Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Guatemala Trip Part 2

Cute little Flores on a Saturday night.  Lovely little town on an island in a lake.  I was glad to make it after a 5 hour bumpy van ride.  Tim and I were winging it on this trip, so we planned to walk around town to find a place to stay.  We met another guy, Chris the Canadian, on our van from Belize City, traveling alone, who had the same plan.   The three of us decided to band together in our quest; little did I know I'd be cursing Canadians by Monday.  (No offense to any of my Canadian friends).

Our best bet, so said the guidebook, was Los Amigos hostel. Cool atmosphere and cheap! Except they had no rooms. We were offered a hammock or a mattress pulled onto a little area with hard benches. Um...no thanks. Even for 6 bucks. We went elsewhere and managed to find a room for 3 people, complete with a TV and a bathroom that had a door with a huge clear window. So much for privacy.
Los Amigos did have a great restaurant that's vegetarian-friendly, so we headed back there for dinner after finding our room and hitting an ATM to get some quetzales.  Except Chris the Canadian had a debit card that didn't work in this ATM.  No prob, said Tim and I!  You can put the hotel on your credit card and we'll give you cash for it until you can find another ATM or bank.  Deal.  We had a yummy dinner at Los Amigos, made amigos with the British guy who runs the place, and even made reservations for a van to pick us up in the morning to take us to Tikal.  
Apparently the thing to do for Tikal is to get up at 4am, grab a bus for the hour-long ride out, race to the back of the park and scale the big temple just in time for sunrise.  Um....no thanks.  I'm fine seeing the whole thing in broad daylight.   Our van picked us up on the cobblestone streets on Sunday morning and we were off to explore the greatness of the Mayans!

Tikal is quite amazing.  I went knowing it's just one of those things that you do when you're in Guatemala.  But I'm more than glad that I did.  I don't know that I needed to spend another day there, but one day was sufficent, impressive, and well worth it. 

Of course Chris the Canadian didn't have enough cash to pay the admission fee (which is more expensive for foreigners than natives.  Is that fair? We don't do that in the US - can you imagine the Smithsonian charing a fee for foreigners?), so Tim and I floated him cash since there were no ATMs around and no banks open until the next day.  And Chris the Canadian is also a hungry Canadian.  He ate many of our snacks throughout the day, since Tim and I came prepared with water and granola bars and fruit and he did not.  

Tikal is a lot bigger than expected.  Our guidebook recommended NOT going on the trail out to one of the temples, as it's remote and been prone to robberies and rapes.  Yikes!  It takes about 45 minutes to hike back to Templo IV, the big one.  I was a little tired at the point, but you gotta hike all the way to the top!  The view was awesome, and not too many people were up there.  I could've sat there for a couple hours, just taking in the view above the trees.  
We grabbed a bus back to Flores in the mid-afternoon and searched for a snack, since Chris the Canadian was hungry again.  We found a local place with amazing limeade (I swear that's all I drank the whole trip - less than 2 bucks for a HUGE glass of fresh limemade mixed with soda water - best drink ever) and chowed down.  Chris had decided he was going to find his own hotel that night in the next town over; I think Tim and I were slightly relieved at not having to be his ATM any longer.  However, during the middle of our snack at this restaurant, Chris decided that was the exact moment he need to go find another place to stay.  He ran back to our hotel (we had left the key at the front desk) to grab his stuff and start his search.  Tim and I were slighly bewildered and knew that, once again, we'd have to front the cash and pay for his snack.  Little did Chris remember that Tim was holding his camera in his backpack.  

Tim and I finished up our meal, paid, went back to the hotel and saw Chris leaving.  Thankfully he remembered that he owed us money and offered to meet up with us later for dinner at a place that took credit cards, so he could pay us back.  Which worked out for the most part, except he still probably owes us 20 bucks.  Not a bright kid.  And he spouted off stories about traveling along through SE Asia and a few other places.  I was kind of amazed he'd made it that far in life.  

Anyway.  Who am I to judge Canadians?  

Tim and I found a travel agency that evening, booked a bus to Guatemala City the next morning so we could hit Antigua and all was well.  EXCEPT the next morning when packing I started searching for my trail mix and Cheez-itz and realized that Chris the Hungry Canadian had taken them when he came back to the room without us!  You do NOT take Cheez-itz from me!  He had been so worried that he would starve since he didn't have access to cash until Monday morning, so I guess he felt entitled to taking my snacks!  I'm still pissed about it; don't get me going.  
Monday morning Tim and I hopped on the Linea Dorada bus to Guatemala City, a 9 hour ride or something ridiculous that we could've taken in a car with JP had his friend not fallen in love with the girl in Belize, but eh.  At least we got some action movies and a pit stop in the middle of nowhere that had some tortillas, beans and cabbage to eat.  

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Musical Monday

A day late and a dollar short, but arent't we all these days?

This is not a Coachella-related musical post, as I'm sadly behind on research.  But William Fitzsimmons is making a pit stop in Phoenix next month with Rosi Golan, so I decided to check her out.  She's touring with my favorites Greg Laswell and Ari Hest, so she must be good!

Love this track with the two of them.  


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Belize/Guatemala Trip Part 1

So after a New Years Eve of traipsing all over New York, Tim and I head back to Williamsburg for a shower and quick nap until the cab called from outside at 4am.  Uuuugh.  Of course we didn't want to haul our heavy scarfs, mittens, coats, etc, on our Central American journey, so we braved the cold in minimal layers.  

We made it to ugly Newark with too much time to spare and suffered as an overly enthusiastic high school group filled the outdated waiting area with way too much noise for 6am on New Years Day.  I felt sorry for the chaperons and silently prayed that I wouldn't ever have to do such a trip.  I downed a Red Bull to help, but it did no good.  I couldn't wait to get on the plane and shut my eyes.

After a switch in Dallas we finally made it to tropical Belize.  Belize City is basically a hole.  We were going to cut it short on making the last ferry out to the cayes, so we planned to stay the first night in Belize City, at the nicest hotel possible so we wouldn't be bored out of our minds when we couldn't go exploring at night for fear of getting mugged.  
Friday morning we awoke and headed to Caye Caulker.  I'd previously spent a week in San Pedro on Ambergris Caye, but wanted to try something different this time.  Nothing in this trip was really planned, we just hoped to show up, find a room, and have things fall into place.  And for the most part, they did.  We got off the water taxi in Caye Caulker and were immediately greeted by the island character, dubbed Satan.  Yes, he calls himself this.  He rides a bike, works as a handyman for the Happy Lobster restaurant, pimps out rooms, and will get you weed, but asks you not to smoke on the beach out of respect, man. 

We ended up with a decent room near the Split on the island, and headed out for a snorkel trip that afternoon.  Saw some fish, saw a huge green eel, coral, but then it was time for the sting-rays.  Our guide threw some food into the water and out of nowhere, 30 rays came up and started going at it.  Jump in!  Um....are you kidding?  A French girl and I stayed in the boat for a bit while everyone else got in.  Our guide picked one up and I touched it, and when the 10-year old kid started making fun of me, I decided I had to do it.  So I jumped and swam and tried not to touch them.  And it was sorta cool and sorta scary.  I will probably never do it again!


  
So one of our goals while on Caye Caulker was to find JP.  JP is a friend of a friend from Georgetown who happens to be living in Guatemala right now.  We swapped a few emails, he gave me some travel tips for Guat, and he ended up planning a New Years trip to Belize for the weekend.  He had driven from Guatemala with a couple friends and would probably have room in the car if Tim and I wanted to hitch a ride to Guatemala City.  Perfect!  JP and I kept trading emails, and figured we'd just run into each other on the island, as it's small and after 4 hours there you've seen everyone who's staying there.  I didn't have a cell phone, so relied on that to work, and of course, it did.  Tim and I spent Friday night hanging out with JP and friends and met some great people, including Dick and Linda from Sweden who were traveling for several months through Central and South America.  Kinda awesome.  
The plan was to leave Saturday morning to drive back to Guatemala, so Tim and I showed up at the meeting place around 10am, ready to get our groove on.  Shortly after, JP appeared with some bad news.  His friend with the car had fallen in love the night before and wanted to stay another day on the island with some girl.  And who are we to get in the way of the true love that happens when you're on vacation?  Could Tim and I wait another day to go?  Actually, no.  We were bored.  Belize is beautiful, but Caye Caulker is small, we'd already snorkeled, and there was much to get to in Guatemala.  JP helped us figure out some bus schedules, and we took off.  Water taxi back to Belize City, then colectivo van service to Flores, Guatemala, near Tikal.
Twas a super close connection; we arrived back in Belize City just 10 minutes before our bus to Flores was supposed to leave (we were supposed to check in at the ice cream shop.  So official).   Everyone told us our bus had already left.  I started to panic, not wanting to waste another day, we asked multiple times, and about an hour later figured out that the bus driver had indeed NOT left, he was just parked several blocks away from the usual pick up area.  Whew.  We made it.  We hopped into a 20-passenger van and headed towards G, picking up a couple police officers along the way and dropping them at home.  We stopped at the border and walked through, basically walking through an industrial-size car wash.  Kinda funny.  Paid a ridiculous departure tax for Belize, a few bucks to enter Guatemala, passport stamped and we were on our way again.  We passed tin shacks, some with TVs tuned to futbol.  Very poor out in these areas.  We made it to Flores before dark, which was good, since some of the guidebooks recommended not traveling these poor roads at night for fear of huge potholes, cattle, and getting hijacked.  Not on my list of things to experience in life.  



Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Happy Pres Day Weekend

In honor of Father George and Father Abe's birthdays, I will be celebrating in a US territory in the warm Caribbean.  Happy long weekend to you!

Monday, February 09, 2009

So that New Years Eve thing...

I've only been home a month; more than enough time to have written a short novel on my 2 weeks of travels to New York and Central America.  I'm sure Tim, my travel companion, already has.  His piece on last year's Barcelona captured the essence of our trip so perfectly; I can't wait for this year's installment.  A better written effort than I could ever muster.  

It's taken me lots of time to ease back into the so-called normal life - waking up on a regular schedule, having clean laundry, going to work and being productive, starting to call friends to let them know I'm back in town.  It took until about now to start resuming that way of life.  Blogging certainly has been at the bottom of the list.  It's more fun to have the trip than document it, eh?

But anyway, Tim and I took our 4th annual New Years trip this year.  

I flew to NYC to begin it all, so relieved at being back East.  In a city with actual people.  And things to do.  And friends who I love.  I didn't even mind a bit that it was cold and had snow.

Brooklyn welcomed me with open arms.  An apartment that required $15,000 just to move in.  A studio converted to a 3-bedroom.  I'd still trade that for my spacious 3-story townhouse with a garage and walk-in closet.

Tim and I had a Crate and Barrel reunion with Eric.  I shared Frozen Hot Chocolate with Yuhi.  Jason and I wandered for cupcakes and sunsets and bridges.  I competed for top score in the iPhone Bubblewrap game. I watched the snow fall in Union Square.  I had NYE dinner with my favorite CRD, up from DC.  I saw the Times Square madness, without participating.  I froze on a roof deck, but the view was worth it.  I watched the sunset in Brooklyn from another roof deck.  I partied in Prospect Park with New School grad students and shared cheek kisses with strangers at midnight. Subways.  Spontaneous concerts on subways.  Nice pilots who swiped me through the AirTrain with their cards.  

NYC is always good to me.  Even the warm weather in Phoenix couldn't quite give me the same great welcome upon my return. 














Musical Monday

Time to start the Coachella research - which unknown bands will be worth seeing?  I've got 66 days to figure it out.  That's the best part of this whole thing, as many bands as I know and am dying to see, the undiscovered gems are worth the price of admission.

So far, I think Alberta Cross might make the list.  




I usually hit a few Latin groups there, Bajofondo is sounding good.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

The City...

We've all got guilty pleasure shows, brain candy when it's needed, and I'm no different.

I dig Gossip Girl, and when I've had a long day and want to doze off to some noise, I find myself watching online episodes of Lipstick Jungle, the Bachelor and most recently The City.  Yes, the spin off from The Hills - now the fakeness and drama has moved from LA to NYC.

But the best part about watching these MTV shows are the recaps on Gawker, all written by some brilliant man who goes by Richard.

Some of his best work was from last week's episode of The City.

Main character  - Whitney.  
Her dude - an Aussie, aka Hugh Jackman in the recap

I love Richard's recap - maybe this is one of those you-had-to-be-there moments, but I was certainly there and keeled over in laughter all day.  

I've hyped it so much that you won't laugh.  But anyway:

And, I dunno. Whitney gurgled something at Hugh about how he shouldn't lie like his friends lie and he played one loud, long didgeridoo note into her face and Whitney fell over and died. There was a small funeral and then Lauren from The Hills came and they stood at the edge of the land and the beginning of the wide, wide sea and they opened the urn and spread her ashes on a big bowl of Kix. Because it was her favorite thing.

I giggled as I reread it now.  So funny. 


Sunday, February 01, 2009

Coach to the Ella!

Year number 3, I'm going!!


Ms. Liz and I decided a few weeks ago to go ahead and make a hotel reservation before the line up was announced, just in case it was incredible.  Last year's line up didn't really do it for me, so I skipped out.  In hindsight, I probably should've gone anyway, so I'll just have to make up for it this year!

It helps that I live within driving distance now, no more flying across the country, renting a car, etc.  There's really no excuse not to go.  Best $300 tickets around, considering that I'd probably pay at least $75 to see 1 of the headlining acts.  

Line up was announced Friday - who I am most excited about? Let's go in poster order:

Friday:
Paul McCartney - he's a Beatle.  That's enough.
Morrissey - never been a huge fan, but he's a UK legend that I should probably see.
Franz Ferdinand - I think they played at Coachella 2005.  Totally fun.
Leonard Cohen - legend.
Conor Oberst - not a Bright Eyes fan, but he deserves a shot.
Beirut, Black Keys, the Ting Tings - all bands I've heard a bit from, definitely interested in their live stuff.
Crystal Castles and Girl Talk - dying to dance my a** off with these bands!  I'm so sad I've missed their tours over the last few months.
We Are Scientists - love the new album and their witty banter at live shows.  Can't get enough of them.
Felix de Housecat - also super good dance tunes.  The dance tent is by far the funnest at the event.

Saturday:
The Killers - always wanted to see them.  Always!  And now I can! With 40,000 people under the stars.
Amy Winehouse - let's hope she gets her act together.
Thievery Corp - DC legend.  Who I never saw.  It'll be rockin.
TV on the Radio, Band of Horses - both critically acclaimed albums over the last 2 years.  Should be good.
Fleet Foxes - I have loved, loved them this year.  Can't wait to see how they translate on stage.
Glasvegas - getting a lot of press.  I'm ready to hear them.
Junior Boys - I will be shakin it!

Sunday:
The Cure - no explanation needed.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs - I still love Maps.  I should brush up on them!
Lupe Fiasco - I'll bring my skateboard.
Peter Bjorn and John - if only to whistle along to Young Folks.
Jenny Lewis - I'd like to see her stuff outside of Rilo Kiley.
Public Enemy - gotta be entertaining
Lykke Li - one of my new favs!
Paolo Nutini and Okkervil River and the Kills - have a little bit of all their stuff, they're probably worth catching.

So that's 30 bands at least.  Even if I paid 10 bucks to see each of them during the year, you do the math.  And there's always a few hidden gems that I'll discover in my research, plus the last minute additions can also be awesome.  See you in the desert in April!

Coachella 2007

Back to the Balkans! And I'm Getting Married...

Let's try something revolutionary. Let's try writing about a trip immediately upon return! So back in November or something, there...