Looking for tickets or info for the Get Happy Tour 2018 featuring Bowling for Soup, Army of Freshmen and The Aquabats?

This domain name was used for the Get Happy Tour back in its original run around 10 years ago, when I used to do work for BFS and AOF. However, for the past 5 years it has been used for my travel blog as I never thought we would have another Get Happy Tour and I didn't want it to go to waste.

But as a favour to two bands who have done a lot for me over the years, and so you don't miss out, ticket info is:
O2 Presale: 10am on 25 September
General Onsale: 10am on 27 September.

Tickets available from ticketmaster.co.uk and bowlingforsoup.com
 


Archive

Archive for January, 2012

Mayan ruins and a survival experience

January 31st, 2012 No comments

Today was my first day which didn’t involve lots of long distance travelling and I managed to fit in a lot of activities, despite not getting much sleep last night due to my assigned room mate being a VERY loud snorer. Luckily I brought some silicone ear plugs with me in case I went swimming so I’ll dig those out of my bag ready for tonight.

I met up with the girls ready to head into town fairly early. First stop the casa del todos which is a shop / laundry / Internet cafe / restaurant all in one. I needed to get some laundry done as we had been recommended by our guide not to use the ones at our next destination. After some negotiation I managed to persuade them to have my laundry done early, rather than at 6pm, so that I could pick it up after visiting the ruins. Then it was back into town for breakfast and a quick souvenir shop before making our way to the ruins.

On the way to the ruins

On the way to the Copan Ruins

The easiest way to get to the Mayan Ruins outside Copan is to take one of the tuk-tuk taxis from near Parque Central as there are usually a few around and it’s fairly cheap. Just tell them you want to go to the ruins and they’ll even come back to pick you up at a specified time (I recommend having a couple of hours at the ruins but you could easily spend longer if you want to visit the tunnels and take time looking at everything).

We decided that since there were 9 of us it would be best to hire a guide to give us a tour – entry to the ruins is $15 per person and the guide was $25 split between the 9 of us. Our guide, Mauricio, was fluent in English and very knowledgeable about the ruins. During our visit, which probably lasted 90 minutes, we were shown the petroglyph staircase, ball court, statues, temples and many other features and given detailed information and history about them all. During our visit we also saw some wild parrots and a few other animals. The site is small compared so some other sites in the Mayan world such as Tikal and Chechen Itza but if you’re here then it’s worth a visit.

Enterring Copan with our guide

Entering Copan Ruins with our guide

Wild Parrots

Wild Parrots at Copan Ruins

Copan Ruins

Copan Ruins

They used to execute people here

They used to execute people here

Copan Ruins

Copan Ruins - the canvas covers the famous staircase

Me and a Monkey statue

Me and a Monkey statue at Copan

Me at Copan Ruins

Me at Copan Ruins

Some of our group at Copan Ruins

The members of our group that toured Copan Ruins

After returning to town I grabbed a snack for lunch before running a few errands – taking photos from the lookout above the town, picking up a few more souvenirs, sending postcards and picking up my laundry before heading back into town to meet up with the others for our journey up to Macaw Mountain. The price we paid included the Tuk Tuk up to Macaw Mountain and the entrance to what was a really nice bird park. They have all sorts of birds including Hawks, Parrots, Owls, Toucans and even one at that says “hola” to you when you enter. They have an interactive centre at the end of the recommended walking route which allows you to get up and close with some parrots, as you can see.

Yummy!

The dulce de leche cake and Dark Maya milkshake were lovely!

A view over the town of Copan

A view over the town of Copan

This bird said Hola!

This bird said Hola!

Macaw at Macaw Mountain

A Macaw at Macaw Mountain

Lovely scenery

The scenery at Macaw Mountain

A Toucan

A Toucan at Macaw Mountain

Me and some Parrots

Me and some Parrots

Mena managed to organise things so that we could fit in the ruins, Macaw Mountain and the Hot Springs all in one day. We decided to be collected from Macaw Mountain and then do the hot springs in the early evening as they were along the same mountain road anyway. However I wouldn’t recommend doing the hot springs as late as we did as it was dark by the time we arrived, and that caused a few problems.

Our guides for the evening told us to leave all of our bags, shoes, torches, towels etc at the bottom and just walk up with them but this was a mistake. We needed to take flip-flops and torches as when it was time to descend back down the hill to the car park we couldn’t see anything and it was a case of feeling our way down the mountain – luckily a couple of people remembered the way. It wouldn’t have been so bad if it was still light, if we had torches, or if the guides didn’t have to take one of the others back down to the car park before we all finished due to a few problems – taking the torch with him. I have new respect for people that have to survive in the jungle after getting lost. The hot springs themselves were refreshing and worth a visit if you’re into the area, during the day, and they’re your sort of thing.

When we got down to the car park there was enough time to get changed before a nice BBQ that the guides had put on for us – kebabs, cheese, beans, salad, bread and tortillas. There was just enough time to stuff ourselves before getting back to the hotel. Let’s hope I get some more sleep tonight despite the snoring as we need to be up at 545 ready to meet at 630 for the bus to our next destination.

This dinner was great

This was a great BBQ

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Into Honduras

January 30th, 2012 No comments

Today was a very long day of travelling. We were due to leave Antigua at 5 so I got up at 4 to repack my bags ready for the trip ahead. Unfortunately one of our group was a little late getting ready so by the time we reached the Guatemala City ring road the traffic was horrendous and it took a long time to get through. Our minibus driver did the best he could but this involved some very positive driving which made me feel a little carsick which is a very rare occurrence for me.

We were due to stop for breakfast on the way between Guatemala City and the border but this turned into a late brunch / early lunch but it was at a nice rest-stop cafe where I decided to have an Omelette. The journey on from here, however, was just as chaotic as the journey through Guatemala City.

A bridge

A bridge in Guatemala City

Traffic jam

A traffic jam during our rest stop

Scenery in Guatemala

Scenery in Guatemala

Lunch time!

This is where we stopped for lunch

Most places around the world when they do maintenance on the road they either do it overnight so as not to cause chaos or they have some sort of alternate route in place. However in Guatemala they just close the roads for hours and create all sorts of chaos when people try to force their way through anyway. When we finally came to a halt the maintenance workers told us it would be another hour before they opened the road again so we gave up and sat outside in the sun for a bit – before a rather hasty scramble back into the minibus when traffic started moving again 10 minutes later.

Yeah this is good!

Solution to a Guatemalan traffic problem - force your way through!

More Guatemalan scenery

More Guatemalan scenery

It took about an hour to cross the border from Guatemala to Honduras, which was up a mountain pass on the way to Copan Ruinas – our first destination in Honduras. As soon as we arrived at the border area money changers came from nowhere trying to exchange our money just like when I was in Africa. They’re usually honest but make sure you know the official rate in advance and have a calculator handy so you can check their calculations as sometimes they will try to short change you. They’re more accurate when you speak a little Spanish though and I ended up with a load of coins which I decided to spend buying bottled water before the border formalities had been concluded.

The border with Honduras

The border with Honduras

Me and Anne at the border

Relaxing at the border

Yep I had to!

On the roof of the minibus

Now we’re in the town of Copan Ruinas, just across the border in Honduras. It’s quite a nice town with very steep cobbled streets leading to a central square. We had a group dinner in town at Via Via while discussing what activities were available to us in the town – top of my list are the Mayan ruins just outside town but we’ve worked out there’s a way to fit in the ruins, the local bird park and a visit to the hot springs so it should be quite a busy day tomorrow. Time for a few drinks with the group before heading back to the hotel to catch some sleep.

Our hotel in Copan

Our hotel in Copan

Walking into town

Walking down the hill to town

The centre of Copan

The centre of Copan

Sampling local food

Honduran food at Via Via

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Charlie : Visiting Atlanta and Guatemala

January 30th, 2012 No comments

Charlie has been enjoying his first foreign trip this week. We are now at the town of Copán Ruinas in Honduras, having spent the last 4 nights in different beds and we will be staying here a couple of nights which should be less tiring.

The places that Charlie has visited so far on this trip include:

  • 3 days ago –┬áLondon, UK – Travelled to the Travelodge at London Heathrow Airport
  • 2 days ago – Atlanta, GA, USA – Had a good dinner and had a short walk around the city seeing the CNN building, a park and a few other things.
  • Yesterday – Antigua, Guatemala – Travelled from Atlanta to Guatemala City before taking a minibus to Antigua, Guatemala. We spent the day relaxing and looking around.
  • Today – Border crossing from Guatemala into Honduras.

Here are a few photos of Charlie enjoying himself so far on this trip.

Charlie

Charlie looking out over the Atlanta skyline

Charlie

Charlie at the Guatemala – Honduras border

Charlie

Charlie at the Guatemala – Honduras border

He has been making some friends, or at least turning some heads, while on this trip already. There will be an update from each country we travel to on this trip at the very least, or more often if he visits more places.

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Welcome to Guatemala

January 29th, 2012 No comments

So I’ve finally made it to Central America – I’m currently sat in my hotel in the lovely town of Antigua Guatemala after what has been a long few days.

Today was another day of mostly travelling just like yesterday. After a 6am checkout of the hotel in Atlanta I made my way to the airport where I printed my boarding passes (I had already checked in online), checked my bags and then proceeded through security where I used the free wi-fi to save a couple of key phrases from Google Translate onto my phone. The flight to Guatemala was a little delayed but we managed to pick up most of the time in the air – we flew down over Florida, Mexico and then finally down into Guatemala City.

Atlanta Airport

Atlanta Airport

Immigration in Guatemala City was fast but there were no signs for which baggage carousel we should use and after a long delay, and after asking a few people, I finally found my baggage and waited for the long line at customs that had formed by this point due to several flights from the USA all arriving at once. After customs there’s a tourist information desk with bi-lingual assistants who can help you with whatever you require. All I needed to know was how to get to Antigua and they directed me to the place outside where the shared minibus taxis wait.

The shared minibus system is pretty efficient and probably the best way to make it to Antigua if you’re going straight there from Guatemala City Airport. They wait until they are full, which is never usually long, and then take you straight to your hotel in Antigua for only $10 compared to the $70 my travel agent wanted for a transfer. The journey seemed to progress slowly due to the mountain roads but the scenery was nice. It also gave me a chance to chat to my fellow passengers – a Canadian who had just left the Northwest Territories where it was a chilly -20, an American who visits Central America every 6 months, an Australian and a few Americans including this one guy who needed a fresh start so had arrived in Guatemala with no plan carrying a bag containing everything he owned. I have a lot of respect for him for taking that risk.

I was due to stay at the “Casa en Familia”, which is the starting place for all Intrepid trips in Central America that depart from Antigua, but when I arrived they explained they were overbooked so had checked me into another small family run place just around the corner which they lead me straight to before telling me what time to be back at Casa en Familia for the group welcome meeting. For those of you that are having a hard time finding Casa en Familia or anything about it – it’s a small family run place on Calle Camposeco, to the west of 7a Avenida Norte (walking from the centre of town when you get to the intersection of the two roads turn left and the hotel is a 20 second walk on the left hand side). The shared minibus should know how to get you there – but there’s a big barn door with a doorbell and a small sign with the hotel name next to it.

The hotel I was booked into

The hotel I stayed in due to Casa en Familia being overbooked

My room in Guatemala

My room in Guatemala

The famous arch in Antigua

The famous arch in Antigua

The park in Antigua

The park at the centre of Antigua Guatemala

Street view in Antigua

A street in Antigua

After relaxing in my hotel room for a bit I went into town to grab some snacks and a coffee before relaxing in the park to read for a bit. It looked like rain was going to come so I wandered to Frida’s bar for some Mojitos and to use their free wi-fi connection. After relaxing with my Mojito for a while the sky cleared and the rain never came so I made my way back to the hotel ready for the welcome meeting. After the welcome meeting, which was fairly brief, we all went out for dinner (we ended up at Frida’s again) before making our way around the corner to a rock / metal bar. We also made time for group photos under the arch before making our way back to the hotel ready for an early start tomorrow.

A view from the terrace

A view from Casa en Familia

Dinner in Guatemala

Dinner in Guatemala

Antigua seems like a nice place it’s a shame I didn’t book an extra day and spend more time here but we’re off to Honduras in the morning. One thing I like about the town is it has kept its traditional charm with the old cobbled streets and traditional courtyard houses. There are branches of subway and other western outlets like that but they’re not allowed to put up huge signs they have to just have small ones hanging in their window so as not to change the character of the town.

Musicians

Musicians under the arch

Street view

Antigua Guatemala

The others on our trip seem nice too. There are a few who are starting in Antigua like me but the majority have come down from Mexico and are continuing down to Costa Rica. I also met a really nice guy who finished his trip in Antigua today called Andy – apparently he played Mundungus Fletcher in the Harry Potter movies among other things. Our guide, Mena, seems nice too – we seemed to make friends when we found out we had similar music tastes and when she found out I had been to North Korea.

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First stop Atlanta

January 28th, 2012 No comments

I’ve finally started my trip to Central America that I’ve been wanted to do for many years, but have only made it as far as Atlanta USA where I’m making a brief overnight stop.

I had to get up fairly early this morning for my flight to Atlanta. Even though I was at the Travelodge near Heathrow it took some time to get to Terminal 4 due to waiting for various bus and Tube connections at that time of the morning. Check-in went ok and I managed to have enough time to grab some food and brush up on my Spanish ready for just over 2 weeks in Central America.

The flight itself went well too – I had never flown Delta before but they seem to be a good airline despite what I read online. I was on the outside of a 2-4-2 configuration 767 so only had one person next to me and he only got up once so I could relax for the duration of the flight which took us up over Greenland then down over Toronto and Tennessee before making the approach to Atlanta.

Atlanta airport has an unusual setup compared to every other airport I have been through in the world. After passport control you collect your bags straight away, go through customs, then have to recheck your bags onto another system which will take them to the arrivals hall where you collect them again later on. Before the arrivals hall however you have to pass through security, use the full-body scanners and then catch a metro-style train to the arrivals hall where your bags will be waiting for you. Despite the confusion the process went smoothly, except for the extra questions the CBP official at passport control had for me after seeing my North Korean tourist visa in my passport. Out of all the pages he picked to open my passport at he had to pick that one, but it didn’t cause a problem.

I’m only in Atlanta for a short time – my flight arrived at 5pm and the connecting flight to Guatemala leaves at 9am tomorrow but it was enough time to catch the metro into the city, check into a hotel, grab some dinner in the city and then catch some sleep.

Days Inn Atlanta Downtown

My room at the Days Inn

The view from my room

My view of Atlanta

Despite the weird atmosphere of the city (LOTS of homeless people begging for money on dark street corners – even trying to get me to take money out of the ATM for them, kids pestering me to buy cigarettes for them every time I went past a store) Atlanta itself seemed nice – it had a lot of open space for a city and was clean. It also gave me a chance to sample the famed southern hospitality – as soon as I got off the Metro a city greeter came up to me and asked me if he could be of assistance before directing me to my hotel.

That southern hospitality was also evident when I grabbed a meal at Ted’s Montana Grill – a restaurant owned by Ted Turner just across from the CNN building. The restaurant was expensive but the food was really nice – I had bison nachos to start, bison potroast for the main course and then finished with apple crisp for dessert but I was unable to finish it. The waitresses thought the fact I was from the UK was amazing and kept talking to me asking where I was from and what I was doing. Maybe not many tourists go in there but I’d recommend it if it’s your sort of thing.

Bison pot roast

Bison pot roast

Atlanta at night

Atlanta at night

There’s not really much to report today as this is just a stopover but it was nice to visit a new part of the USA as I’ve never been to the southern states before except for the touristy areas of Florida. I’m off to bed now for what will probably be my last good nights sleep for a long time – I’m expecting lots of early starts and long travel days over the next few weeks during my time in Central America!

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