Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

A Full Day in London

Saturday, September 22nd, 2012

Our overnight flight from Dulles touched down in London at just after 6am local time. Despite only a couple of hours of sleep and some jet lag, we were still quite excited to have finally arrived in the UK. An hour ride on the tube (my first) brought us to the Piccadilly Circus stop and after a short walk, we found ourselves at Piccadilly Backpackers… “London’s most central hostel”. Notice how they highlight only location in their tag line. “Sketchy”, “dirty”, and “dingy” are words I would use to describe the accommodations as we crammed into a 10×11 room with two bunk beds. However with only one night in London on the front-end of the trip, we would certainly be able to make due.

Check-in wasn’t until 1pm so after checking our bags, we had enough time for a traditional English breakfast – eggs, sausage, bacon, baked beans, grilled tomatoes, toast – and a quick Wi-Fi stop at McDonald’s before making our way to Green Park for a walking tour of the city. We were met by our tour guide, Suzy, at 11am and spent the next few hours seeing the typical sights of London: Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, Downing Street, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and Parliament among others.

Buckingham Palace

National Gallery at Trafalgar Square

Westminster Abbey

Following the tour, we stopped at a pub near Trafalgar Square for a late lunch, including more traditional fare of fish and chips, as well as the first pints of the trip. Being a bit beat at this point, we made our way back to the hostel to check-in and enjoy a little downtime before heading out for the evening.

While checking our bags earlier in the morning, we let the attendant talk us into purchasing tickets for a pub crawl sponsored by the hostel. Being new to London nightlife, it seemed like a good idea. In hindsight, I’m not sure we saw the best bars London has to offer (perhaps quite the opposite) but it did make for a fun evening and served as a great kickoff to the trip.

Pub Crawl

Tomorrow we head to Liverpool via train. While we were never able to score tickets to Liverpool vs. ManU, we’ll find a pub somewhere to watch. I’m looking forward to meeting some proper hooligans and making the most of the quick stop.

UK Adventure

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

It has been just over 20 months since my last international adventure. Work has continued to provide me with opportunities to travel within the US but I have struggled to find an exciting destination outside of the states that works for me and at least one of my friends. My buddy Jeff continues to be my “go to” when it comes to international travel and despite some conversations around both Australia and New Zealand, a different opportunity came up as of late with a larger group of friends.

Conrad is a buddy of mind that I worked with at a prior job, and is actually the one that originally introduced me to both Jeff and another one of my good friends, Jerry. Conrad moved back down to Florida about five years ago but during his time in DC, I spent most of my Friday and Saturday nights with these guys. With Conrad in Florida, we obviously don’t hang out as much as we used to but we stay in touch, and it’s given Jeff, Jerry, and me an excuse to head down to Jacksonville from time to time.

Earlier this year, talk kicked up amongst the four of us about a potential trip to the United Kingdom this September. Jeff and I both have birthdays in September, Jerry and I are both big soccer fans, and we hadn’t been down to visit Conrad in a while. As happens with a bunch of guys when a topic like this comes up, there’s a lot of talk and wondering if it will actually happen but it all became real when I pulled the trigger on four tickets to London for Sept 20-30.

We’ve done an excellent job coordinating our 10 days abroad via email. London was a no brainer. Liverpool was highlighted in one blog post as one of the “three must-see UK cities outside of London”. Scotland was highly recommended by several friends and would present some of the beautiful landscapes that Jeff and I have grown accustomed to during our travels.

With this being our first “big” trip as a group, it was great to see everyone carry their own weight in the planning department. I took care of flights, Jerry handled all major travel within the UK, Conrad booked accommodations, and Jeff found a tour package for our time in Scotland. After all was said and done, our itinerary looks like this…

  • London: Sept 21-22
  • Liverpool: Sept Sept 22-23
  • Scotland: Sept 23-28
  • London: Sept 28-30

As always, we’re trying to pack as much as humanly possible into each day. Highlights will include catching Liverpool v. ManU in a pub in Liverpool, Fulham vs. Man City live and in person in London, and hopefully catching a glimpse of the Loch Ness monster during our tour of the Scottish highlands.

Work has been tough as of late and with Fall activities ramping up, a nice break before they get into full swing is much needed.

Off to Cancun

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

Over the past two years, I have been blessed with the opportunity to visit many beautiful and exciting places throughout the world. I’ve come to realize how much I enjoy traveling and how important it is for me to experience a culture different from the daily life I live in DC. These experiences provide perspective for how the rest of the world lives and give me an appreciation for the comforts that I experience on a day-to-day basis.

Initially upon returning from my South American adventure, I talked with my buddy Jeff about a trip to Australia and New Zealand. However early in 2010, those plans changed when a friend of mine got engaged and invited me to attend his wedding in Mexico in early January 2011. Never having experienced a destination wedding, the Australia and New Zealand plans were shelved and my first international adventure with a larger group of friends was put on the books.

My previous trips with Jeff have been held at a breakneck pace as we try to experience as much adventure as possible in our time available. I already know this trip will bring a much more relaxed pace. I will trade the rigor and excitement of the fast pace for lazy days on the white sands of Tulum, Mexico. This will be a 5-day adventure that will involve a catamaran tour off the eastern coast of the Yucatán Peninsula, tours of the ruins and underwater caves of Tulum, and of course, a wedding ceremony.

As an added wrinkle, this will be my first trip traveling with a significant other. I am hopeful she and I will have the same travel chemistry I have come to enjoy with Jeff.

Given the much shorter duration of this trip compared to my previous three-week journeys, I’ll probably be able to record the events in one additional summary post but I’m looking forward to the time away just the same.

Much more to come.

South America Ramblings

Monday, January 18th, 2010

A few odds and ends that didn’t deserve their own post…

No sooner do we touch down in Rio does the guy in the seat across the aisle poke me and say… “You staying in Rio?”. Me: “Yeah”. Him: “Be careful where you go with the camera.” Referring to Jeff taking photos out of the window on the plane. We’d heard it was a dangerous place. Great way to start the trip.

Despite Jeff’s reports to the contrary, I did NOT wear my underwear for four days straight while waiting for American Airlines to find our luggage. A trip to buy new underwear did take place

If you ever travel internationally, strongly consider buying credits on Skype. $0.05 per min to US. $0.02 min on toll free calls. This was a life saver when we were trying to track down our bags in Rio.

Beer is readily available in most places in Rio. There is seemingly no open container law but there is a no tolerance policy when it comes to drinking & driving… any alcohol & you lose your license.

If you get a chance to visit Brazil, make sure you try a Caipirinha. It’s the national drink of Brazil. Sugar, Lime, Cachaça (liquor from fermented sugar cane). A lot like a mojito.

While waiting in line at Sugarloaf Mountain in the oppressive heat and sun, Jeff, a gentlemen from South Africa and I tried to huddle under a small piece of shade. The guy’s girlfriend (from Rio) laughed when she saw this and dubbed us the “Three White Men”.

Jeff and I are both fairly competitive. On the list of “Dumb Things Tourists Do”, add “seeing who can toss a half-full bottle of water the furthest in the air without dropping it”. We did this in the mostly deserted Pelourinho Square in Salvador at around midnight.

One of the funniest moments of the trip… As Jeff and I are waiting to check-in at the Salvador airport, we hear a guy behind us scream as loud as he possibly can. The relatively small terminal goes dead quiet. We turn to see the guy arguing with an airline employee in Portuguese over what I assume is some flight dispute. He kicks his suitcase before grabbing his girlfriend’s hand and heading to the exit. Before he leaves the building, he turns and gives the entire airport the middle finger. Jeff and I got a kick out of re-enacting this throughout the rest of the trip.

Most music we heard in cabs in Buenos Aires was American. But it was random, older stuff like Gloria Estefan.

Everyone in Buenos Aires smokes.

In Buenos Aires, traffic lights turn yellow AND red right before a red light is about to turn green. This basically signals to cab drivers that they don’t have to slow down since the light is about to turn green. Makes for some exciting cab rides.

Jeff does a great impersonation of Arnold Schwarzenegger. “Get to the chopper now!” “C’mon Cohagen. You got what you want. Give these people air!”

American Sports Team Jerseys Seen: Lakers, Yankees, Cowboys

You learn a lot about yourself while traveling internationally for 3 weeks.  I learned that I am not good at skipping stones.

The only thing besides friends and family that I truly missed during the trip was working out and playing soccer.

16,622 miles traveled, 1800 photos taken, 23 days of vacation, 13 flights, 5 countries seen (Paraguay, Uruguay, Chile in addition to Brazil & Argentina), 2 new FB friends, 1 crush

Great times.

The Last Hurrah in Buenos Aires

Sunday, January 17th, 2010

Our time in Patagonia complete, Jeff and I made our way back to Buenos Aires to enjoy one last day in South America before boarding our return flight home. Our buddy Warren had secured an apartment in the city since we’d last seen him and was kind enough to let us crash, saving us the cost of another night in a hotel.

Our Aerolineas Argentina flight, my first ever in business class, arrived at 12:30am and after a short cab ride to Warren’s building, we found ourselves on the 21st floor which amazingly, was all Warren’s. The entire 21st floor. 4 bedrooms, 4 baths and an outdoor deck that provided a 360 degree view of the city. Jeff and I just looked at each other in stunned disbelief during our tour of the place. And not only had Warren scored seemingly one of the best apartments in all of Buenos Aires but he had also made some friends. Sitting on the deck enjoying a bottle of wine (or three) were three very attractive women from the US who happened to be staying in BA. Shortly thereafter, a Buenos Aires native named Diego showed up with another friend of his own.

Having our own bedroom and bathroom for the night, Jeff and I put our bags away and cleaned up before rejoining the crew. After relaxing on the deck for a bit, the group made it’s way out on the town at around 3:30am. Just another normal night in Buenos Aires. As we learned in Rio with Tati, having a native resident with us seemed to make all the difference in the world with regards to night life. Diego took the group to a trendy club unlike anything Jeff and I found on our own during our prior time in the city. Still no real English speakers to meet but having a group to hang out with and good music to dance to made all of the difference. After dancing the night away in the dark, laser light filled club, we were greeted by bright sunshine as we rolled home around 6:30am.

Morning Sun in Buenos Aires

After getting in a good amount of sleep, Jeff, Warren and I woke up around 1pm. Our flight was at 9:30pm so we had plenty of time for a lazy lunch and afternoon before heading to the airport. A return to La Cabrera, site of our best meal on the trip, was the unanimous decision for lunch and it did not disappoint. We headed back to Warren’s to pack and made time to record an MTV Cribs-style video of his place. Again, incredible.

La Cabrera Return Visit

All set to go, we said our good-byes to Warren and hopped a cab to the airport. Before we walked in the terminal doors, I stopped to turn around and take in the final sights, sounds and warmth of South America. As we stood in line at security, I snapped a photo of a Tiger Woods Accenture ad that loosely translated said “What counts is what you do from here”. Ironic for Tiger but, while clichéd, also oddly fitting for Jeff and I as well. My second, big international adventure was over and I was already thinking about the third.

Can’t wait.

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