Tuesday, April 29, 2014

MEXICO! Merida & Chichen Itza


We landed in Mexico on the 23rd of April and caught an ADO bus straight to Merida - coined as the 'Cultural Capital' of the Yucutan Peninsula. Merida is a Colonial town inland from the coast. The colonial architecture makes strolling around the centro area a great activity in itself. With the highest percentage of indigenous people per capita than any other large city in Mexico - the traditional Mayan Culture has a strong presence here.

We started our first full day off with huge enthusiasm, walking a few blocks to the main plaza - Plaza Grande which was full of people conversing and strolling through at 10am on a Thursday morning. We checked out the Cathedral (also jam packed with people praying), the market and the museum. Whilst the museum was quite boring, and most of the signage in Spanish - we thoroughly enjoyed our time in the free air conditioning as we had begun to melt outide, not to mention the free bano! (toilet). We spoke to quite a few friendly Merida locals along the way who told us about a free fiesta in Santa Lucia Square from 9pm that evening. Unfortunately for us the day time temperatures in Merida were basically unbearable (39 degrees) so we had to ensure we remained submerged in water in the hostel pool throughout the middle of the day. It was a tough few days lounging there with the hammocks and my beloved kindle.

After a big swim and a siesta we headed out for dinner - traditional Yucutan cuisine at La Chaya then headed to the fiesta. The entire plaza was filled with mainly locals, and a scattering of tourist on lookers and we got to watch some superb and authentic Yucutan dancing, and Trova music. The crowd was so enthusiastic, and so many families out enjoying themselves. The 70 yr old (or so) man in front of us was chanting for the band to continue when they finished their 'last' song along with the rest of the crowd - and was elated when they agreed to one more - go him! We also sampled some delicious coco ice cream in a freshly made waffle cone before wandering back to the hostel.

We stayed at Hostel Nomadas which was just perfect - a huge pool, free salsa lessons, free cooking lessons and live Trova music every night at dinner time. My only complaint would be that the rooms were absolutely boiling in the evenings due to no air conditioning (approximately 30 degrees) and the fans sounded like 5 helicopters circling over your roof. Combined with the resident opossums clambering over the tin roof meant that my earplugs got a lot of use.

Entrance to Plaza Grande

Alex in the hammock over the pool at Hostel Nomadas

A walk down Paseo de Montejo - "The Avenue" - beautiful colonial buildings

We booked in a bus trip to take us to Chichen Itza after 3 nights in Merida as it was on the way to our next destination - Tulum. After sleeping through one alarm at 5.15am we frantically packed and made it to the bus station to catch our super early ride and ensure we missed the floods of official tour buses that arrive at the ruins mid-morning.

The ADO buses (bus service) here are extremely punctual, and wait for no one! When they make a stop the yell it out and you need to get up almost that minute and start collecting your things if you're going to get off in a timely manner. Due to the purchase of the worlds best travel pillow (HERE) I now have the ability to sleep almost anywhere so when the driver yelled 'CHICHEN ITZA!' I woke with a fright and stumbled into one of the new Seven Wonders of the World half asleep.

Alex and I are not particularly patient or self driven at these sorts of historic sights so we forked out the 650 pesos to hire a guide for a two hour tour. Was well worth it, sounds silly - but the one of the coolest bits was when he told us to clap under the northern entrance to the main pyramid and a sound emits through the top of the temple like a bird call - so bizzare! YouTube example HERE.

There is also a Cenote here (a natural underground reservoir of water such as occurs in the limestone of Yucat√°n, Mexico) where women and objects were sacrificed to the Mayan rain god. Chichen Itza was abandoned by the Mayan people long before due to drought/war and was overgrown with jungle hence not identified as such a huge historical site. An American bought Chichen Itza in 1894 and in 1904 began dredging the Cenote after hearing stories of the sacrifices made there. He found gold, copper, jade, human bones and other artifacts that he sent back to Harvard University (illegaly) - some have been returned to the site / Mexican government - but some have unfortunately been lost. Anyway - long and short of it is that you would not want to swim in this Cenote!

Few snapshots - some of the care of our guide who was keen to get shots of us in front of almost every structure on site.

This is a jaguar throne where the king would have sat

In the 'ball court' some creepy sounding game where warriors from the city would battle it out (spectators sitting on the tops of the high walls surrounding) and one player would be sacrificed at the end of the game. Our guide told us the winner would be sacrificed as their blood was the strongest, hence best to offer the gods. This seemed grossly unfair to me. The lonely planet guide said the loser would be sacrificed so let's hope they're right.

Iguanas - absolutely everywhere around Chichen Itza and the entire Yucutan. Hostel Nomadas had a dedicated iguana garden. Our tour guide told us that his grandma used to cook him iguana for dinner and that it tastes like chicken.

We're in Tulum now which is beautiful, off to eat a 20 cent mango right now.


Sunday, April 27, 2014


It was amazing. You must all go. If Glastonbury is going to be better than this I AM SO EXCITED!

Here is a wee photo essay to summarise the weekend. Silly blog jumbled them so they're not in chronological order but I can't fight this slow internet for too much longer!

Top acts according to Emily

Outkast - omg, apparently they were a bit crap weekend 1 but they must of seriously revised these faults as they were phenomenal! Extremely excited to see them again at Glastonbury in June.

Pharrell - What a performer! Everyone was just overwhelmed with what was happening on that stage. He performed songs I had forgotten were even his, this guy is amazing. And after seeing Jay Z perform, I defintiely need to add him into my concert bucket list.

Calvin Harris - I didn't think Calvin would be that great to be honest, but from the moment he started DJ-ing the crowd just went absolutely ballistic. I had to ration out my jumping throughout his set as I just wasn't fit enough to keep up!

Rudimental - such a super act to see live and my main man John Newman came onto stage to sing Feel the Love which blew my mind.

Other top mentions go to: Chromeo, Ellie Goulding, Disclosure (feat. Mary J Blige - BLAST FROM THE PAST), Arcade Fire & Netsky - who closed Coachella in style.

Ze Ferris Wheel!

When the sky exploded with confetti at Pharell for Happy. Absolutely incredible. Loved seeing Jay Z, Usher and Busta Rhymes up there, it was all just a bit much and then this confetti explosion! JOY!

Lost and delirious on the COACHELLA NIGHT TOUR! Bloody Mario... 

Rudimental - also a highlight, so impressive live!

The gals on our last day

Ready for day 1!

Some great festival attire

Ellie Goulding - awesome.

Chromeo - so much better live than I had expected!

Our NZ Coachella crew - taken on the golf course at the gated community we stayed in.

Friday, April 25, 2014

New York City and Yale


Have been a bit slower than I expected to get this blog started largely due to the immense amount of fun I have been having so far!

It all started with an extremely expensive taxi ride from Newark airport into the depths of Brooklyn. Who would have thought a road toll could be as high as $13 USD and that my taxi would need to go through three of them! Advice: pay the extra and fly into La Guardia or JFK it is well worth it especially if you are going to stay in Brooklyn.

Rosie had left me a series of fantastic notes around the apartment, and I had a whirlwind induction into the NYC subway system the next morning racing up some stairs with Rosie screaming behind me “RUN RUN!” and jamming my hand inside the closing subway door to only just make it onto the train in time. 

The New York professional at work in her swanky office:

I explored the MOMA on my first day and absolutely loved it - so many of the paintings and photographs we studied at school were suddenly right in front of me and a can highly recommend the free audio tour guide which eliminated the need to squint at the teeny tiny blurbs.

We had drinks at the Wythe Hotel in Brooklyn that night which overlooks Manhattan and looks spectacular at night, followed by an outrageous night out in Manhattan on Thursday evening which included…
  • A scrumptious dinner at Tiny’s Restaurant care of our super gal pals back in NZ
  • A comedy show in Greenwich Village
  • An excessive amount of drinks at various bars in Manhattan 
  • Emily being sick and making Rosie take her home
After sleeping until 2pm the following day we packed up for the weekend and caught the bus up to New Haven to visit Yale.

The expedition began at 7am Saturday morning when we boarded this bus to head out to the regatta:

After some awkward mingling while Adam was on the water and a hungry Rosie and Emily shyly sneaking food from the buffet we were identified by the parent help who had actually already made us name tags - which we proudly wore from then on as an indication we were actually entitled to be eating the delicious yoghurts on offer. Adam’s crew - ‘The Varsity 8’ - bet Dartmouth who they raced against, then we all boarded the yellow school bus to head back into town.

We watched the crew eat an excessive amount of brunch then went on a tour of the University a la Adam Smith.

View from the architecture building

Adam pointing to "some old building.." that was built in 1750 - Was New Zealand even inhabited then?!?!

Top tour mention goes to:

The Gym - 10 storeys high, and has the facade of a Cathedral. Apparently some old lady donated some money to the school a long long time ago for the purpose of a Cathedral but the school built the biggest gym complex you’ve ever seen that simply looked like a Cathedral. As she was so elderly they only needed to drive her past to prove they had in fact built her request. 

This is the race pool, they have another for training also.

Indoor rowing set up, just like the movies! Each crew has their own room with one of these.

Cathedral like entrance to the gym

Is it a government building? Or is it a dining hall?

(one of many serving delicacies we could have only dreamed of in Otago)

Seeing the Secret Societies on campus was cool, and I should also mention that Adam's friends were the most polite and fun 20 year olds to be around. Let's hope that school is rubbing off on him.

We kicked off Saturday evening having a few drinks with Adam’s roommates then moved on to some campus Frat parties - which were exactly how you’ve seen them in the movies. We even got a tour of the basement ‘grinding’ room which wasn’t in action on this particular night - but looked like a sufficiently dangerous place to leave your drunk friend grinding against a wall.

Brunch on Sunday is reserved for da Boys only - no exceptions, ever. So Rosanna and I dined solo ensuring we made the most of the free food again with two courses each. We then made an attempt to explore the Yale Art Gallery hungover - not sure why I was surprised but they have some amazing art in there and entry is free too!

I finished up my time in NYC by heading to the Guggenheim and catching up with Harley, Monica, Talia & Jesse at a couple of their favourite spots in Brooklyn. I am still thinking about the delicious frozen mojito we had at Surf Bar.  

As I am heading back to NYC in June I did have to put a lot of the key sightseeing activities on hold until then so Mr Reed didn’t miss out - but it was a great way to kick the trip off. 

Next post - COACHELLA