Pole Dancing, Craft Beer, Good Times in Boise, Idaho

I am going to crave those scones from the little coffee shop in Ellensburg. They were the most delicious scones I’ve ever eaten in my entire life. Then again, most coffee and baked goods would be comforting after hauling across a snow-covered pass with all-season tires for almost an hour, hoping 18-wheelers don’t bash into you coming down the other side. No, actually, the scones really were that good.

It was difficult to choose, but the cinnamon peach ones were calling to me, and I grabbed a whole grain apple scone for good measure as well. They were good company as I drove through a thick haze up another pass and down into the Yakima valley, where a good portion of our local fruits and vegetables are farmed. Not too much more will be growing in this frost.

I was hoping to get my car to Utah before snow fell, but I can’t complain!

Once day broke and I entered the Snoqualmie area, less than 40 minutes into my drive, most of my view for the rest of the day was white, either in the form of snow-dusted foliage or dense fog.

After several more snowy mountain passes, and miles of pure white road, I emerged into the farming valleys of Idaho and rolled into Boise.

Downtown Boise and the Capitol Building. The brand new Whole Foods, the first in Idaho, opens the day after I leave, of course.

I passed through a few blocks of downtown, saw the capitol building in the distance, and met up with my couch surfing host, Andrew, in a neighborhood nearby. I told him how much I loved Boise already. Nothing is really that far, and everything in the greater downtown area is easily bikable. After one more pass through downtown I would come to realize it’s about the size of Reno with the feel of Portland.

After a stress-free ten minute drive I was clear on the other side of the city (compared to the one hour or more it would take to do that in Seattle) and at Ophidia Studio. Aerial Yoga, Poi (fire dancing), and Belly Dance are just a few classes that compliment pole training at Ophidia. I met the owner, Allison Holley, at the Pole Convention in LA this past summer, and decided to stop by for a visit.

The main room features hanging aerial yoga silks and a wooden floor, a classic fitness or yoga studio look. The back room is where all the pole magic happens! A small raised stage surrounded by mirrors features a pole in the middle. Another six or seven spinning poles adorn the rest of the room. Each pole can be set to spin or static and reaches, honestly, much higher than I have been used to climbing in the last few months!

Our first class at 6pm focused on a few spins, holds, and tricks. At 7pm we donned our high heals (she has a few pairs of loaner shoes for students) and learned a simple but sexy routine. At the end of each class Allison dims the lights and lets us rock out for a song or two. No matter how hard you work on new moves or gracefulness, pole is meant to be fun!

Ophidia Studio’s Sexy Pole Room!

I joined Julie, my other couch surfing host, for a post-pole recovery meal of beer and poutine at Bitter Creek. I’m in Idaho. I have to eat the potatoes. Julie told me about a nearby burger and fries joint that features several different kinds of potatoes and yams, that you can have cut into any shape.

“You can get purple curly fries if you want,” she told me. I may have to do just that, after a bit of sleep.

But wait! There’s more!

There’s more of my life I need to share with you. I am still not settled back into Park City – I’m couchsurfing in my own home town (not unlike last year – thank you, Lacey). Therefore, I can still consider this part of my trip in my travel blog. Besides, my adventures never end.

I told Emily just now that ‘this is was an Anna day.’ I slept well, woke up to a cup of chai tea, did my stretches, and then both of us went to the middle school to swim laps. It felt amazing. I didn’t feel like my muscles were getting worn out, but I was certainly breathing harder, a sensation I didn’t feel at all in San Diego or New Zealand. I miss exercising at high elevations, and I’m happy to be back to swimming! I am excited about the Masters Swim coaching on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday mornings from 6:30am-7:30am and look forward to getting my first swim lesson in 20 years!

After our swim session the weather cleared up. The light snow ceased to fall and the sun shone transparently through the thin cloud layer. I prepared for the Studio Soiree Christmas Recital at Trails by choosing my music and outfit, then headed to Salt Lake City during twilight.

The recital went extremely well – I am so excited to see the ladies from the studio and meet some instructors from Pearl, another pole studio in Salt Lake City. To be honest, I planned my return to Utah around the December recital since I enjoyed the Rookie Night in August so much. I am going to continue my training, but will be careful not to injure myself again. I will focus on core strengthening and conditioning, and my goal is to prepare some choreographed pieces.

Oh, and my day finished up with one of my absolutely deeeeeelicious spinach salads!

Return from Dunedin


Reason #87 why I love New Zealand:
Racing along the country roads towards Queenstown at 2am listening to dub step in a car with four new couch surfing friends and a small dog.

Just minutes after midnight I stepped out into the Dunedin night air, walked down the hill and stood on the corner of South Rd. A moment later a car sped around the corner, headlights headed straight for me, and stopped just before where I was standing. Alex opened the boot and I squished my backpack in. Off we went into the night.
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North Shore Tour & Taste of New Zealand Food Festival

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This afternoon I met Sam, a couch surfer and Auckland local who lives on the North Shore. Though it was pouring rain in the city the clouds quickly passed. As we crossed the Harbour Bridge and entered the rural fields of North Auckland the rain let up. A world of farmland, cows and bright green landscape surrounded me. I felt a bit more at ease, and liberated from my urban fortress!

Our first stop was Snow Planet, an indoor ski field. I took photos left and right; there in the middle of no where on a hill was a boxy white structure housing a wonderful man-made slope with a magic carpet, two poma lifts, a terrain park and all the usual alpine lodge amenities such as rentals, a ski shop and of course a pub with a toasty fireplace!

Our second stop was the little Bohemian village of Puhoi. We drove past the Bohemian museum, the library, the kayak rental, and parked at the Puhoi hotel and pub. A true locals pub, every inch of wall and ceiling was decorated with memorebelia – mostly various paper currency and old ID cards. We enjoyed a round of Bohemian Draught, a light lager style beer, as the sun came out overhead. Puhoi is also known for its regional cheeses and Feijoa sparkling wine.

Before taking me to meet the bus back to Auckland Sam showed me where the hot pools are (a commercial pool with waterslides and such) and some of the beautiful coastline. I love the little nook and cranny beaches along the suburbs. It reminds me of the freedom and serenity of local San Diego beaches.

We had intended to arrive in time to catch the 3:45pm ferry from the peninsula, but were running a bit late. I had to transfer to a different bus in Silverdale, and the ride took me about an hour and cost ten dollars. The trip was well worth it though not as scenic as the ferry would have been. As luck would have it, Hobson St was closed when the bus arrived back to the city and the closest stop to home was right at the corner of Victoria Park.

On my way back on the bus Glen had invited me to join him, Josh and Tom at the Taste of New Zealand Food Festival in Victoria Park, and seeing as how I arrived right outside the park at 5:18pm, I saw it as a sign that I should check it out!

The admission price of $30 was a bit steep, but there were far more samples than I had even imagined at such an event! I began at the cupcake stand, conveniently located right at the entrance, and worked my way around to yoghurt, flavored nuts and spices, Lemoncello, and around the corner to Moa beer.

My next destination was the Whiskey tent where they had a Scotch tasting presentation. The Ardmore and Highland Park were my favorites, the latter having a sweet bourbon style taste. We also had Famous Grouse, which wasn’t quite as smooth, and Laphroaig, which apparently is an acquired taste and supposedly has hints of ocean and salt water.

I met up with Glen, Josh and Tom and we delved into the bulk of the samples; hummus and dips, lamb, beef, chili sauces, sausages, sweets, kumara vodka, Stolen rum, cheeses and wines from countless vineyards. It took us the full four hours to explore everything, including the display of modern kitchen appliances and layouts, as well as a kiosk with Singapore Airlines’ business class seats.

Unlimited tastings were included in the entry fee, but there is also the option to purchase crowns, the unit of currency when purchasing cocktails, glasses of wine and beer, and specialty dishes made up by chefs from various local restaurants. I decided to forego the paid tastings and filled up on a wide variety of other foods! The soft cheeses and tender beef and lamb and spicy sausages were by far my favorites! I was impressed with the novelty of kumara vodka, though the taste was not as appealing. Glen decided to buy a pizza-maker, a round sandwich-maker-like appliance which makes pizzas in just 5 minutes so hopefully we will be around at his place for a pizza party in the near future! Personally the only purchase I made at the food and beverage festival was a $2 bottle of sparkling artesian water. It may have been Tom’s comment about the sad looks on the vendors’ faces from their lack of popularity, surrounded by such tasty samples, but the cool, fresh water was a fine finish to the evening.

The quality of food and beverage, as well as the music and ambiance, well justifies the $30 price tag. Everything was so delicious – not to mention the free-flowing spirits and wine – I would consider going again! The evening sessions of the Taste of New Zealand food festival are from 5:30-9:30pm Wednesday 19 October until Saturday 22 October. If you are in Auckland I highly recommend it!

Waking up to Auckland

A beautiful Auckland morning. I almost can’t believe I’m here. This is the third year in a row visiting the southern hemisphere. When I went to Australia and New Zealand for the first times I was told that I would never come back (to the states). Now I feel that both parts of the world are equally my home. I am thinking of all my friends in Australia, who I will most likely not get to see on this trip, and the cities I have woken up to in other travels. Spring time is here and frosty, chill mornings give way to blue skies and fresh sunlight bathes the countryside and our faces. After living almost five full months in Queenstown, it is strange to be in the big city in New Zealand, though I love the metropolitan feel of it.

Harbour Bridge

I am staying with Glen, my couch surfing host who lives off of Karangahape Rd (K Rd for short), just south of the Auckland CBD. Last night we went to a fun Zumba class at his gym, Club Physical; the instructor kept it lively and interesting with her choice of songs and a bit of freestyle. Afterwards we had some delightful Malaysian cuisine at Sri Pinang. The woman who took care of us was friendly and helped me choose the perfect dish. I had fish with vegetables in a strong chili sauce, full of flavor and just the right amount of spice, while Glen enjoyed the Nasi Lemak.

Partying: the sure cure for jetlag

Went to the weekly Auckland couch surfing happy hour at Bungalow 8 near the harbor downtown with my host, Chris, and fellow surfers, Elly and Muriz. All couch surfers get a free tap beer, house wine or vodka drink before 9pm, and 2-for-1 appetizers! Continue reading

New Zealand, My Paradise

New Zealand is a land where the beauty of the people rival the beauty of the landscape.

Back to the Dramatic New Zealand Landscape

When I arrived in Auckland and exited the plane around 6:30am this morning I couldn’t keep a smile off my face; it was the smile of a child with a secret they are bursting to share. I felt the chill, damp air from outside and as I made my way through the airport the light in the sky became brighter. My next international adventure was beginning!
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Day 18: Crystal Cove

Today I went for a hike with my couchsurfing host, Tom, through the hills above the coastline of Orange County. Crystal Cove State Park houses a canyon with about a thousand foot rise above the sea level on its ridges. The park is just north of Laguna Beach and just south of Newport Beach. Our route through the park took us up No Dogs, down Pole, along the path through the center of the canyon, up the steep section called Elevator, then circled south and west along Moro Ridge with a view of the ocean and coastline. Our journey was somewhere between 7-8 miles and took just under four hours including a half hour stop for lunch.

The view behind us of the ocean after our ascent up No Dogs

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Day 16: Laguna Beach

A slide show of my travels on September 1st, from Vista up along the Orange County coast, concluding with an Evening Art Walk at Twilight!

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Day 4: Hollywood… da da da da da da da Hollywood!

Woke at 11am, left Vegas around noon and drove to LA. Stopped briefly at Baker, then hungrily at Barstow to get some fruit at the supermarket. Quite the boring, hot and torturous drive during the noon-3pm timeslot. Arrived in West Hollywood just after 5pm, only minimal traffic getting onto 101 downtown, realized it wasn’t 90F anymore so opened my car windows. Met Mike from couchsurfing at his home just off Santa Monica Blvd and got my things together to head to a Saturday night movie screening in a nearby graveyard. Continue reading