Our First Ever Road Trip!

The trip actually happened during last Christmas break but I haven’t had the chance to write about it until now.. so.. yeah :)))

Although we just got back from Indonesia, R suddenly realised that his office would be closed from Christmas until New Year so we decided to have a mini-vacation. We initially wanted to go to New York but obviously, it was not a good idea because we didn’t plan it in advance so flight ticket prices were skyrocketing!

We then decided to go on a road trip to nearby state and this time we chose to go to Utah. We had 4 days and the trip was super unplanned and I feel like we could’ve planned it better, but anyway it was a fun trip and memorable because it was our first one.

Continue reading “Our First Ever Road Trip!”

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It was my birthday and we were in the middle of nowhere..

This is the fourth post in the “Christa in the UK” series – stories from the year 2009 and 2010 during my time living, studying, working and traveling in a small beach town called Bournemouth in South West England. 

After dealing with homesickness, I started to love my new life as a student. Of course there were sleepless nights – those nights before the deadline of an assignment. But there were also other fun days, filled with the excitement of exploring a new place and making new friends from all over the world!

As we were approaching year end and the end of our first term, plans started to come up. Most of our European friends has made plans to come home for Christmas and New Year, basically leaving us Asians with no plans (yet). With a group of other Indonesians, I decided to plan a road trip throughout the UK during our term break/year end holiday. In between assignments deadline we began to build our plan – cities to go, places to visit, modes of transportation, budget, and all that. We also asked a group of friends to join us. In the end, there were 10 of us. 5 Indonesians, 2 Taiwanese, 1 Chinese, and 2 Thai. So fun! I had written the travel experience as a guest post in my friend Aggy’s blog and you can read it here.. what I haven’t shared there is the fact that I had my birthday during that trip! Yay!

We started the trip on the eve of Christmas. We decided to have a road trip and rented two cars for 10 of us. Our first destination was Bath – a small town up north of Bournemouth, less than 2 hours drive away. It was already dark when we arrived, and we were very much surprised to find out that the town was like a dead town! Our destination was the town centre but we saw almost no one on the streets. The shops were all closed, even though it’s only around 6PM. No restaurants nor pubs were open.. except a restaurant called Market, where we ended up having our Christmas Eve dinner!

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Christmas Eve dinner at Bath

After dinner, we spent some time wandering around Bath’s empty city centre, just having fun with each other because really, we felt like the town was ours! Hahaha. And then we left for our next destination, Bristol. Of course, everything was closed as well there. Being international students, we were not aware of the fact that during Christmas eve, British people tend to spend time at home and all shops would be closed. It will continue to be like that until Christmas day.. and then everything will start to go back normal on Boxing day which is the 26th of December. So yeah, we did not get to do much in Bristol except strolling around the empty town centre. We probably spent only a couple hours there before we left to our next destination… Liverpool!

It would normally take us around 3 hours from Bristol to Liverpool but somewhere along the way my friend in the other car called and asked to stop at the nearest motorway service areas. Because I was driving previously, I failed to realise that it was some time past midnight already, which meant it’s the 25th of December and I turned 23 already! That’s why I was so surprised when everyone gathered around me and sang me happy birthday. They gave me some nice presents as well 🙂

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Surprise!!!

It was definitely a moment to remember, It’s not every year I got to spend my birthday so far away from home, in the middle of nowhere, but surrounded with good friends and warm attention!

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With my birthday presents 🙂

After the quick birthday surprise, we continued our journey and reached Liverpool early in the morning. As predicted, everything was closed as well but we managed to find a Chinese Restaurant so we could have a nice dinner to celebrate Christmas and… my birthday. It was a very memorable day 🙂

The US Trip: Solvang and Santa Barbara

This is the seventh post of ” The Us Trip” series. To read other posts in this series, click here.

Solvang is a city in Santa Barbara County, California. This relatively small city has very unique architecture, as it resembles a taste of Denmark. Yep, that Denmark! The city even has a copy of the famous Little Mermaid Statue , very similar to the original one in Copenhagen (I’ve never been to Copenhagen, but that’s what they say.. hahaha).

It took us around 4 hours drive from Orange County to Solvang . In between, we stopped by at Camarillo too. Camarillo is a premium outlet store which might be an option if you’re into shopping. Anyway, it was a rather pleasant drive because I got to see this kind of view…

Solvang road trip
On my way to Solvang!

In Solvang, we stayed in Hamlet Inn which is situated in (what I think is) the main road of Solvang, Mission Dr. I love this hotel! Although the building looks rather traditional from the outside, but our room has a very sleek, minimalist Scandinavian style design. Plus, they provide free bike rental which is another thing to do when you’re in Solvang, it’s really nice to bike around town!

Hamlet Inn Solvang
Hamlet Inn
Bikes at Hamlet Inn
Free Bike Rental! yay!

After checking in, spent some time exploring the neighborhood around the hotel. I think where we stayed is the tourist area since there are a lot of small shops and cafes, with very unique European architecture. Trust me I did not feel like I was in the US at all. We even saw a windmill! How cool is that ?

Mortensen's Danish Bakery
Danish Bakery
Solvang-Windmill
Windmill in the US?

As an afternoon snack, we tried a local delicacy which is called Aebleskiver. Well again, it is actually a Danish delicacy but since Solvang is sort of a mirror city.. it’s a must try when you’re in town. It’s like small doughnut balls with strawberry sauce and sugar.. very sweet but tasty! (Remember, I’m a sweet tooth so anything sweet goes :D) I actually forgot which shop I bought it from, but no worries there are a lot of shops which sell this dessert (some say Danish people like to eat it for breakfast too!).. so it’s easy to find in Solvang.

Aebleskiver Solvang
Aebleskiver

The next day, we had breakfast in Paula’s Pancake House just across the road and then left for Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara I think is a more popular destination, but to me it’s another beach-front city so I was more interested to see Solvang. Though we only spent a night in Solvang, it was really enjoyable since the town is indeed very pretty! It’s rather quiet so to me a night is enough to explore..

In Santa Barbara we spent some time walking in their main street, where there are a lot of retail shops and restaurants, this time is rather similar to the ones I saw in Orange County. We bought pizza to go and went to the pier to eat our lunch, but too bad it was cloudy so we did not stay long.. 😦 we only spent around 3 hours before going back to LA. Anyway, Here are some pictures :

Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara beach front
Pier
Santa Barbara Pier

So, if you’re visiting California and have some time to spend, might want to try exploring Solvang and Santa Barbara as an alternative to the bigger and more popular cities 🙂

The US Trip: Las Vegas Baby!

This is the fourth post of “The US  Trip” series. To read other posts in this series, click here.

People say that when you’re in the US’ West Coast, you can NOT miss visiting Las Vegas. True? At first I kind of hesitated to visit Las Vegas, because I don’t gamble, and don’t party as much – and I thought that’s all what the town has to offer. But I was wrong. Even after only 1 night in Las Vegas, I can say that it is a MUST visit when you’re in the West Coast!

I went there on the weekend with my friends – the four of us drove from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and it took us around 4 hours to get there. Although I did not drive, I can say that it was an enjoyable drive. Wide road, no traffic, clear blue sky, gorgeous desert scenery – pure American road trip experience.

Road Trip - California to Nevada!
Road Trip – California to Nevada!

I was lucky that our hotel – Jockey Club Resort was located within the famous Las Vegas Strip. In fact, it is conveniently located within Bellagio and Cosmpolitan. It’s a 3 star hotel and a non-gaming one, but still within walking distance to the ‘life of Las Vegas’, so it’s perfect for me, being a non-gamer / first – timer in Las Vegas. We stayed in their studio – which on their website written as sleeps 4 but trust me they are HUGE! I think it can still conveniently sleeps up to 6, perfect for group travel.

Las Vegas Strip
Las Vegas Strip

After we arrived in the afternoon, we spent some time to wander around The Cosmopolitan and also The Strip. I was amazed to see the amount of people gaming in the casinos I saw. Everywhere I look, the casinos were never empty, even though it’s in the middle of the day. They even did not wear formal/smart attire (like what I saw in the movies :p). Because we don’t have casinos in Indonesia – I found it rather odd to see people gaming in daytime wearing casual clothing. Even Singapore’s Resort World Sentosa have smart attire as their dresscode!

Ka-Chinggg!
Ka-Chinggg!

Actually, our main intention to visit Las Vegas was to eat at Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace, since it’s listed no.1 in 2013’s 5 best Vegas buffet by USA Today. If that review still does not convince you enough, it has 4 stars in Yelp 😀

Caesar's Palace Lobby
Caesar’s Palace Lobby

Having seen the reviews, we were not surprised anymore to see this queue when we arrived in front of the restaurant…

The queue!
The queue!

We had to queue for 2 hours to get a seat! They say you’ll get a priority queuing line if you’re staying at Caesars Palace but for the rest of us, we had to queue patiently. We arrived at the restaurant at 6, got our seats at 8… and finished eating by 11 PM 😛  I have to say that this was the BEST buffet I’ve ever eaten in my life! All the fresh seafood, juicy meat, scrumptious dessert.. To this, all the fancy buffet in Jakarta’s 5 star hotels I’ve been to seems like nothing!

Anyway, we ended the night feeling very satisfied and full. We had a walk through the strip once again to see some bits of night life, then went straight back to the hotel.

The next day, we spent some time walking through the strip again (it’s a long road!), where we found a Coca- Cola Store! Being a Coke enthusiast, I was so happy to be in the store. We did some shopping, got our picture taken with Coke’s Polar Bear, and spent some time in the cafe where we got to try Tastes of The World. For $7, we will receive two trays each with 8 small cups consisting of different Coca – Cola Company’s products from all over the world. This is definitely a must do when you’re visiting the store, and my personal favorite is Fanta Magic from Estonia (Yes, there is such thing!).

Coca – Cola Tastes of The World
Coca-Cola Store!
Coca-Cola Store!

We left Las Vegas after visiting Coca – Cola Store, but managed to stop by the factory outlet (!!!) on the way back to Los Angeles (I’ll write more on the factory outlets I visited on this series, promise!). So yeah, I think there are more to Las Vegas than casinos and clubs. Visit when you’re into culinary experience, even more when you’re into entertainment! Too bad I did not get the chance to see some live shows – I guess it’ll be interesting to see either cabaret, cirque du soleil, or even comedy shows. Well, that simply mean I have to go back one day 🙂