Around the World with GilliC
From Indiana to Texas, Beijing, and Norway
I grew up in central Indiana and was bitten by the travel bug early, spending the summer before high school as an exchange student in Japan. In university I landed an internship in Texas with an international company that let me spend my next summer working in Paris. After graduation I went to work for them full time, planning to move overseas as soon as the opportunity came up. Three years later, our Austin office closed, and I moved with my project to Beijing. After a year there, I transferred to Oslo and fell in love with Norway. As a computer programmer, such exotic assignments aren't that common, so I'm very thankful for the opportunities I've had!
Some places I've been:
My boyfriend is flying to Norway for the Easter holiday, and we decided to book a flight to Budapest for some history, scenery, and winery.
My parents are coming to visit, and the only way I could convince them to go see the fjords was if I went with them. Luckily, Royal Caribbean is sailing a very cheap cruise to Bergen and Geiranger from their Oslo home port this spring, which is tremendously convenient!
Carnaval in Rio
What better time to book a trip to Rio than during Carnaval?! Street parties, samba parade, and a few days on the beach at Búzios!
I've wanted to go to Antarctica for years, and it turns out that there are companies that actually make it cheaper to book an expedition tour as a solo traveler rather than as part of a couple. So for my first completely-solo trip, I checked off my seventh continent. I went into the trip with no expectations, and Antarctica was so incredible that I'm already yearning to go back.
Indian Ocean Cruise
The cruise began and ended in Mauritius, and the first full day was spent visiting the "paradise" island of Ile aux Cerfs. While the beach was nice, it wasn't as amazing as we expected it to be, given Mauritius's reputation. On our last day (before heading to the airport), we explored the southern hills, which had some pretty scenery and spent a few hours enjoying the beach at a resort near Le Morne.
The Seychelles, particularly the island of La Digue, might be the most beautiful place I've ever been. The beaches were every bit as stunning as the fashion photo shoots lead you to believe, and the island's atmosphere is wonderfully laid back and relaxing. I loved every moment we spent there and can't wait to go back!
The cruise included three ports in Madagascar: Nosy Be, Diego Suarez, and Tamatave. At Nosy Be we took a boat to the small island of Nosy Komba to do some snorkeling, which was just stunning! Such beautiful coral and beautiful fish! At Diego Suarez, we hired a 4WD to drive us 2 hours inland to one of the national parks, where we were lucky enough to see wild lemur! So cute! And in Tamatave, we sated our lemur lust with a visit to a local zoological park.
...Photos Coming Eventually...
Réunion reminded me the most of Hawaii of all the islands we visited. Old volcanic islands with deep ravines and dramatic views. But only if you beat the clouds that roll in every morning! We did not! Instead we drove to one of the beaches, which was littered with cigarette butts! Gross!
...Photos Coming Eventually...
We found an incredibly-cheap RyanAir flight to Charleroi, Belgium and rented a car to drive over to Luxembourg for a few days of wine tasting.
This summer Royal Caribbean's Vision of the Seas ran a few 7-night sailings from Oslo to Copenhagen, Tallinn, and St.Petersburg. They didn't sell too well to the Norwegian market (the local press went wild reporting on Norovirus), so we booked the trip last-minute for a steal!
Copenhagen - ScandiNestie GTG
Since we'd already been to Copenhagen for a long weekend back in 2007, we met up with some fellow Scandinavian Nesties for a fun day at Tivoli!
Tallinn is such a cute little city! It was a great day just wandering around the medieval town center.
South Africa & Mozambique
Honestly, I had never even considered going to Mozambique. They have a machine gun on their flag. How welcoming can it be? It turns out that we did get to see the machine guns (corrupt police are scary), but we also got to see whale sharks and do some great diving. I just wish we had a tougher rental car, because the roads were bad. We got to visit a lot of Mozambican mechanic shops!
Kruger National Park
This was also our first ever safari. I had always assumed going on safari would be expensive and required a guide and a jeep and driving out into nowhere with someone who knew where the animals are. It turns out that a tent and a VW Polo is really all you need! We got to do some fantastic game spotting, and the whole thing only cost a few hundred dollars!
Thanks to a great RyanAir sale, we headed to Paris for Valentine's Day for $35 roundtrip!
India - Bombay & Kerala
For Christmas, we flew to Bombay and then took a 10-day trip around Kerala and southern Tamil Nadu.
The tea-covered hills and picturesque lakes around Munnar made it one of my favorite stops on the trip.
We spent a night at a resort in Kumarakom and then drove to Alleppey to board our houseboat. Our 2-bedroom boat came was staffed by a crew of three (cook, captain, and cabin attendant), and we spent the day and evening cruising the backwaters before returning to Alleppey the next morning. This was definitely the highlight of the trip! It was so peaceful and relaxing on the boat, and it was a great chance to see a little of life along the backwaters.
Our final destination on our southern tour was Kanyakumari, at the southernmost tip of the Indian subcontinent. The city is famous both for its geographical significance and as a pilgrimage site. So in addition to dipping a foot into the sea where the Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean, and the Bay of Bengal all meet, we also took the ferry out to the Vivekanda Rock Memorial and the towering statue of Tamil saint-poet Thiruvalluvar. More inspiring to me personally was the Ghandi memorial, where his ashes were stored until they could be scattered at sea. And the Vattakottai fort outside of town was a pretty and quiet setting compared to the dirt and bustle of the town.
I booked a long-weekend stopover in Chicago on the way home from a trip to Indiana (to visit family/friends). We went on the architecture cruise, explored Millenium Park and the Art Institute, and visited Lincoln Park Zoo (where I learned that big cats like boxes just as much as small ones). One place I'd never been before was the Chicago Cultural Center, which may be the most beautiful (former) library I've ever been inside!
A friend from work had her wedding in the picturesque Koster Islands in Sweden!
My sister was living in Wasilla, so we booked a family trip with my parents to go see her. We did a 7-night cruise from Vancouver to Whittier together and visited Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay, and College Fjord. After that, we spent a week in Wasilla and did a 3-day trip up to Denali.
I can't believe I still haven't uploaded our photos!
Turkey had been near the top of my travel list for a while, so when I found reasonable flights for the Easter holiday, I couldn't resist! It was in early April, so the winds in Istanbul and the desert climate in Cappadocia meant chilly temperatures at times. The trip also happened to coincide with Obama's visit, which did get in the way of our sightseeing once or twice!
We started our trip with three days in Istanbul, seeing the major sights around Sultanhamet and the Bazaar Quarter as well as taking the ferry up the Bosphorus. At the end of our trip we had one more night in Istanbul before heading home, and we decided to see more of Beyoglu.
We took the overnight Ankara Ekspresi train from Istanbul and spent a day in Ankara before catching the bus to Göreme. We visited the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, the Citadel, and the Ataturk Mausoleum.
I once saw pics from another Nestie who went to Cappadocia and decided I had to visit! We stayed in a wonderful cave hotel, and our room was carved right out of the rock. I loved the region's strange rock formations and underground cities, and of course we did the famous balloon ride!
In town for a Christmas wedding, we spent a few days in Sonoma Valley.
RyanAir had a fantastic sale, and we were able to book roundtrip tickets to Scotland for just $15 (roundtrip, including taxes/fees)! I booked a rental car, and we spent a week driving around with no real itinerary.
Norwegian Coast & Svalbard
We were planning a 6-day trip on the coastal ferry, but it turned out that a 2-week cruise on the Queen Elizabeth 2 would cost less than the ferry! We sailed from the UK all the way up to the far northern islands of Svalbard and back. Since the trip was in June and we were so far north, we had 4 days of Midnight Sun where the sun never even touched the horizon! And since this was the last season the QE2 would sail, the Queen herself was actually there to bid the ship farewell!
Bombay, India (Surgery & Sick Leave)
I needed a minor ear surgery, and even with travel costs, it was 80% cheaper to do it in Bombay instead of Norway. I couldn't fly for 5 weeks after the surgery), so I spent a week in Goa with a friend from China who happened to be touring India at the time.
For Christmas, we flew to Perth to see some friends, and we spent the next ten days traveling around the southwest and south coast of WA. We sampled some fantastic wines in Margaret River, risked death to climb the 75-meter Bicentennial Tree near Pemberton, admired the stunning Yeagarup Dunes, pet a koala, and stumbled over a few kangaroos. It's really an amazing place, and I'm surprised it sees so few visitors!
Yalgorup & Busselton
Weekend in Copenhagen
After our cruise, our friends were visiting Denmark, so we met up again for a weekend in Copenhagen along with some mutual friends from the UK. This was my first visit to Copenhagen, and it was a great little trip!
Cruise to the Canary Islands
We took a 12-night cruise from Barcelona to the Canary Islands on Voyager of the Seas along with some friends that we met on our Asian cruise the year before.
Canary Islands - La Palma
Canary Islands - Tenerife
Canary Islands - Lanzarote
Weekend Trip to Bergen
For our first trip in Norway, we decided to do the Norway in a Nutshell trip from Oslo to Bergen. However, we didn't want to go with a big group, so I looked at the itinerary and then booked the trip on our own. Not only did we avoid the crowds for most of it, we saved 20%! We took the train to Flåm and then a cruise through Nærøyfjord before continuing on to spend a day in Bergen.
Trip to Belgium
Most of the public holidays in Norway are crammed into May, so we took advantage of the Whit Monday holiday to spend a few days in Belgium. Even though the weather wasn't the best, the 3½ days wandering around Brugge were lovely! Especially all the stops for beer and chocolate! In Brussels, I really enjoyed the Grand Place and the Centre Belge de la Bande Dessinée (Belgian Comics Center).
Norwegian Constitution Day
For the Norwegian national holdiay, we went downtown to Karl Johans gate and the Royal Palace for the festivities. It was good fun to see everyone in bunad (traditional dress) and the Russ (graduates) enjoying their final celebration!
Layover in Lisbon
One of my friends from college was getting married, so I flew home to the US for just 48 hours! Talk about exhausting! On the way home, my flight was delayed, and I missed my connection to Oslo, so they rerouted me through Lisbon, and I had a few hours to look around!
Easter in Italy
For Easter, we spent 10 days in Italy. We found inexpensive RyanAir tickets to Milan and took the train to Florence and Rome. We spent 4 days n Florence with a daytrip to Pisa and Siena, and we spent 5 days in Rome. Being in Rome at Easter meant lots of crowds, but we got to see the Papal Address on Easter Sunday.
Pisa & Siena
Easter in Rome
Move to Oslo!
My official assignment in Beijing ended in October, but getting Norwegian visas turned out to be somewhat complicated. In the end, my visa was ready a few weeks before the original estimate, so we bought our plane tickets, packed our apartment, and moved halfway across the world in about 10 days!
New Year's in Guilin & Yangshuo
For New Year's, we took a trip down south to Guilin and spent a few days in Yangshuo. We cycled through the amazing landscape and took a bamboo raft down the river. Although Guilin was a bit disappointing after the beauty of Yangshuo, we had some fun exploring the area's elaborately-lit caves.
Weekend in Xian
This was my second trip to Xian (home of the terra cotta army), and this time I got to climb part of Hua-shan (one of the five sacred mountains of China). It was beautiful, but a bit precarious for climbing the narrow stone steps after it started to snow!
Cruise of Southeast Asia
We took a 16-night cruise around southeast Asia! It left from Tianjin, an hour from home, and stopped in seven countries. When I got back my (new) passport was full, so I had to have extra pages added!
Busan, South Korea
Hong Kong, China
Nha Trang, Vietnam
Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam
Weekend in Shanghai
I booked flights to Shanghai for a weekend, and explored the Bund, Yuyuan Gardens, and Pudong. On the second day we visited one of the nearby water towns. This was one of the things I most wanted to do in China, and it did not disappoint!
We spent a weekend on the Inner Mongolian grasslands, riding horses, and sleeping in a yurt. Our guide took us to a small village nearby, where we got to see a little of how most of China lives. The family we met was very friendly and invited us to their mud hut for a glass of water and to see their newborn kittens!
My First Trip to India
Weekend in Japan
A colleague found an incredibly inexpensive Chinese package tour to Japan, so a group of us took a long weekend and visited Osaka, Kyoto, and Kobe.
Chinese New Year
Temple fairs, strange snacks, and tons (literally) of fireworks!
Harbin Ice Festival
We braved -35° degree weather to visit the annual Snow & Ice Festival in Harbin (in northeast China near Siberia). The festival includes giant snow sculptures, buildings built of ice and lit with colorful lights, and an Ice Bar made completely of snow and ice (even the glasses)! We also took a tour through the Siberian Tiger Park.
Hong Kong & Macau
We spent ten days in Hong Kong over New Year's. It was probably a bit much for Hong Kong, because even spending a day at Hong Kong Disneyland (disappointing) we were running out of things to do by the end.
Great Wall at Mutianyu
My first trip to the Great Wall was a Saturday spent at Mutianyu. The fall colors were just gorgeous, and the wall was certainly impressive!
Move to Beijing!
When our office in Austin, Texas closed, our project moved to Beijing, China. And we moved with it!
Both kitties were adopted from shelters/rescue organizations in Austin. Since the Beijing assignment was only short term, they went to live with my parents when I left for China. After a ton of paperwork and a nightmare with the airline, they made it to Oslo and settled in quickly!