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John's year off...

a travel blog by johnnoble

One whole year of travelling...starts Sept 1st 2008. 5 months in N.America (Canada, & E&W coasts of the US), then Hawaii, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, N.Zealand, East coast of Australia, 3 months in S.E Asia.

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Last day of work

Thatcham, United Kingdom

My Blog has been born. I fly out to New York on Mon 1st September, for a whole year of exploring the shores beyond the UK...& I cannot wait!

I shall try to keep this Blog as up to date as possible - any comments are welcomed (& I KNOW that there will be comments!)

See you soon



permalink written by  johnnoble on August 21, 2008 from Thatcham, United Kingdom
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New York, United States

I am finally sitting down to try & let you all know what I have been up to since I flew out of Heathrow on Sept 1st.

I want to start by letting you all know that the weather in NY has been amazing - 30oC for about 5 of the days I have been here. These conditions have been perfect for visiting my favourite place in NY City...Central Park.

The only way that you can truly appreciate how amazing the Park is, you have to visit it. Such a vast space in the very middle of the City, with such a relaxed atmosphere.

I went to the US Open & saw Andy Murray beat Del Porto. The facilities at Flushing Meadows are stunning.

Madison Square Garden is worth a visit. There have been many different events on there over the years, & I saw the NY Liberties lose in a WNBA game (basketball).

Amongst the other actvities I have been up to are: going up the Empire State Building. Bus tours of the whole city & waterfront. Visiting Times Square (v.bright both day & night).
Visiting the American Museum of Sport. I also went to Ground Zero on Sept 11th. It is impossible, still, to comprehend what happened there in 2001. It is just a building site. It is amazing the size of this space though, in amongst so many other buildings.

The Pubs & Bars almost never seem to close, & I have seen quite a few of them! ;-) Those of you who have seen the film "Coyote Ugly" will know the theme of the bar below. Apparently the film was based on this bar, & not the other way around

New York is more expensive than I thought, but I am assured that is not applicable to the rest of the country! The only Football that I have seen was Eng v Croatia (THEO! THEO!) - but I did catch a recent Liverpool score :-)

On Sunday I went to the Giants Stadium to see the NY Jets vs New England Patriots. I arrived at 11am for the "tailgate" party. For those who are not aware of this American Custom, this constructs of BBQ's & Beers in the parking lot. You cannot begin to imagine how much preparation the fans put in for these events. As there are only 8 NFL home games each season for these fans, these tailgates turn out to be huge parties.

The game itself wasn't the best. I did get to see two touchdowns, although the NY Jets lost 19-10. All in all it was an incredible day - I would strongly recommend it if you get a chance!

Despite what you all may have heard, NY is not an intimidating city. The majority of people are very helpful & friendly. I have to say that I almost feel safer in NY than in London! The hostels are basic, as one would expect, but I have met SO many people already - from many different countries.

I am now in Philadelphia...but the story shall continue in my next installment ;-)

Missing you all loads - but I get the feeling this year is going to fly by! So, I hope that all is well back in Blighty, & I will see you soon...

permalink written by  johnnoble on September 16, 2008 from New York, United States
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Philadelphia and Washington DC

Philadelphia, United States

My successful (yet expensive) time in New York had come to an end. I had originally planned to travel to Baltimore for a couple of days, although ended up in Philadelphia instead. I met a girl called Arriane, in NY, who had said that I was welcome to her couch for a few days - & that she would happily show me the city! An offer that I couldnt refuse!

On my first night in Phili we went to the bar that Arriane works at... an "Irish" bar. If you have been to the US - you will know that an Irish bar just needs to serve Guiness and have a few green banners about the place! Monday night NFL was on, & the Philadelphia EAGLES were playing the Dallas COWBOYS. There is an intense rivalry between the two - so the atmosphere was electric. It certainly helped that the game was very well balanced, with the possibility of either team winning in the closing stages. Dallas won, just, by 41-37. However, this was one of the most entertaining NFL games I have ever seen. All of the locals at Arriane's Bar were very welcoming, & it wasn't long before the Yagerbombs & Beers were flowing! I seem to remember finally crashing out at about 6am...what a night!

As far as sight seeing goes, I did some of that! Old Town in Phili is lovely. It is very clean & the people there are clearly proud of it. For those of you up on your US history, you will know that Phili was the original US capital - where the constitution was drawn up. There are visitor centres dedicated to this. Phili is also home to the "Liberty" bell - which was rung enthusiastically upon the Red Coat oppressors (us) leaving. Independence was born (...& look what happened, eh?). I took a DUCK tour around the city (a bus that can also go on the water...pretty cool) & went for some drinks on the trendy South Street. For all of you film enthusiasts out there, you will enjoy the following pictures. Needless to say, I ran the steps & I couldnt get the theme tune out of my head for two days!!

My three days in Phili were very enjoyable, & pretty drunken too ;-)

Then I was off to Washington DC. The train service in US is amazing! So much room! & the seats are v.comfy too! I would recommend it as a means of travel here.
Anyway, I arrived in DC late in the evening, so I got a FuddRuggers burger (amazing - not fast food) & walked around the Washington Mall (aka - park). The buildings in Washington are amazing, & the yanks sure do love a good memorial (M)...they are everywhere! Over the following days I went to a posh club called "Ultra Bar", I visited the Lincoln & Vietnam memorials, the White House,

& (film enthusiasts, you will recognise this) the Washington Needle...

I also visited a LOT of museums, the highlights being the Air & Space museum (all of it - I spent 4 hours there!) & the 3D Sea Monsters film at the Museum of Natural History. The Natural History Museum in NY City is the better of the two, in case you couldn't decide on which to visit!

I have arrived in Boston, by plane this time, so just the automobile to go before I can emulate the great John Candy & Steve Martin ;-)

permalink written by  johnnoble on September 23, 2008 from Philadelphia, United States
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Boston baby

Boston, United States

My final stop on the East Coast of the US was Boston. Due to a schoolboy error on my part (booking my flight but no hostel) I ended up staying in Everett - a suburb of Boston city. My hostel was a 20min Bus and Metro ride to the centre of the city, so not bad, especially seeing as a week pass was only $15!!

On my first day in the city I certainly packed it in! I started by visiting Boston Common & the public gardens. It was still sunny at this point, so it was a very pleasant choice!

After my walk in the sunshine I needed some refreshment...so as I was in Boston it would have been very rude not to make a stop off at a very famous Public House...

After that I went onto Faneuil Hall & the associated markets. These are apparently the oldest markets in the US, although it seemed to me to be a glorified food court (every fast food you could imagine was available). A short walk then took me to the Boston Docks, which were long in distance & full of yachts - but nothing special.

It was then time to go & loiter outside Fenway park - in the hope that I could secure a ticket for that evening`s game (which was Boston Red Sox vs Cleveland Redskins). You all know that I managed it :-) ...where there`s a will, there`s a way! I paid $45 (face value) for my ticket, which I purchased off of a season ticket holder who had a spare.

Whilst I do understand the rules of Baseball, I fail to understand the spectacle...so I drank lots of beer & soaked up the atmosphere (just like a true Brit). It turns out that I was at an important game, as if the Red Sox could win that night they would secure their place in the "world" (what a joke) series...which they did (just) 5-4. My new Baseball friends & I snuck into the expensive seats by the plate for the last two innings, as lots of people leave very early (I don`t get that either). I left the ground drunk & satisfied that I had a good time, although I won`t be rushing to another game anytime soon!

I decided nurse my hangover at Boston`s Museum of Fine Arts...which was rubbish! When you`ve seen one Egyptian pot, you`ve truly seen them all! That evening I went out for burgers with some new hostel arrivals, Rob & Will, who are both recent UWIC graduates...small world. A "special" mention needs to be attributed to Will`s Welshness...he`s a true Boyo - those Welshies get everywhere!!

For the rest of the week Rob, Will & I discovered more of Boston. We went to Harvard & Cambridge Uni`s (which looked as rich as their reputation suggests) as well as visiting the Boston Aquarium.

We also drank a lot (shock). One of our best discoveries was the deserted Cinema (yet fully functional) on the lower level of our hostel. This was a haven during two heavy days of rain (just like good old blighty), & served as a great hangover cure! We went out to a Bar/Club on the Friday night with one of the hostel employees & her friend. It was the usual drunken night!

I am actually writing this in my adopted homeland of Canada, in Montreal, but that is another chapter folks...


permalink written by  johnnoble on October 2, 2008 from Boston, United States
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French Canada!

Montreal, Canada

That's right buddy - John has made it to Canadialand! The first thing I must point out, to those of you who were unaware, Montreal is in Quebec - the French speaking province of Canada. They speak English too, although I got the feeling that they just didn't like to!

As soon as I was checked into my room I went to check out Montreal's micro brewery, with a French Guy (Mo) that I had met in the hostel minutes after arriving. The ale was surprisingly good! A couple of quiet drinks resulted in waking up on some Canadian girl's couch (called Amy)...the theme for my week had been set :-)

On my first full day I went to Montreal Mountain, which is a national park situated in the North of the city. The climb was worth it as some of the views were amazing (especially at this time of year!).

That evening I went to my first Hockey game, to watch the Montreal Canadiens vs the Detroit Red Wings.

It was a preseason fixture, so less passionate - meaning less fights than a league game (still got a few though!) The match was end to end, although tied 1-1...even after a fourth period. Therefore, we were treated to a shoot out! (can you spot the puck??)

The Canadiens won 3-1. More beers were consumed that night with people I met at the game. There are LOTS of cool bars in Montreal...& I saw quite a few of them during my stay ;-)

My Montreal visit could not have been better timed. I happened to coincide my visit with the city's annual "Pop Festival." This "festival" was from Weds - Sun in venues all across the city. Each night there were over 20 bands to choose from - although most were American/Canadian bands. However, I managed to get a ticket for HOT CHIP (SO good live) on the Weds night

I met some students (above) at the gig & ended up back at their halls of residence - who knows why I booked a hostel at all, eh?? The next day I swam in the Montreal Olympic Pool (for free), which was lovely. I miss swimming!

Saturday was time for the Black Kids (above)! I went with the Montreal students I met at Hot Chip. The Black Kids were excellent & lots of alcohol was consumed (before, during & after). I did make it back to my Hostel that night, eventually.

On my last day in Montreal it was time to check out a random band..."The Brazilian Girls." (above) They were very good, although very difficult to describe (so I won't - just download some of their stuff!). Yet again we hit the bars aftewards & ended up discussing music into the early hours of the morning. I stayed at the student res' again & got very little sleep - meaning the journey to Ottawa the following day was going to be interesting!

Montreal doesn't really have much to offer in terms of sightseeing, but it more than makes up for that with its nightlife offering! I left Montreal a lot poorer & with a battered liver...but you're only young once, right?? ;-)

permalink written by  johnnoble on October 8, 2008 from Montreal, Canada
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Ottawa is thatta-way!

Ottawa, Canada

I sincerely hope that this will be my only stay in any Jail! That's right, the hostel that I stayed in in Ottawa was formerly a prison. Built in the early 1800's it was home to some of Canada's most violent criminals. The Jail is 9 stories high, complete with a level of solitary cells & a gallows. The top floor was "death row" - where the are positioned above the courtyard...maximising the audience for those receiving the death penalty. The cells on floor 9 are supposidly the most haunted. I went up there late at night on a number of occasions - in the hope that I would have an encounter with the deceased...but no such luck (what a surprise).

Having pickled my liver in Montreal I decided to make this a predominantly dry week. Therefore there was a lot of sightseeing to do! As the capital of Canada, Ottawa is where the Parliament buildings are situated. They are very grand, but also very reminiscent of some British structures (if you don't know why that is then your history knowledge is severly lacking!)

As the weather was so good all week (clear blue skies & about 15oC) I walked nearly the entire city! There is a very nice Canal & River that runs through the middle of the city, which is only enhanced by the fall colours (seeing is appreciating)...

I visited Rideau Hall, which is situated in a private park (about 15 acres) in the NW of the city. The park is open during the day, so I took full advantage. Located in the centre of the park is Rideau Hall itself, one of the Canadian PM's residences. As I was walking away from the building the PM (Steve Harper) arrived in his black Merc. Exciting, eh? ;-)

On the Thursday I got up at 6am & caught the Greyhound (& survived) to Wakefield - situated about 40km N of Ottawa. Wakefield is a small & quaint town located on the edge of a very large lake. It is very picturesque. I didn't go there just for the sightseeing though...I was on a thrillseeking mission...RIPRIDE!

For about 15/20 seconds I was SUPERMAN! Flying headfirst down 200ft into a water filled quarry. It was a very good buzz & not too expensive. They also offered a Bungee, but this was expensive - & something I have previously done. It did look cool though!

I visited the city's War museum (love that stuff). The highlights were the exhibits on WW1, the Civil wars, & they actually had one of Hitler's cars there...pretty cool

On my last night in the city I had a traditional snack...a "Beavertail Pastry." It is like a deep fried pancake, in the shape of a Beaver's tail, covered in Cinnamon sugar, lemon juice & maple syrup. A little too sweet for my liking!

I then left Ottawa for Kingston...home town of the Slaters. Jeremy's Mum & Dad, Mick & Lynn, took me to their new apartment for dinner (which was lovely) then out to the Brewery downtown for "Dragon's Breath" - a rather nice pale ale! That night I drank too much with the locals in the sports bar next to my Motel...good times :-)

The next day I walked around downtown Kingston (in the 20oC sunshine & blue skies). Kingston is a lovely town, about twice the size of Newbury. I met up with a load of Jez's friends that afternoon & evening - for more beers (disgraceful, eh?). I was treated to another fantastic meal at the Slater's residence (no wonder Jez loves his food - Lyn cooks better than he boasts!)

Having been utterly spoilt rotten by Jeremy's Family & Friends, it was time to move onto Toronto...

permalink written by  johnnoble on October 13, 2008 from Ottawa, Canada
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Toronto, Canada

I have arrived in Toronto for an elongated stay. I open this entry with that info, as I will probably not update my Blog for another 3 weeks or so (I am just so busy with the city life!)

As per usual, my first few days in a new city involves a lot of walking. I like to navigate & familiarise myself with everything, so that I know the best places to go & the best things to do. Toronto is another clean city, with a very big downtown area. The city's suburbs spread far into the North. There are plenty of bars & shops dotted around downtown, & a LOT of fast food places (the Canadians have more restraint than the Americans, obviously, because I haven't seen many obese Canadians!). Due to the location of Toronto (there are plains all around) it can quite windy. As the temp begins to drop you can really feel that wind chill factor!

My first hostel was a complete nightmare, so I quickly found somewhere else. I will spare you the details, but one of my friends says that he has stayed in cleaner squats than this first place. I am now living very close to Dundas Sq, which is the centre of downtown. It is Toronto's version of Times Sq - although nowhere near as grand. I have been looking for a job, but as I am only here for one month my options are very limited. I wasn't planning on working although C/C fraud has cost me over $2000 - & Egg are taking their sweet time deciding on whether or not I will be refunded. I expect to get it back, although I' rather be safe than sorry! No one wants me home early!

On a more positive note...Niagara Falls = DONE

I took the train down there for the day & checked it out. I went on the "Maid of the Mist" boat which takes you right into the spray of the falls, which was like being in a massive rainstorm. I also went behind/beneath the falls. There are a series of tunnels with viewing sections. Not that exciting, although the noise was impressive! I also walked a few miles up river to the "Whirlpool," which is exactly as it sounds. The whole of the river & the falls are spectacular, especially in fall, although the town of Niagara is purely tourist commercialist. Plenty of fair ground rides, fast food chains, casinos etc etc. It's best to keep you back to this & your eyes focussed on the natural spectacle.

Yesterday I went to Toronto Zoo - which was quality! They have a great diversity of animals & the setting is spectacular, as you walk through the woods to all of the enclosures. We saw one very hungry Elephant...unless, that is, it is normal for them to eat their own shit! :-)

I played Dodgeball in the evening. I have joined my friends' teams for the next month, so I get to slam balls into people's faces every Thursday night. Some people take it really seriously, which is hilarious. It is a lot trickier than you think though, but very satisfying beating the teams that turn up with matching kits...you know the sort!

Over the next month I have a lot of exercise planned, as I have now joined a gym..addict :-) I am going to the Halloween MonsterMash Ball, as that is a BIG deal here (apparently). So my next installment should have some good pics from that! I have also got some tickets to bands I have never heard of, which friends are taking me to, & I intend on getting a ticket to see the Kings of Leon on Nov 7th. It is sold out, but where there's a will, there's a way!! Noble will not fail.

Lastly, I have a Canadian "cell" number now, so should you wish to reach me I am on +1 416 838 3631. I'm just chuffed I can remember the number...I don't expect any calls!

Speak to you all soon Blog fans ;-)

permalink written by  johnnoble on October 24, 2008 from Toronto, Canada
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Toronto part II

Toronto, Canada

Since my last entry I have been a busy boy. This posting will mostly comprise of photos...as a picture is worth a thousand words, right?

Almost immediately after my last entry I saw a local band called Yeysayer (above), who were very good! They played at the horseshoe tavern - one of Toronto's best (aka most renound) live music venues. If you want to know what they're like, download some!

I also visited the Toronto Steam Whistler Brewery (shock!), which was interesting. It is a fairly small operation, but the lager is good - & the free samples kept flowing! I somehow managed a gym session after my tour & samples...a fairly lazy one at that!

Halloween. It's a BIG deal here. The costumes that were on show were, in the most part, incredible. Everyone goes to a lot of effort (myself included, of course), as you will see from some of the pics below...

Our group got smaller as the night went on, but Kenny (Waldo/Wally) & I made it through to the end (somewhat the worse off for it though). We went to a total of four parties that night. Plenty of mischief caused throughout too! ;-)

I managed to get some work! General labour & cleaning windows. I found the job online & worked for a couple of weeks for this English guy who runs his own company, so cash in hand. One afternoon, we had finished early, so we went to the pub for a quick pint. That quick pint turned into a 8 hour drinking session that ended up with David (my boss) & I doing Kareoke at midnight in a random sports bar. We chose Wonderwall by Oasis...you can all appreciate how bad it must have been! Funny times.

Check out this muriel! Now that is some impressive street art! There are about 10 of these in the far West of the city. If you are ever in Toronto, check them out!

After one month in Toronto it was time to move on. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in TO & cannot thank everyone enough for making me feel so welcomed! These people know who they are ;-) I got on a train on Tues morning at 9am & arrived in Portage-la-Prairie at 7pm the following day. Canada is BIG. The train was pretty good though, lots of leg room & there was an observation carriage to enable excellent views of the scenery!

I stayed with Linda & Barrie in Portage-la-Prairie, some of my Mum's friends from her time on Canadian soil. Once again, I was truly humbled by the hospitality & warm welcome I received. Linda & Barrie showed me around the small farming town of Portage, & treated me to some lovely home cooking! :-) The town is where many WWII pilots trained, & it is situated at the southern tip of the Manitoba lake - which is over 300miles long! The pics below are of the lake that Linda & Barrie's house backs onto. The Prairies offer some excellent opportunities for some amazing sunset pictures!

I enjoyed my couple of days in Portage, where I got my first real snow (4 inches), but it was time to move on again...Edmonton next stop.

permalink written by  johnnoble on November 17, 2008 from Toronto, Canada
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Moving again...

Edmonton, Canada

It feels like ages since I last sat down to do this - possibly because of how busy I have been, & all that I have seen. Many of you will be pleased to know that this entry is going to mostly comprise of photos (it seems that many of you aren't too keen on reading?!). Anyway, here goes...

Next on the tour was Edmonton, or as it has affectionately been referred to as..."Deadmonton." I would have to agree with this statement, as there is very little to do there. The city is very spread out & only seems to cater to shoppers. Whyte Av was okay, as it was the best place to go out drinking!

The West Edmonton Mall has an Ice Rink (full size), a small theme park (inc 3 rollacoasters) & a water park (inc about 5 slides). Other than that there is a multiplex cinema & hundreds of chain stores. Not my idea of heaven! I I much preferred my visit to the Alberta Museum, which whilst small had a lot of good exhibits...especially the live creepy crawlies!

After my four days in Deadmonton it was time to move on; the next stop being Jasper in the National Park by the Rocky Mountains. Jasper is a very small town, only two main streets, but it is perfectly situated to serve up some amazing hiking opportunites - & consequently, some amazing picture opportunities...

I walked on water for the first time! I have done many times since, but it was an exciting experience - I was the only one of us who was brave ( /stupid) enough to try it out! I also enjoyed going down a 100ft icy hill on a sheet of plastic...highly recommended - although the stones & trees can hurt!

After my three days in Jasper it was time to head to Banff. I had managed to arrange for a bus through the National Parks & the Rockies, renound worldwide as one of the most scenic roads. I cannot argue one bit!

I cannot wait to go back to the National Parks in the summer months, armed with a tent, a mountain bike & a kayak! Truly breath taking :-O

permalink written by  johnnoble on December 1, 2008 from Edmonton, Canada
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Hiking & drinking

Banff, Canada

After my stunning journey down through the National Parks I arrived in Banff. Banff is larger than Jasper, as there are three Ski resorts very close by. The town only has a population of 8000, as it seems to serve the travellers & holiday makers that visit the area.

The hostel I was staying in was based on the North edge of the town, a 15min walk from downtown. The standard of the hostel was excellent - I even had a double bed! Yet again, the immediate area offered plenty of opportunities for some amazing piccies...

There were plenty of people at the hostel who were looking for work for the season, so I was in the minority as a traveller. I was also in the minority as an Englishman - as the place was overrun with Aussies & Kiwis! As I am sure you can all imagine, I held my own in the drinking stakes - I also won the lion's share of Pool & Darts (including my first ever 180...very proud of that!)

Throughout the week I went on various hiking routes in the immediate area, which offered up some stunning scenery & some opportunities for ice smashing with whatever materials nature had to offer! We even visited the Banff springs, which is basically an outdoor pool heated to about 40oC

Towards the end of the week eight of us took one of the guys' van back up North, into the park, to go to Lake Louise. Pictures say more than I ever could.

After a walk up the mountain next to the lake, & a tour of the 5 star Hotel located on its shore, we ventured further north to Lake Peyto. As we turned the corner to the viewing platforms, we all fell silent - every one of us breathless & spell bound by the view. Please feel free to let me know how jealous you all are ;-)

For scenery, the national parks in the Canadian Rockies cannot be rivaled. As mentioned in my previous entry, I cannot wait to visit the place in the summer - as the potential for Mountain Biking & Kayaking seems limitless. It was very tough to leave Banff, but Calgary & "Cool Runnings" aspirations are next on the agenda...

permalink written by  johnnoble on December 1, 2008 from Banff, Canada
from the travel blog: John's year off...
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