All posts by Cam

USA Travel Diary 23/4/18

Ok, I’ve been home for a few days, but better late than never, right?

Day 33

DISNEYLAND!!!

Sleeping Beauty’s Castle

Proud to say I managed to not cry all day, though it got pretty close towards the beginning, between lack of sleep and the pure emotion of having finally made it somewhere I’ve wanted to go since I was a kid.

Disneyland is magical. There’s no other way to describe it. Even as a grown man who is almost thirty, who doesn’t have kids, or like roller coasters.

To make my time here even better, because we just came off Spring Break, the park wasn’t too crowded at all. There were still lines, but not the monsters that the park is famous for. Of course, I didn’t go into the Space Mountain or Matterhorn lines, which I’m sure were still over half an hour wait. I had purchased Fast Pass, but never felt the need to use it, since it would have just been inconvenient.

Even if you don’t like the fast rides, there’s plenty to do. I’m a little disappointed that Dumbo the Flying Elephant was closed for maintenance, since that’s one of the few big name rides I wanted to ride. Splash Mountain was closed too, but there was only a fifty/fifty chance I was going to ride that one. But there’s still all the kid’s rides in Fantasyland, the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party and of course, the iconic Pirates of the Carribean and Haunted Mansion.

I finished the day watching the amazing light, sound and fireworks show that is “Remember… Dreams Come True”, over Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, before heading down to the Rivers of America to watch “Fantasmic”. Both shows were amazing, and definitely highlights of the trip.

Day 34

Today I spent most of the day at Disney’s other Anaheim park, California Adventure. It’s a much smaller park, but that’s not to say it’s not just as much fun.

“Storytellers”, which I might like more than the more famous “Partners, which is across the way at Disneyland.

While not as iconic as its sister across the plaza, the spirit of the Disney Parks is still alive. Where Main Street USA is a quintessential turn of the century small-town main street, Buena Vista Street is firmly set in 1920s Los Angeles, with art deco inspired buildings and a streetcar.

California Adventure is known for its thrill rides, so while I had some fun on the kids’ rides, and meeting the various characters (most of the Pixar characters live over this side, as well as the sisters from Frozen, and cool, 1920s versions of Mickey and his friends), I couldn’t really spend a whole day here.

So I spent the afternoon back at Disneyland, before heading back to see the sound and light show at California Adventure, which is titled “Carousel of Color”. It might have been more spectacular than the shows I saw at Disneyland the night before, but it didn’t quite have the magic.

Day 35

All good things must come to an end. Fortunately, it was a perfect way to end it. I practically walked onto the Pirates of the Caribbean, and Haunted Mansion (twice!), with almost no wait time. I got to meet a bunch of cool characters (even as an adult, this is the best part, Disney cast members are outstanding folks). I caught up on a couple of rides I missed, including Peter Pan’s Flight, which is probably the highest I got off the ground in the whole park.

The highlight of the day was that night’s show. Just a few days out from the beginning of ‘Pixar Fest’, we got to see a preview of the new “Pixar Nighttime Spectacular”. Now, I’ll always be more of a Disney Animated Studios guy than a Pixar guy, but I still cheered when Buzz Lightyear flew past the castle.

After that show I went and saw Fantasmic again. I should point out that all these night time shows are up on YouTube.

As the night was coming to an end, I finally got to do something I’ve been dying to do for two years. I went shopping. No more worrying about having to cart everything across a continent. No more leaving cool mugs behind because I don’t want it to break. No more trying to find the lightest thing in the store, because I just had to have something.

I stayed in the park until close. I found a bench at the top of Main Street, near Walt Disney’s firehouse office, facing down towards the castle. It was a good time to reflect on everything, while taking in somewhere I’ve dreamed of for so long, one last time.

Walt’s office light is still on.

Day 36

And after all that is a travel day. What should have been a short one, but I wanted to sleep in, so booked an afternoon ticket to LA, which was then delayed.

Day 37

My hostel was on the same Metro Line as Hollywood, so that seemed like a good place to start. And boy is Hollywood Boulevard kind of dirty. It was cool seeing the Walk of Fame, but I didn’t really want to stop anywhere. I went and took the Warner Brothers Studio Tour, which was pretty cool. I’m not sure what we missed out on, due to filming schedules, but I can’t imagine we missed much. If you only take one studio tour in LA, pick this one. Unless you’re already going to Universal, which I’ll cover later.

Day 38

The Sony Pictures Studio Tour isn’t quite as good as the Warner Brothers Tour. However, the Sony Pictures lot is the old MGM lot, so assuming they’re not using it, you can stand on the same soundstage that The Wizard of Oz was filmed on. Which was 99% of the reason I was there. They also show you some cool effects stuff, which you miss out on at Warner Brothers.

Day 39

I’d had enough of tours, and decided to head down to Santa Monica. Unfortunately, this was my first time at a beach since Sicily, and I don’t have a pair of board shorts that actually fits me, so I couldn’t go in the water. I did check out the pier, which was pretty cool, and the endpoint of Route 66.

Day 40

I’m not going to lie, I spent a good chunk of today playing Pokemon Go. But I also checked out the La Brea Tar Pits while I did. The number of fossils they pull out of the pits in a day is unbelievable. Saber-toothed cats, mammoths, dire wolves, right down to tiny little insects. It’s really interesting to learn about.

Day 41

I wasn’t quite sure what to do with my day, so I wandered around Downtown LA and did a little shopping. I spent the afternoon in the hills above Sunset Boulevard, finally ending at the Griffith Observatory in Griffith Park, for the best view of Los Angeles. The Observatory was the main thing I wanted to see in Los Angeles, so naturally I picked the one day a week it’s closed. But that’s ok, because it’s all about that view. I waited for the sun to go down so I could see the lights stretch on forever, before I headed back down to my hostel.

The view was worth the hike. I caught the bus back down though.

Day 42

My last day in the States. I had planned on having to lay low, either at the hostel, or the airport, and catching up on some Hulu. But instead I went and made a friend at the hostel and headed to Universal Studios. Unlike the other studios, Universal has a full-sized theme park. Nothing on the scale of Disneyland, but still very popular.

Their studio tour is included, and is pretty cool. It’s a ride in itself, with many intact special effects. Jurassic Park dinosaurs, the shark from Jaws (though I doubt they’re original) and so on.

And so ends my travel. I got on the 23.55 flight from LAX to Tullamarine, and now I’m home until further notice.

USA Travel Diary 7/4/18

Of course, when I said I’d get better about posting these, I actually meant worse.

Day 23
Turns out Bourbon Street isn’t so bad at night, after a full afternoon of drinking with new friends. It’s definitely an experience everyone should have at least once, but that heavy partying scene isn’t really for me.

Day 24
Travel day. Early bus out of New Orleans to Austin, with a connection in Houston. Got in pretty late.

Austin Street Art
Everywhere you turn in Austin is some cool street art.


Day 25

Austin is wonderful. It’s just a chill, laid back kind of place. The weather is nice, it’s clean, there are parks, galleries and trendy bars. I’m kind of glad I missed SXSW, because I think I’m too old for festivals (but ask me again after I go to GTM Bendigo next month).

I checked out the Mexic-arte Museum, which celebrates art by Lantinx artists. It’s a cool little place, well worth price of entry.

Day 26
Today I made the trek to Castle Hill Graffiti Park, which was pretty cool. A lot of it is just kind of a mess of people tagging on top of each other, but there was some seriously cool art. Apparently it’s scheduled to be demolished and relocated soon, so I’m glad I saw the original.

Also, Austin is home to the largest urban bat colony in the world. So just after sunset you can see them emerge from under the Congress Bridge. There’s a viewing area set up and everything.

Day 27

Travel day. And it was a doozy. All through the night until…

Day 28
The reason we’re all here. Because to get where we’re going, there’s one place we’ve got to go past. And you can’t go the wrong way, because who knows where you’ll end up?
I am of course referring to this blog’s namesake, That Left Turn At Albuquerque. Bane of the early trans-continental traveller’s existence, and subject of one of Bugs Bunny’s lesser known catchphrases.
Albuquerque is a pretty cool little city, and their zoo is impressive for the size of the place. I can see why Weird Al wrote that one song about it.

Day 29
Travel day. This time I traded in the slow, quiet atmosphere in Albuquerque for the bright lights of Las Vegas.

Grand Canyon
If I could have just one thing for this blog, besides an unlimited travel budget of course, it would be a professional photographer. Because I can’t do this justice.

Day 30
But the Strip was going to have to wait, because I had a bucket list item to tick off.
I’ll admit, until now, I’d looked at pictures of the Grand Canyon, and just shrugged. It’s a hole in the ground. It looks pretty cool, but is it really a ‘Wonder’?
Well, I’m here to say, no pictures do it justice. No picture can really depict the sheer scale of the canyon. Can’t capture the array of colours in the rock. Can’t convey the awe-inspiring feeling of just how small we really are compared to the world.
Go to the Grand Canyon y’all. If you only ever go to one of the places I’ve told you about, make it this one.

Day 31
I’m not a gambler. The entire sex industry really creeps me out (but hey, do whatever you want with your own body). And I’m not into drinking on my own. So really, Las Vegas didn’t have much to offer me.
I hit the buffet at the MGM Grand in the morning, and couldn’t really move again until the sun went down. I walked the Sunset Strip, and watched the Bellagio Fountain for hours (and got pretty close to the actual Stanley Cup while they were shooting promo videos for the upcoming NHL Playoffs).
Las Vegas is definitely a spectacle, but if I was to come back, it would have to be with other people.

Day 32
Which brings us to today, which was another travel day. I left Vegas in the morning, and despite my bus being in a minor accident somewhere near San Bernardino, I am now in Anaheim, within walking distance of the Happiest Place On Earth, Disneyland.

Depending on how tight my LA hostel is with letting me use their facilities after I check out, my last diary might actually be written after I get home. Unless I shock everyone and write one that’s just about Disney. Which is probably the only thing that could improve my post rate.

USA Travel Diary 28/3/18 (feat. Canada)

Ok, I’m getting lazier with these. But I’m here now, everything is alright.

Day 11
When I last checked in, I had just got to Buffalo, so it made sense that my first stop would be the one thing in the Buffalo area: Niagara Falls.
The Canadian side is supposed to be much nicer, but I didn’t want to add an extra border crossing to my week, no point complicating things. The American side was still quite spectacular, though not as loud as I expected.

The rest of the night is a blur, because the only thing to do in Buffalo at this time of the year is drink. And, since it was actually St Patrick’s Day, it was certainly the day for it.

Day 12
For some reason, the St Patrick’s Day Parade is held the day after St Patrick’s Day, so today was a continuation of the previous night’s drinking, though somewhat more cautious than the night before. Not much to report travel-wise, Buffalo might be full of great people, but it’s not much for the sights.

Day 13
Time for another travel day, crossing over into the Great White North, Canada. Of course, I didn’t see a bit of snow the whole time I was there, which was quite a nice change from New York state (and London the week before).
I spent the rest of the afternoon recovering from Buffalo.

Lake Ontario
You can see why they call them the Great Lakes.

Day 14
Another day, another bucket list item (I will get around to updating the list, maybe today even?). This time it was the one-time tallest building in the world, the CN Tower.
The view from the main viewing area (in that middle bubble part) is pretty spectacular, especially over Lake Ontario. The elevator windows certainly make the trip up to that section much more exciting than other tall towers.
However, the topmost viewing area is a little… Underwhelming. The windows are small, it’s cramped and covered in graffiti.
In hindsight, I probably could have done a diary that afternoon, since I spent it chilling out at the hostel, which was a pretty cool little place called The Only Backpacker’s Hostel.

Day 15
You know what I love? Dinosaurs. Because I’ll never stop being a five year old. So a trip to the Royal Ontario Museum was in order. It’s more of a catch-all museum than the places I had visited in New York, or London, so it had quite a collection of artifacts from multiple cultures, in addition to a nice collection of dinosaur bones.

Day 16
Fun fact, it took longer for me to pass US Customs at the Canadian border than it did coming in at JFK.

Massive travel day to Chicago, via Detroit, so I basically got to the hostel and crashed.

Day 17
Both the CN Tower and the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower claim to be the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. The CN Tower is taller, but a lot of sources don’t count the spire. Even so, One World Trade Center is taller than the Willis Tower.
I think this is my last tall building for a while, because I don’t much feel like paying for a view. The view of Chicago is nice enough, and the weather was clearer, so looking out over Lake Michigan was nicer than looking out over Lake Ontario. Apparently on a very clear day, you can see into four states. Unfortunately, they don’t exactly mark the borders on the ground, so I can’t confirm or deny.

I continued channeling my inner Cameron from Ferris Bueller and made my way over to the Art Institute of Chicago to look at some paintings. Sidenote: The CityPass is 100% worth it if you have a few days. I actually used everything in it this time.

I also managed to go to the former Public Library, which is now a Cultural center, though the beautiful entrance hall and upper halls are fully intact and quite stunning.

Sue the T-Rex
This was very nearly the feature image.

Day 18
Today I, uh, went to see some dinosaurs. But not just any dinosaurs. A dinosaur celebrity. The one. The only. The largest, most complete and best preserved Tyrannosaurus Rex. The gender-neutral pronoun-using Twitter personality, Sue the T-Rex.
The museum are actually in the process of moving them into a new room, to make way for a massive Titanosaur in their main hall, but they know Sue is the main draw, so you can see the progress being made in reconstructing their skeleton.
There’s a heap of other cool stuff at the Field Museum, including the famous man-eating Tsavo Lions. But I just really like dinosaurs y’all.

Day 19
Since it was on my CityPass, I headed over to the Chicago Science and Industry museum, which is definitely aimed at kids. But I’m a child at heart, so it was a pretty cool day. I didn’t learn much, but they also had a three-storey smoke vortex. And some trains. And a bunch of cool anatomy samples.

Day 20
Folks, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of checking your travel dates. Otherwise you do things like end up in heavily ‘Irish’ cities on St Patrick’s Day when you hate crowds. Or go to Aquariums on the first day of Spring Break.

I have a lot of friends who are teachers, and I don’t know how they deal with kids all day long. Same goes for parents. Honestly, the Shedd Aquarium is pretty cool as far as aquariums go, but it’s a nightmare when it’s packed with kids. I got to see a beluga whale, so it was a pretty cool day.

I also had an afternoon to kill, so I went to the movies. Y’all should go see A Wrinkle In Time if it’s still out.

And thus began the longest travel day I’ve had since that very first flight out of Australia.

Day 21
Trains are my favourite way to travel. But I’m cheap, and bought a seat instead of a sleeper ticket. And the water was high in the Mississippi, so a spillway was opened, which means the City of New Orleans service from Chicago to New Orleans was a bus service from Jackson, Mississippi. Which landed me in New Orleans two hours later than planned.
But I survived, met some nice folks at the hostel, and had a nice night drinking.

Old Absinthe House
Pictured: Absinthe and Bourbon. Which could be chapter titles in my memoir.

Day 22
Hey y’all, the French Quarter kind of smells like a toilet. It’s not so bad if you get a couple of blocks away from Bourbon Street. But it’s pretty bad.
I love the old buildings, but underneath that, Bourbon Street just looks like the main street in any town known for tourists and getting drunk. I did check out the Museum of Death and the Voodoo Museum, which were kind of cool. I even made a wish in the Wishing Stump.
Which brings us to now. I promise the next one will be sooner than this. Maybe in Vegas?

USA Travel Diary 16/3/18

Alright, I’m on the road again, which means y’all get to live vicariously through my travel diaries. Let’s get going.

Day 0
First travel day doesn’t count. Gatwick Airport was probably the easiest airport experience of my life, even being an international flight.
I had forgotten that I booked the emergency exit row, so I had a nice surprise, and legroom for days. Norwegian is a pretty good airline if you’re ever given the choice, I got my ticket on sale. Movie selection was a bit rubbish, but I got through it.
We landed at JFK earlier than we were scheduled, so I was actually at my hotel at around 11 that night, which was better than I expected. If you’re not in a hurry, don’t spring for a cab from the airport, use a shuttle service instead. It’s half the price, and you’ll need that extra cash because New York is expensive. Not London expensive, but still, pretty pricey.

Day 1
I woke up fairly early, because I didn’t beat jetlag quite as much as I thought I had. No complaints, because at this point, the snow was still nice. But more on the weather later.

Since I was staying a block away, the obvious first destination was Central Park. It’s quite beautiful in the snow, though I can only imagine how nice it is in spring.
I worked my way downtown, switching to the subway about halfway down the park. I picked up my New York Pass at Times Square (Much like the London and Paris passes, I highly recommend it if you’re hitting a heap of paid attractions in a limited period of time), and went to The Met.

Since I’d been to the British Museum less than a week before, I must admit I was a little underwhelmed by their collection, though it is objectively quite impressive. Especially the Egyptian collection, which definitely rivals the collection across the pond.
Of course, while I was at The Met, the Nor’easter really blew in, and my journey home was wet, cold and miserable.

Not only is this dude too big to get a good photo of, he’s too big for the hall he’s in.

Day 2
The weather cleared up nicely, though the snow stayed on the ground for days after, which was quite nice after the slush.
I got to cross off a bucket list item today, when I went to the Natural History Museum. If you follow the Instagram feed (or my personal accounts), you know I love dinosaurs. And space. And since ‘Natural History Museum’ basically means ‘Dinosaurs and Space Museum (With Rocks and Taxidermy)’, I was in my element.

Again, I can’t help but compare it to its London counterpart, but this time the New York version won out. Between the incredibly impressive Titanosaur and their taxidermied animals actually being in action poses, it’s just way cooler. The London one will forever have my heart as one of my favourite buildings though.
I am a little uncomfortable that they included non-European human history at the Natural History Museum, which is definitely problematic.

I spent the rest of the afternoon on a hop-on, hop-off bus tour of Downtown Manhattan, which was great for planning my week more than anything else.

Day 3
I started my day off with one of my favourite activities: a walking tour. Of course, being in the crown jewel of capitalism, gone are my beloved free walking tours, instead I only took walking tours that were on my New York Pass.

Today’s tour was of Soho, Little Italy and Chinatown, where our charming tour guide taught us about the history of the area, especially the waves of immigration that basically built the city of New York. I was also introduced to one of the cheapest eateries in the city, which certainly came in handy. It’s a tiny shop on Mosco St in Chinatown, where you get five pork dumplings for $1.25, or, since the lady at the counter doesn’t like giving change, eight dumplings for $2 (or, apparently, 20 for $5 unless you specify you want change).

While I was in the area, I went to the Tenement Museum, which wasn’t on my pass, but well worth the price of entry. I suggest you book ahead, since I was quite lucky to get a spot on a tour. Even though the tour I took wasn’t my first choice, it as still a very interesting look into life as an exploited immigrant over a century ago.

And finally, I got to cross off another bucket list item, the Empire State Building. I got up just in time to catch the sunset, and waited around for some nighttime views of the city. It was well worth the risk of frostbite in the wintery wind.

Day 4
Today I took another walking tour, this time over the iconic Brooklyn Bridge, and around the DUMBO neighbourhood in Brooklyn. The tour guide gave us a rundown of the building of the bridge, courtesy of John, Washington and Emily Roebling. He also gave us an insight into the gentrification of downtown Brooklyn.

While I as in Brooklyn, I headed over to the Transit Museum, which is actually inside an old subway station. I’m going to let you in on a secret: I like trains y’all. It was cool to see the history of mass transit in the city, but it’s not exactly extensive. They do have a bunch of cool old subway carriages though.

Day 5
The Intrepid Museum is set on the World War 2 era aircraft carrier Intrepid, which is notable for several reasons, but it isn’t the real draw. Neither is the submarine Growler. Both are really cool, but they kind of pale in comparison to what’s on the flight deck of the Intrepid.
Not one of the helicopters. Not one of the planes (though the Blackbird is cool). A thousand times more impressive is the Space Shuttle Enterprise. An actual space shuttle. One of three remaining shuttles (and there’s another in Los Angeles, so I might get to see two). Space stuff rules guys, and it doesn’t get spacier than this.

I spent the afternoon wandering around Greenwich Village, retracing the steps of Bob Dylan, who is one of my favourite musicians. I also stopped off in Washington Square Park, because it’s the location of one of my favourite comic book scenes (from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman).

Washington Square Park
I’m a nerd, sue me.

That evening, I took a Circle Lines tour, which had beautiful views of the city lights. It is probably much nicer in the summer, when it’s not around zero degrees Celsius.

Day 6
I started off my day with a disappointment. I had a tour guide not show up for my walking tour. But I did make friends with a couple of cool Canadian ladies, who also missed out on the tour.

So we went to the Statue of Liberty, which is a must-see. We didn’t do any of the museums, so it really didn’t take that much time.

Next up we headed to the 9/11 Memorial site and museum, which was of course very sombre and moving. There are a lot of ways the museum could have gone in the wrong direction, but it is very tasteful.

We finished up at the Museum of Sex, which was… interesting. It’s pretty much what it says on the tin, though the current special exhibition is a little… weird.

Day 7

Today I hit another must-see and went to MoMA, the Museum of Modern Art. I’m not an art person for the most part, so I could have skipped all but the fifth floor here. But the fifth floor is worth the price of entry. Because one of the most famous paintings in the world is there, and probably my favourite: Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh. (They also have the melty clock one by Dali, but it’s not on display right now)

My new friends wanted to check out Radio City Music Hall, and it was on my pass, so I joined them, and it was well worth almost being late for my walking tour later. I had no knowledge of the theatre before, but it’s grand. I love art deco style, and it is practically dripping in it.

Then I rushed to Trinity Church to take the Hamilton Happy Hour tour, which is a brief walking tour around the financial district, focusing on Alexander Hamilton, founding father and first Secretary of the Treasury. And of course, subject of a massively popular musical. And really, while the play does take some liberties and leave some things out, there’s not much you learn from the tour that you don’t know by paying attention to the soundtrack. It was still pretty cool to be ‘in the room where it happened’ so to speak.

That night I headed out to Brooklyn again for a book launch by one of my favourite poets. I was very happy to find out that my dates lined up for this, as I missed out on seeing my favourite singer/songwriter by only a few days.

Day 8

At this point, my pass had ran out, so I limited myself to free attractions. I started out at the New York Public Library, where I took the free tour. It’s an absolutely gorgeous building, and exactly the kind of place I would love to hang out at all the time.

I then walked a block or two to Grand Central Station, to take a look at the Main Concourse, which is that Beaux-Arts style that I loved about Paris.

High Line Street Art
I love me some street art.

I then walked the Chelsea High Line, which definitely would have been better at any other time of year. Parks and winter don’t really mix, and there was a lot of maintenance going on. It was cool walking between buildings at the level of the old freight railway line though, and the street art looked great.

Day 9

My last real day in New York City, and I decided to take it easy. I had one goal remaining, as far as food went in New York City. I’d had a hot dog. I’d had a bagel. I’d had a slice. All I had left was a New York deli meal, and where better than Katz’s Delicatessen on the Lower East Side?
I wanted to cover all my bases, so I had half a corned beef sandwich and matzo ball soup. Definitely the best thing I’ve had to eat in weeks, maybe months.
I then made a quick trip into Brooklyn to check out the Superhero Supply Store, which is a pretty cool novelty shop, which funds 826NYC, which is a non-profit helping kids with creative writing.

Day 10
That brings me to today, which was a travel day. Now I’m in Buffalo. Not much to report there. I got in after 6pm, so I’m just hanging out at the hostel.

Ireland Travel Diary

Well, it’s been over a year, but I finally found some time to travel. If you follow my Instagram or Facebook, you will have been getting some updates over the past year, but nothing that really warranted a full travel diary. If I had thought to bring my SD card reader, there probably would have been two of these posts.

Ok, so here we go, my week on the Emerald Isle…

Day 1
I took a bus from London the previous night, and caught the Holyhead-Dublin ferry, arriving in Dublin at around 6 am, which I don’t recommend, unless you really want to save some money like I did.
After dropping my bags off at the hotel, I decided to take a walk around town, because I honestly had no idea what I was going to do. Unlike last year’s trip, I didn’t really have any plan, beyond ‘three nights Dublin, two nights Killarney, three nights Cork’. I knew I’d go to Trinity College at some stage, because that library is on the old Bucket List, and a couple of pints in Temple Bar was a must-do, but beyond that… I had no plan.
Which is why I was happy to discover the National Leprechaun Museum. Outside of one room at the beginning, it’s not a museum in the traditional sense. It’s really a guided tour through a selection of Ireland’s folklore and mythology, not limited to leprechauns. They offer two tours a the moment, the day time, child-friendly tour, and the night time, adults only, slightly scarier tour, which has some quite bloody stories to go with it. I took both, naturally.
I also decided that today was the day to get all my alcohol-related tourism out of the way. After catching the smell of the Guinness Brewery near my hotel, I had absolutely no intention of doing anything Guinness related. To be honest, I wasn’t too keen on it anyway. Between trips to the Leprechaun Museum, I took in a tour at the Jameson Distillery, complete with tastings and a free drink after.
After my second run through the Leprechaun Museum, I decided to hit Temple Bar. On advice of my coworker, I went to The Auld Dubliner, and had a couple of pints (Irish Cider, Bulmers, rather than a beer), but to be honest, it was far too crowded, and full of tourists, so I decided to retire to my hotel for the night.

Day 2
Because I’m apparently a glutton for punishment, I dusted off my walking shoes and did the old ‘two walking tours in one day’ trick. The guys at Dublin Free Walking Tours were fantastic. They were knowledgeable and really knew how to keep your attention.
So first up was the South Side tour, which, as the name suggests, was on the south side of the River Liffey. This tour covered the more ancient history, Trinity College, both main cathedrals, Dublin ‘Castle’, as well as Temple Bar. It was really cool learning about what little remains of medieval Dublin, and the history of Temple Bar.

St Patrick's Cathedral (Probably)
St Patrick’s Cathedral. I think. It’s pretty close to Christchurch Cathedral. So it could be one or the other. I managed to spend a week in one of the most religious countries in Europe, and didn’t set foot in a church.

The North Side tour, shock horror, took place on the north side of the River Liffey. This tour focussed more on the 1916 Uprising, and everything leading up to the formation of the Irish Free State in 1922, as well as a general overview of the history of English/Irish/Northern Irish relations.

Day 3
Another day of a million sights. I probably could have done with one extra day in Dublin.
I started off at Killmainham Gaol, which has operated for centuries, but is most famous as the location the leaders of the 1916 Rebellion were imprisoned and executed. It is also home to that impressive cell block that I posted on Instagram, which our tour guide called the ‘Photogenic Wing’.

I then took a short walking tour of Trinity College, which led me to my favourite part of the trip, the Long Room.

Long Room, Trinity College Library
You know that scene in Beauty and the Beast, where Belle sees the library for the first time?… Yeah.

Often cited as one of the most beautiful libraries in the world, it’s hard to argue the point.

I finished the day with a problem. I only had time for one more stop. So was it to be EPIC: The Irish Emigration Museum, or Dublinia, the Viking history of Dublin. EPIC won out, since everyone knows Ireland’s main export is the Irish themselves.
It really was interesting to see all the places that people with Irish blood have left their mark, as well as an indepth look at the driving factors for their leaving in the first place.

Day 4
Travel Day. Train from Dublin to Killarney, with a change at Mallow. Nothing interesting to report at all really.

Day 5
I took a bus tour around the Ring of Kerry, which is exactly what it says on the tin. It’s a ringroad that goes around County Kerry, beginning and ending in Killarney. It travels through Killarney National Park, through beautiful mountains, picturesque ocean views and a quintessential Irish landscape. All in all, not a bad way to spend a day.

Apparently the haze had only lifted half an hour before.

Day 7
Another travel day. This time a train from Killarney to Cork, again stopping in Mallow.

Day 8
Cork is, unfortunately, really only interesting for one reason, and that’s Blarney Castle. The Gardens are probably the highlight, at least for me. From the Poison Garden, which contains a number of poisonous plants, in order to educate people (although what the marijuana was doing there is anyone’s guess), to the Fairy Grove and Druid’s Cave.
I did climb up to the top of Blarney Castle, which is more waiting than climbing. I almost kissed the Blarney Stone, but my fear of heights got the better of me at the last moment. Not that I’m too worried, I’ve heard some horror stories about what happens to the stone when tourists aren’t around.

Blarney Castle
See that grating between the battlements in the middle? See the arms stretched out across it? That’s where you have to hang, upside down, to kiss the Blarney Stone. I think I’m eloquent enough, thank you very much.

24 Hours In: Paris

Paris, City of Lights. Impossible to do in just one day. But if you insist…

This guy’s been here for centuries, and he still hasn’t seen it all.

Morning:
Having grabbed a pastry and coffee from literally anywhere in the city, I suggest you head to the Louvre. There are a few options to skip the line: Prebook a ticket, have a Paris Museum Pass or, use the less-popular entrance in the Carousel du Louvre, near the Inverted Pyramid.

If you get in early, you might even be able to snap a picture of the Mona Lisa that doesn’t have sixty other cameras in it. Make sure you swing by the Venus de Milo too, before taking a little time to wander the halls.

Don’t just take a photo by the Pyramid and move on to the next thing.

Alternative: If you’re more into impressionist art, head over to Musee d’Orsay instead. Paris’ main three galleries (The Louvre, d’Orsay and Musee National d’Art Moderne) are split up across eras (pre-1848, 1848-1905 and post-1905, respectively). So instead of seeing Da Vinci and Michaelangelo, you can see Van Gogh and Rembrant. d’Orsay is much smaller than the Louvre, and can therefore be done at a slower pace.
Afternoon:

Have lunch in the Latin Quarter, be sure to at least pass by Notre Dame, a few cafes do have fantastic views of the cathedral.

The beauty of Paris is how close together everything is, combined with the efficiency of their metro system. If you’re in a hurry, which you are if you’re seeing Paris in 24 hours, you can hit all the highlights, if you’re just looking to take a quick snap and move on.

But none of that whirlwind tour nonsense here. You want to spend some time enjoying the sights. I say go no further than Sacre Cœur. The white cathedral on Paris’ highest point is beautiful in its own right, but it’s the panoramic view from the dome that attracts people there. Just keep an eye out for scammers in the square in front. While you’re in the area, you can swing by the world famous Moulin Rouge. Tickets cost an arm and a leg, so this is one case where a quick snap is your best option.

You can see Sacre Cœur from basically any vantage point in the city.

Stop in for dinner at one of Montmartre’s many restaurants, since you’re in the area.
Alternative: The Arc de Triomphe is another of Paris’ most famous sites, and if you’re willing to climb to the top, the view will reward you.

Evening:

What would a trip to Paris be without the Eiffel Tower? Probably the most iconic building in the world, it is a must-see. And the best time to see it is at night. All lit up, with flashing lights every hour, it is truly a sight to behold. And the view from the top is breathtaking. Paris at night.. . Well, they don’t call it the City of Lights for nothing.

Alternative: None.

Five Things: I Learned While Backpacking

Three months straight is a long time to do anything. Some days it seems like a lifetime ago that I left Melbourne Tullamarine, sometimes it seems like yesterday. But in that time, there are some serious lessons to be learned about travelling, especially travelling on a budget.

Always Read The Fine Print

When you’re booking your hostel, or hotel, or whatever, always check your inclusions. I cannot stress how important included breakfast is, or even if it’s a paid extra. A few dollars extra a day will save you a lot in the long run. Because if you’re going out for breakfast, it certainly starts to add up.

Alternatively, book into a place with a kitchen. Occasionally, you’ll find a place that classes having a kettle and microwave as a kitchen, but for the most part it’s solid. But you can’t just assume that every hostel has the same facilities.

It doesn’t just apply to food either. Free wifi, lockers, laundry facilities, 24 hour reception, credit card facilities. None of these things are a guarantee.

Always read reviews. Seeing David almost wasn’t worth it, because the place I was staying in Florence was so bad.

Budget
Keep track of your finances. Don’t just do a basic count in your head. You will screw it up. I thought I had a reasonable handle on it. I overspent in Paris and Amsterdam, but if I just spend so much per day from here on, I’ll be fine… It did not happen like that. I should have set a daily budget and tracked my spending. And, to be honest, I probably should have saved a little more money before I left.

Be Open Minded

Obviously, use your common sense when dealing with strangers. But especially if you’re travelling alone, you should be ready to do things with people you’ve never met, and are never going to meet again.

A night out in Paris with my hostel dormmates? An early highlight. A day at the beach in Palermo with a German girl I met at breakfast? Perfectly relaxing. Ending up on a Stag Do with a bunch of English blokes in Munich? Priceless.

Some of the best parts of my trip have been completely unplanned, and just going with the flow. Things I never would have done otherwise. 

Munich. Not pictured: Anywhere I went on that Stag Do.

Suitcases

You know what’s the worst? Carrying about 20 kilos around on your back. Sure, the idea of backpacking is romantic. And ‘backpack’ is right there in the name. But if you’re carrying as much as I am, get proper luggage. A small backpack, with a few changes of clothes, basic toiletries. Sure. That makes sense. If I only had that much, I’d be fine. Which brings us to the final lesson…

You Can Always Pack Lighter

If you hesitate to put it in your bag, you probably don’t need it.

I carried a sleeping bag around Europe for three months. It’s still there. It has never been taken out of its bag. Because I was operating under the assumption that, like in Australia, hostels wouldn’t provide anything more than basic linens. I was wrong. That sleeping bag is huge, and is taking up about a quarter of my bag..

Sleeping bag saved me a total of three Euros in Zurich. There were already linens on the bed, but the guy at reception didn’t charge me because i didn’t ask for them. I used the linens.

I packed a first aid kit, more for piece of mind than anything else. Not that it would have done me much good, since it just sat in my bag at the hostel whenever I went anywhere. I did open it however, to use the bandaids on my blisters in Paris.
I have multiple notebooks. Nice notebooks. Gifts from people that wanted to give me a travel-appropriate gift, back when I first started talking about making my trip. As you can probably guess, with me blogging weekly about my travels, they have seen exactly zero use.

I probably should have packed an extra pillow though
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Travel Diary 3/7/16

I’m sitting in a London cafe, ostensibly an ‘Australian-style’ cafe, who can’t make a decent flat white to save themselves (or latte, this was a two-coffee diary). My odyssey is over, but the search for good coffee continues.
Anyway, this is dated 3/7, but I probably won’t get to post it until tomorrow, when my hostel fixes their wifi.

Day 89

Switzerland may be expensive, but honestly, the scenery is worth paying an arm and a leg for a cup of coffee. Sorry, coffee on the brain today.

Short of the Queensland coast, Switzerland is probably the most beautiful place I have ever been. The mountains, the cold, blue water. The snow, in the middle of summer. Everywhere you turn it’s a postcard view.

I did take that detour into Liechtenstein. It was nice, I guess. The capital Vaduz is a very small city, because there’s not much else that would fit inside those tiny borders.

Plus they have this cool castle overlooking the town.

Honestly the highlight was driving through the mountains, past those gorgeous lakes and alpine waterfalls. And, turns out driving on the opposite side of the road isn’t that hard. Who’d have thought?

I arrived in Interlaken in the afternoon, it’s a nice little town, situated right in the middle of an outdoorsperson’s dream. In summer, there’s mountainbike riding, hiking, white water rafting, skydiving and in winter, there’s all your various winter sports.

Day 90

But, you probably know, I’m not the outdoorsy type. I was in Interlaken because of its connection to the Jungfraujoch, the highest railway station in the world. I woke up early, at least by my standards. I was the first one to breakfast at my hostel, and I’m lucky the hostel was right next to the train station, or I’d have had to skip breakfast entirely.

From Interlaken-Ost, I caught a train to Grindelwald, which tickled the Harry Potter fan in me. From Grindelwald, it was another train ride to Kleine Scheidegg. And that’s the starting point for the train through the mountain.

The majority of the train journey goes through the mountain itself, in a tunnel hewn out over a century ago. There are two stations inside the mountain itself, before the final destination, these stops provide panoramic views of the mountain and glaciers. The final station, and the complex it is a part of, aren’t actually on top of the Jungfrau, but a ridge between it and a neighbouring mountain. The views from the 3500m+ viewing platform are unparalleled. There is an outdoor section, ‘The Plateau’, where you can walk out onto the snow, which was a novelty for the Australian who has only been to the snow twice in his life.

This is what it looks like in summer. Almost completely unthinkable to this Australian.

Inside the building you can find all the Swiss icons: Lindt Chocolate, Victorinox Swiss Army Knives and Swiss watches. The cafe inside accepts not only the local Swiss francs, and Euros, but Pounds Sterling and Yen as well, although they only give change in francs. Or chocolate. You can guess which option I took.

Day 91

Travel days are so much easier when you have a car. I should keep that in mind, if I ever have the money to stop classing myself as a ‘budget traveller’. You know, when I win the lottery.

I got into the city of Bern at around 10am, found a carpark and dropped my bag at my hostel. I honestly didn’t plan this end of my trip so well, I had no idea what to do in Bern. So I went to my old friend WikiTravel, and saw the words ‘Bern Bärenpark’. For those without my rudimentary knowledge of German: Bern Bear Park.

On the other side of the river from the Old Town, is the Bear Park, a riverside habitat for the city’s mascots: a family of brown bears. Not so long ago, the bears of the city were confined to pits, but in 2009, their home was extended to include a large section of land adjacent to the nearby Aare River.

Bears!

Bern’s Old Town itself deserves a mention. A grid of streets, with identical covered arcade walkways on either side, it is rather striking. 

I also swung by the Bern Cathedral, and the Swiss Parliament, took some snaps and moved on.

By far the coolest sight was the Einsteinhaus, where Albert Einstein lived with his wife and child, while he was working as a patent clerk… And penning his Nobel Prize-winning paper on the photo-electric effect.

Day 92

Another easy travel day, this time to the French-speaking city of Geneva. I checked into my hotel (I decided to treat myself to a private room), and went out into the city.

Something I haven’t mentioned, in Interlaken, Bern and Geneva the Visitor’s Tax that you are charged covers free access to public transport. As far as I know, this isn’t the case in Zurich. 

I admit, I got distracted, and missed what is probably the biggest attraction in Geneva, but I’ll get to that.

Not so far from my hotel was St Pierre Cathedral, so I caught a tram there. Or as near as I could, Geneva’s public transport isn’t great. St Pierre’s is worth a visit, make sure you swing by the chapel of the Maccabees.

 From there, I walked to Lake Leman, where I caught a boat across to the other side, getting some great views of the Jet d’Eau, a pressure outlet for a nearby hydroelectric project that the townspeople liked so much they made permanent.

This is a tourist attraction. It lights up at night.

I caught a bus to the United Nations Headquarters, previously the League of Nations Headquarters. On the way I discovered that I wasn’t going to make it before closing time. But I took some nice pictures from outside the gates.

Day 93

Back on the train like a chump. This time from Geneva to Paris.

I only had a couple of hours in Paris, so I made sure to get somewhere I hadn’t made it last time. Shakespeare and Company is the largest English-language bookstore in Paris, and is world-famous. In 93 days, I have managed to walk past almost every bookshop I have come across, and the few I actually browsed, I managed to not buy anything (Tintin notebook notwithstanding). 

So I decided to treat myself. I’ll probably mail the book home when I read it, rather than risk damaging it in my bag.

From Paris, I caught another train to Calais. Calais seems a nice little port town, but it was raining, so I didn’t really get to look around too much.

Day 94

Of course, from Calais, there’s not many places to go but England. I caught the ferry over to Dover, and from there a coach to London.

The End.

Well, not really. It’s the end of the travel diary portion of this blog. Until the next trip. But it’s not the end of the blog. I’m not going on hiatus. While my focus right now has to be on looking for a job, somewhere to live, basically surviving, I’m not going to be neglecting my adoring readers.

Basically, from here That Left Turn At Albuquerque is going to be a proper travel blog. Travel tips, articles, clickbait links. The usual. So stay tuned, I’m going to try to maintain a weekly posting schedule. Thanks for sticking around this long, be sure to tell your friends, like and share on Facebook and so on. 

Travel Diary 26/6/16

Not quite so much to report this time around, except that I can’t really afford to be in Switzerland right now…

Day 81
Copenhagen is a lovely, quiet little city. I spent the morning walking around, checking out the various sights of the city, including the famously underwhelming Little Mermaid Statue (I did have to come back in the afternoon, as the lighting kind of ruined every photo I took of her). I looked at the various castles and palaces, and it made sense that Princess Mary decided to marry Freddie and leave Tasmania. Although, I can’t blame her for leaving Tasmania.

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I find that if you go in with low expectations, The Little Mermaid statue isn't really that bad.

In the afternoon, I decided to take advantage of Copenhagen’s position and cross another country off my list, crossing over the Øresund Bridge into Malmö, Sweden. Malmö is a thoroughly unremarkable town, to be perfectly honest, but I got to cross Sweden off for the time being. I would love to get a chance to check out Stockholm and Gothenburg some time in the future.

So I returned to Copenhagen, and took another walk around parts of the city, before heading back to my hostel.

Day 82
Another travel day, I ventured back into Germany, but this time to Hamburg.

Day 83
I really wish I had discovered Free Walking Tours sooner. I mean, I knew what they were, but when you get to a city and you’re not sure what to do, they’re really the best starting point.

Which is why I took a free walking tour here. Alas, my favourite Hostel Culture haven’t expanded to Hamburg yet. However, the ever-present Sandemans are. And the tour was pretty great. My group’s tour guide had the cutest little service dog along with her, which just made things a hundred times better.

The thing about Hamburg is: a lot of the historic centre has been destroyed in one way or another. A series of fires in the city’s history, including one in the 19th century have destroyed great sections of the city, and of course, whatever was left didn’t survive World War 2. Hamburg being a major north-western port (second busiest in Europe), it was of course a major Allied target. Around 85% of the city was destroyed during the war.

There are a few older buildings, at least pre-1940s that did survive, including the City Hall and St Peter’s Church, the latter of which was partially built using bricks from the previous St Peter’s Church, which was destroyed in the last Great Fire.

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If you couldn't see the Neuschwanstein Castle/Sleeping Beauty's Castle connection from my photos in Bavaria, try the model version, during the simulated night time. You can hear the Disney intro too, can't you?

The highest-rated attraction in Hamburg on Trip Advisor is Miniatur Wunderland. The world’s largest miniature railway. It sounds kind of lame, I know, but it is pretty amazing. Miles and miles of model railway tracks weave through brilliantly constructed models, through variously themed sections. I spent over three hours there, and honestly, if I ever find myself back in Hamburg, I’ll go again, because they’re constantly building more sections and expanding their railway.

Day 84
I didn’t get up to much today. It was State of Origin back home, so I loaded up the stream and spent my afternoon watching that. After which, I spent the day on Youtube, catching up on the various things I’ve missed.

Day 85
Travel day. This time I travelled to Frankfurt, arriving in the afternoon.

Day 86
I probably should have researched Frankfurt before booking this section of my trip. There’s not really a lot for tourists here. It’s a commercial hub, and a large city, there’s just not that much to see. I spent the day at the hostel, because I really need to save money at this stage in the trip.

Day 87
Travel day. This time I caught the bus from Frankfurt to Zurich. Heavy traffic meant that I didn’t get into Zurich until it was almost dark.

Day 88
Which brings us to today. I found another free walking tour, and it wasn’t really that good. I had the choice between the standard tour and the historical tour, and decided on the historical tour, so I could have some context. Big mistake.

image
Nice view though.

I did get to see some nice buildings, but nothing I wouldn’t have headed to on my own initiative. Zurich is a nice enough city, except it is obscenely expensive. I saw places on the street selling kebabs for 15 Swiss francs. Check the exchange rate on a Swiss franc. Go on, I’ll wait… … See what I mean?

So tomorrow I pick up my hire car, and drive to Interlaken. There is a very good chance I’m going to take a pretty large detour to cross over into Liechtenstein, just to cross off another country. I’m a little nervous about driving on the wrong side of the road, so this could get interesting. I also haven’t driven anywhere for about three months.

Travel Diary 18/6/16

Berlin is, quite frankly, amazing. I need to spend at least another week there. At least. But I’ve moved on to Copenhagen now, so I guess I’ll just have to go back… What’s so great about Berlin you ask? Well…

Day 74
Travel day! I caught a train from Prague to Berlin, it was pretty uneventful, which is exactly what you want out of a train journey. Got some reading done, watched some TV shows. A nice way to decompress.

Of course, when I found out that I was staying about two blocks from Checkpoint Charlie, I had to go check it out. I resisted the urge to get my passport stamped there. Good thing, because apparently it can void your passport. It’s a little surreal, this partial military checkpoint in the middle of the city.

It’s a reconstruction, metres away from the actual site, the only original part is the sign warning you that you are entering the American sector. The museum nearby is very interesting, but definitely not worth the €12.50 if you’re on a budget, like I certainly am right now.

Day 75
Berlin Zoo is world-famous, and rightfully so. They claim to be the most species-diverse zoo in the world, and I’m not about to oppose that claim, especially if you count the aquarium on the grounds.

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Fun fact: Three of the species on display can be found in my backyard at home, the Bluetongue Lizard (Skink), the Redback Spider and the Australian (White-Backed) Magpie. It was nice to have a reminder of home, among the more exotic animals.

One small note: Buy the Aquarium ticket with your Zoo ticket, because the reptiles and insects are both upstairs in the aquarium, and, quite frankly, an essential part of any zoo visit.

Also: Despite the huge statue of an Iguanadon, and the Triceratops carved into the top of the doorway, there are no dinosaurs in the Aquarium. I know, I was disappointed too.

Day 76
Today I sought out the Hostel Culture Walking Tours again, since I was so happy with them in Prague and Budapest. I was not disappointed. They offer four free tours in Berlin: the City Tour, Alternative Tour, Cold War Tour and Third Reich Tour.

Since I’m a glutton for punishment, I decided to take all four tours. In two days.

I started out with the Alternative Tour, which took us through the Jewish Quarter, in East Berlin. The tourguide showed us a variety of street art by locals and international artists, while giving us a history of the city, and the artists themselves.

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I followed up with the Third Reich Tour, which was one of those information-rich walking tours. It focussed more on the rise of the Nazis, and the effects on the city, without delving too deeply into the atrocities, which was a nice change from the usual narrative of the events.

Day 77
Aching legs aside, I was ready to go for two more walking tours.

Just quietly, I probably could have skipped the City Tour, as it’s kind of a catch-all tour, that squeezes the highlights of the other tours into one. However, the tour guide was great, and I still managed to learn some things I hadn’t picked up on the others.

The Cold War Tour was a great insight into the life behind the Berlin Wall, the escape attempts, the Stasi’s rule and the general history of the city during the Cold War years. And, without one mention of Ronald Reagan.

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Day 78
After all that walking, it’s time for a quiet day of doing nothing… Right?

Nope. Museum Island calls. Five museums, one ticket. Do not buy a ticket to just one museum, it’s absolutely not worth it, and for just 50% more, you can get the Island Pass. The museums are kind of small when you compare them individually to, say, the British Museum, or The Louvre.

But as a package deal, they’re more than a match. There are extensive building projects going on at the moment, so I couldn’t see the Pergamon Altar. I did get to see the Ishtar Gate though, which was awe-inspiring. No wonder it was once a Wonder of the World (and is still on my list, due to the possibly fictional-nature of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon).

The other major highlight of Museum Island is the bust of Nefertiti, which you’re not allowed to take photos of. And it’s a lot harder to get a good shot with my 42x zoom lens than I thought it would be.

Day 79
Only one museum today, and quite frankly, my favourite. The Natural History Museum. 99% because they have the largest reconstructed dinosaur skeleton in the world. the museum still has it classified as a Brachiosaurus sub-species, but Wikipedia says it was recently discovered that it was a member of another species, the Giraffatitan.

They also have what is widely considered to be the most complete, best preserved fossil of an Archaeopteryx, the earliest known species of bird.

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I could go on and on about the dinosaurs, because I never grew out of that phase as a kid. But I won’t. The museum also has an extensive taxidermy collection, and a section about space, including a 250 kg meteorite, which you can touch.

Day 80
Phileas Fogg can eat it. 80 days is not long enough to see the world. I did, however, spend the day travelling. This time, across the Baltic to Copenhagen, where I am sitting right now. It’s 11.30, and i’m pretty sure there was still light in the sky an hour ago. Also, the internet is fantastic, I have a lot of photos from Berlin (close to 1000, HQ files), and they’re uploading incredibly fast. Of course, Google Drive keeps crashing because of memory issues, so it’s taking a bit longer.

Tomorrow I’m going to check out the city, and the day after I leave for Hamburg. The end is getting closer and closer. Just two weeks or so until I’m in the UK and I have to get back to reality.