A Travellerspoint blog

Buda and Pest

Three days in Budapest, Hungary

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After reuniting with my sisters and recharging the batteries in Mother England for a few days, we set off to destination #1 of our two-week Eastern European tour; Budapest.

I’m not sure what we expected, but for some reason we were surprised to be greeted by a city with spunk and soul that had all the trimmings one might enjoy at other classy Euro destinations. There were the Rapunzel-esque castles on the hill, elegant bridges over the River Danube and tree-lined boulevards. Did I mention the place is awash with hot pools of all descriptions? How charming indeed.

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Autumn trees lining the streets

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The chain bridge separating Buda and Pest

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Strolling over the bridge was pretty windy

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It may have been a tourist trap for which we are suckers, but the icecream scooped in the shape of flowers was really clever and tasty

Once again Airbnb.com pulled through for us - we scored a room in a nice fella’s apartment for €18/night which was indicative this relatively economical destination. Centrally located in the ‘Oktogon’, it was perfect for strolling the streets and taking in the sights.

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St Stephans Basilica

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Church in Buda with super awesome tiled roof. We may have to tile our roof like this at home

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View over the bridge from Buda to Pest

I will admit I wasn’t particularly well-versed on Hungary’s 20th century woes, so our trip to Budapest’s “House of Terror” museum provided a blow-by-blow of life under the tyrannical fascist and communist regimes and also serves as a memorial for victims detained, interrogated, tortured or killed in the building. The museum has very innovative exhibits and is well-worth a look if you are in the neighbourhood.

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Memorial for all the Jews affected by WWII

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Exterior of the terror museum which portrays Hungary's troubled past

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People regularly light candles as a way to remember the victims

We made sure we got over to the Buda side of town to check out the castles up on the hill. The castles were fab, but the best part is you get a buena vista over the river and the city. After a few hours reading in the park we decided we needed to unwind a little bit more.

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Rolling around in leaves was a theme of our time in Budapest

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Buena Vista

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The lengths we go to in order to get that great shot

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Locals taking some time out to soak up the views

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Some locals choosing to bring their cello to play in the park - which was a nice accompaniment to our reading

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Other locals busking in the tourist spots

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Great backdrop for eating lunch (We stuck to our cheap fresh bakery goods though)

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Rapunzels castle

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Castle hill area

It wouldn’t be a trip to Budapest without dipping a toe or 10 in one of the many local baths, and bathe we did in Császár Baths - Veli Bej
hot pools tucked away behind a hospital next to the Danube. For AUD$20 for both of us – it was one of the more economical options in town but they certainly hadn’t skimped on the facilities - it was positively palatial.

Amongst all the touristing we were keen on ticking off a few local delights including, but not limited to; paprika chicken + homemade dumplings, baked goods in general and have to a drink in a ‘ruin pub’. The ruin pubs, once upon a time, were all abandoned/derelict buildings in a state of disrepair and unused outdoor spaces, which have been converted into bars crawling with hipsters. Top of the list was Szimpla Kert, which was ranked by 3rd coolest bar in the world by somebody once.

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We do love a tourist trap... and Goulash

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Szimpla Kert inside

So put on our glad-rags we did – Hayley asked me if her as-yet-unwashed-in-6-months Bolivian alpaca jumper was “hipster, or just daggy?”, we both decided it was the perfect blend of both and went on our way. We needn’t have worried as it seemed the bar was more tourist attraction than hipster hangout and the patrons looked almost as daggy as we did. Phew.

It was an awesome city to spend a few days in and we would love to have explored the remainder of the country but alas, we had to train our way across Croatia to meet up with our marathon running crazy friends Scoops in Slovenia. Luckily for us we had heard the train ride was very pretty.

Posted by ladiesofleisure 15:42 Archived in Hungary Tagged budapest hungary chain_bridge buda pest goulash kert szimpla_kert terror_museum Comments (2)

The Big Apple

New York

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View from Central Park

We had been looking forward to our 10-day stint in New York. There are few other cities, which dish up such a vast smorgasbord of attractions to gorge on - not to mention the food. Oh lordy, the food.

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The Highline - it was a railroad, now its a park!

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Fun at FAO Schwarz toy store

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As above...Novelty chocolate found all over the USA

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A Coney Island sunset

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Central Park

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Grand Central Station

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Times Square

We invested in the New York Pass, which allowed us to access said smorgasbord (all the attractions you can eat in 7 days). Couple this with an alarm clock and a certain dedication to the cause, you will think you are actually making money on that thing.

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Lady Liberty herself

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We biked around Central Park on a very miserable and wet day

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Manhattan from the top of the Rock

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The 9/11 Memorial

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They have done a great job at the memorial - we also visited the tribute centre which was a pretty harrowing experience

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The volunteers at the memorial go round every morning and put roses in the names of victims who would have been celebrating their birthday on that day.

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New Trade Centre one

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The Met

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Lego exhibit!

We based ourselves in the far off land called Brooklyn in an economical airbnb.com accommodation. The interesting part about this neighbourhood is predominantly populated by a Hasidic Jews – a branch of Orthodox Judaism.

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We didn't take this pic

This was interesting to us, firstly because it was unforeseen but mostly as it gave us an introduction to a community we were unfamiliar with and to be fair our time in Crown Heights raised more questions than answers, but of course that’s nothing the interweb can’t assist with.

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The commute into town

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Quick stroll over the Brooklyn Bridge

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Prospect Park

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Prep for Halloween in Brooklyn

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Dumbo! (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass)

Interspersed with our heavy-hitting schedule of attraction-hopping, was a heavy-hitting schedule of food consumption. Of course the usual suspects were ticked off – Shakeshack burgers, bagels, donuts, ramen, xiao long bau and so on and so forth.

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Getting back on the Xiao long bao wagon at long last

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What a treat it was to catchup with long lost school pals in the Big Apple - thanks Rach, Joanne, Amy and James!

One tried and true method of finding a top spot is when you can see a queue out the door. New Yorkers love a good queue – and to be fair we have be guilty of queuing like chumps in an attempt to appease our ever-more-demanding stomachs. But one has to draw the line somewhere. Now, you may or may not have heard about the ‘cronut’ - the love child of the croissant and doughnut. It was born (and promptly trademarked) out of a bakery in New York circa May 2013 and since then - every day of the week, a queue forms outside from 6am until the shop opens at 8am. They sell out mid-morning every day so you have to be in to win. Seeing my mind calculating what hour we would have to rise to get to Manhattan in time to get in that queue, Hayley swiftly put a pin in it and bought me a consolatory doughnut instead.

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Chumps lining up for cronuts outside and down the road from Dominique Ansel Bakery (we nicked this pic from this blog)

We did, however get to the front of the queue for the New York institution - Momofuku, for their legendary ramen bowls which were delicious.

Whilst we powered through the headline attractions like the Empire State Building, Central Park, Statue of Liberty, Rockerfella centre, MoMA, The Met etc etc - we thoroughly enjoyed some of the more unorthodox activities like going to a cosy improv show in Chelsea, a dance competition in NOHO, doing a tour on slavery as well as one about gospel music. We even went to church - yep, this congregation of 10,000 in Brooklyn don't muck around - the choir has won a Grammy and also sang at Obama's inauguration!

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Our Gospel Tour Guide gets his laces done up by a token group mother hen

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And - breaking into song

By the end of our 10 days of perhaps some of the most intense touristing experienced this year - we were exhausted, but certain we had consumed as much as that great city had to offer and then some. We will however, be back to get our damn cronuts.

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Next up in this now somewhat tardy blog series - city-hopping in Eastern Europe.

Posted by ladiesofleisure 11:43 Archived in USA Tagged new_york brooklyn empire_state_building rockefeller_centre dumbo ny_pass big_apple Comments (2)

How planes and skyscrapers are made

Seattle and Chicago

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The flights from Canada were super expensive so we took the option of bussing to Seattle in order to get an internal US flight. This was far more friendly to the ol wallet and as luck would have it our buddies Jam and Lauren had recently moved there.

With only a couple of days to pack in some of the great things this city has to offer, we had to choose wisely.

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We actually did not find this by chance but went looking for it on our first day!

We had heard great things about the Boeing factory tour so we asked Jam if he could have a “take your buddies to work day” and hitched a lift with him. The tour was awesome. The Boeing factory is the biggest building in the world by volume. It is in fact so big that they had their own weather system inside the building (before air conditioning). We got told it actually snowed in there once, were they lying to us? We unfortunately were not allowed to take any photos so have a couple of not very impressive photos to show for it, but believe us when we say that it was cool!

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I still dream of being a pilot.... Apparently my deaf Right ear deems me unfit so I have to pretend

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Massive factory to the left and a dreamlifter to the right - it is a plane to carry planes - wowsers

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Big wheels

Also on the list of must see’s were

1. The World’s first Starbucks (this was not high up the list but we were just passing by).
2. Music museum – Home of Jimi Hendrix and Nirvana exhibits (they were from Seattle)
3. The Gum wall.
4. Fish throwing at the public markets (to be seen on video yet to be made)

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The original starbucks with a crazy massive line of weirdos

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Large sculpture made of guitars in appreciation of Seattles music scene

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View of the needle

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Public market where they throw fish and where you can find the gum wall.

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Gum wall

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I would not be parking my bike here

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A cool building.

We had a really good time hanging out with The Pattertans for the couple of days we had there. Seattle’s newest locals had already done the hard work and sussed out some fabulous eateries, which we totally loved. We ate wonderful food and were fortunate enough to hang out with the newest member of their family – Sumo the Pug!

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Cuddles with the baby

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Irresistibly cute

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Sweet game of Polo - on bikes. Pre-requisites are that you need to be a hipster with a single speed

Next stop on the itinerary was a three-day stint in Chicago. This was never on our list but we had heard such great things that we decided that as it was on the way to the East coast where our flight for the UK was leaving from, it was feasible to arrange a little stopover.

We Air BnB’d again in Bronzeville, which was a 15-minute train trip from the CBD. We were staying in a predominantly black neighbourhood which was great – primarily for the cuisine available. We feasted on Fried Chicken and Waffles like all the locals were doing and had a fab time.

We spent the majority of our time in the CBD or in the Museums of which there are many. Chicago was super awesome and is somewhere we would love to come back to.

Our activities included:

1. Architectural walking tour – super awesome buildings and where skyscrapers were first built
2. The Bean
3. John Hancock Observation building.
4. Academy of sciences (Best museum EVER)
5. Navy Pier (Avoid)
6. Ate Popcorn – cheese and caramel

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Elevated train platforms in the rain are cool

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Famous Chicago sign in the theatre district

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The bean

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More of the bean blending in with the sky

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Crazy stuff

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Sculptures

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Saw some sweet buildings in the Architecture tour

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Skyscraper central

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We got a U boat tour which was super awesome. Amazing how those Germans lived in these super confined spaces for very long periods of time

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Also watched little baby chicks hatch. Really cool and they got cute really quickly. Thankfully they all survived that day so could go to the reptile exhibit the following day. Eek. Traumatic!

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View from a tall building (John Hancock observation deck)

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Same building but opposite size. Beautiful and super crowded place to watch the sunset

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I fulfilled another lifelong dream of making S'mores - not as amazing as I would have hoped

Love this place and want to come back some time!!!

NEXT STOP

NYC!!! We really hope to see Carrie, Monica and Co, Harvey and Donna, Blair and Chuck and the elusive Banksy (He was there the whole time we were)!

Posted by ladiesofleisure 06:50 Archived in USA Tagged fish chicago seattle starbucks skyscrapers boeing needle academy_of_sciences everton john_hancock_observation gumwall Comments (2)

Canada: Just like New Zealand on Steroids

A flying visit to Canada to see old mates and a BIG drive through ice fields

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After hearing many a good thing about the ice fields drive between Banff and Jasper and considering the fact that Skinny and JJ were preoccupied with employment, we opted to spend the first few days in Canada driving up to Banff and making our way to Jasper via the ice fields. It meant a few very long drives but boy were we rewarded.

Our basic route took in one night each in Revelstoke, Banff and Jasper. It really was rapid but we saw so many amazing sights and fit a lot in during the 4 days.

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Sweet man made structure which allows bears to cross without getting nailed by the cars
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In preparation for said bears we have bear spray - never leave home without it in this area of the world
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Very old cedar trees
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Train travel in the shadow of the rockies must be stunning
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Autumn just coming in
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Beautiful landscapes with easy access lead to other tourists who insist on taking photos on the iPad which in turn leads to me looking like a dick
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Moraine Lake
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Soph contemplating a dip in the glacial waters of Lake Morraine
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Beautiful Lake Louise
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Lake Lousie - the wide angle
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Peyto Lake
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Lemmings walking on the glaciers
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Great day to bust out the shorts
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Tourists everywhere taking in the sights
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Rockies
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Ah reflections, great photographer fodder
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A touch of snow made for a cold walk
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The landscapes we passed were well worth the cold
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Sightings of wildlife aplenty but difficult to get them to hold still for the shot
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This won't win wildlife photographer of the year, but look closely - its a crow/raven snacking on ferret roadkill.

We returned to Vancouver to spend the next 5 days making ourselves well and truly at home at our great mates; Skinny and JJ. We had been warned that Vancouver fall can be a little on the damp side, and we were not disappointed. It rained the whole time. During the weekend when Skinny and JJ were around to drag us off the couch, we braved the weather and stepped out for a few fun-filled activities. While they spent their time at work, we sat on their amazing sofa bed watching a whole season of Orange is the new black (really good by the way). It was a great way to unwind from all the stresses of travel. We will wait for 2014 to see what the stresses of real life equate too...

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Shopping on Granvillle island for some treats
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Good old liberal Canada - Davie Village
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Mmmmm Meat and Bread
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Fabulous goats cheese
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The end of the salmon run means they no longer jump out of the water but linger about looking sickly whilst waiting to die.
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A few pretty walks through the pretty city
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Float planes
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Framed! Capilano Suspension Bridge
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BIG swingbridge
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Tree walk.

Vancouver is beautiful (from what we have heard through the grapevine) but we could not see past the drizzle and fog. We really do have to come back some time to enjoy the views. What we did see was incredible and is somewhere we really want to go back to.

Next stop - Boeing (Seattle)

Posted by ladiesofleisure 12:44 Archived in Canada Comments (2)

Boats, bridges and bonza times in San Fran

San Francisco

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We were pretty stoked with ourselves that we had miraculously, unintentionally coincided our trip to San Francisco with the “34th America’s Cup”. It’s funny in hindsight - with the Kiwi boys doing so well, we thought there was a very real chance they would be done and dusted with that motley crew of pseudo-Americans before we actually got there. So put the pedal to the metal we did, and hoofed it up the Pacific Highway to see if we could catch some of the racing. Well, we all know how that turned out. Of course we had ample time to watch a Team NZ walkover turn into one of the most excruciating comebacks of all time.

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Whilst this experience helped to pique our stress levels, which had become dangerously low, it was pretty damn cool to see these boats in the flesh (and get an education on ‘foiling’ – newsflash Sophie - they’re not actually flying). San Francisco certainly provided an incredible stage to host the event and we enjoyed waving the Kiwi flag in amongst bucket loads of our countrymen who seemed to well and truly outnumber the locals. Apparently moneyboat doesn't enjoy the same attention as NFL or NBA, plus the San Franciscans despise Larry Ellison.

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Team NZ whizz past Alcatraz
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San Fran Harbour
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Foiled again!
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We spent plenty of time screaming at this screen
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Catching a glimpse on the finish line

San Fran was the last stop on Ange’s whirlwind tour of the US and we thought it necessary to introduce her to the joys of hostel life. Unfortunately, this establishment was smack-bang in the middle of a urine-soaked hood for the homeless, which is directly adjacent to San Fran’s Market Street/plush retail strip. It certainly was an eye-opener to see such an astronomical number of people in such a dire state. In fact - I can’t think of a comparable state of poverty (that was visible to us) in our entire trip through South America (Or in fact previous trips overseas to the likes of India and South East Asia).

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Ange getting stuck into hostel life
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Oh dear.
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Hayley and Ange at the California Academy of Sciences

Now, drug addicts aside – we really loved our time in San Fran. Not only was our timing on the money for the sailing, it also was bang on for San Fran’s annual two weeks of summer. This saw us get out and traverse that great bridge, scream at sailboats, walk up crooked streets and poke our noses into many a fine eatery.

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Took one of these for a burn. Looks fun, actually hurts like hell
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The golden one
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Those famed pink ladies
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Scaling Lombard St, world's most crooked street
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Apparently locals tired of drunk loons speeding down this formerly straight st in the prohibition era, and put a few bends in to slow them down
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The Sanfranscape
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Great spot for a prison
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Alcatraz
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How would you get out of this?
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There ya go!

Having farewelled Ange, we moved into our friends’ place - the lovely Dan and Gabi for a few days to live like locals. Apparently locals have gin in their juice for breakfast (I think they would like me to insist that this is only on weekends, but frankly I have no concrete proof that this is indeed the case).

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Hospitality chez Dabi
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Thanks guys for a fabulous time! Next stop on the pals-reunite tour - Vancouver to see the Johnson-Olivers and some big mount'ns.

Posted by ladiesofleisure 17:58 Archived in USA Tagged california usa san_francisco alcatraz emirates oracle americas_cup united_states_of_america emirates_team_new_zealand Comments (0)

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