sarahblack: (Big Ben)
London was wonderful!

I‘m a bit bummed to be back in reality, but at least the Easter holidays are coming up. Thank the Easter bunny for five day weekends!

I‘m going to tell you all about the trip, but since it was quite packed with activities I will break it down with LJ cuts so that you can skip over stuff that doesn't catch your interest. You are of course free to skip everything and just read the tl;dr at then end. (But then you miss the pictures!)



Thursday – Travel and Tesco )

Friday – Harry Potter Studio Tour and Book of Mormon )

Saturday – The Parliament tour and afternoon tea )

Sunday – Windsor castle )

Monday – St. Paul‘s and Oxford Street )

Tl;dr version:

- Harry Potter studio tour: Very train. Delicious butterbeer. Much emotions. Wow.

- Book of Mormon show: Incredibly funny and worth the ticket price. Met interesting Doctor Who couple who were about to be engaged!

- Parliament tour and afternoon tea: So majestic! And the best scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam you can imagine.

- Windsor castle: Queen was at home but did not come out to greet us. Also, breaking news: Rich people make giant rooms with awesome paintings and furniture.

- Went to church??? (Got to sit in very fancy church chair.)

- Saw St. Paul‘s from the outside and also spent money on Oxford Street.


So. That was my trip to London.

Like I said before, I'm glad that I have another few days off coming up so that I'll be able to rest and recuperate. Although, I'm already invited to one party on Friday, and my mother got tickets for a Jesus Christ Superstar show on Thursday. Still. I think I'll probably have plenty of time to rest as well.

You guys have any plans for Easter?
sarahblack: (Bertie Wooster)
It has been decided! Þorri and I are returning to Narrabri next Friday. It will be an interesting cross-country journey involving a bus and two trains. We'll have to leave Byron Bay on Thursday because one of the trains is an overnight train! It will be lovely to see my grandmother and Lindsay again. (As well as my grandmother's wonderful collection of books!)

As I mentioned in my very brief previous post, the stay in Byron Bay has been a dream come true so far. We could have been luckier with the weather, but I'm definitely not complaining. We've has some amazing sunny days.

However, I haven't told you guys a thing about Sydney! This post will be novel length if I try to go into all the details, so I'm just going to post a few pictures along with a few comments.

Sydney )

Last Monday Þorri and I flew to Byron Bay. We've been spending time with Lindsay's daughter's family as we are crashing at their place. But like I said in my last post, we've also been able to take a trip to Currumbin Sanctuary (Australian animal "zoo"), walk to the most Easterly part of Australia, and hang around the beach for a bit.

Pictures! )

Tomorrow we're going to have a day of pampering at a spa and then we're going to the Lounge Cinema to see Looper. I'm really excited! I haven't had a full body massage since I was here in 2006! The Lounge Cinema is a treat as well. You sort of lie around instead of sitting! It's so comfy.

P.S. I totally recommend The Iron Lady. Fantastic film! Meryl Streep is a genius.
sarahblack: (Giselle dress)
Soon I will be in the air heading for Sydney! Before I leave I wanted to give you guys a brief overview of what I've been doing for the past few days in Albury.

- I went swimming! It felt like I was home. Also it was exercise. Desperately needed physical activity. (Am turning into a blubbery beast.)

- I visited the family of an exchange student that used to live with my aunt. Turns out his family home is right outside Albury, and he put me in touch with his mother. She proceeded to invite me and Þorri to lunch and feed us all the things. (There was quail, squid and kangaroo meat among other things. All super delicious!)

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The house was beautiful!


- Erin took me and Þorri to see Beechworth. It's an old gold rush town just south of the border in Victoria. We had a wonderful afternoon of walking up and down the picturesque main street, buying sweets and amazing honey, checking out the old court house and the old jail where Ned Kelly bought it. (Ned Kelly is a sort of Robin Hood figure in Australia.) There was also a telegram station! You could send an actual telegram and watch this amazing old gentleman send it in Morse code! Most entertainment I have ever received for four dollars.

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Apparently sending a telegraph via Morse code has beaten a text message via mobile phone!


- I checked out the Hume Dam and the Hume Lake with Erin and Þorri. It was really beautiful, and we were able to wave to Jack (Erin's boyfriend) who was out sailing on the lake on a yacht. Erin and Þorri did a little bit of wading and skipping stones, but I kept to the shade since I had forgotten all about sunscreen. Silly me.

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- Otherwise Þorri and I have been playing a lot of Scrabble, eating a lot of yummy food (Erin is a wonderful cook) and using up all of Erin and Jack's internet. It's been great!
sarahblack: (Bubblegum)
Yesterday Lindsay drove me and Þorri to the doorstep of Erin's house in Albury. (A mere 9 hour drive. He is a saint.) Erin is a girl that came to Iceland last year as an exchange student and she ended up spending a lot of time with Þorri and his friends in the Political Science department at the University of Iceland. She and her boyfriend Jack are studying medicine here in Albury.

Today was our first full day in Albury, and apparently Erin took us to see all the sights. Now we just have to figure out what to do with our time until Thursday. (That's when we fly with Erin to Sydney.)

We started the day with a lovely bike ride to the Botanical Gardens and a walk to a couple of World War monuments.

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We walked around a pretty neat art gallery which was full of aboriginal art, Japanese prints and interesting portraits. They even had a station where you could draw your own self portrait! I did a very quick one, but it was bad so I didn't take a picture of it.

Lunch consisted of sandwiches and pie, with ridiculously unhealthy doughnut things for dessert. (In Australia there is no such thing a plain doughnut. It has to be full of cream, and drizzled with chocolate, and liberally smeared with jam. In the very least.)

To distract ourselves from all the calories we imbibed we did some more sight seeing on our trusty bikes. (Mine was a squeaky one from the eighties.) There was beautiful scenery and absolutely no crashing into obstacles or small children.

Before we headed home we stopped to admire the river and relax on the bank for a while.

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Erin made us an amazing vegetable curry for dinner and we devoured it along with rice, naan bread and white wine. Þorri and I did the dishes and we've just been relaxing ever since.
sarahblack: (London)
Since my last update I have enjoyed a lovely stay in London, been reunited with Thorri, and flown to the other end of the planet.

I can't believe I'm in Australia already. It's been this far off part of my journey for such a long time. When I saw my grandmother and Lindsay waiting for me and Thorri at the Tamworth airport I was struck with the sheer insanity of it all. I can't really put the feeling into words, but it might have been close to how you feel when you've been spinning around on a desk chair for ages and then suddenly get up.

London )

My last full day in London, Monday, was spent getting ready to meet Þorri at the airport. I must have made it to the arrivals gate almost two hours early because I was so eager to see him again! You can imagine how happy we were when we were finally reunited. ♥

We stayed at an airport hotel that night, making it easy to get the airport the next day. I won't bore you with the details of our journey (6 hours to Abu Dhabi, 10 hours waiting in Abu Dhabi, 13 hours to Sydney, 4 hours waiting in Sydney, 1 hour to Tamworth, 2 hours driving to Narrabri) except to say it was exhausting. Especially since I came down with a sore throat right at the start of the journey. I did manage to catch up on all the recent film releases, though.

After we got to my grandmother's house we've been doing a lot of eating and sleeping. Þorri is loving all the animals that you see around the house (mainly birds and some lizards) and I'm loving my grandmother's collection of murder mysteries. Oh, and last night we started watching Downton Abbey! I've already become quite invested.

Tonight there will be a dinner party. My grandmother has invited some friends that I'm looking forward to seeing again, and there has been talk of pancakes. Yummy Icelandic pancakes!

Hopefully my throat will get better soon, being sick is no fun. Will you send me some healing mojo if you have any to spare?
sarahblack: (Appletini)
My day with Vera and Aarhus was absolutely lovely!

Aarhus )

Then it was off to Amsterdam by night train. I didn't have a sleeper cabin, just a seat, so I ended up not getting a lot of sleep. It was okay, though. Apparently I am still young enough to function without too much sleep.

Amsterdam was so much fun! I AM A CANAL. )

Today I caught a train from Amsterdam to Brussels and the Eurostar across the channel to London from there. My friend Tommi met me at the station and took me to the cozy apartment that he shares with his girlfriend Holly. We started by having juice on the roof of his apartment building and enjoying the view of downtown London, went on to have Italian food and ice cream for dessert, and ended the evening with cocktails at some fancy pub. It was absolutely spiffy!

Tomorrow I plan to sleep in since I have stayed up way too late to write this update. (Anything for my adoring public!)

Off to bed now.
sarahblack: (Supernatural)
Since I left Berlin I have visited Jói in Copenhagen, Alda in Stockholm, had lunch with my former coworkers Siggeir and Tóta in Gothenburg, and crashed at Vera's place in Århus!

Copenhagen was a lot of fun. Jói and his girlfriend Sarah took really good care of me. We spent our first evening having a lovely dinner, drinking red wine and catching up. The next day Jói showed me the botanical gardens (which have a greenhouse full of tropical jungle!) and some very serious guards outside the place where the crown jewels are kept. If you got too close to the guards they would very seriously stomp the butt of their guns to the ground and give you A Look. Scary!

I went on a boat ride around Copenhagen, saw the new opera house and the new theatre building, a lot of weird looking church spires, a lot of bridges that we needed to duck in order to sail underneath without incident, and some renovated boat houses that are now used as offices!

The evening was spent eating way too much candyfloss at Tivoli, after a lovely Japanese dinner which threatened to burn my mouth away. (I had the firecracker shrimp...) I got to ride the second oldest rollercoaster in the world! I was so happy that Jói and Sarah were willing to accompany me. ♥

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The next day I woke up early and caught a train to Stockholm. Alda met me at the station and took me to the nice apartment that she and Al are living in. Al cooked amazing food, we watched 'Allo 'Allo and drank white wine. It was awesome. We also watched Adventure Time and Buffy! It was nice to just hang out and watch TV. Sometimes that's exactly what you need.

I spent the next day in Stockholm's old town with Alda. We did some exploring, some sitting by the ocean, and some fake CPR on statues of rabbits. We also visited some kind of royal park. I think it's called Hagaparken. There was a pretty cool royal summer house or something there. It was beautiful.

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We met up with our friend Gutti for Kebab pizza in the evening (Kebab pizza is amazing. Swedes are geniuses in disguise.) It was really nice to see him and just hang out and talk.

Yesterday I got on another early train. It took me to Gothenburg where I had sushi and white wine with Siggeir and Tóta - and got to hear all the news I've been missing. Apparently I just missed Maren (another coworker) when I was in Berlin! Such a shame.

After I lunch I managed to book all the trains I need to get myself to London. Such a relief! Then I got on the train that took me to Århus. Vera met me at the station, gave me candy and was generally delightful. We're going to go explore Århus now!

Hope you guys are all healthy and happy. Miss you!
sarahblack: (Johnny Depp <3)
Right now I am relaxing after a lovely day at the Berlin Zoo. Before I tell you more about that I want to briefly describe my stay in Krakow.

Krakow )

I went to Berlin early the next day, and was met at the station by a lovely German guy by the name of Veit. He drove me to his apartment (which he shares with a flatmate, an equally lovely girl called Anka) in a very interesting car. It was one of the car-sharing cars of Berlin. They have this program where you can rent a car for however long you need it at the drop of a hat. You have a microchip in your driver's license which activates the car, and when you need to find the nearest car-sharing vehicle... There's an app for that! The people behind the program take care of cleaning the cars and filling them with gas. Amazing!

Anyway, Veit's couch is very comfortable, there is wifi (and a laptop I'm allowed to use) and he took me to the rooftop of his apartment building for pizza and beer on my first evening here. In other words - Excellent host!

My first day in Berlin was full of typical tourist activities. I went to see the East Side Gallery, Alexanderplatz, the Berlin cathedral, the Reichstag building, Brandenburger Tor and the Victory Column. (Among other things.)

>


I spent the evening eating delicious sugary popcorn and drinking cherry coke while watching silly stuff with Veit.

Today I went to the Zoo, as I have already mentioned, and it was epic. I think I must have spent two hours just hanging out with the monkeys and the apes. There were so many! And I managed to catch the feeding time for the Orangutangs and the Gorillas! Also, I saw lions, tigers, leopards, wolves, polar bears, zebras, giraffes and elephants! It was just like a zoo ought to be.



I really loved the gorillas. ♥

Tomorrow I am off to Copenhagen, and currently I am off to take a shower!

Prague

Sep. 1st, 2012 10:22 pm
sarahblack: (Bertie Wooster)
Prague has been amazing!

I've spent two days exploring the city. Yesterday I went to the Prague castle, the Strahov library, and the Loreta church. The treasury in the Loreta is full of shiny things, the library was very cool, and the castle had a place called 'The Golden Lane' where I was able to shoot a crosbow! I totally managed to hit the target. Once. Out of four tries... I also walked over to the Charles bridge and wandered around the old town for a bit.



The weather was a bit cloudy and drizzly, but I had an umbrella and some warm clothes that I now feel vindicated for hauling around with me.

Today I started by walking around the Vyšehrad area (since I'm staying right next to it), then I went to the Klementinum library - it was gorgeous - saw the Astronomical clock do its little show, walked around the Jewish part of town for a bit (it was boring because all the Jews go on vacation or something on Saturdays) and then I checked out the Museum of Decorative Arts. I really liked the dresses at the museum. Pretty! ♥

Also, I tasted garlic soup, Czech dumplings, rabbit and 8 different flavours of Czech beer.


Sour cherry, banana, nettle and coffee flavours were among the ones I tried.


My impression of Prague is very favourable. It would have been nice to glimpse some blue sky, but you can't have everything. The people seem nice enough - although it's every man for himself on the subway - the food is delicious, and walking around town is sort of like walking into a wormhole and being transported to medieval Europe, except not smelly! I can understand why my friend Elín loved it here.

Tomorrow I'm going to Krakov in Poland!
sarahblack: (Glam Christina)
Right now I'm in Prague! I'm safe and sound at a couch surfer's place, and I've been having a blast ever since Greece.

I spent an amazing day in Venice last Sunday - You will not believe the weather I got! At first it was cloudy, then it was sunny and nice, then it was cloudy again but with the added bonus of ominous thunder. A few random rain drops encouraged people to find shelter. Then it hailed for 15 seconds. After that it was like the heavens opened and all the water from everywhere just came pouring down in magnificent windy gushes! I got it on video... It was the most amazing rain I have ever seen.

During the 20 minute downpour I stayed put along with most of the crowd, enjoying the shelter, taking pictures and smiling at the craziness of nature. A few brave souls fought their way through the storm with umbrellas or ponchos as weapons. The occasional free spirit ran through the square with bare feet and bare chests - embracing the rain like an old friend.

Once it stopped raining the clouds lingered and a fantastic lightening storm entertained the crowd which was waiting for the next boat to the train station. I have never seen so much lightening! It was like a firework display!

When I arrived at the train station the clouds were disappearing and a rainbow could be seen in the distance. Through the train windows I observed the most stunning sunset I have seen in a long time.

But other than the weather - Venice was beautiful. I walked around, looked at bridges and beautiful buildings, enjoyed art at the Academie fine art museum and ate some delicious Italian food.

I didn't spend the night in Venice because my host lived about an hour and a half away from the city. It was a sleepy little town, and the view from his balcony was amazing. I liked being able to see a less urban side of Italy.

After Venice I visited Vienna. Oh, Vienna! It totally captured my heart. Especially Schonbrunn palace. My mother always talks about that place, and I completely understand why! It's amazingly beautiful. But I thought it was especially fun to visit it because of the history. My friend Sigrún lent my her DVDs with the Sissi movies - they're all about the Austrian empress called Sissi and her life. Very romantic! While I was touring the palace there were so many references to her and her life. Very cool.

While I was in Vienna I tasted genuine Vienersnitzel (yum!), Sacher cake from the Sacher hotel (double yum!), went to see the Hundertwasser house, the Karlskirche, the Belvedere palace, the Donau river, and generally walked around and appreciated the city. It was amazing. ♥

Anyway, I just got to Prague and I'm staying with a bunch of other surfers with a super nice host in a huge apartment in the centre of the city. The view from here is crazy amazing. I can't believe this is my life!
sarahblack: (Glam Rose)
Since my last update I have done a lot.

- I visited the Chateau d'If and said goodbye to Laufey and Marseille.

- I jumped on a train to Geneva, where I ended up drinking Swiss white wine aboard a boat on the Geneva Lake within hours of my arrival. (Have I mentioned lately how much I love the couch surfing project?)

- Visited CERN and saw physicists hard at work, analysing fresh data from the LHC.

- Spent more than 10 hours on trains getting myself to Rome. This included amazing views of Switzerland and Italy.

- Saw the Vatican museum, the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter's Basilica, the Castle d'Angelo, the Pantheon, the Colosseum, the Fountain of Four Rivers and many many other famous and important things.

- Watched The Artist under the stars.

- Ate the best gelato I have ever tasted. (Banana and dark chocolate flavours mixed together with whipped cream on top!)

- Went on a road trip to see the pope at his summer house (he totally blessed my hat) and then to see a small town called Palestrine, where there was a pretty cool museum with stunning views of the surrounding area. Ate at an awesome restaurant along the way - was the only tourist in there!

- Tasted real Italian coffee in the tiniest cup I have ever seen. (It was probably 50% coffe and 50% sugar, though.)

I wish I had time to go into detail about all of this, but I feel like I'm hogging my host's computer enough already. Maybe next time? Although by then I will hopefully have accumulated new and exciting stories to tell you.

Marseille

Aug. 13th, 2012 01:10 pm
sarahblack: (Karen Gillian being gorgeous)
The last few days in Marseille have been wonderful. I've been staying with Laufey, a friend I used to work with.

My first days here were really easy-going. I needed to plan the trip ahead, decide which countries to go to and try to arrange couches to surf. So far I have a place to crash in Switzerland, Rome and Vienna.

But after sorting out these boring practical matters, I went for a bike ride around the neighbourhood with Laufey. We stopped by the ocean to have some celebratory cocktails (it was actually her birthday that day) and watch the sunset. Then we had a lovely birthday dinner at a Japanese restaurant where the waiter insisted on trying to get us drunk by giving us really delicious sake.

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First time on a bike after a decade or so...


More adventures in Marseille )

Tomorrow I think I will go to explore the Chateau d'If. On Wednesday I'm heading for Geneva.
sarahblack: (Princess and the Frog: Fabulous!)
Bonjour!

I'm currently posting from my couch surfing host's computer. His name is Ivan and he has been taking wonderful care of me and Thorri.

The past two days have been quite the whirlwind! Yesterday we arrived in Paris - very early in the morning - and spent most of the time before lunch getting to our host and catching up on sleep. Then we went to see the Victory Arch and the beautiful shopping street Champs- Élysées. Thorri bought some clothes that were on sale, and I renewed some MAC supplies that I was running low on. For dinner Ivan cooked us some delicious risotto and we split a bottle of white wine. We ate outside in the nice weather and talked until it was very late.

Today I managed to wake Thorri up at around lunch, and we headed for the Louvre soon after. Before entering the museum we looked at the Paris Opera House and strolled down some of the nearby shopping streets. There were a lot of jewelry stores with sparkly things!

The Louvre was amazing, but exhausting. I didn't realise it was so huge! It was really nice to see all those beautiful and famous works of art. Aside from the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo there were so many gorgeous pieces! I fell in love with a particularly beautiful painting of a martyr in a white dress, floating in some water with the figure of death hovering in the background. I think it's called 'A Young Martyr' and it's by Paul Delaroche.

Dinner was eaten at a very unique restaurant that Ivan took us to. It used to be a train station! It's called Bouillon Chartier and the food was amazing! I tried snails and foie gras for a starter, duck comfit as the main course, and a baba au rhum for dessert. It was all delicious!

After dinner we walked around for a bit, and Thorri and I joined a group of people who were dancing the tango on the steps of the Opera House. I was a bit nervous since I haven't danced the tango since I left Iceland in April, but it was fun!

Anyway, I need to go to sleep now. We're going to try to get out of bed a bit earlier tomorrow and it's already after midnight!
sarahblack: (Glance)
I can't believe the first half of my trip around the world is coming to an end. Tomorrow I'm flying to Iceland for a four day break, and then I'm heading to Paris!

But before I go to Europe I want to finish telling you about New York.

Yesterday was spent shopping in SoHo (where I randomly overheard an Icelandic couple speaking to each other in Icelandic while waiting to cross the street), visiting China Town and Little Italy, and trying (but failing) to win the Book of Mormon lottery.

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Little Italy


I didn't buy a lot. Mostly just a bit of gym stuff that I needed to replace and some Secret things from a girl called Victoria. I tried to find a perfume that my mother asked for, but apparently they aren't selling it anymore. (Except for old supplies that are being sold online.) I could have used my sister's help with the shopping. She would have managed to get all the Christmas presents for everyone, and also presents for upcoming birthdays.

After Juan and I failed to win the Book of Mormon lottery he took me to visit his parents. They live in the Bronx! I was a bit scared to go there, but it was actually a really nice part of the Bronx. I dropped some postcards in a postbox there, hopefully they will be postmark will reflect the location.

Today I went on the Gossip Girl tour that I received as a gift from a few awesome girls. (You know who you are!) The tour was so much fun! My favourite part was getting to sit on the MET steps, go inside the Empire Hotel, and window shop at Henri Bendel and Harry Winston. I almost bought a Blair inspired headband at Henri Bendel, but I couldn't justify spending 48 dollars on a headband. It was very sleek and chic, though.

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I bummed around Time Square for the rest of the afternoon. Plenty to see and do! Mainly I got lost inside the Disney store and lamented the fact that I could not fit in all the princess dresses that they had for sale there. Seriously, this is a gross injustice.

Before it was time to go see the Lion King, I went to Joe's Pizzeria for a real New York pizza. It was super busy in there. Understandably, as the pizza was delicious! I had one with fresh mozzarella, basil, tomatoes and black olives. Beautiful!

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The Lion King show was a lot of fun. I had bought pretty cheap seats, so I was nearly at the very back! However, I was almost in the centre of the row and had a very good view of the stage. The costumes blew me away! I wish I could have seen them up close to appreciate the detail, but being far away helped me see the 'animals' instead of actors in costume. I thought the giraffes and the hyenas were particularly convincing.

Once the show was finished I got to see evening version of Times Square. It's nearly as bright as day time!

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Anyway, I'm off to sleep now. I have an Icelandair flight to catch tomorrow!
sarahblack: (Meg in love)
Peru! That is where I am right now. How weird is that?

So far I've spent an evening and a day in Lima and a day in Cuzco. I stayed in Miraflores while I was in Lima. (It is a very beautiful, tourist-friendly part of Lima.) I didn't have to worry about walking around by myself - although I didn't venture out on my own in the evening for anything more than a quick trip to the store around the corner from my gorgeous colonial hotel - and the Peruvians that I interacted with where all amazingly friendly. I would have worried that I was being scammed, except they never tried to sell me anything or take me anywhere. They just seemed genuinely interested in chatting!

I ended up spending my free day in Lima walking around Miraflores, staying close to the ocean for the most part. The waves were beautiful! And there was a cool shopping centre in the cliffs overhanging the ocean. I ended up going back there for dinner later in the day with a couple of Norwegian girls who are on the same tour as me. It was nice to get to know them a little bit. They both had soup, and I went with some fish of the day special. It was hilarious when the waiter brought them their soups - I have never seen such generous proportions! The one with the seafood soup pretty much got what I would consider to be a full pot!

This morning we flew to Cuzco. It's about an hour away from Lima, so it wasn't a big deal. The view of the mountains from the plane was amazing! Snow-capped peaks and deep valleys... Just gorgeous. ♥

The afternoon was spent getting ourselves situated at the hotel, going on a walking tour of the city, and receiving information about the coming days.

1. The hotel is nice and I love my roomate. (She is just like me! We both finished grad school, both studied Immunology, are both travelling around the world for about the same length of time, and have really similar opinions on all sorts of subjects.)

2. The walking tour was a lot of fun. We went to a local market - sort of like Kolaportid in Iceland. Local people had stands with everything from clothes made from llama wool to whole entire pigs, or even live frogs! But mainly it was flowers, fruit, herbs, nuts, and other run of the mill food items. We also went to see the main square. There was a beautiful colonial cathedral, and a very impressive fountain. Also, since the Peruvian independence day is in July (the 28th, I believe) there were Peruvian flags everywhere. (And I thought the people in the USA were patriotic!) It looked really festive and beautiful. We stopped at a little juice shop for lunch, and I got the most amazing fresh Papaya juice along with a chicken sandwich. Yummy!

3. I'm terrified of the coming days. The Inca Trail sounds like it will be hell on earth - but with amazing catering. (Three course breakfast, lunch and dinner on the hiking days!) The first day will be 10 kilometers. The next day will be the same length, but steeper uphill and also steeper downhill. The third day will be 16 kilometers, but apparently it is supposed to be very beautiful. On the fourth day we will wake up at four AM for a two hour trek to Machu Picchu. In the dark. But I think we're supposed to be arriving at Machu Picchu around sunrise for the grand effect. Oh, and there will be no electricity while we are on the hike.

I am so scared! But also kind of excited to see if I will be able to handle this. If I do this I will have major bragging rights. And you will all have to put up with endless 'When I was at Machu Picchu' stories. (Hopefully I won't chunder everywhere, though.)

Tonight I'm staying at a hotel. Tomorrow I'm going to the Sacred Valley and staying at a hotel again, but the day after tomorrow (11th of July?) will be the first hiking day. I should be back to civilisation on the 14th-ish.

Hopefully I will be able to post something then. I'm not sure what the computer situation will be. But as always, no news is good news!

I just got back from eating way too much pizza with the Norwegian girls, my roomate and an Australian girl who joined forces with us. I really like all of them, but only my roomate and one of the Norwegian girls will be joining me for the Inca Trail hike. The Australian is doing a different hike, and the other Norwegian girl is taking the train. (I'm so jealous of her.)

Anyway, I'm going to go pack now. I can only bring the bare essentials for the hike and I need to decide what to leave behind at the hotel. Our porters will carry 6 kilograms for us, and half of that is the sleeping bag and the mattress... I'm going to have to think very carefully about this. I really don't want to have to carry a lot myself. It'll be hard enough to hike with just my body to lug around!
sarahblack: (Karen Gillian being gorgeous)
I've been having a fun couple of days in LA!

Yesterday I went with Sigthor and his daughter Juliana to Norm's diner for brunch. It's been around since the 50s, and it's very American. You can get 'hotcake' stacks (American pancakes that are served with whipped butter and syrup), eggs and bacon, French toast drizzled with powdered sugar, and every other unhealthy breakfast food that you could imagine. It was awesome.

I ate pancakes, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage and hash browns! So yeah... I didn't really need to eat again for the rest of the day.

After recovering from brunch, Juliana and I went to Rodeo Drive! I had so much fun walking up and down the street, staring at all the beautiful window displays, taking pictures, breaking my neck trying to watch all the sexy convertibles zoom up and down the road, and just soaking up the atmosphere. The buildings are just as pretty as the the products being sold inside, and the palm trees and the blue sky give everything such a glamorous feel! We didn't spot any celebs, but we did see some very rich people. It's hard to imagine being that rich.

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I'm just strolling in there to buy a Rolex...


More pictures from Rodeo Drive )

Sigthor took me to the Griffith Observatory later in the day. We were there just in time to catch some pictures of the Hollywood hills at sunset. It was a bit too hazy for good clear pictures of the Hollywood sign - but you can see it in some of the pictures if you look closely.

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The Griffith Observatory is a pretty popular film location - if you've seen Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, it's where Demi Moore and the Angels have a gun fight - but apparently it was also used in a James Dean film. So of course there is a convenient James Dean monument to pose with.

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The evening was spent at a local cinema, watching The Amazing Spiderman. The cinema was so cool! It's tiny and the inside is decorated all Egyptian style, the man who checked our tickets at the door was dressed up as Siderman, and they had butter popcorn!

Today was just as fun. It's the Fourth of July, so people generally have a day off. My local friend [livejournal.com profile] promiseoftin was therefore able to spend an afternoon showing me around Venice Beach and feeding me cheesecake.

Venice beach was a lot of fun. There were people selling their art, a few street performers, people who wanted to help you get your 'Medical Marijuana License', one religious nut, and loads of muscular people. Apparently there was some kind of muscle competition going on, and Al Pacino was there to present an award! (Al Pacino appears at Muscle Beach contest)

I can't believe I saw Al Pacino.

Anyway, we went to the Cheesecake Factory after, and it was amazing! I had a lunch-sized pasta dish (which seemed pretty full-sized to me) and of course some cheesecake for dessert. I had a raspberry lemon cream cheesecake. I'm pretty sure it was one of the best things I've ever tasted. Yum!

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We checked out downtown LA, saw Union Station and drove through Chinatown and Little Tokyo among other things. It was a blast!

This evening has been rather relaxed - aside from all the noise from the fireworks. The poor cat of the house is quite frightened and keeps jumping on my lap to be kept safe.

I did go with Juliana and her friend Erica up to the roof to look at the fireworks, though. It was almost like New Year in Reykjavik! Or a war zone. Maybe both.




P.S. In other news - They may have found the Higgs boson at last!

I have no words. This is just beyond cool. I'm so happy it happened in Higgs' lifetime. Must be amazing to see your theory come to life like that. ♥
sarahblack: (Giselle dress)
I don't have a lot of time on this public computer so I'm just going to post what I posted on facebook:

"New Zealand is amazing. The nature is unbelievable! I never want to fall asleep on the bus because there's always some new gorgeous view around the next corner. I've been to a beach where you can dig a hole and hot water springs up, in caves with glow-worms that make the ceiling look like a starry night sky, and today I went to see a Maori cultural show! It's all been amazing. ♥"

I was one of the very few who went into the hot water pools that we dug up on the beach. The tide happened to be at night, so it was pitch black and freezing! But I held up the honour of my Viking heritage. It was nice and warm in the water, though.

The glow-worm cave in Waitomo was a dream come true for me. I've been wanting to see them since I saw David Attenborough talk about them in one of his documentaries. It was a surreal experience!

I just got back from the Maori cultural show here in Rotorua. They fed us a feast of traditional hangi after the show. (It's slowly cooked meat and veg, basically.) I'm so full! The show itself was very educational and fun. The Maori did their war dance (Haka) for us and sang traditional songs. We also had to choose a chief from our tour group to represent us, and he got to take part in the opening ceremony. The war dance was quite intimidating!

Tomorrow we leave Rotorua, a place which reminds me of Iceland since it is full of hot springs, and go to Taupo - the adventure capital of the northern island. I'll be sad to leave Rotorua though, the lake here is gorgeous. I walked out to it earlier today, and some black swans swam right up to where I was standing!

I hope you're all happy and healthy! ♥

Hiroshima

Jun. 8th, 2012 08:20 pm
sarahblack: (Anne being gorgeous)
My stay in Hiroshima was lovely!

It started out with some emotional moments, though. Not wanting to waste time, I went straight from the bus to the Hiroshima Peace Park. I spent the entire morning there, looking at the A-bomb dome, the monuments, the museum and the park in general.

It's hard to describe the sorrow I felt when I looked at the A-bomb dome. The dome has been preserved the way it was after the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, and it's a very powerful reminder of how destructive nuclear power can be. The A-bomb dome is also called the Hiroshima Peace Memorial and it is a memorial to the people who were killed in the bombing. It's hard to imagine what it must have been like. You're just going about your business in one instant, and in the next moment...

The museum was an even more emotional experience. Among the things that they have on display are the destroyed garments that were worn by little children who died in the bombing, along with the mangled remains of a little tricycle.

Another thing that left a deep impression on me were all the letters. Letters of protest from the mayors of Hiroshima to various presidents and leaders of nations that continue to preform nuclear tests. There were so many.

I think I'd have trouble sleeping at night if I were the recipient of such a letter.

The park itself is very beautiful. It has all sorts of trees and flowers, and at least two very nice fountains. Then there are the monuments. I didn't look at all of them. I mainly looked at the Children's Peace Monument. While I was there a group of schoolchildren came by and sang a song in Japanese, and dedicated some colourful origami cranes to it. It was a lovely ceremony.

I took the afternoon off in order to recover from my emotional morning. Thankfully I was able to just relax at the house of my couchsurfing host. His name is Joel and he's an American marine who works at a military base in Hiroshima. We got along famously!

He took me to a really cool restaurant for dinner. It was another one of those 'do it yourself' places that the Japanese seem to be so fond of. We received a miniature coal barbecue which we used to grill various pieces of meat. Apparently I tried tongue! (I had no idea what I was eating most of the time - I only checked if I was allergic, not what it actually was!)

The next day we went to Miyajima island. I enjoyed it immensely! The ferry was nice, the view was gorgeous, the temples were serene, the deer were friendly, and the Okonomi-yaki was delicious! (I'm serious about the deer. They even let you close enough to pet them. I felt like a Disney princess!)

My favourite place on the island was this little underground passageway in one of the temples. It was pitch black down there so you had to feel your way along the walls, but once you got past the first corner you could see the most amazing softly glowing pictures of Bhuddist deities!

After Joel and I got back to the mainland he took me to visit his military base. It was pretty fun. Kind of like going to the United States. I got apple pie and everything! I love pie. ♥ We also went to a bar on the base where I was able to pass for a Californian. (Joel wasn't in the mood to linger at the bar for too long, and he knew that if this one guy found out I was Icelandic he would want to question me about it endlessly, so he told me to say I was American instead. Funnily enough, the guy made me say: 'Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, I don't have an accent' in order to prove that I didn't have an accent, and then I had to think quickly when he asked me what part of the States I was from. I ended up saying I was a Californian from Pasadena. He totally bought it.)

My last day in Hiroshima was spent strolling through the main shopping street and being amused that there is apparently a store called 'Womb' in Japan. I also tried the iced coffee at Tully's because Elin said it was worth trying. Since I'm not much of a coffee person I needed three packets of syrup before I liked it, but then it was delicious!

I also tried another Hiroshima speciality - Oysters! I only had one because they're kind of expensive, but it was really fresh and tasty. I also succumbed to temptation and had another dose of Hiroshima Okonomi-yaki.

Japan is all about the food you guys. (No wonder my jeans are starting to feel a little bit too tight...)

Anyway, right now I'm at Snaevar's place again. I spent today recovering from the twelve hour bus ride to Tokyo from Hiroshima, but tomorrow I might do some tourist stuff. Depends on the weather - apparently it's supposed to rain tomorrow.

Osaka

Jun. 5th, 2012 12:08 am
sarahblack: (Bubblegum)
I've had an eventful couple of days in Osaka!

My bus arrived at Osaka station very early yesterday morning. I spent my first hour or so just wandering around the station. It's incredibly enormous! It must be at least 11 floors, if not more, and it seems to stretch on and on in every direction. Far too easy to get lost if one is not careful!

And I thought Kyoto station was nuts...

Thankfully I was able to find my way to the information desk and Get Informed. I purchased a two day city pass and received maps, coupons and other such shiny things. I dropped my bags off at the hotel where I stayed my one night in Osaka, and then I was off to see the Osaka Museum of Science.

The museum was a lot of fun. It is aimed mainly at children, but that suited me well. I couldn't understand any of the Japanese explanations, but the pictures intended for the kids helped me understand. Also, there were a lot of things to play with! Science things. It was great!

Oh, and there was a human sized robot there that solved Rubik's cubes for you if you stood in front of it for a while. Japan is just awesome like that.

After a lunch of Kushi-katsu (basically deep fried pork with sauce) I decided to go to the zoo. It was nice to see the animals, but I wish they had more comfortable surroundings and more space. Especially the chimps. They looked so sad.

I saw an Asian elephant while I was there! My first time seeing an elephant in real life. Interestingly, there were art students milling around the elephant enclosure. They were drawing and painting the elephants for school. One of them asked if he could draw me as I watched the elephant! I didn't mind, so he went ahead. The sketch was quite nice! He let me take a picture of it. Another student walked up to me as I prepared to leave and gave me a postcard sized drawing she had made of me as a gift. It was quite lovely!

I felt very flattered. ♥

Outside the zoo there are criss-crossing streets full of shops, stalls, and restaurants. Many were selling tako-yaki, and I had read that one simply must try them if one is in Osaka. Tako-yaki literally means fried or grilled octopus, and according to Wikipedia it is a popular ball-shaped Japanese dumpling or more like a savory pancake made of batter and cooked in a special takoyaki pan. Also it is delicious. I ended up eating it twice again today!

Yesterday evening started out very nicely. I went for a ride in a big red Ferris wheel close by my hotel. It was around sunset, so the view was very pretty! The rest of the evening was spent having a bubble bath in my hotel room, talking to Thorri over Skype, and reading Great Expectations.

Today I went for a cruise around the river, looked at the beautiful Osaka castle (fantastic view from the top!), saw Men in Black III at the cinema which is located at the top of Osaka station, and after it was dark, I went to the top of the Umeda Sky Building. It's a really cool pair of skyscrapers that are connected by a circular building at the very top. You can go out and get a 360°view of the city from the 39th floor.

I'm glad I decided to wait for dark to go up there, Osaka at night is magical! ♥

Right now I'm about to board my bus to Hiroshima. Hiroshima will be my last stop before I return to Tokyo.

Catch you later!
sarahblack: (Swimming)
Happy Golden Jubilee to the Queen of England! (I think she's immortal.)

Today is my last day in Aizuwakamatsu. I'm off to Osaka tonight. Since I'm only staying one night in Osaka, I'm treating myself to a stay at a four star hotel which is right next to the train station. I was quite lucky and got the room for only 5800 yen. (Just under 10.000 ISK.)

Anyway, I've been having such a wonderful time with Tommy and Natsumi. Tommy took me to the school where he teaches yesterday. It's in Shimogo, a town which is 35 minutes away from Aizu by train. I got to go to a few classes and introduce myself to the kids, and then they asked me a lot of questions. Mainly they were interested in whether I had a boyfriend, and whether 'I loved Tommy' (they don't know that he has a girlfriend), but I also got really random questions like: 'Do you like bananas?' and 'what is your favourite food chain?'

I was so amused when I said that I came from Iceland and one kid exclaimed: 'From ice cream?!'

Oh, and two of the classes had a group of boys that insisted I pick 'who is coolest'. They all stood up, and wanted me to pick one of them. I was a little worried that the ones who didn't get picked would take it personally, but apparently this is a common practice and there are no hard feelings involved. In both cases I picked small, shy looking boys with glasses. I think I made their day! They looked very pleased in any case.

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After the classes and a lovely lunch with the teachers, Tommy took me to see Ouchijuku - an old village just outside Shimogo, famous for the traditional thatched buildings from the Edo Period that line its main street. The weather was beautiful, and the surrounding nature was absolutely stunning. Mountains covered in trees with emerald green foliage, sparkling rice fields, and blue skies. ♥

In the evening we decided to go for a shabu shabu dinner. I loved it so much last time that I wanted to try it again, and Tommy hadn't actually ever had any! It was just as good as last time, and just as fun. Maybe I'll just start a shabu shabu restaurant when I come home?

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After dinner we ended up checking out a game center. Natsumi is a wiz at this drum game they have there. It's a little like the Rock Band drums. Notes show up on the screen, and you have to hit your drum at the right time to get the note. It was amazing to watch Natsumi at it. She is so fast!

Today we went to the Miyaizumi sake brewery. They have converted part of the brewery into a museum. It was really interesting to see the traditional sake brewing equipment, and it was a lot of fun to sample some of the sake. Very tasty! They also had a gift shop where you could buy traditional sake cups, and there was this one set where you got different kinds of cups and a sort of die which had pictures of the cups on it. A person throws the die and has to drink the sake from the cup that it indicates!

After the brewery I went with Natsumi to the Higashiyama onsen. It was amazing! It's a hot spring resort where you can bathe in hot water while enjoying a beautiful view of a waterfall and a hillside covered with enormous trees. Perfectly blissful! I would have loved to stay there forever, but it was probably a good thing that Natsumi pulled me out when she did - the heat made me all dizzy when I got out!

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For lunch we went to a sushi train with a special 'shinkansen' track above the usual train, where your special orders are brought to you by a little shinkansen train! Among the things that I tried was a piece with salmon eggs and mint leaves. Quite good, and very pretty. I love how pretty sushi is. I think food presentation is such a huge part of the dining experience.

Right now I need to get ready for my trip to Fukushima. I need to go there in order to catch the bus to Osaka. Hopefully I'll be able to keep my eyes open during the train ride to Fukushima. The views out here are so stunning.

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Sarah Black

March 2015

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