Welcome to my blog - This is a blog about the lives, loves, travels and adventures of my girlfriend and i

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Celebrations in Vegas and New York

This year was always going to be a big year as it was my big 4 0. I don’t know how I feel about it really but the only way for me is to just embrace it.  I was given a surprise, birthday party at the beginning of May.  I had a suspicion that we were going to meet up with a few friends as Natalie and my friend, Shaun who are normally sticklers for timings were being bit vague about plans. However, I was very surprised to walk into a pub full of so many friends and family who came along to share it with me.  We had a great night and a nice, shiny hangover to boot. 

I also knew that I would be going on a trip for my birthday but I wouldn’t know where until I got to the airport. This made packing very difficult! I was picked up in a chauffeur driven car and taken to the airport, once there I was to open a pocket guide of where I was going.  I unwrapped the book and there it was…..New York. I was surprised as I was not expecting to go there and more surprisingly Natalie appeared even more so! So, she gave me another book to unwrap and this time it was Las Vegas. Apparently the other surprise was that it was a 2 city trip and she had meant to give me the NY book to unwrap in Vegas.  Still, it didn’t matter and she is Irish after all!

After a crazy 2hour and 15 minute wait at passport control we finally made it out of the airport.  Las Vegas was cool or actually very hot as it goes.  We spent 3 days here and in short we walked to the Vegas sign, explored the strip, watched the Bellagio fountain show, rode the NY, NY rollercoaster, found a Del Taco (which we had loved in California) and ate at the Cheesecake factory. We shopped (Victoria Secret being a particular fave) and discovered that we are crap at gambling.  

For a special, birthday treat Natalie had booked a trip to the Grand Canyon.  We were driven to the small airport where I must tell an embarrassing anecdote.  For some reason I had a bit of a wedgie so I looked into an enclosed seating area that I thought was empty, I turned round, put my hands right, down my shorts and yanked it out, safe in the knowledge no-one could see me. Imagine my horror and hers when I turned round to see a little, Indian lady looking at me with a stunned look on her face. I was mortified. I still don’t know how I missed seeing her in there but thankfully she was on a different flight to us!  We were flying on a small Cessna aeroplane. The planes capacity was approx. 10 people and one passenger got to sit up front next to the pilot. I did have a moment of stress where I hoped that no-one was mentally unstable and would wrestle the controls from the pilot.  I don’t know if it’s just me that worries about things like that?! 

We had breath taking views and early on in our journey we flew over the Hoover Dam and Boulder City. Boulder City was built for the workers of the Hoover Dam and did not allow drinking or gambling. Apparently it's still the only town in Nevada that doesn’t allow gambling.  We flew over both the North and South rim and I was fascinated with our birds eye view of the canyon. We hit some turbulence but luckily Natalie had brought my sea sickness tablets so I managed not to vomit on anyone! 

Once at the airport we waited until our helicopter arrived.  We were allocated seats and mine was right up next to the pilot!  I concentrated on keeping all my limbs glued to my side in case I somehow knocked the pilot and his controls and killed us all. Again, is that just me?  We flew all over the South Rim and took in the views. It had started raining which I thought was quite strange as we were in the desert but it made it all the more dramatic though and it soon stopped.  After the helicopter ride we were given lunch and taken to a viewing point where we again took in more of the South Rim.  We had a quick hike down into the Canyon and took a lot of pictures, none that really did it justice. Someone had told me that the Grand Canyon was over-rated but I thought it was fantastic and I'd love to go back and explore it more.  Mind you, someone else had told me that about Ayres Rock (Uluru) and it was one of the best places I’ve ever visited so always make your own mind up.

We took our very bumpy flight back and most people fell asleep but I was still fascinated. I watched a rain shower directly over the canyon and saw flashes of lightening striking right down into the gorge.  I wouldn’t have missed it.

On our final day we decided to head to the viewing eye. We passed the Flamingo Hotel, Marilyn Monroe and Alan and his tiger on our way.  We climbed high and looked out over the whole of Vegas. We walked back along the strip one last time and by a few people unconscious from the last nights excesses.   What they felt like when they woke up after laying in that horrendous heat I can only imagine!  We then went to lay by pool for a bit, had dinner and made our way to the airport for our night flight to NYC.

I have to be honest, I was a little bit grizzly that we were missing a night’s sleep as I always find jet lag to the West side of America harsh! In fact on our first night in Vegas someone had apparently phoned us to say they had chocolates. They had knocked the door,  brought them in and I didn't hear a thing I was so exhausted. I just asked where they had come from the next morning!   Having said that I slept for the whole flight which was only about 4 hours but was a big plus.  We arrived looking like we were homeless and NYC was freezing! Of course I had almost exclusively packed for the sun and had one warm outfit which I had left England in.  We arrived at our hotel around 6.30am and took the only room they had. It was small but perfectly formed and I crashed out for a few hours more.  

Once I awoke around lunchtime, we took the free shuttle bus, which was an old school bus into the city. Natalie had found a great, little hotel in Long Island which had the most fantastic views of NYC particularly  at night. I highly recommend it and will definitely be going back there. 

Heading back to NYC was a little like coming home. I had taken Natalie 4 years before for her 30th birthday and it had remained a special place in my heart since then.  I love a city and New York is about as great as one can be.  We found ourselves alongside the Rockefeller building and 5th Avenue and stopped by a Korean food truck for lunch right by Radio City.  

We then walked to Central Park and the sun came out just like it had the minute we had got there 4 years before.  We sat and people watched, walked to Time square and then headed back for a nap. It was good to be back here.

We went to dinner locally at a place called Smoke house which was a few minutes’ walk  from our hotel. We had a very American meal of burnt ends, collard greens, brisket, mac and cheese and chips all served on paper plates which seems to be a peculiarly American thing. 

We walked home and looked out at that amazing view from our room.

We woke up after the best night’s sleep of the holiday. We missed our shuttle bus so went to get some pancakes from the diner down the road. (it had to be done) 

We then headed into Manhattan and went on a mammoth walk from Koreatown and Time Square to the Flat Iron and then found ourselves in the West Village, somewhere we hadn’t been before. We stumbled upon The Stonewall Inn which I was really pleased about and discovered The Big Gay Ice Cream shop, which of course we had to partake in. I really liked the vibe of the whole West Village. We had walked so far my dodgy knee had become to swell up so we decided to take the Subway back.

When my birthday finally came around I had already felt that I had been 40 for a very long time!  I opened the presents and cards that Natalie had brought with us. Natalie had booked a street truck tour, of course it had to revolve around food so we spent the morning eating all different types of delicious food.  We ended the tour right across from the Brooklyn Bridge which was handy as we wanted to see it.  Natalies eldest Aunt May had died earlier in the year aged 86. She had arrived as an 18 year old girl from Ireland and like so many before her and after lived in Brooklyn before she moved to Oklahoma. We we were keen to visit in her honour and it certainly lived up to expectations.  

That evening we returned to one of our favourite restaurants, Buddakan. I had taken Natalie for her 30th birthday, previously so it seems to be where we celebrate our milestones.  We had a great if very expensive meal! Afterwards we headed to the well know lesbian bar, Cubbyhole and had a drink with some dollars a friend had given me for my birthday.  Due to the time difference I managed to cling onto my 30s for a bit longer but time stops for no man and now was time to embrace it.  

We were flying out in the evening so we had one last day to walk around NY.  I had the best Jerk chicken ever from a street truck and then we decided to explore Central Park a bit more.  

I almost actually only made it to 40 years and 1 day. As I was sat on a bench somebody strolled past me with a snake wrapped round his wrist. Seriously! What is it with cities and snakes? I had gone to Australia fully expecting to have a heart attack from seeing deadly snakes at every turn. None. I have been to NY twice and seen a snake twice as I also did when I went to Prague.  Very stressful for someone so phobic but the people walking their cats on a lead (and yes there were more than one), settled my nerves again.  

The girl did good and I was incredibly spoilt for most of May.  I loved Vegas and New York and got to tick a few more things off the bucket list.  I am incredibly lucky. 

So there we have it - My thirties have been the best of times and the worst of times. My brother only made it to 39 years and 10 months.  Becoming 40 is a privilege not a problem.

Here's to the next 10 years

Partied out


Thursday, 4 August 2016

No Mud. No Lotus

Facebook was telling me I needed to update my blog page and I thought it was about time I did too.  I have needed some time away from things to process what the reality of having a mother who is a narcissist meant to my life.  Ultimately what it really meant is that I don’t have a single moment to waste on any more negatively. What it also meant is that I now understand why my life took the various twists and turns it did.  I also realised that I’m a pretty tough, cookie and I know that no matter how hard life is, I will never let it break me.   I’m proud that I didn’t get eaten up with bitterness and proud that I was brave enough to face the harsh truth (which at some point I may well write about) but for now it is time to move on and leave it and her in my past.

I was looking through Amazon and the title of a book called No Mud, No Lotus caught my eye, and  I thought what a great title for a book.  Firstly, I have been reading about Buddhism and so it interested me and secondly I have been considering having a tattoo of a lotus. The symbolic meaning is
“The lotus grows in muddy water, and it is this environment that gives forth the flower’s most literal meaning: rising above the murk to achieve enlightenment“.
I’m not sure I could think of a better symbol, I may not achieved enlightenment in the Buddhist sense but my God I certainly have had my eyes opened in in these last few months!   I’m currently reading a book called The Saffron Road by Christine Toomey, which I am only part way through and something that I read shone out. 

“My teacher would say, Instead of cursing the darkness, why don’t you try to light a candle? I learnt to perceive the best out of every situation in life…..But also, I have to accept that all the qualities I learnt to develop in myself were as a result of my experience… I had to develop a strong will to survive and that gave me the strength to succeed.  I have come to see situations as my friend and not my enemy ……and that has helped me to have a lighter life”.  Spot. on.
I’ll post my  adventures in Las Vegas and New York shortly.
It’s good to be back. 

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Riding and Reflection in Mexico - Final Part!

It was our final Thursday and we had a horse riding trip in the Sierra Madre Mountains. As I said before I'm not that keen on anything equine. Horses are far too highly strung for my liking. I do sort of admire horses from a distance but I thought that this may be a good way to explore the area in a different way and plus Natalie wanted to do it.  I've ridden an elephant bareback with no trouble but they aren't precious like horses seem to be.   So there we were, ready to get our taxi and in we jump and see angry taxi driver. See Mexico blog Part 1. Oh joy. We were meeting at a library in Puerto Vallerta to be picked up and guess what? He didn't know where it was! Fun. Fun. He also didn't have any change so this massively irritated him and no-one we asked did either! We left it that we would pay the concierge the money at the hotel and leave it for him. All very awkward

As we arrived we saw a lady in a filthy, dirty truck who arrived to pick us up. She was actually American and had lived there for 49 years. The population was 30,000k when she came to Vallarta and now there is over 200k. It was a little uncomfortable as she didn't really speak. A quiet American who would have thunk it ;)  We drove over very, bumpy cobbled roads with chickens running alongside us at times and dogs curled up sleeping along the road. We passed tiny schools with dusty playgrounds and run down houses. This was certainly a lot different to the shiny, touristy part we were staying in.

We arrived at the ranch and I mentioned for about the 8th time I hadn't ridden before  just in case they didn't realise. I was assigned a horse which they said was gentle and called Conferry. Natalie was assigned a much more feisty horse called Comander.

We started out with our guide who spoke as much English as I do Spanish. None. Bearing in mind I've never been on a horse the first thing we did wade through a river and climb a really steep mountain and I mean really steep!  The horse was slipping and sliding as I was holding on for dear life. We got to the top and admired the views of the mountain and countryside on one side and the view of Vallarta on the other.

I think I preferred the steep climb to the going down as it was all a bit hairy oh and did I mention that there was no safely equipment? My horse dropped back and Natalie's being a feisty mare (a good pairing I thought) went ahead and kept randomly trotting as I think he was getting bored with our pace. We then came down and walked  off into the countryside which was really pretty and alongside a stream with so many butterflies of all different colours floating by. The horses stopped and drank as we were crossing the stream and we passed by a couple of black iguanas who stared at us as we went by. 

We stopped off for a break by a particularly scenic part of the stream and clambered off our horses. I walked like I was bow legged until I could feel my thighs and knees properly again. We had a quick explore and Natalie managed to get herself bitten by some kind of bitey ant.  She's normally putting her hands in places she shouldn't be. Make of that what you will.

My horse was a little slow even for me and I don't know if it was our guide making noises or not but it started randomly trotting on the way back. Did I mention this was my first time on a horse? Anyway, that was like bashing my thighs against some hard rock and I struggled to understand how someone would actually choose to do that for fun!  Conferry also liked to randomly stop and start munching on food whilst the others raced on ahead. It took some time to move her on. I remember my elephant in Thailand did this too. For some reason I seem to induce eating in animals. I did however survive and made it back to the ranch which I was very happy about.

We had booked a 3 hour horse ride and were lucky that it was only us booked onto it so it was our own personal trip. I enjoyed seeing a different side to Vallarta and the pretty countryside. I think I did quite well for my first little expedition. I gave my horse a kiss on her nose goodbye so I guess I'm not as worried by horses anymore although in truth,  I still prefer elephants.

We then took a bus into Puerto Vallerta for lunch and one last look around and to get a few more souvenirs. Namely t shirts for me (I may have a slight addiction) and we found a great little shop where we got some great ones with sugar skulls on. The heat finally got too much for us (well I say us but by "us" I mean Natalie).  She becomes like an irritable toddler once she overheats so I had to take her back but with me ,managing to buy one more T shirt before she almost gave up in the heat entirely.

We woke up on our final day determined to top our tan up. We found a lounger and relaxed and I started my 4th book of the trip. We then found ourselves in what I termed as Umbrella Wars. There was an old lady who lived in the condos that are part of the hotel complex. I noticed her as she liked to sunbath in long trousers and trainers. She put her towels on her sun-lounger and then wandered around to chat to people. Some Americans came up and threw her stuff off and decided she hadn't been back for a while so took her spot. If they thought she was going to be a pushover they were wrong! She called numerous security over and stood her ground and finally made the disgruntled people move. She sat protectively on her lounger for a good while after that.  Drama at the All Inclusive

We sunbathed for the rest of the day and got extremely hot. As much as I love the sun I'm not great at sitting in it for hours. We both looked distinctly red when we sat down to our final Mexican night. I finally played with my Go Pro in the pool. I had ideas of taking pictures of me underwater looking like a floaty, mermaid but the reality was not quite as anticipated. My hair was all over my face and my face was scrunched up as I hate going underwater. Here is my best attempt. It was fun though and I'll definitely be using it again.

Gurning - Not quite the look I was going for!
We decided to go back to our room and order some champagne. We relaxed in our jacuzzi on our balcony and took in the last moments of our holiday. It had certainly been a lot of fun.

Being away had been good for me and for us.  We had arrived in Mexico bogged down with some pretty, terrible realisations about someone close to me. Being away gave me some peace, clarity and time to reflect.  I loved Mexico more than I thought and returned a much happier person and without the shackles I arrived with.  We saw Humpback whales, baby turtles and beautiful pacific sunsets. We zip lined over rainforest and rode into the Mexican countryside, we tried delicious street food and lazed by the ocean. How can you fail to love life no matter what challenges it throws at you?  I can't wait to return.


Sunday, 13 March 2016

Ziplining, Delhi Belly and Shameful Eating Habits in Mexico - Part 5

Monday arrived and we were supposed to go zip lining but my stomach was not feeling good so we decided to move it to the next day.  For some crazy reason we decided that it would be a good idea to drink vodka cocktails and chat to Canadians instead.  The lady we talked to was really quirky and interesting and it turned out her ancestors were from the Isle of Wight.  Anyway, I used to think I was allergic to vodka and then I decided I wasn't but it turns out I still am, so my evening was about as pretty as you can imagine.  

We got up on Tuesday ready for zip lining and not only did I have a dodgy stomach but also no stomach lining. Joy.  Whilst we were in the lobby waiting for a taxi we were asked if we were English or Scottish, because it obviously sounds so similar. Our accents continued to be a fascination, if a little confusing for some people!  We got our lift to the rainforest and to Canopy River, my stomach held up on our way there, which was a relief. We arrived and were put into our safety gear. I was told I had a small head and a small waist so one out of two wasn't bad.  Whilst booking zip lining I don't think it occurred to me just how high over the rainforest it may be. It turned out to be, well, very high. 

The zip lines were up in the rainforest and most were over a rocky river. I was a little nervous but they hooked you on pretty quickly so you didn't have a lot of time to worry about it.  Luckily for us there were only 4 people to take turns with as they said they can have up to 20. 

We got into it pretty quickly and I really enjoyed swinging high over the trees and the river and tried to look down as much as I could. We had to climb higher and higher for each one and at one point we got to see a black iguana high up in a tree.

Geraldo, our safety expert turned out to be a bit of a dare devil and he went ahead on each line. On one zip line he was swinging upside down at a fast rate of knots. He asked if anyone else wanted to do it and Natalie kindly volunteered me. I said no but Geraldo however, seemed disappointed and kept asking me to do it, so on the next one he managed to persuade me. It was my last chance to do it so not one for wanting to refuse a challenge I found myself going backwards whilst Geraldo held onto me and told me to turn upside down. I did it and there are a few pictures although I'm not sure they are very graceful. 

Ta da!

I was pleased I did it but I can't say that hanging upside down over a massive chasm was ever on my bucket list Never let it said I'm one for turning down a challenge, even with a hangover.

We had to ride some Mules back up to the top which was very steep. I got on a feisty looking one which just took off as soon as I got on it. I'm a big animal lover but I've always been slightly nervous of horse like creatures and have never been on one before. Mine seemed to know where he was going and without being told so I didn't need to worry about him just taking off.  

Like a pro!

We enjoyed the zip lining and went to have something to eat whilst watching huge birds (maybe condors) hovering on the wind currents above the rainforest. We had a late lunch, bought some bits and pieces and then took our ride home, stomach intact

I Slept like a log that night and had the best nights sleep of our holiday. We wanted to go into Vallarta for the evening so spent the morning around the pool and got the bus into Vallarta later in the evening. We had a mooch around the shops and waited for the sun to set. This particular area seems to have beautiful sunsets and we watched it go down over the Pacific Ocean. 

Natalie wanted to eat off some of the street food stands for her dinner but I abstained due to the sensitive nature of my stomach. Ok, I'm ashamed to say that may have gone to McDonald's and had some medium fries (I did). All of that beautiful food but my stomach just wanted some plain food.  My stomach is always dodgy wherever I go and annoyingly shit after the first week. I've got a whole catalogue of countries I've been ill in in and my preference is often major cities, Paris, New York, Bangkok. I'm a sensitive little soul.   Interestingly the McDonald's had a chimichanga sauce along with salsa verde and jalapeƱos. See, it's quite interesting seeing how different they are. One could say I went in for research purposes (I didn't). We walked along the Malacon again and it was so much nicer  with the breeze of the coast. 
Such a beautiful place - how I miss it!
We discovered a huge part of the old town we had somehow missed and was really atmospheric with lots of restaurants, markets and galleries. This was also gay town Olas Atlas - Top Tip - Go there! We hunted out a lesbian owned bar but it was sadly too busy to go in. Natalie eventually found some shrimp tacos she wanted to eat and we carried on walking around. We passed some fisherman with their catch and took some pictures of some little Mexican children on the market continually saying good bye to us (don't think it was personal) 

Vallarta is a really cool place to go at night and I highly recommend it. I wish we had more time to spend there.  I probably went back to McDonalds and had a fillet of fish on the way back. Sorry, not sorry.

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