Monday, September 24, 2007

Glad I blogged

I just came back here to see what I'd written earlier in the year (and shut Jason up for not blogging), and Just re-read all of my posts. Oh the memories!! I really should pull out the itinerary and write out the rest of the trip. Will have to go back thru photos to remember a lot of it.

Happy now, Jase?

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Day 1: San Diego, CA/Tijuana, Mexico

So today we met all of the people going on the tour - 54 in all (incl. us) 95% aussie and 80% female. We got to the hotel that the bus was departing from at around 7am. There were already people waiting - we had to fill in a sheet with next of kin type details and passport info. Had we gone to the intro dinner the night before (which apparently not many people attended) we could have saved that step, but meh.

We all started putting our bags on the bus - this was the first time we met Alex, our Tour Manager, and our bus driver, Silvia. I had one huge suitcase (which, in restrospect, i'm glad i brought instead of a smaller one) and a duffel bag. Not too heavy at that point, just the clothes I had brought from home and some stuff I'd bought. Little did I know how much more I would buy...

We got on the bus, eyeing off our tourmates, deciding who we did and didn't like.. I made some enemies very quickly (many of whom turned out to be good friends later on). We found our seats and Alex started talking us through what was going to happen over the next few weeks, introduced himself and Silvia to us and gave some general information about Contiki. We started driving at about 8.30-9am missing two people who we assumed hadn't turned up. I quickly learnt that if you're not on the bus on time, you get left behind and have to catch up on your own, at your expense.

About a two hour drive later we were in San Diego, our first stop of the tour. We were told of the "optionals" that we could join along the way if we wanted to (which you pay extra for) to do stuff that's not included on the tour. There was a San Diego Harbour cruise that Alex said everyone does because it's the first thing we do as a group, so we all paid $11 for that (he added up who joins which optionals, then got the money off us later in the tour). Worst $11 spent. The cruise showed us some houses that were owned by rich American families we'd never heard of. We did see Sea Lions on a buoy though. That was cool. We didn't really get to know any of the other people yet. We did, however, have our first interaction with the now-infamous Alana. More about her later.

The cruise finished and we all wandered around looking in shops and stuff for a bit, then got back on the bus for a city tour. Silvia drove us around San Diego with Alex telling us about the areas, the Gaslamp quarter, Balboa Park, Navy museums, etc. We drove past the bar that was featured in Top Gun apparently. Wouldn't recognise it from any other bar to be honest apart from all the Top Gun paraphernalia attached to it.

We then drove on to Tijuana, Mexico. The Contiki coach took us to a carpark which had a shuttle bus waiting for us. We got on that and it drove us over the border into Mexico. Our bus didn't have the insurance it needed to go into Mexico so this way was easier. Took about 20 mins to get into Tijuana. As soon as we crossed the border, you knew you were in Mexico. People selling all kinds of crap on the streets. There were even people on the other side of the road (heading back to the US) walking down selling stuff between the cars waiting in the queue. We arrived in a bus terminal and Alex took us to a restaurant that had really good chicken fajitas. He was right, they were really good. On the way there we were being hassled by everyone we walked past, wanting us to buy something from them. Very annoying after a while.

We got to the place and went upstairs to eat. Some people went elsewhere but there would have been a good 40 of us there. We ordered margaritas (2-for-1 deal) and food. The chicken fajitas were a bit different to what I expected - i got a sizzling plate of chicken, chilli, capsicum, another place of rice and bean goo, and communal bread to make the wrap yourself, which was pretty cool. Lots of tequila in the margaritas. There were three guys with guitars walking around singing songs to us as we ate, as well as a guy picking one of us at random to pour straight tequila down their throat, then proceed to close their mouth for them and violently shake their head before they had a chance to swallow. He did that to about 6 or 7 people - I was praying he wouldn't pick me. He didn't. Phew!

We then paid and left, looked around at a few shops. We had like 2 hours to kill. Everywhere there were knockoffs - bags, wallets, diamonds, jewellery. Everything imaginable. Kieren found a couple of handbags for his mum and sister, I bought some silver rings and some other stuff. Back to the bus terminal for the trip back to the US. We were expecting maybe 45 mins to get back across the border. Not 2.5 hours. there was a HUGE backlog of traffic of people leaving TJ to San Diego. We had a special bus lane but was still slow. It was because of US customs. We saw signs for businesses that you can call and tell them what duty free stuff you want, then they bring it to your car for you (knowing that you'll be there for a while). I thought that was clever.

So while we were waiting on the bus to go back over, we had 2 girls in front of us, and 2 behind. We didn't realise they were all travelling together. They ended up being 4 of our best friends on the tour - Alana, Babs (Barbara), Jax (Jacqui) and Jen. Alana and Babs are from Sydney, Jax and Jen from Canberra. A&B went to school together, and B, J&J went to uni together. The reason we started talking to them was because they were throwing paper at each other and we were caught in the crossfire. Started chatting to them, they're all about 24 years old. I recognised Alana from somewhere and she recognised me, but didn't know where from. Still don't. But it was good we made some friends on the first day.

We got through customs fairly quickly (when they got to me they sent me to the front of a new line, so we were in and out inside of a minute). Then we got back on the crappy Mexican shuttle bus we were on to get back to the Contiki bus. After a quick bus change, we continued on to the hotel, got our bags out and had a rest in the room. A group dinner was organised at Dick's Last Resort, a local restaurant where the staff are known for acting like ... well ... dicks. The waitress that served us was just rude, acting like we were all stupid. I guess she's allowed to there. We had a waiter too and he was funny. Apparently the done thing there is to throw paper napkins are each other at the table. Not wanting to look out of place, we did just that. The waiter even grabbed a handful of napkins and threw them into the fan above us. There were napkins EVERYWHERE. He also made paper hats for a few people with phrases he wrote on them (eg. "My thong is on backwards" and "I like blowing Bubbles" - this person was sitting next to someone else who's hat said "Hi! I'm Bubbles!") The food was good, and everyone had a good time.

The over-21s went out to a bar or something, the underagers went back to the hotel because the place they were going checks IDs, according to Alex. At the hotel we met Jane and Rachel - two girls that we'd actually seen on an Orange County tour we'd done the day before Contiki started. So they came into our room and we were all chatting for a while. Became pretty good friends with them. They were getting off the tour in Las Vegas, where a lot of the other people were going around to San Fran or back to Anaheim. We usually got to bed at around midnight.


Note: I wrote this on the last day of the tour but didn't get around to posting it until now:

Last time I posted (almost 2 weeks ago) we were about to start the Wild Western Contiki tour. Tonight is the last night of the tour :'(

I have had SO much fun on this tour. Heaps of great people, we've made some really good friends, made plans to meet back up with them at home. I'm really sad it's almost over.

Let's cover each section of the trip in order. I'll post them in a day-by-day fashion so work from the bottom up to get them in the right order.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


So much has happened since I last posted. I'm so glad I decided to bring my computer with me.. We'd be screwed on more than one occasion if I hadn't. It's come in very handy.

anyway, what's happened since Montreal... I don't remember any major dramas occurring since my previous blog entry from the cafe.. And my dip into French. I do remember we were trying to figure out what "Maisonneuve" meant.. Never did work it out. We got a bus back to New York from Montreal. At the customs point (I think around 1am) we all had to get off and go through, checking passports, etc. Kieren went up to the officer and did whatever it is they do, then he was finished and I got called to the same guy. He asked how long I was in Canada for (1 day) and where I was traveling to, etc. I told him I was with Kieren (because we both had a green customs card thing in our passports). He then swiped my passport and asked why I was a wanted person!!! I went bright red and started shaking apparently... He was just testing me, but that freaked me right out.

Then we got back on the bus and continued the journey back to New York bus terminal. We then waited in line for the Washington bus.. Lots of weirdos in New York. One guy was arguing with the bus driver because he didn't get the seat he wanted.

I have to go to bed, it's almost 1am and we're going to the California Contiki Tour tomorrow (up at 5am). Post again soon hopefully.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Oh Canada!

i'm in a cafe in Canada at the moment. i've been in Montreal since yesterday, i really like it here. very cold though (like -7 kinda cold) and icy. there's some snow in the streets but it looks like it's been there for a few days. i slept for 13 hours last night in a huge hotel room. first double bed for the trip.

Leaving for Washington at 4pm on a bus, will be there around 6am tomorrow.

When we got off the bus to montreal it was 1am and we had to go through Canadian customs. that took almost an hour. and we had a crying baby & vomiting child on the bus with us! not cool. We arrived in Montreal at 5am and made our way to the hotel. we couldn't check in until midday.. we left our bags there and wandered around the city for 2 hrs, then went back to the hotel and waited in the foyer. we fell asleep there, apparently i was snoring pretty loud. i went up to the desk to see if we could check in yet, and the guy said "probably, let's see". thank God. we got into the room & fell asleep for 7 hours. walked around again for a few hours - there's a lot of things here to do with Simon.. like brekky this morning was in Cafe Chez Simon.

The core language here is French. oh how I wish I had listened to Miss Hole at school (french teacher). i'm trying to remember as much as i can. i've got 1-10 sorted, si vous plait/plais, and bonjour. i had a dream in french last night. it was weird.

gotta go, i'll write again soon.

Monday, January 1, 2007

Quotes from Americans

One more thing. I have another blog type thing with quotes from american people that are said to us, or what we hear on the street. Some of it will probably need explaining but many are just funny.

Busy, busy city

So New Year's Eve was last night. I haven't had a channce to blog for a while, so here goes.. We saw the statue of liberty and went to staten island on the ferry (which goes past the statue without waiting in a 5-hour tour line). So that was cool. We also went to a comedy show just off Broadway which was really funny. And they didn't check our IDs to get drinks!!! So we did drink in the US underage (2 days into the holiday, no less).

We've taken a lot of photos, and done LOTS of walking. I can't beieve how much we've walked. OH! We went ice skating in Central Park just before the comedy show. It's been a long time since i've been ice skating, but i didn't fall over (came close a few times, but didn't hit the ice). We were only out there for about 45mins-1 hr because there were so many people they had to clean the ice all the time. A lot of fun though.

We've been eating terribly the last few days. Maccas and burger king mostly. Oh and we have our local pizza shop now (we've decided to call it Cat Pizza because the first time we went there (about 1am on the first night in NY) there was a random cat walking around the shop. Was cute though, so that's OK. The slices of pizza here are HUGE!! Like 1 slice is the equiv of like 3/4 of an Aus medium pizza.

their food portions are so big. OMG how much food can these people eat?! I had been warned to buy small everything, which is about the same as a large in australia. you shoul see the big cups they have for large and extra large drinks. It's like a bucket!

and I love Snapple. It's so good. It's just fruit juice (they also do flavoured iced tea). We have a corner store near our hotel that sells the BEST ice cream and has snapple. love it. The ice cream is that Haagen-Dazs ice cream from europe or something.

Speaking of Europe, we bought some US sim cards for our mobiles so we're not making int'l calls to each other all the time. they cost us $30. we went into a T-Mobile shop to ask how we check out balances, and while we were there we saw a Sidekick (sort of PDa meets laptop meets phone). Kieren wants one, but they're not supported in Australia or something. Rochelle, the lasy we were talking to, was talking about the data network being locked or something, and if we take it back to Europe it may not work.. We didn't say Austria, love. I can't believe how little most Americans know about the rest of the world. It's like they don't learn about anything at school but their own history. They have no idea where Australia is. some people didn't even know it existed.

It turns out we're being charged for receiving calls when people call us, so we're thinking we'll change over from T-Mobile to Cingular. hopefully they have a better deal.

So we had NYE in Times Square last night. We got there at about 5pm and it was already packed. there were literally millions of people. We were crammed so tight in with all these people. We had to wait 7 hours!! It wasn't raining so it wsn't THAT bad but still.. 7 hours of standing in the one position is not cool. We ended up sitting down on the road for a while because our legs were killing us. I forgot to bring my camera, too. Nor did i bring the video camera. Or my iPod. So i just had to entertain myself. Every hour on the hour we'd celebrate another city's New Year - when we got there it was Paris' turn, then Rio and somewhere else. In the crown near us, there was much talk of chicken. these people love their chicken. (KFC to be specific). We couldn't leave the crown to get food because we'd have to join the back of the group. Think of it this way: the crown started at times square (where broadway meets like 34th street or something.. We were at 50th street (there's one block between each numbered street - about 100m). Behind us would have been a good 10 more blocks of people. I wasn't about the go to the back of that. Occasionally people got sick of waiting and left, so we had a bit more room.

Once midnight finally came we saw the ball drop, everyone counted down to 0, about 15 secs worth of fireworks went off, and we left. Had it not been for the barricades stopping us from leaving, we would have been out of there by 12.02am. We ended up climbing over the barricade and leaving at 12.05 (some people had trouble lifting themselves over a short metal fence.... you know what i mean). We went to maccas for dinner, where a guy had thrown up in the bathroom and was admitting it to everybody (:S) and some other guy high on weed (we think) was talking about some comic he's written with an australian character in it who multiplies himself.. uhhuh, i'm sure you are. Crazyman.

We got to bed around 2am and had to be up at 10 to leave by 11. Packed all the bags and checked out, which is all fine. Now we're in the Apple Store on 8th ave (the big one made of glass -

I dont think i've written this yet: our trip to Niagara Falls and Washington got partially canceled (the niagara bit, and they wanted to send us to philadelphia instead.. ew) so we canceled the whole thing and we're going to Montreal, Canada tonight on a bus (double ew) and land there in the morning. Then look around, stay in a hotel overnight, get another bus back to NY then to Washington on the 3rd. Another overnighter. then we'll stay i washington for the night of the 4th, come back on Ny on the 5th in time for our flight to LA. this ought to be interesting.

I'll be back soon with more. wow that was a lot of typing.