Sunday, January 27, 2013


Hello all!   A couple of weeks ago some friends and I were able to run off to Austin for a long weekend. I've never been and haven't been to Texas for a while so this was very exciting!  We all know Texas is like its own country : ) I have to enter the disclaimer here that we were there for a bachelorette party (yay +Julie Maa )! so of course, like in Vegas, what happens at a bachelorette stays at a bachelorette.  However, we ate some great food, saw some interesting bars, and I did have time before and after the bachelorette so we can always discuss a little of that!

First, we start with my flight from Cali to Austin.  Because my plans change very quickly, I'm apparently not capable of planning properly and booked a ticket from SAN (San Diego) to AUS as I thought I was going o be in SD that week.  Of COURSE, I was not, and then had to pay a $150 change fee and a fare change to fly out of LA.  Tip of the day: if you have a variable travel plan and have at least gold status with an airline, you are able to change the TIME of your trip within the 24 hour check in period with no change fee, especially with United.  This trick did not work this time as I had to change the time AND the location and changing locations throws off every airlines load analysis.

The other point is that I was arriving very late Thursday night (as in 11:45 pm) while we had booked the vacation home for Friday and Monday... so I had the choices of either booking a hotel for Thursday to sleep in for like, 5 hours... OR.... I could try to sneak into the house a bit early.  I know that is probably wrong. But if no one was using it...So I rented a car and decided that if I couldn't get into the house, I would sleep in the car for the night! Yes, I am a bum and a nomad.  I won't get into the details but I got into the house no problem and was able to spend the rest of the night finishing a work charter and project plan which took me until 8 am the following morning.

The next morning I am doing some conference calls and things from the house, and Pam is the first one in around 2:30ish.  I picked her up, we did some grocery shopping for the group (where I found a THREE LITER bottle of Diet Coke! They really do make them bigger in Texas!) and then went to this really lovely sushi restaurant called Uchiko and had great sushi  flown in from that famous fish market in Japan, which I have now forgotten the name.  We got there at 5:30 and it was already a 1 1/2 hour wait! So we went to sit at the bar (which still took us nearly an hour anyway) and ordered our wine and food there. Unfortunately, my phone pooped out on me while we were there so I have no pictures of the food or the restaurant.  We had some lovely grilled shishito peppers, nigiri made out of ox tongue (really good!) and this really interesting corn polenta ice cream that Pam loves, but I'm only so-so on corn things. Still lots of fun though!

By the time we got back more ladies had arrived and we went out for second dinner! ;) and then some dancing. Jocelyn and I lost the rest of them, were walking around, and while I was texting and walking, I managed to TOTALLY wipe out on the middle of Dirty 6th and skinned my knee, ruining my lovely new snakeskin tights in the process.  This is the before picture of my awesome tights, and someone took a picture of my bloody knee later, but I won't gross you out.

Austin is really easy to get around. In the bar area there are pedi cabs that will bike you around. I personally think these are bullshit because we were on one and then the bike chain fell off like three times, and then we had to get off and walk up a hill. Then we were tipping them like $5-10! What is the point!?! I've been in tuk tuks in Southeast Asia that work better than this. The only advantage to them is that they can get around traffic. NOT impressed. Though I guess I'm the one who wiped out and hurt my knee, so I should shut up.

 We had rented a house near the downtown area... really cute house, and had lots of fun games and cupcakes and things : )

The bbq is very good here. I had the opportunity to try several types of bbq, and also ate an enormous chicken fried steak.  There is also a really lively food truck scene happening, I saw food trucks everywhere and lots of types of food! So yes we ate a lot and I don't regret any of it! Ha!

  We had a great time and it was really fun catching up with everyone.  Most people left Monday morning, but my flight back to LA didn't leave till 7:30 at night.  Also, due to getting up late and misunderstanding the check out time, we basically left the house with a hastily packed suitcase, and unwashed hair and unbrushed teeth. Not fun. I was pretty cranky.  So after dropping everyone off at the airport around 1 pm, I had a good 6 hours to kill and needed to figure out what to do.

First - I looked at spas. A tip for the traveling nomad - if you are stuck for a while and need to shower 1) if you have a gym membership like 24 Hour Fitness that is good at any location - this is a lifesaver.  If you have a gym with towel service, even better.  Unfortunately I did not have my membership at the time (I canceled my 24 Hour before I left for Spain) I resorted to calling around spas in the Austin area until I found out that the Four Seasons has a spa day pass for $30.

This is another travel tip but I was having trouble with my credit card.  I've been all over the world with my trusty Capital One card, all I do is go online and tell them I'll be in whatever country and no problems at all. And I travel quite a bit domestically.  Then I get to Texas and Capital One shuts off my card THREE TIMES. SO PISSED OFF.  It's like, oh, it's totally acceptable Christina would be in freaking Honduras, but OMG she's in Texas! Freeze the card!! Ugh.  So yes, if you are going to travel somewhere out of the ordinary, just to be sure, call your credit card company and let them know so they don't freak out.

Back to the spa.  I wanted to shower, and brush my teeth. And sit in a nice steam room and nurse my injured knee.   But... I was really hungry and there is a famous bbq place about 45 minutes out of the city......
So off I went to the Salt Lick, where I had this enormous amount of food by myself (this is why I regret having to try EVERYTHING when I see things), and I met a really hot waiter named Matt with an adorable accent, who sat down and chatted with me while I was eating and gave me some free dessert.  Apparently I don't look as much of a bum even with no makeup, uncombed hair and sitting by myself.   Win! 

Matt showed me around a bit and particularly how they do all this bbq smoking stuff, which is still a mystery to me but the food was really good!  I told him I had a few hours to kill before my flight and he said that while I wasn't going to find much to in Austin at that time, he recommended I drive over 10 minutes to Driftwood and go wine tasting.  Yes people! Wine in Texas! This dude was like reading my mind!  So off I went to try some wine, where I chatted with some really nice locals, bought a bottle of wine and took a picture of the BIGGEST cat I have ever seen:

I had a great time in Austin and would love to go there for a weekend again.  Very laid back city, friendly people, and the food is good.  Go visit! : D

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Très Heureux... Paris!

Just a quick note because I am excited... but Natalie and I have made plans to go to Paris next month!!!!! :D :D :D  I got a direct flight from LAX and it was only 60k miles and $70.  $70 for a direct flight to Paris?  WIN!

On an unrelated note, I have just stamped the last page in my passport, and I got it in 2010. : P

Next up... a recap a fun weekend eating, drinking and dancing in AUSTIN!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Yucatan Dive Trip, New Years 2012

Here is a map to start with!

I decided to go on a dive trip with Thien-y, her fiance Jason, and our sorority sister Lisa.  Thieny was a marine biologist, Jason has a bunch of dives and Lisa has just gotten dive certified, which means that we will be doing fun dives and not the bunny slope types. I was excited!

First, I arrived in Cancun Airport with not a clue with wtf was going on as I forgot to plan how to get from Cancun to Playa del Carmen (Playa).  The nights before, I had been working in San Diego, and had been out having drinks and meals with Elisa, Chris, Monica, Erik, and catching up Harry, with a British friend who was vacationing in SD for the holidays. Needless to say there were some late nights out and getting stranded on Friday (another problem of being a nomad - if you have to check out of a hotel at 12, and your flight is a redeye, you are basically a bum for the next 10 hours.).  So I kind of showed up in Mexico having not slept in two days and without a plan.  I've been to this area multiple times before and have taken the public buses there by myself, as well as driven there, so was not worried.  For those wondering, this area is very very easy to get around in either by bus or car, it is reasonably safe and easy to get around.

Since I was being lazy, this time I opted to take a shuttle straight to our vacation home, where we started the trip off right by convincing the driver to stop at a 7-11 so we could get some cervezas.   By the time I got to the vacation house, we busted open a bottle of tequila and by the time Lisa made it, we had pretty much finished it, went out, had dinner, at this point from adventures in SD, I was so tired I fell asleep sitting at the table.  Good start to the week

 New Year's Eve! See the picture above? We were drinking this booze called tequila cream. It is like Bailey's, but made with tequila. and it's actually pretty good, a little sweet for me but a lot of fun to drink.  I won't recount/can't remember all the details, but there was a nice dinner, a lot more shots being taken, some swimming in the beach, some silly shenanigans and us all being a bit hung over the next night.

  I will end that with a cute picture of Thieny and Jason. I'm no photographer but the intent was good! : )

Moving on, since all of us are divers, we had a lot of fun over there.  We started with some beach dives out of Playa del Carmen, which were fun but nothing to write home about, then took a ferry to Cozumel, where we had some really lovely wall/drift dives. I've been diving in Cozumel before but honestly I'm starting to have trouble remembering places I've been. Much better coral and visibility in Cozumel over Cancun or Playa, I absolutely recommend staying there and doing dives if that's your focus for a weekend. Here's a picture of me and Lisa tanning on top of the boat : )
Thieny gets horribly seasick anywhere we go, so I took a picture of her from the roof of the boat. Jason was like, ugh. hahahhaa.

We also met some really nice Finnish people, a dude named Sami and his friend Ika, they were in town for the BPM electronic music festival, but I don't follow that very well so whatever they were up to, I'm sure they ended up having a good time.

 The third day we went cenote diving. If you don't know what cenotes are, they are freshwater caverns and tunnels which form a network under the Yucatan, and they are really really fun to dive. That is one of the main diving draws of going to Mexico.  This time, Thieny was obsessed in going into this 300 foot (~60m) deep cenote she dubbed "the Harry Potter hole".  And it looks very unassuming here, and I have dove all over the world and hundreds of times, including the Blue Hole where there were hammerhead sharks everywhere, but I will admit, this was the one dive where I kind of freaked out.  Though that was also partially due to my gear. This thing looked like I was diving through a cross of Harry Potter, Tim Burton and the Abyss.  There is freshwater on top, a "cloud" which is basically like a halocline, and then salt water underneath which tastes like sulfur. We only went down about 120 feet (35 m).   Long story but NO ONE WANTS TO SINK LIKE A STONE GOING DOWN A DARK ABYSS THAT SMELLS LIKE SULFUR.  Jason has a great video of this posted up here:  

 We sum up by me being an idiot and deciding to rent a stick shift (manual) car to go to Tulum.  I pretty much learned to change gears on a motorcycle... so I cannot reverse. Or really drive. But I wanted to practice!  I probably made everyone carsick but I did learn a lot and I thank everyone in the car for their patience.  We made it to Tulum, Lisa went to see the ruins and the rest of us were drinking beers on the beach.  Here are some cute pictures of Thieny... and then one of Jason deciding he wanted to shove his butt in my face.
 So that was Mexico for New Years!  We complete this blog post, it was a great holiday hanging out with fantastic people, a lot of taco and ceviche and beer, fantastic diving and I got a tan out of it.  Thanks to Thieny, Jason and Lisa for wanting to take a trip out and having the most awesome GoPro camera so people can see the stupid crap we do! : ) I had a great time!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A quick tip about planning travel itineraries

So my friend Natalie and I are trying to plan a trip coming up, and we're having some logistical/award miles points redeeming problems. It brought up some other itinerary related tips to the front of my mind that I thought would be useful for those of you planning a trip away. 
  • If you are taking a trip touring a whole country, consider booking an open jaw.  For instance, if you were going to Spain, fly into Madrid and back home out of Barcelona.  If you're planning a cross country of Australia, fly into Melbourne and out of Sydney.  It doesn't really cost much more and you save valuable time and possibly money as opposed to backtracking to your first city to get home. 
  • If you are doing an itinerary overseas and plan to check bags in, NEVER get a multi-airline ticket.  It usually means you have to pick up the bag at a transit airport and check it back in, and believe me, just pay the extra $ so you don't have to freak out about this and its checked all the way to your destination.
  • Look at alternate airports.  For instance, NYC has a bunch of airports to fly into and some may be cheaper than others.  LA has LAX, Burbank and Long Beach.  Other countries will have alternate airports as well (think like London).

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Jordan Part 3

Oh my... this blog stuff is harder than I thought, I still haven't finished Jordan trip and I've already gone and come back from Mexico.  So now I should finish Jordan...

By now it is Thursday so Taline has time off! Woo!  In the Arabic world, apparently the weekend is on Friday and Saturday instead of Saturday and Sunday.  So we rent a car, and off we go for an overnight camping trip into the Wadi Rum desert!

Here's a map of Jordan and the places we went:

Wadi Rum is on the other end of Jordan, which took about 4ish hours from Amman.  We had a nice drive, stopped and ate some falafel, and eventually turned into this horse farm where we had a really cool dude (and now I've forgotten his name, Taline will know!)  I won't get into it too too much, but the evening involved: getting shoved into a sand dune,
 having the DUMBEST conversation with this Russian dude who was scared of heights (see where Taline is climbing up this GIANT rock,
  a lot of tea, peeing out in the middle of the desert in the middle of the night, and me waking up Taline out of her tent. lol.

The next day we woke up, ate some Jordanian babaghanoush for breakfast (which is not at all like the babaghanoush you usually get, we were both confused but it was good!) and made our drive on to the other end of Jordan called Aqaba. It's the little sliver of the Red Sea and you can see Israel from over there.  There are a lot of hotels but we only drove in and turned around so we could get on the freeway to the Dead Sea.

When we get to the Dead Sea, we go and check out a beach club.  Now it's meant to be like a ritzy beach club but seeing as most people in Jordan are Muslim, Taline and I were nice and decided to wear something to cover up (I made the enormous concession of wearing a tshirt over my bikini, which we all know is something I never do).  Being in the Dead Sea is weird. It's so salty it felt like there was oil on my skin, and you float like crazy.  I also got some in my eye and that hurt for a while haha.  On the other hand I'm pretty sure all that salt is like some kind of antiseptic.  You could buy some black mud from the place and use it while you're in the water, but Taline and I just went splashing a while while she discovered that she could use her flip flops to paddle herself like a canoe. lol.

As you can see, Taline is much better at floating in super floaty water than I am. lol.

Once we had enough salt, we move on to Ma'in Hot Springs, where I will shorten the story but we were basically videoed by this super creepy guy that looked like Jesus. I'm not kidding, he had long hair and a beard and he was fully clothed, and pretended to be videoing us with his cell phone for a good 20 minutes. Probably because we gave up on the tshirt thing and was scandalizing most of the people in the hot springs.  I almost got mad and told him off, but then he and his crew of people went away and then we proceeded to be bothered by some dude with the maturity of a 12 year old spashing at us.  It was fun and a nice time though.
Look at us hot girls! : )

After that we drove back, and had a nice time meeting Taline's friends in a coffee shop and gossiping about boys before my monstrous flight back to the states (See prequel to Jordan, Post #1).

And that is Jordan!  I have to thank Taline, her lovely Italian flatmates and every nice person I met in Jordan for having a fantastic time there.  I absolutely recommend Jordan for tourism, there are beautiful historical and natural places there, the people are super nice and the tourism industry is very easy to deal with.

Next up... dive trip in the Yucatan!