January 25, 2012

Alaska Here We Come!

So I know I said I was going to finally finish posting all of my Australia things, but I just realized in exactly four months me, my parents, and my sister K will be visiting Juneau, Alaska! My younger sister, M, decided to do a year of service in Juneau after she finished college last year. No one was more surprised than me, but I was determined to visit her while she was there. Until M moved there when I thought of Alaska two things popped into my mind, the children's book Julie of the Wolves and Sarah Palin. Now I hear all about glaciers, the Tlingit and Haida Native Alaska people, marine highways which are really just channels of water since they have no real high ways, and the permanent fund divided. The permanent fund is a huge investment of oil revenues in a variety of stocks and bonds. Around October of every year, the interest earned from the fund pays each resident anywhere between one and two thousand dollars, depending on how the market does. So yes, they actually pay people to live in Alaska! M had to explain this one to our family a few times when she was home for Christmas for us to understand it... Her pictures (including the one at the top of this post) are breathtaking and I cannot wait to see Alaska firsthand. 

So where is Juneau? When I found out M was moving there the first thing I did was google it. Apparently the rest of my family did not, because a week after she left I showed them this map. I tried to explain to them that she was basically in Canada, and far away from the tundra. Juneau is on a peninsula in Southeast Alaska, bordering British Columbia. Because it is so far south on Juneau's longest day, June 21, they have 18 hours and 18 minutes of sunlight and on the shortest day in December, they have 6 hours and 21 minutes of daylight. I think everyone was envisioning about three hours of sunlight during the winter...
    Juneau is 600 air miles from Anchorage and 900 miles from Seattle. M actually lives on Douglas Island, across the channel from Juneau. Juneau was founded as a gold-mining camp in 1880. It became Alaska's territorial capital in 1900, and the Alaska state capital in 1959 upon statehood. There's no highway access to rest of Alaska or to Canadian provinces. It is the home of University of Alaska Southeast (you might recognize it from the Twilight books...) Here are some of Juneau's top attractions I hope we will be able to visit:

    • Mendenhall Glacier
      • North America's fifth largest icefield sits in Juneau's backyard, stretching across a 1,500-square-mile area that straddles the boundary between Alaska and Canada. The Mendenhall Glacier is a tongue of ice stretching 12 miles from the Juneau Icefield to Mendenhall Lake. At its widest point, the glacier is more than a half mile wide, with ice 300 to 1,800 feet deep. It is one of 38 large and more than 100 smaller valley glaciers in the Juneau Icefield. The larger Taku, Eagle, and Herbert Glaciers are also nearby.

      • Admiralty Island National Monument
        • Embracing nearly a million acres of old growth rainforest, alpine tundra, and rugged coastline, Admiralty Island National Monument and the Kootznoowoo Wilderness offer unrivaled opportunities for solitude and primitive recreation in Southeast Alaska. It is also popular for bear viewing.
      • Mt. Roberts Tram
        • The Mount Roberts Tramway climbs from 27 to 2000 feet bringing you into a pristine alpine environment in just six minutes.  At the top you will find trails, an  observatory, nature center, restaurant, bar, theater and two gift shops.
      • Zipline Tours 
        • Zipping over a hundred feet above the majestic, rugged beauty of Juneau's mountains, glaciers and waterways. Juneau's two tree-top zipline tours give a true bird's-eye view of the Tongass rainforest. On these eco-adventures or "canopy tours," expert guides zip with you from platform to platform amid the towering trees.

        • Alaskan Brewery and Bottling Company
          • Alaska has a rich history of brewing. From the explorers of the 1700s through the Gold Rush, many a thirsty Alaskan has been able to enjoy locally made beers.  This brewery offers free tours and beer tasting.
          • Tracy's Arm Fjord
            • Tracy Arm, a classic fjord, has it all-  tidewater and elevated glaciers, breathtaking mountains and sheer rock walls that reach up over a mile high with waterfalls that tumble down to the emerald green water, and Alaska's largest icebergs.                      

          I am very excited to see my sister; it has been weird imagining her daily life in Alaska. She put up a picture of her room on Facebook the other day, and I had no idea which bed was hers. I didn't recognize any of her stuff! And of course I am excited to visit a new place (and state). Visiting new places is absolutely one of my favorite things to do!


          January 23, 2012

          Better Late Than Never -- My Adventures Down Under

          Whitehaven Beach, The Whitsundays
                   While traveling in Australia last summer I was busy having the time of my life, and taking advantage of all of the cool things there was to see and do. Updating this blog got put on the back burner. I barely had time to jot down notes in my travel journal between skydiving, sailing the Whitsunday Islands, shooting clay pigeons in the Outback, snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef and feeding wild dolphins. I had the best intentions in the world of updating this blog about my entire trip when I returned back to Chicago.
                   However, the morning after I returned home I found out that one of my thirteen year old students, Darius Brown, was gunned down while playing basketball at a Chicago City park in broad daylight. What happened to Darius is an unspeakable tragedy, and I had a very difficult time dealing with it. Darius's death was the first time that gang violence personally touched my life. Needless to say I was in no mood to write about my trip. 
                   Once I went back to work and night classes started my life got extremely hectic. Updating the blog never happened. However, now I have some free time and I am determined to document the trip so I can look back at it and have a  record of my adventures. Maybe some of you who come across this blog will plan a trip to Australia in the future. It is an insanely gorgeous and unique country. Even though Australia is on the other side of the world, and not the easiest place to travel to, it is definitely worth visiting! 
                   Also, I absolutely love talking about Australia. I'm pretty sure my friends and family are sick of hearing about it by now. I try not to talk their ears off, but I do not always succeed. If you want more info about oz, are planning a trip there, or are just curious feel free to contact me even if we don't know each other well or at all. I will be putting only a small amount of pictures from my trip on this blog, if you are planning a trip to Australia or just want to see more pictures of this beautiful continent feel free to look at my albums:

          Look for posts detailing the different places I visited over the next week!


          July 16, 2011

          Picture Preview

          Since I am too busy enjoying Australia and cannot take the time to write posts about everything I am doing here are some photos from some of the places I have visited so far.

          This is the view of the Opera House from my hotel room. Doesn't it look like a framed picture?

          Sydney Harbour is absolutely gorgeous! I took this picture from across the bay at the Taronga Zoo.

          Bondi Beach had a winter festival going on so people were ice skating on the beach in 65 degree weather. It was hilarious because there were some people like me in bathing suits in the water and some people in boots, jackets and scarves walking on the beach.

          The Sydney Opera House was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site on June 28, 2007. It is one of the 20th century's most distinctive buildings and one of the most famous performing arts centres in the world.  It was conceived and largely built by Danish architect Jørn Utzon, finally opening in 1973 after a long gestation starting with his competition-winning design in 1957. I went on a one hour Sydney Opera House tourthat I had a 20% off coupon for. It was very informative and we got to go into several of the performance spaces as well as walk inside and outside the building.

          Tiles on the roof of one of the 'sails'
          It feels like you are in a boat in this part of the Opera House.

          Inside one of the lobbies
          The Royal Botanic Gardens were founded by Governor Macquarie in 1816 as part of the Governor’s Domain. Australia's long history of collection and study of plants. The Botanic Gardens is thus the oldest scientific institution in Australia and, from the earliest days, has played a major role in the acclimatisation of plants from other regions

          The Royal Botanic Gardens are home to a colony of over 22,000 Grey-headed Flying Foxes, a large species of fruitbat. The management of the Gardens holds the bats responsible for killing dozens of trees and, in May 2010, received approval for a plan to move the colony elsewhere.

          The biggest bat I have ever seen!
          They are seriously everywhere.


          July 14, 2011

          My First Few Days Down Under

          I left Chicago's O'Hare airport on Tuesday July 7th at 5:45pm, flew four hours to LAX and then 15 and a half hours to Sydney. I arrived at 6:10am Sydney time on Thursday July 7th. The flights were actually easier than I anticipated. I slept the first six hours and since there was no one in the middle seat next to me I could spread out a little. However, United Airline's lack of seatback TV's (and the fact that I could not see the TV's in the aisle) meant I couldn't really watch any of the movies they played during the flight. Food on the plane consisted of a cold chicken sandwich for dinner and a choice of pancakes or eggs in the morning. It was very bad, but I guess with the airline cutbacks decent food was one of the first things to go. Although, for $1600 I expected a bag of peanuts...

          I met my airport shuttle I had booked last week and they took me conveniently right to my hotel. I arrived at my hotel, Holiday Inn Old Sydney, in the historic Rocks neighborhood at 7:45am. Needless to say my room was not ready. They gave me a key to the rooftop pool/spa area so I could take a shower. I felt much better appearing in public after that. I signed on the hotel's internet ($5 per hour) to let my parents know that I was alive and around 9am they let me into my room. The lady at the desk said it had a view (most likely due to my dad's priority club platinum status) and the view was gorgeous. The window in my room framed the Opera House and I could see the whole harbor. It was such a beautiful day out, I decided to skip the nap I had planned and go explore. I stopped at the visitor's center and picked up about 100 brochures and explored the cobblestone streets of the Rocks, Sydney's oldest area. I made it to about 12 and then the jet lag hit me hard. I got dizzy and super tired so I headed back to my hotel for a nap. That nap ended up lasting nine hours and I woke up at 9pm Sydney time. At first I was mad about missing the whole day, but I realize that my body cannot just skip a day and go on like usual. I tried to find some Australian television shows to watch but I only came across the Simpsons, Desperate Housewives and V. So I watched the news. Every news station was showing outraged citizens arguing over the ban that the government had just lifted on trading livestock with Malaysia. It took me awhile to figure out that this is because Australians think that in Malaysia they do not kill the livestock in humane ways.

          On my second day in Sydney I woke up bright and early and walked about a mile to a free tour. Sydney is an exceptionally easy city to find your way around. On the way to the tour I stopped and bought a prepaid mobile phone. It cost me $20 for the phone and $30 to charge it with minutes. The international plan is only 8 cents per minute to call the states. It is much more convenient than trying to deal with roaming charges on my phone from home. The free tour ended up being 3 hours long and covering most of Sydney. I highly recommend it if you ever visit Sydney. It was started by a University student and his girlfriend, both native Sydneysiders. It really gave me a overview of what there is to do in Sydney so I could plan out my days. I have done so much and met so many people in the week that I have been here it is hard to know where to start.

          I am having a fabulous time! I'll list a few here and I'll try to keep updating the next few days before I leave Sydney on my tour up the coast. On my plane to LA I met a seventeen year old boxer named Javier. He had just finished fighting in the Olympic qualifiers and had lost, but was very entertaining. I met Catie on my shuttle ride from the airport she is from England doing a gap year before she starts university at Edinburgh. She had just finished travelling around Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand for the last three months. On the free tour I met Christophe, who is from France but has been living in San Francisco for the last seven years. We booked a Harbor Cruise together. It really is easy to meet people when you are travelling by yourself. Look back in a few days for my posts about my first hostel experience, Taronga Zoo, Watson's Bay, Manly, The Botanical Gardens, Sydney Opera House tour and Bondi Beach.



          June 8, 2011

          Australia Accomodation

          After months of researching and reading reviews online I finally booked the places I am staying in Australia. If you are looking for a place to stay in an unfamiliar location I recommend searching on tripadvisor. There were hundreds of details reviews and a very helpful 5 star rating.

          When I arrive in Sydney on July 7th I will be spending two nights at the Holiday Inn Old Sydney in the historic The Rocks neighborhood close to the airport as well as Sydney Harbor. The main reason I am staying in a hotel at the beginning of my journey is to try to get some sleep. On my last trip to Australia I realized that the jet lag after traveling for 24 hours and with a time difference of 16 hours is so much worse than I ever imagined. It took me almost a week when I arrived in Australia to feel normal, and about two weeks when I returned home.

          The next three nights I am staying at the Blue Parrot Backpackers a family owned hostel in cosmopolitan Potts Point; the chic and glamorous part of inner Sydney. It was voted the #1 Hostel in Australia by hostelword.com in March 2011, and has received numerous other awards. I hope it will live up to its amazing reviews and awards. This will be my first foray into hostel living. I am staying in a 10 person female only dorm. This should be very interesting, but I have read up on hostel etiquette so hopefully my stay there will go smoothly. I found this great blog post covering the basics: Hostel Etiquette.

          July 12th and 13th I will be leaving behind the city and traveling the to the picturesque Blue Mountains region. I will be staying at the Katoomba Blue Mountains YHA Hostel. Katoomba is the adventure capital of New South Wales. The hostel is Housed in a beautifully restored National Trust building,  is close to breathtaking scenic lookouts, and local cafes and pubs. Winner of 2005 Best Backpacker Accommodation at the Australian Tourism Awards. 

          On my return to Sydney I decided to stay in a more central location and chose the Wake Up Sydney Central Hostel. The heritage-listed building is located at the corner of “the block”, the triangular backpacker ghetto of Sydney bordered by Pitt, George and Barlow streets. If you don’t know already, “the block” is where about 3000 of the hostel beds of Sydney are located. That means up to 3000 travelers on one block in Sydney on any one night of the year. It is a typical large hostel with a bar/nightclub on the bottom floor. However, it is only a year old, has many modern amenities and mostly positive reviews so I decided to give it a try. Most importantly it is located only a half a mile from the hotel that my tour is departing from on the 17th.

          My tour ends in the city of Cairns on July 31st and I will be staying at the Holiday Inn Cairns with stunning coral sea views. The hotel is also blocks from Cairns downtown area. I am looking forward to the luxury of staying here for a night before I fly back to Sydney for a few days before I fly home. 

          My last night in Sydney I will be staying at the Holiday Inn Sydney Airport hotel. It has easy access to Sydney International Airport terminals and Sydney city centre. This is important so A. I do not miss my (very expensive) flight home and B. so I do not have to sit in a boring hotel room on my last night in Sydney. I plan on doing something or going somewhere memorable... and hopefully I do not succumb to a nap at the end of my trip. I will just have to keep reminding myself that I have 22 hours of flight time in which to nap.

          This trip is staring to feel real. So excited!


          June 3, 2011

          Friday Travel Photos

          There are so many places I want to visit that I decided to do mini posts on Fridays about places I have been and loved, as well as many destinations I hope to make it to in the future.

          Rosmuc, County Galway, Ireland 

           I took this picture on a vacation to Ireland when I was seventeen. It is an extremely gorgeous part of Ireland that also has a very special meaning to me. My grandmother grew up on this 'farm' by the ocean and our family still lives there today. Ireland is the first international place I remember traveling to. My sister, mamo (Gaelic for grandmother) and I spent a month here when I was ten. Coming from the big city of Chicago to rural Ireland is an experience I will never forget. We stayed in the thatch cottage that my grandmother and her siblings grew up in, however now it has several very important improvements: a real roof, a bathroom, a refrigerator and a telephone...

          Rosmuc is a village in the heart of the Conamara Gaeltacht of County Galway. It lies halfway between the town of Clifden and the city of Galway. Irish is the predominantly spoken language. The District Electoral Division of Turlough, Rosmuc, state that Rosmuc is the most strongly Irish-speaking area in the country. According to an analysis of the census a total of 91.9% of adults over nineteen years old said they spoke Irish on a daily basis. The population of Rosmuc is estimated to be around five hundred people.

          Charleston, South Carolina

          I took this picture on a Spring Break trip to South Carolina in 2009. I fell in love with Charleston. It has gorgeous beaches, beautiful weather and a historic feel. This picture was taken at the Boone Hall Plantation where part of the movie The Notebook was filmed. 

          Charleston is located near the middle of South Carolina's coast at the point where the Ashley and Cooper Rivers meet to form the Atlantic Ocean. In 1670 it was settled as its original name Charles Towne. Charleston is well-known for its unique culture, which blends traditional southern American, English, French, and West African elements. There are many amazing things that draw visitors to Charleston. The city is a mecca for art and architectural students with its hundreds of galleries and unique well preserved architecture. Also, Charleston has a long and important history and is home to a myriad of museums and historical sites. Of course the balmy weather, constant sunshine and pristine beaches are also the main reasons people travel to Charleston.


          May 31, 2011

          My Visit To The Lone Star State

          Over Spring Break I visited my friend D who lives in Houston, Texas. I spent a long weekend there and had a spectacular time. On Thursday I spent the morning laying out by the pool in the 80 degree weather (Chicago was 55 and raining). I really need to move to a city in which you can go to the pool ten months per year... In the afternoon I went shopping at #1 in the photo collage below, The Houston Galleria . It is widely recognized as the number one shopping and tourist destination in Houston. It has stunning architecture, a huge selection of stores including Neiman Marcus, Gucci, Macy's, Tiffany & Co., Saks Fifth Avenue, Express, Ralph Lauren Collection, Louis Vuitton and Nordstrom. And it even has an ice skating rink! I sat on a bench overlooking the rink and watched little girls take ice skating lessons for a few minutes. The only other mall I have seen with an ice skating rink was in Australia. The Galleria attracts over 24 million annual visitors. That night for dinner we went to #2 Niko Niko's, an authentic but affordable Greek food restaurant. It has wonderful Greek food in a very causal atmosphere. We ate outside on the patio. This place was very busy, I could tell it was a local favorite. I had a chicken kebob sandwich which was served in warm pita with creamy tzatziki sauce. Yum. As a side I had herb french fries, which were honestly to die for. I definitely recommend Niko Niko's if you ever find yourself in Houston, Texas.

          As most people are, I was curious about what Texan/country music bars were like. So D took me to #3 Rebels Honky Tonk. It definitely had the cowboy feel with many people dressed in jeans and boots, a mechanical bull and line dancing. I didn't know what two-stepping was, but it is definitely fun to watch. My personal favorite moment was when D's dancing partner tucked her clutch into the back of his pants, and put his beer in his back pocket in order to swing her around the dance floor. I also saw a guy put his dance partner's purse around his neck! These guys were definitely serious about their dancing, and I had a great Texas time. On my last morning in Houston we went to #4 Tacos A Go-Go for breakfast. It had funky decor and amazing breakfast tacos. 

          On Friday during the day I went to work with D who is a 4th grade teacher. Hanging out with 4th graders all day made me miss my own students. I had a great time helping the students write research questions about places near Washington D.C. Some of the places were the Arlington National Cemetery, the Vietnam War Memorial and the Smithsonian. These lucky kids are going on a trip to D.C., so cool! After work we took a road trip to Austin, Texas about three hours away from Houston. With more live music performances per capita than anywhere else, Austin is known as the “Live music capital of the world”. Austin was so much fun. The city is very spread out and almost rural, with lots of boutiques and non chain restaurants. It reminded me a little bit of Madison, WI. On our way to our hotel we stopped to eat at #1 Eastside Cafe, a restaurant that has its own organic vegetable garden. It is located in the interior of an old house, each room holds several tables which gives the space a cozy and intimate ambiance. Instead of a break basket they served mini cornbread jalapeno muffins. I was a bit skeptical at first, but they were amazing!That night we went out on 6th Street, #2 on the collage below.. Traffic is blocked for seven blocks on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings to allow the crowds to walk unhindered to the many venues that line the street. It reminded me of Bourbon street with people everywhere in the street going from bar to bar. Sixth Street (formerly known as Pecan Street) is lined with many historical houses and commercial buildings dating from the late 1800's and early 1900's. The storied old buildings now house numerous bars, a host of live entertainment venues, tattoo parlors, art galleries, casual cafes, upscale restaurants, and the elegant Driskill Hotel. Sixth Street is Austin's entertainment area with bars such as Aquarium, Library, Maggie May's, Chuggin' Monkey's, the Jackalope and Mugshots. If you visit Austin you have to spend a night out on Sixth Street, you won't regret it! 

          On Saturday morning we hiked up to the top of Mt. Bonnell, #3. It has been a popular tourist destination since the 1850s. The mount provides a vista for viewing the city of Austin, the Lake Austin portion of the Colorado River, and the surrounding hills. It was designated a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark in 1969. The view from the top of Mt. Bonnell was very scenic and worth the climb, we also took some gorgeous pictures. #5 Downtown is home to some of Austin's most unique, unusual, eclectic, independent retail businesses. There are more than 300 retailers in the Downtown area. Whether you are looking to outfit yourself, decorate your home, or give a loved one a unique and thoughtful gift, shopping in and around downtown at one of the many stores and boutiques can provide you with a great experience. We spent a few hours shopping at the boutiques, but we could have spent all day. Adorable, unique stores line the street one after another, you won't be able to stop yourself from stopping in as many as you can. 

          #4 The next time you are in Texas Grab your cooler of beer and your sunblock, and rent a tube and float down the Guadalupe or Comal rivers. Don't forget to get a tube for your cooler too! This was hands down my favorite thing I did in Texas. You drive to one of the tubing companies and rent an inner tube, a cooler, and of course a tube for the cooler to float in. Next, you tie yourself and your companions to the tube that has the cooler on it. After that you float down the river basking in the sun and drinking some cold beer from your cooler. It takes 2-3 hours to get to the end, and you go over a few small rapids (where you almost, but not quite flip over). Then you get on the bus at the end and it takes you back to your car. I had so much fun floating the river. We saw a few bachelor/bachelorette parties, made up an awesome drinking game and met some incredibly interesting people... It was a unique experience that I would definitely try again.


           Have you ever been to Texas? What fun things did you do?


          May 27, 2011

          My Great Australian Adventure

          Ever since I learned about Australia in a grade school social studies class I have been hooked. I am fascinated by this unique island continent. It is home to the Great Barrier Reef, a famous natural wonder, the vast and rugged Outback, enchanting Uluru (Ayer's Rock), kangaroos and miles and miles of breathtakingly beautiful coastline. I have an obsession with oceans, of any kind. Perhaps this is why I felt and still do feel compelled to visit this exotic country in the Southern Hemisphere. My first trip to Australia was in July of 2007, the summer after my Sophomore year of college.
          Surf Camp
          I was traveling there for a study abroad Semester at Macquarie University just outside Sydney. My semester got off to a great start with a surfing trip up the coast with other study abroad students from all over the world. A month into my time in Australia I injured my rotator cuff playing softball, and sadly had to return home. Since I assumed I had seven months to spend in Australia, I did not even do all of the things I wanted in Sydney, let alone the rest of Australia. I feel like I was given one night of an amazing ice cream cone, while the rest of ripped out of my hand. That little taste of Australia has made me eager to return, and finally this summer I will be able to go back to Australia.

          My Kangaroo Buddy
          I will be taking a 20 day solo backpacking trip to Australia, departing July 5th and returning August 3rd. One of my biggest regrets is that I did not get to finish out my study abroad semester, so I figured I might as well travel while I am young or I might not get the opportunity to go. Fortunately for me I work at a school and have two months off for summer vacation, unfortunately not very many other people can take off work for a month to come with me. So solo travel it is... For the first two weeks I will be Staying in hostels in Sydney and spending two nights in the Blue Mountains, a UNESCO World Heritage Area about an hour outside of Sydney. The Blue Mountains are on the top of my list of places I was going to go when I was in Australia in 2007. On July 17th I am going on a tour of the East Coast of Australia through the company Ozxposure for 15 days. This tour company specializes in small group tours with 14 to 25 people, with many solo travelers. I decided to give it a shot, even though traveling for over two weeks with people I do not know is pretty daunting. Their slogan is 'One van. One leader. Many adventures!' I am hoping to meet some interesting people on this tour, as well as see some amazing Australian places. 

          (http://www.letstrekaustralia.com/tours/EDX.html) <~~~ Eastern Dream Tour

          Tour Route

          The tour starts in Sydney, we then head up the east coast to surf camp for a few days, the next day we arrive and spend the night in picturesque Byron Bay. Next, we cross the border into the state of Queensland and visit Steve Irwin's famous Australian Zoo (very excited for this!). Day 4, 5 & 6 are spent at Rainbow Beach and exploring the unique  Fraser Island ,a World Heritage site as well as the largest sand island in the world.Days 7 & 8 we head to the outback and stay on a working cattle station, where our meals are cooked over an open fire and we get to partake in a goat rodeo. Next, we head to the coast and Airlie Beach. Here we board our private chartered yacht for a 2 Day/2 Night Whitsunday sailing experience. The Whitsunday Islands are a collection of continental islands of various sizes off the tropical coast of Queensland, and in the midst of the great barrier reef. Days 12, 13 & 14 we head to Mission Beach and then to Cape Tribulation and the rainforest before heading back down to the city of Cairns. Day 15 we  board our sailing yacht  for a full day exploring the Outer Barrier Reef. I will then spend two more nights in Cairns before I fly back to Sydney and the following day return home. I am very excited for my trip, and will keep updating with posts about how I am going to pack for 30 days in a suitcase that cannot exceed 33 lbs, what I am going to do with my time since I discovered that my 18 hour flight from LA to Sydney does not have personal T.V.'s like the last one I took, and how I picked which hostels out of the hundreds Sydney, Katoomba and Cairns that I am going to stay at. As well as the intersting wish list/ packing list I have come up with. I am pretty sure over half of it is not going to fit...

          Great Barrier Reef

          Has anyone visited Australia? Wants to visit Australia?

          May 9, 2011

          The Magical City of Petra, Jordan

          I have been always been intrigued by the city of Petra in Jordan since I saw a documentary on the travel channel about it when I was fourteen. Petra is the treasure of ancient world, hidden behind an almost impenetrable barrier of rugged mountains, boasting incomparable scenes that make it the most majestic and imposing ancient site still-standing in modern times. Petra is half-built, half-carved into the rock, and is surrounded by mountains riddled with passages and gorges. It is one of the world's most famous archaeological sites, a place where ancient Eastern traditions blend with Hellenistic architecture. It looks like nothing I have ever seen before. I sincerely hope to visit Petra at some point in my life. Traveling in the Middle East at this point in time for Americans, especially American women is tricky at best and perilous at worst. However, I am hoping that someday I will have the opportunity and feel safe enough to make this journey, as well as to visit Egypt, a place on the top of my traveling bucket list.

          Petra was first established sometime around the 6th century BC, by the Nabataean Arabs, a nomadic tribe who settled in the area and laid the foundations of a commercial empire that extended into Syria. Motorized vehicles are not allowed to enter the site. Once inside the site, you can hire a donkey, or for the more
          adventurous, a camel ( I would SO go for the camel, I have always wanted to ride one... and an elephant). Both come with handlers and take designated routes throughout the site. Entrance to the city is through the Siq, a narrow gorge, over 1km in length, which is flanked on either side by soaring, 80m high cliffs. The Petra basin boasts over 800 individual monuments, including buildings, tombs, baths, funerary halls, temples, arched gateways, and colonnaded streets, that were mostly carved from the kaleidoscopic sandstone by the technical and artistic genius of its inhabitants. Petra has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985, and was designated as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007. You may have seen Petra in the city's Hollywood debut in the 1989 “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” movie starring Harrison Ford.

          Have you ever heard of the city of Petra? Would you visit if you had the opportunity?



          April 21, 2011

          Happy 50th Birthday!

          Happy 50th birthday to my wonderful mother. I sincerely hope I  inherit her skin, because she still looks wonderful and she is definitely fabulous at 50. A half century ago things were very different. President John F. Kennedy had just been inaugurated, the Space Race had begun, the United States is in the midst of  the Civil Rights Movement and Elvis, The Shirelles and Ray Charles were at the top of the music charts.

          Here is a snapshot of life in 1961:
          • Cost of a gallon of Gas was 27 cents
          • Average yearly income: $5,735
          • Cost of a new home: $12,500
          • Cost of a new car: $2,850
          • Federal hourly minimum wage: $1.15
          • Life expectancy: 70.2 years
          • The Chicago Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup
          • Pampers, the first disposable diaper, are introduced
          • Barbie gets a boyfriend when the Ken doll is introduced
          • Ray Kroc buys out the McDonald brothers and takes control over the hamburger chain
          • The last episode of I Love Lucy is aired
          • FM stereo is introduced
          • Soviet Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin makes the first manned space flight
          • Navy Cmdr. Alan B. Shepard, Jr. becomes the first United States man in space
          • U.S. breaks diplomatic relations with Cuba
          • Fidel Castro declares Cuba is to adopt Communism and bans free elections
          • "Freedom Riders" test the United States Supreme Court decision Boynton v. Virginia by riding racially integrated interstate buses into the South. Some are attacked and beaten by white supremacist supporters of racial segregation.
          • Construction of the Berlin Wall begins.