Country & Western to Rock & Roll

I know I often praise the effects of sleeping tablets for assisting in long flight survival, however, I woke up so groggy when we landed in LA that I proceeded to leave my iPad tucked in the seat pocket; and I didn’t realise until I went to use it after my shower at the hotel.

Tears ensued and I missed my Contiki pre-start meeting, BUT after an hour of back and forthing between lost property and the check in gates, a rogue Swiss employee appeared and produced my dearest possession. As I writer, I type away on this thing constantly. I use it to go to sleep (Netflix downloads are my new favourite thing). It’s my babe and let’s never ever talk about that terrible 24 hours of my life ever again.

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The next morning I met my crew, or at least laid eyes on most of 54 of us. I’m still nailing names. Is that bad? Day one, Vegas bound. Sin City for the third (and forth by the end of this trip) time in two years. Magic!

This time we stayed on Fremont street, downtown at the Golden Nugget. I love this area. It’s close to the mob museum, neon museum and the dazzling light and sound show on the largest screen in the world.

 

The first evening we went from ‘just one drink’ to dancing on the podium around the VIP area and left fifteen minutes before Zedd’s DJ set because we got bored and needed fried food.

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I chilled the eff out the next day for the first time since I started this mad adventure, and that night we went to old faithful Ghost Bar. It’s a super high and super funky bar, and they may not play my music but I always seem to work with it anyway. Alcohol, hey?

Our next destination was the ever spectacular Grand Canyon.

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We stayed in different accommodation to last time which was much cosier, and Wild Western fam you may be proud to know I chose not to have wine for dinner this time. Instead, I did a bike tour around the rim! Not all the way round, that would be ridiculous, but 9kms! Not bad for someone who hasn’t touched a bike in years.

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I also ran in to my gorgeous tour leader from last year, Kiran, and met a couple of the sweeties in her crew. Man I love fellow travel people. We’re all so gainlessly friendly and it’s beautiful.

That evening we had a picnic by the ledge with views that take my breath away every time. The goon and fireball came out, as did the cheese cubes. Life was good. Life is good.

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For my first unfamiliar destination we crossed the border to Colorado, new state! It’s an interesting place, that’s for sure. Weed is pretty much legal there, not that I partake because I’m a paranoid mess on a good day, but it did make for some local characters. That night we had a delicious dinner at a brewery and I got my first sip of pale ale since I left dear Aussie land. We followed it up with bar and booth dancing and fierce beer pong at a funky bar that reminds me of Mojos (Perth kid reference). A strange American man questioned us on the street about whether we hook up with locals (not really sir) and if we would like to kiss an American (no, but thank you for the offer). I think he thought he was doing us a service as he did strop off up the street before coming back for one more attempt. Been there, done that, thanks mate.

 

It was a bright and early start for an activity I’d been dying to do since I conquered the Swiss Alps (hah) many moons ago, white water rafting! This Rapids were only grade 2/3 so super chilled compared to what I experienced last time, which made it way more fun. Excellent banter with what I can only describe as a rafting version of surf rats made my day. I don’t know how anyone can memorise that many dirty jokes. If you ever find yourself in Dorango, give it a go. What a wicked experience and the scenery was next level. Greenery and snowy mountains? Go on then.

Sorry for the lack of photos of this one, but I’ll make up for it with the next!

Which was Albuquerque, a spot I barely grazed through last year. I continued my tradition of doing things that scare the shit out of me for absolutely no reason and decided to hit up a sunrise hot air balloon ride.

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I was totally fine while we cruised low, but as soon as we got up high, I was not fine.

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Once we hit the ground, I was fine again.

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Buck’s Fizz for all!

Little did we know the next night on tour was going to be one of the best so far. We rolled in to a town called Amarillo in North Texas and had a lot of steak and a lot of fun. Big Texan was a super quirky spot and adored by my super quirky heart. There was even a mega steak challenge.

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We played bar games until the wee hours and then set off the next morning for one of my favourites, Dallas!

Quick side note, an awesome art installation to check out just outside of Amarilllo is Cadillac Ranch.

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We stayed in Fortworth, a smaller city about thirty minutes out. We had a BBQ dinner and headed to a local bar for ladies night. $1 champagne! The night ended up a little wilder than planned.

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A really heavy but incredible experience was checking out the Sixth Floor Museum the next morning. I really didn’t know much about JFK’s assassination. It was haunting to see the big cross in the road where he was killed. I highly recommend it for anyone heaving in the Dallas.

That night was big. I went to my first Rodeo.

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Now I can say ‘this isn’t my first Rodeo’.

There were parts I liked and parts I didn’t like. I love community based nights out like that, but being as far from a farm girl as can be I found the calf wrangling a little hard to stomach.

After that adventure it was off to one epic venue, Billy Bob’s, for a country concert. Apparently Chase Rice is a big deal but I can’t really get past the name. I hugged his super sexy long haired guitarist though. You can take Miss Leigh away from her bands…

 

Next we were Memphis bound. We stopped in to Little Rock, Arkansas and learned a lot about the Civil Rights movement. This was another topic I wasn’t too familiar with. I’m really loving learning about these incredible parts of American history. People really can change the world.

Now you all know how much I adore Memphis, but this stop added a whole new layer of adoration. We stayed close to Beale St and I fell in love with the area. Murals and walking distance to some of the greatest musical venues and museums in history? Yeah go on then.

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Our first night was spent at my first minor league baseball game. Go Redbirds!

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After that I got to experience BB King’s for a second time and I haven’t grooved that hard in a while. Now THAT was soul.

Graceland time!

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They have refurbished since I was last there so I was loving the new shops. A little too much some might say. Then we headed to my favourite museum of all time: Sun Studios. The guide played us hit after hit created within those walls and I got to hold Elvis’ old mic. I couldn’t breathe. It’s still a functioning recording studio today. I am so proud of modern artists for honouring what came before them and recognising the magic of Sun Studios. Maybe one day I’ll record there (hah).

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After what might be the world’s best fried chicken at Gus’ we chilled. We knew what was coming next..

New Orleans baby!

Now I’m not much of a jazz girl so I was pretty heart broken to leave Memphis and her soul. I could easily spend a week there gig hopping. On the other hand , NOLA is wild. Just like last time it was mainly a blur, but I was pretty happy I ticked off the main touristy things last time so I could dedicate these nights to the party.

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And we did.

Next stop Florida! Read about it next time…

All my loving

Harleigh Q

xo

A Mediterranean Escape

I spent the beginning of my journey fighting tears over flat whites with Papi in the airport, because I’m a massive softy. Without fail, every time I’ve gone on a big big trip I enter panic mode the day before I leave. What if something bad happens? What if I miss something good? What if I get lost forever? Stupid anxiety. But you know what I do? I take a deep breathe, get a big cuddle and I march through that door to customs like I own the place. Life is all about being outside of our comfort zone.

I did my usual shit planning and took out some euros at the airport, hopped across to Singers on a flash as Qantas plane and snoozed at the transit hotel for five hours. Transit hotels are God’s gift to weary travellers. Sometimes, you just gotta nap.

Then it was the big bad twelve hour flight to Zurich of which I slept eight hours. Sleeping tablets are fab.

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A small leap South brought me to my final destination, twenty seven hours later, Roma!!!

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Last time I visited Rome it was 2012 and my first overseas trip since we moved to Aus seven years earlier. I remember a lot of arguing and getting lost. I did not have the fondest memories. I was in for one hell of a treat.

I arrived at our hotel and immediately showered and changed in to my Elvis nighty. I had to be appropriately dressed for Martina’s arrival, you see. Safe to say she loved it.

Martina and I met last year on my West Coast USA Contiki. Along with a wonderful fella called Will we formed our own tight little squad.

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She taught me bits of Italian and I began her Aussie slang education. One year later, and she’s one of my closest friends. Martina lives in the Italian speaking quarter of Switzerland. She’s gorgeous and hilarious and madly intelligent, speaking four languages fluently. I made it my mission to train her on advanced English, and by that I mean showing her how to casually swear in every sentence.

That afternoon we joined our Contiki group for our first night of the Mediterranean Escape. We had dinner at a stunning underground restaurant with some of the best wine I’ve ever tasted. Let me tell you a well kept secret, Italian booze doesn’t give you a hangover. It’s fucking magical. I was blotto 9/10 nights and I never once woke up any more than a little groggy after a couple of hours sleep, but always raring to go.

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That was also the night I discovered Italians don’t do music. Like… no music. Dinner noise was pure chatter and the same followed with the bars. Unless we went to a tourist spot we weren’t getting any tunes. It’s literally the only negative I can pick with that country though. You guys know how I feel about my tunes.

Dario gave us a sweet little walking tour of the city highlights at night.

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The next day we hit up the one and only magnificent Colosseum. This time I got to go inside, and I am so glad I did.

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The guide’s knowledge is mind blowing, as is the sick shit they used to do for entertainment. Bloody Romans.

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Martina and I spent that afternoon chilling around the markets and eating at a gorgeous little cafe in the heart of one of the little outer ‘burbs recommended by our tour leader, the one and only Dario.

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It ended in some excellent bars with some excellent company, and that’s all I have to say about that.

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My personal favourite day in Rome began at the Vatican.

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That evening we attended an opera dinner. I’m a sucker for dinner theatre but this was raw talent man; helped along by our harmonies I’m sure.

Amalfi Coast time!!!

I already knew this area was one of my favourites in the world and it’s just as spectacular second time around.

I mean just look at it.

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We hit up Sorrento, Amalfi, Positano and stayed in a quiet and beautiful spot called Maiori.

My favourite part of this section was our cruise around Capri. We got the swim, laugh and chat shit. My favourite things.

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Also, the nights spent tipsy on the beach with some like minded individuals will stay in my mind for a life time, just like the camp fire night at Bass Lake last year. There’s nothing better than low key bonding by a body of water, really.

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We were notified that strikes were ongoing in Greece and so we had a change of schedule. We were supposed to take the overnight ferry to Athens but instead had an extra night in Sorrento and flew over the next evening. It was a bit of a wait.

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Athens is magnificent! I mentioned this in my post on instagram but I just have to reiterate, it’s not Rome, but it’s damn impressive. To me, the Acropolis shits on the Colusseum. But I’ve also been obsessed with Greek mythology since year five so I’m a little bias. It’s was one hell of a day.

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At this point we were all well and truly great friends within the group, so a feast, afternoon by the pool and evening at a tradition Greek restaurant was just what the doctor ordered.

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Except it was then I remembered I can’t eat Greek food. Am I just so deep seeded Italian that my body rejects it? Probably. Still gave it a good go though.

Our final night was filled with lots and lots of hugs and kisses, a roof top bar with a view of the Acropolis and some heavy ass rain. Also, naughty Greek drinks that gave us cranking hangovers.

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So there you have it, Italy is better in summary. I’m ruined for life when it comes to pasta though. Australia has a lot to learn. I think I’ll just move to the Italian quarter of Melbs. AL DENTEEEEE!!!

Martina and I had one final night together which we spent on the simply spectacular Greek island of Santorini.

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I slept off my hangover before we made our way to without a doubt the most spectacular dinner I have ever attended. Martina made a reservation for us at the Athenian House. The pictures speak for themselves.

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Another life list item ticked off!

The next day we *shopped* and wandered the pretty beach side town of Kamari. The hotel had lots of animals and let us have our room until we left for the airport at 10.30pm! That never happens. Greek legends.

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I can’t put in to words how much I adore Martina. We laugh so much, she’s 100% my cup of tea and shot of tequila all rolled in to one. It’s so hard living far from soul friends, but I’d rather that than have never met her. Marrrrtiiinaaaaa you make my life better and I love you.

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I’m currently snuggled on my twelve hour flight to Los Angeles. Now the real Epic Adventure begins…

With love from somewhere over France,

Harleigh Q

Xo

Parallel Universe

Going to Thailand and visiting Maya Bay has been my absolute top life list item ever since I was 15 years old and watched Danny Boyle’s ‘The Beach’ for the first time; after which I found a perfect little Penguin addition of Alex Garland’s novel and devoured it.

I have been putting the big adventures above it on my priority list while I’ve had the opportunity to go on them. When Elana moved to Darwin and we decided we would meet in Asia for a catch up Thai was an easy choice. There’s no one else I’d sooner party there with considering we met doing just that in Cambodia two and a half years ago.

The journey began with my first ever Air Asia flight. I’ll be the first to admit I’m an airline snob. I have my very set routine of salted chips, lime water and comedy shows on the in-flight entertainment until I fall asleep down to a fine art. When I got on board the very bare, very packed tin can I was a bit sad. Does this mean I have to read this book I’m not enjoying?

I had absolutely no reason to complain though; the book got better, I snoozed just fine after easing myself in with the smooth croon of Diz Frost (Just going to throw it out there that he totally briefly held my hand through a fence 6 days ago). The flights were cheap. We are talking $450 return with baggage. Maybe low cost carriers aren’t so bad after all!

Upon collecting my case in Phuket I took a seat in the transfer supplier waiting area (and fit right in) and we had our Love Actually moment when Ling appeared through the departure doors. I only briefly left my bag unattended…

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Our first hotel was The Kee Resort and Spa, expertly chosen by my travel agent and companion. I loved it. We were around the corner from Bangla Road (the main party street of Patong) and the pool bar was perfection.

We spent our first day incredibly day drunk on local beers and making friends at said bar, and the next day we got to do something we were both dying to try: a Thai cooking class. Being the curry fiends we are, learning how to make our own was pretty exciting.

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The lady who ran the class was the most gorgeous soul and actually hilarious. She had a young helper who she told us was from Myanmar. We asked if she goes to school, but were told that because she is in Thailand illegally as a refugee she is unable.

I swear I’ve never seen a sweeter face, and she picked us flowers out of the garden. I have never been so close to kidnapping a person. Adoption has seriously started to creep in to my mind now. I’ve thought about it a lot in the past, and having the topic in a few of the family dramas I love I think it’s definitely some I will look in to in future. There’s so many babies all over the world and I think I could give one of them my heart.

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As you can see, we are now master chefs.

That night we headed out for my favourite night of the year.. Halloween!!!

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Little Harleigh Quinn only wet herself a little bit when the headlining DJ came out dressed as Mista J. Safe to say I danced. A lot. The creepy themed mega mix was probably the best set I’ve ever heard. Cheers Aaron you legend!

We spent the next few days enjoying a well earned chill out with massages, food and street wandering, exploring beautiful Patong Beach. It was hard not to compare everything to Bali but I really think they are super similar. At this point I was definitely missing the friendly locals of Legian and Seminyak…

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Then the sun came out and I discovered how ridiculously perfect the Indian food is there. I’m talking death-row-last-meal level epic. Contiki, are you ready for us?

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We met at our hotel, Sawadi, in the afternoon for a group meeting where I was struck by just how many British peeps we had! It was quite nice to hear all the accents again. That night was fueled by cheap tequila and a ping pong show I’d like to never discuss again, thank you very much.

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The next day we did a day tour out to James Bond Island and a few other spectacular spots, and I suddenly saw the Thailand that’s all over my newsfeed on a daily basis; here was paradise.

We visited a floating village and a few of the group played soccer with some of the local school kiddies.

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Amazing to think that they actually live on a man made island. It reminded me of Lake Titicaca, another one on my life list.

We finished that day on a gorgeous beach, reading and chatting in the sun with my beautiful new American friend, Nina.

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I can’t recommend that day tour enough. I don’t even like James bond, but you gotta see those islands!

~

The excitement began to build when we caught the two hour ferry out to Phi Phi Island, where we would be staying for the next three nights. We strolled through the quirkiest little town, filled with markets, bars and diving shops. I hadn’t expected it to be so built up, but it made for some epic nightlife.

Our hotel was in a Tsunami safe zone. That’s all I have to say about that.

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The morning of our day trip to Maya Bay the heavens had well and truly opened. I’m talking backlash of the Vietnam Monsoon kinda rain.

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With heavy hearts we sat around the lobby waiting for the official word and our lovely leader Lisa made the decision to push our trip back to the afternoon. I found myself a comfy lounge in the lobby and read/snoozed until go time. Being that it was then high tide we didn’t have to trek to the other side of the island to get the marina and we got a private beach pick up. The rain cleared, the sun came out and the best day of my life began.

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To say that I felt emotional when we pulled in to the bay would be a massive understatement. I was trying so hard not to be a creep and start crying in front of all these people I didn’t know very well, but Richard and his adventures have helped me through so many hard times. The Beach completely changed my outlook on life. I didn’t really know of any stories of people who search for adventure, who spend their lives travelling place to place having experiences I could never dream of. The idea of paradise, of a community of people filled with that same love of a life free of financial responsibility was absolutely intoxicating to me and still is. Though of course I know, as demonstrated in the film and book, there’s no such thing as paradise, there certainly is such thing as a parallel universe. I think compared to the norm, I live in one too.

As I floated in the bath-warm water with a group of new friends, walked through the jungle-style pathways and relaxed on the sand, I felt completely at peace with the universe. This is the only physical representation of the story I try to live my life by, and I found it. I found my inner peace.

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I’ll carry it with me always.

~

The rest of that day was just as spectacular. We snorkeled for a while and then chilled in a hidden lagoon, wearing our life jacket nappies.

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God absolutely threw in an extra dash of sexy when he made me.

That night.. Oh that night.. I experienced my first beach party.

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I remember a dog that lived at the bar and it taking and hour and a half to get home. I also remember that Nina and I were the last ones standing… Geordie and San Fran represent!

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I loved Phi Phi with all my heart and I will definitely be back. You aren’t allowed to stay on Maya Bay beach but I have heard about a cruise that stays in the bay overnight so you get to be the last people there at night and first in the morning. On the list it goes!

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For our Final destination on the Island Hopper West, we spent two nights in Krabi. Unfortunately and in true Leigh style, at this point I was now very unwell and unable to get out and explore much. Room service and Netflix are a very important part of any holiday though.

The final night we had a ‘dress up your roommate’ theme and Elana and I both just so happened to have bandannas and flannos – who knew!

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Now heading to a more serious topic…

A word of warning to all of my beautiful traveller friends. Do not walk alone at night; especially after a few beverages. Something bad happened to someone we know, and although they are okay, it’s so important that we keep our wits about us. Bad things happen every day all over the world, but please be careful.

There are some beautiful, helpful and completely brilliant people out there, but there are also a lot of really bad people or people in desperate situations.

~

Elana and I spent the last two days of our trip doing what we do best, eating, snoozing and chilling. I got a few new additions…

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Thank you beautiful friend for sharing such an epic experience with me. I’m sure we’ll have many more surf pros and adventures to come. I love you long time Ling Ling.

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Another thank you to our amazing leader Lisa and all of the brilliantly funny people we explored Southern Thailand with. You guys really made it.

~

I’m not in a hurry to head back to Asia any time soon. I don’t know what’s happened to me, but I’m constantly craving fancy brunch, live bands and pretty layered outfits. You hear that Melbs friends? I’ll be back soon.

Brisbane bound tonight! Home, I’ve missed you. Brisfam, are you ready to get loose?

With love from a parallel universe,

Harleigh Q

xo

An Eastern Escapade

Boston

I may have originally picked Padres/Yankees as my team(s) (check the baseball references – and I lied about staying loyal… Go Red Sox!) but Boston is BRILLIANT.

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I felt like I’d landed in London in some parts. A clean, friendly and warm version… Filled with fellow Italian and Irish blooded folks with excellent taste in both music and food.

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Its one of the oldest cities in America so the architecture is stunning. The parks and fountains give her such a European feel. We walked from one end to the other a couple of times in our four days there and it was such a great way to get around.

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When we first arrived we stayed in China Town so naturally stuffed our faces with local cuisine. This was our first share room but our roomies were great and that staff at the hostel were next level. Jess loved it when I debated the merits of Chris Nolan’s Batman trilogy by comparison to Suicide Squad previews with our darling receptionist. He also told me I have a name that sounds like it’s out of a Steinbeck novel. Way to win my heart!!

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We started our Contiki on day three in Boston and what a group we had! Twenty odd of the most friendly, mellow kids out. We felt right at home. Our first day was spent with a tour of the one and only Harvard.

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Our tour guide was definitely a Ravenclaw.

For dinner we finally experienced somewhere I’ve been avoiding like the plague, Dick’s Last Resort. Named appropriately!

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It says ‘fake blonde, real dumb’. Way harsh.

Walking Boston at night was one of my favourite experiences. It’s just so alive and interesting. There were so many beautiful little Irish pubs with live bands playing and dancing groups of street performers. Lush.

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Next we were on to the one and only…

New York City

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To to be completely honest I had really low expectations of NYC. We had been told over and over how unfriendly people are and how dirty it is. I’m glad because it made our love of it a complete surprise.

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Of all the places we have been, I would say I felt almost the safest in Manhattan. There were so many people around so you didn’t really have to worry about people bothering you, the service standard was excellent, the food was delicious… Speaking of which, I did a food cart tour.

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My hangover was loving it. It was really interesting to learn about the pride the vendors take in their hard earned businesses. It’s no easy feat getting a license so they ensure their food speaks for itself. Some of them are family businesses running for 20+ years!

The night life was impeccable as expected. We even made it to the top of the One World Observation Tower. I just closed my eyes in the lift. It’s all good.

Two big nights later we hitched a ride to my number one bucket list item spot:

Philadelphia

Those close to me know of my love for the Rocky franchise and slight obsession with Sylvester Stallone. Running up the Rocky steps like my hero absolutely made my life. I went completely prepared. Ultimate fan girl mode engaged.

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During our city tour we got rather rained on but I can’t wait to head back and explore more of what Philly has on offer.

After our one night Philly stand we popped in to an Amish village for a little tour. Quite the eye opener! They live without electricity and as independent from the outside world as possible.  The families usually have 7/8 kids who leave school at 14 to work. The men grow moustache-less beards to signify that they are married and single ladies wear a certain type of dress to all special occasions to let the fellas know they’re available. I should get me one of those.

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Fascinating but I won’t be converting any time soon. They have one mirror in the house for hair brushing, they aren’t allowed cosmetics of any kind and they only have four dresses. Four. I could dress seven seperate communities with my dress collection alone. No thanks.

A quick stop in Baltimore for lunch, home of Hairspray and riots, before reaching the nation’s capitol…

Washington DC

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Canberra on steroids.

First we honoured those who have fought for the US in the last century. The sight seeing in DC was next level. As were the food carts.

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As were the alcoholic beverages.

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There was so much more to see and do there than I had expected. I actually really loved the place and would definitely go back!

With banging hangovers we made our way to one of the most important sites from the Civil War, Gettsburg. Suddenly life didn’t seem to bad!

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Ive really enjoyed learning more about American history. British has always held my heart but it’s very interesting to compare the different versions of events. It’s safe to say the Yanks and the Limes didn’t share much love back in the day.

On the Wild Western I was lucky enough to meet another soul operating completely on my nerdy wave length, Will. As we rolled in to his home town I was blown away by the beauty.

Pittsburgh is just… Wow.

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See what I mean?

I got a totally VIP behind the scenes tour of the best spots, including where they filmed the big Bane vs Batman scene for Dark Knight Rises. Talk about breathtaking!

It was so absolutely wonderful to see him again. Summer in Switzerland with our Martina next time.

Niagara Falls

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I’m about to drop a bombshell for anyone who hasn’t been, but you know what Niagara Falls is? It’s Vegas for nine year olds (thanks Phil). There’s tourist attractions everywhere, from the usual wax museums and haunted houses to lights out on to the falls at night.

So of course, I loved it.

Freshly crowned boat captains the squad hit the the waters appropriately dressed and ready for a soaking. The view from the bottom really was something else.

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That night we had dinner with a spectacular outlook and topped it off with a wild time at the karaoke.

Toronto

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Toronto was a spectacular blur. Our first night we checked out a comedy club and though a lot of the Canada themed jokes went straight over my head I was wetting myself at the Trump and America piss takes. I feel Canadians and Aussies have a similar sense of humour.

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The next day was a very liquidated one. We went to Steam Whistle brewery and I don’t remember much else. Good job I took photos!

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Montreal

Our final and most memorable destination was Montreal, located in Quebec French is their first language. It was fun to try crack that out again!

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Its an absolutely beautiful city. The views spoke for themselves.

Our first night out featured $2.50 drinks so we were buying four at a time. I ran in to some old friends from the big Tiki and it was wonderful. I’ll never forget this place.

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The next day I was reunited with the love of my life, the ocean. We went jet boating in level 4 rapids and I’ve never been more soaked or laughed so hard. Goodbye hangover!

Je vais vous voir l’année prochaine. Thank you for being a perfect ending.

~

The drive back to Boston was heartbreaking. Of all the group tours I have done, I’ve never met a bunch of people who blended so well and laughed so much. Sometimes I felt like we were on an episode of Geordie Shore, then we’d spend afternoons lying in the sun catching up on events. We shopped, gossiped, laughed, danced and created memories that will last a lifetime. I know I’ll be seeing you guys again little squad. Thank you for being the most incredible family ever. #contikiphil #phillikes….

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Inside jokes galore.

After a very long long long bus ride Jessie and I arrived in New York for the second time. On the agenda: Shake the Contiki cough, picnic in Central Park, Empire State Building, musicals. Mission accomplished?

Well Jessie managed to rip our Empire State tickets, but we did have a view of it from our bedroom window.

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I’d much rather see it from the ground anyway…

Our hotel was the most beautiful old boutique ever and we found a stairwell to play on.

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Aladdin was sold out for our days but I did manage a beautiful picnic reunion with the one and only TORZAAA!

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It was a romantic afternoon of giggling at couples as they made out, gossiping about men and being general dickheads. The hotdogs went down a treat!

We didn’t want to move from the warm sunny spot but we figured we should probably cover a few more things before we got on to the beverages, so off to Times Square we dallied.

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That night was messy and wild just like the three of us and though most of it is a bourbon blur I do remember: having beautiful chats with my soul brother Philly, another nomad heart who feels the pain of travelling to live/living to travel, several spinnings of the Cupid Shuffle and the Wobble so we had one final chance to show off our anthem routines of the trip and of course, a big greasy slice of New York pizza.

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Cant wait to see you when I pop over to Melbs my darling girl.

This trip has been next level. I can’t compare it to others that have done because for the last 10 weeks we have lived and breathed American life. We learnt about their history, culture and political issues. We met locals and spent time getting to know how they live. We partied hard. We drove a lot. We laughed and cried and danced and sang. We fought over stupid things. We ate a lot.

I thought after this time I would feel quite done with America, at least for a while. I was wrong. I can’t wait to come back. I want to do the Grand Northern and add more to the 21 states we visited this time round. I want to see Chicago. I want to go back to Boston. I want to go back to Key West. I want to do a big Caribbean cruise.

With Brisbane, New Zealand, Melbourne and Thailand coming up and my unwavering desire to spend a month in Japan I know it won’t be soon that I return, but I absolutely will. Probably next summer!

America cannot be summed up in words. Everywhere you go is so completely different, everyone you meet has a story to tell. I will forever admire their diversity. I hope one day Australia can embrace the same.

If anyone wants to have a chat about their own plans to go and is willing to listen to me ramble for hours, you know where to find me.

Thank you for following my latest adventure. There are many, many more to come 😊❤️

 

Harleigh Q

xo

 

 

 

The Wild Wild West

Ciao amici e la famiglia!

I’m going to do my USA posts in four parts, Wild West, Road Trip, South East and Eastern Escapade. We have officially completed part one so while we drive to our first stop along Route 66, I’m going to tell you all about it!

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I feel calling Hollywood ‘interesting’ would be a gross understatement. When I picked to stay there my main motivation was finding somewhere within walking distance of a few attractions, as I knew jet lag would be a killer.

We landed safely and royally buggered after a 24 hour journey with my old faithful, Virgin Australia. We had a lovely videographer sat with us on the way. His name was Daniel and told us tales of the documentaries he’s filmed in Central America, and being held at gunpoint by a farmer. It was an incredible way to pass the time and a very cool introduction to the interesting people we would be encountering in LA.

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Our hostel, USA Hostel Hollywood, was literally around the corner from the boulevard. We arrived too early to check in so crashed out in their lounge. When we woke up groggy in our room at 11pm after a long and full snooze, we realised we may have stuffed up. It took us four days to fix our vampyrism.

In that time we managed a midnight feast at Hard Rock with enough nachos to feed a small village, we worked our way in to party with the DJ in a cool LA club and I smashed a snow globe within seconds of buying it.

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We met a few characters and hitting the Maccers is never a good idea, but it made for some good stories!

We did find an incredible place called Mel’s Diner which had duke boxes on the tables. For a quarter you could turn up your jam. We smashed a bit of Johnny Cash and I had the best milkshake of my life.

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After our nighttime adventures in the ‘wood it was time for Jess’ very first Contiki!

I love group tours with all my heart. This was to be my fifth, and my second Contiki.

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I have met some of my best friends on group tours that I am still super close with to this day. I was really looking forward to connecting with some fellow travellers and covering as much ground as possible while the pros take the lead for a couple of weeks.

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Day one we headed out to Santa Monica and Venice Beach. Oh how I fell in love with Venice. It helped that it was also the location of one of my favourite films, Romeo + Juliet. Vintage shops and markets mixed in with Muscle Beach, Arnie’s old stomping ground. Yes please!

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Next we hit up my absolute favourite spot of the tour, San Diego. It had everything I love the most. Shopping, nightlife, history, water and the best vibes.

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Our fearless leader went above and beyond and arranged a night at the baseball for us. This was without a doubt the biggest highlight for me. We got to see the San Diego Padres smash the Pittsburgh Pirates (sorry Will!) so I’ve picked them as my team. I will stay loyal.

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The next night we visited old town which was filled with gorgeous old buildings and markets. A very Mexican experience!

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I can’t wait to go back one day; for Comicon most likely.

Next we headed through the desert to our chilled out stop at the Golf Resort Arizona. I brought my trusty wagon along.

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We drank by the pool and at night headed out to our very first country bar. The line dancers were fascinating and it was a very cool mix of old and new. It reminded me of a skating rink from the 70s without the rollers.

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A great surprise for me was Sedona. Known for its rocks and crystals I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the breathtaking landscape and native American style really blew me away.

But then came… The Grand Canyon.

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I think it was more impressive than I’d expected. It doesn’t match my eternal fascination with Kings Canyon but I’m only slightly biased.

We got to experience a sunset by the rim, and for those of you who know of my extreme phobia of heights, check out this bad boy!

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Call me Leigh, conquerer of fears.

More bus selfies before…

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Vegas baby!

I fell in love with the place when I was there for Global ball last year. It’s mental. There’s really no where else like it. We had two wild nights out and it’s all a bit of an awesome blur.

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Without a doubt the highlight had to be the surprise marriage of two of our unsuspecting Contiki fam.

Jess and I were tempted to join when we saw Elvis was the celebrant but we wouldn’t be able to afford the inevitable divorce after three weeks in a car together.

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In a bus full of hangovers we made our way to the total tranquility of Bass Lake.

I’m astounded by the sheer contrasts in California’s landscape and this place really did it for me. It was heaven.

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My second favourite night on tour was spend around this bonfire with a bunch of cool people, beers and smores. Will and I nerdfested hard over our mutual love of all things pop culture, I learnt some more Italian from my beautiful Martina and it was overall one of my top nights ever. Sometimes all you need is a deck chair and good company.

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Yosemite has been on my list ever since I learnt how to pronounce it. It’s one of my goals to do an overnight hike with my angel Natalia one day here. The waterfalls were breathtaking. We went bear hunting and even just watching the hikers prepping was an experience in itself. Another one on the must return list.

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We spent that night dressed in our Walmart best singing karaoke to the locals (sadly I couldn’t partake in this. I lost my voice a week in to this trip and it’s still yet to return. I think it’s all the drunken yelling. We all know not speaking is not an option for me).

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Our final destination: San Francisco.

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I really didn’t know what to expect with this one. All I knew about it was what I’d seen in Mrs. Doubtfire and Milk so I wasn’t well prepared for the sheer wonder of the place.

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From the touristy and fun Fisherman’s Wharf, to the beautiful Golden Gate Park; from the iconic Castro to the Painted Ladies… I was honestly moved. I couldn’t live there, but I love what these incredible cities are doing for our planet. Everyone was free to be completely and unapologetically themselves. I had a great time, and I spent it with the best people.

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P.S. We saw a whale under Golden Gate Bridge. What the actual.

We headed back to LA and said our ‘see you later’s and my heart broke a little bit, as always, but true love lasts a lifetime! And our next Contiki actually passes through Will’s home town of Pittsburgh. We’ve got ourselves a tour guide. I am beyond excited to be reunited. One month of self navigation to go first!

Here’s to the start of our next adventure…

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Meet Sherry ❤️

Another update to come from the dirty south in a few weeks time.

Love you all

xo