Saturday, December 19, 2009

Homeward Bound

Once more again unto the breach.

For my very last post, I thought I'd do something a bit different - after I do the usual of course.

I'm not sure how many times I managed to squeeze in the phrase, "I just flew in from LA," but it was quite a few. Unfortunately though the 14 hour flight had left me somewhat the worse for wear, and I didn't smell the greatest. I know I'm a little paranoid when it comes to this sort of thing, but it was so frustrating to have no access to any deoderant (in the checked baggage), I did my best to freshen up in the bathroom, and changed shirt. The next flight was only an hour and a half, and given I had to wait longer in the terminal than the flight, it was a breeze.

The motel is awesome. I'm on the 19th floor. I have a view of the ocean, and a spa in my room. I wouldn't recommend the hotel though, because it's just too expensive. On top of being so rediculously expensive for the room, they expect you to be able to pay exorbitant prices for every other little convenience. Even so, I've enjoyed the extravagance. I've spent a day by the pool sipping cocktails, I'm so sunburnt I'm considering auditioning for the Christmas ham, and my luck followed me here. The entire St Kilda football team is also staying at the hotel, and also enjoyed the pool facilities. Yes, please.

Now, for the something different; some numbers.

5 New Friends
10 Flights
2 Days/48 Hours in the Air (approx)
6 Major Train Journeys
8 Motels/Apartments
26 Hours Spent Waiting at Airports
?? Hours Spent Watching BBC World News, because it was the only english TV channel
Countless Tube, Metropolitain, Metro, and Transit Journeys.

All told, over $10,000.

I'll see you soon, broke and missing you. But so much the better for it.

Monday, December 14, 2009

City of Angles - Acute, Right, Obtuse

There's been somewhat of a shortage of news, and therefore a lack of blogs. I haven't done much since getting to Los Angeles. I suppose that's one of the problems with having a really nice motel, with a really nice restaurant, too many TV channels, tiredness from 3 weeks of constant travel.

My instincts tell me LA is a fun place to live, but you really need to have a car to get around. I only saw a few attractions: the Walt Disney Concert Hall,
Universal Studios, and the Hollywood Walk of Fame. I didn't really see any famous people, got accused of following someone (a very odd moment), walked a lot, and ate some just... vile... food. Americans really know how to have a fatty binge.


Universal Studios has certainly been the highlight. It was great to see the resources that mainstream hollywood has at it's disposal. Yeah, I'm jealous. I made friends with our tour guide, Bobby Mac (can you get more hollywood?), and you never know, I might end up there one day, working for the man.

I'm a little dissapointed I couldn't get in touch with my friend from LA, but it's a minor detail. I really am ready to return to Australia, and so looking forward to some time by a pool. What a trip. It seems now, only looking back, do I fully realise the enormity of it. Those first few nights near London, and Lyon, seem so long ago.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Last Leg or Legless?

Burn the Floor and Wicked restored my faith in Broadway. Wicked was on par with the exemplary performance I witnessed in Melbourne, but with some different interpretations which kept it nice and fresh for me. Glinda here stole the show a little, but Elphaba's voice absolutely soared. And the seats! 4 rows from the front, close enough to see the spittle fly out of the lead's mouths when they hit those fricative consonants! That's a birthday I won't forget in a while.

I'm back at the hotel early, no partying here for me. A flight tomorrow to LA, another world to explore. New York City is actually just like the movies. It's a living, breathing, cliche of a city. There are that many taxis here that you can run out onto the street and flag one down almost instantly. The gangstas do walk with a funny limp and talk as if an alliterative filter has been put through all the slang of the past 50 years and then given a twist of lemon. Steam does pour out of some vents on the street and the subway does take you anywhere. It's very cinematic, but it's got no soul. I've enjoyed it, I can't lie, it's been fabulous. But I'd only ever want to be here as long as it takes to tell a story - the equivalent real-world time of a 2 hour movie.

Roll the credits, NYC, let's go to Hollywood.

--

Well, this is a little 2007.

For those of you who aren't Icelandic, that means this hotel is extravagant to the point of ridiculousness. As I arrived from the airport at 11:20 or so, the lobby was pumping out some music, people were chilling with some drinks in front of the fire-wall, and the sparkling marble lead me up to the bow-tied concierge.

Yeah, welcome to LA.

--

I'm having a little cash crisis atm. I'll need to investigate... I'll report back shortly.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Turning Young

When I woke up this morning, I was surprised by myself when I thought, "Wow, I'm 21. That's not old, that's the age where everything - anything - can happen to you."

I miss you all very much.

The Empire State isn't very impressive at ground level looking at it. The interior though, is freaking gorgeous. Art Deco to the max, so delicious, so gorgeous. The clouds were flying low so there was zero visibility, but the clouds blew across the platforms and there was no-one there. It's the only magic I've felt here. I liked it. The Statue of Liberty was a statue. What can I say, you've all seen it a million times on any American TV show based in New York.

I've got my shirt, tie, and cufflings. I'm wearing my swanky tie and my cologne, not deoderant.

It's time for some Maccas.

I mean Wicked. On Broadway.

(Burn the Floor was sensational. And Tabs, I saw SYTYCD Aus Henry in the flesh. And I do mean flesh!)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Turning Old

When I got on that last flight, I thought to myself "well, everything will be in english from now on." I didn't count on the odd feeling I got once I exited the plane and came up to passport control, of really being a foreigner. I don't know if it were something to do with me being a subject of the queen (yes, at heart I'm a monarchist), but I felt alien in the Americas. Luckily though I still speak the language (or a variation of it). I took the subway to my hotel, and another thing stood out to me - the underground in London, is packed, but comfortable. The metro in Paris, efficient, but not personable. The subway here is brutal. Trains come and go, but stop and take off suddenly. Trains scream through the middle tracks of a station making everything shake, and the patrons sit and stare vacantly, trying to avoid human interaction as much as possible. People here are dressed badly, and very few are pretty. The fat people are especially fat, and there's a lot of them. Perhaps I'm just being a little harsh on it, seeing as my most recent comparison comes from Reykjavik, but I don't think so.

So aesthetically speaking in terms of the people, NYC isn't winning any competitions from me. The buildings and archtechture have a certain panache, but as you'd expect, no subtlety. Broadway though is everything you'd want it to be. Flashy, gaudy, bright lights and flashing neons. It's odd though, I find it hard to take the NYPD seriously when their station in Times Square is complete with flashing fluro neons. Hmmm...

I've bought me a ticket for Wicked on my birthday - it wasss expensive, but it was one of the few seats left - just after a cancellation... fourth row front and centre!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!! I went to a random off-broadway show at a comedy club, which was improv comedy by a small ensemble. I even got up on stage at one point, very enjoyable. So yeah, I can say I've been on stage with an audience in a show off-broadway. Yeah? Maybe not.

So after a ridiculous amount of non-sleep in the last few days, I slept in. Time for some lunch (maccassssss) and some sight-seeing. The Statue of Liberty first? Central Park? Empire State?
Oh, but my schedule is already booked a little - tonight, West Side Story, and tomorrow matinee, Burn the Floor, nighttime, Wicked.

Wicked.

--

Central Park. After a small spending spree on Broadway tickets, I ran out of money. So I did the only free thing, and went to Central Park. I'm going to get up early tomorrow, get me some more monbey, then do the Statue of Liberty and Empire State Building, before a matinee, lunch, and a show.

I got interviewed in a line today by some Showtime reps about what's going to happen in the last episode of the current season of Dexter. Given I had no idea what had happened in the current season, they fed me a line and I delivered it in true acting style. They were impressed with my lying abilities. Fingers crossed I make it onto national American television. I also ran into the Cambridge choir on the subway, they'd all just arrived from London. 90% of the 20 strong chior, SO FREAKING HOT. Especially after the serious lack of prettiness in NYC.

Sometimes, you just have to tell it like it is. West Side Story was a bit of a let down. The two leads were often sharp, the dancing lacked energy apart from one or two standouts, and the acting wasn't particularly believable. In my very humble opinion, the WAAPA performance of it in 2008 was better. Noticably so. Great job, best of the best, in "Broadway".

Oh, by the way, I'm about to turn 21... right about.... now.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

A Little Time is Never Enough

My time in Iceland is coming to an end, as I suspected, far too soon.

The limited daylight hours have made me extremely lazy, so I've not done too much more in the way of sight-seeing. I did go for a small wander yesterday afternoon, down to the pond, which apart from one small corner where some warm water is pumped in (and is therefore a favourite of the local ducks, geese and swans [which Haffi and I fed some leftover bread the other night]), was completely frozen over. Naturally, I wanted to go ice-skating on it, but I had packed my sensible when I left Perth, so I didn't. In keeping with the frosty goodness, we had what I term a mini-Christmas.

Mini-Christmas involved gingerbread, nut-cookies, German chocolate bread, hot chocolate (made in a pot with real melted chocolate) with peppermint schnapps, mulled wine (which I have been dying to try and was no let down), board games, decorations, carols (which were in Icelandic so tolerable), and friendship and conversation. I was especially impressed by everyone, who often had their conversations in english. As they were all Icelandic, it was purely for my benefit. Amazingly thoughtful. It was cozy and lovely and just like a mini-Christmas, in the ice and snow (well, almost).

--

SO MUCH HAPPENED in the last 24 ridiculous (finally sunk in, Tabs) hours. I did again get up really late, but you can only blame the sun so many times. It was mostly laziness. This was the only time I didn't go out for a walk. But instead, after some prelimary packing, and salacious soaking in a luxurious shower, Eric and I went to dinner at Solon. If anyone is ever in Reykjavik I highly recommend this restaurant, as the food is very good by the price reasonable. Except for the wine list. BYO from Australia. Seriously. Ship it over, it'd be cheaper. I ate the traditional Icelandic christmas platter which three different fish done three different ways, two types of pate, crispy skinned roast pork and saucy beef, with some scattered berries. Basically just a lot of meat. It was so tasty. Even the cured herring.

Eric went to warm up for his concert that night, and I went back to my room and packed. "That's a bit premature," you might say, if you knew that I was leaving at 2:30 the next day. You will see, however, that it was absolutely neccesary. I finished packing just in time to realise I was running late for the concert, so I ran up the street and snuck in to Hallgrimskirkja just before the opening number. The concert was fantastic, an extremely polished choir singing Latin hymns and christmas carols in Icelandic in the awesome architecture of the church. The acoustics in there were amazing, noted particulary in one song where the choir left the stage and stood at the sides of the church. Some of the harmonies achieved were breathtaking.

After the concert, I joined Haffi at his friend's birthday party, where I got to meet even more of his friends, who are all as crazy as my own. Before we could stop to take a breath, it was 3am. But that wasn't where we finished. We then continued along to a club, where I'm pretty sure I made a giant fool of myself dancing like an idiot. The music was incredibly corny (Great Balls of Fire, Grease, Cher, you name it!), so taking yourself seriously wasn't even an option. We partied until 6am. In Australia, I would've been able to say I partied til dawn... I eventually got to bed at 9am, just in time to get up for 10am. Haffi didn't wake up. Eric was better off, and luckily that meant that I managed to get to one of Iceland's popular attractions, the Blue Lagoon. So by the light of the midday moon, with the sun still not risen, I went for an outdoor swim, in milky turquoise water. Before you completely write me off to the loony bin, the Blue Lagoon is a naturally occurring pool which is formed by a hot spring. The algae that naturally forms in the water turns it an alien-like blue colour that is incredibly striking against the dark basalt volcanic rock. Steam floats over the whole scene and is very dramatic. From there I went straight to the airport, feeling refreshed and revitalised after my 1 hour sleep.

I didn't want to leave. I fell in love with Iceland. I got a little bit emotional at the airport, and at one point there was a tear in my eye. I'm going back, it's decided. I'll let you know when.

One quick aside before we get to my current situation: an interesting fact that I found out is that all the tap water in Iceland is fed directly from the springs - that is to say, cold water comes from the cold springs, and hot water comes from the hot springs. So awesome. No gas hot water systems here. So don't by bottled "spring" water in Iceland. Just go to your closest tap. That's why I liked the tap water so much.

So now, I'm sitting in a strange "cabin" in Heathrow Airport Terminal 4. The flight to NYC doesn't leave til 8:30 tomorrow morning. They won't let me check my bags in until 5am, so I stole into an in-airport hotel that allows you to pay by the hour. Very reasonably priced rooms and 24-hour room service (I had lasagne at midnight), with free Wi-Fi and TV and mod cons all in the space of a 3mx3mx3m cube. SO AWESOME. I need some sleep. See you in NYC.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Knitting, Bingo... No! I'm not getting old!

Iceland is cool. Ice cool.

But honestly, I think of all the places I've been, it's here that it's going to feel like I just don't have enough time. After a hop, skip and a flight from St Austell to London, I transferred to the North Terminal of London Gatwick and boarded the flight to Keflavik Reykjavik Airport. The flight was mercifully short, and we arrived in snow. I took a taxi to my apartment, which was both a blessing and a curse. A blessing, because the taxi driver knew the place I was staying and knew to call ahead (he did it himself, in Icelandic [Islenska]), and kind of a curse, because the fare was over $100. Woops. Big woops. Luckily for me I'm a rich person in Iceland, and things other than taxis don't cost so much.

I arrived at the hotel-apartment, which is absolutely rediculous - you know, my kind of place. There's a good 30 square meters on the third floor, with polished wood floor boards, wicked furniture, 400 channel satellite television, a huge flat screen, and an apple tv with about 40 films and tv shows. Then my gosh, the bathroom! I'm in love.

I wandered around briefly in the snow, feeling the strange crunch under my feet, kicking the powder around, and sliding on the slippery bits. In some places it made everything look clean, fresh, and white - however, mainly on the roads, it made a horrible brown sludge. I marvelled at the warmth of my new jacket, and frowned at the lack of warmth jeans held. Yet again, my waterproof boots came in infinitely handy.

I met my friend Haffi just after dinner, and soon his friend Eric came to pick us up. We went to his knitting group, which consisted of one girl (half Icelandic, half French, and brought up Brittish), and six guys (including myself). The diversity was intense; 3 Icelandic, 1 "Brittish", 1 Pole, 1 Sweede, and 1 German. I was taught how to knit (again, it's been a long time Mum), did something strange, invented my own style of casting on, had a minor disaster, then managed to create a bracelet-sized knit in the four to five hours we sat. We played 80's power ballads and moved onto musicals later. Many conversations were had, and new friends were made. Eric cast off for me, so I have a little souvenir to take home.

Tomorrow we sight-see. The snow's going to melt, in Haffi's opinion. I'm just glad I got to see it at all, it's gorgeous. Cold though...

--

The standard routine begun again, except much later in the day. Even the Sun doesn't get out of bed here until 10:30, and who sets an alarm while on holiday? (Unless you have a plane/train to catch, of course.) It was a wander about the city, simply letting my feet take me wherever the wind blew. Hmm, I might have mixed a metaphor in there somewhere. The snow had started to melt, making crispy icy bits, and round, slippery icy bits everywhere. In some places the water had pooled and then refrozen overnight, oddly freezing blades of grass in time. I'm thinking perhaps Talitha should reconsider her trip to a place where it snows, because I'm sure she would have slipped on every bit of ice there possibly was to slip on in Reykjavik. I journeyed down to the harbour, where the view across the water was absolutely breathtaking. The sun which was almost perpetually in sunset cast a golden hue on the far mountains, still recently covered with reflective snow.
I stood, awed for a moment, then continued through the city. I came back to Hallsgrimkirkja (which I can almost pronounce correctly), the architechtural gem of a church, and wandered around the grounds briefly.
Eric is taking part in a concert there on Saturday afternoon, so I'll return and hopefully hear the organ being played.

I wandered down to a bus station, and caught the bus to one of the three major shopping centres, Kringlan. There's no metro, tube or train system in Iceland, but a comprehensive bus service. I got myself some lunch, and bought another beanie, cause my ears were getting cold. That was all it took to kill most of the daylight hours, so after returning, I walked to Haffstein's coffee shop, and had my first decent latte since getting to Europe. Thankyou, Haffi. He, rather embarrassed, said that the plans he already had tonight were going to a LGBT Bingo night.
He was rather embarrassed because it set an awkward pattern. Knitting... Bingo... perhaps tonight we'll play draughts. In all seriousness, it was very fun, and strangely hardcore. We didn't win anything (and boy did they have some serious prizes), but we came close a couple times. What did happen is I rather quickly learnt Icelandic numbers. Einn, Tveir, Þrir, fjórir, fimm, sex, sjö, atta, níu, tíu. It also keyed me into a way to recognise more words; think in thees and thous. Two, for instance, Tveir, is pronounced in a way that it's kind of like twain, and "you" is "Þú", kind of like "Thou". Haffi and I both love language, so it's been fun finding these sorts of connections. Tonight is Friday night, where apparently the whole city gets stupidly drunk on just the one street. I have been invited to a party. I have to admit, I'm slightly scared, though somewhat relieved that apparently the worst of the fights involve two people chasing each other and drunkenly swinging and missing until someone passes out.

Once again, Perth, LEARN SOMETHING HERE.

Should I survive, I'll return to you with my final post from Iceland. The plan so far is to go for an evening swim outside. No, I haven't finally lost my tenuous hold on reality, it's The Blue Lagoon, a thermal pool. Who knows, maybe it'll snow. Again.