Adventures in Australia- April 2017

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April was an interesting month for me.  When I returned back to Brisbane, early from Japan, I was really tired. I thought it was from traveling and did not think much of it.  Until 2 in the morning, when I woke up with crazy ear pain. What was odd was my ear was leaking. I ignore it at first but then my mind went to a crazy place, like maybe my brain is leaking out of my head. So off to the hospital I went. Bad ear and sinus infection. Surprise surprise. A few days with some drugs I would be right as rain. Hmm, silly Flo.

My friend Cassandra was down in Canberra for work for the week, so I flew down to Sydney for the weekend to catch up with her.  She flew out on Saturday morning, so I managed to catch up with some friends at the zoo.

I also acted like a tourist at the weekend market at the Rocks.  It amazing how much shopping damage one can do in such a short amount of time!

Like Paris and Melbourne, Sydney took a while to grow on me. This weekend was pretty nice, maybe because I had no agenda other then just taking in the sites.

I headed back to the States in mid April. I was still taking antibiotics and steroids, which made for quite the long journey home. I unfortunately had the window seat and had to airplane yoga, every hour on the hour.  Apparently, I just do not do well on that day time flight from Australia, yet I keep booking it. One day I will learn……

Since I had been pretty sick, I had made follow up appointments with my Doctor’s in the States. But when I arrived, my ear was killing me. I could barely hear and it was still leaking.  Turned out the antibiotic ear drops had pooled in my ear canal. It was so gross. But man the relief I felt when a few minutes later I could hear and the pain was gone.  At the time I thought it was funny that the Ear Dr. was on the same floor as my Orthopedic Dr.

Later that same day, I was walking to a meeting with my assistant. I was telling her about something that was bothering me. Without any warning, my right ankle snapped and I fell on my left knee.  Ouch. All I could think was this did not just happen. My assistant started to laugh and was like Flo, are you ok? Get up! A few people walking by offered to assist and one kind lady refused to leave until I got up. I sat there for a few minutes, thinking I did not want to deal with the reality that was waiting for me. I managed to get up, it was bad. But I had an appointment so I kept it and went about my day.  A few hour later, I started screaming, someone take me to the hospital. This is ridiculous.  At the ER they asked me several times if I had hit my head, because I would not stop laughing. Not even when the Dr. came in and told my I had broken my right ankle. Unbelievable. I also managed to bruise my left kneecap.  Oh fun times.

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This is not my first rodeo with the boot, but it is my first time with my right leg and having both legs being banged up. Walking was a challenge. Luckily I had really awesome nurses for the first few days. Thank you Sebastien and Nicolas! Flying back to Australia was interesting. I had to learn to ask and accept help. A lot of help.  The airlines for the most part were great. And I was fortunate that I had wonderful friends in Brisbane, to come and meet at the airport. Thanks again Jenny and John!

Stay tuned for future adventures…. until then safe travels!

 

 

Japan- April 2017

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I’ve been dreaming of seeing cherry blossoms in their full  blossom glory for years.  I could have made my life easy, by just picking a random day and flying to Washington D.C.  But no, I decided to make my life difficult and aim for Asia. My first attempt was a few years ago. I went to Seoul, South Korea, but that year they bloomed early and I missed them. So this year, I did some research and thought I had timed it better. I used to my frequent flier miles so I could cancel if necessary.  The day before I was scheduled to leave I checked one last time.  Well best laid plans blah blah.

I saw one……

Apparently, the bloom was off a bit.  They bloom showed up early in Tokyo and was late in Osaka. Oh well, you can’t win them all.

I took a trip to nearby Nara. I checked out the Deer Park and local temple

After quite a bit of walking around, I stopped to get some green tea ice cream. But man this line…..

The next day I took an organized tour to Kyoto. I was bit disappointed it was pouring rain.  The little I saw looked amazing, and definitely requires more then just a few hours. My tour stopped along with all the other tours in this little shopping area. It was pouring rain and bit chilly so I just walked around, unsuccessfully, trying to find the meeting point for the next part of the tour.  I almost missed the bus, because the rain just made everything more difficult.

With the lack of cherry blossoms and the continuing rain, and frankly I was just not feeling well, so I decided to call it a trip and head back to Brisbane early.  Since I had booked the flights with my frequent flier miles, I was easily change it.  One of my options, was to go home via Taipei, Taiwan with a 9 hour layover. A quick check of the weather showed, clear skies.  Done. Hello Taipei.

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I saw very little in the 5 minutes that I was there. But from what I was able to see, it’s high on my list of places I want to visit.  It was so green, the architecture was just so interesting. One minute you see a rice paddy, next a pagoda, next a skyscraper.   Just beautiful.

Until next time, safe travels!

 

Adventures in Australia-March 2017

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March found me back outside enjoying the beautiful skies of Brisbane.  After the hot summer days, it was refreshing to be able to be outside again and not feel like you were melting

March also brought Champagne Tuesday’s. Ok, who am I a kidding, it was champagne day for every day the ended in Y.  My friend Madison flew up from Sydney to join in the festivities. She enjoyed it so much, she flew up again the next week.  ( Truth I think she really wanted to try the Pomegrante Baba Ganoush on Virgin Australia)

The group favorite of the 3 pictured was the Ruinart Rose. Definitely worth checking out if you are into bubbles.

I also had the pleasure of taking a trip to Noosa. Its a beach town located just north of Brisbane on the Sunshine Coast. I really did enjoy it,  but it’s the quintessential beach town. Great place to visit, but I am not sure that I could live there full time.

With fall settling nicely in Brisbane, I was happy to have the opportunity to get out and discover some of the local markets again. One Saturday found me at the West End market with some friends. Fortunately I had just eaten a large breakfast, because imagine my surprise to see Langos, Empandas and Arepas. I guess all the good food is hiding from me at these markets I have not been visiting.

Stay tuned for more adventures. Until next time, safe travels!

Adventures in Australia-January/ February 2017

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Well I “survived” a Queensland summer. Barely. Brisbane was HOT.  In fact, the heat in January broke some records.  I grew up in Chicago, I thought I could handle the heat. NOPE.  The main reason is the Brisbane is an outdoor living city. Because most of the time the weather is pleasant, people tend to spend a lot of time outside. Well compared to Chicagoan’s, who spend 3-4 months a year in hibernation.

I celebrated my 1st Australia Day. It’s quite similar to the 4th of July in the States. Including fireworks

So what did I do for the few days I was actually in Brisbane?  I watched a lot of sunrises and sunsets from the inside of my air-conditioned apartment.

Other hot day activities included, actually going inside the Queensland Museum. Never mind I walked past it everyday for months. I went with some friends and I pretty sure we went on hottest day ever, because all we did was complain the entire 2 minute walk.  We almost skipped the Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art, because it required a walk in the sun.
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For Christmas I had given my parents Opera tickets. I then started getting invites to all sorts of events at their local arts center.  Not that I was going to fly to Florida, but I could handle walking across the street to Queensland Performing Art Center (QPAC). I mean while I watching the world go by I could not help but notice the advertisements for shows.

Some friends were interested in going to see Ludovico Einaudi.  Given my new boyfriend ( OK, not really my boyfriend) Leslie Odom, Jr.  is just amazing on the ivories, I thought I would give Ludovico a shot.  Another friend was in town and I mentioned that “a piano guy” was playing. He wanted to go but could not find tickets for “The Piano Guys” Oops….. The concert was fun, something different. It’s good to get out one’s comfort zone every now and then.

I also took a detour on my way back from Bali to go to Perth. I had do something with the birdnest of hair on my head. Since it was first time going in summer, I decided to book a tour out to Rottnest Island.  I swear it’s amazing how quickly I forget vital facts like I suffer from horrible motion sickness. It’s an island in the ocean…….  I was ok for about the first hour of the boat trip. It was a cruise down the Swan River. Then we hit the Indian Ocean.  Um….. seriously… if anyone reading this hears me talking about getting on a boat… just say NO. It was horrible.

Rottnest is a car-free island. I knew my lazy self would not want to bicycle around so I opted for a bus-tour.  Which was good because it was air-conditioned.  The tour guide suggested I try the pharmacy for some drugs. Luckily I was much better on the return journey.  But I choose to leave the island early because I was just not feeling well and it was  bit hot. If you happen to make it out there, I would recommend plan on cycling around and going swimming. It looked nice.

I flew back to Brisbane, via Sydney on Virgin Australia. I took the morning flight and I passed on the breakfast option. So I was actually hungry but the time I boarded my Sydney to Brisbane flight. I fully expected the curried chicken I had twice a few days before. So imagine my surprise when I was offered something or Pomegranate Baba Ganoush. I don’t remember what something was, but it did not sound good and let’s be honest nor did the Pomegranate Baba Ganoush. But Burnt Fig Ice Cream surprised so bring on the Baba….. Oh man I about to fly somewhere on Virgin to eat that again. It was SO good.  Carrie P or Michelle, if you are reading this, please figure out how to make this for me. PLEASE

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End of February finds me back in Australia. Hopefully I’ll be staying put for the new few weeks. Unless of course I find a reason to get on Virgin flight……Until then, Safe Travels!

Bali, Indonesia-February 2017

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I remember vividly my first trip to Bali. It was when I first caught on to the game for free travel. I was so excited. And then my nephew got sick a few days before my trp. My sister had to attend to something out of town and her husband had a critical meeting. Grandma was in Florida, so that left the Auntie’s. Could I take a day off and help out? Who says no to a sweet 11 month old? Well I should have, the little germanator……  I was sick on my trip to Bali. So sick, I took like 2 pictures. And all I remember was it was HOT.

Fast forward 5 years, I had a credit on Virgin Australia, and  I was in between accommodations in Brisbane.  So it was an easy choice to go back to Bali.

 

This trip was so different then my first time. I actually took a lot of pictures. I hired a driver and went up to Ubud.  I was also able to stop by the John Hardy factory It was interesting to see all the jewelry being handmade.

I also visited some rice fields, some temples and made some new monkey friends.  And yes, I politely passed on the opportunity to hold a bat

Overall, this trip was quite relaxing. I had my first and last Balinese Massage. Even though I told her light pressure, she took light to be strong.  I ended up in bed at 6pm getting my cuddle on with some Ben-Gay.  It was hurt that I never need to experience again. So imagine my shock when I went for a facial the next day and was told it comes with a massage. And it was the same masseuse from the day before. OH NO….. first of all, what kind of spa gives a massage with a facial? I mean, ok if I had not been pulverized the day before, I would have been happy.  Luckily she was much more gentle this time. And no surprise, that when I went for my pedicure,  it also came with a massage.  The dumb move on my part though, was not all the massages, it was going out in the blazing hot sun covered in oil. I am burnt like a piece of bacon right now. And it’s the worst on the back of my legs… Just want I need before flying for 6 hours.

Now I am not proud of what I am about to write. I do not condone violence. And you should always check your temper before going to the airport.  And yes I need to learn to follow my own advice. I spent 8 days, hairbrush and pant free. So I was not in the best mood when I had to pack up and head back home.I had an issue with trying to check out, which included being double charged by the hotel.  (still trying to get that resolved). So needless to say I was not happy by the time I arrived at the airport.  The airport is modern and clean, so that was plus.  You have to have all your bags scanned before you can even get to the ticket counter. Well somehow I ended up in the middle of Chinese tour group.  I admit it looked odd. So of course I got stopped and asked for my ticket. I pointed and said it was at the ticket counter on the other side of security. “Where are you going? Why no ticket? Why are you in this line with this group? Again, where is your ticket?” Now while I am being questioned, I was also being pushed by the tourist behind me. And the guy was just not letting anyone thru. Thankfully I was wearing my Apple watch and I pointed to my next calendar item that showed I was flying to Sydney and he let me through.  Well there were annoyed tourists behind me and they were determined to get thru the line before me. HA not about to happen. There may or may not be video footage of me elbowing a silly gal trying to cut in front  of me. Or perhaps me kicking her suitcase when she tried to throw it in front of me. Or even still maybe me body checking her so I could through the metal detector.  Not confirming nor denying that any of that may have happen. But if it had I am sure some Indonesian security guards had a good chuckle.

Until next time…. Safe travels.

 

Vanuatu-January 2017

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Most people who have trouble sleeping maybe try some melatonin, herbal tea or some lavender. But not Flo, don’t be silly, Flo gets on a plane so she can get some sleep.

It’s no wonder I was having trouble sleeping, I was in the States, then Europe, back to the States then Australia. It also did not help that the bed in apartment I was renting was AWFUL. So after 5 nights in a row of no sleep, I made the executive decision to get some rest. I was not going to stay in Brisbane, because well, why loose an opportunity to travel somewhere new?  I was so tired, the thought of long plane ride took most places out of the running. Enter Vanuatu. There were direct flights from Brisbane and it was only 2.45 hours away on Virgin Australia. Perfect. Plus it would give me the opportunity to visit a new country.

Vanuatu, according to Wikipedia.,  is an island located in the south Pacific Ocean. It reminds of a Caribbean, for my US followers. The airport has one runway, so you land and then turn around to get to the gate.

There are not many chain hotels in Port Vila, the capital.  I booked in for 4 nights at the Warwick Le Lagon. I’ll be honest, I am not sure why. It was not bad, but I am sure if I done more research I would have chosen a different option.

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It has a pool, was on the ocean and the bed was comfortable. It fit my needs. The plus side was the food was pretty good for a resort. If anything the portions were too big!

So what did I do? I slept. I ate a bit and then slept some more. I felt like a new person!  I did make it out into the ocean. You did not need snorkel gear to see the fish. You just had to go about hip deep and well Hello!

I did not do any tours or go snorkeling or scuba diving. I just relaxed. And it was perfect.

I would not recommend flying just from the US to Vanuatu, because as nice as it was, it made the airport made the Port Au Prince airport look nice. However, if you are in the area, maybe doing some island hoping, I would definitely recommend it.  It was amazing, the people are beautiful and who does not love a bit paradise?

For the country counters, this is number 52 for me.

Until next time, Safe Travels!

Portugal and Spain- December 2016

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I’ve been wanting to visit Portugal for years! It was on the top of the list of places that I wanted to visit but for some reason, it never made it into my travel plans.I had planned on being in the States for holidays, but my plans changed and I ended up coming in a week earlier then planned. I love my family, but 3 weeks, especially at the holidays was just not going to happen.

As much as I love European Christmas Markets, I was not willing to bear the cold weather. And the best ones, in my opinion,close on December 24th. I had fun trying to find a location that would not be too cold and that I could also get a decent flight. Oh and I need to fly on American Airlines or at least a One World partner because I need to the miles to keep my status. Madrid and Barcelona, ticked each box. I had been to Barcelona a few years, so I opted for Madrid. But then I realized I was so close to Portugal. I decided to just book another ticket, wise use of my British Airways Miles, and headed straight to Lisbon.

Best idea, ever!  Here is the part that I should say it was awful, that I had a horrible time and I would not recommend it at all.  I would say this so it stays amazing and does not become over run with tourists.  I just felt relaxed. Not paranoid about pickpockets like I was in Spain,  or ring scams in Paris. The skies were blue, albeit a little chilly. The streets were clean and while there were tourist there were not everywhere. They had the fun pedestrian paths in the middle of the busy streets, like in Barcelona.

I made an interesting hotel choice. I did not, gasp, stay at a Hilton or Hyatt. I stayed at a Marriott property, Fontecruz Lisboa.  It’s more boutique then large chain hotel. The location was great, located on one of the major streets. I  headed out to take in the sights. I opted for the Hop on Hop off bus. I find they are a great way to orient yourself in a new city. I tend to do the loop first and then hop off.

Lisbon is quite walk-able, if you can handle the cobble streets and some hills. Ladies, bring your sensible shoes. In fact, just bring an old ugly pair so you have an excuse to go shop. I did… at Moskkito. It was quite an adventure trying to get my stuff home.

I took sidetrips to Sintra and Fatima.  I booked the tours last minute and ended up on a big bus one. I wish I had done better research and gone with a smaller tour company.  I probably could have done them on my own. Something to redo on the next trip.

There was situation with a nutella crepe in Sintra. Let’s just say I learned my lesson about trying to eat messy street food. I am still finding nutella on stuff.

I headed back to Madrid for New Year’s Eve. I had high hopes of doing all this sightseeing, specially checking out the Prado Museum.  All those plans changed drastically when I arrived and it was freezing.  I was tired and cold and so basically I did nothing in Madrid. Well nothing that I am willing to admit doing on this public blog. There may or may not have been a potential meal at a American chain restaurant.

I really enjoyed this trip, I just wish I had more time. And I probably go back when the weather is warmer. I also think if I had to do it again, I would suggest doing Madrid first, then Lisbon. Two totally different cities with different energies.

Until next time, safe travels!