Vacation Time!

August 10, 2017 at 1:52 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

August has been a long month. Wait, we’re only ten days in? Okay so July was a long month and August already feels super long so it’s a good thing Scott and I booked an impromptu trip out west!

fievel-goes-west-smiling-face

Paige and Scott Go West!

I’ve been working a lot lately (on good things, just things that are very time-consuming) and Scott busted his butt taking summer classes so we feel like we deserve a bit of a break. We’re flying into Denver (TONIGHT!) and spending a few nights downtown before renting a car and driving Rocky Mountain National Park. We’ve got a little cabin with a grill and private hot tub out back so if I can’t do tons of hiking on my still-healing ankles then I can relax, read and unwind. We’re both ready to unplug and neither of us have ever spent any time in the Rockies so we’re pretty jazzed. I’ve been a city girl for quite a while but the country likes to come out to play every now and then!

 

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Honeymoon = Booked!

August 30, 2016 at 1:27 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , )

Forget this wedding planning stuff. Scott and I are going to Thailand!

Though technically we are getting married first.

We had hemmed and hawed over booking a honeymoon since we’re not going right after our wedding anyway. The wedding is at the beginning of November but since Scott will still be in school, we decided to wait until January to get the heck outta dodge. This way he’ll be on winter break and I’ll have new vacation time, plus we’ll have something to look forward to through the holidays. Also – leaving Chicago in January to go someplace warm just sounds like a really good idea.

krabi-02

Krabi, take me away!

We had originally wanted to go to Australia because I’m crazy and think money grows on trees. Once reality set it, we started looking a little closer to home. We actually even decided to wait until after the wedding was over to book so we could be responsible and know what our finances looked like but then we decided that irresponsibility was the way to go. Well, sort of. Anyplace we go (that’s warm) in January is going to be popular and the longer we wait the more expensive things will likely be, so when I found a good deal on a trip to Thailand, we decided to jump on it. And I’m so glad we did!

We’ll be spending 3 nights in Bangkok before flying to the small southern coastal town of Krabi for 3 more nights. Then we’ll have one more evening in Bangkok before heading home. We’ll be touring the city and also doing an island hopping excursion while in Krabi, so we’ve got a good mix of adventure and relaxation which is what we both were hoping for. Now we just have to get through the wedding and we’ll be all set!

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Back and Better Than Ever!

October 7, 2014 at 7:34 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , )

The beach by my hostel. Its name? Sunset Beach.

The beach by my hostel. Its name? Sunset Beach.

Well, my vacation was fantastic.  Another amazing adventure for the books!

If I were to go into each and every reason this was an awesome trip, you’d be here reading all night.  Instead, I’ll shove all the highlights of the things I did into a couple of lists and leave them for your perusal!

Vancouver, B.C. (four nights, five days)

  • Spent lots of time walking along the English Bay, as there was a nice little beach about 3 minutes from my hostel.
  • Hiked around a lake in Stanley Park and tried to hike more but accidentally exhausted myself instead.
  • Took the ferry to shop on Granville Island and ate delicious olives, cheese and cannoli at the Granville Public Market.
  • Braved the one rainy day I encountered by taking a bus to the University of British Columbia Campus, where I pretended I was a student for a bit and then poked around the Museum of Anthropology for three hours.
  • Stood in awe in the Vancouver Public Library, which was seven stories tall and full of some of my favorite things.  Books.  Duh.
  • Went to the top of the Vancouver Tower, which is a lookout sort of like the Sears Tower (only way smaller.  Sorry, Vancouver).  Still had a great view and took of pictures.
  • Bared my tourist status by going to Canada Place and taking lots of photos there too.  It was sort of like Navy Pier and also smaller, however not as annoyingly full of children and overpriced beer.  Point = Vancouver.
  • Wandered through Gastown and saw the famous Gastown Steam Clock, which was unsurprisingly unexciting.  Also wandered through Yorktown, Chinatown (the oldest in North America!) and the gay district, where I happened to be staying.
  • Somehow stumbled through what is probably the worst section of Vancouver, as evidenced by the needle depots on the sides of buildings and the people living on the sidewalks.  Didn’t get mugged!
  • Found a guy who hemmed my jeans for $10 while I waited in the changing room – took less than 5 minutes!
  • Talked to a couple who met 52 years ago from the day I met them, and they were on a six-week road trip through Canada and the United States.  They were seeing more of North America than I ever have and I found them inspirational.  I may or may not have taken their picture.
  • Indulged in WAY too much delicious food, including but not limited to a couple of chocolate éclairs nearly the size of Subway sandwiches.  These came from a Transylvanian Bakery that was dangerously close to my hostel.  I may or may not have stopped by there multiple nights.
  • Got fantastic sleep, which was surprising considering I was on the top bunk in a four person room of a hostel.
Told you.

Told you.

San Diego, CA (three nights, two days):

  • Caught up with an old friend of mine, who was kind enough to let me crash at her place and play tour guide while driving my ass around.
  • Saw seals at La Jolla Beach and climbed through a cave on the beach.

    I see a seal!

    I see a seal!

  • Ordered a Manhattan at this dive type whiskey bar that had over 200 bottles of whiskey.  Just whiskey.  And my drink was delicious.
  • Toured the Gaslamp Quarter, which was cool but didn’t have the unexciting clock like Gastown in Vancouver.
  • Crossed the Coronado Bridge and sampled a flight from the Coronado Brewery.
  • Walked through Balboa Park where we went to a couple of museums, a botanical garden and generally saw pretty things.
  • Tried to get into the San Diego Zoo but my friend’s pass was expired (we technically knew this but tried anyway).  Wound up getting photos of the San Diego Zoo sign instead.
  • Spent one late night watching Frozen, which I’d been wanting to watch for a while.  Was not disappointed.
  • Again ate WAY too much food, including an obscene amount of avocado.  Just obscene.  No regrets.
  • Went to Old Town, which was described to me as a kind of Mexican Disneyland.  This was fairly accurate and the tacos were delicious.
Pretty church in Balboa Park

Pretty church in Balboa Park

  • Absorbed as much sunshine and heat as I could, since it was 95 when I left CA and snowing at that time in Chicago.  Yuck.  YUCK I say!
  • Got minimal sleep, which was unsurprising given all of the catching up we did and the fact that my friend didn’t have AC (see above).

The Pros:  Seeing my old friend was fantastic but ultimately (and of course this has nothing to do with her) I think I enjoyed my time in Vancouver more.  Maybe it was because I actually walked around it more thoroughly (i.e. 6-10 miles every day), maybe because it was so freaking gorgeous or maybe it was the pure freedom of not having any place specific to go or thing to do, but I fell in love with that city.  So much so that I kind of felt like I was cheating on Chicago.  Whatever, the affair was worth it and I plan on going back!

The Cons:  My flight home was delayed and I spent almost two hours sitting on the runway in Denver, CO.  Not ideal.  But if that’s the worst thing that happened to me on my trip, I’ll consider myself a damn lucky girl indeed!

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Busy Busy Me

September 15, 2014 at 7:43 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )

So I’m working a conference for my company this week and it’s something I’ve never done before.  I’ll be on-site at a downtown hotel most of Wednesday and into the evening hours, then I’ll be staying in said hotel (thanks, job!) since I have to be up so bright and early for the next day of the conference.  It seems like it’s going to be a hectic few days but since it’s something new and different – and away from my cubicle – I’m excited nonetheless.  And I’m not going to lie, I’m also excited to order room service on the company’s dime!

The conference ends Thursday afternoon and I have Book Club Thursday night.  On Friday, the women I work with and I are all being treated to a luncheon on a cruise boat on the lake (thanks again, job!).  It’s a once a year type of thing and the weather looks like it’ll actually cooperate, which is great.  We’ll be served food and will each have four drink tickets, which will likely all be used on alcohol – this is also great.  After lunch I get to go on home, which is the greatest thing of all considering the busy week I’ll be having!  Then on Saturday, I’m going to a Cubs game with Scott and some friends, since my company had some extra tickets that weren’t being used.  Have I mentioned that my job has amazing perks?  And no, I don’t work for Google.  Anyway, the game should be a blast because we’ve got incredible seats and the weather looks halfway decent for the weekend, too.  On Sunday, a friend of mine is having an art show that I intend to check out so that’s going to be exciting.  After all that, it’s just one week until my Vancouver/San Diego vacation!

At least I don’t have children!

This is all super awesome stuff and I’m very lucky/excited to be experiencing it but I’m NOT excited to be feeling sickly today.  Why oh why does this have to happen when I’m super busy and have fun stuff to attend to?  Did I piss off some karmic gods or something?  I guess I’ll spend my lunch break today helping little old ladies cross the street so I can hopefully boost that karma and start feeling better.  Or perhaps I’ll take some medicine and let the old ladies fend for themselves.

Anyway, bring on the week, bring on the fun and bring on the cough medicine!

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Another Trip Booked!

July 22, 2014 at 8:56 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

I am in dire need of a vacation!  It’s been exactly a year since Scott and I went to Costa Rica and I’ve been itching to get out of the country once again.  After I hit my goal of going to every continent (minus Antarctica) before the age of 30, I made a new mission to continue my streak and go abroad once a year for 10 years straight.  In order to do that I needed to renew my passport and I just got my new one back a few weeks ago so it was time to book a trip!

Sidenote: my new passport is all stiff and full of USA propaganda and completely empty.  It makes me sad.

Here I come!

But!  I’ll start filling it soon because I just booked myself a trip to Vancouver, Canada at the end of September!  This year has been a difficult one when it came to saving cash for a vacation but I managed to do it nonetheless.  I toyed with trips to many different places but in the end, it was cheaper and easier to go just go to Canada for a few days.  I’ll be flying to Vancouver for four nights and then going down to San Diego, CA to stay with an old friend for an additional three.  Seeing as how I’ve never been to Canada or California, I’m pretty jazzed!

I’d be more jazzed if Scott was coming with me but he’ll be busy with school so this is to be another solo trip (at least the Canada part, since I’ll be with my friend in CA).  That’s okay though because there seems to be plenty there to keep me busy!  I’ve already booked my hostel and have found an awesome anthropology museum and a pretty cool library I will definitely be checking out.  There are lots of markets to peruse and the nature around looks beautiful so I’m sure I’ll be doing as much as I can while I’m there.  The area I’m staying in seems pretty walkable and it should be a nice time of the year to go.  Not going to lie – I’m pretty excited!  And I’ve got plenty of time to plan some stuff out, though I’m sure the trip will be here before I know it.  At least, I hope so!

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We Made It!

July 29, 2013 at 1:25 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , )

I haven’t had time to download any of my pictures or really even think about writing a wrap-up blog post on our recent trip, but I’ll get there.  Sometime.  I promise.  In the meantime, I can give you these breakdowns:

  • 2 countries visited: Costa Rica and Nicaragua
  • 1 bed and breakfast that housed us for all 7 nights
  • 3 bottles of sunscreen used
  • 1 bathing suit broken
  • 2 types of monkeys I saw: Howler and Spider
  • 3 hours spent attempting to learn to surf
  • 4 bottles of rum I brought back (don’t judge me, they were cheap!)
  • 2 humpback whales I saw and captured on video
  • 1 octopus I held
  • 5 other couples/people we met from the Chicago area
  • 13 bug bites on my legs
  • 2 pair of sunglasses that Scott lost/broke
  • 5 hour flight each way
  • 0 movies or TV shows shown while on the flights
  • 0 snacks served while on flight (thanks for nothing, United)
  • 2 horrible dreams I had about work while I was away
  • 1 volcano I got to peer into the bottom of
  • 100 virgins who were once sacrificed into said volcano
  • 0 virgins on our trip
  • 300 photos taken overall
  • 1978490732509843 wonderful memories and experiences that I had over the course of 1 week

More updates to follow as soon as I can!

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Trip Booked!

March 15, 2013 at 10:56 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , )

Oh, what a difference two weeks makes!

I’m in a much better mood than I was this time two weeks ago, due largely in part to the fact that Scott and I have booked our next big trip!  We’ll be spending a week in Costa Rica in July and we are VERY excited.  We looked at tours like we did with Ecuador but the only one that looked even halfway affordable (read: it was going to leave me fairly strapped but I was willing to go for it) was to Thailand, which of course looked awesome.  However the affordable time was during their monsoon season and the more we thought about it, the more reasons we found to go elsewhere.  Because while wading knee-deep in flooded streets sounds adventurous, hanging out a beach sounds a little bit better.  In the end I found cheaper flights and lodging on the west coast of CR, so that’s what we went for.  The B&B we’re staying at is the best-ranked in the area and looks like something straight out of a movie.  There’s a lot to do in town too as there are many adventure groups that will help people explore the area.  Also, I think we may do a day trip to Nicaragua to check out a few cities and climb a volcano!

What awaits!

As you can see, we’ve spent a little bit of time so far researching all there is to do out there.

This trip makes facing the next however many days of gray, chilly weather just a little more tolerable.  Also making things tolerable: the fact that it’s Friday, the fact that my mom, sister and two of her friends are on their way up to the city for the weekend, the fact that I get to learn about the awesome Caves of Lascaux tomorrow at the Field Museum and the fact that my boss won’t be in on Monday.  Oh, and the chance to watch IU in the Big Ten this weekend.  Smiles all around!

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Ecuadorian Adventure 2012!

September 13, 2012 at 8:08 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

So here it is.  The summary post that’s actually fairly long so you might as well grab a glass (or three) of wine or a few cold brews and get settled in…

Hotel #2…this one had a fireplace! And we managed to not burn the place down.

We arrived in Ecuador safely and were met right outside of the baggage claim by our guide, Patricio (Pato).  He was ready and waiting to gather our 28 or so fellow travelers which was a relief, as I wasn’t completely comfortable until we met up with our ride to the hotel.  We all boarded the bus we would know as our second home for the next week and were led to a surprisingly nice hotel where we enjoyed plenty of privacy and plenty of space.  This would be a common theme on the trip as every single hotel we stayed at was clean and comfortable, with some of them being downright super fancy (the last room we had actually was brand new and had a glorious jacuzzi but shh…we weren’t supposed to tell the others about that as they were limited and we scored one of the three available.  Thankfully no one from the trip knows about this blog).  So the hotels were a pleasant surprise compared to the hostel staying of my days of yore and it’ll be pretty damn difficult to go back to sharing one room with a dozen or so strangers now.  Is this what’s called growing up?  Only time will tell.

The food was a pleasant surprise too and every breakfast we had was paid for through the trip.  They mostly consisted of fruits, local vegetables such as the yuca, muffins/rolls and lots of freshly squeezed fruit juices.  Definitely put my usual granola bar to shame.  Some lunches and dinners were also covered and I marveled at the fact that I probably ate better while on the trip than I do at home, what with all of the fresh vegetables and grains rolling around.

Um yum

A highlight was the Ecuadorian soup which had potatoes, avocado and cheese.  SO good!  I also really enjoyed the varieties of fried and roasted bananas, which I never thought I’d say.  Something I didn’t try was the guinea pig but I think if I were a carnivore I’d have given it a shot…I don’t see how that’s too different from eating deer or pig or anything else, to be honest.  Some on our group enjoyed it while others were grossed out because “it could be someone’s pet”…well I had a guinea pig as a pet once and I’d have gladly deep-fried that thing on more than a few occasions if I thought I could’ve gotten away with it, so I didn’t pass judgement at all.

Now that we’ve covered accommodations and cuisine, I’ll move on to the really fun stuff.  This trip was full of adventures and things neither Scott nor I had ever experienced before, which is exactly what we were counting on.  We started off by touring some of historic World Heritage site Quito, then made our way to the Middle of the World, where we were able to straddle the Northern and Southern Hemispheres while taking the obligatory touristy photos.  There was a museum on the indigenous people of Ecuador at this site and you know I loved that!  Our next big stop (please note we did not do this all in one day) was to a gorgeous waterfall that was accessible via a small hike.  It was here that my exposed calves were bitten to shreds by some unholy biting devil fly and I’m still dealing with the aftermath a week later.  Luckily, I verified with a doctor that it’s not botfly so I won’t be pulling larva out of my leg anytime soon.  Rather, I’m stuck with chicken pox looking things and a desire to itch like I’ve never itched before.  It seems to slowly be getting better though, so that’s something.  And the waterfall and surrounding area was definitely worth it!

The Middle of the World as we know it! And I felt fine…

At least, that’s what I’m telling myself for now.

In the midst of all this travel, we had the opportunity to purchase coca leaves, which are the leaves that cocaine is derived from.  These leaves don’t have quite the same properties that the illegal drug does but they do help alleviate altitude sickness and aid in digestion, so of course most everyone on the trip tried them.  We also purchased candies and tea leaves, all of which were relatively cheap.  We weren’t walking around like characters from the Goodfellas or anything but it was a novelty we all enjoyed – and no, we didn’t try to bring any back with us.  A few people felt the elevation during the trip but the leaves, combined with the medicine we got before departure, helped both Scott and I feel fine for the duration.

Hot Springs Hotel

So now back to some of the sights: our last hotel before the Amazon featured hot springs in front of our rooms, which of course we all enjoyed.  They basically piped in natural hot water from nearby springs to these concrete tubs and it was a fantastic way to relax and stay warm in the high altitude.  Our stay in the Amazon was probably the highlight of the trip and we could only access our hotel via motor-powered canoes.  Our room featured a hammock on the back porch and it was harder than hell to leave when that time came.  While there, we visited a local family who showed us some of their cooking and jewelery making skills and we were also allowed to play with a blow gun (I was the first one to aim the dart at the little wooden monkey/pinata thing and I totally shot it in the ass.  Most other people missed completely so I’m fairly confident in my Amazon survival skills…or fairly confident in beginner’s luck).  We also spent a day hiking through some trails deep in the jungle with a local guide, were we were shown cotton and rubber trees along with all sorts of fascinating insects and plants.  We didn’t see many animals while on the hike but that’s mostly because a group of 15 tourists bumbling around is loud enough to scare things off from miles away.  We did spend some time in an animal sanctuary later though, where we saw four different kinds of primates, reptiles, lots of birds and more.  That place was cool because they take animals that are found on the black market (or some random dude’s hotel room, which happened with one specific jaguar-like cat) and rehabilitate them so they can be re-released into the wild.  They can’t always release all animals and if they’re too domesticated to make it then they take care of them on-site, but the primary goal is to give them as normal a life as possible.  Since I spent time in similar primate sanctuaries in South Africa, I really appreciated being able to see what another place can do for these animals.

The Amazing Amazon

After the Amazon, we drove through the Andes mountains a little more to a national park that was home to three large volcano’s, including Cotopaxi, which is the tallest and most active volcano in the world.  Talk about awesome.  I guess there are predictions that it’ll erupt again in the next 30 years or so and the last time it did it wiped out the town and sent ash as far away as Columbia, so it’s something to monitor.  While we were there, though, we just stood in it’s towering presence and thanked our lucky stars that it wasn’t billowing smoke and lava (speaking of lava, the volcano I was worried about erupting from a few posts ago didn’t do a thing on our trip and we never really even saw it as it was surrounded by clouds).

Our flight home left at midnight and so by the time we arrived at our apartment (tired, hungry, stinky and carrying tons of dirty laundry), we had been up for something like 32 hours.  The weekend upon our return was spent doing said laundry, grocery shopping and generally getting back into the swing of things, and it was nice to have a few days down time.  The entire trip was completely and totally worth it and I would absolutely recommend Gate 1 Travel to anyone who asked.

Cotopaxi

But if you go to Ecuador – bring toilet paper!  We ladies learned very quickly that most public restrooms were lacking so we stocked up when we could and just carried it in tow.  Luckily for most of us, I had Kleenex on me the day we first learned this hard truth, thus earning me the title of Girl Scout for a day or so.  But as for Gate 1, they were great and we may use them in the future (once we’re no longer too broke to travel).  The only drawback to the entire adventure (besides the bug bites which are finally looking somewhat better) was that a handful of people we rode around with more than a little obnoxious.  But that’s the sort of risk you run on a trip like that and the good people far outweighed the bad!  And it just goes to show, stupid and annoying can be found anywhere on the globe.

Oh yeah…we stopped at a bar that happened to be owned by a dude from Chicago. In Banos, Ecuador. Such a small world!

And that’s a wrap!  If you want to hear about anything in greater detail feel free to ask and if you’re lucky enough to be Facebook friends with me you can expect to see the photos here and many more uploaded…sometime.  Hopefully in the not too distant future. Scott and I both had an amazing time and I’m so grateful everything went as smoothly as it did.  Now to scrimp and save so we can plan our next great adventure!

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And Awaaaaay We Go!

August 30, 2012 at 12:54 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )

I really did mean to write a post yesterday on our latest book club meeting but MAN that day got away from me before I knew it.  So I’ll do a very brief summary here – we read a really horribly long book and went out to share drinks/food/laughs while we talked about it.  I picked the book (1Q84 by Haruki Murakami) because it looked interesting and there were lots of copies in the Chicago Public Library.  What I didn’t realize is that the book was 925 LARGE pages.  This comes after my last suggestion which was long and just plain horrible…I think I’m probably banned from suggesting books for a while now.  Anyway most of us enjoyed the book but we all agreed it was needlessly wordy and much could’ve been cut.  So that was that and we’ve got some chick lit suggested for next time to give ourselves a break.

Aaaanyway…we leave for our trip abroad tomorrow!  I know the internet will be a lonely place without my blogging but I’m sure you’ll survive and I should be back in a week or so anyway.  This time tomorrow I’ll be boarding a plane in Miami headed to Quito, Ecuador, where we’ll have a driver pick us up to help us officially begin our adventure.  And I.  Cannot.  Wait.  Most everything is packed and ready to go and I just need to get through the rest of the day and (try to) get some sleep before we bust the hell outta dodge.  And by dodge I mean Chicago.

Get ready for us, South America!

I can’t really even focus on much more than that so I guess this will be it for today’s post.  I could discuss the goings-on with the Republication National Convention and how it makes me want to throw a brick at my TV, but I won’t.  I could also discuss how I accidentally read a big article this week on the dangers of the Amazon and how no sane person should ever go there but I’m trying to keep it far from my mind (you can see how well that’s working) so I won’t discuss it either.  What I will say is that I realize how very lucky I am to have so much travel under my belt and I can assure you I don’t take it for granted.  Exploring the world is something that’s always been important to me and so I’ve made it a priority but it’s not easy and I know many people don’t get these types of opportunities.  So I’ll do my best to enjoy every moment while I’m away and I’ll be sure to take lots of photos for this here blog for when I return.

Until next week!

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A Go-Go!

August 23, 2012 at 10:42 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

The trip’s still on!  I finally heard back from the vacation gods and the ash from the volcano is pretty much only affecting the opposite side of the town that we’ll be staying in and our hotel is still standing.  So that’s good.  And I’ve been assured that even if the winds change or the volcano gets more pissed off and starts spewing further than it currently is, the tour group will simply shuffle plans around so it doesn’t really change anything about our trip.  Wow, this whole letting-someone-else-deal-with-the-chaos-that-comes-with-travelling thing is actually kind of nice!  If we’re lucky, it’ll be calmed down when we arrive but not so calm that we miss out on some crazy photo opportunities.  And if anything, I’ll just be happy not to be melting in flowing pools of lava.

Interesting (to me) fact: the difference between lava and magma boils (see what I did there?) down to location.  Magma is molten material beneath the earth’s crust and lava is what it turns into once it comes out of the volcano.  Now you know!

And after today, I only have five more days of work until I’m outta here!  Not that I’m counting down or anything.

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