Saturday, 21 August 2010

Aloha and Mahalo

Hi Guys!
Apologies first for not being in touch for a while but the hotei in Hawaii charged a small fortune for using the internet so always seemed to run out of time to write a blog once I checked emails, bank balance, hotel searching etc! OMG I miss Heike and her notepad!!
Anyway I'm now in Oz but thought I would post a short note of my time in Hawaii. The weather was hot, hot hot and the surfers buff!
I arrived on the Friday am but could check into my hotel until late afternoon so that gave me an excuse to hit the beach. Luckily I was based at the start of Waikiki away from the hussle and bustle and the quieter beaches. I was also opposite the Hilton Hawaiian Village which meant I could use all their shops etc without paying their hotel rates! Also got to see pop stars too!
Finally on the second day I wondered into Waikiki itself - its pretty touristy and they have every shop known to man. Some of the hotels are pretty impressive too (Staying at the Westin Moana Surfer if I ever return!) But the locals do know how to 'hang loose' and are friendly so amongst all the commerciality (as it is the US's 50th state) I still liked it. Also got to see a hula that evening too - best bit was the little ones dancing about how great grannies are!
I did a couple of tours too - first around the whole island of Oahu which took in the North Shore - abolutely NO SURF that day let alone the BIG SURF, boogie-boarding at Sandy Beach and also the Nature Reserve at Hanuma Bay which is stunning. I also decided to visit one of the other islands - the Big Island of Hawaii - which meant getting up at 4.30am to get on a plane. The island is pretty amazing as one side is volcanic and then the windward part of the isle is lush with vegatation but of course gets rain! Visited the active volcano (took some video - smoke but no lava sorry) and got to see the Sea Turtles have a bit of a snooze on one of the beaches. A 250 mile trip around the island and 17 hours later I eventually got back to my hotel - I was somewhat wiped out the next day!
I must admit I didn't expect that Hawaii would have so much to do - didn't get to do and see half the things I wanted to, but hey that means that I will have to make a return trip!

Sunday, 15 August 2010

last week in California....

ok so I'm jetlagged and back in London but here's the last bit of the trip for me (whilst Jo is still hanging loose in Hawaii)

Sat 07/08

We head into Petaluma for breakfast and little wander through the well restored small downtown area which as a little marina and an Art Deco Cinema before we head for the coast for the last time - we go to Point Reyes via Tomles Bay where the rich kids are queuing up for Oysters (urgh!) we just about run out of petrol (again!) but it's cloudy on the coast anyways so we have a little hike through the hill where Jo spots a snake (it's a small one and it's asleep) we reward ourselves in Point Reyes Station with Icecream before hitting the road again via San Rafael, Richmond Bridge over to Berkeley - we witness a brawl outside a pub and police sirens a go go as the cops come rushing (feels just like Hackney) we avoid the action and head for an old school diner with lots of antique/retro kid's cars...

Sun 08/08

time to visit the relatives ! we head for Fairfield (between Sacramento and San Francisco on Highway 80) The Guffeys welcome us with open arms - Ron, Rhonda, Roman, Raymond and Richard plus Sadie the dog (a dachshund)..... we head for downtown Suisun City (where i lived for a year in 1992) - so much has changed - and for the better! there is now a lovely marina and they've got live Jazz band playing, lots of small shops and new houses as well (so if you've got a spare $400.000 they are a bargain -used to be $1m!!!) property prices are cheap at the moment and we also visit Roman's house just couple blocks away which has a games room with a pool table !! (not jealous, no i'm not jealous - just repeat the mantra) and a TV the size i don't think you can even buy over here??) we finish the day off with spaghetti and shark talk

Mon 09/08

an early start for us (8am!!!!) as we have to drop off our beloved chevy rental car at the airport - traffic is kind and we arrive in time and with no hassle - we take the BART into town - the morning was all cloudy and foggy but soon it's bright and sunny (except for the Golden Gate which is hidden by clouds all day) nevermind we embrace being tourists for once and go on the hop on/off bus (too many hills to walk /climb you see) we board at Fisherman's Wharf which is too crowded for our liking - we get off in North Beach for some Italian food and go up to Coit Tower Hill.... we end the bus tour in Union Square and do a bit of window shopping/walking before finally finding a nice bar to eat/drink before getting the BART back towards Fairfield

Tue 10/08

It's wine county (Napa) tour today... with designated driver/chauffer Raymond and tour guide Rhonda (in person) and tour guide Ron (via text/mobile from the UPS depot) - it's a lovely drive from Fairfield to Napa to Yountville, St. Helena, Calistoga, Angwin (a vegetarian community) back to the two local Fairfield wineries which have some lovely grape juice (and where we stock up for our Yosemite trip - not before tasting the merchandise of course - hicks!)

After Ron gets off work we head for Yosemite - well the outskirts (a small place called Pine Lake Lodge Mountain resort or something similar like that and yes there are lots of pine trees, a lake and we're in the mountains) We are at the infamous Iggy's house and wow what a place !! a wraparound deck, a massive kitchen, three bedrooms, massive living room with fireplace - and for two days it's all ours!!

we have a veggie BBQ and finish off that wine (you really could have brought some meat along Guffeys - we won't faint from the smell of meat honest!) Even without meat we attract a deer family who come round to the veranda to have some onions and broccoli!!

Wednesday 11/08

we head for Yosemite park ( a mere 30min drive away) and head for Glacier Point first - the view just takes your breath away.... i suggest Richard and I hike down to the valley 3-4hours it says on the road sign but we only have the one day so back in the car we go - down to the valley to get a different perspective - we go to the Bridevail Falls and have lunch with some Jayhawks (persistent birds) leave our cheese and crackers alone will ya!... soaking our feet in the stream is very refreshing if a bit cold and we do a final loop before heading back to Iggy's house for some "decktime" , pizza and Alaskan Amber Ale!!!

Thursday 12/08

before heading back to Fairfield we have a little walk around the house whilst Rhonda cleans up house ready for next visitors (thank you!!!) - we stop off for a break at Copperville at a kitchen shop (silicon veggie steamer!) and then onto Stockton for Panera food (yummy - can we please have this chain fast food restaurant in London please) and Babies R Us where i find a cute outfit for Lily Pieper (two weeks old)

Friday 13/08

it's a tearful goodbye from the Guffeys as we had for the airport (for flight back home / flight to Hawaii for Jo - i'm not jealous, i'm not jealous - repeat the mantra) - check in is smooth and i'm told the checked in bag is checked all the way through to London (i'm flying back via Canada) only to find out in Calgary that it's not so i have to go back to customs to allow them for me to go back to luggage section etc etc but it kills an extra 30min of my 3 1/2 hour lay over in Calgary airport) - the flight to Heathrow is pretty comfortable, it's a new Airbus 330, i'm pretty close to the front of the plane, i have a young man from Helsinki next to me and the film selections is pretty decent (i can recommend the German film North Face - very good!) even the baby in the next aisle only cries twice for about 3min

sooooo back to the grind for me on Monday

Jo will hopefully keep us all up to date on her travels for the next couple of weeks

PS: small note for Tracy - photos are nearly sorted so Powerpoint presentation chez moi soon!

Friday, 6 August 2010

ups has it really been a week


Thu 29 / 07

We decided to do some culture and head for SAM - Seattle Arts Museum - where there is a Kurt Cobain and Andy Warhol exhibition - very good except the last room of the Kurt exhibit focuses on his suicide with drawing of the house/room ...all a bit too gruesome / death - cash cow opportunist for my liking - very much enjoyed the bleak photos of industrial / run-down Aberdeen slide show that is on though (the place where Kurt grew up)

Andy Warhol has mostly the screen test films which i've already seen but i still enjoy the one with Lou Reed cause he can't keep a straight face!.... next where off to Pike Place for some food and on Rich's (Christine's friend) we have a lurvely slice of local pizza!.. it's all a bit hectic and busy so we retreating to the very dodgy (in a good way) Lava Lounge for some beer and chat and get a lift back to University District which is nicely chilled out - we spot a couple with takeout bags in the lift and head for their recommended Thom Thai noodles - very spicy but sooooo good!

Sat 31/07

Big Parade Day !!! people start lining up their chairs at 11am - (parade starts a 5pm) - this is tourist day for us (well me - Jo manages to avoid most of it) i head off for Library first which is super modern .. did I mention i took the monorail - $2 for about 3min ride - last time i was on a monorail I was ten - then on to the Music Experience Project which has a most excellent history of guitar section and not so great North West Passage which doesn't really go into much detail though i does have the original lyric sheet for LUMP and some broken instruments et al... there is also a Jimi Hendrix section which is pretty neat - then there is the interactive section with instruments and recording booths and lots and lots of excited teenagers so we leave them to it... there is also a room full of computers with preloaded interviews /mini-documentaries which is quite handy for wasting another half hour or so - overall not really that great - the National Centre for Pop Music in Sheffield (now sadly closed down) was better I reckon.....

there is also a Science fiction museum attached which i have quick walk through but I fail to get excited about the startrek models et al... though an R2D2 provokes a little smile

then on to the space needle and after 1hour wait (it's Saturday after all) i get to enjoy some great views over the city...

we escape the crowds and make us of the free hotel bikes and head over to Gastown park all the way the Freemont!!

Sun 01/08

back for the Sunday market to Freemont to stock up on some food before the next Greyhound Bus trip down to Portland - nicely small and relaxed compared to Seattle - and full of brewery pubs (we managed only two that night) followed by triple vodka / cranberry by gas-fired campfire style outdoor fire posh thingy courtesy of our boutique hotel (yes we splashed out!) just google Modera Portland and prepare to drool!

Mon 02/08

walk around Pioneer Square where there is a Farmer's Market -Strawberry Pie Forever! then we head up the Portland Tramway (bit smaller than the one in Jasper) it only takes you up to a hospital and you can't get out at the the top....but the views are lovely nonetheless - we head to Pearl District, then on to Music Venue area but no good gigs to be had on a Monday night and that lovely posh hotel is waiting for us soo...............

Tue 03/08

off to airport to pick up our hire car and Jo braves the 3-5 lane Freeway!! we reach the coast about 1 1/2 hours later and stop off for lunch at the very cute coastal town of Cannon Beach then on to Lincoln City...

Wed 04 /08

first stop is Cape Foulweather and yes i'm afraid we finally get bit unlucky there a clouds hanging all along the coast but still pretty dramatic!! - we see the Devil's Punchbowl and the Newport Lighthouse and stop off in Florence (roughly 5000 miles from the one in Italy) then on to Reedsport for yet more pie for Heike (this time cherry flavoured) ... the extra calories are needed though to climb the Oregon Dunes (massive! forget Sylt - the small island off the German coast near Hamburg) we find a lovely motel overlooking Port Orford Bay and for all you music buffs the owner is the dad of Port of O'Brian's drummer's girlfriend... oh and there are two deer grazing outside our window

Thu 05 / 08

another foggy start along the coast - we bypass the Fake Dinosaur and Giant Paul Bunyon and his Blue Ox and the Trees of Mystery and opt for the natural beauty of Peter's Point and the Wedding Rock instead - the sun comes out as soon as Jo starts driving as we do the scenic 31mile drive through the Redwood Avenue of Giants - Jeremy Clarkson eat your heart out- we end up in the Garberville Motel - another classic, pretty small town with an excellent pizza place !

Fri 06 / 08

we leave the 101 and head for highway number one and boy does this one make you dizzy!.. everyone along this stretch seems to make a living out of woodcarvings!!..Fishermen, Bears, Shreks.... we have lunch in Mendocino (East of Eden was filmed here as well as Murder She Wrote !) sadly the clouds are still looming - we nearly run out of !!!- thank God there is a petrol station in Fort Ross - then a quick stop at Bodega Bay (where Hitchcock's Birds was filmed) but we decide to head inland for some much needed sun ... we stop a church and schoolhouse in the next town of Sebastopol and we pretty certain the famous attack of the schoolchildren was filmed there... we end up in wine country Sonoma - a place called Petaluma (we didn't plan on coming here but hey this is a road trip!)

Thursday, 29 July 2010

good morning America

well actually by the time we finally get across the border it's about 3pm...fingerprints, photos, family history what else do you need.... we're sad to leave Canada so much more to do and see!! we will be back (that's a promise not a threat by the way)

the long journey South is rewarded with free booze and snacks at our hotel happy hour !! they like the serve the local wheat beer with a slice of orange we learn.... We're staying bit North of the centre in the University area of town so only couple minutes away from a little marina and some lovely view including some students practising martial arts... the local kayaking place has a Mexican restaurant attached ... bingo.... !!

right gotta sign off now as Seinfeld is on!

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

where were we?

thu 22/07

so our first drizzly day has us booking a cruise on Lake Maligne... on the way we spot an Elk and a black bear cub.....but we have a somewhat grumpy driver so no photos ! boooo!

once on the lake we learn all about glaciers and stop off at Spirit Island just in time to see a deer walk along back into the forest from the island to the shore because because the island is actually a peninsula... and guess what there are solar power ecological loos....then we head back to the tea house for rasperry scones !!

then back to jasper to do some laundry and catch the 10 o clock Seinfeld double bill

fri 23/07

TRAIN leaves somewhat delayed but we make up time on the way despite having to reverse one mile en route to pick up two elderly German cyclists in the middle of nowhere.... i spend most of the time in the skydome which is populated by quite interesting people quizzing me about who the Prime Minister of Canada is - of course i have no idea but then he didn't know the UK or German one so there!!... there is also a non-stop-talking train expert - his 26th trip on this route we get running commentary - thank God for my new headphones - then i hit a new low when a lady next to me says "there sure are a lot of trees"....

we leave it too late to get food so are left with pot noodle tomato flavour but then i have that for lunch most days....

the views are fantastic though .. you just don't get tired of rivers, lakes and mountains... there is a full moon so even in the dark you catch you find yourself staring out at moonlit lakes....


we arrive a bit knackered but our North Vancouver hotel is brand new and a room is available to check in at 11am!! result! we head to Granville Island to meet up with Christine and go to best VEGGIE food place ever.... we have Nachos for starters on a plate the size of a 14 inch pizza and that is small Nachos.... and we drink beer out of jam jars... quite a few of them

25 / 07

sunday starts with a swing - well breakfast at Londsdale market (think Borough market but indoors and next to the bay with the Vancouver Skyline in the back) - there is a Gospel choir singing Bob Marley, Marvin Gaye tunes... then off to the Vancouver Tower for view of the city before we watch the sun-tanned Vancouverites?? play volleyball on Kitsilano Beach.... then on to Gastown - we start at a touristy pub and end in a dodgy... Igor and the Red Elvises charged $10 cover charge so we went back to the dodgy pub... at which stage we realised we missed the last seabus (it's a ferry) to North Vancouver so Night Bus it is....

26 / 07

another sunny day so we're off to stanley park for a walkabout and a visit to the Aquarium which is expensive but ace.. dolphins, beluga whales, otters, birds, crocodiles and even a sloth!! we end up suitably thirsty so head for the pub.... not just any pub but the Morrissey Pub..... guess who wanted to go there?? and no we didn't miss the ferry a second time

27 / 07

after a couple of days in the city we decide it's time for some nature and hiking and we're only a 20min bus ride to lynn canyon which is perfect as it's nice and shady (did i mention it's a another hot, sunny day yet?) we brave the suspension bridge to hike to the twin falls, then on to rice lake
and go back via the loop trail....

after quick swim i head out to watch the sunset on nearby Ambleside Beach............aaaaah this is the life!!!!!

tomorrow - last day in Canada!!

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

too busy hiking to do any blogging

but will update in couple of hours (after our evening walk) it's daylight till 10pm so we are making the most of it - check back in a couple of hours for photos !!

in bullet points

sat 17th
walk around toronto - indian parade hare hare hare krishna along the main shopping street, then onto harbourfront (i'll take the 2nd yacht on the right) st lawrence food market (bargain rhubarb and apple pie)

sun 18th
niagara falls - two maidens riding in the mist (those of you who've been there will know what I'm on about)
CN Tower including vertigo inducing glass floor (only 3x4m mind) lovely views though

mon 19th
fly to edmonton (including barking dogs under plane -somewhat distressing, even more distressing the news that David Cameron is our First Officer on board)
not very scenic downtown so might as well watch some good-looking men on a giant screen - Inception - i kind of lost interest after level 3 - worth seeing though
nice of of the day in the completed deserted swimming pool !!

tue 20th
greyhound to jasper - it's high season and only about 10 people on our bus !!
arrive to glorious scenery and sunshine so decide to go for evening walk - which was pretty steep and demanding - SORRY JO!... we spotted 5 deer though and had couple of pints afterwards

wed 21th
sunshine again - hurrah so up to Jasper Tramway and then up to summit where there is snow!
just got back an hour ago but will have bit of evening stroll followed by some beers which may or may not cause a delay in uploading those photos.....