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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Boston - the disaster visit

Okay so we didn't actually get to see any of Boston.

We booked our accommodation for Boston while we were in Miami. We were in need of a short bout of respite from horrible hostels for a bit, so wanted a cheap motel/hotel and found one in Burlington.
Burlington was 20 miles out of Boston, but that was fine, we'd totally be able to get public transport in.
We did however, forget it was a Sunday.
No airport shuttles went to Burlington, we discovered when we arrived at Boston airport. Because it's not a touristy place. Okay...

It cost $80 for our taxi out there, which thank GOD we could split between us.
When we arrived, we were VERY happy with the hotel, it had 2 bedrooms, TV in each room, a kitchenette and all sorts of stuff and my internet WORKED there. Hallelujah!
There WAS VERY limited public transport to Boston, to do any sight seeing. And it would cost over $100 to get there (one way) by taxi. Okay. Cool. How about Salem. That's somewhere else I'd want to go. No public transport to Salem, and that's about $110 each way by taxi too. Oh crap.
Anything to do in Burlington? Any nice walks? The answer from the guy on the desk was, with a laugh: "Nah, I mean it's BURLINGTON." There was however, a mall down the cliff (yes our hotel was on the edge of this weird cliff) so we went there and wandered around, and had dinner at the Cheesecake Factory, which was nice.

Eleanor who had NOT booked her transport out of Boston, to New York as yet booked a bus for the next morning, since we couldn't really do anything, why waste the day? Whilst I had booked my flight for the evening, so I was stuck there.
But it was okay, I got to enjoy having a private bathroom, and hello privacy! Something I had most definitely missed when living in hostels. I had to check out at 12pm, so had a good six hours to kill. So I was nearly killed when I went to the mall again and the movies.

Something Burlington is in dire lack of, is footpaths/sidewalks. It seems people don't walk in Burlington, they drive. Therefor they have nowhere for their pedestrians to go, aside from on the road in front of the traffic. It was an...erm...experience.

So I cringed in the taxi to the airport but sucked it up and paid my $80 fare, and went to check in at the self serve check in thingy. Except there was something wrong. They were being terribly helpful at Jet Blue and ushered me over to a guy to help and it turned flight was yesterday. I'd booked the wrong flight. I booked it in Miami, not 24 hours after buying the dreaded voodoo bracelet.

So I had to buy ANOTHER $120 ticket. And the flight was delayed.

As much as I had been looking forward to seeing Boston - and believe me, I had been and still AM, on THIS trip? Boston was the biggest waste of money I've ever experienced. Sigh.

I arrived in New York by midnight.

The beginning of what I mean when I say everything turned to crap


So I put the voodoo bracelet from the voodoo shop in New Orleans on, and not ten minutes later, after walking very carefully on the wet footpath/sidewalk/whatever you want to call it, I slipped on some marble and landed on my knee. Hard. It hurt like crazy, let me tell ya. Everything was slippery because it had been raining, and it was drizzly, and I had what felt like (it may not have been) a 2 mile walk back to the hostel.
By the time we got back to the hostel, (I'd taken off my shoes so that I could have some grip so Eleanor - though very patient, and she didn't say anything - was probably getting really annoyed at my constant "Ow, oh, shit, ow's" that I was coming out with as I hobbled along behind her) it was time for us to set off again, to go on our walking tour. No prizes for guessing that we didn't end up going. That one's too easy.

The next morning we said goodbye to New Orleans and headed to the airport. We did our self-serve check in thingy and discovered our tickets said 5:55pm, not 11am, like they were supposed to. Hang on a minute...
Turns out the flight had been cancelled and we didn't know. So we sat at the airport for seven hours waiting to get to Miami, essentially losing a day in Miami.

After the seven hour wait in New Orleans for our new flight, we lost a whole day in Miami. And when we arrived at the hostel in Miami Beach, we were a little astounded as it looked nothing like the ad. And when they said boutique, clearly they meant really really small. With some lovely aussie room mates but rude German ones who would bring a gaggle of girls into the room to get ready for a night out, talking, laughing, drinking, using hair dryers etc whilst there were four people in the room trying to sleep. Every night. I guess this is what hostelling is about. I had the worst sleep EVER while staying there.

We quickly discovered that English is the second language in Miami, as most residents and shop keepers we came across spoke Spanish with a little bit of English. And through people watching, we also discovered that Miami is the home of the really really brown white person. I'd never seen caucasians with SUCH brown skin before. I don't know how they do it. Clearly not the way I do it, because when I went to the beach on our first full day in Miami, I got horrifically, painfully sunburnt. It was overcast and there was a cool breeze so I didn't even notice it happening. I was still wearing the voodoo bracelet.
We ran into one of our Italian friends on the beach - he walked straight past Eleanor on the beach while I was in the water (which is so much warmer than Inverloch, you can just walk straight in without the "ooh! ooh! It's frickin' cold!" thing going on that I am really good at)

Opposite the white (coarser, more shelly than at home) sandy beaches is a strip of hostels, restaurants and bars who are all vying for your custom, and this is really the main drag of Miami Beach. Waiters and waitresses hand you flyers and show you the menu without being prompted, so much so that we resorted to walking on the beach side of the street so that we wouldn't be accosted by someone at every single restaurant. Each restaurant also had already made examples of the menu on platters outside so that you could see what the meal would turn out like. They also had monster sized cocktails, with 2 for the price of 1 deals. However, it was 2 FOR 1 PERSON. We had very strict instructions that we could not share cocktails, I was not ALLOWED to even have a sip of Eleanor's if I wanted to. I've never come across that before, that you get told HOW to enjoy your meal.

Anyway, because of my sunburn, a bottle of aloe vera after sun gel and I became joint at the hip and I found it extremely difficult to move around much. But I persevered.
The next morning I went on a wind boat...air boat...? A boat tour of the Everglades which is a HUGE national park area that is pretty much covered in water. Decades ago, developers were trying to drain the everglades which was covered in 6 inches of water. But by digging, they struck the water table (I think I have my facts straight) and flooded the whole area. It is now covered in 6 FEET of water.
The sun was burning me through my clothes, just by standing somewhere there wasn't any shade. I was a bit scared of a 40 minute boat tour with no top. Eep. But it was okay. The wind took the sting out.

I didn't realise it was another popular destination for alligators, but we came across several of them, including an itty bitty baby one hiding amongst the lily pads. It was smart to do this, as our guide told us that 1 in 5 baby alligators is eaten by other alligators. These ones weren't such fans of marshmallows, like the New Orleans gators were.
After the boat tour there was a wildlife demonstration, in which one of the rangers demonstrated that alligators can't see in front of them, by putting his hand in the alligators mouth. Though he had to be extremely careful, as if he touched the alligator's face in any way, accidently grazed its tooth with his finger, then the jaw clamped shut in a millisecond. We had the opportunity to have our photo taken holding an alligator (for a fee), but I declined and for that the ranger slapped me in the face with the alligator's tail. :)

For the rest of the afternoon I took it easy in the hostel to stay out of the stinging sunshine and, you know, not move, and Eleanor went shopping and take photos of the art deco district and Little Cuba. Apparently, Miami Beach gets the thumbs up as a shopping destination.

That night after dinner, we went back to the beach in the darkness, listening to music from the clubs on the main street and watching lightning flashes over the city. It was a really nice end to Miami, and my sunburn was slowly becoming less painful. We both nearly fell asleep lying in the warm sand.

Next stop, was ONE DAY in Boston. We were starting to doubt that one day would really be enough to see everything.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The 500w a day challenge!

I'm doing it. No need to wait until NaNoWriMo in November, as @Inkyelbows has issued a challenge! Well not a personal challenge to ME type challenge but a challenge all the same.

I am in edit mode of my YA-soon-to-be-MG book, however throughout my travels I have had an abundance of new ideas and am itching to write something brand spanking new.

So why not 500w of newness a day? Totally do-able. And I can still edit my other book at the same time. I did a first pass edit of chapter one in 2 days. This is do-able, right? RIGHT?

I guess we'll find out.

Anyhoo, this is me starting.

And I'm looking forward to it.

Oh, and more adventures of Sarah in THE WORLD to come. This is just a sidenote.


Saturday, September 12, 2009

Long time no post! The WORLD and stuff

Hello interwebz!
Long time no see! Erm. Sorry about that.

I have finally stopped. Stopped being in a different city, state or country every 3 days. And I like it. :) And the internet works here! Half the places I've be
en my wireless has been in snooty mood so I would yell at it and it would yell back at me and then it would turn around with its arms crossed, muttering under its breath that I was the one
being unreasonable when it was the wireless that wasn't doing it's job and, you know. Working.

But we're back on speaking terms now, clearly it was having a bit of a tanty because we'd been moving around so much, but cos we're all settled down in Leeds it's a much happier computer.
So there ya go.

What was my last post? I'd just arrived at the conference eh? That was one awesome couple of days, let me tell ya. So inspiring, all those writers, editors and agents have so much to share. Many of us had complete fan moments and couldn't make
ourselves go and talk to some of the other attendess. For instance, FINALLY, after seeing her around a lot, I went over and talked to Holly Black.

And you wanna know what? She was just as lovely as I though
t she'd be. But it's funny, since her books are set in New York I just assumed she was from New York. But she's not. I hadn't been to New York (at the t
ime) so clearly she writes convincingly for me. Which means I can write about characters anywhere in the world too!

Anyhoo, I also met Jay Asher,

in a quite bizarre way - I had my fan girl moment while he was in line to have his fan boy moment with Holly Black. Pretty funny.

There was so much talent all over that conference. So many writers who are as yet unpublished, but have books that sound like awesome reads. They just haven't found the right home yet. But I know they will.
The Childrens Writing world is such a friendly sphere. I c
an't wait to go back to the conference next year. You know, if I c
an afford it. What with planes, and hotel rooms, and conferences fees. It's totally worth it though.

Let's see, after LA was Vegas. And I have to say, Eleanor and I were a bit stupid. What were we thinking going to the desert in the middle of Summer? But the good thing about this desert is that you barely need to leave your hotel. Cos it kind of has everything. Including air conditioning. Oh yeah, you heard me. AIR CONDITIONING. :)

And of course the casino, which spills into the bar which has pokies machines set into the table top. That's kind of mental. But anyhoo. We had juggling bar tenders,

and a live show outside our hotel window with sirens singing, pirates drowning and cannons blasting four times a night, there was room service, and Cirque Du Soleil IN THE HOTEL. We didn't even have to leave the building and brave the desert heat to go to a show. For HALF PRICE. In the FRONT ROW. Right on the side next to wh
ere they run up and down stairs and stuff. Sometimes the eye contact with the cast got a bit awkward.

We did however leave the hotel on occasion.
Caesar's Palace's mall, The Forum is insane, with marble statues, and fountains and spiral staircases and paintings on the ceilings. And walking around the Venetian with it's cloud covered ceiling and canals filled with gondalas... And seeing the Eiffel Tower on one side of the road, with the Empire State Building on the other was a bit surreal.

Oh, hello. There's a naked man in a window opposite mine. Anyway, where was I.

All up and down the strip, you'd have men and women handing out cards, mostly they didn't try and give them to me but the odd person did and I discovered they were for prostitutes. These cards were littered all over the footpath, too. Can you imagine growing up in Vegas? Like, being a kid in Vegas? I have a feeling you'd grow up fast.

Whilst Eleanor went on a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon (I went there 8 years ago, and declared it to be "just a big hole") I went to the Blue Man Group! I had no idea what to expect, and was a bit surprised at my 3rd row seat being classified as "the wet zone" and I had to wear a poncho. Woah. I didn't get wet though. Which I'm glad abou
t, cos those who did get wet, it was in a kind of gross way.
Great show though. How DO you describe the Blue Man Group?

Well this is pretty much what they do. but they're funny too. You know. Without talking. And they're Blue.

After Vegas was New Orleans. And I thought Vegas was hot. Actually, no, New Orleans wasn't hotTER than Vegas. It was just wetter. With 99% humidity I just about
died. Felt like I was sweating ALL the time. Had a shower one afternoon and my hair just wouldn't dry.
Made friends with some lovely Italian boys and an American chick who we hung out with a lot. We all went Swing Dancing, and into the French Quarter and Bourbon Street on a Saturday night - absolutely mental, let me tell ya. Eleanor and I also went on a swamp tour - a lot prettier than they lead you to believe

- and to a Plantation House which was also purty.

Then I put on a bracelet I bought in a voodoo shop and everything went to crap.

Tell ya about that and the rest later. :)