Arches, Canyons, and Windows: A Day Crossing Utah

Over the last three days we’ve seen sun, rain, snow, and hail. We’ve driven through mountains, fields, cities, and deserts. On day three we went from Salt Lake City, Utah to Cortez, Colorado. As we drove the mountains surrounding Salt Lake City gave way to red rock canyons and soon we were on our way towards Arches National Park.

On our way to Arches we stopped in Helper, Utah for some gas and to visit an antiques store. My mom found what she wanted, a license plate from Utah, and the man who was at the cash register gave me a old coke bottle that said Salt Lake City on the bottom. After the quick pit stop we were back on our way.

About an hour later the scenery had morphed into beautiful red cliffs and soon we were approaching Arches National Park. Driving up to the massive red wall is intimidating. We were driving narrow roads, climbing and climbing, watching the red ground go on for miles. At the top of the mountain you can pull off and go for hikes though the park. Unfortunately  we didn’t have time for this but we did stop at Park Avenue to walk down the stairs for a look inside a canyon. The tall rocks towered over us. The name fit well. It was the same feeling as in New York. The tall buildings, or rocks, seeming to touch the sky.

After heading up the stairs we made a few other stops at Balanced Rock and on to North and South Window. The loop at North and South Window is worth the drive. You drive by formations that seem to take different shapes each time you look at them. George walked down the path to North and South Window while I stayed and looked around the other side. The park was closing and it was getting dark pretty quickly so we headed back out of the park and on to Moab.

In Moab we grabbed dinner and continued our drive. With the threat of night looming we wanted to get into Colorado before it was too dark. Driving into Colorado was a stark change from the hilly red rocks. It was green, lush, and flat. As we drove the sun set behind us creating spectacular visuals. We headed into our hotel ready to go to bed and prepare to see Four Corners and Glen Canyon Dam.

-Maddy

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Entering the State of Deseret

The second day of the trip involved getting from Idaho to Utah with a cut through Nevada. We made our way south to Salt Lake City driving through some dramatic snowy conditions as we made our way through Nevada. Leaving Idaho the scenery changed, becoming rocky and with less greenery, a sign that we were beginning our journey onto the Colorado Plateau.

The rolling hills and wide farm land of Southern Idaho made for a pleasant mornings drive. Fueled by donuts and waffles we hit the road and made good progress towards Twin Falls. Early on we hit dense fog but luckily this did not last long. Rain interspersed the sunshine something that I am sure we will miss as we make our way south. At Twin Falls we turned south towards Nevada, a longer route to Salt Lake City but we wanted to make a stop at the Salt Flats.

Nevada greeted us with snow which took us by surprise. Naturally we stopped to run around although soon we were cold and ready to keep moving. Other than this Nevada proved to be uneventful. The isolation one can experience whilst driving though such wide open spaces is humbling. Surrounding us loomed mountains and ominous clouds. Nature took control of our experience something that was unsurprising as apart from the road we were on there was little else.

Our first stop immediately inside Utah was the Bonneville Salt Flats. The flats are famous today for the role in facilitating the land speed record attempts. It is not hard to see why when you are there either. Vast does not cover how big the lake beds are. Extending for miles and completely level the Salt Flats are perfect for the fastest cars ever made. The experience was awe-inspiring.

Afterwards we drove into the beautiful Salt Lake City. The city is surrounded by snow-capped mountains and sits at the edge of the rather special Great Salt Lake. The first thing we noticed as we drove in was how wide the roads were. This is a result of the clever planning by Mormon pioneers who wanted their roads to be wide enough to turn a horse and cart without unhitching.  The whole city is wide and spacious and proved to be a worthwhile stop on our trip. For dinner we had pizza and after took a walk to see the downtown area. Exhausted, we just about stayed up past nine o’clock. We need the rest, the next few days will be big.

Day two of the trip lived up to the promise of the first day. Once again the scenery and weather surpassed our expectations any monotony was broken by spectacular vistas and mountains. The Salt Flats were worth the extra driving to see, beginning what promises to be a special drive through Utah. From Salt Lake City we look south to canyon country and the deserts of the Southwest. I would also like to take a moment to thank our Airbnb hosts in Salt Lake City who went above and beyond for us. They made our night in the city extra special.

-George

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Road Trips: My Second First Impressions

It is not difficult to see the appeal of a road trip in America once you have been on one. The roads stretch out inviting you to cover great distances. The towns and cities that rely on travellers for their prosperity cater to the constant demands for food, drink, gas, and restrooms from their visitors. I should know about such towns since I lived in Flagstaff for a year. Interstates have fuelled these towns and ruined others. For many having a freeway exit is the difference between boom and bust. As for the travellers, a freeway exit is a chance to pause, to see the world that they are blasting through, and to appreciate the little corner of America that they find themselves in.

This trip is not my first experience with an American road trip. Over the Christmas break I drove with my family and Maddy across the Southwest from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, stopping in San Diego, Phoenix, and Flagstaff. The easiness of the distance which is soaked up by the long and smooth stretches of tarmac was apparent then too. As was the adventure and thrill of arriving in new places and of seeking new things. On that trip we were going for the experience, covering the miles as a means to see the Southwest and to visit the cities it has to offer. This trip is different, tourism for the sake of tourism has been replaced by the need to get to Flagstaff and to Los Angeles. Our trip has a strong sense of purpose.

And what a pleasurable place to have that purpose. To the untrained eye the mountains of Washington might as well have been the Alps. Covered in pine trees and looming large over us they created a visual spectacle that dominated the scenery. Descending down into the rolling hills of eastern Washington vibrant green grass overtook as the predominant scenic attraction. Oregon and Idaho likewise offered fantastic scenery as we carved through hills and rose over them enjoying the vast expanses laid out below. Going over Dead Man’s Pass we drove through a thick snowstorm that reminded us that May is a month and not a description of the weather. We will enjoy it whilst it lasts because tomorrow we head south into Utah and rocks will take over where the greenery leaves off. (Get it?).

So far I have no bad word to say about the road trip experience. Yes you spend hours sitting in a car waiting to be somewhere else. Yes today was only day one and we still have thousands of miles to go. And yes I would be happier if I did not have to listen to The Go Gos again. But these problems are not even problems when you take the experience for what it is. Appreciate the world out of the window as it flashes by and you have already arrived at your destination. With good company the miles are easy and the experience fulfilling. And a Led Zeppelin CD quickly changes the music situation should you need it to.

-George

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We Made it to Boston!

George and I flew out of SeaTac late last night headed for Boston. We had a quick stopover in Philadelphia before flying up to Boston. We arrived around 9am Eastern time and made it to our Airbnb. We’ll be writing more on the blog tonight or tomorrow with what we’ve seen so far.

And now a note from George:

I made it onto the blog! It only took eleven months but here I am. I hope to use this space to talk about my traveling experience with Maddy, focusing on one of my favourite things: food, which from what I have heard is quite popular here.

Weird American observation #1: the supermarkets have sprinklers that water the fruit and veg automatically whilst making thunder sounds. Crazy.

 

Happy to be in Boston

Maddy and George

Booking and Finding a Hostel / Maddy is trying to start writing again

I miss travelling so much so this is (hopefully) going to become my outlet so I don’t go crazy.

Since my trip I’ve had a few people asking me questions about travelling! Which I love and encourage if you havea  question I’ll of course do my best to answer it. And I’m going to talk about my tips on one of the things I’ve been asked about in this post but I am going to say before I write this whole thing that all of this is my own experiance and my advice and I know plenty of other people have more experiance with this stuff. This is just what I’ve learned and what I want to share with anyone who wants my advice. I hope to write more of these too so if you have anything you want to hear about please let me know!

My topic for the first of this series (Or whatever it is) is about hostels. I was asked what I look for when I’d book one. So this is my advice. And I’m going kinda in depth here so… here I go.

http://generatorhostels.com/en/destinations/venice/ This photo isn't mine! It's from the website of the Generator hostel in Venice! I repeat not my picture
http://generatorhostels.com/en/destinations/venice/
This photo isn’t mine! It’s from the website of the Generator hostel in Venice! I repeat not my picture. Also this is one of my favorite hostels I stayed at. Super nice and the beds were comfortable! The photo above is from their website as well. 

WHAT I LOOK FOR

First off I booked all of my hostels through http://hostelworld.com/  which is super easy to use and I highly reccomend it. Their app is great too. Every time I booked a hostel I’d pay an extra Euro so that if I had to change my plans I could get my deposit back, which something like 15% of the total cost so usually about 15 Euros for me and if I didn’t pay that extra euro and my plans changed I’d have lost that money. Usually it has to be within 48 hours or something like that but it usually worked out.

When I’d look at hostels just for me I’d look at a few things in the reviews. First I’d narrow down my price to whatever I was willing to pay and sorted them from highest rated. Simple makes sense. Right?

Then I’d click on the ones that looked nicest to me. Generally I’d go by appearance here. I’d look at their facilities. Do they have anything special? Do they have a kitchen and a lounge? Air Conditioning and Wifi were almost always a necessity for me. They were usually my only requirements.

Then I’d look at the reviews. I ignore a few things in the little ratings breakdown. Staff, Cleanliness, Atmospehere. They seem like important things! I know. But this the advice someone at one of Rick Steve’s seminars about hostels gave me. The people that are reviewing these hostels might be used to 5 star hotels or they might be used to camping. So really the cleanliness isn’t that important. That being said if the hostel has a really low rating on that look at the reviews to see the exact problems. With Staff you don’t know if one guy had a bad day or if the guy even still works there. So don’t worry too much. Mostly they’re young people who just want to show you a city you like. There may be a rotten egg or two but they’re probably having a bad day. And atmosphere I just ignore unless I’m somewhere where I’m looking for something in particular. You never know what the people rating them were looking for. Genereally speaking i do look at the Location, Value for money, security, and facilities ratings but I hold them with a grain of sand until I’ve read what real people have written.

When I look at the actual reviews I only look at 2 things. I sort them first from newest to oldest. See what people who were there the other day say. Then I look at worst to best. Sometimes because they’re hilarious, and they are, but also because sometimes they will say something like “Everything here was amazing except that I saw a roach and the internet never worked” and if those are the two things I’m concerned about they’re good to know. One thing though. ALWAYS look at the dates on reviews. The guy who went to the free breakfast and it wasn’t free at all and there wasn’t any food… that might’ve been 5 years ago on the off season. Another good idea is to look at their social media to see what people have posted from there or about them you can easily get a good vibe about the people there or at least the area around the hostel.

When it comes to price I’m someone who is willing to pay an extra 5-10$/Euros a night in order to get a slightly nicer accomidation. I never splurged and got a private room because I was alone, however I did stay in 2 hotels, one because after a month I needed a night alone and the other because I was sick and had an awful day and I have the best moms in the world. I don’t really think the number of beds in a room matters that much. Yes you’re more likely to get woken up by strangers in the middle of the night but in a smaller room you’ve got a pretty good chance of that happening anyways. I stayed in rooms ranging from 4-16 beds and I think the only times I really got woken up were in 8 bed rooms. When it comes to single gender or mixed dorms I prefered the mixed dorms. This is all personal preferance of course but for me it just didn’t matter and generally an all female dorm is a few Euros more or the same price and I just never minded that much. Was I ever the only girl? Yes. Did I care? No. Did I feel safe? Yes. And if you’re put in a room where you feel unsafe tell the people that work in the hostel! They will help you to the best of their abilities!!!

Quick run down

  1. Look online
  2. check out reviews
  3. pick a hostel that you like!

My last bits of advice:

  • No one is to old to stay at a hostel. Anyone can. I mean that.
  • If you want to party and the hostel online is decribed as chill, quiet, or laid back maybe look somewhere else
  • If you don’t want to party and they advertise booze, clubbing and general debauchery maybe look for the chill place?
  • And look until you find somewhere you like.
  • oh and it always is a good idea to look at the hostel on a map before you book it and before you arrive/on your way there

I want to post more on here about this and general life stuff. If you want to know about anything please contact me!

Still working on getting pictures up! I’m awful about it I know.

Maddy

It’s been a while!

I’m sorry It’s been so long! I’m nearing the end of my trip and my wifi hasn’t been great! I thought tonight I’d give a small run downs of some highs and lows, favorites, and that sort of thing.

  1. Favorite Place/What I’ve liked
    • I don’t know that I can narrow it down but my favorite places for Art were Paris, Florence, and as of today Venice is on that list as well.
    • For architecture I think Barcelona takes it!
    • For parties Barcelona took that as well.
    • For just in general I’ve loved everywhere I’ve been. Lisbon and the Cinque Terre were so relaxed. Madrid had amazing culture and I made some amazing friends. London was so amazing in everyway. Again it was the feel of the place and the things around.
  2. Favorite Views
    • All of my favorite views involved climbing up to the tops of Churches. I’ve done this now in 3 different cities.
      • First was Saint Paul’s in London which I posted about here
      • Next was La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona which is a Gaudi church that is still being built over 100 years after it was started. The church was beautiful and the view from the top of the Nativity facade was amazing. Not to mention just the architecture of the church in general
      • The most recent one that I climbed up was Il Duomo (or The Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore) in Florence, Italy. This is the biggest church in Florence with 463 steps to the top and while that wasn’t a very good day that was a highlight of my trip so far. The views were incredible!
  3. Favorite Hostels!
    • I’ve had pretty good luck picking hostels! A few weren’t amazing but many have been!
      1. Sant Jordi Rock Palace in Barcelona
        • INCREDIBLE. I stayed here twice. It was clean. Great location. Fun people and Just overall an amazing place to stay. Every night you get free entry to one bar and one club and even before that it’s just an amazing place to have fun! Also it’s next to a 24hour market so no matter what time you want ice cream or chips or whatever they’re there!
      2. Generator Venice
        • This is where I am currently. It’s another place where the people are really cool and it’s got amazing views. A kitchen and a bar downstairs. Just overall it’s been a good experience.
      3. TOC Hostel Madrid
        • Honestly I’m putting this here for 3 reasons. I made some amazing friends. The bed was comfortable. The showers were magical. The rest of it kinda was mediocre. It wasn’t set up well with it feeling a lot more like a hotel than a hostel. It took a long time to make the friends that I did make. The lounge is also a few rooms connected and it felt too closed off for me. However if you’re in a group I can see it being better!
  4. Overall High
    • This whole trip has been incredible. I’ve loved meeting so many people from all over the place and I know I’ve made at least a few friends that I’ll be in touch with for a long time to come I hope!!! I’m excited for the next 16 days (That’s all I have left!!) and seeing more places and meeting more people!
  5. Low
    • Well I’ve been having really bad allergies and I hurt my shoulder at Il Duomo… But if you want that story I’ll tell you another time.

What I want is some questions from you! On here the first time you comment I have to approve it. It’s just a precaution however after your first comment I don’t have to approve it anymore!  If you don’t want to do that feel free to message me on Facebook or comment on my instagram or just text me!

I’m setting up a flikr now so that I can post all my pictures somewhere more public and easier than on here… if you want the most up to date where I am when check out my Instagram. I post almost everyday at least once a day. I think I’ve only missed 2 or 3 days total.

I need to go to bed seeing as it’s 1:30am here in Venice. Tomorrow I head to Bari, Italy to catch a ferry to Dubrovnik, Croatia (Where Game of Thrones is currently being filmed!).

I’ll post again when I get good internet again!

Maddy

A Little Bit of Rambling and Homesickness

I think the hardest part of this trip hasn’t been being alone or away from home although both those things are hard. It’s been falling in love with a city or the people and then after a few days having to leave again. Tomorrow (technically already today) night I’m heading  to the airport to fly back to Madrid for the night and while I’m very excited to be back in Spain I’ve really liked Portugal. Lisbon is so laid back and the people are friendly. It’s somewhere I could see myself staying for a while.

I’m glad to be heading back to Spain where I’m going to meet up with Jess and get Tapas and Churros and then on Sunday I’m going to go to the Prado and/or the Rene Sofia before heading back down to Barcelona for a few days before heading off through southern France to Italy and the Cinque Terre.

I keep meeting people who are so shocked that I’m here alone. Everyone keeps saying that they could never do this and honestly I didn’t think I’d be able to! But it’s so freeing and it’s not nearly as hard as it sounds. Yes I’m one of the youngest people that are doing this (Especially for this long) but being here isn’t like being alone back home. You meet so many people in Hostels and even when you don’t it’s as easy as hearing someone speaking english and asking where they’re from or if you can use their map for a second.

Lately I have been missing home a lot. I think it’s mostly because I haven’t been feeling too good and that’s been hard. Normally I’d cuddle up in bed and do nothing all day. Maybe make my moms go get me chips and pop and we’d watch movies together or eat junk food. And while I could stay in bed all day here it’s a bigger deal. I mean you only have so long in one place and the more you don’t leave the room the less you can see. There’s always more to see, more that you want to see. I think what’s made it easier is having my parents there to Skype or talk on the phone with, friends texting me, and having this blog to express myself when I find I have something to say. It’s been good having a way to keep in touch with everyone because I start to get sad when I’m feeling alone then I get a text or a phone call and it’s enough to make this feel worth it. It’s all going to end up being a story I can tell for the rest of my life.

I should get some sleep I have to check out of my Hostel in about 7 hours. If you’ve got skype you should message me!

Maddy

What I’ve learned after a week alone in Spain.

Admittedly I’ve not really been alone. But after over a week in hostels I’ve started to feel like an adult now.

At first I kept finding I had nothing really to say here. In Barcelona I did learn a lot and it was gorgeous. I loved everything about it so much in fact that I’m going back in less than a week and I’m very excited. But when I first got there it was like  being dropped into the deep end. I was somewhere where I didn’t speak the language at all and while everyone understands Spanish… I never took Spanish. I took French. So that led to problems. But really when I got there I was still depending on people in a way. Not to take care of me or anything. But in the way that I felt weird going to dinner alone or going to see sites without people. Now after a  week I’ve started to get what people mean about feeling in charge. I’ve gotten over that fear of being alone and  realized that there are so many people to talk to.

I have gotten a little homesick a few times but mainly that’s just when I’m wanting to ask someone (Mainly my moms) a question and I realize they’re sleeping or out doing something and all of the sudden I miss home so much. But it soon passes. Especially since I’ve got Skype so I talk to them a lot anyways.

Making friends while travelling is one of the oddest things. Within 10 minutes of meeting someone you know so much about them and what they like or don’t. You’ve learned where they’re from. If they’re alone. Where they’ve been or going. It’s like you learn so much more within a night or two than back home you learn in a week or two. and you’ve got your starter topic. I mean you basically start every conversation the same. It goes something like this.

You hear someone speaking english!

“Hey! Where are you from?”

“I’m from -enter country here-“

“What part?”

“-place-“

“Cool! How long have you been here? Are you alone? Where did you come from/where are you heading to next? How long are you travelling?”

After a week you have the routine down pretty well. It’s when you get deeper than that that all of the sudden you’re hanging out having dinner or what have you. I’ve personally already made so many friends from all over the place. It’s fun hearing the accents and the different ways that people say things. From pronunciation to the actual word for things like stove (or hob apparently) or bathroom. Over the last few days in Madrid I’ve been hanging out with two Canadian guys (Everyone starts to be defined by where they’re from) and a girl from Northern England.

Yesterday we went out for Tapas, which is basically little appetizers or dishes which are usually served with drinks, often they’re on bread, at a market near the hostel. The day before that we went out at night and found a concert thing although I was tired so I headed back early.

Today the boys went to a bull fight while I backed out. While me and Jess, who has just moved to Madrid for school, went out shopping. We got some food, shopped some more, then decided we were going to go get pasta to make at the hostel. We got the pasta, some sauce and cheese. We returned to the hostel to find out that our kitchen didn’t have a stove. We looked up online how to make pasta without a stove. Deciding the microwave was the way to go we put some pasta in a bowl with water and threw it in. After taking a minute to figure out how the microwave worked we added two minutes… we did this about 5 times. Eventually it was done. however that was about three tiny “nests” of pasta. About half a cereal bowl. So we filled up two more bowls with water and pasta and popped them into the oven. We then ate the microwave pasta with our sauce (VERY GOOD) and waited. And waited. Until finally it looked done. There was some troubles with there not being enough water and some pasta getting a little toasted. But after about half an hour we had more pasta. It was weird. The texture was off. But if you’re ever stuck with only a microwave or a oven you can make pasta… although I’d stick with the microwave.

On Tuesday I’m heading for Portugal. I’m sorry I haven’t been posting much my parents keep saying to post more but I keep spacing. Feel free to pester me with questions! Also sorry I haven’t been taking many pictures but I’ll upload some from Sagrada Famillia soon!

Missing everyone!

Maddy

London Day 1!

IMG_3932
(This picture is from before take off in Vancouver)

Well we made it to London.  We landed at around 11:30am London time. The first thing that I noticed was the different names things had, elevators became lifts and bathrooms or restrooms became toilets, and the voice instructing you in the airport had a British accent. It sorta felt like I forgot that so many people had British accents. It was almost comedic how I reacted.

Why didn’t anyone tell us how muggy it is here. It was muggy in the airport and our hotel is muggy too! We are on the top floor but it is really hot in here.

IMG_3933

To get to our hotel we took the underground. We’re staying somewhere closeish to the airport however the underground doesn’t go there so we went into town then back to our hotel which was kind of a pain but we got to start to see how the underground works and got to see a lot of interesting people. A school group got on the first train. They were maybe 14 or so. I believe that they were a school group from Spain and all I could think about is how similar the kids that I know around that age were. They were loud and talking over one another. Friends sit with friends. They dressed just like I did in middle school. It was a really good first taste of Europe.

Once we finally got to our hotel it was 3pm in London, that means 7am in Seattle. We’d been in town for 4 hours after being on a plane for 9. We did what everyone said not to do. We slept. for about 3 hours. I know it’s not supposed to be good for jet lag or whatever but we needed it. Now it’s a little past 8 and we’re going to go get dinner soon!

If you’ve been to London what should we not miss?

Maddy