#NKinNA16: Part 1 – Just Us Two

You knew another holiday post was coming… I couldn’t be contained to one continent.

Ever since my last trip to the US of A, I have been itching to get back onto those heinous, long plane trips to explore something different. Meeting her on my last trip on Contiki, Kate and I began planning our next holiday, having been bitten by the travel bug badly. One would think that after exploring the southern half of USA that we would head off to do something different, like Europe or South America. But as we looked into our European options, something told me that I had to do the rest of the USA that I didn’t touch with my previous trip.

A few discussions later, and Kate and I had decided that it was time for us to explore the northern half of USA. Squeezing in small visits to Salt Lake City (solely to visit my grandad and other family members) and Nashville (because it’s my damn favourite city in the world), Kate and I decided to do Contiki’s Grand Northern tour – the opposite of the Grand Southern that we did last year.

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What began as a discussion in early January of this year recently turned into reality, and on August 26, 2016, Kate and I flew out of Sydney and touched down in Los Angeles to begin our trip – #NKinNA16 (Nikki and Kate in North America).

On our plane trip, we were sat next to a handsome man returning home from an Australian trip to go back to work as a physical education teacher. We were quick to befriend the friendly chap, and this would set the tone for the next six weeks.

Our first stop in USA was Salt Lake City, Utah, which would serve as our jetlag stop after getting absolutely no sleep whatsoever on the plane. As mentioned in my travel posts from last year, I have family here which is the only reason why I would come back here because it’s the most boring city in the world, so it was nice to be back. We spent our first night napping, eating, and sleeping some more, all the while fighting the crippling jet lag that had hit us.

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On our second day, we were graciously shown around by my cousins Aidan and Elle, and her husband Nate. Our first stop of interest? Cheesecake Factory, of course. And while Salt Lake doesn’t have much to offer in the form of sightseeing attractions (unless you consider Temple Square a sight…), it does have some great shopping. However, this was our first stop, and I wasn’t about to blow all my money on my first city.

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After exploring this boring city – and catching some pretty damn cool Pokemon along the way – Kate and I bid farewell to my cousins and the next day, caught up with my uncle, aunt, grandad and his wife. As my sole surviving grandparent, I have a special bond with him, and was happy to sit there and listen to all of the stories in his life. With a lunch-time flight, we left Salt Lake and moved onto our next stop – Nashville, Tennessee.

This city is my favourite city in the world, and one of the reasons behind this would be Two Bit, a bar that encourages you to play free-to-play video games while you eat, drink, and be otherwise social with the people there. With friendly staff, good food, and Nintendo 64 on tap, this is probably my most favourite bar in the world, or at least in North America.

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A quick visit to the Johnny Cash Museum and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, it was night time, and I had the privilege of catching up with a long time friend Emma, whom I hadn’t seen in almost eight years. Isn’t it amazing how small the world is, and how great long-lasting friendships are? I can’t expand on how great both of the aforementioned museums are. It doesn’t matter how many times I visit the Johnny Cash Museum, I will cry every time. And I thoroughly enjoyed the new Blake Shelton exhibition at the Hall of Fame and Museum.

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The following day – after another mournful visit to Two Bit – we flew to our last destination as a duo before starting our Contiki tour… the infamous New York City, New York. Now, I had never been to NYC before, so this was my first time. As per usual, I was expecting great things from this city since everyone goes on about how bloody fantastic it is.

And boy it was.

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With three nights and two days in NYC, we had a lot of touristy stuff to accomplish. The first on everyone’s NYC list should obviously be Central Park, so with the help of a very informative hotel receptionist, we boarded a hop-on-hop-off and saw what NYC had to offer. After visiting a couple of museums and quite literally chucking a spreadie in front of someone’s tomb, Kate and I explored Central Park the only way one should: via horse carriage.

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The horse’s name was Snow White and she was a friendly girl, albeit a bit scary when her big chompers were out to play. The carriage rider showed us all the celebrity hot spots around Central Park, and where certain films were filmed throughout the park, and we sat in this carriage for a full 50 minutes looking around this beautiful landmark.

Our Central Park visit was followed by the most important New York City attraction of all: visiting the Tiffany’s. So many floors of diamonds and jewelery and more diamonds and more silvery goodness. Urrrrrgh. With a quick visit to the Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center, our first day in NYC was done.

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Next up: Times Square. In my sweet and humble opinion, Times Square is its own world in a world. Words cannot explain just how fascinating Times Square is, so I hope this expertly taken panoramic shot can do the trick.

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Another personal check off on my bucket list was to recreate the Sleepless in Seattle scene at the top of the Empire State Building, but when I got to the top, it looked a lot more different than I had expected… so I had no idea what I was doing. At least I go to stand at the same place as the legend himself Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan the uber babe.

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After some much needed sustenance, a random visit to the Museum of Sex ensued. Yes. You read that right. There is an actual thing called a Museum of Sex. I don’t really have to explain what was in the Museum of Sex, but I should say that if you’re expecting a watered-down version of a sex museum, then you would be wrong. The first thing you walk into is an old-school style painting of vaginal penetration. Yep.

It’s tradition that the day before your Contiki tour starts, you meet the night before for a “Kickstart” meeting. Basically the tour manager just gives you the 411 of what you’re doing, gets you to sign these emergency forms, and Bobsurbloodyuncle. Finishing our time in NYC off at the kickstart meeting, Kate and I bid farewell to the beautiful city of NYC with some mediocre af Thai food and bed.

This was just the beginning of my adventures, so stay tuned for more #NKinNA16 travel spam, as Nikki and Kate take North America.

– by Noah La’ulu

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