Alright, it’s time to get back to the big 3-0 trip! As you should know by now, back in the summer of 2018 I embarked upon a 30 day trip in the USA to celebrate my 30th birthday!
So far on this trip I’d done some pretty cool things from firework displays on Navy Pier in Chicago to watching two friends get married on the West coast and much, much more but today felt like a big day on the month-long itinerary!
Every year Haleigh’s (my fiance!) family host an annual summer BBQ and get the whole gang together in the lovely city of Walla Walla in Washington State.
For someone with a pretty introverted personality I’d be lying if I was to say huge social gatherings are an environment I’m particularly comfortable in. Throw in the fact I’d be spending it with the significant other’s family, some of which I’d only be meeting for the first time, and it perhaps wouldn’t surprise you if I said I was dreading this day of the trip.
Yet oddly it was one of the things I was most looking forward to. I was excited, honoured even, to be invited in to this precious family tradition as an outsider. I had some nerves too of course because it was still early enough in our relationship that I wanted to make a good impression upon Haleigh’s family but it was mostly excitement.
Whilst I don’t particularly excel in social situations, that’s not to say I dislike them. I was really looking forward to a day of good weather, good food and good company. Fortunately I’d visited in February already so I hadn’t been thrown completely in to the deep end and I’d already visited Walla Walla and met a few members of Haleigh’s family previously.
Anyway on to the events of the day! I can’t quite remember what time we left but before heading over to Haleigh’s grandparents, hosts of the big day, we quickly went shopping to pick up a few bits and pieces for the BBQ. We then made our way over and were soon parked up outside the grandparents home.
Inside were a few people scattered around helping prepare the mountain of food required for such a large gathering, outside people were mingling and getting ready to kick off the fun and games.
The game of the weekend appeared to be some tactical dice game called Vegas, requiring a little luck with the objective of the game to be the one with the most money at the end of it.
It was a five player game and I was quick to jump in on the action and make sure I was in the first round of the competition. Partway through the first game it had been decided that there would be five rounds with the winner of each round qualifying for the grand final and an opportunity to take home the family bragging rights!
Sadly I fell just short in game number one, losing by $10,000 which is the smallest margin you could lose a game by – so close! The winner, Gina on this occasion, vacated her seat in order to allow a new challenger in to the ring.
Two games later we had three finalists before there was a break in play – it was time for the feast! Out came all of the food from the kitchen and it was spread out across this long table in the “yard”. Guests were then split between the “adults” and the “kids” of which me and Haleigh fell in to the latter – all but one of the kids table were genuinely children but it was a large party and too many people to fit to one table.
There was a happy mood in the air, everyone was in good spirits and enjoying themselves. For my first American family get-together it was a great experience and one I hope to enjoy many, many more times in the future. Good food and good company, what more could you possibly want?
It was nice getting to know Haleigh’s family a little better. After stuffing ourselves on food most of “the kids” moved back inside and were quickly playing some fun group games that you played on your phones.
At some point the games switched to a drawing / pictionary-like game which was my time to bow out – not my forte. I have no artistic talent so I was happy to sit this one out.
As it was Rob was keen to get some more games of Vegas going so tournament play resumed with two spots in the final up for grabs! I was keen to make the final cut but frustratingly lost another game by just 10,000. I think the competitive spirit and sabotage-tactics cost both me and Rob a place in Sunday’s grand final. The nature of the game means you can reap the rewards of others battling it out, swooping in and claiming the money for yourself.
Our wonderful hosts were keen to get a family photo to mark the occasion before the sun went down, so we made our way outside and obliged and that really signalled the winding down of the evening. People slowly started saying their goodbyes and were all heading off in various directions.
I haven’t seen any photos from the day and personally didn’t get any of my own, hence this is a post severely lacking any photos. I was just content to enjoy the day and appreciate the opportunity to partake in this special annual family tradition.
Sadly we missed it in 2019 as Haleigh was visiting England and obviously no plans really panned out this year but fingers crossed there’ll be an opportunity to get together for another family BBQ in 2021. I guess we’ll see.
Anyway, that rounds up the big family BBQ. Whilst the main event had come and gone, there was still one more day of family fun in Walla Walla to come before the big roadtrip could commence.
Welcome back dear folks! For those of you who haven’t been following along with the “big 3-0” trip, I’ll leave links to all of the previous posts at the bottom of the post. However for those of you who have been reading, you’ll recall last time out I was rounding up mine and Haleigh’s time in Portland.
We woke up on the Thursday morning, gathered our bits and pieces together and were saying our temporary goodbye’s to Haleigh’s Aunt Gina and Uncle Rob who’d kindly put us up for a few days. It had been great having somewhere to stay whilst in Portland and it was also lovely meeting more of the family ahead of the weekend shenanigans.
On Saturday would be the “famous” annual family BBQ in Walla Walla so whilst we were heading ‘home’ on Thursday, Gina and Rob would be driving over on Friday after work to join us in Walla Walla.
So we said our temporary goodbyes and then began our journey to Walla Walla. Walla Walla is over on the East side of Washington State so we had a bit of a drive ahead of us. We wanted to make an early start as we were keen to stop off at Multnomah Falls along the way. I’d seen a few photos online and it looked breathtaking so we were both hoping to see it.
Multnomah isn’t too far from Portland so it’s easy to link in with a trip to Portland. Unfortunately the car park for it was closed / full and we’d already passed the earlier exits where you can get a shuttle. It didn’t seem worthwhile turning back and we knew we’d be back in Oregon later in the trip so were hopeful we’d get another opportunity to visit.
We were still keen to stop somewhere and a little further along we started seeing signs for Bonneville Dam which seemed like a good alternative to our original plans. The Bonneville Dam was a huge project on the Colombia River that seperates Washington and Oregon. It not only helped flood-control in the area but it created a huge number of jobs in America through the ‘Great Depression’.
It was a cool place to stop at and the visitor centre had plenty of information on how it had shaped American history, plus the benefits for the cities and states that sit along the river. One of the cooler things you can witness is the ‘fish ladder’ that was built that allows various fish to pass on through the dam.
After a little time at the dam and a few photos we got back on the road. We were feeling a little bit peckish so started thinking about grabbing lunch somewhere. We stumbled upon a town called ‘Cascade Locks’. We stopped at the first road-side restaurant we came to. However it wasn’t really what we were looking for and had more of a cafeteria / buffet type feel to it where you picked up a tray and queued so we passed on this place and moved onwards.
Before getting back in the car I couldn’t help but grab a quick photo of this cool bridge. I didn’t know this at the time but a Google search tells me that this is called ‘The Bridge of the Gods’. I’m not sure what the significance of the name is but it looked cool.
We hopped back in the car and quickly found another restaurant which looked to be linked to some hotel and thought we’d take a look. It had an absolutely awful stench as we walked in and unsurprisingly the place was empty. There were also no staff to greet us as we entered which wasn’t too encouraging. Even on a relatively busy highway they clearly weren’t anticipating any custom so we skipped out on eating here too.
Deciding this town was a bit of a dud we just hit the road and decided lunch would wait until we arrived in ‘The Dalles’. We ended up visiting a place called ‘Cousins’ which Haleigh had visited on previous family trips to the Oregon Coast. It was a nice little family-friendly place offering the typical American favourites and the food was decent too.
The weather was scorching though and a sign of things to come in Eastern Washington. We stepped out of this nicely air-conditioned restaurant and the heat hit me instantly smack in the face. Temperatures were in to the low 40’s (celsius obviously) so it was just ridiculously warm. Fortunately we were quickly back on the road and in a lovely air-conditioned car. I remember checking the temperature at one point and well, see for yourself! Welcome to a summer in the Pacific North West!
The rest of the drive back to Walla Walla was pretty uneventful. We got stuck behind some slow-moving vehicles, typically on single-lane roads, that slowed us down a little bit but soon enough we were crossing the Colombia River and heading back to the familiarity of Washington State.
I’d only been to Walla Walla once at this point, for a few days back in February, and the one thing that had blown me away on the approach was seeing the mountains as you drive in to the city.
“Oh.. we’re THIS close to the mountains?” – on that February trip we were staying with Haleigh’s grandparents and you could see the mountains from their yard or kitchen window or whatever.
I was looking forward to the weekend as a whole but I was also looking forward to that approach back in to Walla Walla. It never gets old seeing that view and it is the one that makes you think.. yeah, I’m home now. I do have a real soft spot for this piece of Washington.
Sadly on this particular trip nature had other ideas and denied me the luxury of that view. I’d been daydreaming about that view for weeks, if not months, but Washington, Oregon and California had spent much of the summer on fire. I hadn’t really experienced the effect of that so far on my trip but from here on out I was going to have to get used to hazy skies.
Disappointingly there was no sign of the mountains as we arrived in to Walla Walla. It was still warm but the views were lacking, haze was the only word on the weather report. The sun was somewhere up there but who knew where.
Anyway, Halegh had soon parked up the car outside of her family home where we dropped off our things and swiftly headed back out of the door. We went and paid a visit to the first set of grandparents we’d be seeing over the next few days. It was nice to see them again and hear how’d they been.
A little while later me and Haleigh headed out for dinner with Haleigh’s mum and brother. We returned to what is a popular restaurant in town called ‘Clarettes’ which I’d visited previously. Again, it was a nice family-friendly place with good American dining options on the menu.
The rest of the evening was pretty relaxed. We didn’t do anything particularly noteworthy and just crawled in to bed ahead of another day in the familiarity of Walla Walla. More on that next time!
Welcome back to another post in the “big 3-0” series. Last time out on the blog I talked about the start to my time in Oregon. Myself and Haleigh had had the opportunity to see a little of Portland but were looking forward to exploring properly on day 12.
I promised that day 12 would be a little more eventful, so much so that we actually split our time in two different cities! We’d spent day 11 with Haleigh’s aunt and uncle but with working life resumed, me and Haleigh were left to explore by ourselves. Rather than head in to Portland we actually decided to kick off our Wednesday morning by making the short drive over to Oregon City.
Oregon City’s only around 10-15 miles away from Portland so it wasn’t too far for us to go. Oregon City was the first city in the state of Oregon and subsequently was the capital of the territory of Oregon at one point.
It’s a little hard to believe when you get there because it’s a pretty small city – not much larger than your average town if I’m being honest. The population is less than 40,000 and it felt very compact, particularly coming from the Portland area.
We parked up on one of the streets in the downtown area and thought we’d go find somewhere for some breakfast. However not much seemed to be happening in this sleepy little city, we walked along Main Street and there didn’t seem to be many options for breakfast and the few that were hadn’t opened their doors yet.
In the end we settled for grabbing something from a Dutch Bros whilst walking along the Willamette River which runs through the heart of the city and alongside Main Street.
One of the cooler landmarks, if you can call it that, in Oregon City is the ‘Municipal Elevator’ which connects Main Street and the downtown area with the higher areas of the city. The elevator is free to ride so we took a journey up. It’s mostly a residential area but there’s a pathway that you can walk along that offers some pretty cool views of the city and Willamette Falls in the distance.
The pathway stretches for a few blocks so we decided to walk along and take in the views, plus get a few photos. However it’s a narrow pathway and we weren’t quite prepared for the unavoidable sprinklers. We ended up getting a little wet whilst walking along. The path goes so far but is essentially a dead end so we had to turn back for round two of a sprinkler-soaking but fortunately it was a warm day and didn’t take long for us to dry off. It was worth it for the views.
We took the elevator back down to street level and had a wander through the small downtown area of Oregon City. Haleigh suggested we popped in to some Christmas shop, oddly enough this was the second Christmas store I’d visited on this summer trip – having had Crystal take me in to one in New Orleans too!
Oregon seem to have timed parking zones so although we were able to park for free, we were only allowed to park where we were for two hours. Feeling a little time-conscious and having seen much of the downtown area we decided to move the car and find somewhere to get some lunch.
Oddly enough there was a Scottish pub in town which caught our eye and offered the usual British pub favourites along with some American classics. It seemed like a good place to grab food and I was instantly drawn towards the meat pies – craving a good steak and ale pie which are severely lacking stateside.
Haleigh opted for the Mac and Cheese but I made sure she sampled a bit of my pie (which she enjoyed) and also introduced her to the concept of “chips and gravy” – the only thing missing were some mushy peas!
In addition to the food I was intrigued to see what beers they had on the menu and was initially delighted to see Scottish craft-beer favourites ‘Brewdog’ were on the menu. The $13 dollar price tag on a bottle of their Punk IPA quickly put me off though!
Brewdog have quickly grown throughout the UK and are seemingly trying to break in to the international market with branches opening across the world and even a beer hotel on the horizon (it might be open by now) but I’m not sure how they’ll ever conquer the US if they’re charging $13 a bottle in a country that has no shortage of good craft beers available. Admittedly in this instance I’m aware the pub itself have priced it up and probably have the added novelty of proclaiming themselves a Scottish pub to try and justify it but it was a little mind-blowing – $13!! Hopefully that’s a one off and not a price you’ll find for Brewdog beers elsewhere in the US.
As it was I don’t think I opted for a beer anyway, I was just curious about the menu. We enjoyed a good lunch and then Haleigh started looking at dessert options, I asked if “Sticky Toffee Pudding” was a common dessert in the US before pointing her in that direction. It went down well so in addition to the pie tasting the British food was leaving a good impression on Haleigh!
Opposite the pub was another viewpoint of the Willamette Falls and river so we took a quick look. Also here was a statue of John McLoughlin (the “Father of Oregon”) and also a sign of Oregon City detailing the history of the area. We grabbed some photos and then pondered where next? We’d seen most of Oregon City already but thought we’d make one final stop at the Museum of Oregon Territory.
Unfortunately there were roadworks and seemingly nowhere to actually park within the vicinity of the museum. Our only option was to park miles away so we cut our losses and made our way out of this small little piece of Oregon and made our way in to Portland for the afternoon.
We really wanted to visit ‘OMSI’, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, which is home to various exhibits, a planetarium and even a submarine that sits on the river!
You have to buy tickets to enter and have a choice of a variety of package options ranging from single-attraction options to an “all in-one” ticket. We wanted to visit both the planetarium and the submarine so bought ourselves a ticket that covered those two options.
We started with the guided tour of the ‘USS Blueback Submarine’. Like many people I suppose, it was my first time on a submarine so I found it really interesting and tried to imagine how difficult it must be spending so much time confined to the limited space in a submarine. You learn quite a bit about the history of this specific submarine and I thought it was definitely a worthwhile tour doing. We both left with it being a highlight of our time in Portland.
Next up was the planetarium show which was also something I’d never done before. Our particular show focused on seeing the various stars and planets over the Portland area which was really cool. It went by really quickly though, I think it was around 30 minutes in length but I think myself and Haleigh both would have been happy sat there for much longer. It’s definitely something I’d do again and ‘OMSI’ had a number of different shows on that you could pick between so you could easily squeeze in a couple in to one day at ‘OMSI’.
We didn’t see everything at ‘OMSI’, there was definitely stuff left to check out on a future visit but I’d thoroughly recommend a visit. Having spent our morning in Oregon City and our afternoon at OMSI our attention switched to evening plans!
A friend of mine (Ryan) lives in Portland and I knew whenever I finally got around to visiting we’d have to try and meet up. Ideally I figured it’d be for a Portland Timbers (men’s football) or Thorns (women’s football) match but neither schedule overlapped with my time in the city so instead we arranged to grab dinner and some drinks with Ryan and his husband (David).
I think we left OMSI at around 4-4:30 and were meeting up at 6 so we had a bit of time to kill but not enough to really go and do too much. I think there was a feeling that with the drive over and rush-hour that it’d take us a bit longer to get across town but that wasn’t the case at all. We left OMSI and were in what felt like this relatively hip neighbourhood not much later.
There was definitely a buzz about the place with a number of independent shops, restaurants and bars lining this long street (SE Division). Our only real problem was trying to find somewhere to park, it probably took us a good 10 minutes going up and down the street and circling blocks before finally pinching a parking spot. We lucked out as it just happened to be right outside of where we were eating.
We were still far too early so decided we’d take a bit of a wander and popped our heads in to a couple of shops. Next to our restaurant was a shop called ‘Citizen Ruth’ which felt reflective of the area (and Portland as a whole really) and had a number of liberal and feminist-inspired products on sale. The guy manning the store was really friendly and Haleigh picked up a book and a couple of bits to make it a worthwhile visit.
Further up the street I’d noticed we’d driven past an ice-cream stop that I’d heard plenty of buzz about and was seemingly pretty popular in Portland amongst the Instagrammers, bloggers and travelers of the world. I hadn’t actually intended to visit on this trip at all so this really came about by chance more than anything. However as it was within walking distance of where we were we decided to check out ‘Salt and Straw’ and see what all the fuss was about.
They had a good range of unusual flavoured ice creams on the menu so we were pondering which flavours we should try. The woman behind the counter piped up and seemed content in handing us a number of free tasters which were delicious and was sufficient in offering us our fix of ice cream. Had it not been right before dinner we’d definitely have bought something but as they were open pretty late we suggested we’d return after dinner (we didn’t!).
Soon enough it was time to meet up with Ryan. Unfortunately David was running a little late so was going to skip out on dinner and catch up with us for some beers but managed to catch up with us whilst we were still eating our tacos before ordering his own.
It was really cool to finally meet Ryan in person after a number of years chatting online. It was also nice having both of our significant others to keep the conversation flowing nicely – a fun little double date!
Following on from dinner we moved over to a bar down the street, Haleigh wasn’t drinking but they had some good beer options which kept me happy and we spent the next hour or two just chatting away. It was a really nice evening. We’d all had a good time and it was definitely a highlight of my time in Portland and indeed the trip.
It didn’t end up being too late a night, we called it quits after 2-3 beers as the guys had work the next day and this was our last night in Oregon so we wanted to make an early enough getaway in the morning.
It had been a great way to end our time in Portland, tomorrow we’d be heading back to Washington! Stay tuned for more on that!
Hello my dear readers! I am well and truly back in to the swing of things now so I thought I’d get back to “the big 3-0” series. For those of you that missed the start of the series I’ll leave links at the bottom for you to go back and read but I’ll quickly catch you up!
In August 2018 I was invited to a wedding out in Washington State, two days before my 30th birthday. A wedding in another country and a big birthday left me with a huge temptation to celebrate BIG. So I planned a 30 day trip exploring various parts of the US.
Day 10 had seen me and my girlfriend (now fiance!) Haleigh arrive in Portland after a drive down from Washington. We hadn’t really done much other than settle in for the evening. We were staying with Haleigh’s Uncle Rob and Aunt Gina so it had just been a night of good food, good company and playing some games.
So day 11 was going to give us our first proper glimpse of the Portland area. As it was, day 11 happened to be the actual day of the big 3-0! In all honesty I felt like the trip as a whole all just blurred in to one celebration. I didn’t feel like today was any more special than any of the other 29 days in the US. I’m not really one to make a huge fuss about my birthday but nevertheless, I’d arrived in Portland a 29 year old and woken up as a 30 year old.
It ended up being a relatively chilled start to the day in truth. Rob and Gina both had the day off work so we’d agreed to spend the day together. However they’d got up early to pop out and look at buying a new RV which left me and Haleigh to have a slow start to the day which was nice.
I’d say it was a quiet start to the day but we were keeping one eye on our four-legged company, or perhaps it was the other way around as they were still pretty bark-happy. Particular Buster who’d set off again any time I moved, almost as if he’d temporarily forget I was in his company and indeed his home.
“Wait.. you’re still here!?”
A little while later Rob and Gina had returned, unfortunately following an unsuccessful purchase, and quickly freshened up before the four of us headed out together. We kicked things off by finding a place for lunch. We ended up visiting some local Hawaiian place which was really nice. They had some cool artwork up on the walls that I think we’d all have been happy taking home with us but we settled for just enjoying the food haha. Haleigh kindly treated me to lunch by way of celebrating the birthday which was also nice!
As I said above, I’m not one to make a huge fuss about my birthday but continuing with the theme of the day we thought we’d go do something a little more fun that all four of us could enjoy. Within close vicinity of the restaurant was a bowling alley so we decided to have a couple of rounds of bowling.
The bowling ended up being perhaps the part I remember most from this day. With bowling balls and shoes at the ready, the local (Rob) was far better prepared than Haleigh or myself for this little outing and gave the impression that this was “serious business”.
With that in mind I was keen to give a good account of myself on the lanes and see how I could fare against the pro! I was expecting Rob to cruise to victory but things didn’t quite go to script!
Employees of the bowling alley had recently oiled the lane in an effort to sabotage Rob’s game and disrupt his bowling rhythm! Those of you less inclined to believe in conspiracy theories might suggest it was coincidental rather than personal. Additionally some may argue that we were all subject to the same bowling conditions but the slippery lanes took its toll on Rob as he shared his frustration with anyone willing to hear it.
I have to say, I found it quite hysterical. Rob was NOT happy and I was struggling to contain how amusing I found the situation. I grew up watching my parents participate in a weekly bowling league so I appreciate the technique and routine that goes in to bowling but Rob was struggling to adapt to the conditions and his competitive nature meant he was pretty miserable. From a personal viewpoint, I think watching someone so competitive have such a miserable game is inevitably uplifting haha.
The conditions had leveled the playing field and culminated in a birthday victory in the first game! Rob’s fortunes picked up in the second game and as a result he ended up cruising to a pretty comfortable win in the end but I was content to have won one game at least.
The win perked Rob up a little bit but we didn’t stick around for a third game and decided to head in to the downtown area of Portland. One place that has to be visited in Portland, particularly for someone as book-obsessed as Haleigh, is the famous Powell’s Books! It’s a huge bookstore in Portland and was somewhere we were both keen to visit whilst in town.
Powell’s Books lived up to its reputation as a dream for any book-lover. There are an endless number of books to browse through and I’ve no doubt it’s somewhere you could spend hours in if you wanted to. We split up in to two pairs and wandered around for a while – Haleigh trying to resist the urge to buy every book in the store! She did a pretty good job and made it out without bruising the bank balance too badly. We did stop off at the in-store cafe though and all had something to drink – tea for myself obviously.
We didn’t do too much else after leaving Powell’s Books, we had a little browse through Portland before turning our attention to dinner. We ended up visiting some quirky bar which I think was part of the McMenamins chain. It was a nice way to round off the day, I tried a couple of beers and then just enjoyed the good food and good company.
We headed back to the house and finished the evening by watching a movie – The Big Lebowski. Whilst bowling it had been mentioned and had caused shock that neither myself nor Haleigh had seen this “classic” movie.
It’s an odd film. I don’t know how myself and Haleigh found ourselves watching it alone but we stuck with it until the end. Not that I could really tell you what the plot of it is, to the point that the film largely revolves around a bowling tournament that they don’t even reveal if they won it or not!
It was a bizarre end to the day but rounded off a nice birthday which was pretty relaxed and spent with good company. We hadn’t done a huge amount thus far in Portland but we packed plenty in to day 12 so stay tuned for that!
Hello my dear readers, welcome back to another post! Can you believe it? I’m posting twice within a week – incredible!
After a little hiatus, last time out on the blog I provided a little update and promised that I’d post about my recent trip to Gibraltar! Here’s that post!
I’d never been to Gibraltar before, nor had I really had that much interest in going to Gibraltar. Of course I want to visit everywhere in the world but I definitely feel like it ended up being a Covid-influenced decision. As I explained in my last post, with so many travel restrictions currently I found myself torn between staying in the UK, visiting Turkey or visiting Gibraltar with my few days of annual leave.
I’ve been itching to visit Turkey for a little while now but something swayed me towards Gibraltar instead. A few days after booking my trip Turkey went on the quarantine list so that was a big relief.
As for the UK.. well, the less said about the Covid situation in the UK at the moment the better. Ironically a trip to Gibraltar seemed safer than visiting anywhere within my own country – ridiculous!
Once everything was booked my excitement did start to build. It had been six months since I’d been abroad and indeed six months since I’d been to Heathrow. I opted to stay in an airport hotel on the Wednesday night and then fly out of terminal 5 at around midday on Thursday – not too early so I got a bit of a lay in on Thursday morning.
Heathrow was inevitably a bit busier than my arrival back in April but was still far from normal capacity. I passed through security pretty quickly and went on the hunt for breakfast. My usual pre-flight spot is at Huxley’s with some pancakes and a pot of tea but they were seemingly closed – I’m hoping this is just temporary but in the meantime I had to settle for breakfast at ‘Spoons’. They had a few screens up between tables and table service so adhering to the Covid measures in place. In fairness to Wetherspoons, they’ve actually encouraged ordering via an app for a long time so have been a little “ahead of the game” on that front.
Anyway, a short while later it was time to fly. Boarding was pretty smooth and done from the back of the plane by row order, I lucked out on the way to Gibraltar with an aisle seat and nobody sat in the middle. However it was generally a full-capacity flight and most rows had every seat full, just worth keeping in mind for anybody pondering how busy flights are at the moment – masks were mandatory and there seemed to be no fuss on that part at least.
I landed in Gibraltar a few hours later. Before you’re allowed to enter Gibraltar you have to complete a passenger-locator form. You can do this online once you’ve checked in for your flight, it surprised me how many hadn’t done this before arrival. They check every single passenger so you’re better off doing it beforehand rather than stood huddled together filling out a form in the arrival hall.
Anyway, I’d finally arrived in a very warm and sunny Gibraltar. You can get a taxi to your accommodation or there’s a bus stop not too far from the airport that will take you in to the centre of the country but with glorious weather I decided to walk to my hotel.
The very Northern point of Gibraltar to the very Southern point of Gibraltar is about 6 kilometers in length so it’s a really walkable country. The airport is in the very North of the country so you want to head South, in direction of that big ol’ rock, to get in to Gibraltar. You’ll know which way you need to go because the border crossing in to Spain is right in front of you when you come out of the airport and the rock is behind you and unmissable haha.
Interestingly to get in to the main part of Gibraltar you have to cross the runway which you’ve just flown in on. It’s quite unique and they’ll stop crossings when a plane is due to land or depart.
I walked in direction of the rock and even getting a little lost I’d soon arrived in what I considered to be the heart and soul of the country – Casemates Square. The square had a bit of a buzz and life to it. Additionally it’s in a really picturesque location so my first impressions of Gibraltar were good. I already felt like I was going to enjoy Gibraltar.
I think it was about 4-4:30 when I landed so by the time I’d walked in to Gibraltar I was ready to check in to my hotel and drop my things off. A friend had recommended a couple of places and I opted to stay at the Elliott Hotel which proved to be a good decision as it was a lovely hotel and in a really good location in relation to everywhere else in Gibraltar. I dropped my things off, relaxed for a little bit and then freshened up to head out and find some dinner.
I decided I’d stay pretty local. A friend over on Instagram lives in Gibraltar at the moment and had kindly sent a bunch of recommendations over to me – one of those was ‘The Skull’ which was just around the corner from my hotel so seemed particularly ideal on my first night given I’d yet to get my bearings with where things were.
True to its name, everything at this little bar was Skull themed! Skull designed flooring, skulls lining the bar, skull-shaped lightbulbs, skull-inspired artwork and even skull-themed dishes. My chips turned up in a skull-designed glass, as did my cocktail that followed dinner haha. It was a nice little place and a good spot for my first evening. It was pretty empty though which surprised me a bit given England and Wales were playing eachother in the football and this particular bar were televising the game – admittedly another incentive for me to visit on my first night.
There’s no curfew in Gibraltar, unlike the UK currently, but because there were so few customers they didn’t stay open late. I was assured it’d be a bit more lively on Friday evening but with an early kicking-out time I had a little wander through Gibraltar to see what else was local to where I was staying.
In all honesty I was aiming for the waterfront but after little success finding it I admitted defeat. I didn’t really see anything else of particular interest on my wander so just headed back to my hotel and called it a night, ready to explore and get a proper glimpse of Gibraltar in the morning.
I woke up on Friday morning to darkness which was quite confusing. I thought it must still be early in the morning but even at 7, 7:30 in the morning it’s dark outside. The sun didn’t rise until about 8:30 in the morning which I found a little unsettling and also a little demotivating to get myself up and raring to go. I reckon I’d have been up and raring to go a bit earlier but instead I rolled over and went back to sleep, I wasn’t heading out to explore whilst it was still so dark.
Unfortunately this became a bit of a ‘bad habit’ if there’s such a thing on holiday. As much as I’d want to get my day going I just couldn’t drag myself out of bed before the sun was up. It was probably closer to 10 or 11am by the time I’d left my hotel and it felt like such a waste of my morning. I went and found a place to grab some breakfast but the slow start had set the tone for the rest of the day.
It ended up being a really relaxed day. There were a few things I wanted to do whilst in Gibraltar but none set for any particular day, I was largely winging it and just seeing where things took me.
Ultimately Friday just became a familiarisation day that allowed me to get my bearings with where things are in Gibraltar. I’d not had much chance to do so yet but I kind of used it to earmark where I’d spend the next few days. By the afternoon I’d wound up at the popular ‘Ocean Village’.
I wouldn’t call it a village as such but it’s where you’ll find a lot of the nightlife in Gibraltar. There’s a host of restaurants and bars floating above the water, joined by a variety of boats and yachts including the impressive ‘Sunborn’ which you can stay on and is also home to a casino.
I liked Ocean Village but it probably does cater more towards the tourists. That said, I was a tourist so found myself an outside seat at one of the bars and refreshed myself with a beer or two. Keen not to stay in one spot all day I did drag myself away from the temptation to just sit in the sun all afternoon and wandered back through the streets of Gibraltar before making my way back to Casemates Square.
As I said above, it really is the heart and soul of Gibraltar in my mind. You’ve got tourists and the locals intertwined and it makes for a really nice atmosphere and is also perfect for people-watching!
I must have arrived sometime between 3pm – 4pm because there was a huge collection of school children running around enjoying themselves whilst the cafes, pubs and restaurants were slowly filling up for the evening.
Due to a late breakfast I’d skipped lunch and found myself in that peckish dilemma of “is it too late for lunch / too early for dinner?” before eventually deciding I was too hungry to wait. I took a seat at the Italian restaurant ‘Tramonte Ristorante’ and treated myself to a pizza which ended up being pretty good!
The rest of my day was pretty uneventful, I didn’t do anything particularly noteworthy but I felt a lot more comfortable with where things were and the quickest ways to get around. I ended up getting a rather early night, particularly for a Friday, keen to make a better go of exploring on Saturday.
A few people knowing I was in Gibraltar had asked if I’d “seen the monkeys yet” and I’d decided going to the top of the rock was my plan for Saturday. However I sensibly took a look at the forecast and whilst warm, it looked like it was going to be a cloudy day and I thought better of it so instead I decided I’d head on down to ‘Europa Point’ at the Southern tip of Gibraltar.
With a bit of a walk ahead of me I kicked off my morning at this little cafe down the street from my hotel. Having missed out at Heathrow I ended up getting some pancakes which was the perfect way to start the day. I was then off on my journey “down South”.
The walk was a little over 2 miles, nothing too strenuous and most of it is coastal too so I’d definitely recommend walking it rather than hopping on a bus. There isn’t too much traffic so it’s a decent walk and offers some really pretty views of the coast and Spain to the West.
Along the way I stumbled upon public outdoor pool areas, some interesting historic buildings and structures and even a little waterfall which I really wasn’t expecting. It’s not a particularly long walk but it’s definitely easy to get distracted along the way which might slow you down a bit haha.
Eventually I reached this long dark tunnel which you have to pass through (coming this route anyway..) which seemed to go on for a bit longer than I was expecting.
As soon as you come out of the tunnel you’ll see a gorgeous mosque on your left. Unfortunately it seemed to be closed so there wasn’t an opportunity to take a look inside but I made sure to grab a couple of photos from the outside.
By this point you’re pretty much at Europa Point and the lighthouse on the Southern coast of Gibraltar.
Europa Point was probably my favourite part of Gibraltar. I think it just really resonated with the traveler within me. Just across the water was the North African coast and it just left me mesmerised!
On a clearer day it’d be so much more visible, my photos don’t do it any justice but Africa was right there! It’s one thing crossing state lines or country borders but to be stood in Gibraltar with Spain on my right and Africa in front of me – wow!
It was mindblowing in some ways. I came here fully aware of that fact so it’s not like it was a surprise but I couldn’t help but transport myself to historic times and put myself in that mindset. I just pictured being stood in Gibraltar with the curiosity and mystery of “hey.. what’s over there?” – “that’s Africa..”
Even now, with the world so accessible and with so much knowledge of other places Africa has that mystery. It was my hope to get to Morocco this year and it obviously didn’t pan out, much like Turkey, so this is the closest I’ve come to stepping on African soil. You can get a little closer in parts of Spain but realistically I knew this was as close as I’m ever likely to get to Africa without stepping in Africa.
I have a habit of romanticising travel, perhaps too much at times, but I was stood there looking across the water and definitely had that “pinch me” moment. There’s so much I don’t know about Africa and I think those of us from the Western world in general are guilty of that.
I found myself completely swept up in the lure of Africa. There’s not a huge amount in the vicinity of Europa Point but I think I could have just sat there all day day-dreaming. It’s a sight and experience you have to make time for in Gibraltar.
Also at Europa Point you’ll find a lighthouse and then a university. The university seemed very sports focused and it’s probably of little shock that I found myself drawn to the Europa Point stadium. It’s in such a stunning location with the rock and its surroundings providing a gorgeous background. Again, I think if I was ever playing on that pitch I’d just get lost within the scenery.
“Jason.. what are you doing? You’ve just let them score!”
Dragging myself away from Europa Point I embarked on a coastal walk. The sun was beginning to make an appearance and it’s just a beautiful place to go for a wander. I stopped every so often to take photos of the views but my intended destination was Gorham’s Cave Complex – a World Heritage site.
This was a bit of a last minute decision. I’d only considered it once I realised how close it was to Europa Point. My lack of preparation meant I didn’t know that it was closed at the weekend so I arrived to find locked gates and subsequently no opportunity to see the cave complex on this particular trip. I turned back and took a slow walk back in to the heart of Gibraltar, via Europa Point again of course.
With the sun finally shining I did ponder whether I could squeeze in a trip up to the top of the rock and tick off both landmarks in one day. However in the end I took a more relaxed approach and decided I’d leave the Rock until tomorrow.
Thinking that it might be time to find somewhere for some food I made my way over to ‘Queensway Quay’ which is a gorgeous little harbour-like area with a handful of restaurants overlooking the water with numerous yachts and pretty boats parked on the docks.
This was somewhere that you’d probably be less inclined to just stumble upon unless you were actively looking for it so it felt a little less touristy than somewhere like Ocean Village. I found myself a table sat outside, ordered some beer and grabbed myself a late lunch whilst overlooking the harbour.
By this point I was pretty smitten with Gibraltar and I’d returned to day-dreaming, this time as a boat owner living the dream life in the sun. Sod going back to Corona-land, I was staying here.
Essentially this was the “South of France..” or “retire in Spain..” lifestyle but with the added boost of a common language. I sat people-watching and this cute couple were sat just infront of me seemingly making the best of their honeymoon. The, socially-distanced, table to the right was an older couple and it wasn’t long before the four of them had become acquainted and friendly and spent the next hour or so chatting.
There’s only one way I’d know that so no need to guess how I spent the next couple of hours. People-watching, sunshine, beers, pretty views, no responsibilities.. what more could you want? It felt almost like living in an alternative reality – “this is what life looks like in a country tackling Covid effectively..”. I was equally bliss and resentful. I was in no rush to leave Gibraltar and just wanted to soak up this feeling.
Eventually I opted to have a wander elsewhere and just get lost within the old town. Despite the huge rock that towers over Gibraltar, it’s such a walkable country and it’s nice to just wander aimlessly and see what you stumble upon. After a while I returned to the hotel to freshen up and relax for a bit before pondering where to spend the evening.
I decided I’d go and grab dinner around Casemates Square and find myself a nice spot to soak up the atmosphere. It’s a lovely spot to watch the sun go down and do some more people-watching. For a Saturday evening it wasn’t overly busy which surprised me a little but there was enough of a buzz that it kept me entertained.
I wasn’t in a rush to call it a night but fancied a change of scenery so thought I’d take a better glimpse at Ocean Village’s own nightlife. Again it wasn’t swarming with people but a little busier than it had been when I passed through on Wednesday. There’s a number of restaurants / bars that you can grab a drink at.
I started off at one bar that had been recommended to me and also had cheap cocktails. I was only going to grab the one cocktail but with a 2-for-1 offer it seemed silly not to have two. I was a little disappointed however that you couldn’t mix-and-match which would have allowed me to try two different cocktails. The bar in general wasn’t really my kind of place either, not solo anyway and it just wasn’t the vibe I was after.
I finished off my cocktails and swiftly moved on. Unlike in the UK currently, there’s no curfew in Gibraltar so I wasn’t having to glance at the clock for a 10pm close. I wandered over to another bar in the Ocean Village which I’d heard were really good for craft beers / ales.
That’s the one possible disappointment and, dare I say, gap in the market as far as Gibraltar is concerned. I decided early on in the trip that I was buying a boat and opening a brewery in Gibraltar because it stuns me that there are no breweries in Gibraltar – not one!
You won’t find locally-made beers in Gibraltar, they’re all imported and generally your options are San Miguel or Heineken in most places you visit – I generally opted for San Miguel but with how popular craft beers are right now it really surprises me. With the weather and dining-out style culture it is the perfect country for better beers and Gibraltar is seriously lacking in that department.
So I was looking forward to finishing off my evening by visiting somewhere that prided themselves on their craft beer selection. Sadly it doesn’t matter how good your menu is if none of the beers are in stock! I was bitterly disappointed. In the end I took my chance on a fruity gin. I’ve never really drunk gin but when better to try it than on holiday? It went down alright and I’m probably more pro-gin than I was before the trip. It was a beautifully decorated bar too so was a nice way to end the evening.
Sunday morning started like the two before it – pitch black! I’d continually wake up raring to go and the lack of sunlight ends up being so demotivating – back to sleep! I woke up a little while later and got myself ready to go up the rock.
I repeatedly debated whether I should climb it by foot or cheat and take the cablecar up. I unsurprisingly opted for the latter and I can’t say I have any regrets. It’s just so much more convenient haha.
At the top you’ve got 360 degree views overlooking the entire country and beyond. It’s definitely the ‘must-do’ of any trip to Gibraltar. It’s also where you’ll find the only wild monkeys in Europe!
I’ll be honest, I thought there’d be much more of them based on stuff I’d read. There were a handful fooling around but not that many. I was one of the earliest people to go up though so perhaps they’re more prominent later in the day when there are more tourists to steal goodies from. Not that I minded too much, I was happy they kept a good distance from me haha.
The views are spectacular and there’s a few other attractions dotted around such as the ‘Skywalk’ or the Windsor suspension bridge. Rather than take the cablecar back down I decided I’d walk down and tick off a few of the points of interest.
The area I probably spent the most time exploring was the ‘great siege tunnels’ in the lower part of the Rock area. It went in to a bit more of the history of Gibraltar which was interesting to read about. It was still pretty early so I had it pretty much all to myself so I could take a bit more time and get some fun photos too!
Outside of the tunnels there’s a couple more cool viewpoints but it was pretty much all downhill from there. I’d definitely recommend going early in the day, it was slowly getting busier on my way down than it had been when I’d first gone up.
By the time I’d made my way down the steps in to the old town I was feeling a bit peckish and I was really hoping to find a decent Sunday roast somewhere. I ended up going to ‘The Clipper’ and it was really, really good. Definitely worth a visit if you’re in Gibraltar on a Sunday, it was really good value too for the quality and quantity of food they served up.
After stuffing myself with food I wandered back over to where I’d started the day. Right by where you ride the cablecar is the botanical gardens and I was keen to have a wander through the gardens, I probably should have done so before I’d rode the cablecar up but I hadn’t really anticipated walking back down haha.
The botanical gardens are free to visit and definitely worthwhile visiting for that reason alone. I was expecting it to be a little busier given it was a Sunday afternoon by this point but it was still pretty quiet. Again, I wasn’t going to complain. It just meant I could enjoy a peaceful wander through and admire how pretty it is. I’m sure if I was a local I’d spend many an afternoon here and it wasn’t long before I’d found a bench to sit back, relax and admire the surroundings.
The gardens aren’t particularly huge so eventually I’d covered pretty much all of it and went back to wandering the streets of Gibraltar. By this point I’d pretty much seen all of Gibraltar that I’d wanted to, it’s worth remembering it’s a pretty small country and I’d ticked off the two big things I wanted to see in terms of the Rock and Europa Point. The rest of my Sunday was pretty chilled.
Sunday was my last night in Gibraltar so I wanted to end it by enjoying what felt like my “last taste of freedom”. I think Gibraltar is the kind of destination that I’d enjoy in normal circumstances. I think it had the perfect balance and feel of being a European destination but with a nice dusting of British influence on it that made it really appealing to me. Boat jokes aside, it’s somewhere I could easily see myself living.
That’s in normal circumstances of course. The irony wasn’t lost on me that I was lucky enough to have been able to escape for a few days but perhaps unfortunate enough that it had given me a taste of normality. Gibraltar had been perfect but left me feeling more resentful of what I was going home to.
I really liked Gibraltar but there was definitely a part of me that pondered how could you not in a pandemic? This was as normal as life had felt in a long time and I was desperate to cling on to that feeling of normality.
I treated myself to a steak on the last night in a restaurant over in Ocean Village. It proved to be a perfect spot to watch the sun go down accompanied with a beer. It was a world away from life back in England. I moved on to another bar, had another couple of cocktails and was trying to enjoy this final night for as long as possible. I even stayed out beyond 10pm – wild!
Sadly, it eventually it had to come to an end and was time to call it a night. Monday morning was really a struggle. The only part of Gibraltar I hadn’t really explored was its East coast and I had contemplated going over to Catalan Bay beach which the barman on my first night had said I’d have to visit.
However I just couldn’t drag myself out of bed. Luckily I didn’t have to check out until midday but I just wasn’t ready to go, to leave this false life and return to the normality of a pandemic. My slump wasn’t helped by the fact I knew the UK government were implementing new lockdown measures today and I was fearing the worst.
That’s not to say I didn’t think those measures were needed but to be in a relatively Covid-secure country and returning to a country that was spiraling out of control was difficult to accept on this particular occasion.
Regardless of how gloomy I felt about returning to the UK, what was the alternative? I checked out as close to noon as possible and figured I’d just go grab some lunch somewhere. Catalan Bay would have to wait until a future visit to Gibraltar, I only had a couple of hours left and didn’t want to go too far out my way.
Ocean Village’s proximity to the airport made it an ideal lunch spot and location to soak in the last few rays of sunshine before I had to say goodbye. Ordinarily I’m a “get-to-the-airport-early” kind of traveler but I did hold back a bit on this occasion.
Admittedly I knew Gibraltar’s airport was pretty small and that only one flight was departing Gibraltar so there wasn’t going to be a huge rush at the airport but the reality is I was still clinging on – just one more beer..
I slowly made my way back to the airport, again opting to walk. It’s only about 10-15 minutes from Ocean Village on foot. My later departure meant I got stopped at the runway crossing as we had to wait for a flight to land before they opened up the road to traffic and pedestrians – a nice little novelty experience to round off the trip.
The flight home was full on this occasion and soon enough I’d landed back in a wet London, Gibraltar’s sunshine was a distant memory.
As for those UK measures I’d been concerned about? The good news is they were much more lenient than I’d anticipated. I’d really feared the worst and I was surprised to discover that as far as my area of the UK was concerned it was “business as usual” and the measures in place were unchanged. It perked me up a little bit from my mood that morning.
The bad news? Well.. the measures were much more lenient than I’d anticipated. It was in equal part good and bad news. There was an air of inevitability about what had to happen to get this virus under control again in the UK and unbelievably it seemed that memo didn’t quite get as far as Downing Street.
As much as I loved Gibraltar I’m left pondering when we’re ever going to reach that point in the UK where life can resemble some form of reality again. Gibraltar was a wonderful trip but also a difficult one as it took me back to happier times and I wasn’t quite ready to give that up.
Anyway, I’ve rambled plenty so time to wrap up this post! I’m sure Gibraltar is a place I’ll return to but next time on the blog I’ll be continuing on with the “big 3-0” trip.
It has been a few months since I last posted but I assure you I’m still alive and well. Some of you will have seen me floating around on other social media but I fell out of the habit of posting here regularly, or reading other bloggers posts for that matter.
I want to try and get back in to the swing of things but before jumping in to the travel, I thought I’d offer a bit of an update. Why haven’t I been posting? Where have I been? What have I been up to?
In all honesty, there’s no real reason for the lack of posting. You miss one week and before you know it it’s three months without a post. I’ve come close to finishing off a few draft posts on a number of occasions but I haven’t got as far as hitting that ‘publish’ button and consequently the blog has felt a little bit neglected.
With Covid and more time at home I can’t even say I haven’t had the time, I’ve just preoccupied myself with other things. Be it watching football, learning Finnish (Thank you Duolingo – long overdue!), watching Netflix, training, work or a number of other bits and pieces. Despite spending the bulk of my time at home I have been keeping myself busy.
I’ve also squeezed in a couple of trips since I last posted. I was a little more cautious / hesistant with the first trip but in August I went and spent a few days by the sea with a four-night trip to the Norfolk coast. I didn’t really feel right to be flying across the globe for my travel fix so decided I’d stay in England and pretty local too. I was also conscious about the weekends during the summer being busier so restricted myself to a Monday-Friday getaway which was nice.
It was good to have a little taste of normality, particularly with the UK running the ‘eat out to help out’ scheme in August which coincided with my trip. A few days of sunshine was a good little fix and the perfect escape after three months of home-working in which I rarely left the house.
After August I still had 11 days of annual leave to use before the end of the year. I’d already optimistically booked off Thanksgiving week but as November draws closer it’s safe to say I won’t be visiting Washington. If the border re-opens this year that’d be a miracle!
The other six days I split in to two with the aim of a long weekend in October and a long weekend in December. I figured the first of those I’d travel somewhere and was toying with whether to stay in the UK or go abroad.
Work swayed my decision a little bit, I was more than happy working from home but work asked me to return to the office in September and it changed my mindset I think. I feel like an office environment with 100 odd other people is far riskier than the minimal social interaction I’ve had over the past six months.
So I kept an open mind about getting on a plane in October – still considering the Covid situation of course. With ever-changing circumstances and travel restrictions I narrowed my options down to a long weekend in the UK, Turkey or Gibraltar – leaning in favour of a trip out of the country.
Growing restrictions in the UK, such as curfews, only emphasised that thinking and it was a toss-up between Turkey and Gibraltar in the end. Both countries had low cases and the latter has still had 0 Covid deaths – zero! Incredible really.
I wanted to leave the decision as late as possible so I wasn’t stung by any restrictions or quarantine. I’ve been itching to go to Turkey for a while now so it seemed like the early favourite but something in the back of my mind must have swayed me in another direction as I eventually opted to book a trip to Gibraltar! A few days later Turkey unexpectedly went on to the quarantine list, it was a bit of a shock given the numbers but I felt a huge sigh of relief when the news broke.
Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I flew out to Gibraltar for another four night trip and a long-weekend in a country I’d never been to. With the situation getting increasingly worse in the UK I actually felt better about going abroad than had I actually booked a ‘staycation’.
I enjoyed Gibraltar a lot, I could definitely have stayed there for longer and just not come home haha. I’ll be writing up about that trip next time on the blog, hopefully very soon, and then getting back in to the swing of things and continuing the “big 3-0” series.
Welcome back to yet another post in the “big 3-0” series. Can you believe we’re at day ten already! I feel like I packed so much in to the start of this trip and covered a lot of miles in a little over a week.
For those of you who haven’t been following the adventure, it was the summer of 2018 and I was celebrating my 30th birthday by spending 30 days in the USA!
On the previous day I’d attended the wedding of the year in Washington State. It was a wonderful day but that was the last of the fun in Washington for the timebeing, it was time to move on to yet another state on this trip!
From here on out my adventures would be accompanied by Haleigh, my girlfriend, as we explored the West Coast. We woke up in the small town of Poulsbo on Monday morning with the intention of reaching Portland before the end of the day.
Poulsbo was adorable, I’d really liked the area and I’m glad a wedding had brought us here. I don’t think I’d have visited for any other reason, I’d not even heard of it prior to planning this trip.
Haleigh hadn’t really seen any of it because of wedding duties so we had talked about possibly going “down town” and exploring before heading out but for whatever reason it didn’t really materialise. So it was a sweet and short goodbye to Poulsbo but a place I left with really fond memories of.
We hit the road and I was pretty excited. I had the inkling that Portland was going to be my kind of city. As soon as this trip came to fruition I knew it’d be on my list of places to visit so I was excited to see what the fuss was about.
I was also excited at having mine and Haleigh’s first real adventure together. It was my third time on the West Coast but this was going to be the longest amount of time we’d continuously spent together and we were visiting a number of new places over the course of the next three weeks so there was plenty to look forward to
Anyway, back to day ten! We left Poulsbo behind and started our drive down to Oregon. Before we’d got too far we decided it’d probably be a good idea to get some breakfast, it may even have been closer to brunch, and found ourselves a Denny’s just off of the i5 (highway / interstate).
Some of you might recall my Moses Lake post which dashed my childhood illusions of a “magical” Denny’s experience and wasn’t quite as spectacular as I remembered it being on family trips to Florida. Fortunately this experience was better and restored its reputation a little! More importantly it had served as a good place to fill our stomachs before getting back on the i5 and heading South.
Unfortunately there isn’t much to tell you about the next few hours. Both Washington and Oregon are beautiful states full of greenery and scenic views but it was something like a four hour drive to Portland with little to tell.
We admired the scenery, we spent time chatting, we sang along to music but it probably sounds a pretty boring day to the outsider (you!). On a personal note it was thoroughly enjoyable and I couldn’t have been happier with the company I had for the adventure but it doesn’t make for great story-telling. The reality is that it was an afternoon spent in the car.
A few hours later we arrived on the outskirts of the big city and what I could only think of as Portland’s own “Spaghetti junction”. The heavy traffic was moving in various directions with bridges and exits everywhere you looked. I don’t drive so maybe it looks more complex than it actually is but I don’t think Portland is a city I’d enjoy driving in to and I’d inevitably get lost along the way!
Fortunately we were following directions from what would become a familiar friend in ‘Karen’ (aka the Satnav!) over the next three weeks and she made sure we escaped the madness leading in to Portland.
We were actually staying in a place called ‘Milwaukie’ on the outskirts of Portland, effectively Portland in my eyes however I don’t want to upset the natives so I’ll stick with the idea that it is NOT Portland and a small little place just to the South of it.
We were staying with Haleigh’s Aunt Gina and Uncle Rob who’d kindly offered to put us up for a few nights. It was mid-afternoon by the time we’d arrived but fortunately Gina was working from home and ready to greet us after we’d parked up.
Inside were two other ‘greeters’ – Buster and Jeeves! Two little dogs that were instantly barking away and seemed to consider it a ‘hobby’ over the next few days. Jeeves settled quicker but Buster did not seem to want to be new best friends any time soon!
We brought our things inside and put them away in our room for the next few nights. We decided we’d quickly pop out for a store-run to pick up a couple of things before Rob came home.
It was then a pretty chilled first evening in Oregon. Every so often Buster would suddenly remember I was here and start yapping away at me to remind me he was still displeased with my company but it otherwise ended up being a nice evening.
We had dinner at ‘home’ with Gina and Rob and then after dinner we played some games which made for an enjoyable evening and it was a good opportunity for me to get to know Gina and Rob a little better as I’d not previously met them.
Eventually we called an end to the fun and made our way to bed. It had been a lovely first evening in Oregon, although things were soon to become a little more uncomfortable for us both!
I can’t recall what the exact temperature was but it was summertime here on the West Coast and that meant it was a typically warm day in August and an equally humid night in Portland Milwaukie.
Air conditioned homes are actually pretty rare in England so it’s a luxury I can live without. Most of the year it’s an unnecessary luxury too, there’s no real need for houses back home to have air-conditioning. You have to suffer the odd uncomfortable sleepless night but ultimately it’s a luxury I could live without.
However having had a week of air-conditioned hostels and hotels, that were perhaps even a little too cold on occasions, it’s surprising how quickly you grow to miss it when you’ve become accustomed to it.
Sadly we didn’t have the luxury of air-conditioning whilst we stayed here and it was certainly noticeable. We experienced warmer temperatures throughout the summer than we did in Portland but even with a small fan going and the windows open the heat was relentless.
Nevertheless, beggars can’t be choosers and it was free accommodation so despite the initial struggles getting to sleep it was something we lived with. Soon enough we’d both nodded off (I think, I certainly had) and were dreaming about the delights of Portland awaiting us.
More on that to come next time! Stay tuned!
P.S – if you’ve missed the other posts on this adventure, you can catch up below!
Hey there! Remember me? Last time out on the blog I wrote a bit of a fun tongue-in-cheek post about my new-found fame in China and it seems it overwhelmed me because I haven’t been seen on the blog since!
I’ve got quite good at evading the paparazzi. I spent June locked away, staying at home and social distancing from the world.
All jokes aside, there’s no real reason for my absence on the blog. It was an unintended break from blogging but I’m back and it’s time to continue with the “big 3-0” trip. It’s been a while since I last wrote about it so you’d be forgiven for forgetting where we were at.
It was the summer of 2018, I was turning 30 and spending 30 days in the USA. I’d just spent day eight in the adorable town of Poulsbo, one day before the wedding of the year! ‘Today’ was the big day! This was it!
Two years earlier my friend Maddie had asked me if two years was enough notice to attend her wedding in Washington State – my answer was a resounding “of course!” but without that invitation this entire trip probably doesn’t happen.
Additionally, it’s hard to look back at this invitation as anything other than life-changing. A few months after Maddie blessed me with the honour of attending, I was then introduced to Maddie’s bride, Cassie, and also a bridesmaid by the name of Haleigh. Sound familiar?
“So that’s how you met!!”
I know, right? It’s a nice story but also one that makes you think.. what if Maddie had never invited me? What if Maddie had invited me but for whatever reason I hadn’t been able to attend? It’s an alternate reality that I don’t want to think about at all but it’s ultimately a gesture that was life-changing.
That said, this post isn’t our love story! This is all about Maddie and Cassie!
Myself and Haleigh woke up and a little like the day before, were quickly saying our goodbyes. Haleigh was off to the venue to get ready with the rest of the wedding party, whilst I had a much more relaxed morning.
With the morning quickly ticking away I figured I’d best start getting wedding-ready myself. I had a decent amount of time but I also wanted to make sure I ate before I went over to the wedding as I wasn’t 100% sure what the food options were going to be and I also figured if I then didn’t eat much later, at least I’d had a decent lunch.
In hindsight I should have went to get food first and then got ready. Poulsbo was a small place. Adorable? Absolutely but small so it isn’t somewhere that has a huge number of tourists, even then I expect most out-of-town folk are still from Washington State.
If my accent wasn’t already going to make me stand out, my outfit certainly did. It was a nice, family friendly establishment with what appeared to be a local crowd. I walked in suited up and instantly stood out.
I felt completely out of place and should have come here before getting ready but never mind. Better to be overdressed than underdressed, right?
I found myself a place to sit and had myself a decent lunch to fill my stomach before planning my journey to the venue.
I figured it wouldn’t be too difficult but it proved somewhat more challenging than it should have been. I figured a taxi would be easy enough to order but my phone in our hotel room seemed un-workable (I was probably just being an idiot), I asked reception who were equally unhelpful which gave me my first problem.
I eventually decided I’d just take the hit and use my mobile, any international charges would be minimal for the length of time to order a taxi? Voicemail! No response! Great!
For the first time I thought I’d use Uber and downloaded the app. It turns out, before you can use Uber you have to verify your phone and they’ll send you a code to help set up your account. There was no sign of that text ever coming through. I was at a dead end with both my options of getting to the venue!
Eventually a friend of the girls (Aidan) came to my rescue and volunteered to come pick me up! I really appreciated it, although Aidan was unwilling to accept any contribution from me towards the inconvenience I’d caused. We then stopped at a shop to pick up a couple of things on-route and was just as unwilling to allow me to buy those either. It was just a kind gesture with no expectations. It was also a good opportunity for me to chat with another guest at the wedding haha.
Soon enough we’d arrived at the venue. I say venue loosely. The ceremony itself was outdoors and the setting was in a small state park. It was beautiful! A location fit for such a wonderful occasion.
The wedding party itself were all getting ready in a small wooden hut. We had another hut which was to be used as the wedding reception so with people still getting ready and other guests yet to arrive I just had a little look around and snapped a few photos.
In addition to the natural surroundings we were also right by the water and it was nice, I felt a million miles away from the rest of the world.
A short while later it was time for the ceremony. I love a wedding, I can only encourage more of you to get married (and invite me!) so that I have more weddings to attend! Fortunately we had perfect weather for an outdoor ceremony and it was as beautiful and as perfect as you could hope for it to be.
I know it’s cliche and all that but I say it with sincerity, Maddie and Cassie compliment eachother so perfectly and I couldn’t have been happier to have witnessed the start of this chapter in their lives.
I won’t fast-forward to the end of this trip, there’s still lots to come but at the end of the summer I felt humbled and privileged and happy and perhaps at no moment was that more the case than on this particular day.
The ceremony was lovely and I think after that I spent the rest of the day on a high that I can’t adequately describe in words. I felt so honoured to be here, so proud even. Even now, two years later, I feel warm and fuzzy thinking back to that day. It was a special occasion for two incredible people.
Following the ceremony the wedding party moved down to a spot by the water to get some official photos, the rest of us ventured over to the hut where the reception was taking place. It was a cute place, nicely decorated and fitting for a celebration.
The rest of the day was bliss. I was introduced to a few people at various points, a handful of which I’d also met on previous trips to Washington, but inevitably I spent the bulk of my time with Haleigh which was also nice – our first wedding attended together.
We danced, we (I) drank and most importantly we celebrated a wonderful couple and occasion. It was a lovely day and it was undoubtedly the highlight of this trip. I’m so grateful I got to experience it and it’s a day that I’ll always look back on fondly.
Myself and Haleigh got some nice photos too which helped mark the occasion but eventually it reached a time for us to call it a day and sadly say our goodbyes. In the morning we’d be saying goodbye to Poulsbo and heading for Oregon.
I usually post just the once a week, every Thursday, but I thought I’d break up my “big 3-0” trip and post something a little more tongue-in-cheek.
I think it’s a decent little community here on WordPress and I love connecting with so many of you who’ve taken an interest in my blog. Some of you will have perhaps noticed in the last few months I’ve been reading, liking and commenting on ‘old’ posts.
The reality is I was completely up to date with my blog-reading in mid November and then a Thanksgiving trip to the US threw me out of sync and it wasn’t really until this year that I started playing catch up again.
Theoretically I could have just skipped what I’d missed but I was determined to read every post I’d missed from everyone I follow. It might have meant I was reading Christmas-themed posts in February or March but I haven’t found it a chore. I genuinely enjoy the connections on here and genuinely follow blogs I enjoy reading so I’ve wanted to read anything I missed being posted at the time.
I’m not sure the latter is actually true of some bloggers. I pay little attention to my follower count as it doesn’t count for much unless those followers actually engage with your posts.
Which leads me on to the basis of this post. I don’t take blogging particularly seriously. I enjoy it but mostly as a hobby. I’m not particularly good at promoting my posts, I don’t worry about making them SEO friendly or doing any of the blogging things you’re supposed to do to be “successful”.
That said I do still take an interest in my blogging stats. I try not to be too disheartened by them but I do find them interesting to look at. Ultimately you get what you put out in the blogging community so if I’m not promoting the blog properly I can’t be too disheartened when people aren’t actually reading it. So for a long-time blogger my numbers are pretty modest.
In the month of May however there has been one stand-out stat that I can’t make sense of. ‘Jason Likes To Travel’ seems to be booming in search-engine referrals from Baidu, predominantly coming from people in China.
So much so that my search engine referrals alone have been higher in May than they have been in the entirety of the prior four months of 2020. The number of site visitors in China this month have been higher than the entirety of more than three years of blogging as ‘Jason Likes To Travel’.
Given its population I ordinarily get very very few visitors from China. When looking at my all time views, China doesn’t even make my top 20 countries for visitors. The UK and USA is understandably streets ahead but China is nowhere near.
Yet for whatever reason, in May 2020, China is going crazy for my blog. Admittedly I’ve neglected the likes of Twitter this month and I’m terrible at promoting anything on Instagram but search-engine referrals are actually one of the biggest causes of my blog traffic this month. It’s baffling to me.
Is it just one person in China continually using Baidu to find me? I don’t think I have any Chinese followers. Is it several different people somehow finding me? Has my website been flagged up somewhere within the Chinese online environment that has highlighted my blog? What are people searching to find me?
I can usually make sense of my numbers each week or month but the curious case of China has really intrigued me. I’ve had hits from Baidu nearly every day this month. Has anyone else noticed a boom in their Baidu numbers or Chinese visitors or am I just special? Perhaps I’ve found fame in China and I’ll soon be the most read blog in the entirety of Asia!
Joking aside, I’d love to actually understand why I’ve suddenly “cracked” China. Please stick around if you’re reading this and thinking “that’s me!”. Haha.
FYI I don’t speak, nor understand any Chinese, but I thought I’d personally thank my new fan club. I know Google is banned in China so feel free to lay blame at Google Translate if it has wronged me in the below translation haha.
Anyway, a short and sweet post but hopefully one to tickle you as we reach the end of the month. Enjoy the rest of your Sunday, wherever in the world you may be! I’m off to start planning my China trip! Haha.
I’ll be back on Thursday with the next piece of the big 3-0 trip.
Welcome back my dear readers, I hope you’re keeping up! I appreciate it has been quite the whirlwind start to this trip. Here we are at day eight and I’m already in my fourth state of this trip! I promise this pattern will change and the next three weeks will all be in the same region at least and only consisting of three states!
Firstly, let me catch some of you up as you might not know anything about this trip! Back in the summer of 2018 I decided to celebrate my 30th birthday by spending 30 days in the USA. That was just one motivation of course because realistically I could have spent my 30th birthday anywhere in the world. Why the USA you might ask?
Well my friend Maddie had invited me to come over for her wedding in Washington State and there was no way I was going to miss it! So I planned out a HUGE trip to celebrate properly.
Only a week ago I’d woken up in London and yet I’d already been to Chicago, Minneapolis and New Orleans. I’ll put links at the bottom of this post for anyone wanting to catch up, however back to the ‘present’.
After a late night flight in to Seattle, I woke up in day eight back on the beautiful West Coast, alongside my girlfriend (at the time, now fiance!) Haleigh who I’d finally been reunited with. The next few weeks would see us spend time together in Washington, Oregon and California but it was inevitably in Washington that our adventure began.
The funny thing is this was intended to be my first trip to Washington. When I first decided this trip was happening I figured I’d spend a little time in Seattle but that was on the assumption it would be my first time on the West coast.
It just so happens that this was my third visit to Washington as I couldn’t wait until the wedding to meet Maddie, Cassie and Haleigh properly. Consequently I’d already spent a little time in Seattle on the previous two visits and it wasn’t a priority this time around. So I’d arrived in to Washington fairly close to the actual date of the wedding. Unless things went disastrously, I knew I’d be back in this state many times in the future anyway.
We were planning on leaving Seattle straight away and driving a little further West. First things first, we needed breakfast and opted to visit an iHop (International House of Pancakes for anyone that doesn’t know) near our hotel. It was a great place to start our day, and indeed our adventure, as we filled up on pancakes!
Feeling sufficiently fed we hopped back in the car and drove over to a small town called Poulsbo, which is on the other side of the water and to the West of Seattle. As ever, it was a scenic drive through Washington. The state is known as the ‘evergreen’ state and it sure looked it with blue skies and greenery in every direction.
Eventually we’d arrived and parked up at our hotel. I wasn’t sure if we’d be able to check in early or not but we thought we’d try our luck and to our delight they were able to check us straight in!
From there we went our seperate ways. After waiting six months to be reunited, me and Haleigh were saying our goodbyes. Haleigh had been asked to join the wedding party for some last minute bits and pieces that needed doing. The invitation had been extended to me too but I didn’t want to intrude on the girl’s fun and took it as an opportunity to familiarise myself with the town and also enjoy some more ‘me time’.
I’d spent the first week ‘solo’ to an extent but I’d met up with Kayla in Minneapolis, made new friends in Minneapolis and then seen Andy, Rox and Crystal in New Orleans so only the short time in Chicago had truly been solo. I knew there wasn’t going to be much solo time over the next three weeks either so embraced a day by myself.
I didn’t know anything about Poulsbo before this trip. It’s not somewhere I’d ever heard of and I imagine few, if any, readers have heard of it either. It really is a small town on the West coast, it’s picturesque though. The town is sat by the water and is a beautiful looking place.
I wandered towards the heart of the town and on route passed this cool-looking brewery.
“Oh, I see how it is Jason. You get one day to yourself and spend the afternoon drinking!”
Admittedly day eight is going to read a little bit like that but that hadn’t been my intention when I set off. I kept walking past the brewery.
No, I genuinely kept walking past it. I turned back at least once in temptation. Do I? Don’t I? It’s a gorgeous warm sunny day, perfect weather for a Saturday lunchtime beer.
I couldn’t resist the temptation! So my first stop in Pouslbo was this adorable brewery. It was still pretty empty, I guess the locals have a little more willpower and weren’t drawn in by its lure that had a hold of me. The only other people were a scattering of women with a baby sat at the bar – I guess they start drinking at an early age in these parts!
I do love trying local beers when traveling so decided to get myself a ‘flight’ and taste a few different beers before getting back to actually exploring. It was a great place with great beers and kick-started life on the West coast in the perfect way.
Not wanting to spend all afternoon there (shocked?), I ventured back outside and set off to see what else this little town had to offer. It’s a charming little place. I arrived at what appeared to be the main street in the town and was greeted with beautiful colourful buildings all the way along.
Most of them were a shop or little restaurant of some sort. One of the oddest things I saw along this street however was a red telephone box. How many beers had I actually had? How far have I actually ended up walking?
I don’t know the history, nor reasons, why it’s there but it left me feeling a little more at home in this unknown place. I wandered down towards the harbour and it’s absolutely gorgeous. Just to my right I could see a small little canopy and what appeared to be a wedding party all gathered, seemingly this was the place to be this weekend!
I had a stroll along the waterfront, grabbed a few photos and just gazed out in to the harbour. If you were to look at a map you’d see Poulsbo isn’t actually that far from Seattle but the big city felt a million miles away here. It was a sunny Saturday afternoon so there was life in this town but there was also a peacefulness and I felt bliss. In that moment I couldn’t imagine wanting to be anywhere else.
After a little day-dreaming I wandered back up towards the main street of the town and had a further look around. There were a couple of cool murals in town which quickly caught my eye.
A number of people were out visiting the little stores, with not a known-brand in sight, and I poked my head in to one or two of the places too.
Eventually I stumbled upon this really small maritime museum. It’s probably one of the smallest museums I’ve ever visited to be honest but it was still nice to have a quick look around and discover a little more about the history of the place.
Following on from a quick museum visit I figured I’d go grab a late lunch. I wandered back down to the waterfront and found a quirky pub with views of the port and all of its boats. It was a nice spot and had a friendly atmosphere, I’m sure it’s popular with the locals (and tourists).
I’d covered most of the things to do in the town. There was another museum in town but it was only open until 4pm and I wasn’t sure I’d really have enough time to look around and enjoy it. There wasn’t anything else of note to do, it really is a small place, so I rounded off my afternoon with another brewery visit.
Oddly enough there are a lot of breweries in Poulsbo. I joked earlier that the baby meant they start young here but given the number of breweries in town there might actually be some truth to that. A quick Google search suggests there’s four independent breweries within a two mile radius, the population of the town is roughly 10,000!
Poulsbo doesn’t need four breweries, which excludes the various other pubs and restaurants in the area. Nevertheless, who am I to complain? I popped in to the ‘Slippery Pig’ and ordered myself a beer or two.
I didn’t want to get too drunk and figured Haleigh would probably be heading back soon anyway so stopped after a couple and wandered back uphill to my hotel.
I have to say, Poulsbo had left a really good impression on me. It was a cute place and I found myself smitten with it. Perhaps coming here after spending time in three cities was ideal and a good change of pace to this trip. I adored this little gem in Washington and I’m glad the wedding had brought me here.
Speaking of the wedding, the plan for the evening was to meet up with Maddie and Cassie and have a fun evening with various wedding guests before the big day. However those beers had taken their toll and Haleigh arrived back at the hotel to find me zonked out on the bed.
In the end we bailed on doing anything and just had a relaxed evening together, which was nice as we’d not really spent any real time together as yet. It was nice to just hang out, it was also nice being back in Washington. Poulsbo had got the weekend off to a great start but tomorrow, well that was the day of the wedding!