Contiki 2014 – Grand Northern USA

For a while, I’ve wanted to write about my contiki in 2014.

I hadn’t started my blog yet when I traveled then but I definitely want to do a review on the tour. So I what I think I’ll do, is an over all overview of the contiki, then another blog of each of the place we stopped in at!

The tour started on a rainy morning in downtown New York at the Doubltree By Hilton, Chelsea. The night before, most of us met in the lobby for a quick meet and greet and exchange paperwork of insurance and passports with our contiki manager Craig, a typical American with a very strong southern accent, which threw me at first. Christ, what am I doing? Why on earth did I book this trip, everyone is terrifying me!

My anxiety of new people went into overdrive and I was stuck in the middle of a tiny cramped lobby with 30 or so other people introducing themselves to everyone while I managed to back my way out of the group after I had given my copies of the paper work and nudged towards the elevator and back to my room to try to get a good nights sleep after an extensive day of trying to get over my jet lag and the fact that I thought I had made the biggest mistake of my life by coming overseas.

I missed home, my family and my friends already and I had only been out of the country for no more than 48 hours and I still had 30 something days to go!

Mel, pull yourself together, you are going to enjoy this trip no matter what!

The next day we all jumped in the bus and spent the next few hours playing ‘get to know you’ games before reaching our first destination, Boston. We did the touristy stuff in Boston for a couple of days then headed up on the bus to Canada!

We explored in Quebec City, Montreal and of course Toronto where we hit up way too many bars and drank way too much vodka to have our last trip in Canada at the beautiful Niagara Falls.

Before we crossed the border back into the States, we stopped in at the duty free store to stock up for the rest of the trip with more alcoholic goodies.

Next stop, Cleveland Ohio! We only spent one afternoon/night here. We ventured through the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame then spent the night ten pin bowling.

Over the coming days we stopped in at Chicago Illinois, Madison Wisconsin, Sioux Falls South Dakota, the incredible Badlands’ National Park, the tiny historic town of Walldrug and Mt. Rushmore. I got to go to my first baseball game and check in at the Spam Factory (needless to say, like most days we were hung over and the spam tastings were an interesting experience to say the least).

One place I remember fondly is Keystone, a town next to Mt. Rushmore that   I loved the little old town and I was caught it wanderlust of it all. A few of us spent an evening in the most amazing bar I have ever seen.

It was a cross between an old wooden small town bar, and a thrift shop. Yeah I’m serious, and I’ll go into more detail about it in my other blog and review about each town.

The next day would have been my favorite part of the bus trip by far!

We drove from Keystone through to the Wyoming Mountain Ranges, where for the first time ever, I saw snow. The forty or so of us proceeded to have a snow ball fight then return to the bus with blue frozen fingers and toes. It was totally worth it though 🙂


That afternoon we arrived to the small rodeo town of Cody, Wyoming. We all brought out our cowboy boots and hats and headed off the to rodeo for the evening!

The following days were spent in numerous national parks and time for some fresh air! We visited Yellowstone National Park, went on a horse ride through a local ranch, hiked through Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park and finally, the one and only Grand Canyon!


We finished off our trip by spending three amazing days in Las Vegas where, like usual, we drank too much, spent too much and partied too much. It was the final hoorah for the contiki trip so we made the most of Las Vegas before everyone parting ways in Los Angeles, not without several tears and hugs and exchanges of phone numbers.

Contiki’s are infamous for that, creating bonds and friendships like no other. Not only are you travelling to incredible places for the first, and potentially one and only time, but you are sharing that experience and wanderlust with 49 other travellers.

People who are inspired by the world and want to achieve so much. Some already have achieved so much which inspires everyone else even more.

Thank you contiki for creating life long lasting memories and friendships for me with like minded travelers and world seekers.

 

 

 

Wednesday May 11th 2016 – The Canadian Fairmont Bucket List

Since having started working for this company, I have decided to make a-

‘Canadian Fairmont Bucket List’ 

A list of Fairmont Hotel’s that I want to spend at least one night in at some point for here in Canada as well as the United States (since its just down the road)!

  • Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise ✔️

Monday April 18th 2016 – The stayover

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  • Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel ✔️

The reason I want to stay here, and honestly I already have twice, I just haven’t written about it yet, is because it is only 45 minutes away from Lake Louise. Having a passion for spa, the iconic Willow Stream Spa is one thing I certainly will be checking out! I will potentially stay here with my parents, will see 😉

  • Fairmont Palliser, Calgary ✔️

Tuesday, March 15th 2016 – 48 Hours in Calgary

  • Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge

I will be staying here in September with my parents when they visit! So I shall keep you informed 🙂

  • Fairmont Hotel Macdonald, Edmonton
  • The Fairmont Waterfront, Vancouver

Again, in September, my parents will be lucky enough to check this place out with me!

  • The Fairmont Pacific Rim, Vancouver

I would love more than anything to be able to stay here!!! They have by what I have heard, the best high tea next to The Savoy in London! They also have a Willow Stream Spa 😍 The only reason I couldn’t book here is because the staff rate wasn’t available for when my parents are visiting 😦  Doesn’t mean we can’t pop over to check it out!

  • The Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver

Here I will be staying with my parents!! Woohoo

  • Fairmont Empress, Victoria

Victoria is a stone throw away from Vancouver and the hotel sits right on the waterfront. It is also home to another Willow Stream Spa

  • Fairmont Chateau Whistler

It’s Whistler, need I say anymore? And yes I will be staying here in September! 😁☺️😆

Americas-

  • Fairmont Southampton, Bermuda

Palm Trees, Beach and Willow Stream Spa. Ah, sounds like heaven! This place is very high up on the bucket list for a holiday getaway!

  • Fairmont Mayakoba, Mexico

I nearly made it here in January when I went on my Mexican trip with G Adventures! Friday January 15th 2016 – Cancun. There were no staff rates, so I didn’t book. But next time!!!

  • Fairmont Copley Plaza, Boston

I honestly love Boston! I was here in 2014 when I went on my first contiki trip, the Grand Northern. (I am yet to blog about it by the way. This trip was before I started blogging!) The historic city of Boston honestly fascinates me and I would go back there in a heartbeat to visit again. The Fairmont Copley Plaza is also recognized as one of the Historic Hotels of America, since its grand opening in 1912.

  • Fairmont Dallas

Dear god, I will never be able to explain in words how much I loved visiting Texas! Take me back!

Day 22 Monday 31st August- “Things do not happen, things are made to happen” JFK

Day 23 Tuesday 1st September – “Brace your backbone and forget your wishbone”

  • Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii

The Fairmont Orchid is home to The Spa Without Walls. Imagine laying there getting a facial with the sound of the water trickling from the waterfall and stream only meters away. And stepping out of the door from your room straight onto the beach. Sounds like heaven to me. And I’ve never been yet to Hawaii.

  • The Plaza, New York

Day 4 Thursday 13th August- Sex and the city

New York is without a doubt my favorite city in the whole world! Not only was it the starting place of both of my contiki trips, which literally changed my life both times, but the city itself is so incredibly diverse and cultured. You walk in one direction to one neighborhood to see Wall Street and skyscrapers, and in another direction you are in the middle of suburbia eating local cupcakes in the park that looks like something out of the “Forrest Gump” movie.

And The Plaza, well is speaks for itself. Do you remember watching ‘Home Alone 2 Lost In New York’ as a kid? Yes, this is the same place! Central Park is right next door (and no its not as scary as the movie makes it out to be) And for those Australians, Crocodile Dundee when he arrives in New York ( you know the scene) his hotel suite is bigger than my whole apartment!

I won’t go on any further, we all know The Plaza.

  • Fairmont Grand Del Mar, San Diego

Even though I had 2 trips to the United States, San Diego is one destination I am yet to get to.

  • Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, Arizona

This place is also very high on the bucket list. If I am to one day able to work in the States and get a working Visa for there, here is the place to be! Home to the Well & Being Spa, a holistic overall wellness spa with a fitness center and the works. Right in the middle of Arizona where it is nice and warm, just how I like it!

  • Fairmont Olympic Hotel, Seattle

I will be meeting my parents in Seattle in September when I see them for the first time in a whole 12 months! I tried to book here with the staff rate, but with no luck. We may just have to pop in for a visit though during out day in Seattle.

Eventually I will make my way to all of these incredible destinations. I know it won’t be any time soon, but one day in years to come, I will look back on this list and know just how achievable it really is!

Thank you Fairmont for being such an incredible place to work 💜

 

Day 4 Thursday 13th August- Sex and the city


Today, myself and a few other girls went on the Sex and the city tour around New York.

We stopped at so many movie I iconic places from the TV show.

We started at The Plaza hotel, a hotel featured in the movie, Home Alone 2.

The tour ended at the Sex and the City store which wasn’t far from the hotel, so I walked back with a couple of the girls that were starting the grand southern.

I chilled out for a little bit during the afternoon then at 6 we had to have the end of tour meeting for the New York Uncovered with our tour manager and give feedback.

Then at 7, the pre contiki meeting for the Grand Southern was held where we had to check that our insurance details and passport on the paperwork for contiki is correct.

After that, a group of us headed to the Empire State Building to see it from the top at night and get some good shots!


  
From there, the 10 of us jumped into a limo and headed down to the meat packing district for some dinner and finally heading to Hogs and Heiffers to check out the original Coyote Ugly bar.




Such a good night!

xx

Day 3 Wednesday 12th August- Lady Liberty 

Yep you guessed it! Today was the day for the Statie of Liberty!!

😀

Up bright and early to beat the rush and the long lines, we caught the infamous New York subway to the Staton Island Ferry dock.

There were a few rusty heads from the night before at The Mean Fiddler bar (including myself)

Note to self, actually note to all!-

There is no such thing as one standard drink here in the United States like there is in Australia. Here, the correct term, is free pour.

The bartender can put in as much alcohol into a drink as they want.

And the more you tip, the more alcohol goes into each drink each time.

So anyway, jumping out onto a ferry to visit Lady Liberty herself, was actually quite a nice way to cure my sore little head.

We arrived at Liberty Island and walked around talking pictures of her statue and the beautiful New York skyline from the pedastal of the Statue of Liberty.
When we got back to the city, a food cart tour was organized for lunch and we visited 5 carts around the city to try different food from.


I would highly recommend these guys, one the food was incredible, and two, the history of food carts in New York is a lot more interesting that you would think!

turnstiletours.com

After the food cart tour, I went back to the hotel for a nap before heading to Mets Stadium for a baseball game!


The Mets won 3-0 after a 3 hour game then as a group, we headed back to the hotel on the subway.

Along the way, we kind of did an impromtu sing along on the subway.


Our interpretation of “You’re the voice” by John Farnham made for a good laugh and a great talking point at the bar next to the hotel where we all had a few drinks before calling it a night!

xx

Day 2- The Big Apple 


This morning officially began the 29 day long contiki starting in New York!!

The group was taken on a city tour by bus where we stopped at places like The Rockerfeller Centre and Grand Central Terminal.


“Atlas holding up the world” out the front of The Rockerfeller Centre.

We stopped at Grand Central Terminal for lunch and to explore the building and take a few snaps.

I was blown away by the grand magnitude of the architecture and sky scraping structures in this amazing city.


The American Stock Exchange on Wall St.

I quite enjoyed hearing some of the history of the city as we made our way through on the bus, going past Central Park, past the Plaza Hotel.

We finished the guided bus tour mid afternoon where we were dropped off at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in Downtown New York.

I went along to the memorial to pay my respects, but didn’t stay as I’ve already been last year before I started my Grand Northern Tour.

I did a little bit of shopping and stocked up on some essentials (being a bottle of vodka for pre drinking whilst on tour) 🙂

Then headed back to the hotel for a quick nap. I don’t think I’d fully shaken the jet lag yet.

Dinner was included tonight at a little place called Tonic in Times Square.


After dinner the group headed to a bar called The Mean Fiddler.

From the inside you could swear you were in some little bar in an American country town.

A few beverages were had there before calling it a night for another big day ahead tomorrow!

xx

Day 1- New York


I’ve said goodbye to Australia and hello to the new life in about to start.

After flying for about 10 hours from Sydney to Honolulu Hawai’i, I had to go through customs and had a four hour stop over and chilled out for a little bit before my next flight to New York, New York

Pork Sliders and a Cosmo at the Honolulu International Airport.

I then hopped on my next flight to New York which only took about 9 hours.

I arrived at JFK at about 6.30am Monday morning New York time and made my way into the city in a taxi after picking up my bag at the carousel.

Of course being first thing Monday morning, it was peak hour traffic and took about 2 hours to get to the hotel.

Since it was still early, my room wasn’t ready yet so I went and had some breakfast and got a mani pedi to fill in the time.

I came back to the hotel and made arrangements to meet up with a girl who will be on the grand southern contiki for dinner.

We headed to the Hard Rock Cafe in Times Square for food and cocktails, got a few snaps in the square then called it a night 🙂


80 sleeps to go- On this day last year


So today is an important day to mention.

On this day last year, I hoped onto a plane in Sydney headed for New York City.

After close to 20 something hours, 2 planes, a stop over at LAX and going through US customs, I made it to New York on the same day that I left.

It was close to 6pm by the time I checked into my hotel at the airport. I was tired and hungry, so I ordered dinner then went to bed.

The following day I headed into the city and checked into the hotel for the pre contiki night before headed down to the 9/11 memorial and museum.

It was quite an afternoon, and an honor to have had the opportunity to visit such a place.

The memorial was beautiful and respectful and every was possible.

Next I made a quick visit up to the Empire State Building.

Unfortunately I couldn’t see a thing from the top from all the fog.

It was still incredible and hopefully when I am there again in a couple months that the view will be a little better.


It is crazy to think that it has been a whole 12 months since that very first plane trip, the very first drink on contiki, the very first crazy story of breaking into Yale University and being briefly locked in and the very first bite of the travel bug and knowing I wanted nothing more than to see the whole world, one beautiful little town and crazy party city at a time.

12 months since New York, and this time I’m going to make sure I see everything I want to see in that amazing city instead of trying to cram it into one day!