This is so far overdue, woops!
So this was our last day in portland, after super creepy guys we were well ready to leave. We checked out and since our flight wasnt actually til 12.30 in the night, we decided to head out again. We stopped at our favourite coffee shop coava coffee for an hour or so and read our purchases from Powells bookshop. Mine was a suggested LGBT classic called 'oranges are not the only fruit', was definitely and interesting read! wont spoil it for you though, you should definitely have a look for yourself! Then we headed to the weekly weekend markets by the river. They were pretty cool, similar to every market though, trinkets, jewellery t-shirts and the like. But im glad we saw it! We headed back to the hostel and showered, watched many an episode of greys anatomy to pass the time to our flight to chicago. I was pretty glad to have some down time though, i always forget how tiring travelling gets without down time! We got to the airport and on the flight no problems. It was the red-eye, so leaves at 12.30 and arrives at 6.30am, i must have fallen asleep because I dont remember anything from it and then we were there! I have to say the 8 hour bus rides from Melbourne to canberra have stood me super well as now i can sleep sitting up pretty easily!
We caught the train to HI Hostel Chicago and dropped off our bags. We were allowed to get breakfast which was fantastic bc we were both starving! We planned to be able to do things on this day, but that truly didnt happen. We found couches and crashed pretty hard til 12.30. I have no idea what we looked like to other travelers but we were so tired we actually just didnt care! We headed out and go coffee and bagels from a cute cafe we passed when we were walking form the hostel from the train station that were pretty delicious, and before we knew it, it was 3pm and check in time! We made it to the front of the check in queue (with 500 beds in the hostel there was quite a queue!) and then christina arrived (she had been in austin while we were in portland, as she had already been to portland). We checked in then joined christina at the end of the queue again and she checked in. We got sorted then headed out to see the cloud gate, or 'the bean' as eleanor fondly calls it. It is basically a large metallic kidney bean shaped installation in Milenium park that was pretty cool. It was definitely cool, but at that point id found out i had an interview for a grad job so i was pretty distracted. There was also 2 water installations in millenium park that were cool, not sure of the point of them though, i felt like they had a message, but i have no idea what that message was! They were like two rectangular cubes that had faced projected onto them that changed, and water running down them and connecting them though like a little 'river' thing that was super shallow and kids played in. It was interesting. I think this was the day we tried deep dish pizza as well. We had been given the local knowledge that Gino's, the main chain, was not the place to go, and Lou Malati's was better. There was one just over a mile away so we headed there and waited in line for a table looking at the pizza's. We got the house speciality that was pretty much sausage and cheese (YUM) and waited to see what an earth would come out. It was like a pizza pie! It was like in a cake dish, dough pressed to the bottom and up the sides, then filled with tomato, cheese and sausage. It was pretty delicious!!! But very sickening at the same time. They also had free refills of soft drink. I feel like since everything is so sweet in america anyway i really struggle with extra sugar, cant drink a whole soft drink anymore, have stopped craving chocolate (WHAT IS THE WORLD COMING TO?!?!?) , and couldnt even manage a small mocha java chip frapachino from starbucks! (yes it was as sweet as it sounds). So thats been a bit weird for me to go off sugar, but not a bad thing by any stretch! We got back to the hostel that night at around 9 and were told in no uncertain terms that it was too early to be going to bed and we should go and get a drink. We asked where a close bar was and went to a really cute place with fairy lights! I got a glass of red wine and eleanor and christina got margaritas (christina informing us after she's ordered she actually doesnt like the alcohol in margarita's). We chatted and then headed back to the hostel! A red eye flight is NOT conducive to awake times the day after
Im pretty sure we headed to the art institute today, It was really cool! If im being honest, old european art does not overly interest me, so after walking through gallery after gallery i split off to have a look at the Asian, East Asian, African, Islamic, Central and Native American Art. That was actually interesting and i really enjoyed seeing it, especially central and native american art, as well as the Japanese! We have a lot of SE asian art in australia but not so much of the other stuff. Also, the sculpture room was cool with installations like a felled tree that had a mask taken of it, then it was recreated in Japan and put back together. It was pretty strange if im honest. Heaps of security guards too. The modern art was cool too, lots of geometry and patterns. I was exhausted on this day so i headed back to the hostel while eleanor and christina explored millenium park a bit more. I did a bit of uni admin and napped which was so flipping nice!
I cant really remember what we did today in the day- will update you when i remember! However at night we decided to go out! Eleanor and Christina very generously offered to pay for my drink that night as a thank you for doing all the driving for yosemite, vegas and the grand canyon. So we met downstairs at the 'welcome mixer' the hostel hosts every wednesday and friday that serves free beers! Met a Danish girl and her mum that were lovely! Proceeded to down 4 beers on a relatively empty stomach, after the mixer ended people kept on coming in with 12 and 24 packs and offering them to us so that was nice! We went to the front desk and asked where to go on a wednesday and was told two places. We looked both up and decided to go to the closest and if we didnt like it. We stopped on the wy at a bar that was serving fries and ate a dinner of fries (yay health) and had very expensive drinks! It was fun though, they had good music and we were pretty tipsy. We moved onto the first club, I think it was called 'Underground'. We got let in for free because we are ladies (literally the best and one of the few benefits if being a lady!) It was pretty empty but we met this guy who was very chatty and started dancing with me (HA) but like old school waltz style dancing. I was having a great time though! the club slowly started filling up and when it did we realised how underdressed we were! We were all in jeans and flats, and were the only people who were. Every other girl was in a tiny dress with heels and dolled up to the nines! We would not have got in if we arrived later, thats for sure. I went to the bathroom at some point and there was a bathroom assistant there that had so many products. Literally shampoo, conditioner, dry shampoo, gum, toothbrush, toothpaste, make up, hairspray, literally everything a girl may ever need in her life. ever. im actually suprised she didnt have dresses in there for girls to buy when they got bored of their dress that night. it was crazy! Anyway, the club was interesting. There were girls on tables and things dancing, paid and unpaid, and i was not feeling it. We got asked to a table by a guy that had a bottle of Absolut, so we helped ourselves to that (once realising eleanor had passed us virgin drinks, there was caraffs of mixers and the bottle was next to it, so you could pour your own. weird!) No one was dancing besides people on podiums, it was clearly people worried about how cool they looked. So Eleanor and I decided to dance for all the girls that have to dance to get paid. We must have looked hilarious, actually moving our bodies to the music, how we wanted to, for the benefit of no one but our enjoyment. I just wanted people to lighten up there! Christina was dancing with the first guy and we decided to leave but couldnt find her. Looked all over the club, found the dude who had moved onto another lady, and freaked a bit that she had disappeared, however she was just outside, thank god! We decided to walk home, which in hindsight may not have been the safest idea, and stopped by mcdonalds. Eleanor decided christina was speaking in an english accent and wound her right up to the point she was drunkenly telling us to go away and that she hated us, we took plenty of snaps and had a great lol the next day. C also spoke to an Irish guy at the maccas, telling him ireland and england were pretty much the same thing, so our friendship with him was pretty much over before it even started. We got home safe and sound and crashed in a drunken sleep. Overall i would classify it as another eye-opening night out in the states, totally understand why people say they dont like conventional clubbing here, because if what wew experienced is the norm, neither do I! People need to smile and have fun, amen.
I had to check out today and i spent majority of the day trying to nap on the couches again and not be hungover. I had a job interview with the informed solutions people and decided that I do not want to work for them, and we had deep dish pizza again. I was sad and a bit nervous to be leaving eleanor and christina and to be travelling in america alone. Not for the safety aspect but more for the social aspect. I headed to the bus terminal at 8ish and boarded the first of many legs on my 24 hour bus trip. fuuuuuun. but really it was okay. there were quite a few stops which was good, and again i managed to sleep a fair bit. We stopped in places like Jackson Mississippi which was cool bc now i can say ive at least been there! I arrived in New Orleans at around 9 and just decided to taxi to the hostel. New Orleans, alone, at night, with bags and as a woman? No thanks. They new the exact hostel i was at and it only cost $10 so i was pretty happy! Got to India House and it was so cool! The reception desk was right up the front, a lounge room right next to it and a tv room. A dining room and kitchen was at the back and then there were heaps of tables and chairs outside and a pool! It was super colourful and decorated and graffiti-ed and i really loved the vibe. I got some of the left over dinner they made that night that was 'dirty rice' pretty much rice, spices and mince. It was pretty good. I then went straight to bed. After 24 hours of travel!
So i was totally unaware when I organised this that today was an event called the 'red dress run' where everyone, guys, girls get in a red dress and run through the city for charity. It was cool! I headed out a bit later after breakfast in the 'outback' kitchen of bacon, onion, tomato and cheese sandwich and a hashbrown, caught an uber with 2 more guys from the hostel to the city. I was planning to actually avoid the city, bc although the event sounded fun, it was hot and humid and i was not in the mood for crowds! however it was pretty okay people wise and i explored the french quarter a lot. It was really beautiful and unlike anywhere else in america i had been. It was kind of similar to the fitzroy/brunswick feel, cool architecture and interesting shops. Eventually i had enough of people in red dresses drinking in the streets (totally legal here) and decided to head to the garden district. Unfortunately the street cars werent running sue to maintenance so i just caught a bus there. I visited the cemetery there which was cool, but i was so hot and sweaty, it was truly indescribable. 40 degrees and humidity of like 70%+. Headed back to the hostel and met the other girls in my dorm. they were 3 girls from england and invited me to go out with them, which was great because there was no way i was going to go alone. We went to a great restaurant that apparently sold the best Gumbo in New Orleans. We got Gumbo which was like thick french onion soup and shrimp, then beans, jambalaya and prawn curry. The latter two were good but the beans were a bit boring and i was filling up! I also got turnip greens which were like pickled pak choy, not delicious. I got praline ice cream for desert which was delicious! it was a big meal and Im so glad i tried everything!!! then We headed out to bourbon street, tried a hurricane drink and a hand grenade, both horrendous colours and veerrryyy strong. We saw the cutest old couple dancing together and the old guy was such a good dancer! It was hilarious and super cute. It started pouring with rain and got a bit windy at one point. One of the english girls started freaking out a bit about hurricanes... there would have definitely been warnings it was just a tropical storm! We went to another club thing where there was a live band that was cool however the waitresses were so puchy with drinks! We literally walkng in and this chick cam up to us with test tubes in her mouth and grabbed our arms trying to pour them in. It was gross however later on one of the ladies succeeded and we discovered each test tube was $3. thats $3 per 10ml, which was shit! however it was a funny experience. We decided to head back relatively early, it was not my vibe really again, in that the music wasnt great and no one was dancing.
Today i went to the Presbytere musuem which had exhibits about hurricane katrina and mardi gras. They were super interesting coming from a place where we definitely heard about it but in a very removed way. I really enjoyed it, the science they tried to present was done simply and great for kids. Mardi Gras exhibit was cool with costumes and explanations of how it started and people of colours involvement and therefore its evolution. I really enjoyed it. I got back to the hostel and found out about a Hare Krishna place fairly close but i didnt want to walk alone and didnt know anyone else at the hostel a great reason to go back because ive heard its pretty good!
Today I had to change rooms which i was not happy about because it was hot and i had a booking for a 6 bed girls dorm and was moved into a 12 bed mixed, with no price change! I decided i had to get out of the city because by that time i was just getting frustrated by how hot it was, and the fact i didnt know anyone. I decided to go on a plantation tour which was quite a decision because it cost $80!! It was definitely an adventure. The first bus didnt have air con, the second bus broke down on a bridge and the state troopers were called because we could get off without the bus moving into the traffic to open the doors, and then we got on the first bus again because the driver just didnt know how to work the air con! it was a comedy of errors. Also, met a super grumpy american lady who was sitting up the front so had a fan blowing on her, called all of us at the back selfish for wanting air con and we should expect NOLA to be hot, so i asked her to swap seats with me. needless to say she declined. And also met a racist englishman who wants england to get out of the EU because he does not like immigration and people taking the english jobs. Met a super sweet couple two, where the husband was deaf and the wife translated the entire tour for him. I really liked them, they had a good vibe and radiated happy and peace feels. When we finally made it to the first plantation it was called Laura and it was an old creole plantation. We saw around the house and got a tour based on the memoirs of a girl called laura who grew up there, i think 3rd generation. It was interesting, however learning about the rich people was not my aim and i had hoped to hear more about the slaves. There was a bit outside where we saw their houses and learnt a tiny bit about the emancipation after the civil war, however in no where enough detail to be satisfied. There is definitely a hole in the tour business there! We moved onto the second plantation called Oak Alley which was a beautiful, more european house, rather then french creole. Again we heard about the rich owners, but the entrance was lined by stunning 300+ year old oaks, really really beautiful. Overall it was okay, and im glad i did something that day because my feelings towards NOLA were getting frayed in the heat with nothing to do! That evening I met 4 other aussies and an english guy and just hung out with them and chatted which was really nice. Headed to bed because I had a 9am bus and there is no way on earth i will ever take a bus hungover having had a terrible experience in England!
Spent the entire day travelling from NOLA to Austin and was picked up by Ashley who was my couchsurfing host! Super lovely girl, living with two other people called Caroline and Erin and 3 dogs! Got to her house and met 2 of the dogs, the other was being neutered, and was covered in sloppy kisses by Toby and Mika. We chatted til like 1.30am but i was exhausted and when im tired i find it SO hard to be social.. however i did teach them about Muesli!
Today I had to go into UT for the first time to get TB tested and meet with an academic advisor. Got my blood taken and explored the campus and city a bit inbetween the two jobs i had. I get a good feel from austin. Im excited to be here and studying, i think its gonna be a fun semester. I found out some of the subjects i thought were full i probably can do, so that was good too! I got back to the house and there was no one home, which was fine as i had a key, however Mika, who was the main culprit of kisses the night before decided she was not happy with me in the house and started barking and growling at me. It was actually quite scary! I stood by the front door for 15 minutes wondering what an earth to do and she eventually went and sat in Ashleys room. She came out again though and was definitely guarding me sitting on the couch, no sudden moves allowed! That evening I went to a thing called Blues on the Green with my hosts which is held every other wednesday for the summer, but this was the last one! It was so muggy though because there had been a downpour that again i really struggled. I feel i did not do myself justice these two days with my hosts, they were so great and was just struggling with sleepiness and the heat! We were quite far back because we arrived late and couldnt hear much, we got icecream and just hung out til someone called it and we headed home. We chatted for a bit again then went to bed.
Went to a local restaurant with Erin, her sister and Caroline and tried Queso! Its like thick cheese soup that you eat with tortillas and its delicious! Also had 2 breakfast tacos that were so filling i didnt eat again til dinner time! and a black coffee with cinnamon and star anise. what i would give for a good soy latte though oh my god. Headed into uni again for another info sesh which was good,i met a few more exchange students who were great! Got home and Caroline got to experience Mikas aggressiveness towards me and after that she was locked in a room which was a relief! Toby was super cute though and would come up to me and kind of guard me from Mika. So at least I was like its the dog, not me! We went to trivia that night which was super fun, however im bad at pop culture at the best of times, let alone american pop culture! So the only answer i got was where in SE Asia is the sultane of Brunei's kingdom? drank quite a lot of beer but headed home and Ashley had to be up super early for work so we went to bed at like 11.
Was meant to go into uni for another orientation however Mika was not put away this morning so I woke up at 6.50 and skyped my friend and was too scared to go back in the house to get changed/shower! By the time the others were up it was a bit late anyway and I had to move houses to a friend of a friends who lives in Austin. I just decided I wasnt gonna go, too hard basket for sure! So just hung out with Caroline and Erin and then Caroline dropped me at the cutest coffee shop (Bennu Coffee) were i am now sitting writing this waiting for Lauren to pick me up. Had a weird spiced coffee thing that was nice, just unexpected. More caffeine needed now after writing this though!
I just want to say, Ashley, Caroline and Erin, if you read this, thank you so much for your hospitality, you guys are super cool, and really lovely. I definitely appreciated the couch and the places you took me. Im so sorry if I came across as quite quiet, im really not, im not used to the heat, and have taken a bunch of loooong bus rides that are exhausting! I look forward to the silver party and hanging out when im here!!!