Disneyland

My mom had to go to Anaheim for a charity conference. Because her hotel was at the Anaheim conference center, which is across the street from Disneyland, my dad, sister and I invited ourselves to crash her hotel room.

It was just like old times, all four of us squeezed into one room. The room was actually surprisingly big, which is probably the only positive thing I have to say about the hotel, and we were not too over-crowded, even though there were four adults in the room.

Other than the size of the room, which as I mentioned was very good, the hotel sucked. We stayed at the Marriott Anaheim. In all other respects the hotel varied from disappointing to down right outrageous. The worst parts of the hotel were the miserably tiny pool area, then fact they wanted to charge you for EVERYTHING ($9 to use the gym for an hour or $14 to use it for one day, $3 each way for the shuttle to Disneyland, fees to get a fridge in the room, etc), the lobby was so dark it was like nighttime, miserable angry people at reception and the air conditioning controller in the room was broken so the room was always about 60 degrees.

Enough about the shitty hotel.

The vacation was great. Friday during the day my Dad and I went to the La Brea Tar Pits and in the evening we met Katy in Hermosa Beach. The tar pits are a lot more interesting than they sound. The tar is very pretty and bubbly, and the Page Museum, while small, has mammoth bones! Who doesn’t love mammoths?

In Hermosa, first we went and sat around at a rooftop bar drinking beers and enjoying the lovely view. Later we went for a short walk up and down the beach and then went to a delicious tapas restaurant for dinner.

This was the view. Not bad.

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Saturday my Dad, sister and I spent the entire day at Disneyland. We were there from opening at 8AM to closing at midnight. This was also my Dad’s birthday, so he got to spend an awesome birthday at the happiest place on Earth!

He seemed to have a great time, which made Katy and I very happy. Disneyland was unbelievably crowded, but Katy and I worked together and we were able to ride lots and lots of rides. Katy downloaded an app telling her the line times for different rides and which ones were open or shut-down. Using this app, she would send me to go to fast passes for the most popular rides while she and my dad hung around in shops or waited in other lines. I went alone to get the fast passes because my dad is notoriously slow and we would have wasted many good hours walking across the park just to get passes.

The fact that the app told us which rides were open and closed was an extra awesome feature. One of my dad’s favorite rides is Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. When we first got to the park that ride was closed, but around mid-day the ride opened. Katy noticed this and we were able to go over there and stand in a relatively short line. The ride was only open for a few hours before it was shut down again for the remainder of the day. I strongly recommend getting the Disneyland app if you have a smart phone.

I am very happy that my Dad has such a great birthday. He was turning 66, which is a big birthday, and I love to see him happy. I am a little behind on updating and it has now been several weeks since we were there, but my dad is still talking about how great his birthday was. :)

Hawaii!!!

My awesome cousin James is getting married in February in Kona, Hawaii. He is marring a lovely lady named Katie and my whole family is flying out to the Big Island for the wedding. Yay for James for landing an awesome girl and Yay for me for getting in more travel!

I spent the last several days trying to determine the most cost effective way for my family and I to travel to Hawaii. I was trying to book for myself, my mom & dad, and Katy & Evan.

Originally we considered renting a house, but after a lot of research I determined that renting a house did not save us all that much. We would want a place with a number of bedrooms, and my mom wanted something nice. All the really nice rentals were not actually that much cheaper than hotels and do not come with maid service, pools, etc. Plus a lot of the rentals are on golf courses, not at the beach, and we want beach access.

Next I considered arranging the trip ourselves (flights, rental cars, hotel, etc.) or going with a tour package. The tour packages are a significantly better deal, but you have to be careful who you book with. I originally tried to book through United.com because I get miles, except the competitive price package United offered insisted that I share a room with my parents. Whereas with Expedia.com, I was able to get a better hotel for a little cheaper, and I got my own room. The only difference is we are flying Alaska Airlines rather than United.  I tried to point out that I was getting two bedrooms at a better hotel for cheaper to the travel agent at United, but they still refused to try and adjust their package to give us more than one bedroom.

My parents and I are only going to Kona, and we will be staying at the Waikoloa Beach Marriott. Katy & Evan are going to go to Kauai first, and they are staying at The St. Regis Princeville Resort. They will be there for a few days and then come and join everyone in Kona.

Katy and Evan got their scuba licenses this summer while they were in Brazil. I am hoping to take a few scuba lessons in Hawaii and get my license. That way I can scuba with them. It should be an excellent trip and I can not wait to go.

I Am A Bad Blogger

When I created this blog, I thought I would be very good about documenting all my trips around the world. Turns out, I am a horrible blogger. I am still taking many trips, I just never bother to update about them.

It is now September. In the last month I went to Machu Picchu, Puerto Maldonado (Peruvian Amazon), Iguassu falls, Sao Paulo, SF Beer & Bacon Festival and Fargo North Dakota. Which one of these things is NOT like the others?

The trip to Peru and Brazil was great and I will try and update later with details and pictures, but I wanted to say that it was wonderful. There were 11 of us in total. Me, my boyfriend Joe, Katy, her fiance Evan and several of Katy’s friends from high school and their significant others.

The Machu Picchu Group

We spent several days in Cuzco and then hiked the Inca Trail. The Inca Trail hike was so peaceful and not too difficult. I did struggle with the altitude, especially when hiking up hill, but it was nothing I couldn’t do. We went with a tour group called Llama Path. They were excellent. It was total glamping. The porters were friendly, the facilities as nice as they could make them, and I have never seen any tour company so concerned with catering to everyones special food needs. It is understandable why they do this, it would be horrible to have an allergy attack or food sickness when you are a two day hike from anywhere. Even with this concern, LLama Path went above and beyond.

I did not like Machu Picchu as much as I was hoping. Don’t get me wrong, the ancient city is amazing. It was just that during our four days of hiking we saw other beautiful ruins and there was no one else around. When we finally made it to Machu Picchu, it was full to capacity. You could not enjoy the views because there were tourists everywhere, and at one point I actually got sad when I saw tourists leaving their garbage in the windows and other places in the ruins. If you have the physical ability, I would recommend doing the 4 day hike rather than just the ruins so that you get to experience other ancient Inca sites without thousands of people running around.

From Machu Picchu we traveled onto Puerto Maldonado. The Peruvian Amazon was interesting, but not my best amazonian experience. Since I lived in the Darién for three months, this amazon experience was just was not as interesting. I did get to see lots of wild birds, swim in a lake filled with piranha and caiman and fish for piranha (I caught two!). For animal life we saw lots of parrots, a few different types of monkeys, capybara, caiman and shit-tons of spiders.

After the Amazon most of the group left to return to the states. From then on out it was only Katy, Evan, Joe and I. We next traveled to Iguassu, which has to be one of my favorite places in the world. Words and photos can not describe the beauty and awesomeness of the falls. I can never do it justice, you will just have to go there yourself.

We also went to the bird park (it is very good with lots of different parrots and a lovely butterfly area), the public zoo (this is free but also sad and skipable) and the tasty restaurant TAJ (which had a half priced dinner and drink deal on Sunday, woohoo!).

Photo Katy Took of the Falls – beautiful right? The real thing is a thousand times better.

 

After Iguassu it was on to Sao Paulo. We didn’t do much in Sao Paulo, but I did get to have the greatest sushi meal of my life at Mori Sushi (approx $35 for the greatest all you can eat sushi ever), and go to the boat hotel that Katy had been telling me about for years. From Sao Paulo we went to Maresias (considered the Ipanema of Sao Paulo) and Ilha Bela. Maresias has a beautiful beach where we just hung out and Katy & I drank Pina Coladas and Joe had a glass of tequila with salt that was supposed to be a margarita. Ilha Bella lives up to it’s name as a beautiful island, but it is also cursed.

The island has over 400 waterfalls and one of the most amazing hikes I have ever been on. We had to rent a car to drive to the edge of the national park. From there we hiked about two miles in until we can to a sign talking about a farm and a second path leading down. We took this special path and what we thought would be a farm turned out to be a hidden bar!! There we purchased beers and continued to hike a few hundred more yards until we came to our first, and ultimately only, set of waterfalls. It was a series of three waterfalls, and while they were not super large, they were extra special in that they made for natural water slides. I love waterslides. My day at Schlitterbahn was one of the happiest of my life (I was 17 I think). My love for waterslides is shared by Katy and Evan, so we spent the day drinking, swimming and sliding down the falls.

Now for the curse. Ilha Bella is over-run with a billion fucking mosquitos; and these are no ordinary mosquitos, they are the Asian Tiger Mosquitos which means they are out at all hours of the day and extra horrible. We wore bugspray but even so, we all ended up with tons of bites. The bites were weird too. Some of mine turned directly into blisters instead of normal itchy bumps, and Joe’s turned into birthmark style purple blotches. It was gross. Joe’s were so bad that we were concerned customs would stop him and not let him back into the USofA.

I have ended up writing far more than I originally intended. I still want to do another entry going into more details of my trip, and addressing Beer & Bacon Festival and Fargo. Shit, I also just realized that I never wrote about the Galapagos Islands and Chile. This weekend I have nothing planned. I think it is the first and only weekend of the summer I have absolutely nothing going on. Without anything happening, maybe I can write more in this poor neglected blog of mine. Doubtful, but a girl can dream.

Galapagos & Chile

Here is what I did in December 2012 & January 2013 while in the Galapagos & Chile. Please egnore the horrible editing, grammer, etc. I wrote these out as notes on my iphone while I was on vacation and I am too lazy to bother to fill in the days/correct them…

12/19 – Fly to Lima. We took LAN so the planes were nice and the whole trip far more comfortable than if we had taken an American airline like United.

12/20 – Fly to Quito, check in to hotel, walk around area we stayed, get dinner at BBQ & Co. We are staying at Nu House hotel in Quito’s La Mariscal district. This area is Quito’s arts & entertainment distrct and a great place to stay.

12/21 – Go to old town, see president’s house and money museum, pass by a restaurant called Texas Chicken, eat lunch at The Magic Bean (it is very disappointing since they no longer offer pancake hour), rest, have dinner at Italian place near hotel.

12/22 – take train to machachi, get really fun tour of farm that includes delicious home made lunch. Train is a big deal, the children in the small towns all run out to meet the train and there is lots of waving. Take train back and eat at plaza near hotel for dinner. Get free drinks before dinner and bucket of beer with nachos.

12/23 – get up waaay early and fly to Galapagos. Meet up with tour and drop stuff at boat. Go to tortoise breeding site. Some were HUGE like small vw bugs. Have dinner on boat. Food is ok, better than expected but not great. Had spaghetti for lunch and fish for dinner.

12/24 – Christmas Eve. Took boats out to natural bridge. Saw lots of birds. Went to beach in late morning. Saw baby seals! Sooo cute. Nice beaches. In afternoon snorkeled with sharks. Galapagos shark, white tipped shark and black tipped shark. Also sea turtles. Lunch was ok with awesome chocolate dessert. Dinner ok too, nothing super special. Mom got vinegar beer. It was hilarious, she cracked open the beer, took a big swig and almost did a spit-take. I would not drink the beer but it smelled horrible, like vinegar.

12/25 – Christmas! Went snorkeling in morning, swam with sea lions. Went to beach with sea lion breeding. So many baby sea lions playing in water near shore. At the beach there were also funny mocking birds that want after your water bottles. In late afternoon went to island and saw dancing albatross, NASCAR and blue footed boobies and sea iguanas! So cool to see iguanas swim.

12/26 – skipped snorkeling in AM since going again in afternoon. Went to another island with sea lions breeding and iguanas. These were black and red. Also saw flamingos and sea turtles on land since the turtles had come up to lay eggs. Saw turtles stacked for mating. In afternoon went to post office and snorkeling and swam with sea turtles and penguins. Awesome! In evening went into town. Could not find flag towel. Very sad.

12/27 – Went to Darwin center and saw turtles and where lonesome George lived. Flew back to Quito. Got bad news and did not feel like doing much rest of night. San Jose state won a bowl game. WTF?

12/28 – Took tour of Quito. Saw statue at top of hill, basilica and gold church. Went to Intinan Museum, center of the world. Fun with physics! I could not get the egg to stand, but Katy did. Had dinner at fancy restaurant. Went shopping with mom in afternoon. Tried cuy (guinea pig), it was not very good. It is tough and tastes like pig knuckle.

12/29 – got up early, flew to Santiago. Had yummy pizza. Walked to PwC. Tried to get dinner but had no money. Went to bed.

12/30 – Family BPin the AM. Tried to get Evan from the airport and failed. Stole wifi from ice cream shop. Packed and went to lunch at Indomita Winery. Lunch was great, wine OK, dessert amazing. Lovely view of valley. Drove to Valpo. Apartment has great view, saw dolphins from window. We are on the 19th floor. Had second Christmas. Evan liked Easter Island legos I gave him. Met Liam and Jules. Liams mom is chef and he made great dinner. Tried to use Internet to watch important cowboys game but Internet did not work. I am staying in a claustrophobic bedroom.

12/31 – Cowboys lost but Liam made pancakes with cinnamon & lemon zest. Family went for 10K walk through Valpo. Saw the pirate bar and had churrimoto. Also went for a Funicular ride. Pork with prunes for dinner, yum. Learned that Pisco is just un-aged brandy. Kiwi Liam shared his special kiwi ice cream. Traded yellow underwear and funny hats. Watched the extra amazing Valpo fireworks!!!

1/1 – Lazy morning. Drove around bay. Walked and got beer. Went to fancy dinner at La Conception. Packed to get ready for trip.

1/2 – drive 300+ miles to Punta Los Chorros. Had to drive through Chile desert and 40K of crazy gravel road. Go for walk along beach. Had Locos (they were OK but not worth the fuss, a lot like abalone) and great empanadas . In the evening we just sat on porch of cabana drinking and looking at ocean. Go for walk along beach. Lots of bad dreams, wish I was not sleeping alone.

1/3 – Morning run on beach. Ocean tour, saw: dolphins, tons of birds, penguins, stinky sea lions, sea otters. Got more empanadas and beer for lunch. Chill at cabana. Sunburn. Fried fish and beer for dinner. All meals at same restaurant, one of only two restaurant in town and the other one was never open. Read and watch supernatural at night. Gaze at stars!!! More stars than I have ever seen anywhere in my life. Looking up at them gave me vertigo there were so many.

1/4 – Morning run along beach. Drive 400 miles to Santiago. Eat tasty empanadas and see vicuña on the way. Meet Katy for feeding flamingos and drinking pisco sours in the centennial park. Totally drunk. Go to Spanish restaurant for dinner. Get home, kill gingerbread boy.

1/5 – Walk to brunch in Barrio Italia. Eat brunch. Crazy homeless dude. Walk to plaza de armis. See church and artists. Walk to Los Domingo’s. have a beer. Walk back to apartment, see larpers on the way. Haha, nerds. Go to lastaria for dinner. Dog fight. So sad. Have OK dinner. Watch football.

1/6 – Go to Santa Rita Winery for wine tour and delicious lunch. Pick up turkey. Go to surprise makeup event for Xmas gift from Katy. I looked good. BBQ at apartment for dinner. Watch football and dumb movie.

1/7 – Hike Santa Cruz mountain with dad. Get adopted by dog. Try and have pizza for lunch but not open until 1 so have sushi. Go to Los Domingo’s. Have turkey dinner and pie. Try and name Liam’s kid. Watch BCS bowl game.

1/8 -Bad dreams, wake up to bunnies! Try and find cultural museum, epic fail. Hike hill. Are you Chilean? impossible! Pick up makeup, victor on Chilean time. Dad gets pooped on. Get yummy pizza for lunch. Go to PwC and meet Katy. Go to W for pisco sours. Get Italian food for dinner. Try and get ice cream, fail.

1/9 – Last day in Chile. Get fabulous haircut from world famous hair guy. Dude is crazy for his cat. Enjoy drinks out and then head to airport. Byebye Chile.

I Have Returned

Hello Poor Neglected Blog,

Did you miss me?

Since I last wrote, I have been to/done the following:

  • Galapagos Islands – amazing! Island cruise is the way to go
  • Chile – Valpo for New Years, Punta Los Chorros (try the locos), Santiago & surrounding wine country
  • Tahoe – skiing at North Star, yummy food
  • Attended many a free whisky & bourbon tasting event in SF
  • Become a founding member in the first San Jose Beer Co-Op (i.e. I am going to be a partial owner in a bar)
  • Discovered SFfuncheap.com

I am currently planning another trip to South America where we will hike Machu Picchu, tour the Peruvian Amazon and visit Iguazu falls. I am also going to an event at the SF Academy of Sciences tonight, Tahoe next weekend and possibly Vegas the weekend after that. I will try and post about my travels and any adventures soon.

 

Tahoe – Dec 2012

Went to Tahoe last weekend with Susan, Joe and Courtney & Family. It was great fun. Only once in my life can I remember going with someone to see snow for the first time. My family took the daughter of a family friend of ours to Tahoe and I remember laughing as she screamed, “Snow!! Look Snow!! Snow!!” over and over. She was so excited to see snow she could not contain herself.

It was like that last weekend with Courtney’s kiddos. Derek is five and Celeste is three. Neither of the kids were as vocal about their excitement at seeing snow as Catherine had been, but I still got a huge kick out of watching them explore the new substance for the first time. Derek had no concept of what snow would be like, and his first comment when touching it was to express shock that it was not sticky. I guess from pictures the closest thing he could image to snow was paste. Paste is white and sticky and snow is white and must also be sticky. It has been a long time since I have been in a situation where I have been exposed to something so new that I have no other knowledge or experience to build upon. It really is fun to see that wonder of children and learning about the world around you.

Northern California has had lot of rain this year, which generally translates into snow in the Sierras, but not this year. The storms have been coming from Hawaii and have been warm enough that Tahoe is getting rain in the lower elevations. Our cabin, around 6,800 ft, had patches of snow but nothing thick and all of it very hard and icy. We had to go up the Mount Rose highway. Mount Rose is at about 8,000 ft, and has an excellent sledding hill. Good times were had by all.

I stopped writing this and have just returned to my poor neglected blog. I am going to publish this post as is.

Photo taken by my bestie

Another S. America Trip

I am now trying to plan two S. American trips simultaneously. There is the trip next month to Galapagos & Santiago, and now there is a trip in July/August of 2013 to Machu Picchu. For Galapagos I am the one in charge of planning and it is a huge pain. For Machu Picchu, I am going with the Vegas Girls, so while I am providing input, I do not have the plan the entire thing myself. This is a lovely change.

For Machu Picchu I think we are going to be using Llama Path (LP) as our tour company. One of the Girls’ coworkers used this company before and really enjoyed it. Plus LP has an emphasis on sustainable tourism, so even though we will be hiking the Inca trail, our impact on the landscape and ruins should be minimal. Every year there is talk of closing the Inca trail and Machu Picchu because all the tourists are having a negative impact. I want my contribution to the destruction to be as minimal as possible, and LP appears to have that same conservation focus.

We are going to be a huge group. As of now, it appears that 11 people will be going. It is the Vegas Girls and everyones significant others. With such a large group we are thinking of doing the private Imperial Tour that LP offers. The private Imperial Tour isn’t significantly more expensive than the group tours, especially since the group tour adds an additional $70 a day if you want to rent half a porter. Here are the details for the Imperial tour. Nothing has been decided on yet, but I think we will likely go with this tour.

OPTION 2 – PRIVATE SERVICE (Imperial service)
   In this service no one else will be allowed to join you  so there will
be only you and your guide, the cost of this trek is 670 USD  per
person .
 This price already include a half porter per person
Also, it looks like I am going to be going to Tahoe in two weekends with a group of friends. I will post about that trip if we actually go. I love having so many travel plans in the works.
Cheers ya’ll!

Texas & VEGAS!

This is a record of a trip I took back in May, 2012.

I just got back from a family reunion / awesome girly weekend in Vegas. The best part of the whole vacation was that Katy came back to the US for it!!! I miss her so much. It is fun and exciting that she lives in Chile but our family is super close so it is also hard for everyone. We make an effort to try and not go too long without seeing each other, but since she lives on the other end of the world, even our best efforts end up with an average of one visit every 6 months.

I am struggling with how to document my awesome vaycay. I think I will just have to go day by day and document the highlights. It is not the most interesting format but I think it is the most efficient.

Thursday (6/14) – My parents and I spent the day getting our butts from Cali to Texas. Not the most interesting of days but my Dad did get to fly first class and bought his ticket using miles, so for $5 he got to fly in luxury with leg room. Not too shabby. We flew into Austin and from there drove about half a mile outside of town to Round Rock where one of my Dad’s best friends from childhood, Charlie Culpepper, resides. This dude was a total childhood delinquent growing up, he graduated third from the bottom in high school and my grandfather, who used words like crud and bum instead of swearing, nicknamed him Super Crud. Anyways, up until a few years ago the Super Crud was mayor of Round Rock and helped get Dell Computer established in the town and a minor league baseball stadium built.

At the Crud’s we swam in the pool, drank beers and then went to a baseball game. At the start of the game my family (Dad, Mom, Me, Aunt Celia, Uncle Mike, Crazy Uncle Dave, Crazy Dave’s surprisingly normal and kind of awesome girlfriend Marla, Cousin Melanie (Mel) and Mel’s two babies Julia and Colin all gathered at the VIP bar on the premise to get drinks and slightly nicer food before heading to our seats. In reality this was the moment I had been waiting for since February…. Katy surprising my parents by showing up!!!!!

When Katy and I originally started plotting her surprise visit only Katy, myself and Mel were going to be in on it. Logistics and planning got so complicated that by the time she walked into the bar everyone but my parents were in on the secret. Katy walked into the bar wearing sunglasses and a silly black cowboy hat with a lighted up star that flashed blue and red. She walked up behind my Mom and said “Howdy.” Mom turned around, took one look at Katy and grabbed her into a giant bearhug that lasted about 5 minutes.

As Mom held Katy in a strangling death grip, she managed to choke out “Howdy” several more times, none of which my dad, who has horrible hearing, registered. Finally Kate yelled out “Dad!” to which my father finally turned around. At first he just stood there kind of confused, which he later admitted was because he did not recognize her and he was just seeing my mom choking the life out of someone who did look kind of familiar but he didn’t know the person. After a moment of confusion it sunk in what was going on and one of the funniest things I have ever seen occurred. Dad was rendered totally speechless. He stood there, staring at Katy and opening and closing his mouth like he was trying to say something but no sound came out. He look like a giant gulping fish. You could tell he wanted a hug, wanted to tell Katy how happy he was to see her and how much he loves her, but instead he just stood there opening and closing his mouth while my sister tried to break free from my mom’s arms. Katy finally freed herself, there was lots and lots of hugging and kissing and then it was time for beer drinking, baseball, and to save me from the mind dulling boredom that is baseball, catching up with Katy!!

Friday (6/15) – Happy 2012 Q2 estimated tax payments due date! I woke up to tasty donuts supplied by Super Crud’s lovely wife Bird (yes, people in the South go by strange nicknames). Apparently Round Rock is home to the world famous Round Rock Donuts. I thought the donuts were tasty but not worth the hype everyone made about them. Then again, I am not a donut connoisseur. After donuts we went to visit Walter. Walter is my great uncle but not the one who wrote The Sexual History of Abraham Lincoln. Walter is straight and more like your standard old person. He is a classic Texas republican and believes every one of the horrible lies ever told about Obama. The man is also pushing 90 and has lost a third of his body weight in 6 months, so I did not want to upset him and just sat quietly when he started ignorant rantings about Obama. Poor crazy old people.

Friday afternoon was spent drinking beer and swimming in Super Crud’s pool. In the evening a neighbor’s son took Katy and I out into down town Austin. Austin has a reputation for awesomeness and Katy and I wanted to experience a little of said awesomeness, so Bird arranged for Rich B. to take us out and about.

Austin is considered the live music capital of the world and it totally lived up to its reputation. We went to 6th street (the classic music and bar area in down town A), 4th street (the new chill bar and music area) and West 6th (where the late 20’s early 30’s hipsters hang). We passed on going to second street because it is more high end and that is not our scene. For dinner Rich B. took us to the Hula Hut on Lake Austin. It was lovely to sit outside in the warm evening, drink and watch the sun set behind the hills surrounding the lake. My favorite bar was one called The Terrace where a cover band was playing pretty good renditions of Black Eyed Peas and OutKast, though the place was kind of ruined when the lanky white plow hand looking dude started to rap.

Katy and I both really loved Austin and now want to take our group of girls to Austin next, instead of Vegas. It will be strange not partying it up in Vegas, but I think a change of pace would be fun. I wonder if we can squeeze 8 girls into one room at the W in down town A? The Driscal might be a lot harder because it is an old hotel and even nice old hotels generally have small rooms.

Saturday (6/16) – A major portion of Saturday was spent traveling from Austin to Port Aransas (a small Texas town on the Gulf of Mexico commonly referred to as Port A). Driving was dull and took quite a while. By the time we got to Port A it was time to go to dinner. However, as this was a family reunion and we had 17 in our group finding a place to eat on a Saturday night was impossible. We ended up at a rather lousy all you can eat pizza shack.

While driving from Austin to Port A, Bird called me and told me that Pat Greene and some other country band was having a concert in a park along the beach that night and admission was only $15 a person. Not wanting to waste time hanging around the house and listening to our parents and their siblings and cousins reminisce about the old days, Katy and I recruited a few of our cousins to attend the concert with us. The music was decent and it was outside in a park on a warm summer night. The music could have been horrible and I think I would have had fun because I love being outside on warm nights so much. Plus I got to dance around so it was extra good.

Sunday (6/17) – Sunday was spent at the beach and in the swimming pool at the beach house. The gulf is warm so it is so much more fun to swim in than the oceans in Cali. Also, Texas is as hot as hell, so that improves the swimming experience as well. I was wearing SPF 110 and managed to not get sunburned. I think I might have developed a vitamin D deficiency and possibly Rickets, but no sunburn.

Sunday night the big family group, plus a few additional cousins of my Dad’s, went out for my Aunt Susie’s 65th birthday. Susie, whose real name is Robbie I think(again with the nicknames), is my Dad’s Irish twin. The whole family reunion at the gulf was planned by Susie and her family as an excuse to get together and celebrate her birthday. We went to a restaurant in The Roosevelt Hotel, named because the ex-Pres once stayed there. While Texas are good at coming up with crazy-ass nicknames, they are not so creative when it comes to naming restaurants. Though there used to be a bar in Austin called Armadillo World Headquarters, which I think is a pretty great name.

Dinner was a pre-fixed menu and everything was very tasty. Since we were at a beach town most of the choices were seafood based, but the most delicious thing was actually the steak. It was in some kind of butter sauce. Yum. After dinner the family took a crap load of pictures together and then went back to the beach house to watch the NBA finals and digest.

Monday (6/18) – Monday, Monday, Monday, What happened Monday? Oh yeah, we rented a little electric cart thingy and drove along the beach and around Port A. We also went to a seafood pot restaurant where they take giant pots of boiled shrimp and dump the whole thing on a table covered with butcher paper. No one uses plates or silverware; you just eat with your hands and toss the shrimp heads and exoskeletons into a dish. It is all served with tons of butter and lemon and extras like beans and okra. I find the whole experience fun and delicious but Katy gets really grossed out by it. Watching her watch everyone else just makes it more fun.

I stopped writing here. I have now started up again and it is a month and a half later. I do not remember so much.

I do not remember what I did for dinner on the 18th. I do remember that Katy, Julia and I did a dance party to silly children’s songs. We are nerds.

Tuesday (6/19) – This was our last day in Port A. It was a low key day hanging out at the house and swimming. The definite highlight of the day was dinner. We went to this random Mexican restaurant where the food was super cheap and we happened to show up for $1.50 beer & margarita night. We had a group of 15 people and after tax the bill was $102! Our receipt was about a foot and a half long. The first 4 inches was all the food and the rest was just listing $1.50 after $1.50 of drinks. Even Melanie and Susie, who normally do not drink, were taking advantage of the $1.50 margaritas. It was great.

Wednesday (6/20) – Wednesday kind of sucked. We were supposed to go to Schlitterbaun. I have only been to Schlitterbaun once before, when I was about 16, and it ranks as one of the top 10 greatest days of my life. Schlitterbaun is a GIANT waterpark about an hour outside of Austin, and since Texas is hotter than hell, it makes for extra refreshing fun. We left Port A early in the morning to make it to Schlitterbaun, but right as we arrived in New Brunsfield a storm hit. There was thunder & lightening and it was pouring buckets. Since electrocution kind of ruins a vacation, we passed on Schlitterbaun and decided to go to the outlet stores in New Brunsfield instead. I was very disappointed by this. Boo.

We did not stay at the outlet stores long but Katy did manage to buy some work clothes. From there, we continued onto Austin. We stayed at some crap hotel but it was right in down town Austin, so that was nice. For dinner my family went to the Hula Hut, where Rich B. took Katy and I, and then after dinner we went to a true honky-tonk bar called the Wagon Wheel. The Wagon Wheel is renowned as the last legit honkey-tonk in Texas and it is AWESOME! There is a live band and everyone is up and two-stepping or line dancing. We ended up at The Wagon Wheel because as we were driving home from The Hula Hut, my dad mentioned that there was a country bar he used to go to called The Wagon Wheel, but he was sure it was out of business by now. I looked up the bar on my phone and it was shown as still in business, so we went to check it out. It totally did not disappoint. I danced with some old fellows and a hottie who went to UT. It was a great night.

Thursday (6/21) – Thursday was our only full day in Austin. In the morning we walked around the UT campus and in the afternoon we went over to try and swim at a pool/creek called Barton Springs. UT has a beautiful campus. If I got to redo college I might choose UT. It is a great school, the town is awesome and it would have made my dad proud if one of us had gone there.

Unfortunately our afternoon plan of Barton Springs was a bust because they were cleaning the pool. Barton Springs is an awesome pool in the middle of a river, so the water is clean and the bottom is not covered in plants/crap, but it is also refreshing because it is spring water running through it. Because the pool area was closed for cleaning, everyone just gathered in the stream below the pool. It was fun and I got to see turtles, but it was not very deep. Because we could not spend the day at the pool we went to another bar my dad used to hang out at while he lived in Austin. This bar was more of a pub. We sat around, drank and watched some of the Eurocup. Spain won, so that was fun.

For dinner we went out to a mediocre tex-mex restaurant with my parent’s friends Sarah Todd, Donavan and Donavan’s wife whose name I do not remember. Sarah Todd and Donavan are great, but I did not like Donavan’s wife. I am also not the biggest fan of tex-mex, so overall I thought this dinner sucked.

Friday (6/22) – Friday morning my family went to a sporting goods store. Katy and I each got new running shoes and then we went to the airport to go to VEGAS!! Woo VEGAS!!!

The flight to Vegas was uneventful but unfortunately Southwest lost Katy’s luggage. This really sucked because she had purchased a lot of souvenirs for people in Chile, new clothes at the outlet stores and had both of our new running shoes in her bag. Plus her digital camera and several sentimental outfits were in the bag. The bag was never recovered and Southwest paid out $3,000, but that doesn’t really make up for some of the things Katy lost. Plus the Southwest people at the Vegas airport were SUPER unhelpful about trying to locate her bag. They tried to claim that bags never got stolen so they did not need any kind of security in place to prevent such, and that the bag would eventually turn up. Morons.

When we finally got out to the airport it was time to party. This trip we stayed at the Cosmopolitan and it was all the usual Vegas suspects except for Jenny and Erin. Katy and I slept in one bed, Maura and Diana shared the other bed, Narissa slept on the floor, Lauren slept on a cot that we managed to steal from another room and Vanessa is so tiny she was able to sleep on a footstool thing.

Our first night in Vegas we did not do much. It had been so long since we had seen one another that we spent the whole night up in the room drinking and talking. At one point we did go out for food, but we just grabbed something quick because we wanted to get back and catch up some more. We are getting so old. It used to be we would get to Vegas, throw on something trashy and go flirt for free drinks. Now we would rather hang in the room and chat than go get our slut on.

Saturday (6/23) – Saturday we got a slow start. We chilled in the room in the morning, eating beagles and being lazy. Eventually we all got ready and went down to the club pool at our hotel. Day clubs at the pool are the new trend and the Cosmo has one of the best, Marquee. Marquee had this thing going where the DJS were all twins. The first was a set of twin girls who were pretty good and then the main “act” was a set of identical twin dudes who were great. Everyone was up and shaking their booties. I actually prefer day clubs to the night ones because you are outside and can go swimming. Swimming in the general pool is really gross because you know drunk people pee in it, but the cabanas each have their own privet little pools, so we just flirt our way into someone’s private area and drink their booze/use their pool. Good times.

After the club we went back to the room, showered, got dressed up and went out to dinner and clubbing. For dinner we went to Pink Taco. The food was not good, but it is more of a place to be seen rather than enjoy the food. Katy, Vanessa and I all agreed that we would rather go someplace to eat tasty food then to celebrity watch, but the other girls wanted this. After dinner we went to some new club at Bellagio called Hyde. This club is one of the worst I have been to in Vegas. The layout is lousy and the go-go dancers are all wearing cat masks and holding knives pretending to cut things/each other. It is really creepy. We suffered through Hyde for about 45 minutes and then threw in the towel. Being together in our room and drinking was just way more fun than that club would ever be, so we went back, changed into jammies and chilled.

Sunday (6/24) – Katy’s flight was really early Sunday morning. I was so sad to see her go. After she left I was in a major funk for the rest of the day. Our room had a balcony from which you could actually see the runways of the airport. After Katy left I went up onto the balcony and watched the airplanes take off. Based off of text messaging each other, I am pretty sure I knew exactly which plane was hers.

My flight home did not leave until late that night, so I spent the day chilling at the hotel pool (real pool not club pool). I did not want to go swimming, but I liked watching the drunk fools in the pool. Nothing super exciting happened during the day but in the evening I went out to dinner with Narissa and her sister & sister’s family. Narissa’s niece is a super cutie. We got sushi, which was OK but overpriced.

My flight home was nice and uneventful. I took Virgin which I really like even though you have to pay to check bags. My favorite part about Virgin is the safety video at the start of the flight. It is a cartoon done by some guy who I think works for The New Yorker. Blum was nice and picked me up from the airport. He is a good dude.

That sums up my vacation. It was a great trip and I hope to return to Austin soonish. Hopefully the Vegas crew will do Austin. Yeehaw!

 

Flights Booked!

Greetings Travelers,

My South America trip is falling into place. I have the Galapagos cruise booked and paid for (GL finally got the check), and I have my flights to and from S. America set up. I used Fly.com to book the flights, and I came up with a pretty decent price.

I first started looking at prices several weeks ago and the Fly showed the price of tickets from SFO -> Quito, Quito -> Santiago and Santiago -> SFO to be about $1,400. Over the last several weeks the prices for tickets went up to around $1,900, but then stayed at that range.

Last Wednesday I was ready to book the flights for $1,900 a person, but Katy asked me to delay until she had her flight from Santiago -> Quito and back booked. I am not sure why she wanted me to wait, but I agreed to this. Turns out this was a bad idea. The very next day I went to book my flight and the same itinerary had increased in price to $2,550 a person! Initially I started to freak out. I was booking tickets for three people and did not want to be paying an extra $650 a person.

I assumed that it was the initial flights that were the catalyst for the price increase. I re-ran my Fly and Kayak searches over and over, trying different days to depart from SFO and Quito -> Santiago, but the prices always came up in the $2,550 range. Finally I tried switching the return date, and that was when I got my price to drop back around $1,900. I had the misconception that flight prices were generally determinant on the departure date & price, not the return date. This was apparently wrong. By delaying my return date, I got the price to drop.

We will be flying mainly on Lan Airlines. This makes me very happy since I have found that foreign airlines tend to have more leg room and much better service than US airlines. Fly found the best price for Lan coming from Orbitz. I even re-ran the flight search directly from the Lan website, and the Orbitz price was better.

I am almost done with all the booking for the S. America trip. I still need to get a hotel in Quito and to plan day trips/over night trips from Santiago. I hope to have all that figured out by the end of this week. Katy sent me a list of the fun things to do in and around Santiago, so now I just need to pick some. Life is so hard. ;)

Cheers.

Galapagos

Greetings Travelers,

I am currently trying to plan a vacation to the Galapagos. The limiting factor in my vacation planning is dates. Katy is only available starting December 21st, and we are scheduled to be in Valparaiso, Chile Dec 29th. This gives us a very tight window to actually make it out to the Galapagos, and to make matters worse, most Galapagos cruises leave at the start of the month or mid-month.

After about 2 weeks of research and contacting travel sites, I finally found a tour that worked. I booked through www.galapagosislands.com (“GI”). What I like about this site was that I was able to email them describing the kind of tour I wanted and the date limitations, and someone emailed me back within 24 hours with a list of all the cruises they offered that fit within my range. The prices, while not the cheapest, are not totally unreasonable either. For instance, they are significantly less expensive than the National Geographic tours run by Lindblad Expeditions (I am sure the Lindblad trips are amazing, but not within my price range).

The tour company suggested several options that might work, with only one fitting within the exact range I needed. I would have liked to book a slightly higher level cruise, but one option is better than none. We are going to be taking the Monserrat Yacht, itinerary C.

Booking the cruise with GI started off well, but I have now reached a hiccup in paying. GI charges an additional 4% of total sales price when you use a credit card. I am unwilling to pay the extra 4% just to use a credit card, so I mailed in a check return receipt to their location in Miami. It has now been over a week since I mailed the check and the company has not received it. I am considering stopping payment on the check and paying by credit card, but I have a problem paying the 4% service charge. I have emailed the cruise company and offered to pay by credit card if they waive the 4% charge, but no one has gotten back to me.

That is about all I have for now. I will post more when I know about the payments and book our flights.

Cheers!