Thursday, July 30, 2009

Antigua, Guatemala Es Muy Bonita

I arrived in Guatemala Saturday night and came straight to Antigua which was only a 40 minute taxi ride from Guatemala City. I´m staying here for a week while I take spanish lessons which are going slowly but surely. I forgot how many cool people you meet while you´re traveling. I´ve already received three offers from fellow travelers to let me stay with them when I make it to their respective countries(Equador, New Zealand, Honduras).
Antigua is beautiful and the local Guatemalans are really friendly. The city is surrounded by three large volcanos and lush green mountains so a amazing view is never out of sight. I went with a group from my Hostel to Volcan de Pacaya, a still active volcano on Monday. We climbed for about an hour and a half before we reached the top where we were rewarded by being able to get extremely close to a flowing river of lava! We tried to roast some marshmellows over the lava but it was so unbelievably hot that you could only stand near it for about 10 seconds before your face and legs felt like they were about to melt off and you had to run away as fast as you could. It was pretty incredible. I did manage to actually poke the lava with a stick. Its much thicker than I would have thought.

The sun was setting when we climbed down and I was able to get a couple great shots of the other surroundig Volcanos.

Funny things happen randomly here all the time. Below is a picture of me drinking a coke out of a plastic bag. I saw a fridge full of old school glass coke bottles and so I ordered one kind of excited to drink a coke out of a bottle and then the lady opened it and poured it into this bag and kept the bottle. Ha.
Below is a pic of the famous Chicken Buses. They are old Blue Line School buses they have tricked out. I´ve ridden on two, one was from Iowa and the other Georgia. They change the front to look bigger and tougher and some have really nice rims. Alot of them have neon lights inside and others are decorated with streamers like its a moving birthday party or something. Í haven´t had the pleasure of riding with any chickens yet but they are still exciting to ride. Sometimes they don´t actually stop the bus for you to get on or off, you just have to kind of jog and jump on as they slow down. I took one today to a small town outside Antigua where I got a 50 minute massage for 85Quetzales which is $10usd.
I´m visiting Lake Atitlan this weekend and then will be off to the Mayan Ruins of Tikal before heading south to Honduras.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Walt Disney World with the Fam

So naturally I started my Around the World trip at Disney World. I don´t get to see my family that often so when I realized they had a vacation planned that fit in nicely with my schedule I couldn´t pass on the opportunity to see them before I go. That and I actually really like Disney. My grandpa worked there for 25 years and my family has been going since before I was born.

The truth is I think Disney did alot to install the wanderlust in me from an early age. At Epcot they have the World Showcase which is my favorite place there. Eleven different countries are represented, each with pretty realistic recreations of the architecture. Disney also brings over students from each country to work there and you can eat at restaurants serving their country´s cuisine. With a little imagination it can feel like you´re really there. After visiting many of the countries on my own and now going back to Disney, it really is pretty impressive how accurate it is.

The trip was alot of fun. I´ve been to Disney more times than I can count but to go with my neice and two nephews and see the looks on their faces and see them experience it for the first or second time makes it fun all over again. Here is a pic of Alexis and Jake riding Big Thunder Mountain Railroad with me. You can tell who´s having a good time and who isn´t.

My nephew Jake is really into fishing right now so I figured I would take him fishing one day despite the fact that I wasn´t sure who was gonna take the fish off the hook if he caught one. He´s four and I´d rather he did it. Luckily it wasn´t a problem. It took me so long to get a worm on the hook that Lee, a welder and good ol boy from Alabama, saw me struggling and came to save the day. We didn´t catch anything which Jake blamed on me and I didn´t really argue.

Here are some of my favorite ladies; Lexi, Minnie and Mom.

I can´t say enough how good it was to spend some time with my family before I left. I´m really glad I got the chance to see them and will miss them alot on my trip.

PS I´m in Guatemala right now and while the internet isn´t terribly slow, its not like it is at home so updating the blog is kind of tedious. I´m gonna try my best to keep it up to date. Once I get my pics uploaded I´ll write about the past few days.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Romania - Bucharest and Translyvania

The plane ride from London to Orlando is 9 hours and 10 minutes. The movie selection on BA was less than stellar. I watched Duplicity with Clive Owen and Julia Roberts and was pretty disappointed. My PSP that I only play on long plane rides just died right as my tennis player I was building up was starting to get good. So I figured I'd follow up my slightly sexy Germany post with probably the least sexy vacation I've ever taken.....Romania.

My good friend and former colleague (or should I say current comrade in unemployment?) Keyon and I went out one night back in April. After quite a bit of drinking I agreed to go to Romania with him. I woke up the next day and realized I'd committed to going to Romania when I still hadn't been to Spain, Germany, or Prague all of which were near the top of my list. I initially backed out until I realized if I didn't go with him, I'd probably never go. But Keyon is a good friend and seemed to be a trusty tour guide. After all he was married to a Romanian girl for 5 years, had been there 8 times, and could speak enough of the language to get us out of trouble when we inevitably would. What the hell.

My week in Romania was filled with ups and downs. It was the only vacation I can remember where I both wanted it to end sooner and then the next day seriously considered changing my flight to stay longer.

Fun facts about Romania:
  • They used to have a stray dog problem and decided to shoot them all to solve it.
  • In 1989 the Romanian Revolution took place when they overthrew and executed their leader Nicolae Ceausescu.
  • You can buy a 3 liter of beer
  • Dracula's castle - which in my opinion is their #1 tourist attraction- is closed on Monday. Why would they ever close it? Its probably the main reason most people go to Romania! It is still impressive from the outside and fun to say you're in Translyvania
  • If a girl is dressed like a prostitute and is very interested in you as soon as you walk in a bar, leave before her pimp tries to intimidate you into paying for their 15 person bar tab. Actually run.
  • The opening village scenes from Borat were shot in Romania.
  • If you were wondering were you can see a good Kenny G concert - Try Romania
  • If someone tries to convince you to take a bite out of a raw onion covered in salt followed by a shot of mystery liquor and top it off by biting into rubbery disgusting pig skin, say NO. Stick to Salt, Tequila, Lime.
  • Do however eat as much Bear and Papanasi as you can! The bear was tender and fantastic and a Papanasi is essentially a fried donut with the hole sitting on top covered in sour cream and blackberry sauce. Its amazing.
  • Romanian money is plastic, waterproof and completely impossible to rip in half.
  • Never pass up the chance to go to a barbecue, even if they can't exactly explain what part of the pig you're about to eat. Its going to be good.
  • Also never drive by the road side moonshine stand without stopping. Its really strong and you can buy home made beef jerkey to take away the sting. Or cheese made in tree bark which I still don't understand.
  • Ciorba (pronounced Chorba) Soup is delicious, this traditional Romanian spirit called Tuica is not -
  • If you get caught sneaking around the grounds of a castle after its closed, they let you off pretty easily.
I'd like to try and get a few good portraits of the locals wherever I travel. Here are portraits of two fisherman Keyon spoke to that I like -

If you haven't stopped reading already to go buy your ticket to Romania, here are a few other pics that I thought were worthwhile. Thanks for a good trip Keyon.

Monday, July 13, 2009

First Stop Bratwurst

I forgot to mention in my last post that I actually am starting my trip with 6 nights in Germany. I've spent the last few days in Berlin and Frankfurt and made a little day trip to Potsdam. In case you don't know, Germany is dope. Its not going to be relaxing or overly beautiful when you visit but the place is so full of history you can't turn a corner without seeing something else amazing.
I came to visit my friend Stephanie who moved to Berlin a few months ago and always hooks me up with free places to stay wherever we find ourself around the world. This trip is no different as she is currently doing a project for and got us two nights in the amazing Roomers Hotel in Frankfurt. As you can see from the smile on my face in the pic below, it was a fantastic time.

I also got to drive on the Autobahn for the first time and took our little Volkswagen EOS as fast as it would let me. Unfortunately it had an electronic cut off at 220kmh, but that's 136.7mph and I'll take it. I forgot that driving in the far left lane is strictly for passing and one time even though I was driving about 180, a black Porsche came up behind me so fast I can't describe it. I got over and he blew past me off into the distance. I was jealous. Here's a pic I took while driving 220, that's safe right?
Potsdam was a definite highlight of my trip. Park Sanssouci (which means "without cares") is where you'll find the summer palace of Frederick the Great. It is the German equivalent of Versailles in France. Imagine Central Park with 5 palaces in it. I took about 650 pictures during my week in Germany and its really hard to pic just a few to show you but here is a good one I took of the New Palace (Neues Palais).

But one of the main reasons I really enjoyed my time in Germany was the amazing amount of art in Berlin. One of the highlights of the trip was going to Kunsthaus Tacheles. This building once was one of the largest department stores in Europe but was bombed heavily during the war. Most of it was torn down or destroyed but whats left now houses something extraordinary. It is now a self organized collective of artists. Stephanie and I went after dinner and arrived about 11pm on a Monday. The place was jumping. We only intended to stay for a drink or two and ended up staying till 5am. This place could not exist in the US. If it does please tell me where! Essentially artists took over the building and set up their studios there. In the evenings there are about 6 "bars" that serve drinks and play music. There was also a famous Colombian band playing the night we were there. I'll try to post some photos to give you an idea but it probably won't do it justice: The guy in the green shirt is explaining to Stephanie how David Hasselhoff was responsible for bringing down the Berlin Wall! He is also the Berlin Ambassador for and I met a girl named Satya from Portland who is staying with him and said her room is a Hasselhoff shrine. I've emailed her and am awaiting a pic which I'll be sure to post if she sends to me. The pinkish pic is a lounge area on the top floor of the gallery where apparently smoking weed is legal. The next pic is the view from this lounge.

Another highlight would be the sausage. I must have tried at least five different kinds of Bratwurst. Currywurst is probably the most popular and delicious:

Berlin is very inexpensive to live in compared to other European cities and because of this artists flock here. I found this yellow polka dotted rain coat sitting on the ledge of a photo gallery and Steph and I were inspired.

I wish I could write more because Berlin deserves it but I've got a flight to catch! Off to Orlando to see my family for a week before heading off to Guatemala. Did I mention I've been drinking champagne in the BA Lounge at Gatwick while writing this? Gotta love Platinum Frequent Flyer Status. ;o)

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Around the World

I'm starting off on a year long around the world adventure here in the next few days. I've got my 80 liter bag packed and my Round The World (RTW) ticket all paid off. Around the World tickets are actually an amazing deal if you have the time to do a trip like this. Altogether I spent 2200GBP and 35,000 airline miles for 11 flights across 5 continents. I am leaving London on July 18th but all the other dates for the flights are yet to be determined. It's one of the best perks of buying your flight through Flight Centre. They give you a travel butler who arranges your flight via email or phone with only a day or two notice. This allows me an extreme amount of flexibility in my travel. I simply have to make it to each of the destinations below, but it doesn't matter when. I have one year to complete the flights or can just stay where ever I end up at the end of the year (don't worry mom, I'm coming home, probably ;o) Here is where I'll be flying to and from:
  • London to Orlando (to see my family at Disney World for a week before I go)
  • Orlando to Guatemala
  • Nicaragua to Indiana
  • Indiana to Lima, Peru
  • Santiago, Chile to Auckland, New Zealand
  • Christchurch, New Zealand back to Auckland
  • Auckland to Sydney, Australia
  • Cairns, AU(where the Great Barrier Reef is) back to Sydney
  • Sydney to Hong Kong
  • Singapore to Delhi, India
  • Delhi back to London
That makes my trip look something like this:
View My RTW Route Roughly in a larger map

I've decided to try and worry less about where I want to go on my trip and more on what I want to do. Hopefully by thinking of my trip in this way I'll be able to worry less about which city I need to get to when, and more about how I want to enjoy my time in the places I find myself. Here is what I've got so far. Any suggestions?
  • Eat new and interesting cuisines and animals
  • Get my scuba diving license and swim near a shark
  • Go whitewater rafting
  • Learn Spanish ( I better since I'll be in Central and South America for 5 months)
  • Learn some more sweet dance moves
  • Not get Malaria
  • Ride an elephant
  • Learn to cook Thai and any other cuisine I can find a local to teach me
  • Meet indigenous people on the Amazon and live to tell about it
  • Become more like Bear Grylls
  • Win money on a cock fight
  • Go paragliding
  • Make like 500 more Facebook friends
  • Improve my photographic eye
  • Read a few classics
  • Learn to surf (and couchsurf)
I'll do my best to update this blog along the way. Subscribe and you'll be emailed whenever I do.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

My First Day of Retirement

I decided to spend my first day of retirement at the Men's Quarterfinals of Wimbledon. I arrived at Noon the day before in hope to be one of the first 500 people in line which guarantees you a Centre Court ticket. I arrived at Southfields tube station and walked as fast as I could past everyone I could see carrying a tent knowing that every person I passed was a better chance at the elusive Centre Court ticket. I arrived at the back of the line to find out I was number 494!

I went to Wimbledon last year and on day two this year but had only been able to get grounds tickets or resale tickets for Court 1. It was kind of an unfulfilled childhood dream to see a match on Centre Court. I grew up watching Wimbledon with my dad every summer. Some of my best July 4th Celebrations were spent waking up early and watching Sampras in the Men's Final with my Dad. Here's a pic of the new Sampras: (I took lots of pics and he always had this focused look on his face. He's unfortunately about to pass Pete on the all time Grand Slam win list.)

It was a pretty stellar day of tennis. I saw James Blake and Marty Fish play doubles for an hour before I had to make my way to Centre Court for the 1pm Federer match. Federer made quick work of his 6'10" opponent before Andy Murray came on for a slightly more entertaining 3 set victory. I really wanted to see Roddick play the rejuvenated Leyton Hewitt but he was playing on Court 1. Luckily I found a sweet old lady leaving early from the match who gave me her ticket (Sorry to all the Aussies waiting patiently in the resale line!). I got to see Roddick pull out the win in the 5th set in what was by far the best match of the day.

The Inspiration For My Travel Diary's Name

While I certainly am not "The Most Interesting Man In The World", I do hear quite often from my friends (mostly the married ones) that they live vicariously through me. When I saw that Dos Equis commercial I thought it seemed a fitting title for my travel diary. Especially since Dos Equis Amber has always been one of my favorite lagers. And in case you've missed these great commercials from Dos Equis, here are a few of my favorite pearls of wisdom from The Most Interesting Man in the World:
I love good advertising and these commercials are some of the best I've seen in awhile. Sadly I probably will miss a great deal of the best commericals to come out in the next year so if you see a particularly clever one please send me a link.