Oahu

Our first full day in Waikiki and Chris had some family members arriving, so I left her to meet and greet them and I sat on the balcony and watched the surfers before hitting the shops.

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Last time we were in Oahu this shopping centre was a market.  Now they’ve built the whole indoor/outdoor centre around the existing trees – it’s quite lovely.

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A couple of items were purchased, and a few, like this lovely bag that I loved, had to stay in the shop.  It it doesn’t fit in the suitcase, it can’t come home with me, so if there are any shop owners in WA who might like to think about stocking this bag (Nic @IvyVibe) just sayin’ you’d have a ready made purchaser.

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We met up with some members of Chris’ family, including her brother Peter, his wife Kay and their two adorable boys Noah and Wes who I have been bumping into all across the United States!  They were there in Miami when ML and I first landed… they were there on our first couple of nights in New York… they caught up with Jodie and me in San Fran and so it seemed fitting that they be there on my last couple of nights in Hawaii.  I don’t want to use the word stalkers, but if the stalking shoe fits….. 😉

They were staying down the beach a little bit.

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At the bottom of their hotel was this sign – it’s my official clubhouse!

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This morning we hit the Botanical Gardens which was really interesting… lots of beautiful flowers and amazingly HUGE trees…


It’s hard to get a good photo though when somebody wanders into your shot.

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This tree is 125 years old apparently.

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It was so tall and would have been awesome to climb if I were a little younger and more skilled at climbing.

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This tree grew sausages.  I’m not sure how they’d go on a bit of bread with tomato sauce though.

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After the gardens we hit the shops at the Ala Moana Centre which has everything from Target to Cartier (darl).  There is even a Tesla show room.

This was my favourite sight at the centre today.

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After dinner I said my goodbyes to the cousins and Chris and I headed into one more shop before going home to do the final pack.  This place is a real retro American diner.  It was fantastic.  There was even a lady there seating people with a Pink Ladies jacket on…. it’s possible she was one of the original Pink Ladies from the first Grease movie.

So, now I’m all packed up and ready to hit the road (or the air) in the morning.  My luggage packed up to be a lot lighter than I anticipated which is a good thing – no more broken back muscles pulling cases up the stairs (while your sister films it and laughs at your efforts)

I can’t quite believe that the trip is finished.  It certainly feels like I’ve been travelling for as long as I have, but I could keep going.  Having said that, I am looking forward to seeing my beautiful lady friends on my return to Perth and then my lovely family in Broome.

A big thank you goes to ML who was the initiator and the driving force behind this journey; My sister, Jodie for making the trip over and sharing the train ride and the amazing scenery with me; My cousin, Chris for exploring Kauai and Oahu with me and to my other cousins, Peter and Kay for popping up at nearly every stop I made, sharing stories and exchanging travel tips over some lovely meals and giving me a chance to get to know Noah and Wes a lot more…. AND – let’s not forget how this whole trip started, back in April – the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast with Madds and my Team Australia buddies – that seems like it could have been the 2014 Games it seems so long ago!

You are all lovely and this trip wouldn’t have been the same without any single one of you, so thank you.

One last thank you goes to you – my Shell Collection readers who have been following along with me.  This blog is not only a place for me to store my memories, but is written with you in mind to enjoy, so I certainly hope you have done just that.

Now it’s time for me to go to sleep because I have to be up tomorrow at the crack!

Until next time……

The Hula Hula Highway

Farewell to Mary Beth and to her cozy cottage… we had a bit of rain overnight and this morning these lovely chaps came out to see us off and help us with our luggage. These were by far the biggest snails I have ever seen and their shells were quite lovely.

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They were being so helpful on the steps that I thought I’d move them into the garden in case they got squished.

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We stopped at Haleiwa Bowls for brekky…

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Chris had this divine looking bowl…

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And I had one of these numbers…. Delish!

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I thought it would be easier to hold and drink whilst I drove, but it was a lot thicker than anticipated, so we headed to the beach down the road to eat/drink our breakfast and since it was low tide we had a little walk along the beach and collected a bit of sea glass while we were at it.  Chris found this lovely frangipani and it came of the journey with us, tucked neatly in the air-conditioning vent – it lasted most of the day offering a wonderful aroma each time we blasted the air con.

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We stopped off at the turtle beach in the hop that we might see some turtles…. but it was low tide and we deduced that they perhaps wait until it’s high tide so they don’t have to walk over the rocks to get to the sand… we also weren’t sure if turtles have a laying season… it seems that we didn’t really know much about turtles except that they sometimes come up onto this beach – except for today.

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I’d think walking up these rocks on your tummy when you only have flippers to pull you along would be awkward and painful.

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Next stop was Waimea Bay to check out the surf…. but when we drove around the bend, there were 2 sail boats moored there in the flat calm water – which gives the indication that there was no swell, therefore no surf.  So we moved on up the coast to Pipeline, which was also looking pretty flat…

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… except for the odd wave and about 3 surfers trying their best.

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Then we were on the road again heading around the island, stopping at little beaches like this when we could.

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This is Chris in her happy place…

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For good sea glass collecting, one needs a beach with stones and a bit of surf pushing the waves back and forth – bringing in the goods with each wave…. like this glass marble in this photo – that I only noticed when I looked at the photo.  I didn’t see it at the time – damn it!

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We did find some lovely pieces though.

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Down the coast a little bit and we came to the Chinaman’s Hat.

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We were trying to be tricky with our photography and do a bit of panoramic work where one person appears twice in the shot, but somehow this happened…

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Here’s another version of how that shot can work…

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This side of the island can get a bit blustery so these poor palms get shunted from one side…

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Our next bit of master photo trickery is trying to make it look like I was putting the hat on my head – the problem here was that because the glare made it impossible to see what was on the screen – so I think it worked perfectly considering….

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There are a couple of little towns on the east coast and it would have been remiss of us not to visit them and have a look around the shops….  Here is Chris modelling the outfit that will be worn by Miss Hawaii in the Miss America Pageant.  Miss Hawaii wants world peace and her perfect date is the 4th of July.

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The plan for the afternoon was to head over to Waikiki, drop Chris and the luggage off at our hotel, then I would drop the car off and walk back.  It wasn’t too far away from what we could tell.  I got Chris to set the GPS for me before I drove away, but as I turned onto the street the GPS lady said “You have reached your destination.”  Confused, I took the next turn and tried to find somewhere to pull off the road to enter in the details again, but they took me straight back to the same place – out the front of a hotel with no driveway or a place to stop.  I thought the entrance must be on the other side.  So around the block I went again navigating the one way streets, but all I could see was 4 big tour buses and nowhere for me to stop or pull in.  I was becoming increasingly concerned as I had no WIFI and I knew Chris was waiting for me in the foyer with all the bags.  Around I went again, this time noticing the entrance to the Hyatt was on the side of the building rather than the back, but I was in the wrong lane to pull in there, so around again and this time I made it into drive way.  “Is this the Hertz drop off?” I asked a helpful chap.  “No, but you’re soooo close”, he answered as if he was willing me to get me to guess the location…. but he gave fantastic instructions and away I went again – it turns out that I had passed the driveway to the underground garage with the tiny “Hertz” sign, but it was blocked by 4 big buses!  This whole journey should have taken about 5 minutes, but I turned up back at the hotel over an hour later….. Hertz will be getting a stern letter from me regarding perhaps putting the correct address of their drop off points on their paperwork and website or maybe Theresa could have just given me a map showing me where the drop off was rather than regaling me with stories of her almost international netball career!

Poor Chris had made it up to our room, but had already been down stairs out on the street in search of her long lost cousin.  She was about to go back down to look again when I appeared in the lift being talking at by a Russian lady – in Russian, my obvious confusion and shrugged shoulders did not deter her from babbling on in Russian… I was tired, dishevelled and in need of a drink and a debrief.  The Russian lady walked ahead of us to her room and waved at me before closing her door.  I think we are best friends now – I’m not sure. Chris immediately ordered the drinks and I got to talking about my ordeal…. I was not expecting any of the event of this afternoon.

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Just being by the ocean had a wonderful calming effect and once the story had been told, we were able to laugh about it.  What a drama!

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Here’s the first of our lovely Waikiki sunsets…

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We popped downstairs to the Hula grill for dinner for a small bite including this pineapple creme brûlée.  As our dessert arrived a man who was standing in between our table and the one next to us chatting to the next table’s occupants – he bent over to make chatting easier, but his butt was about 5cms from Chris.  We waited a bit thinking he would realise and move, but he was not aware of his surroundings.  I said, “Excuse me sir, would you like a seat?” motioning to the bench seat next to me.  He said, “Oh, no thank you, I’m fine.”  To which I replied, “That’s great that you’re fine, but your buttocks is nearly joining us for dessert.” He laughed at the word ‘buttocks’, apologised and sat down to finish his conversation.  Eating dessert is so much more relaxing and enjoyable when you don’t have the threat of a stranger’s arse touching it!

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Then it was home to get ready for tomorrow.  Chris has a large portion of her family arriving tomorrow, so she needs to be at the ready early…. I say ‘she’ cause I’m going to the beach!

Seas the day!

Early start this morning as we had to get up, get to the airport, return the hire car, wait for the shuttle to take us to the terminal for our 8.10am flight.  I’ll have you all know that we were there in plenty of time, which is not surprising really, because Chris is a seasoned early riser and likes to get up and get going.

The flight was about 5 minutes long (we’d only just got up when we started our landing!) so we were on Oahu before 9am.  Another hire car and just let me tell you all about Theresa, the lady who served me at the hire car counter.  She enjoys netball.  So much so that her mother told her that it was becoming an obsession and that she should quit and move to Hawaii from Jamaica where she was set to become the youngest international netball player, until her mum stepped in.  Theresa resented her mother for about a year because the people here in Hawaii haven’t even heard of netball.  She also let me know about the care packages that you can have sent to you from Jamaica and if you spend more than $45, the shipping is free…. I’m not sure what you get in the care package.  And just in case you were as interested as I plainly was, let me tell you about the haunted house in Jamaica….. oh, you’re not interested?  When I hadn’t said anything, Theresa told me that I must have thought she was crazy, but when I assured her that I didn’t think that, I was just interested in picking up my car, so said, “Yeah, right – you think I’m crazy.”  If I’m honest, Theresa was a little crazy, but then again she might not get a lot of personal communication time at the car hire office at the Honolulu airport, so I let her talk it out.

Our first stop was Sand Island.  This probably isn’t on a lot of tourist brochures because it’s at the back of the industrial and shipping area, but Chris had read that there was sea glass to be found there…. and she was right – we hit the sea glass jackpot!

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From this beach we watched a number of planes come in for landing and take off…. we heard this one plane before we saw it.  It took off in an upward direction – straight up, like a rocket and then made a sharp right turn and was off on its journey.

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Here’s a close up…. something tells me that it wasn’t a passenger plane otherwise all the luggage would have ended up in the overhead compartment of row 43!

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With our ziplock bags full to the brim with jellyban shaped sea glass, we headed up the highway to the North Shore.

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Last time Chris and I were here in Hawaii with ML, Chris introduced us to the Kono pulled pork wrap – it’s pulled pork, rice, pineapple bbq sauce, avocado & sour cream all wrapped up in a flour tortilla – delicious!…. so this was our lunch destination.  If you get the pig logo tattooed on your body, you eat at Kono’s for free for life!  We thought about it.

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Next we said “Aloha” to all the new little shops in Haleiwa.  Things certainly have changed since we were last here!

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All of the shops look a little bit like this – like they’ve been there forever, even the new ones.

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It’s ok, nobody was prosecuted.

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Here are some of the lovely things on sale…. they do love a wooden sign here in Hawaii.

But… this was the funniest thing I saw today.

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There is a phenomenon here in Hawaii – shaved ice with a flavoured topping.  That is what these people are lining up for – and they weren’t the only ones – this line did not shorten the whole time we were in town.

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We were smart cookies though – we walked to the next block and bought one from there. They were quite delicious and very refreshing on a hot day.

About 3 o’clock and were due to meet up with Mary-Beth our Airbnb host…. We had the address and popped it in the GPS – Mary-Beth also sent me a pic of the GPS’d location.  However, when we arrived, and pulled onto the dirt road, there were no numbers on the few houses and we didn’t have wifi to check what the house looked like or access Mary-Beth’s phone number – also the houses that did have numbers, all had the SAME number!!!!  We drove up and down through what could only be described as “Deliverance Street” – seriously you could hear the sound of duelling banjos coming from the junk filled front yards.

There was a general consensus that we wouldn’t be staying in any of these houses and then discussion ensued as to what would be our next move.  We faffed around with trying to get our wifi to work until we gave up and drove to the new McDonalds carpark to use theirs…. we poo poo’ed the development of a McDonalds in the North Shore on the drive in, but were very grateful for the free wifi…

We got in touch with Mary-Beth who agreed to meet us up on the main road so we could follow her to the house, which turned out to the be very sweet house nowhere near Deliverance Street and was only 2 houses in from the main road.

Once we unpacked the car we drove up the coast a bit to find a beach and have a swim… we found this lovely street with very flash beach front houses that had a public beach access laneway…

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which lead down to a lovely beach, but the shallows were all rock/reef.

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So we drove back to the town beach where we saw a huge turtle frolicking in the shallows… You’ll just have to take my word for it.

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Beach swim done – it was lovely to be in the ocean again… then it was time for a quiet beverage on the verandah.  We couldn’t find any wine glasses in the kitchen, so Chris had to drink her wine straight from the bottle – we’re stayin’ classy up here on the North Shore!

Don’t go chasing waterfalls…

Day 3 in Kauai and I’m quite enjoying this lovely island.  We certainly haven’t had the weather you’d expect in Hawaii, but to be honest, the cloudy skies, cool breeze and softer temps have been welcomed.

On this small island over the past three days we have covered Hanalei and the north shore, the south coast and Waimea Canyon and today was all about the rest of the east coast and a bit of the middle.  Kauai is quite volcano-y and mountainous, so there’s only so much you can get to.

We chose the Smith Family Fern Grove Tour – run by 9 members of the Smith Family.

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You’ve got from right to left: Uncle (who was the story teller), his sister, his son (who lead the band and did most of the talking) and the captain’s wife (this was all a guess) The Captain’s wife wasn’t too fussed on interacting with the guests, but she warmed up as the cruise went on and she had a great voice.  The rest of the family included Nanna, who stayed on shore organising things, Uncle’s daughter who had hair down to her buttocks – she was one of the dancers, a random cousin who did some hula dancing and clearly hated having to get up so early to hula for people and the 9th member of the family was an American chap who helped the Captain.  Again – these were all guesses.

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We cruised along the Wailua River while the Captain gave his talk about the history of the area.  We passed this spot which is where the scene in Raider’s of the Lost Ark where Harrison Ford was running to get on the sea plane was filmed.

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Then within about 20 minutes we were at the Fern Grotto jetty.  Uncle’s sister s.l.o.w.l.y. walked us up the path.  Every now and then she would stop and wait for people to catch up – we were all half an arms distance from the person in front and behind, so there was nowhere for people to catch up to and the whole walk from boat to grotto would have taken an average walker 2-3 minutes to walk – tops – including a toilet break!.  Then she stopped to show us where the toilets were and started talking about how it was a better idea to go to the toilet in the toilets rather than behind a bush because people all have cameras and that would be embarrassing, so please use the toilets provided….. this explaination as to why we should use the toilets rather than squat behind a bush went on for a good 5 minutes.  Then the directions turned to asking people to please stay on the path rather than walking in the mud because people have fallen in the mud before and people have taken photos of them….. honestly, thank goodness we were right at the toilets otherwise we would have wet ourselves laughing at the obsurdity of it all!

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It was quite lovely walking through the lushness of the tropical rainforest.  Then we got to the grotto which was amazing.  Years ago when Uncle’s grandfather used to run the tour you used to be able to get up into the cave, but since then there have been a few hurricanes which did a fair bit of damage, so now the caves are closed and this was as close as you can get.  Apparently back in the day the ferns were so long and full that you used to walk into the cave through a curtain of ferns, but the growth that is there now is all new since the last hurricane in the early 90s.

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Uncle set himself up to commentate our viewing and once we’d taken our photos he settled in to tell us some stories about the area… like how some famous woman (I didn’t know her) visited the grotto and decided that she must get married there, so 7 months later she bought the fiancé back and they were the first people to be married in the cave which started a trend of weddings there for people from all over the world…. however the locals don’t want to get married in a cave – according to Uncle, they much prefer to go to Vegas!

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My favourite movie of all time – Blue Hawaii staring Mr Elvis A Presley was filmed in Kauai at the Coco Palms Resort, but this was wiped out in the same hurricane – Iniki in 1992.  The famous scene where guests are called to dinner with the blow of the conch shell was something that happened in real life – every night at 7.30pm for 40 years unti the hurrican hit.

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Then the family grabbed their guitars and ukuleles and played the Hawaiian Wedding Song – also made famous by Elvis in the movie.  You’ll notice the cousin at the front who doesn’t join in the singing…. in fact, my bet is that she’s questioning why she got up this morning.

We were then given about 15 minutes to wander back to the boat at our own pace taking in the beautiful flowers…


Uncle was sitting on a railing guiding people in the right direction in case they ventured the wrong way and did the small loop walk again.  I stopped there with him whilst Chris visited the facilities.  “You played the Hawaiian Wedding Song beautifully”, I said to Uncle. “Thanks”, he replied.  “Blue Hawaii is my all time favourite movie”, I shared with him.  “Is it?” he says, not really inquiring.  Then we stood in awkward silence until Chris returned.

My saviour!

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There are other ways you can get to the grotto – you can kayak, stand up paddle board, rent your own boat or do the tour….I think we chose the driest option.

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So then it was back on the boat for some more Hawaiian music and some audience participation hula lessons.

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The tour was great.  Chris and I were imagining who would play each role if this were the Brown Family Tour…. and we couldn’t quite keep a straight face when working out who in our family was going to be the hula dancers…. anyone what to put their hand up?

There are two other waterfalls on the island and we were determined to visit both of them today…. This one is just on off the main road, so nice and easy.

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And then you cross the road to this view…. that is the river we were just on.  Home base to the left and fern grotto to the right.

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Who knew that Kauai was one of the world’s wettest spots?  Well it is at the top of this peak anyway…

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Then we were on the road again bound for waterfall number 3 (number one was a the grotto – only small, but it still counts)

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And here she be!  That’s pretty speccy, isn’t it?

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Well done Kauai for turning on all the beautiful nature today. Mahalo!

I sea glass

There is one beach on Kauai – aptly named “Glass Beach” where you can find sea glass and it was definitely marked on our map for today.

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We got up at the crack so we could get to the beach (45 mins away) right at low tide (at 6.30am!!!!) You do the maths!

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There were quite a few treasures to be found on this beach which is right next to an old landfill by the sea from the 1950s.  Apparently it takes 10-30 years for the ocean to create each glass frosted jellybean like pebble.  Maybe the proximity of the landfill is why this little fella didn’t make it?

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It was such a beautiful day and we had the beach all to ourselves.

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Chris even found our breakfast! Ew!

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And I fashioned a new look for my toes – the beauty of this look is that you get to take most of it with you in the car.

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After about 2 hours filling our little zip lock bags and washing out take away coffee cups to use as a vessel for future finds we manoeuvred around the coast to the next beach which was beautiful, but not as profitable.

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A bit further onwards and we came across the historical town of Hanapepe.

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It was like a typical old country town with wide streets and old buildings with the original facades.

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This town has a suspension swing bridge which I had no intention of walking on – these things freak me out!

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Chris walked a little way out but then people from the other side started crossing which made the bridge swing and she quickly turned around and headed back to solid ground.

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Don’t swing the bridge!

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The little town is lovely and has so much history…. This shop is open all hours and could you please leave your thongs at the door – although with the state of my feet after the beach, it might be best if we left them on!

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Here’s a little walk around town.


Who is this little Niihau Shell?

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Ahhh, the Frange…

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Our next route was up to the lookout over Waimia Canyon….

Yep, that’s a letterbox a the first lookout stop.

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The view back over the ocean.  Such pretty colours.

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“Hey Shell – give us a smile.  Now look out over the ocean….. um, the ocean is behind you.”


And here’s the canyon!

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Waimia River close up.

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Last stop of the day was to Koloa for lunch… this was another sweet little town with tourist shops and cafes.  This little fella and his buddy came to join us for lunch and posed quite happily for these shots.

 

Chris did all the driving today (and yesterday…. and will be again tomorrow) and she did an amazing job.  It was a gorgeous drive back out to the main road through all the trees which reminded us of that road between Margaret River and Yallingup in WA.

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Home to clean and sort all the sea glass.

Again – some of these photos belong to Chris – and I thank her for the loan.

Puff the Magic Dragon

So last night I landed in Kauai via Ohua and my lovely cousin Chris (some of you may remember her from other adventures such as “Kiki in the Greek Islands” and “You can take the girl out of Gero”) was waiting for me at baggage claim with a lei at the ready.  She had arrived in Hawaii a week earlier and had explored Maui and a bit of Ohua and arrived in Kauai this morning.

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I got in quite late, so after a bit of chatter and catching up, we were lights out and eyes shut.  We don’t have aircon in our room, but it was lovely sleeping with the door open and listening to the waves and the rain.We’re staying on the east coast at a place called Kapaà and though this would be central to explore the rest of the island.  The rain still hadn’t moved on, so this morning we had this view one minute…
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Then this about 2.5 seconds later… The women doing yoga had scattered.
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Our mission on the leg of the journey is to scour the beaches for all the sea glass we can find.  With a small break in the rain we took the opportunity to get down to the beach in front of our hotel to do a spot of searching….
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We were happily doing a bit of collecting when the rain hit again…. we sought shelter under these waterproof trees, but it was still a little chilly.
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Time to hit the road and today we’re heading north to the land of Hanalei.  Some of you might recognise the name from the song made popular by Peter, Paul and Mary in the early 60s…
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Some people thought that it was a song was about smoking the marijuana…. all the signs were there – the word “paper’ (as in Jackie Paper) was said to be a reference to rolling papers; the words ‘puff’ and ‘dragon’ was interpreted as ‘taking a puff’ or ‘draggin’ – meaning to inhale smoke.  Both authors of the song said, “No it’s not!” and that case was quickly closed.

I don’t know…. you tell me.

Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee,
Little Jackie paper loved that rascal puff,
And brought him strings and sealing wax and other fancy stuff. Oh

Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee,
Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee.

Together they would travel on a boat with billowed sail
Jackie kept a lookout perched on puffs gigantic tail,
Noble kings and princes would bow whene’are they came,
Pirate ships would lower their flag when puff roared out his name. Oh!

Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee,
Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee.

Dragons live forever but not so little boys
Painted wings and giant’s rings make way for other toys.
One grey night it happened, Jackie Paper came no more
And Puff that mighty dragon, he ceased his fearless roar.

His head was bent in sorrow, green scales fell like rain,
Puff no longer went to play along the cherry lane.
Without his life-long friend, puff could not be brave,
So puff that mighty dragon sadly slipped into his cave. Oh!

Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee,
Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee.

Written by: Leonard Lipton & Peter Yarrow
Performed by: Peter, Paul & Mary

For some reason Kauai is overrun with chooks.  They are everywhere – all different types.  They seem to just run free in the wilderness… and in the supermarket car park.  We pulled into a scene lookout today and were witness to this scene – three chooks were standing, evenly spaced, staring at the wall while the two chooks at either end looked to be keeping guard over them while this little light brown one was pacing, probably giving some sort of speech about his political beliefs and how all chooks need to fall in line if they are to continue to roam free on the island. It was quite surreal.

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We drove down some lovely roads trying to get off the main road whenever we could…

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One such road lead us to this beach…

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It was covered with coconuts and driftwood…

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There was a massive storm here in April and a lot of the roads were washed away – this was probably one of them.  It’s down to one lane.

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A bit further north was the Kilauea Lighthouse and wildlife refuge.

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We stopped off at every little beach we could along the way…

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In search of lovely sea glass…

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No sea glass here…

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We finally made it to Hanalei and found out that the road beyond the town was also washed away in the storms.  Only local traffic are allowed through there – which meant, not us… so we hung around town for some lunch and some retail therapy.

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We did manage to find our way down to Hanalei Bay, but the overcast day didn’t make it look as gorgeous as it really is.

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Looking back in the other direction was a little better.  It’s amazing what a bit of sunshine can do…

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One the way back we stopped off at some lookout points…. apparently Jurassic Park was filmed here in the islands – I bet one of the scenes was here.  Here’s a website with all the movies that have been filmed here:  Avatar… Tropic Thunder… The Thorn Birds!
https://filmkauai.com/movies-television-shows-filmed-kauai/

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This is looking back down Hanalei Bay

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And I guess if you quint a little bit, the mountains do look a little bit like a dragon… sort of.

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With all the driftwood here you’d never have to fear being stranded on the island…. a makeshift boat is only a tube of glue and a ball of string away.

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And if you ever need to make sound effects like that of a cantering horse…..

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5,039 miles away from home (well it’s actually 10,800km from my home if we want to be semi accurate)

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And let that be a lesson to all you other sharks out there….

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 I can’t work out which one suits me better….

Some of the photos in today’s blog post are the work of Chris Dobson – she knows which ones she took.

That’s all folks!

Ever since I was 12 years old when my Mum & Dad went to LA on a trip, I’ve wanted to go to Universal Studios.  I remember looking through their old chemist printed photos of Jaws coming out of the water and thought it was just amazing.

Well this time I going to get to go myself…. but as I read more and more about what was on offer at Universal the more I thought – ‘you know what, I don’t need to go there.’  You see, I’m not into rides and I’m not too keen on the Fast and the Furious franchise (never having seen any of the 13 films), I’ve also seen the Water World show once before at Sea World and I’d already done the Warner Bros Harry Potter experience in London…. so the only thing that was left to see was the Jaws thing and that didn’t appear like it had changed since 1982.

So I hummed and harred about what I would do, but then decided on the Warner Bros Studio Tour.

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I didn’t actually realise that so many shows were made on the WB lots – Friends, The Big Bang Theory, Murphy Brown, Gilmore Girls, Full House and now Fuller House and of course The Ellen Show.  Then there are movies such as My Fair Lady, Rebel Without a Cause, Gravity, Harry Potter and then most of the super hero stuff.

The tour took us around the back lots where some of the shows had their stages set up and also the street scapes where they shoot the outside scenes.

You have Patsy’s Pies from Shameless…

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A generic City Hall building…

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Stage 25 is where the Big Bang Theory is filmed.  We weren’t allowed to take any photos in there, but the two apartments were set up as well as the foyer area where the lift and stairs are.  They shoot over 5 days – day 1 the cases do a table read, day 2 they do a run through, day 3 they do a rehearsal where the lawyers attend so they can see if there is any content in the script that might offend/contradict any of their sponsors… for eg: they couldn’t eat a pizza and get food poisoning, then go to a commercial for Pizza Hut – so some jokes are rewritten if they don’t fit in with the sponsors.  This is a reason that they are always eating Chinese or Thai food on the show because those restaurants are generally not advertising on TV.  Then day 4 they have a technical rehearsal with an audience where they test out the jokes and if there are no laughs, they rewrite the jokes until they do laugh…. then day 5 they film in front of a new audience.

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Can’t think which show this book shop is from, but it looks familiar…

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Remember the episode in Friends where Ross became “Red Ross” in order to impress his girlfriend/wife, Emily by playing Rugby?  This is where it happened.

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These A frames covered in bushes are used to block other buildings…

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Here’s the ‘town square’ – the gazebo is on wheels, so it can be moved out and some other monument put there to depict a new town.

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Some houses.  I think these are from Gilmore Girls – I never watched it, so I’m not sure but there was a girl on our tour who we dubbed “Gilmore Girl” because she knew everything about the show and thought that she was on a private tour with the guide.

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So this house looks like this on one side….

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….. and it looks like this on the other side!

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Rose Wood – this was actually used in the dance scene at Rydell High in Grease.

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Phil’s Bar from Murphy Brown.  Apparently they are bringing this show back.  I don’t know why writers can’t come up with new ideas.  Don’t get me wrong, I mean I loved Murphy Brown…. back in the 80s, but come on.

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The house from Full House and now, Fuller House.

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This is called New York Street where they film the scenes meant to be in New York.

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Then we were taken to the Harry Potter/Fantastical Beasts & Justice League costume displays.  I know Wonder Woman and obviously Superman, but I’m not to familiar with the rest of the League….


Some of the facades in the street scapes were just painted on which to the naked eye looked obvious, but when viewed through a camera, it looked 3D… I think the 2 men standing there were real, but in a magical place like this, you can’t be too sure.

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When a popular show finally finishes their run – like Friends, the stage gets a plaque celebrating the show.  Ellen’s show is recorded in Studio 1 and she already has her plaque.  Apparently when The Big Bang Theory finishes, they’ll get one too.

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Then we were driven through The Mill which is where the sets are made….

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Want to see the Batman cars?  There was a young chap (about 18) on our tour travelling with his Mum and brother.  He was offered the chance to switch on the bat signal, so as Mum was holding up the phone to film it, he made an excellent production of running in from the side and shouting “Batman – where are you?  We need you!” and flicked the switch.  Our group applauded him as his mother said, “I don’t think I pressed record.”

Next was the interactive area with costumes and green screens and audio talks, etc…..  It was the first time I saw Ellen the whole day – I think she may have been avoiding me.

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This area paid tribute to the writers and editors and storyboard drawers, etc….

Piles of screenplays…

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Penelope Pittstop…

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Storyboards showing how a show like Shameless follows its story lines for each character….

There were costumes from Ocean’s 8…

Then it was time to line up and have your photo taken on the Friend’s couch…

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There were the old time classics…

And the new technical green screen types of movies…

Here we have Phoebe’s guitar from Friends, a real life Oscar and one of the Warner brother’s hardback script collections…

These are some of the items that you can buy in the gift shop…

The Friends’s door (you can’t actually buy the whole door, but this was a cupboard in the gift shop – you can buy a fridge magnet of the frame though… which I did)

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A magnetic set of Sheldon dress ups…

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Or a complete set of robes from each house of Hogwarts… there were a number of kids walking around in these robes (I wasn’t one of them….. or was I?)

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Then you can purchase the wand of your favourite character.

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There was one last chance to purchase a beverage at Central Perk…

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Then you were shuttled back to the main gate.  The whole tour was great, but there was a definite rush to it, with a so much to see, so little time vibe about it.  I didn’t see a single famous person and we were told if we did spot one we’re meant to treat them like an animal in the wild – don’t approach them and don’t make eye contact or sudden movements.

Next to our apartment is Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffle House – there is a line up every day to get in there and today was no different…. however what was a little different was this group of people – there were huddled together around a chap and they all had their hands on him and they were chanting…. were they praying for a table to become available at Roscoes?

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And then my time in LA had come to an abrupt end.  I had a fantastic Uber driver who happily chatted all the way to the airport and eagerly helped me with ALL my cases.  Thank you Emmanual from El Savador.

See you mainland USA – it’s been great.

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Aloha Hawaii….. it’s down there somewhere.

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La La Land…

I think you either love LA or you don’t…. I’ve only been here once before (25 years ago!) and stayed in a lovely house with a lovely family in “The Valley”.  We only went into the city once to do the touristy Hollywood Boulevard to see the stars and handprints, and a drive around the hills to see if we could find Madonna’s house – which we did, but then we got out of the city and saw Malibu and Disneyland which was much nicer and probably gave me a rose coloured sense of what was on offer here…. then again things could have changed somewhat in all those years.

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This time we are staying in walking distance of Hollywood Boulevard and you can see the Hollywood sign from the end of our street and I have to say, aside from our gorgeous Parisian oasis of an apartment, the area we’re in is not flash.  We Ubered through some lovely areas near Beverley Hills yesterday to do some shopping, but it is a vast contrast.

Here’s our lovely house… the Parisian Suite at Villa Delle Stelle “House of the Stars”


Apparently it was decorated by Brogan Lane who was once married to Dudley Moore.  One of the five villas has been decorated with all things Dudley including an upright piano that Duds himself liked to play.  Our apartment was inspired by Grace Kelly.


Yesterday, we visited the Old Farmer’s Market at The Grove – an outdoor shopping mall.  The Farmer’s Market is an open air market with permanent stalls.  It’s been going since 1934, but the history goes back to 1880 when a bloke and his business partner purchased what was a dairy farm, then they tried drilling for water, but they struck oil instead.  Their business grew and grew including a sports stadium, a baseball field and a drive in theatre and they built a central marketplace where local farmers could see their wares.  And now they’ve built a lovely outdoor mall called The Grove and attached it to the Farmer’s Market and the whole thing is quite civilised.

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Usually there is an old fashioned trolley that takes you from one end of the The Grove to the entrance of the Market, but today we saw it tucked up in its shed.

(Not my photo)
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Here’s the olde’ fashioned petrol station – probably on the site where they first accidentally drilled for oil.

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All the food shops in the Market had names like – Phil’s Deli & Grill…

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Charlie’s…

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Bob’s Coffee & Doughnuts…

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It was still pretty early, but if it’s like anywhere else we’ve been, we’ll bring the crowd.

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There are some lovely shops there but as we were looking for particular things we headed over to the Westfield shopping centre which was also an outdoor mall – items were purchased and then when we were ready to head home we were directed to the “Uber Lounge” – have you ever heard of such a thing?  Very civilised!


Dinner was another recommendation by Caroline in the office of a place on Hollywood Boulevard called Wood and Vine.  There was one table left in the courtyard and it had an ok vibe about it.

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It was described as a sharing dish establishment which was fine by us, except that all the dishes that we ordered were just one serving – ie: a plate of salmon on mashed potato with beans, Big enough for two, but served as if it were for one person.  We just cut it in half and split it, which is fine, but weird.

This morning we did a walk up in the foothills of the Hollywood Hills – suggested by the compendium and the lady in the office. It took us up and around some lovely old houses where some famous people used to live.

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The only name I recognised was Charlie Chaplin, and even then we couldn’t find which one was his.  A lot of the houses were old-time Hollywood glamour that have seen far better days.

There could have been a wonderful view of the city and across LA from some of these places, but LA was shrouded in fog (smog) today…

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As part of our walk we stopped in at the Cafe 101 – a kitschy, retro place where the hipsters go.  It was an authentic American diner with stools at the bar and booths and the building looked like it had been designed by Mike Brady – with sloped roof and everything.

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Today, besides the walk, has been a getting ready to go day.  We’re downloading podcasts for the plane and packing and repacking… I had a slightly heavy case leaving New York and our B&B in Denver and our Parisian Oasis in LA have both been upstairs… lots of stairs.  I’m not sure if you’ve ever tried to get a 32kg case up stairs on your own, but it does not do wonders for your back.  Yes, I know and I agree, 32kgs is too much stuff, but I have been away for a long time and across a couple of seasons & climates and I’ve done a tiny bit of purchasing, so after this…..


I was forced to purchase another case as I am flying Hawaiian tomorrow and they only allow 23kg cases…

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So, we never heard from Ellen and I must say that I’m a little disappointed.  However I understand that there are probably millions of people from all over the world, even here in LA who have tried for years to get tickets to one of her shows. Still…. it’s a little bit selfish on her part.

I did see her star though (which looked a little smeared) and I’ve booked myself on a Warner Bros tour tomorrow, so maybe I’ll just casually bump into her, cause that could happen.

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Jodie leaves on her flight to Melbourne tonight and I must say that even though I’m ready to get out of LA, I will miss her being in the next room. Not so much that I won’t jump in to sleep in that room next door as soon as her case is down those stairs…. can you blame me?  Just like all good siblings do – we took turns at having ‘the good room’ in each place we stayed.

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We have a back door in the apartment that just goes down to some parking bays, but I opened it up today and would you look what I saw….

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That’s right – if you squint hard enough, you can see the Hollywood sign.

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The last train…

It was overcast and cloudy when we said goodbye to our lovely little San Francisco Airbnb…. the train was going to be on time – damn it! so no Chloe’s Cafe croissant french toast covered in strawberries for us this morning.  Our little apartment was down the right side of the house and round the back.

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We boarded the train and made sure that we got seats on the right hand side as that is where all the scenery was going to be – although we didn’t hit the coast until quite a few hours into the trip.

We did travel through quite a bit of marsh land…

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Then miles and miles and miles of vegetables – like so many miles that you’d think that this stretch of California was feeding the entire country.  There were all sorts of things growing from cabbage to strawberries and lots of people working hard picking them.

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Kay had mentioned to us that there were oil fields on the way, but I wasn’t quite sure what to picture – well, this is it – little oil pumps for a few miles.,,,

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There were rolling hills and a few lakes and then finally – The Pacific.

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This was wonderful as the train got quite close to the edge of the cliffs in some parts…

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The water was a little disappointing though.  It was a bit murky today with lots of floating weed.  There were still people swimming and surfing in it though.  Maybe this was a good day?

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There were a few trees along the way that made us think of home – Geraldton in particular!

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And a few boats were parked just off shore and we wondered if they were the coast guard.  Just like at home, there’s a fair bit of coast for them to guard!

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Here’s one of the little bridges we went over.

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And this was our view as we went over it…

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A pier…

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And people on the beach waving at the train – happy to say that all pants were kept pulled up this time.

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We stopped at few towns with unfamiliar names, but then we stopped at Santa Barbara and I know that both Oprah and Ellen live not far from there…. This house was right next to the train station – I don’t think either lady lives in this house, but we were close.

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They actually live up in them thar hills…  We were hoping to snag some tickets to a taping of Ellen while we were here and I applied ages ago, but we’ve heard nothing and Ellen has been in Africa with her gorilla foundation, so it just wasn’t meant to be.  I still may go to Warner Bros Studios though and just pretend I was there.

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We packed the best picnic for our 12 hour train journey….. baguette, cheese, artichoke & spinach dip, cheese puffs, some chocolate a couple of bits of fruit and strawberries….. this was all that was left.  Don’t worry, we ate that too!

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The journey was long, but it wasn’t that bad – there was lots of interesting things to look at and we saw some deer along the way.  However, by the 11th hour we were both ready to get off and into our new abode in Hollywood.

And that was our last train journey.

I can highly recommend to anybody wanting to travel across the states via train.  It was comfortable and interesting with amazing scenery.  The train can run very late, but it  actually worked in our favour most times because we didn’t have to be anywhere at a certain time and it gave us more time in the place we were in, so as long as you’re flexible – it’s a bonus.

Sittin’ on the dock of the bay

Remember my cousin, Pete, his wife, Kay and their kiddies, Noah and Wes?  Well they’re going to meet us in San Fran today.  They’re driving an RV around the US – that’s a Recreational Vehicle for those not in the know.

We stated our day at Chloe’s Cafe just around the corner from our Airb&b.

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It had a great write up and opened at 8am.  Jodie likes to get up and get going and today I was thankful that she did because we arrived at Chloe’s at 7.45am, so she wasn’t quite open yet, but there was a sign in sheet at the front door and small groups of people were starting to arrive and mill around.  We were about 3rd on the list and when 8am came around, the whole restaurant filled up with people left waiting outside.  There were only about 8 tables in the whole place, so it didn’t take much.

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Chloe’s is sweet, and retro and kitsch.

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We ordered our egg dishes, but then we noticed that people had all ordered not only their own egg dishes, but also a plate of the croissant french toast covered with entire punnet of strawberries!  We couldn’t even finish our eggs but we thought very seriously about ordering a plate to share…. the thoughts became more fleeting as our eggs reached our stomachs, and we were on our way – praying that our train would be late enough tomorrow to come back here again.

We weren’t meeting the Browns until after lunch so we popped down to the Fisherman’s Wharf to have a little look before the crowds got down there.  That’s my boat down there – Lucky Lady.

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I’m not sure where the Barbary Coast Trail takes you, but I think we walked a bit of it as we headed for a good vantage point to see the Golden Gate Bridge.  I asked our Uber driver where the best place was to view it and he said, from 12 o’clock onward when the fog has lifted.  I think my question might have been lost in the accented translation.

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But it turned out that he was correct.  This is the most underwhelming photo I’ve ever seen of the GG Bridge.

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They do have some impressive gulls here though.

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And the best looking maritime museum – it’s shaped like a boat!

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We had a bit of specialised shopping to get done so we followed my expert guidance up and down some more super steep hills… You’d think I would have learned yesterday!

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But we did find some fabulous treasures along the way…. check out this person’s front door!!!  They’re snake heads – very GoT!

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And this little park actually looked like somebody’s back yard, but it was a public space which we took full advantage of and had a little sit down half way up a huge incline.

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But then the top of the incline was this – the bottom of Lombard Street, the curviest street in the world.  It’s much more picturesque form the bottom!

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Headed into the suburb of North Beach for a final spot of purchasing and looking at more street art…  This was where all the Italian resaturants were. It’s funny how you the areas are so distinct here… cross a street and youre surrounded by a completely different culture.

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These peeps doing the chalk drawings were part of a street festival we found.

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Then it was over to the Golden Gate Park to meet up with Pete, Kay, Noah and Wes.  I hadn’t seen them since they left New York and Jodie hadn’t seen them for a good 10 months or so, so we were very excited to hang out.

Because we had walked the length and breadth of San Fran yesterday, we thought it was a good idea to meet in the children’s playground giving the boys a chance to run around and play whilst the slightly bigger kids sat under a tree and caught up.

It sort of worked out like that, except Jodie ended up playing chasey with the boys for hours – she’s got more energy and stamina than me – that’s for sure!

Getting a bit hungry, we took a little walk down Height Street in the Heights Ashbury area – made famous by Mr Harvey Milk back in the day, but it wasn’t terribly appropriate for the little ones… although I’m sure Wes didn’t even notice, as he only had eyes for Jodie!

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We called an Uber and headed back to our Noe valley hood to a Greek place we knew was awesome.

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Dinner had been of the Duplex variety – we sat at 4.50pm and dinner didn’t even start until 5pm, but they let us sit early….

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Then after dinner it was still daylight so we went for a walk back down to Dolores Park and to this fantastic little supermarket to buy some supplies for the train journey tomorrow.

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Not sure what’s happening with our glasses here Kay….. ? #slightoverlap

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Obligatory funny face photo at the request of Noah & Wes.

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The boys showing us how steep the street is…. hang on, you’ll slide down!

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Love a bit of house art…. there are even metal branches screwed to the guttering – that’s taking it all the way.

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I mean, that’s ridiculous!

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We got to Dolores Park just at the right time – the light and temp were perfect.  It was a Sunday and also Father’s Day in the USA, so there were families and friends having picnics and sitting enjoying the sunshine.

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Another wonderful catch up with this gorgeous family…. I think I’d like to do it again, say… next week?  In Hawaii?

I left my heart…. in San Francisco

Again, we were pulling into our destination station a few hours later than expected, but easily picked up an Uber and headed over to San Fran and to our lovely little AirB&B in the suburb of Noe Valley.

The weather had turned a little chilly since we left the mountains, and San Fran wasn’t looking too inviting with her low clouds and her fog.  The forecast says it’s going to be like this all weekend!

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We found our house and with fabulous instructions found a key and let ourselves in.  Just up the road is a bustling spot for restaurants and shops, so we stopped at a Greek place called Novy, sat in the window and watched the world go by whilst we feasted on moussaka, beans and a yummy chard dish.  It’s good dining with my sister, she always suggests the yummy things.

This was the view out the restaurant window.

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Then we walked home around the block to look at some different houses.

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So, slept well and up early for another day (honestly ML – you wouldn’t believe how early I’m getting up!!!)  She was a little chilly this morning, so had to pull out the old sweater I purchased back at the alligator park in Florida – remember that?  That feels like a decade ago now!

As chilly as she was – the clouds were gone and the sun was shining – a perfect day!  In my next career change I’m going to be a weather lady – just guessing the weather!

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Today we walked 14.7kms and I’d like you to be aware of the steep hill situation in San Fran… look at this incline!  This wasn’t even the steepest.

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There were some gorgeous little yards as we walked around.

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As we crossed Dolores Street and things changed.  We were now in the Mission District and I do remember from my trip 25 years ago, that we stayed in the Mission District and I recall our friend, who lived there, ‘don’t go beyond ?????? Street – it’s not safe!”  I’m now thinking it could have been Dolores Street.

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I didn’t take any photos in that area because it just didn’t seem appropriate or safe, so we quickly turned the corner and headed in a different direction.

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I love the houses here.  Everywhere you look there’s another gorgeous house more gorgeous than the last.

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And a bit of random post art…

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And some lovely pavement address art…

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And more beautiful houses on ridiculously steep streets!

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Here’s your garage art…

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Jodie had been reading in the Lonely Planet about some famous murals in the Mission District.  We weren’t quite sure where they were, but then we as we were following our noses through the streets, we randomly came across the best mural of them all – the Women’s Building.

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Then there were some more lovely houses….. take a closer look in the upstairs window.

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Ok…..

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Here’s a bit of pavement art that I thought might have been a Banksy, but was informed by cousin that “Banksy doesn’t do the ground.” So I obviously just witnessed some other budding artist’s work.

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To give ourselves a little break from the hills we reached Market Street, a main thoroughfare with trolley buses a plenty ….

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… and we jumped on, mastering the online ticketing system as we went.

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Look at us, happy as Larry to be on the trolley bus.

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There was a bit of architecture that we were interested in seeing along the way, so we jumped off at the public library thinking we would walk a bit more giving us a good chance to see the lovely buildings, but it appeared that we had jumped off at the most insalubrious area.  We both felt immediately uncomfortable and jumped straight on the next trolley that came along – about 30 seconds later and rode until we hit a safer looking area.

Have you ever seen fatter pigeons than these?

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We were now in the shopping precinct and popped into Marshalls which is sort of like the US version of Marks & Spencer (sort of) and purchased a couple of items…. however these were not one of them – in fact, these made my toes feel weird and I hadn’t even taken my own shoes off.

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Marshalls sits underneath this flatiron building, which coincedently is one of the buildings we were hoping to see.

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And right outside of Marshalls was this chap.  He was crooning to some old time classics sounding a bit like Michael Bublè.  I say good on you if you can rock a waist coat and tricky daks!

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This is also the area where you can catch the cable car.  These are famous in SF and on the one time Me Jenny came to San Fran (years ago) she really wanted to ride the cable cars, but they weren’t running… so we were determined to ride one just for her.  However as this was the start people were lining up – like about 60+ people, so this photo was going to have to do.

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We zigzagged around the streets and ended up in Chinatown…. past the Willy ‘woo woo” Wong Playground.

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and smack into a Chinatown dragon dancer’s festival.

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These are the spare dragon heads…

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The crosswalk is a chinese design – very cool.  This is apparently the biggest Chinatown outside of China.  We noted that it felt like a ‘real’ Chinatown in that it wasn’t just Chinese restaurants, but that people were actually living there.  It felt authentic.

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After Chinatown our mission was to make to the top of Lombard Street, the curviest street in the world.  To get there we had to hike up several massively huge steep hills, plus an enormous amount of stairs (Madeline, you would have been so proud of me!)

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(This is not my photo – I was concentrating too hard on putting one foot in front of the other to take any photos.)

Once we got to the top though – this was our view….. That’s Alcatraz in the distance!

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And here’s a close up…

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And in the other directions…

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The top is called Russian Hill and it’s very fancy with its big houses and even bigger views.

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I love wandering around and finding random treasures along the way… We had to pop into a little pizza place to use their bathroom and the waiter was so lovely and helpful.  On the way out he wished us a pleasant day and suggested we have ourselves an ice-cream from Swensen’s – the original sherbet ice-cream place up on the corner.  It felt rude not to.

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Then with ice creams in hand we made it to the top of Lombard Street with about 6,000 other people all taking photos and walking up and down.  Cars were driving down with the passenger filming the whole experience.  This photo doesn’t look like there’s many people, but they must all be behind me.

I felt terrible for the local people who live here – this must be constant.  One young lady who I don’t think understood a lot of English was asked by a security guard not to climb up on the balconies – as they are private property.  She just giggled.  Apparently she was up on the second floor!

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The top even needs two traffic cops directing the traffic – it’s mayhem!

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We were going to walk to the bottom, but we realised that the cable car rode along the top, and we didn’t want to walk back up again, so we had a quick look and then waited for the cable car.

We rode it all the way down to the bottom.  Some would ask why we didn’t ride the cable car up the hill and then walk down and sure, you can ask that if you like.  It’s a very good question, but we had a lovely day and our feet, knees and legs don’t want to think about it anymore.

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Being the San Fran transport experts that we are now, we got off the cable car and straight onto a trolley bus all the way into the suburb of Castro, which is a predominantly gay neighbourhood.  It was lovely and colourful with the rainbow flag flying in every window and even on the crosswalks.

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We were going to get the bus home, but we decided that no – we hadn’t walked up nearly enough hills yet (I’m talking 45 degree angles people!), so we walked home!

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Beautiful Lake Tahoe

Because the train was late picking us up, we were also late getting into the lovely historic town of Truckee.  We had a small debacle renting our car, but then we were on our way to the picturesque Lake Tahoe.  I have been here once before on a trip I did about 25 years ago in the month of December – so it was all white and frozen.  This looked very different.  We’re staying in Carnelian Bay on the north end of the Californian side, however we decided that right then and there would be a great time to drive around the whole damn lake!  There was a bit of  road work in places which slowed down the process, but  we got to see some amazing sights.  There aren’t many photos, because I find it hard to drive and photograph at the same time, also there are not a huge amount of places to pull off the road on the way around.

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Our first glimpse of the lake.

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So here’s what we know about Lake Tahoe:  It’s pretty deep and it has enough water in it to flood the entire land content of the USA with about an inch of water.  The border of Nevada and California runs right through the middle of it.  The Californian side is way prettier than the other and there are lots of hiking paths, camping sites, ski runs and black bears.

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The drive around was absolutely breathtaking in places…. like this one.  Apparently there is a little tea room on that island.

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This is where we’re staying…. so lovely.  We both decided that we’d like to come back here and stay for an extended time (ie: longer than 2 nights!) it was so peaceful.

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It was very cozy sitting up high with a view of the lake and into the top of the trees – just stunning.

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This is the view from the balcony.

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On our way home on the second day we were driving up to our cabin and saw what looked like a dog… but as I slowed down and the animal stared me down a little, we realised that was a Sierra Nevada Red Fox.  She was absolutely magical.  She walked away from the road, but stopped a couple of times and looked back at us.

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Our first morning we tried to have breakfast at a lovely little place right on the lake, but the woman wasn’t open just yet as she was just headed out for a paddle because she’s in a race next week and needs the practice.

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I’m not sure how fast you can go on a stand up paddle board though.  So we walked up the road a little to the Old Post Office Cafe…

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Which is where I discovered bacon waffles…. the bacon is actually IN the waffles, like in the batter before they’re cooked.  Amazing!

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After brekky we had another drive into some villages that we saw, but missed yesterday… Look how clear that water is!  We had planned to go kayaking later on…..

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It was such a perfect morning.

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In the villages we drove in and our of the streets checking out the houses.  These peope had a lovely silver bullet in their drive.

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Jodie perusing Kings Beach over yonder…

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Where a lot of the water activities happened.

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Then, back in Carnelian Bay we got back to our lake spot to hire the kayak for an hour… the wind had picked up a little bit, but not enough for us to say we weren’t going.

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Then within 10 minutes of us being on the water the wind picked right up and we were surrounded by white caps.  It wasn’t one bit pleasant, so we turned and headed back in.  The young girl who sent us on our way was a little concerned when we were back in 15 minutes, but at least we can say we kayaked on Lake Tahoe!  It wasn’t enjoyable, but we did it.

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It doesn’t even look that windy, but look at that flag!  I rest my case.

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Home for dinner, a repack and a beautiful sunset before our early morning train back in Truckee…

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So, we woke up to the train having been delayed giving us more time to look around the lake and to take in the historic town of Truckee.

Did you know that Lake Tahoe held the Winter Olympics in 1960?

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Truckee – a lovely historic town with a population of about 17,000 people.

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A  lot of the shop doors were cut in half, like a horse stable.

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I so wanted to buy this…. it looks pretty easy to travel with.

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So after another debarcle with dropping the car back, we boarded the train.

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(I don’t know where I was looking… the train came from the other direction)

Time after time….

Up at the crack to get to the hot springs pool as the doors are opening.

I wish I’d taken a photo because this ⬇️ was how it looked this morning, but I was so eager to get in I forgot to take a photo (I know… can’t you believe it?)

It was absolutely glorious.  The large pool is about 32 degrees (at a guess) and the warm therapeutic pool is 40 degrees – it felt like you were floating around in a hot bath that was never going to get cold. You’re only meant to spend 5 minutes at a time in the hot pool, but I couldn’t see many people taking much notice of that.

There seemed to be a little community of early swimmers – everybody was saying hello to everybody – Theresa seemed to know the most people.  When I pointed her out to Jodie, she said, “Oh yes, Theresa’s working the room, she even spoke to me!”

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(Not my photo)

We had some breakfast in the grill by the pool and then had one last swim before heading back to pack and get ready for the train.  The pool got busy quickly and they roped off a big section for kids’ swimming lessons…. time to go.

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This is the original hot spring – you can apparently drink from this pool.  We didn’t.

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We got back to the hotel, packed our bags and were nearly ready to go when I received an email from Amtrak letting us know that the train was delayed by 2 hours.  We had to check out, so we stored our bags and went for a walk to find some lunch.  The very next building along the street was the old Hotel Colorado – the original hotel from when the hot springs were founded.

There’s a lot of history in this building and a lot of famous people have stayed here…. Theodore Roosevelt, The Unsinkable Molly Brown & Patrick Swazey just to name a few.

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Actually one famous person around these parts is Doc Holliday – he was an American gambler, gunfighter, and dentist!  There are lots of buildings and a walking trail named after him.  He was famous for being friends with Wyatt Earp and having something to do with the gunfight at the OK Corral… and he had an awesome moustache.

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We had a lovely lunch in the courtyard as Amtrak sent one email after another letting us know that the train was going to be more and more delayed.

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This hotel was way nicer than the one we were staying in so we decided to hang out in their lounge for a while.

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There were a couple of 100 year old pianos in the lounge which were very tempting to play…

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until I saw this sign…  I’m not sure my 6 months of piano lessons with Mrs Morgan in primary school count as ‘trained’.

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When we thought it was time to head to the train station, we made our way back to our hotel to grab our bags when I got another message from Amtrak letting us know of a further delay.  So we parked ourselves in the reception area and caught up on all our admin work…. emails got checked, blogs were written and the time just flew by.

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Then at 4.45pm the shuttle drove us over the river to spend the rest of our wait time at the station – just in case the train was able to make up some time and get in a little earlier.

Ironically the train station waiting area is full of clocks!


That’s the hotel just over the tracks.

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It was a bit of a shame that the train was late, but if it wasn’t we would never have gone into the Hotel Colorado, nor would we have had the delicious lunch there – so swings and roundabouts.

The meals on the train have been a bit touch and go in that some of them are lovely and completely acceptable and some have been memorable for all the wrong reasons.  Tonight we both had the salmon which was lovely…

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And a not so fabulous dessert….  A woman we dined with earlier said it was her favourite, so we thought we’d try it…. and we did and the best part is we don’t have to eat it again.

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We chose to eat in one of our roomettes this time so we could have a little break from people talking at us about themselves without taking a breath…. once dinner was done I went down to my roomette and happily watched the amazing scenery go by.

These next pics might look a bit the same to you, but this was one never ending scene of am amazing light on red rock…. it’s called Ruby Canyon for a good reason.

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I mean, how does this happen?

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If you zoom in enough you can see people camping here.

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And here’s some more – what a brilliant place to camp.  I don’t love camping too much, but I might if it was done here….. as long as there were no large predatory animals to worry about.

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Look on the right – is that a manmade pile of balancing rocks or is it natural?

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Then the sun started to go down and it was lovely.

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Am I crazy, or is this a person?  We were in the middle of nowhere near the border of Colorado and Utah….. and I didn’t see anybody there when we passed.

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Amazing!

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Goodbye Colorado….. I’ll be sleeping through Utah and waking up in Nevada – then we get off the train in California.  Jodie and I have now travelled through 11 states: New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Utah, Nevada and California.  Then if you add in Florida & Texas from the beginning of the trip and Hawaii at the end – that will be 14 states for me!

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Glenwood Springs

So, we said goodbye to Denver and boarded the train to Glenwood Springs.  We were waiting for the engine to be attached to the train, and they didn’t appear to be any sort of hurry, so we had about an hour just sitting at the platform – lucky we got up so early!

Because there was no engine, there was no air-conditioning, meaning no air… so I waited out on the platform where it was a bit cooler.  I was standing there, minding my own business when a short chap approached me and said, “Are you the girls (there was only me there) with the yoga mat?” I wasn’t sure what he was talking about, but then remembered that Jodie had her mat hanging on her suitcase.  I said, “Yes, that was my sister.”  “What’s your favourite yoga pose?” he asked me. “Um… I’m only just a beginner, so I guess downward dog?” (if I’m honest, it’s the only name I could remember) Then he introduced himself as Tim and without any hint on interest on my part, proceeded to tell me all about himself.  Tim is a yoga instructor and he thought that this was the perfect time to tell me all about I needed to do to perfectly yoga practice.  I kept looking at my phone and around the platform towards to conductor and the door.  He wasn’t getting the clue that I wasn’t really interested…. he then told me all about this favourite yoga pose (honestly – I’m not making this up!!!) then, just in case I wasn’t clear as to what he was describing, he showed me his favourite yoga move – there on the platform.

Finally another person joined us and I made for the train.  I raced in to our roomette to tell Jodie what had happened – I still couldn’t quite believe it myself.  She told me to shut the curtain and not make a sound.

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Everybody told us that the view along this route was the most scenic on the whole journey and they weren’t wrong!  These photos aren’t going to do any of it justice.

That’s a big dam/waterfall.  Pretty impressive!

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And this is the big resovoir.

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This house was built by Kathy Lee Gifford and her husband, but she didn’t like it, so they never lived in it.  Talk about isolated!

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The roomettes are quite comfy, but when you have legs as long as these ones, you’ve got to get inventive!

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The colours have also been a bit muted by the windows – this was lovely and green.

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There are lots of people who canoe/kayak and white water rapid in the Colorado River… the tradition is to moon the train as it passes.  The people next to us were telling us to look out for the ‘bears’ meaning bare butts.  We thought they were joking, nek minit, there was an arse out for the mooning!  So that’s nice for the train passengers.

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Going through the canyons was just breathtaking…. I’m not just because of the altitude!

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This building of this road was a contentious issue amongst the locals.  Lots of people didn’t want it, but it happened and they did their best to make it blend in with the hillside.  I don’t think they’ve done a bad job.

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Then we finally chugged into Glenwood Springs.  It was actually a bit of a shame to get off the train.  We headed downstairs to get our bags organised, but Tim, who was a few roomettes down saw us walk by and raced out after us.  He almost pushed Jodie down the stairs calling out, “Shelley, are you getting off?  I thought you were going the whole way to the coast?”  Then he proceeded to stand in the way so I couldn’t get the bags out.  “Excuse me Tim, just need to get out bags.”  “Oh right”, he continued, “Anyway, about that yoga pose……” then he banged on until the train came to a complete stop about what I should be doing in my yoga practice – seriously Tim, Puck off! By the way, Jodie looked out the window the whole time this was happening, pretending she didn’t know me.

We got off the train and as we were deciding how we would get to our hotel, I noticed a man standing next to a small bus with “Glenwood Lodge” written on the side, as luck would have it he was there to pick up passengers.  We jumped on board.

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We popped over to look at the hot spring pool (which was FULL of people, including kids playing Marco Polo – very relaxing!) and we decided that we’d save our swim until the early morning to avoid the crowd.

Today – the 11th June is my birthday (and because we are day behind Australia, it means that I get two birthdays – I’m not complaining at all!!!)  I think I can say that I have gracefully (?) hit the official ‘mid to late’ 40s.  The day started out on the train where I was stalked by a short man named Tim, had a very ordinary breakfast on the train, followed by an unwelcoming reception at the Glenwood Springs Lodge, then we had a very mediocre dinner at the snack bar over at the pool.  Jodie had given me a massage for my birthday and when we were introduced to our massage therapists, I was a little apprehensive because… and I’m going to sound judgy here – he did not look the picture of health… but I took a deep breath and thought to myself – you’re in the rocky mountains on your birthday about to have somebody massage you – stop it!

The massage, let me just say, was one of the best massages I’ve ever had – ever! And Kevin was a very sweet young man.

A lovely end to a wonderful birthday spent with me favourite sister.

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The pool was still open for another hour or so after our massages were finished, but we were covered in lovely oils and a bit dazed from being face down for an hour and half, so we went across the road and straight to bed.

By the way – thank you to everyone who left me birthday messages on Facebook, Instagram, via email and Messenger.  Believe me when I say that I felt all the digital love, even fall the way down in a canyon in the Rockies.  I tried to respond to all the messages, but if I missed one by chance – please know that I read them all and truly appreciate it.  You all made my day.

Rockin’ out at Red Rock

The night before my birthday we cashed in a Christmas pressie from our Ma – Our Jenny – tickets to see a concert at the Red Rock Amphitheatre in Denver, Colorado.  I have to admit I hadn’t heard about this place until Jodie mentioned it to me, but apparently it’s one of the most famous venues in the world and I’ve since learned that visiting it is one many people’s bucket lists.  Well this would have to be one of my trip highlights.  It was amazing.  Even if we weren’t seeing an act, just visiting it would have been amazing.

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We got there as the doors opened to make the most of the atmosphere.  It started out empty, but as the evening progressed, it filled to capacity.  These were our seats – Row 54 right in the centre.  We were a fair way away from the stage, but there was a big screen which helped and from back here, we could take in all the antics of the people in front.

Fascinating people watching!

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And check out this view back to Denver!!!!

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This is the rock to the other side…

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The first to play were Mama Kin Spender.  Mama Kin is married to John Butler, but plays in her own duo with her lifelong friend Thomas.  They were awesome.

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Mama Kin played the drums backwards standing up!  I’m not up to date with current music – my taste is still stuck in the 60s, 70s and 80s (I can thanks Me Jenny and Me Colin’s record collection for that – I just never seemed to move on)… anyway, Me Sister is a lot more on the ball with stuff like that, so she had seen Mama Kin play in Melbourne and talked her up big time… and I wasn’t disappointed.

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Then next to pay was this amazing 22 year old lady Tash Sultana.  She was incredible!  She plays 20 instruments and layers her music using a continuous loop machine… so she’s a one person band and watching her is mesmerizing.  She get’s right into it, taking the crowd along with her.   Even if some of her music wasn’t to my very specific taste, I couldn’t help but appreciate how talented she is.


Here’s a little roar of the crowd…


Thanks for the pressies Jen and Col!

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Then as it got darker the lights started appearing in the distance.  The temp during the day had been about 36 degrees, so an evening up here was just perfect.

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Then Tash finished her set and we waited….. About half an hour later a first nations chap came on stage to do what we would know as a “welcome to country” and it was so moving.  He asked everybody to put one hand over the heart and their other hand on the should of the person sitting next to them (luckily we had nobody on either side of us at that stage!) and then he spoke.  He was inspired and uplifting, encouraging people to work together to make the world a better place.  People were really getting into it and he finished by chanting a prayer… the crowd went wild.  Then we waited…….and waited.

The crowd was getting more and more intoxicated and as we know Mary Juana is legal here in the state of Colorado, even though it’s illegal to smoke it in public, but apparently there are quite lax regulations and policing at music concerts so there was a distinct continual waft…. as well as some people behind us smoking ciggies! Honestly people!

So after waiting some more we decided that we’d move down to the front and if they hadn’t started playing by then, they would miss out on our company.  On closer inspection, we thought that there was perhaps a technical hitch because there seemed to be a lot of people milling around the technical equipment and there was still no band on the stage.

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So we decided to head home.

Our initial plan was to catch an Uber home, so we ordered one and they were going to be 5 minutes away… then as Ricardo in his Toyota Camry approached, I was suddenly dumped and moved onto Liz in her transit van who was 17 minutes away…. and not moving any closer.  So we decided to get a cab – our cab driver used to be an Uber driver and he told us that there was a carpark full of Uber drivers, but they were all waiting until the concert had finished, when more people would be ordering Ubers at the one time – pushing the demand up, pushing the price up!  Sneaky! Rude!

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It was a fabulous night at an amazing venue seeing a coupe of incredible artists with me beautiful sister…. who could ask for anything more on their birthday eve?

Rocky Mountain High…. in Colorado

It’s not a trip to Colorado without a tour up to the Rocky Mountain National Park, so on our first free day – that’s exactly what we did.

We booked with Aspire Tours and they were fabulous.  Our guide, Alyce was enthusiastic and very knowledgable.  A good tour guide makes all the difference to the tour – they can make or break the day and today I’m happy to say that Alyce restored my lost faith in group tours.  We only had 8 people in our group and not a single annoying person among them (maybe it was me?)

Our tour started at the Denver Union Train station and Alyce talked about some of the buildings in the city on the way out.

Some of the buildings in the city are still the originals from the 1800s with the orignal advertising painted on the side.

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This one’s had a refit, but they’ve kept all the features.

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Check out this little VW – the chap has adapted it, so he sits inside and makes coffee – genius!

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We drove through the university town of Boulder which was really pretty and then we spotted our first glimpse of the foothills.

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Alyce made a special stop to show us some prairie dogs… not a great photo as we’re far away and they are small…

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This is what a prairie dog looks like up close.  I bit like a gopher or a groundhog, but they stand up like a meerkat, but they are considered rodents and they cause a bit of trouble when the city are building a new neighbourhood because they dig underground and through the new foundations.

“Allen! Allen! Allen! Allen!”

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Our next stop where we got out of the bus was in a town called Lyons.  A cute little town where we bought some supplies and went to the toilet and Jodie purchased a lovely t-shirt from the Reruns second hand shop.

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Don’t be fooled by the cuddliness of this bear….. there are real life black bears in the Rockies, although no grisly bears.  Apparently they were hunted out quite a while ago, but they’re slowly moving down from Wyoming. I’m not exactly sure how they know where the border is – maybe there’s a sign?

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The trouble with visiting these little towns with all their gorgeous shops is that you can’t buy anything – especially when you’re at suitcase capacity already!

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The entrance to the park is at 2512m above sea level…. the air is really dry in Colorado and thin, so lots of moisturizer and lip balm have been applied along with drinking lots of water.

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I was hoping to see lots of wildlife on this trip… there was a possibility of moose, elk, foxes, deer and black bears, but the first thing we saw was a lone sheep.  She was a ewe, so no curly horns.

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There are waterfalls all over the park and this one was lovely to do a mini hike up.

Then we stopped at another lovely place for a picnic lunch and a little walk around the area.

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This area used to be a ski-field back in the day, but because it was so small, it couldn’t compete with the likes of Vale and Aspen, so it closed down.

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On our way up the mountain I spotted the back end of an elk through the trees like this…

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As I only saw the back end I couldn’t tell you if it was male or female and we were on a narrow road going around a bend, so there was nowhere to stop.

This obviously isn’t my photo – but I’ve included it to show you the animal that I saw.

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The journey up to the tundra – we were surrounded by picturesque views up to the snow capped mountain tops.  Fun fact: the word “tundra” is Russian for ‘land of no trees’

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Then we got to the top… and this was our view.  She was pretty windy up there and it had chilled right down.  It has been quite hot in Denver the last couple of days, and Alyce told us that this was the hottest day she’d ever spent up in the Rockies… but hotter up there is still very pleasant.  We had to hold onto our hats up here, the wind can get up to 160kmph!

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I could look at this vista all day!

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There was a little patch of snow right near the footpath and even though there were signs everywhere asking you to stay on the path, some people just couldn’t help themselves and jumped on over.

This patterned ground is only found in Arctic and Alpine regions where temperatures remain below zero for at least 5 months each year.  During the last ice age, freezing and thawing of this tundra topsoil forced these patterns to the surface.  Interesting hey?

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It was more slush than snow, so it looked better from afar.

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The air is so thin up here that this packet filled with air to the point of bursting.

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On the way back down Alyce dropped us off at one carpark and we walked along a boardwalk past some amazing scenery and she picked us up at the next car park.  Check out the cool bikers heading to the top…. a friendly lady even gave me a wave.


So part of the view along the boardwalk is this one… all these mountain peaks have names, but this one was the most apt as so many people have asked us if Jodie and I are twins…

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See – identical!  Maybe if one of us took our hat off, that might make it easier for people?

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The drive down seemed to go a lot quicker than the drive up and we were back in front of Union Station by about 5.45pm.

Such a great day in the Rockies!

A day in a Denver garden

Denver’s Union Station is fabulous!  Built back in the day when trains were the main form of travel, the station has changed somewhat over the years.  The locals know it as “Denver’s Lounge Room” – rather than rows of boring seats for people to sit while waiting to catch the train, it’s decked out with lounge chairs, old desk-like tables and chairs, bars and restaurants and even a hotel.

People actually come and hang out there.