Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Road trip to Seattle

This is one journey no one wants to do over 2 nights. It is over 850 miles from San Jose to Seattle and is go go go. The scenery along the Pacific coast was breathtakingly beautiful and rivalled our Great Ocean Road. We could have stopped every few miles to see something but having such a short time to get there... another time. We saw huge elk on the side of the road which we were told was out of the ordinary. I would not like to bump into one of those with the car. The road at times passed through dense pine and fir tree forests. So nice. There is nothing better stopping alongside a lake or in a forest having a picnic lunch with your family. The closer we got to Seattle the colder it got. Getting to minus temperatures. Then we hit the snow. Lucky for us it had snowed heavily earlier and was only snowing lightly while driving so it was not slippery driving. The upside was the trees were covered in snow. It was truely a winter wonderland. The kids were in raptures while we found a radio station that played non stop Christmas Carols. I won't forget those moments. Just enough snow. Arriving into Renton about 18 miles out of the City of Seattle was a treat. We had never been in a neighbourhood with snow before so as we drove up to our next host's front door it was the most beautiful scene...right out of a christmas card. Beth and her sister Susan live across the road from each other so we were billetted out with plenty of room for all of us. Thank you Susan, Andy, Nicky and Amanda for making us feel at home right away. It was the night before Thanksgiving so we all went out for dinner all 15 of us..enjoying the food and the beer. Not a good idea when you have to go out grocery shopping to contribute to Thanksgiving. Our contribution to the lunch was a traditional Pavlova...without a recipe, and potato salad. Rachel, Tomi and the kids stayed at Beth's..... tomorrow Thanksgiving.

The City of calm and peace

San Francisco...from the moment we arrived in this beautiful city I knew it was special. We rented an apartment right in the city for 5 nights. After weeks of sleeping with each other in motel rooms and in close proximity in the RV the adults had their own room.Yahoo!! The apartment had its own garden and loads of room to spread out. Bliss. After watching many movies and documentaries over the years about San Francisco it was everything and more. From the architecture of the beautiful wooden homes to the peacefulness of the city...which might have been due to the wafting haze of marijuana as I discovered on my venture into a park. It is indeed a hilly city. The steepness of the city streets has to be seen to be believed. Where ever you look it seems to be surrounded by the sea. The bay is immense and there are several islands dotted around...the most famous being Alcatraz. On the day we decided to visit this place it was so cold and drizzly...actually the only day we had weather like it. ...It suited where we were visiting. I really enjoyed the tour of Alcatraz and was surprised it was only used for 20 odd years as a prison. We certainly visited all the landmarks of San Francisco and felt the vibe.

Big trees,big dams and glitz

We had 7 days to pack in a whole lot of miles... We had to pass over the Hoover Dam and that was a sight to behold. Sometime ago we watched a documentary on the building of this incredible structure so were keen to see it in person. Like most things you see, it exceeded our expectations. It was Veterans Day so was hugely busy so we could not tour the dam as the queues were so long. The glitz was Las Vegas...interesting place day and night. One day and night was plenty when you have kids. Our RV park was right off the main drag so we were able to come and go. Night time was the best. We went into the main casinos primarily to see the incredible things money can buy...like fake ceilings painted to look like cloudy skies so it seems like daylight anytime of the day. Mind boggling and mind numbing. No gambling at all for us just looking and looking. Nick and I had a 12.00 pm curfew so we couldn't stay out all night...kids they spoil all your fun. The best part of this stage of our RV week would have to be the Death Valley and the Sequoia Trees. We drove through Death Valley on a beautiful sunny day. Rachel was driving and had some hairy times in the mountains either side of the valley. The scenery was stunning. Give me nature any day. It was memorable to say the least. The best part about camping in out of the way parks is the next morning. When you drive in at night you don't really know where you are and what is surrounding you. Getting up in the morning before sunrise is my favourite time...me time. I arose to the soft hues of the mountains surrounding the camp site...how wonderful. Watching the sun rise slowly across the mountains then touch the prairie...bliss. Better than the glitz of Las Vegas. Onto the Sequioas. Driving into the National Park where these trees were was not easy. To start with our RV was toooo big to go up the mountains so we had to camp half way up and could not see the General Sherman tree. We shared our campsite with bears so all food inside and outside had to be placed in special bear bins if you were not near your tent or van. Yes they open doors and windows. Even deodorants, shampoos etc, were delicious to the bears. The next morning after an exhilarating hike up the mountain we set off to another entrance to the park that would take our van right to the Giant Sequioas. They are huge!!!! The General Grant tree was there and very few people so it was a very peaceful site to visit. Magnificent, amazing, awesome...... we had a fantastic time there and there also was snow again.. We had to return our van the next day. It was like leaving our second home. ...but San Francisco beckoned.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The big hole in the ground

Apparently driving the RV was like driving a bus...it was a huge responsibility for the drivers as they were driving a 31ft ...and 8 tonne when fully loaded and of course 8 precious people. It was so much fun everyday once a routine was formed. The kids were able to sit around the table while we were driving...I know that is not the safest but that was the way it was. There weren't even enough seatbelts so I volunteered to be without. We got to play games, mostly educational somedays for 6-8 hours while we were on the road. We got to tell them about our childhood and our travels. We all found out a lot about each other. Tolerance was a key word. For 7 days we slept, ate and drove in our home away from home. The kids were fantastic as it was certainly out of everyones' comfort zone. I for one will never forget that week. .The first night we free camped under the stars in the desert of Joshua tree National park. In the morning watching the sunrise over the granite boulders while organising breakfast is imprinted in my memory forever. The Joshua tree is like something from prehistoric days..I half expected dinosaurs to be roaming around.
Now to the big hole in the ground.....The Grand Canyon. You know when you are growing up and reading about faraway places and you see travel shows or hear about those places that set your imagination going and when you get there it is not as it seems...well this place was the most incredible natural wonder I have laid eyes on. The first glimpse of that huge hole in the ground absolutely blew me away. The colours of the rock formations were so rich and deep. It is so enormous...we walked for quite a long way around the rim of the canyon and when we saw how little of the ground we covered it certainly made us realise the enormity of it all. It also snowed the day before so it was icy cold and to top of a wonderful day it started snowing again...the kids had never seen snow fall. On the way to our next camping spot we came across a park with the name of Bearizona....drive through bear viewing. Adorable was the catchword. My wish was that we had more time at the canyon...one day we will return to hike down to the bottom of the canyon.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Towards the Grand Canyon

After a week in Los Angeles visiting Disneyland, Santa Monica and Hollywood, it was time to move on. We picked up the RV, a 32 foot home for the next week. Luckily it was ready early so we were able to pick it up to continue the trip.
It was to be a 2 day drive to the Grand canyon so we decided that a stop at Joshua Tree National Park would be a welcome rest. Out through San Bernardino valley we were amazed at the extent of the use of wind power. There were hundreds of them. California consists of many North to South mountain ranges, so travelling West to East consists of a valley then mountain then valley. Most of the freeways travel North South.
It took longer than we thought, but finally we spent our first night on the road.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


It was 5 days of fun, fun, fun. I always thought we would visit this place one day but never thought it would be with four of our grandchildren. How lucky are we. It is indeed a place for young and old...it helps to be young though.It is a huge theme park ..actually two theme parks across from one another. Neither is better than the other. They each had the best of everything. Disneyland is full of beautiful gardens so is a pleasure to walk around. The weather was extremely hot...they broke a 110 year old record of a November day. The crowds were down because of the heat for the first two days so the kids had a ball going on all rides as many times as they wanted. At one stage they complained they had to queue for 15 mins. That was hilarious as in peak season some of the rides have waiting times of up to 2 hours. It was not as in your face and cheesy as I thought it would be. Quite the opposite. We never had television growing up so it was not part of my childhood...actually the park opened a year after I was born in 1955. It was a part of our children's life as every sunday night after dinner ar their grandparents they would settle in to watch Walt Disney and all his magic.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A new hat

Here A lovely couple at Disneyland

Well after 3 days at Disneyland and California Dreaming. A change of space and a change of pace was in order for all of us. 3 days of stimulation of all the senses for some is all that is needed. Off to L.A. and Hollywood for the day.
Dear Bethany has motion sickness …not on rides that spin you around or high speed roller coasters but sitting in a car. We had a good hour drive by 8 seater taxi from our acommodation not far into our trip both Bethany and Sophie felt nauseous. The only thing we had on hand to catch what came up was my hat…its funny now when I think about it. You had to be there. So I now have a new hat even though Tomi offered my old one back. The rest of the day went well. Found some great coffee while kids went to the Ripley’s Believe it or not.Ready for the 3D experience

Nick and I relived past memories of our time in Hollywood several years ago with Niamh and Hin. The only star on the walk that Ryan wanted to see was Michael Jackson but that was covered up by a red carpet out side the Kodak Theatre where the Oscars are held every year. He was great about it though.
Madame Tussauds beckoned the two eldest and Nick while we went shopping for a new hat. Of course baseball caps are the go in the USA so no hat for me…even though Tomi tried to tell me that I looked good in many I tried on. Time to get some much needed sea air. Did I mention how hot it is here and humid?
Off to Santa Monica Beach and Pier by bus was next .The kids were very relaxed and it was nice to spend some one on one time with them as it had been very hectic over the last few days. They are great kids. I love Santa Monica …it is so peaceful on a sunny afternoon walking up the board walk listening to the “buskers” fully decked out with sound systems and the like. Not in your face just in the background. The kids loved it too. Especially the different little booths doing sculpture and sketching memoirs of people…of course they chose the caricatures to take home. I had a chance for some time to reflect on my lucky life. Having the opportunity to get to know our eldest daughter again and her partner Tomi who is going to make a fantastic dad and the children. Sitting on the steps in the sunshine listening to live music performed so well, was my highlight for the day for me …and I found a hat. This one is more absorbent for our next car ride haha

On line again

We had a week of problems trying to access and start the blog, but Yippee we are on our way.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Los Angeles

Well after the bumpiest flight that we have experienced in our many years of travel we arrived safely in Los Angeles. Wedecided to travel straight to our accommodation near Disneyland, so that we could settle in and be ready for an early start to discover Disneyland the next morning. Every night has been late and as I write this it is 10:30 pm.

Friday, November 05, 2010

The place of happy people

More surprises everyday.....I love this country America. After the 14 hour flight to L.A. we arrived at our hotel 24 hours after leaving Adelaide. The kids handled jet lag really well considering. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that Disneyland was on the agenda the next day. It is hot and humid here and yesterday reached an all time high of 36 deg...highest since 110 years ago. It makes us take our time but its better than raining.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

What a surprise

It's been an amazing year. Six months ago I retired from paid work. Nick has also done the same...I think we are too young so I think we will be back working soon. I digress. Actually it has been great, making life more flexible. Rachel has met a lovely man last November his name is Tomislav (Tomi). He has bowled Rachel off her feet and been a breath of fresh air for the family. Rachel joined him in his country of birth, Bosnia , mid September which allowed us to have Rachel's 4 children for 3 weeks and take them on their own holiday to Kangaroo Island. We loved having the opportunity and Rachel and Tomi cemented their relationship. Win Win all around. We have been blessed living in the town where our grandchildren live because that allows more opportunity to be involved with their lives and in turn help out our daughters. Love it. Perfection would be Adam and Eva moving to Gawler as well but I can't see that happening soon. Anyway we have 3 great kids and they have all have fantastic partners in life. Life is sweet. Back to the surprise. Rachel flew back home with Tomi and a couple of days later called saying she had booked us 4 weeks in USA. We were going to do this next year but the flights were so cheap we have decided to take the plunge. So on Monday we fly out to USA for 33 days. Rachel ,Tomi, and her 4 children. 8 of us, nearly a small group journey. We have a huge amount to pack into those 4 weeks so here we go.....

Friday, February 05, 2010

Expect the Unexpected

Assilah was recommended by Lee, our niece, from her trip there last year and also the accom she stayed in. We knew it would be sleepy in winter but did not realise it would actually be almost closed down. The little hotel we stayed in was only $10 a night and so cosy which was great as it was freezing at night. We could see why she loved it but it was not enough reason to stay more than one night so we hitched a ride in a sardine taxi to the next town where we had to wait at the taxi stand for an hour for our next ride. That was fun just watching Moroccan life around the taxi stand that fluctuated in numbers around thirty or so as they ferried people from town to town so as a passenger you had to leap frog to the next destination. They would not leave until the taxi was full .. 6 or 7 passengers in a 5 passenger car. All the big taxis or Grand taxis as they are known are Mercedes. One of the drivers said that the motor is strong. It would be interesting to see just how many kms that some of these vehicles had travelled. Less fuel, less buses, happier people and it was very cheap. We were offered fresh fish along with everything else to take with us on our journey …so we popped it in our back pack hoping we could find somewhere to cook it. Joking. Watching the men wash the cars with frugal buckets of water hard at work doing their best to keep the aging Mercedes fleet clean and on the road. Never mind that you could see through the bottom of the floor or you could not open the doors because the handles had come off. Mohommad picked us up to take us to our next destination down the coast. Moulay Bousellham was again a sleepy village but was perched up high over the Atlantic Ocean and also along the tidal lagoon that fed into the sea. When we arrived at our accom we were gob smacked because what we had booked was a retreat away from Moroccan life…it took us by surprise. It is owned by an English woman who visits in summer for 6 months. Meanwhile she has the staff to look after it and in between it is rented out as they treat it as a B&B. It has 5 bedrooms and we had the place to ourselves. Downstairs the staff had their area and we had all of the upstairs which consisted of a huge sitting room. Both that room and our bedroom face the pounding sea. It was a divine way to end our time in Morocco. We were fed breakfasts and dinners in their dining room/sitting room by a huge roaring fire. Of course we were by the sea so we had fresh mussels and fresh fish. I still can’t believe we are here. The cost for these two days of luxury including breakfast and dinner was $100 a night and they did our laundry. A B&B like this in Adelaide would be $250 a night easily except you would not see the Atlantic Ocean. Walks on the beach are beautiful….only our footprints in the sand. It was a wild and woolly night. I would not like to go through a hurricane it is scary hearing the wind, rain and the pounding sea. Next morning calm seas and the rain had stopped so we decided to venture out onto the lagoon with the local bird expert in his small boat. We were told we might see flamingoes but as most had gone away not to have great expectations. It was fantastic on the water. It was very shallow in parts as the tide was turning but we managed to see about 20 different species of bird life, some tiny, some large. Hassan was excited that we could see an albino bird as they are rare. We did see a flamingo up very close as it was feeding and 5 others in the distance. Hassan is a self taught expert on the bird life in the lagoon and he does the bird count every time he takes someone out. He lamented the extinction of some birds since he has been there but the saving of others. The fact that the farmers are taking over more of the birds habitat is a world wide problem as well. He really loves what he does. I don’t think I have ever written the blog in a more serene place than this. I just wish the kids and grandkids are here to share it. They would love wandering on the reef at low tide as we did. Watching the local kids harvesting the mussels off the rocks. The things kids do here in Morocco would make the young ones eyes pop out. We will have fun telling them when we return next week. I was just thinking about the fact in some places where there is nothing to do it is boring in others it is restful. Why is it so? The sun sets on a fantastic 4 weeks in one of the most amazing countries that we have visited. We managed to do it all on our own..it was easy. Never did we feel out of our depth. It exceeded our expectations as well. We certainly emersed ourselves in everyday life thanks to our new couchsurfer friends. A huge thank you to all of you for answering all of our questions it helped us understand Islam and the Koran a little. We ate the Moroccan way. We hope we respected the people and their customs. We will certainly miss the laid back way of life and the tagines and the couscous, the beaches and the Medinas... lost count of those we visited but most of all we will miss that early morning call to prayer from high up in the Minarets of all the villages, towns and cities we visited. m'assalama (goodbye with peace)