Roadtrip USA – Part One

Timing is everything. We had scheduled our US roadtrip with our gallivanting traveler friends for October, the start of ‘Fall’ – otherwise know as the best time to see famous National parks. We had booked a car, mapped a route and we were so excited to hit the road.

As our luck would have it, the US Government shutdown began one day before we set out for our two and half week roadtrip, which meant that the National parks we had wanted to visit were closed. We had to rethink our route and research what we could see in the state parks. We hoped to bide our time and see if, by chance, the government shut down ended so we could see impressive places like the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley and Zion National park.

We met in Las Vegas and picked up a trusty full-size Chevvy Impala car that was full to bursting point once we were all in. We made our way through the Nevada desert to the state of Utah. Our first few nights we spent in Springdale, a very rustic town at the entrance to Zion National Park. Even though the park was closed to tourists, the highway running through the park remained open so we were able to see some spectacularly red rocks and sheer cliff faces.

Haunted grave yard in Springdale, Utah.

Haunted grave yard in Springdale, Utah.

While we drove through the dry and dusty landscape, we thought about how strange and surreal the landscape might have been to the pioneers of America’s West. There were many times we looked out the window onto flat and desolate plains and felt lucky that we had a car and air conditioning but also the luxury of a GPS showing us the quickest way to civilisation.

We also visited some of Utah’s most stunning state parks, the Escalante Petrified Forest State Park and Red Rock Canyon. With all that driving we were bound to get hungry along the road so luckily we had great drivers who were not adverse to a coffee break and a slice of blueberry pie (or two)!

Red Rock Canyon

Red Rock Canyon

Our route took us North to a town called Provo, a few hours from Salt Lake City. We happened to be there on a Saturday night and we asked around to find the town’s hot spot. The local pub was the place to be that night with lots of dancing involved! We had read about a lovely walking trail to Stewart Falls, very close to Robert Redford’s Sundance Resort. We spent a few hours walking and admiring the change in climate – we had been in 30 degree weather in Springdale and it had dropped to about 14 degrees in Provo!

Split, Croatia.

Our time in Novalja left us feeling a bit worn out and the 6 hour bus ride to the Croatian city of Split was the last thing we needed. Crowded, stuffy and hot the bus made it’s way down the Dalmatian Coast stopping occasionally for the drivers to have a smoko.

While there were some amazing views to be seen along the coast like water seemingly clearer than glass, jet black rocks against the bright blue sea, and families enjoying the small coves and beaches, time practically stood still.

The harbour front with Diocletian's palace in the background.

The harbour front with Diocletian’s palace in the background.

When we did arrive in Split, it was hot and sticky but it was teeming with thousands of people in transit to other Croatian islands. There were tourists and travellers everywhere!

The city of Split was almost entirely contained within the walls of Diocletian’s Palace until the 1960’s when the socialist federations of Yugoslavia experienced huge economic growth. Diocletian, a Roman emperor from 286 to 305AD, built himself a rather lovely holiday palace on the water which became the centre of Split.

Split’s harbour is full of ferries, cruise ships and super yachts, which at times made it feel like a place to ‘be seen’, but not overly pretentious.

Part of Split harbour.

Part of Split harbour.

By chance we were able to catch up with our lovely friend Amanda and her travelling buddy, Erin. We spent our last day in the city with them and walked to a beautiful beach where the locals enjoyed cooling themselves during the 37 degree day!

Budapest, Hungary.

Lush green fields, small villages and simple stations flashed past us as our train trundled through the Czech countryside. The seven hours from Prague passed quickly enough, aided by books and music, before we arrived in Budapest just before 9pm.

Our first full day in Budapest was spent wandering the beautiful boulevards, making our way to Elizabet Square. In the height of summer, this square is constantly packed with revellers for festivals and fashion shows and concerts. Despite the blue skies and fluffy clouds that greeted us for the morning, the weather turned suddenly and a spectacular thunderstorm rained out the entire afternoon. We were huddled on a ‘hop on hop off’ bus and it was the ideal way to see the city that day!

Budapest had been affected by the flooding in Eastern Europe and the river was bulging, almost ready to spill into the city. The most incredible sight was the angle of the piers as they bobbed precariously, the ramp like an arm struggling to hold the pier in it’s place. There were a number of bridges spanning the river that looked too close to the angry currents underneath.

From the hill overlooking the river.

From the hill overlooking the river.

Another day was spent climbing the hill overlooking the city – a good way to combine a workout and sightseeing – for the most incredible view of Budapest. From the hill we could really appreciate the stunning architecture of the city.

From the hill looking over the city.

From the hill looking over the city.

On the last morning, we walked a few blocks to the ‘New York Cafe’ where, at the turn of the 20th century, Hungarian writers, journalists and poets would come to work on their latest novel or anthology. At one point, the cafe was crowned ‘the most beautiful cafe in the world’ because of the ornate and delicate decorations. We sipped our coffees/chocolate milkshake and waited for inspiration (would we feel the inclination to speak in rhyming couplets?) but none came. Perhaps we should have had more!

Jez and his milkshake at New York Cafe

Jez and his milkshake at New York Cafe

We have enjoyed parts of Eastern Europe and feel like there are places we would like to have more time. Budapest is one of them! It has been a fascinating city in terms of it’s history, very picturesque and visually stunning, easy to navigate.

Suitcase: A cautionary tale.

From the window of our hotel room, we could watch the busy movements of the crowds growing and dispersing after each flight. The plane would land on the tarmac with a great squeal from the tyres before the plane approached the terminal.

Frankfurt-Hahn Airport is deceptive. It is not close to Frankfurt, or Hahn, as I understand it. It’s outside of a town called Koblenz. This airport caters for most of the budget airlines for Europe who touchdown here every couple of hours.

There is a shuttle bus that leaves every hour on the hour to Frankfurt, about 70 minutes away. These shuttle buses are packed with budget travelers who have come from the flights ready to shimmy their way to a seat. I know from my own bus experiences that it’s really a two-person juggle to get seats, as well as your luggage, on board.

Jez and I were packing our bags to leave our hotel and join the group of travelers on the shuttle bus later in the afternoon. As I paused briefly to watch the new influx of weary bodies stumble and queue up for the bus, I wondered where these people were going with their huge suitcases and plastic carry bags. Five minutes later, the bus closed up the luggage compartment and with a hiss of the brakes, pulled away from the curb.

The airport footpath was now empty again, save for one, lonely, dark blue suitcase.

My heart rate surged. Unaccompanied luggage.

In the scramble for seats, someone must have forgotten to load the suitcase on the the bus. I felt sympathy for the poor person that left behind the bag, but as time went on, I was concerned that no one had moved it from the footpath. Jez and I checked out of our room and wheeled our luggage across to the bus stop. I eyed the suitcase warily, not knowing what to think of it’s presence.

I approached the ticket booth with trepidation, as my lack of German language skills was going to be put on display.

“Excuse me, uhh, there is a suitcase over there that has been left behind.”

“Yes?” said the grey-haired man behind the glass.

“Yes, a blue one, just by the steps… It’s been there a while.” I explained.

“Okay, they will call” he said with a thick accent, turning back to his machine and ending the conversation. I walked back to the line and our own suitcases.

Fifteen minutes later, our bus trundled up to the bus stop and groaned as it let us on board. Jez was in charge of getting our bags in the hold and I was in charge of the seat scoring. I made sure that we had a window seat so that we could watch as we passed the lovely landscapes of Germany. But before we pulled away from the curb, I caught one last glance at the lonely blue suitcase and wondered: “What will happen to you?”

Unattended baggage. Jan 31, 2008 1:34 PM. Uploaded by: MeraM Tags: travel …
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The long journey home

We have had an amazing time here at the Nature One Festival.

It’s out there. It’s different. I think that I’ve learned a lot about the festival scene overseas!

While we’re packing our backs for the final time, we are also dreading our journey home. As Australians, we can gloat about our beautiful country as much as we like, but it doesn’t make it any closer to the rest of the world!!!

We’re catching a bus from Frankfurt-Hahn to Frankfurt International Airport, then a flight from Frankfurt to Singapore with a three hour layover. From there, we will catch an A380 back in to Sydney which will arrive at about 6:30am. We will be over 24hrs in transit. It ain’t gonna be pretty!

We have work and Uni awaiting us at home, I wonder how quickly we will settle in to it all?

Over & Out 🙂 xx

Leaving San Francisco

Jez on the Cable Car

Today was our last of four days in San Francisco.

We had to check out of the Hotel Diva at 10am, which meant a lot of time between leaving our bags and our flight to NYC at 10pm. We decided to take a MUNI bus to Golden Gate Park which is home to SF’s botanical gardens, a museum and an art gallery. It’s a beautiful garden, an oasis in a busy city. I particularly loved the Japanese Garden located inside the park, with its quiet and calm vistas.

I have to say, there is nothing more satisfying than getting from A to B without a hiccup on public transport in a foreign country! The bus we caught to Golden Gate Park went up Haight St, which we thought was similar to King St in Newtown because of its shops and cafes.This city has a very relaxed and comfortable vibe.

We wandered around for a while, visited Sephora (brilliant make-up store not available in Australia) and other and then had to head back to the city and on to the airport for the red-eye to NYC.