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Sup and Nic's World Tour!

a travel blog by SupandNic

One crazy last month in the UK, hustling at car boot sales and on ebay, spreading joy to charity shops all over Reading and squeezing every last possession into any place we could find, and we finally made it out with just one piece of hand luggage each and 2 immense backpacks - Black Thunder, bursting with a selection of electrical goodies and Silver Lightning, overflowing with makeup & hair straighteners!

It's been an emotional few weeks and parts have been quite surreal at times. We have had a lot of farewells from family, friends and work friends... thank you to everybody who supported us along the way and gave us a great send off, you will all be missed.

Now just so you know, we'll both be taking turns at writing entries on the Blog, so it may sound a little schizophrenic at times!

We hope you all enjoy sharing our adventures with us!

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New York Baby Yeah!!!

New York, United States

After a 7 hour flight which seemed to fly by (excuse the pun!), we arrived in the Big Apple 2pm US time, very excited, a little anxious and a tad merry (thank you BA for providing the free alcohol and for giving me an extra dinner :-) !) We collected our bags and headed straight for the subway to downtown!

We arrived at the hostel and waited at the empty reception for about 20 mins before a spanish guy came up to us and asked if we were here for the hostel, we told him we were and he responded by telling us we were in the wrong building and that the hostel was next door... d'oh! So close yet so far! We dumped our bags at the right hostel and headed out to explore.

Wanting to get things rolling we went to check out Times Square. We got our bearings and went on our way. After an hour of walking appreciating the sights (yellow taxis, beautiful buildings and hotdog vendors), things started to get a little more sparse which was not what we were expecting. After re consulting our good friend Mr Map we realised we had a slight situational issue... we should have taken the left and not the right, we were in Harlem! We had wanted to go there, just not at that precise time. We had a great time walking around & now feeling the jet lag we decided to head back to the hostel.

Next day we bought some lunch (a good old Subway!) and went and had lunch in a place we have both always wanted to visit... Central Park! It is a huge, beautiful park (843 acres!) that has 150 years of history, and certainly lives up to expectations, it's right in the centre of the City. It is a completely man made park built in the center of the city and is surrounded by the high rise landscape.

We also saw the famous streets Madison Avenue & Fifth Avenue. We went & took a quick visit to the Museum of Sex & had a good giggle while doing so!

Next stop was Grand Central Station which was awesome, a very impressive building to say the least which is almost 100 years old now.

Final stop of the night (2nd attempt!) was Times Square which was crazy, so many lights, advertising, camera flashes and hustlers. Despite what a lot of people have said we both felt it was much bigger than we anticipated.
We went to the famous red steps & took some photos. Not sure if it was in the British News but 2 days later a CD scam artist hustler was shot dead in Times Square. Plain clothes police approached the vendor, he ran off and open fired letting off 3 rounds, he was then shot dead by the police. Gun crime is a big problem in the States and this hit home the reality of it.

On the third day we thought it was about time we tried some New York pizza, and damn, why hadn't we tried it sooner! Naturally we had just eaten a baguette before ordering our 2 extra large slices!

We then went to visit the Ground Zero & the World Trade Center pre-memorial exhibit, it was a sad experience but a significant experience that will stay with us. They are in the process of developing a memorial with two reflection pools in the foundations where the towers once stood, which is planned to be finished for the 10th year anniversary and looks to be a very moving and respectful memorial for all those who lost their lives.

We took a walk through Wall Street & the New York Stock Exchange. Walking through those streets was like a scene out of Batman, very impressive buildings.

In the evening we took a ferry over to Staten Island to see the Statue of Liberty and the New York City skyline which was incredible.
We both enjoyed the views so much we arranged to see them again the following day in the daylight.

Brooklyn Bridge, the world's first steel suspension bridge, was next on our itinerary and we had a lovely walk across the bridge to Brooklyn Heights & Dumbo.The bridge gave us great views of the City.

After a short subway ride back to downtown we went to visit the Empire State Building, one of New York's most famous buildings that was built in just 410 days. We travelled up 102 floors to see the views over the whole city, the views were amazing, even if the wind did seem as thought it might blow us away! Nic did appreciate the views from inside for half the time because she was a little scared, or 'a little cold' depending on who you believe!
(note from Nic - I was freeeeeezing!)

It had been a long day, we headed to our hostel but not before stopping in to get some more of that New York pizza!

What better way to start our Thursday than with some Dunkin Donuts! We went back to Central Park, went on the ferry again, visited Madison Square Gardens, Macy's and the Rockerfeller Center.

We couldn't believe how friendly, and also trustworthy the locals were to us. We were buying some chocolate from one of the many side stalls when I asked the vendor where the nearest pay phone was, a man in the queue overheard the conversation and asked who I needed to call. I was a little concerned about this New Yorkers entrance to the conversation as he was about 7ft tall and quite militant in appearence, I proceeded to explain I needed to call the Opticians down the road when he pulled out his phone and handed it to me and said I could use his phone. Experiences like this were not uncommon, when trying to find a bank near to our bus terminal we asked a lady for directions, she instantly pulled out her iphone and then called the local bank to get the full address for us. People seemed to really go the extra mile to help us out and very nice it was indeed.

New York was loved by both us, we felt like we had just the right amount of time to experience the city. The rest of the US cities have got a lot to live up to, roll on our next stop.... we're off to say hello to Mr Obama! Hopefully our jetlag will have worn off & we'll get it right first time!

permalink written by  SupandNic on December 16, 2009 from New York, United States
from the travel blog: Sup and Nic's World Tour!
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The Wonders of Washington DC

Washington, United States

Washington DC was an amazing surprise for us - a city that we had wanted to experience, but we really had no idea how wonderful it would be. We were blessed with the most beautiful winter day, with the bluest sky and the brightest sun, the perfect backdrop for the sights we were to see.

Although we did start on a slightly different note at the hotel the night before (in the brilliantly named area of DC known as Foggy Bottom, home to The George Washington University!)

...They double charged us for our booking fee (Sup kicked ass!) and then put us first in a room with a seriously dangerous hissing heater and then in a room below freezing. They paid the price though as they made the mistake of having breakfast included, so my sneaky robbing of bagels, muffins, bananas, bread, jam (including our first try of delicious grape jelly!) and Philadelphia pots subsidised our lunch and dinner for the next few days! No one messes with Nic and Sup!

We started our whirlwind tour of Washington with the White House of course, and were very impressed by the sight of such a prestigious building, particularly with the 2 agents on the roof carrying AK47s...

backing slowly away, we headed for our next destination - The Washington Monument, a giant memorial to the 1st President of the United States and his military leadership.
But not before admiring the lovely Christmas tree and toy trains around the grounds facing the house.

After marvelling at the sheer size of the monument,
we made our way through the National Mall area to see the World War 2 memorial and the frozen solid reflective pool.
It was a lovely area and an impressive memorial to the men who lost their lives fighting.

The Lincoln Memorial was next and we got some great photos of the giant statue of Lincoln, as well as standing on the same steps as Martin Luther King where he had delivered his famous and influential 'I have a dream' speech.
We also stood on the 14th Street Bridge with a fantastic view of the Pentagon across the water.

Walking back through the National Mall area, we stopped to admire the memorials for both the Korean and Vietnam wars, with tributes both to the soldiers who fought for their country

and to the women who made such a significant contribution.
We learned that a staggering majority of the men who were injured who received care from the women working in hospitals survived - over 90%, which is incredible considering the injuries they would have sustained.

Another lovely walk through the park area brought us back to the waterside and into the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. This place was mindblowing - completely devastating and yet utterly compelling. After spending a couple of hours walking through the vast museum and learning the terrible details of the evil Nazi regime and their frighteningly ingenius propaganda, the museum was closing, so we agreed that we would return the next day before we left Washington to finish the tour.

A long walk through the town brought us to a destination I had been very excited about - the museum for Crime and Punishment. Unfortunately, we learned that the price was more than we had anticipated and it also appeared to be perhaps a little more suited for children. The good news was that the gift shop had more than enough for us to play around with,

and the ticket office had lots of information that kept us entertained for free for about an hour!! We had watched a brilliant film with Johnny Depp in called Public Enemies some time ago, based on the life and death of the notorious criminal John Dillinger - in the ticket office for the museum they had the actual car that Dillinger drove so that was pretty cool!
Discussions soon started resulting in the eternal argument between me and Sup about capital punishment, but I'll leave it at that, as it would dominate a whole blog just by itself!!

The rest of the evening was spent walking back through Washington towards our hotel and vising some Christmas stalls, having a look outside the Spy museum, taking a shortcut through a bizarre sculpture garden, taking pictures of The Capitol building
and walking through the beautiful Law Enforcement Officers memorial garden. The sheer number of names on the memorial were a testament to the dangers in America and the risk the Police take on a daily basis to keep the public safe.

On a more positive note, I did manage to get a photo of Sup with his nose up against a brass lion statue and kept him there for a whole 3 minutes in the freezing cold while I got a good photo..!! Cheeky!

That night our room was so cold that we both went to bed fully clothed - and I mean jumper, jeans, socks, and I even wore my hat..!

The next day we woke up to a more soggy, foggy day, but with plenty of time to spare we completed our tour of the US Holocaust museum as promised, before one last wave at the White House and the Washington memorial, both of which looked very different in the rain. I came across a real Sorority building

which was awesome coz I was always fascinated with the idea of them when I was younger and wanted to be 'American' when I grew up..!!!

We then packed up our belongings once more, and headed out on our journey to the land of Philadelphia to see what other adventures were in store!

permalink written by  SupandNic on December 26, 2009 from Washington, United States
from the travel blog: Sup and Nic's World Tour!
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Philly Cheesesteak!

Philadelphia, United States

We turned up to our hostel at roughly 8pm, and boy were we in for a surprise...

Nic's reactions explain it all!

It was actually a great hostel with friendly knowledgeable staff and really good facilitlies. (The photos above are actually from The Eastern State Penitentiary which we visited the following day) We made some food and chilled for the evening.

Up nice and early there was now only one thing on my mind... time for some food, a Philly cheesesteak was in order! The staff recommended a local place called 'Jim's', claiming they serve the best traditional cheeesesteaks in town, a combination of thinly chopped beef steak, fried onions and melted cheese... and they were not wrong!

Both having an interest in crime we took a visit to the Eastern State Penitentiary passing the famous Rocky steps along the way!

There were a lot of people running up the steps emulating the scene out of Rocky, I thought I would do the same (the photos just look like i'm posing but of course I was running... cough cough!)

Next up was the Eastern State Penitentiary which was the 1st penitentiary in the world built in roughly 1850. I broke in...

I think Nic must have clearly edited this photo because as you can see above the wall was definitely bigger than this!!!

The idea was to change the way of the prison system that existed at the time as it was failing - too crowded, riots, disease etc and the fact that once they prisoners were actually released they often offended again and went straight back to prison.

The Eastern State Penitentiary however, was attempting an innovative idea, that was the idea of penitence and true remorse.
The new system believed that everyone had the capacity to change and they believed this was achieved through non violent methods and solitary confinement 23 1/2 hours a day. The whole principle was built on silence... if the prisoners could not communicate with each other then they would have time to reflect and hopefully find remorse.

The prison itself at the time was very modern, it had electricity and even a full flushing toilet system when people in the White House were using Chamber pots! The reason for the modern technologies was to enable the prisoners to remain in solitary confinement, however the work being undertaken by the prisoners was far behind its time because of this solitary confinement. A combination of problems resulted in the idea being scrapped. Many of the prisoners went mad, spending years without having any human contact. Many people believed the system to be in humane (children as young as 12 were spending years here) and it didn't actually survive that long.

Al Capnones cell......

We walked back through town taking in all the sights of the city.

That night the hostel had a movie and free beer night so we chilled out had some drinks and played a little pool.

Next we were up early to go and visit the Liberty Bell, a bell which has a different meaning to different people. The bell became a symbol for the independance of America, a symbol for the abolition of slavery and a symbol for women's rights and equality.

Philadelphia was again an awesome place to visit, we learnt a lot about the history of the city and really enjoyed our time there. There was no time to get attached however, on to Toronto!

permalink written by  SupandNic on January 2, 2010 from Philadelphia, United States
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Maple Canadian Delights!

Toronto, Canada

Toronto, Canada, was an interesting experience for us both as it was nothing at all like what we had expected. The weather was intensely cold (THAT we had expected!)
but the long walk to our hostel took us through a fairly run down part of town, passing XXX shop after strip club and at first glance at the street our hostel was on I was ready to turn & run! On closer inspection we found we were in a very large double room and with a very nice hostel owner which improved our first impression. After settling in & turning the room upside down with our masses of bags and belongings, we set off to inspect the town, coming across loads of jet black squirrels along the way which neither of us had ever seen before - SO cute!

We spent a bit of time window shopping and eskimo Sup found me a very nice £3 hoody to add to the 4 layers of clothes under my coat as the cold was unbearable (as was my whining!) In fact I didn't part with my leg warmers, tights, jeans, hat, gloves, scarf, coat & 5 layers of clothes until Miami...it felt very strange indeed, expecially as I think we would all agree that is so the opposite of my usual choice of clothing!! All whinging aside, it was really lovely to spend time in the snow, especially so close to Christmas as it really set the scene.

We then found a brilliant cafe called Tim Horton's and we ate the most amazing Canadian maple frosted icing donuts with vanilla cream filling.They were seriously the best donuts you could imagine and I was hooked!!

The next day took us further into Toronto town and we spent the whole day sightseeing, stopping of course for another of Tim's finest. One of Sup's new favourite things to do by now was to visit food courts and look around, sneaking lots of samples of yummy food, so we had a great time in Toronto's St Lawrence market causing trouble. We also saw some wicked street art and stopped to take some snaps, and found a 2nd hand camera store that was maybe pushing it a bit far....!

We covered a couple of lovely decorated malls and department stores such as Sears in the more upmarket part of town, and then headed to the CN tower to see what all the fuss was about...

As I had spent all our money on donuts, we didn't climb the tower, but took lots of photos of the impressive building and then moved on to the harbour to admire the boats.

With our Toronto experience complete, and having had a bit of a rest after the hectic last 3 US states, we were ready and excited to move on to the next stop - the magical Niagara Falls!

permalink written by  SupandNic on January 4, 2010 from Toronto, Canada
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Enchanting Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls, Canada

I could just say nothing on this blog and the photos would speak for themselves...Niagara Falls is absolutely amazing. Even with prior knowledge of what to expect, we were not prepared for how the sights of the falls would take our breath away.

We got to our hostel early in the evening and discovered a gem of a place with a lush kitchen with free breakfast, and a basement area with a free pool table and a flat screen TV - nice! We got ourselves sorted then made some food and set off around 7pm to catch the weekly firework display and Winter illuminations at Niagara Falls.

The long walk along Niagara River led us to the Falls via some really beautiful houses as well as a view over the bridge that connects Ontario with New York which was a strange experience - seeing right across the river to another country!

Before we got to the Falls we found a Planet Hollywood with the Bonnie & Clyde replica car outside which was very exciting as I fancied us as the notorious partners in crime off on our adventures!
We then came across a Hershey's store - Sup is the number one fan of Hershey's Reeces Pieces, so we had to get a photo of him with his hero!

We reached the main strip of the town of Niagara Falls, Canada side, and it was really exciting to see the neon lights and be part of the lively atmosphere. With an hour to spare before the fireworks started, we explored the Vegas-style strip and then headed to the main area where we were to be greeted with the first of the falls - the American Falls.

The illuminations dyed the foamy white falls a deep purple, red, green and blue alternately and the fireworks were brilliant. I have never seen Sup take so many photos, and after 10 minutes he was still happily snapping away, seemingly oblivious that his fingers were turning blue from the icy mist!

We also leapt on many unsuspecting passersby to take photos of us by the falls, so we got some great shots. The next stop was the second part of the falls - the Canadian Horseshoe Falls. Again, a beautiful sight, and as the horseshoe falls were closer to the light beams, the colours were so much brighter on them and really showed up the eerily beautiful mist that gathers at the bottom and sprays up to the top.

Playing around with the ice was a lot of fun too!!

On the verge of frostbite and at risk of being locked out of the hostel, we headed back, frozen solid but happy as can be, occasionally stopping to admire the romantic horse & carriages on the way.

The next day we went back to the Falls to experience them in the daylight and they did not disappoint.

Another thousand or so shots later, we stumbled across another Tim Horton's cafe (must be mega popular in Canada) and had our very last Canadian Maple donut - a bittersweet goodbye...!!!

Back at the hostel we met 2 really nice guys from Manchester while they were watching Trainspotting - they were travelling home that night and taking the same Greyhound as us as far as Buffalo, so we all made our way there together. At customs on the Canada/USA border a girl on our bus was detained by customs and the bus went without her as the entire bus load of us craned our necks to see what was going on - I only hope she got back home safely eventually...

The sunshine of Miami was on the horizon, but before that, the layers would need to stay on as Chicago was next on the agenda!

permalink written by  SupandNic on January 5, 2010 from Niagara Falls, Canada
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The windy city... Chicago!

Chicago, United States

The old gangster city.... we were looking forward to Chicago!

We arrived a little later than anticipated - due the amount of snow that the east coast had received a lot of bus journeys were delayed or worse still cancelled. We counted ourselves very lucky to have escaped in time!

The photo below is one of the first we took of the city and it shows Chicago just as I had imagined, with soft brown lighting like in the old gangster movies...

After dropping our bags off at the hostel we had a walk around the city, visiting Grant Park Fountain and Millenium Park along the way. The fountain is actually one of the largest in the world!
We walked past the Sears Tower, the Tribune Tower, an impressive Gothic style building, Magnificant Mile and a number of statues on our journey.

We heard there were some impressive Christmas celebrations happening on the Navy Pier so we went to check them out. It turned out to be a cool place, a big inside winter wonderland. There was also a little museum where we learnt about the history of the Chicago police force and the city's drug problems which was very informative. I was hoping to learn more about Chicago's gangster history however the city does seem to carry on pretending it didn't happen, with no tours of notorious gangster spots or anything much to our surprise.

On the way back we went to visit the theatre where the notorious gangster John Dillinger was shot dead by the FBI. The recent film 'Public Enemies' was based on John Dillinger so Nic was also very excited that she was in the same street where Johnny Depp had recently been!

On our way to the Zoo the following day we found a frozen lake, however, Nic thought it was snow covered grass and went and jumped on!!! Luckily she was okay!

We saw some amzing animals and some of them even came over to pose for the camera like Mr Lion below! He was one chilled out big cat!

The zoo also had some awesome ice sculptures and below are my 2 favourites...

We also saw this crazy hippo, he seemed to think he was swimming away but the little fella didn't realise there was a big pane of glass in front of him. He kept going up for air every now and then and looking like he should be in a different place! The fish looked like they were having a good feast on him!

The zoo was a great day out and as it was free it was that much better!!

Final stop was Lake Michigan and it was quality, the photo below is my favourite from Chicago, very atmospheric.

Chicago was a great place, it wasn't as windy as expected but it was still super cold! Atlanta is up next on our flying tour of America and Nic has told me that i'm in for a treat!

permalink written by  SupandNic on January 6, 2010 from Chicago, United States
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The ATL - Hotlanta!

Atlanta, United States

I visited Atlanta 8 years ago with my family - I loved it then and I love it now. It is an awesome city that just seems to have an amazing vibe about it and I was excited about the prospect of introducing Sup to the place and of rediscovering the city ourselves.

The journey from Chicago to Atlanta on the trusty Greyhound was incredibly long, but we both got a good night's sleep on the bus (on and off!) as the stops were all about 3/4 hours inbetween. Arriving in ATL was a wonderful experience - we had both been freezing our tushies off for the last few weeks, so the warm Atlanta sunshine was extremely welcome!

Once we had found our hostel we were told that we couldn't check in til 5pm. Determined not to waste any of the precious time we had, we threw our bags into storage lockers and headed out for a walk around Piedmont Park, just a few blocks up the road.

Piedmont Park was beautiful...

We walked all around the central lake and found some great spots to take photos, as well as taking some time out to climb a tree in the middle of the park, monkey-style!

Obviously Sup managed to scale the tree a lot quicker and with much more dignity than me, but I got there in the end and was proud of the achievement! Our stomachs were soon rumbling from all the effort, so we headed to Downtown Atlanta on the hunt for some Southern Fried Chicken, something I had assumed was an obvious speciality in the city, but was soon proved wrong by the complete lack of fried chicken, much to Sup's disappointment. We grabbed a chicken wrap from a gas station instead - not so authentic, but yummy all the same!

Walking through Downtown Atlanta we admired all the sights of the city, lit up with a thousand Christmas lights and alive with friendly locals and tourists alike. Underground Atlanta was our next stop - an area of shops and restaurants and a local hangout according to the Lonely Planet. We were soon rewarded with a giant food court where everyone was enticing us in to buy their food with delicious tasters of Hawaiian chicken and all sorts of Chinese delicacies. Being in the USA though,
we decided it would be far more cultured to try something more local and settled on the biggest pizza I have ever seen - a 17inch giant cheese-fest loaded with a whole pig's worth of pepperoni! Hell yeah! Halfway through our feast, a guy came over and asked if he could have some - the look on Sup's face was priceless!! NO-ONE takes food from Sup, that's a serious offence and he was soon sent on his way!

After our bellies were more than full, we carried on our journey, passing the Capitol on the way through - very similar to the Capitol in Washington and a lovely sight in the moonlight. I really wanted to show Sup the interior of the Georgia Dome as I had watched a baseball game there previously and loved it.
Hoping it would still be open we made our way to the Dome, but were disappointed to find that the doors were closed. At this point we realised we were in a deserted parking lot quite far from civilisation, so in the name of safety and good sense, we hastily made a retreat back into the heart of Atlanta, past the CNN center, Coca Cola HQ the Georgia Aquarium and through the impressive Centennial Olympic Park and fountains.

Back at the hostel after a very successful day in ATL, we celebrated with some Hershey's chocolate and M&Ms and Sup thrashed me at pool (I'm better trained at snooker!) before retreating to our room to catch some well earned rest.

The next day we set off for Sweet Auburn, the birthplace of Martin Luther King and the site of his memorial and center for Non-Violent Social change commissioned by Coretta Scott King in her husband's honour as she continued with his legacy after his assassination. On the way we spotted some more impressive street art and took some snaps.
We first stopped to eat our left over pizza slices for lunch in the rosebush-lined grounds and a well dressed middle aged woman came over and asked if she could have some...bewildered as to why no-one would leave us with our pizza in peace, again the scavenger was shooed away!

The exhibit was fascinating and we both came away having learned an awful lot about the incredible hardship suffered by African Americans and in awe of the strength and sacrifice showed by so many in the name of ending this prejudice and discrimination. The center also highlighted how Martin Luther King drew inspiration from Gandhi in relation to striving for social change using non violent methods and we were both left inspired by Gandhi's belief that 'an eye for an eye leaves the world blind'.

The walk back was an opportunity to discuss and contemplate our new found knowledge with lots of philosophical thoughts, before heading to the Greyhound once more for our final American State - Bienvenido a Miami!!!

permalink written by  SupandNic on January 7, 2010 from Atlanta, United States
from the travel blog: Sup and Nic's World Tour!
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Bienvenido a Miami!

Miami, United States

We arrived in Miami to some awesome weather and we did look a little silly stepping off the greyhound bus dressed in all our layers! We had to take two more local buses to get to South Beach where we were staying. We saw downtown Miami and famous areas such as Little Haiti which did look a little sketchy to say the least!

We did well securing our hostel over the Christmas period, it had a full size outside swimming pool and a nice little outside kitchen. It was a good spot to chill and enjoy the great weather. We were just off Lincoln Road which is a pedestrianised street full of shops, boutiques, restaurants and bars which was a lively area that had a good vibe.
We visited a photography studio showcasing the work of Peter Lik. His photography was awesome and if you are a fan of natural landscape photography check out his website http://www.peterlik.com/photography. Lincoln Road was close to Espanola Way which was a great little latino street that also had some cool art galleries.

Christmas day was very different to anything we had experienced before, no Christmas roast or freezing cold temperatures but instead we had Mcdonald's on South Beach in Miami, oh yeah!
All the bars, restaurants and shops stayed open which we were surprised about. In the evening we went to the cinema to watch Sherlock Holmes but we hadn't anticipated how busy it was going to be and unfortunately it had sold out. Instead we went back to the beach and had a few drinks. It was a great evening.

The following day we took a visit to the Art Deco district. The area represents Miami's classic architecture with buildings dating back to the early 1900s. It is a pretty impressive place, awesome colourful buildings with palm fringed streets looking out to the ocean... not bad!!

We took a little walk down the famous 'Ocean Drive' to see some of the sights. Ocean Drive has been shot in a number of films and for all the film buffs out there the buildings in the two photos below were used in Scarface (the brutal chainsaw scene), Bad Boys 2 and a number of other films....

There were many well known buildings within the Art Deco District including Al Capone's office and Versace's house below where he was shot dead on his doorstep...

I went to see an eye specialist in Miami as I was having a few problems with my right eye. He was great and has suggested I try some new lenses which would be better suited to my eyes. I am just speaking with my specialist in the UK but it looks like we may be returning to Miami after Mexico to get fitted with these new lenses.

We would have liked to visit the Everglades but unfortunately our budget dictates that we cannot do everything. We'll save that for next time!

A bird also crapped on my head. Apparently this is supposed to be lucky. I'm not quite sure how but I will accept this. Big things for me in 2010!

Miami was a great place, we chilled on the beach in the day and by the pool at night, it was a good place to recuperate! I think however, we were both expecting something a little different, probably due to TV and films. One thing that did stick out was the amount of homeless women, we have seen quite a bit of homelessness on our travels but the majority have been men. I was also not aware of how large a majority of Miami were Spanish speaking, more Spanish appeared to be spoken than English. This was all good as it was preparing us for our next stop... Costa Rica!!

permalink written by  SupandNic on January 8, 2010 from Miami, United States
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Christmas trees of the United States & Canada!

Miami, United States

As we spent the Christmas period in the United States and Canada, we thought it would be great to capture the most beautiful and interesting Christmas trees from our travels. The decorations and lights illuminated every city we visited and made them seem all the more magical.

New York - We didnt find the one we were expecting to see in Times Square (!!) but the Natural History museum and Rockefeller Center trees more than made up for it, along with the magnificent Swarovski crystal star.

Washington DC - The White House tree was of course magnificent, and the tree outside the Capitol wasn't half bad either!

Philadelphia - Some beautiful examples of USA Christmas decorations, one in the park and one in the mall

Toronto - This spectacular bell-shaped hanging Christmas tree stole the show in Canada, followed closely by the Ferrerro Rocher delicious looking tree!

Niagara Falls didnt have the best trees, in fact the little town had only one we could find. The decorations at the Falls most certainly won our hearts though - who needs a tree when you can illuminate 2 giant cascading waterfalls?!!!

Chicago -
Without a doubt the best and most extensive collection of trees, with a huge collection in the Navy Pier, a true Winter Wonderland.

They gave us some real inspiration for next year's tree, with feather and flower decorations for a modern twist.

Atlanta - And presenting to you the Atlanta Ritz Christmas tree, although captured through the window I must add, and not as we dined on oysters & caviar! Small, understated, and fabulous!

Miami - The last State in our Christmas tour, and the one where we celebrated the big day.

All of the above Christmas trees were wonderful to admire, but there were two very special ones that stood out for us...

For me, it had to be the Miami Christmas palm trees, sprinkled with gold lights & stars, truly capturing the Christmas vibe in the sunshine by the sea.

For Sup, the Washington DC sense of humour won his vote - a skyscraping crane adorned with a Christmas star!!!!!!!!!

permalink written by  SupandNic on January 27, 2010 from Miami, United States
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Costa Rica Part 1 - San Jose, Puerto Viejo & Cahuita!!!

San Jose, Costa Rica

After some seriously long greyhound journeys in the States our 2 1/2 hour plane flight to San Jose seemed very short indeed. The first port of call was San Jose downtown which acts as a main hub for public travel throughout the country. The cheeky bus driver thought he could get away with short changing Nic by about £10 so I stepped up with my 'extensive' Spanish vocabulary.....'No, Amigo' while pointing to the measly 5 cents he had given us as change. His blank face told me I needed to do better. I went off to consult the Spanish phrase book and it paid off as we got the result we deserved...our money! Nic had found the arrival to Costa Rica a little over whelming and was fairly quiet for about an hour!

Some further shenanigans later and we finally arrived at our hostel. Once we had dumped our bags in our room the friendly owner Carlos helped us with our travel plans for our adventures soon to come (and also a little Spanish!) We chilled around the pool that evening and prepared our journey to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca the following day.

The bus journey was a crazy experience. Our driver was super nuts, over taking on blind corners and over taking just about anything he could - the record for the journey was 3 arctic lorries in a row! A little nerve racking to say the least, especially with steep drops either side of the road.

It was all worth it once we arrived... Puerto Viejo, what a town!! Coconut palm fringed black sand beaches, tasty food and friendly locals! By this time Nic had begun to settle in to Costa Rican life just fine!

The area is predominantly an Afro Caribbean community and Jamaicans were originally brought over to work on the banana plantations. For over 50 years these communities lived in racial segregation, forced to live independantly from the rest of the country. Infrastructure: roads, electricity and telelphone communications were not built until some time after 1949 when the racial borders fell. The result is a community and culture different and independant to that of the rest of Costa Rica.

We stayed in a lovely cabina with it's very own tropical garden, a great place to view hummingbirds as they shot from one flower to another. The cabinas had a resident cat, a species which I have now seen in a new light... they are not quite as lame as I once thought they were. We were lucky to secure the cabina as the area was very busy with people coming to enjoy the New Year on the coast, just like us.
We spent the day admiring the town and stocking up on our goodies for New Years Eve....namely a bottle of Nicaraguan rum! And what better way to spend New Years Eve than on Playa Negra, the spectacular black sand beach of Puerto Viejo?! The celebrations were awesome. We went to a reggae bar that backed on to the beach and got involved with the locals and tourists alike. The locals were lighting some pretty big fireworks from their hands...whilst drunk on rum of course! We woke up in the early hours of the morning after passing out in our hammocks to find that Nic had been bitten a total of 28 times by mosquitoes!! That'll teach us! We spent New Years Day recovering and enjoying some hammock and beach time.

With only 1 day left in Puerto Viejo we decided to go on a little adventure. We hired 2 rickety bikes and rode 12km to a small town called Manzanillo, passing a number of beautiful beaches along the way.
The heavens opened along the way and it rained so hard we were drenched in minutes. It was surprisingly refreshing though! We treated ourselves with an ice cold drink in Manzanillo at Max's, one of the popular local bars on the beach. Nic fell off her bike on the way back as she decided to veer off into the hedge...!! (note from Nic - it was actually because Sup stopped dead in front of me to look at a dog across the road!!) We did have a good giggle about that!!

Puerto Viejo had a decent range of snack food and drinks, my favourite being the following: Mashed yucca plant stuffed with mince inside and fried in a thin layer of batter. I have also become a fan of meat sticks, Empanadas (meat or cheese wrapped in corn bread), Costa Rican pizza (which has about 10 times more cheese than pizzas in England!) and a drink called Heil made from sugar cane and ginger which as I have found is the perfect blend of ingredients.
The local nickname for the drink is the less tasty sounding 'Frog Water', due to the murky colour! These tasty treats are always accompanied by a bottle of piccante (hot sauce), as you know I love my hot sauce and have finished quite a few bottles along the way!

Cannabis was smoked openly in Puerto Viejo despite being illegal in the whole country. It did seem to be a way of life for many of the locals and I think it will always be for them.
We did get approached by a number of dealers who make a living selling to tourists. We were also approached by this fella... he was the biggest crab we have ever seen!

Next up on our itinerary was a town just North of Puerto Viejo called Cahuita.The National Park in the area was the main reason to visit and the amount of monkeys we saw just at the park entrance (as well as this crazy parrot
that spoke English, Spanish and a little Spanglish as well as having the most insane laugh) promised to be the start of good things to come.

Walking through the slim trail with the crashing coastline to the left and the jungle backdrop to our right, we found many secluded beaches and at times it felt like we were a million miles away from civilisation.
We saw this cheeky White Faced Capuchin monkey who almost succeeded in taking someone's food! People have been feeding the monkeys which over time has taught them some very bad habits and they have learnt not to fear humans, but rather to scam them in order to steal whatever they can in the way of food!....speaking of which...Racoons.
We did see a cute family of racoons and naively we put our lunch bag down on the floor to take a photo and within seconds it was gone! Now we had been walking for 8km and at the time we were actually looking for a place to eat lunch. I had built up quite an appetite and while Nic found it hilarious that racoons stole our food, it did take me a little while to see the funny side!

We were also lucky to spot a sloth hanging out in the tree....that is one animal which is well suited to the laid back vibe of the Caribbean coast!

Cahuita had a great bar and few little Sodas (family run restaurants, usually their home) although we did find that not all grocery stores were as welcoming to tourists as Puerto Viejo. More of an excuse to eat out!
However, the dogs did give us a big welcome and they were particularly attracted to Nic. She would give them a little affection and then they would follow us around all night (and she named them too!). Our very own pets abroad!

I'll leave you with one of my favourite photos. It has occurred to us that it would have been useful to take a short spanish course before we left, however, we are still attempting to speak spanish and it's the trying that counts, right?! My initial impression of Costa Rica was that it appeared to be an amazing country, it felt like one big adventure playground waiting to be explored. The hardest decision was where exactly to start, which i'm sure you will agree was definitely not a bad situation to be in.

permalink written by  SupandNic on February 8, 2010 from San Jose, Costa Rica
from the travel blog: Sup and Nic's World Tour!
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