattoos from an extraordinary young gentleman named Kenny who inked us right there in the hostel. It was an exciting and terrifying and painful and hilarious experience and we loved every minute of it. The Helter Skelter was a rockin good time.
We went to many a pub while here in Berlin. K and i went on an alternative pub crawl where we went to all underground bars with a small crew of about ten people. We went to a ping pong bar, an absinth bar, a death themed bar (with coffins for tables!) and ended the night at a raving techno club in a giant warehouse, where we experienced first hand the wonders of the Germans and their dancing. It was fantastic! We were also here for St. Patty's, so we met Simon and Sarah at an Irish pub called Kilkenny's for pints and live music, including The Girl From Belfast City and Drunken Sailor. Good times!
Once again we have to say goodbye to wonderful people and a new favorite place. But Paris is next, and we are ready for more! Genau, genau.
Saying goodbye to Amsterdam was hard, but it meant that new adventures were ahead of us. We activated our Eurail Passes and headed to Aachen, Germany to meet up with my friend Tim, who is studying there. We had a bit of trouble with the trains but magically found Tim waiting for us in Aachen.
Staying with a friend offers a very different perspective than staying in a hostel. We got to see Tim's neighborhood (where KT and I got lost more than once), meet his friends at a wine tasting party and again at a cafe, share a delicious german meal in a german home (Thanks Amy and Stephan!), and get a feel for everyday life in Germany.
We were also made desparately aware of our lack of German language skills. We attempted to go out for lunch on our own one day, just KT and I. It took a while to pick a cafe, but eventually settled on a nonthreatening internet cafe near the university. Unfortunately we could not figure out how to order food so we each got a coke and headed on our way. Our next stop was a turkish fast-food kind of place. Again the language barrier made us very uncomfortable. We did not know where to sit, if we were supposed to sit down and then order, order at the door, when and how to pay, or even what to order. We stood in the entry just watching for a about 10 minutes. Eventually we did get our lunch, but we definitely have a new appreciation for others who are trying to bridge a language gap.
Saturday we took a day trip to Koln (or Cologne). We climbed the million steps of the cathedral for a beautiful view, hung out with my cousin Becca (!!) and wandered through the city. We enjoyed a great lunch of different authentic German dishes at a restaurant on the Rhine River. The food and company was fantastic. We laughed and ate and took a stain out of Tim's shirt with salt. Walking through the city we found many statues to pose next to (our favorite pastime).
Overall it was a great weekend spent with good friends. It was encouraging to see that three people from different parts of my life could have a wonderful day together.
Sunday, March 14, 2010
Our last few days in Amsterdam were eventful and exciting. We found the bike rental and attempted to see the city as the dutch do. We roamed Vondel park and on the outskirts of the city along the canals. We made a valiant effort to ride in the main parts of the city, but the stress of avoiding other bikers and cars that appear to be able to drive wherever they please made that quite the challenge! Twas very fun, especially ringing our little bells at rogue pedestrians.
We stayed for three nights in a hostel called Amsterdam Hostel Centre. It was cozy, with bright yellow painted walls, and a family style feel. Our room was on the 4th floor, so we got plenty of practice hiking up the dutch stairs. Not sure how we didn't fall down when carrying our packs. There were always three other people in the tiny little room with us, different people each night. It was interesting going to bed with one roommate and waking up with another. But everyone we have met, both in the hostels and around the city, has been remarkably kind and enjoyable to chat to. Must be something in the water. (25,000 bikes perhaps??!)
Across the street from our hostel was a blues club called Bourbon St. The house band there is Bourban Jam Session, a fabulous group of gentlemen who played one set around 10, and then for the rest of the night invited different "jammers" to join them on stage. We saw different combinations of four vocalists, two guitar players, two bassists, a sax man, three drummers, a harmonica player and a pretty badass keyboard slash piano man. It was intense! Like camping. K and i had planned to pop in for a drink at ten and then head up to bed early. We stayed for another 4 hours. Like all things Amsterdam, we had to pull ourselves away. I for one am already making plans to return someday!
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Monday, March 8, 2010
It is this attitude that poured out onto the city when the Nazis started taking Jewish people off the streets during WWII. People of this city did not see a battle between the Nazis and the Jews, they saw the Nazis tearing apart the families of their friends, neighbors and coworkers.
Amsterdammers did not take this sitting down! They protested for two days with a strike. Trams did not run; shops did not open. The first day 10,000 Amsterdammers gathered in New Market Square, near the Jewish neighborhoods. The second day the square held 15,000. At the point, the Nazi's had brought in more troops and shot at the crowds, killing several and wounding hundreds more. The went back to work, but did not stop caring and standing up for their Jewish neighbors. Even though most of the trees had to be cut down to supply families with food and fuel during the war, many Amsterdammers not only took care of their own families, but also provided for Jewish families hiding in their houses. All of the trees along the canals are the same height due to the devastation of that time, but nonetheless, they helped as much as they could.
Amsterdam was the only, THE ONLY city in the world to take a stand for their Jewish neighbors. The only one. I wish that when people thought of Amsterdam, this example of courage and sense of community was the first thing that came to mind.
I love this city. It is overwhelmingly joyful to be considered an Amsterdammer for at least one week of my life.
Thursday, March 4, 2010
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
We will be taking pictures, videos and memories, and hopefully be able to share some of them with you. I am not sure how often or in depth the entries will be but maybe it can give you a taste of our adventures around the world.
Germany- Aachen and Berlin
France- undecided city and Paris
Thailand- Bangkok and Island
Australia- Melbourne, Sydney, maybe elsewhere??
As for now, many missings to you all. Feel free to email either of us and we both have skype so keep in contact!