New England – July/August 2014

11 Aug
Sunset at Rockport, Massachusetts

Sunset at Rockport, Massachusetts

Photo’s are at: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/5gbdyxkqrl6gfnq/AAAGKMTCoQ32dTFYQNsEP3TSa

We spent a couple of weeks in New England including a week based in Rockport, Massachusetts in surprisingly gorgeous fall-type weather (pretty lucky for the end of July) with our friends from the UK, Caroline, Stephen and their 2 beautiful teenage offspring – Sophia and Olivia :-)

It was an action-packed “family” week of day-trips along the coast – north and south…. aimlessly pottering in artist colonies, strolling on beaches and meandering through Rockport with heavy emphasis on mid-morning coffee and cake at the Bean and Leaf followed by lobster roll at Roy Moore’s……and occasionally breaking a slight sweat with some light activity ;-)

Heading north we visited our absolute favorite part of Maine – Cape Neddick, Ogunquit and Perkins Cove to walk the coastal trail which was as beautiful as ever – the air filled with the scent of beach roses :-) As the day had started with the usual coffee and cake overdose for mommy and I in Portsmouth, NH, en route to Maine (I still know all the best coffee and cake shops in the whole of New England even though we’ve been gone for 8 years ;-) ), it naturally had to end with more lobster roll – this time at Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier in Kittery Point – timed perfectly to share dinner with the mosquitoes along the creek ;-)

We might have shed some of the pounds we were beginning to acquire by cycling the 21 mile Shining Sea Bikeway between Falmouth and Woods Hole on Cape Cod if it weren’t for the fact that we decided to head to Chatham for sunset on the beach (spectacular) and dinner…  with dessert at the homemade ice-cream parlor …so we ended yet another day flagging under the weight of giant (we ordered small) ice-creams.

Frankly, it’s a good job we don’t live in New England anymore – the world class homemade ice-cream and relentless lobster rolls (and possibly the coffee and cake ;-) ) were beginning to take their toll after only a week and our early morning runs to the harbor, through town and out along the coast road were rapidly declining from 8 miles to 6 miles to 5 until we barely managed to drag ourselves 20′ to the end of the road ;-)

As our legs were slowly ceasing to function we swapped for an upper body workout with some sea-kayaking in Rockport Harbor out to Straitsmouth Island. However, as the Atlantic was like a millpond that day we didn’t have to exert much energy which was probably a good thing as poor Stephen’s kayak seat was broken and he spent 2 hours almost flat on his back looking like he was trying to paddle from the comfort of a sun lounger ;-)

Once we had packed our friends back off home to England we decided to head north again (mainly to avoid a massive storm swamping the east coast) to re-visit our favorite Maine city – Portland. We varied the intake of horrendously unhealthy New England delicacies (after the giant ginger/caramel ice-cream enjoyed down by the fishing pier which was delightful with the wafts of rotting fish carcass ;-) ) with dinner at Duckfat. Not great for vegetarian/pescaterians as absolutely everything there is cooked in, or with, or in someway impregnated with, or dripping in duck fat – including the steaming hot lemon donut holes in caramel sauce and the caramel milkshake – not our usual fare – but, frankly, the best donuts and milkshake on the planet. We never need to eat duck fat ever again but it was all outstandingly delicious ;-)

We caught sunset at beautiful Crescent Beach State Park on Cape Elizabeth – entirely empty other than a clearly insane family with rubber skin who were still swimming in the frigid waters of the Atlantic.

I did try paddling from time to time in New England – it was fine once my feet had gone completely numb but Geoff just wasn’t brave enough – fearing full-blown hypothermia.

I would like to say we were a little more restrained in our food choices during our following day in Boston  but we weren’t. To be fair we probably walked a good 8 miles along the Harborwalk with its fab views of the Boston skyline and weaving through Quincy Market and the financial district, through Beacon Hill, the Public Garden and along Newbury Street and Boylston and retracing all of that back to the harbor for sunset …… but even so…..

So…places to avoid in Boston…. Sweets cupcakes …. and Drink  cocktail bar … not because they aren’t absolutely fantastic but … well… because they are and its impossible to have only one … cupcake… or cocktail… ;-) !!

Managed to throw in a cliff walk with fab views over the coastline and the beach in York, ME on probably the hottest summer day Maine has ever seen and dangled my feet in the brine for slightly longer than the average 20 seconds and, finally, an afternoon in Mystic, CT with 10,000 other visitors – artists arriving in preparation for the art show (like me!) and tourists strolling the river walk :-)

 

 

Mexico City – June 2014

30 Jun

Just a very quick business trip into Mexico City for me and it rained most of the time I was there unfortunately :-(

Still, it was great to arrive to a hopping city as Mexico had made it through to the next round of the World Cup :-) …better than England could do at least! ;-)

It was – very unfortunately – mostly work and no play, but on the last night I was treated out to dinner at the amazing La Hacienda de Los Morales… the most beautiful hacienda I’ve ever seen … where I tried escaroles (ants eggs), which were supremely delicious surprisingly… and the “Mexican Flag” tequila trio, which I really must try again very soon :-)

As I’m not much good at this blogging lark, I’ll leave it to Jenni in future, but here’s a couple of piccies of the Hacienda and the Mexican Flag tequila ….which I really really, really must do again! – perhaps on our next trip to Mexico in November/December to Zihuatanejo :-)

La Hacienda de Los Morales

La Hacienda de Los Morales

"Mexican Flag" tequila trio

“Mexican Flag” tequila trio

 

 

 

Arizona – May 2014

14 May
The view from our Vista Ridge apartment

The view from our Vista Ridge apartment

Photo’s are at: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/mna83tpzjuds83q/AAAGYtYNUYwx_Vgl3uXHI6FGa

After a year of planning, panicking and organizing our english friends’ (Gary and Tracey) wedding in Sedona we finally found ourselves winging our way into the desert for the most unusual of wedding ceremonies – to say nothing of exclusive – 4 Brits (including the happy couple) , 2 real americans and Geoff and I representing both nations ;-)

Our only remit in finding a suitable venue with a suitably exotic officiant for the proceedings was that it had to be “somewhere” roughly along Route 66 (as the bride and groom were to be spending their honeymoon motorcycling the famous route 66 from the desert states to CA) and it had to be unconventional. What better than a Native American wedding in the beautiful desert city of Sedona with a sunset ceremony overlooking the red rocks in Sedona’s loveliest spa hotel – L’Auberge de Sedona ? :-)

I am pleased to say that despite some hairy moments when I couldn’t get hold of Uqualla (he spends a lot of time out of touch with the rest of of civilization in the mountains or on spiritual retreats in remote parts etc etc)… there were moments when I thought the easiest way to communicate would be by sending smoke-signals but I resisted ;-)  In any event, it all came together in the end, as these things tend to, and my role as wedding planner was not a total disaster after all, though I say so myself ;-)

Uqualla (from the Havasupi Tribe of the western Grand Canyon) dramatically waved his feathers in all the right places, burnt incense, did something we didn’t fully understand with what looked like a mexican birthing blanket …. and although the chanting was a touch bizarre for most of us very unspiritual brits it was all rather impressive and a very touching ceremony.

It was also fab to catch up with the english contingent of the wedding party as we hadn’t seen them since last year. For anyone who notices the wedding outfits – the men’s theme was hawaiian shirts and linen trousers – unfortunately the shirt Geoff brought from home simply wasn’t hideous enough and so he had to borrow a more offensive one from Rob who came with a small collection – presumably for precisely this sort of emergency. Whilst the bride was resplendent in her 1950’s bridal gown, jewelry and hair-design – the rest of the girls weren’t required to adhere to a dress code – thank goodness because my butt just doesn’t look good in a 1950’s dress! :-)

L’Auberge has a seriously good restaurant … the wedding dinner was down by the river … very romantic … twinkly fairy lights … cicadas providing the musical ambience and all on a beautiful clear starry night … the evening ended with a few words of wisdom from Geoff for his best mate with a short impromptu speech (no official best man at this wedding). A lovely afternoon and evening was had by all.

Of course, as we had flown all the way out to the desert for the nuptials a few days early, it would have been rude not to have taken advantage….

So we re-visited the Grand Canyon with our american friends, Don and Sue; the canyon was as spectacular as ever – at least on the second day we attempted to visit!!!!    …the day before we had made it as far as Flagstaff (40 minutes from Sedona) for a coffee stop, got out of the car in our typical desert attire (shorts, t-shirts and flip-flops) and flurries of snow started to fall on our freezing blue toes … with some incredulity we re-checked the weather forecast for the canyon which had been sunny but breezy about 2 hours earlier and ascertained it had dramatically changed to snowing, gales and icy cold winds so we abandoned the plan and headed back to Sedona for some sun!

We also spent a few days with them pottering around the hot and dusty state parks close to Sedona before the arrival of the rest of the wedding party.

The hottest and dustiest by far was Red Rocks … slithering with snakes in the wind blown cactus …. eek….

Oak Creek Canyon with its reflecting pool and peaceful, scenic winding river was a little less challenging :-)

And the “highlight” was one of Don’s “famous” excursions – always to somewhere obscure, which usually takes hours to get to, and provides, if we are really lucky, a full 1-3 minutes of entertainment – good job we love him and we all have a good sense of humor ;-) …. so that was Montezuma’s Castle National Monument in Cape Verde … interesting in theory for its historical value – cliff-dwellings built around 700AD by the Pre-Columbian Sinagua people and, of course, a feat of construction – but probably the smallest National Monument/state-type park we have ever visited… It was also duly noted that the dwelling was abandoned 100 years before Montezuma was born AND it was never a castle ;-)

Geoff couldn’t resist reminding us all that whilst the local “savages” were busy digging holes in rock to make somewhere to sleep the europeans were already building churches and castles of world-renown and living in abject luxury by comparison ;-) Typical europhile … not really entering into the spirit of it all !! ;-)

The upside of the long journey through the tumbleweed to reach Montezuma’s Castle is that we were at least spared the hideous ordeal of visiting Don’s alternative choice for the day to see the giraffes at the Out of Africa Wildlife Park … as we had luckily “run out of time” ;-)

To give Don his due, he is infinitely better at choosing great places to stay – at a billionth of the cost of our subsequent move to L’Auberge de Sedona for the nuptials, he located Vista Ridge Apartments by scooting around Sedona on Google Earth (a seriously impressive and somewhat time-consuming feat) – with its, frankly, jaw-dropping view from the breakfast terrace :-)

… and finally, congratulations to the bride and groom :-)

Luv, Jenni and Geoff

Skiing in Whistler… and Vancouver – February 2014

17 Feb
Blackcomb Whistler

Blackcomb Whistler

Photo’s are at: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/77zhn1i67vy7ufw/E5ETaPPWsT

Another exhausting ski vacation survived all in one piece :-)  Powder, hotel fires, blue sky, rain, snow, snow and more snow….the usual ;-)

This time we tore ourselves away from Colorado and headed to Whistler, Canada – not entirely planned and not entirely enthusiastically on my part due to reports of generally grim, cloudy days skiing in the Pacific Northwest – and more specifically and disturbingly – an almost total lack of snowfall since Christmas  ;-)

As luck would have it, the weather reports suddenly changed as we were packing our bags at home in 80F and instead of expecting to spend our skiing vacation sitting in the rain in a hot tub it suddenly snowed (6 weeks later than normal) and we arrived to a winter wonderland and 14″ of fresh powder – with more to come – yippee!! :-)

Our arrival at the hotel was slightly less than auspicious, however. After 12 hours of exhausting travel from the bottom right hand corner of the US to the top left (and beyond), fatigue was beginning to take its toll by the time we checked in. Handed our keys to the apartment (which we would be sharing with old ski/travel buddies, Mike and Carmen who would be driving up from Washington to meet us) we headed down to the underground car park to unpack the car, unload the skis/board, grocery supplies for 4 people and the other 3 tons of paraphernalia required for a weeks skiing…. As I searched about the car park for an oversized luggage cart an alarm went off deep in the bowels of the car park. We studiously ignored it (due to general exhaustion and disinterest in anything other than crawling into the shower, finding somewhere for dinner and crashing for the night).

After 15 minutes or so (literally freezing to death in the car park as our gloves/hats/coats/boots etc were all safely packed in our luggage, of course) the cart was piled high and we headed (with no thoughts other than trying to defrost) towards the elevator – the alarm still ringing in our ears …. and only vaguely in our collective subconscious!

With hindsight, and in the final analysis, some incredulity on our parts (once we had warmed up sufficiently to be thinking straight) we dragged our luggage towards the elevator, got in, squeezed in our every possession and exhaustedly hit the button to ascend into the warm. En route, we both commented that it was odd that the fire alarm was still ringing – some idiot had probably burnt his toast etc etc….

As the doors opened on our floor we were greeted by a wall of thick grey, choking smoke, whereupon I may have said “Oh, sh*t ….”. We both pounced on the “close door” button, “parking lot” button and hoped that the elevator wouldn’t stop midway and we wouldn’t die choking to death before we had even had a chance to enjoy the lovely fresh Canadian powder falling all around us.

I can safely say that in all of our years of travel we have never done anything as blatantly idiotic as get into an elevator with a deafening fire alarm ringing all around us –  however freezing and exhausted we may be :-(

Still kicking ourselves and unsure what to do next (re-pack the car – another 20 minutes task at least – and hot foot it out of there – literally), or try to find out what was going on… etc etc..

Geoff decided to run round to the entrance of the hotel – knee-deep in snow by now – and ascertain whether the hotel was actually burning to the ground or not….

I stayed underground (not the best place for someone with slight claustrophobia ) with our luggage piled high still freezing and now considerably stressed out…. it being the middle of ski season in a top resort and there being a less than zero% chance that there would be any other accommodations available in town for the week :-(

Another 10 minutes of ear splitting alarm passed whilst I waited in the car park (wondering if I should have gone out into the snow too) and eventually Geoff returned huffing, puffing and covered in snow bringing stories of utter aboveground chaos. The whole hotel had been evacuated, people were standing in the snow wearing night clothes, towels (the unlucky ones had been caught out in the shower), blankets etc etc and every cop and fire fighter in town were busily investigating whilst the thick smoke continued to pour out of the windows.

It seemed the worst of it was on the 3rd and 4th floors – according to chinese whispers – bliss – our room (in a fully booked hotel) was on the 3rd floor.

Finally, abandoning our possessions we trudged out into the snow with heavy hearts, not quite sure what to do and not remotely thrilled by the thought of driving back to Vancouver at that time of night in the snow and sleet which we had just driven through to get to Whistler :-(

Absolute chaos – the staff had no idea what was going on – everyone was shuffled into the lobby of the hotel next door before hypothermia set in and/or guests started to drop dead in the road – the fire fighters and police weren’t giving out any information so we settled in for a long night listening to reports from people that nobody would be staying in the 3rd or 4th floors and that we’d all be sleeping somewhere else – just not sure where in a fully booked town…. SERIOUSLY???

Of all the weird and wonderful inconveniences and minor travel disasters we have to deal with over the years it had never entered my head that a hotel in a ski resort up to its neck in snow could POSSIBLY burn to the ground!

Taking advantage of the opportunity to re-fuel before our anticipated long drive back to Vancouver, we sat down to dinner to wait it out and see what they were going to do with hundreds of displaced people with no clothes and no possessions. It gradually dawned on us that if the hotel did actually burn to the ground and collapse into the car park it would take our skis and everything we owned with it too :-(

….. interestingly… despite the unbelievable quantity of smoke filling the plaza around us we still hadn’t seen any actual flames…

Geoff took an executive decision to try to go back into the car park, rescue the car and save what he could etc etc….. assuming the fire fighters would let him anywhere near it, of course ….brains still not functioning fully etc etc ;-)

On his way back through the snow to the back entrance of the car park he fell upon a huge pile of smoldering clothes outside the car park entrance and a group of fire fighters. It transpired that some (other!) blithering idiot had managed to set fire to a dryer full of clothing in the basement laundry (about 50 feet from where I had been patiently waiting about 3 hours earlier guarding our possessions) and the smoke had risen straight up to the 3rd and 4th floors through ventilation ducts.

Good news – the hotel wasn’t going to burn to the ground in -5F after all ;-) …..but also bad news – the room may be uninhabitable due to smoke damage …..

Still….the fire department was busily using huge industrial blowers to blow the smoke out of the building – fingers crossed …

By this stage we would have slept in the car if necessary and risked frost-bite rather than take the mountain road back to civilization.. As we were discussing options from the warmth of a bar where we had a great view of the chaos we suddenly noticed a mass exodus of bath-robed guests crossing the knee-deep snow again and back into reception…..Yippeee!! After hours of relative misery (at the end of the day we were, at least, dressed in slightly more than a bath towel and a pair of bathroom slippers ;-) ) and visions of a doomed skiing trip we were allowed to check back in to a miraculously smoke free apartment, hit the sack and pretend it had never happened :-)

The following morning we awoke to a LOT of fresh powder and, thereafter, rather boringly for the purposes of our blog, everything else was fab :-) Unexpectedly blue sky, fabulous views from Blackcomb Mountain towards Whistler (and vice versa), long (some 5 miles – yikes!!) scenic runs, great company, lots of laughs and reminiscing, good food, silly games (and the only occasion I have ever come within a gnat’s breath of winning Trivial Pursuit – albeit I cheated at every opportunity to get that close ;-) )  …and Geoff (of course!) managed to be the last person up on the chair lift for the final run of the day… and the last person down the mountain! ;-)

So … Whistler isn’t Colorado, or Utah… or Montana (our friends’ favorite) … the “powder” isn’t dry and fluffy like floating on clouds as it is in Colorado… it is slightly damp and much heavier, and accordingly, much harder to ski for old lazy people ;-)  …but it was great fun…  We are still not mad about the man-made purpose built “ski village” (preferring the real wild west towns and natural hot springs of Colorado) …. but we would go back if the opportunity arose… just fingers and toes crossed for snow and blue sky – usually (according to the locals) not a “given” – odd for what is consistently rated as the top resort in North America (uuummmmm… still not quite sure why…. but we did have a great time!) :-)

And so finally, back to Vancouver – for the second time in 6 months – and straight back to rain, freezing winds, grey sky and general gloom – just like summer in Vancouver, in fact!! We MAY have been really unlucky I guess, but I would swear that the climate in this city makes that of England look positively balmy … ;-) With little else to do on a rainy bleak afternoon we had to endure a double massage to try to straighten out our battered (and in Geoff’s case – bruised) bodies ;-)

Guatemala – December 2013

31 Dec

santiago-3

Photo’s are at:  https://www.dropbox.com/sh/44u98r0pthap1to/Nb9TfjD7n1

For anyone brave enough to make it to the end you will discover that this wasn’t one of our normal travel experiences; in fact, we came home with a lot more than we bargained for – and I don’t  just mean the usual arts and crafts for our gaggle of sibling offspring – nor food poisoning (well – not me anyway … poor Geoff ;-) ;-) !)

It’s hard not to be swept away by the charms of La Antigua Guatemala (now a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and the original site of the capital until they discovered it was perilously located in an earthquake/volcano zone so they moved the new capital to Guatemala City ;-)  It’s safe to say we far prefer the old one and we got in and out of GC as quick as our car could take us!

So .. Antigua …. Spanish colonial architecture, built in the 1500’s, raised to the ground by various exciting events –  earthquakes, floods and volcanic eruptions – and re-built as many times over the centuries incorporating the ruins of churches and convents on practically every street corner  rather than knocking them down and starting again.

Cobbled streets; craters in the cobbled streets (ideal for heels, especially in the dark ;-) ); busy parks filled with locals hawking their produce to tourists, people selling lottery tickets and small children polishing pedestrians shoes (not so good, but needs must); peaceful side streets; dilapidated walls (stained with centuries of painting and re-painting in ever brighter colors and tumbling bougainvillea)  hiding exotic courtyards and the haciendas of wealthy Guatemalans; indigenous arts and crafts markets spilling from the church ruins into the streets; a chaotic fruit and vegetable market; tuk-tuks dashing about the streets barely avoiding unwary pedestrians; and the gorgeously decorated chicken buses belching their choking fumes over anyone unfortunate enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time ;-) … all surrounded by volcanos and verdant mountains.

First class food – and even more surprisingly for me – no disgusting stomach bugs to endure for the duration of our visit – the visit to Antigua anyway – the less said about the latter part of the trip the better ;-) :-)

Efforts at communicating went remarkably well – partly because some people spoke english very well (yippee!) but mostly because the Guatemalans  in the cities speak spanish very clearly (double yippee!).  Still, most people spoke no english at all and I wouldn’t say this is an easy country to navigate through without a basic understanding of espanol – even tragic efforts like mine were a godsend at times ;-)

Talking of helpful – we weren’t able to lay hands on any Guatemalan quetzals before we left so we were planning on getting some when we arrived. To cut a long story short when we arrived at the hotel we still didn’t have a bean in local currency and the housemaid (no english) raided her own purse and those of any of her willing staff to lend us some money so we wouldn’t starve until we could get to the bank – that sort of set the scene for the kindness of the people we were to meet throughout :-) Not sure you’d get that in a Hilton back home ;-)

Luckily everyone else was unbelievably helpful too as Geoff couldn’t quite manage to navigate this small 9 square block town centre despite being in possession of a perfectly drawn and labelled map ;-)

Our first night out should have been a quick 15 minute stroll into town. Despite said map clutched in sweaty paw (for reasons still unknown and best glossed over) our stroll culminated in Geoff confidently guiding us on a dark, crater filled tour of every corner and extremity of the 9 blocks in search of our restaurant which we had paced right by at speed in the central square some 45 minutes earlier. I did cautiously squeak my suspicion that something seemed amiss (just about the point we were hurrying past it) but, as a girl, I was of course totally unqualified to comment on matters of direction ;-)

Eventually, exhausted, I stopped to ask a family group having dinner on the sidewalk – all set up with plastic tables and chairs and a portable stove. The efforts to assist us were so enthusiastic that one of the men tried to practise his english upon us which transpired to be even worse than my spanish. I was beginning to think it was just me being dim but finally even Geoff gave up, apologized and (laughably bearing in mind his linguistic skills still only extend to ordering a gin and tonic) and asked if he could give us directions in spanish instead ;-) His friends erupted in peals of laughter and we could still hear them ribbing the poor guy 4 blocks away as we criss crossed our way back to the centre ;-)

Geoff’s map reading skills didn’t improve for the remainder of the visit (even in broad daylight) so we spent 3 aimless days traversing, weaving and re-traversing which, with hindsight, was fortuitous as we would have missed a lot of the interesting street life if we had had a purpose and someone with basic map reading skills guiding us ;-)

Onwards and upwards, we left Antigua on Christmas Day and took the route across the mountains towards Lake Atitlan. The route through the hills dotted with farms, tin roofed buildings and patchwork fields was beautiful. This should not be a country plagued by poverty – the land is very fertile and agriculture (small holding and multi-national conglomerate) is obviously  a mainstay of the economy. We weren’t too thrilled with the agriculture in the central valley area – all owned by US conglomerates growing the largest vegetables we have ever seen – mutant carrots the size of small tree trunks, cauliflowers twice the size of footballs – we discovered the produce here is all grown for the US market and is so polluted with fertilizers and pesticides the locals won’t touch them with a barge pole – which says a lot for people who mainly struggle to put maize on the table never mind anything as nutritious as a vegetable. Thank god we only eat organic!

The journey wound through the mountain roads and we started to spot dozens of groups of kids from the farms and towns in the hills sitting at the side of the road waving at the traffic. They were waiting for cars and pick-up trucks to stop and hand out used clothing and second hand toys – their Christmas presents. The benefactors come from the wealthy cities – Guatemala City and Antigua – and anywhere we saw a parked car at the side of the road the kids ran from all sides, darting between the oncoming cars and swarming to get to the presents first. Kinda put the “western” world’s seasonal commercialism into perspective….

After only a 3 hour journey we finally arrived in another world entirely from Antigua – Lake Atitlan – in the Highlands of Guatemala – deep blue/green and flanked by 3 volcanoes.  We were met by a boat to take us to Laguna Lodge Eco-Resort a very peaceful, beautiful place – the rooms less than 15/20 feet from the water. We sat on the balcony looking over the water listening to the waves lapping on the dock and watching the colorful ferry boats overloaded with mayan indigenous locals, their shopping supplies and back-packers zipping about from one town to the other – all with a backdrop of the large and impressive San Pedro volcano :-) An interesting tidbit about the lake – it appears to be rapidly rising – 5 meters in 5 years and it may not have stopped yet – if you look at some of the photos – clearest perhaps in photos 214-215 Santiago-San Pedro dock – it is easy to see the devastation being quietly wreaked upon the lower lying properties …

The generally calm waters of the lake can pick up a little in the late afternoons and had a habit, in the blink of an eye, to start to resemble the Pacific with only a few gusts of wind ;-) Morning trips were glassy calm – but not so much in the afternoons ;-) One of our trips was quite enlivening – the captain squeezed in 4/5 people per bench (wide enough for 3 if you don’t mind intimate physical contact with your unknown neighbor) and filled it with luggage, shopping and village supplies and set off listing rather heavily on my side (nothing to do with my somewhat excessive chocolate consumption in Antigua for which it is famous ;-) ). We had already spotted the name of the boat – Titanic – and were regretting not having got to the dock 2 minutes earlier when a much safer and emptier looking vessel had left heading for our part of the lake ;-) Geoff particularly enjoyed the rolling swell, the heat beating down on the roof, the overcrowding and the choking fumes blowing into our faces from the 2 stroke engine as it idled in the dock. I think the heavy listing to one side also added an unexpected frisson of excitement for him too ;-)

10 days in Guatemala , I fear, has taken 10 years off our lives in inhaled boat fumes …and that doesn’t take into account the additional heady delights of the fumes from the chicken buses and the tuk-tuks!

Speaking of which, feeling brave – we decided to experience the delights of the chicken bus from the central hub for the lake (Panajachel) to Solola for the Friday market – only a 15 minute ride uphill– I suspect it should have been longer but why take those narrow, winding mountain roads uphill with care for your precious human cargo when you can tackle them in your 1960’s decommissioned US school bus and drive it like a Formula 1 driver in a Ferrari?

Needless to say, the bus was exactly as expected – crammed full of indigenous Mayan locals in full and beautiful regalia, bags of purchases spilling from their laps onto their neighbor (luckily no chickens on this particular trip); dangerously overloaded with luggage on its roof; kids and men clambering onboard at various stops and trying to hawk dodgy looking wrapped sweets for a few quetzals, melting ice-cream in cones and lottery tickets …. Never a dull moment ;-) I got extra cozy with a rather heavy but highly decorative local who decided the gringa (me!) looked comfortable enough to sit on for the duration of the ride – nothing personal I guess as he did smile very sweetly at me before he plonked himself down – bliss!

Squished, but alive, we made it to the town square which was peaceful (a bit too peaceful). It seems they had moved the market 6 blocks uphill (steep) so we invested in an exciting ride in a tuk-tuk and were deposited in the middle of chaos in the marketplace. Of all the sights we saw in Guatemala, the indigenous markets are our favorites – shops spilling onto the streets; booth vendors with proper market stalls selling fruit, veg, fish, bread etc etc; ancient ladies sitting in the streets with baskets of whatever fruit and veg they had grown in their gardens; live chickens in baskets; multicolored chicks (we weren’t too sure what had gone into producing a bright turquoise or pink chick but whatever it was it can’t have been good). For 2 vegetarians these parts of the markets are always a little disturbing but its all part of life here. We did find ourselves rooting enthusiastically for a huge rooster which had escaped from its basket and was leading its owner on a merry dance through the other stalls and pedestrians legs in a desperate bid for freedom. Sadly it was too stupid not to run away in a straight line but had obviously decided instead that shrieking, squawking and flapping wildly in ever decreasing circles would win him his freedom ;-)

The chaos, noise and frenetic business activity of the markets is quite enthralling – most of the time wherever you stand you are just right in the way of the locals – and god help anyone who gets in the way of an octogenarian with a basket of vegetables (or 5 dozen eggs in cartons) balanced precariously on her head with her eye set on the tomatoes in the next stall – you will be knocked flying without a thought.

The main lake towns – Panajachel, Santiago, San Pedro, Santa Caterina and San Antonio (the 2 favs) are a typical Central American mixture of street chaos, half built concrete structures, tin rooves, highly colorful painted buildings, indigenous Mayans in fabulous multi-colored clothing and people selling fabric and glittery decorations which they thrust relentlessly in your face until you give up the will to live ;-) We found that they do eventually give up trying to sell you something you definitely don’t want, once they have chased you twice around the town practicing their english phrases :-) If you are stupid enough to mention the name of your other half they will pick up on it in a millisecond and then you have a traveling companion bellowing “Jen… Jen… you want this…is very good…very nice…Jen..you buy this for your friend.. or your mother….” I could have killed him (Geoff ;-) ).

The towns are highly colorful places, the native indigenous people wear amazing brightly colored, intricately patterned clothes – differing patterns and styles according to your village of origin. We learnt that there are 5 indigenous languages in the 12 hill towns around the lake – apparently incomprehensible to each other – with spanish being the second language of the villagers and the common business language. No wonder I found it harder to communicate here. Everyone was trying to speak in second languages! ;-)

A day trip to Chichicastenango (one of the most famous indigenous arts and crafts markets in the country) took us on a trip again through the mountains through more fertile farmland, tin rooved farm houses, dilapidated towns, kids playing bare-foot in the streets, farm workers bent double with huge piles of wood on their backs, beautiful rolling hills etc etc … and then a sudden descent into the most manic market we have ever seen. It is divided up into three areas: the tourist arts and craft stalls (upon reflection we were not sure where all of the other “tourists” actually were because we barely saw any and instead rather stuck out like the only couple of pale gringos in a multicolored Mayan people soup ;-) ); the flower sellers and women burning incense on the church steps as the congregation left the Sunday service (fab); and the craziest fruit and veg market in the world. Even worse than Solola market – if you are stupid enough to try to stand still even for a nanosecond, re-group or catch your breath, you will be caught up in a tide of humanity, mown to the ground and trampled ;-)

2 hours of that was quite enough for a Sunday morning so we headed off to the cemetery which I had read was very colorful (rather an understatement). Some deceased were buried under impressive concrete or brick structures newly painted and decorated with flowers and others were buried under mounds of painted, dried mud. The discrepancies of wealth or poverty. We watched grieving relatives burning offerings to the dead until it all got a bit too voyeuristic so we rushed off for lunch at the world’s worst restaurant –  at hotel Santo Tomas (don’t go there even if you are starving).

And so back to the luxury eco-lodge and on to the more unexpected aspect of our vacation. Unusually for us, we got friendly with the owners of the lodge who were a very interesting couple from NZ (Mayah) and Australia (Jeffro) and who had literally built the lodge by hand with the help of locals from the nearest town, Santa Cruz. They are also very involved in helping local indigenous people who struggle to survive with the poor living conditions and poverty which many villagers seem to endure to some extent.

Of course, Guatemela is a country of contrasts –  in parts very much a third world/developing country for most of the population – and conversely – in a much smaller part – very “first” world – judging by the number of private helicopters we saw coming and going over the haciendas in Antigua, there is quite a lot of money here too.

So… we got chatting about their local town (Santa Cruz) – which we had already been exploring the day before. It isn’t wealthy by any stretch and we had seen first hand that there is lot of poverty there – although people are living with million dollar views overlooking one of the worlds most beautiful lakes, the necessities of life are very hard to come by – food, clean water supplies, effective shelter (leaky mud huts and partial tin rooves don’t hack it in the winter) and education are all rather at a premium.

To cut a long story short (and for anyone who knows us well enough to know we prefer children spit-roasted and served with a delicious garlic mayonnaise ;-) we asked Mayah and Jeffro if there was anything we could do to help anyone in need – whatever that might be. We have been quietly contemplating over the last few years how we might get involved in providing support for either a family, or children in need somewhere in South/Central America… we seem to have a connection with this part of the world… though we can’t quite put our fingers on why… and we have really wanted to do something more personal than just giving money through a church, or a charity…

We asked Mayah and Jeffro to think about a family we might be able to help who value education and would be supportive of their child staying in school for the long term benefit of the child and the family…

…so… they took us to meet the Alvares Santos family who work very hard to make ends meet – Lucas (a bricklayer), Maria (mommy), Francisca (16), Jose (11) Graciella (8) and Lucas junior (14 months). With school registration fees and books/supplies now out of reach for Francisca’s ongoing education, they could no longer afford to send her to school although they really wanted to  …the middle 2 kiddies go to basic level but it is so bad in Guatemala that even 8 year old Graciella is illiterate :-(    We took a shine to them immediately :-)

We didn’t know what to expect when we went to visit them (and I’m fairly sure it must have been an unequally odd experience for them when the former employer turned up unannounced at their door with 2 fat brit/yanks in tow ;-) ) but the decision didn’t take us too long once Francisca told us she really wanted to continue her schooling to learn english (she already had a few words) so that she could work with the gringos (which kinda made us laugh ;-) ) in the tourist industry and help her family to improve their lives and assist with the expenses of the elderly extended family.

So – there you go – friends and family who know us well enough to know we are kitty people but definitely not kiddy people – will no doubt be somewhat surprised that we suddenly have ongoing school fees for 16 year old Francisca which we didn’t have a week ago ;-)

The family are absolutely charming and we really hope that whatever we can do to help Francisca will be money very well spent :-) We don’t know how many years commitment that is – it all depends how well she does… In the end, she is the one with the hard work ahead – quite  a lot of responsibility for a 16 year old ….  Maybe down the road we’ll have to think about what we can do for the others too… at the end of the day, we both believe that education is the only way out of poverty…

We visited the family again before we left to take the nippers some late Christmas presents and some fruit and veg for Maria because good nutrition is nearly impossible to come by here if you are on the bread line (most people just live on maize) …and Graciella ran down the hill towards us like long lost Mr and Mrs Santa … kinda cute really… ;-)

And so …another highly memorable Central American trip over …. we were barely off the runway in Guatemala City and Geoff was already whining on about when we can go back …. my first rule of travel, however is that one should never go back to the same place twice … the world is too big etc etc….. somehow I suspect I haven’t got much of say in that now – at least as far as Lake Atitlan is concerned, anyway ;-)

 

New York City, Philadelphia, Alexandria and The Hamptons – September 2013

30 Sep
Manhattan from Brooklyn

Manhattan from Brooklyn

Photo’s are at: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/2ql0foaylvve9w1/aenF6gjky1

After  a quick trip to Alexandria, Virginia in glorious autumnal weather we headed off for a fleeting 12 days or so taking in the sights (in between work and art shows) in 2 of our favorite US cities – NYC and Philadelphia :-). Philly was the usual cocktail and food fest (if it weren’t so cold here AND so far from the nearest decent beach (ie. the Gulf of Florida ;-) ) we could almost live here for the restaurants alone ;-)

I spent some time wandering the streets and found myself in Chinatown and “Love Park” for the first time – the latter famous for its LOVE sculpture in the JFK Plaza – I am sure JFK would have approved of the sculpture but he might not have been so keen on the hobos living in the park along with it – or some of the more interesting transactions taking place in it ;-)

Anyway, it was fun to see some parts other than the more snooty and exclusive Rittenhouse Square area where we usually spend all of our time and where we set up shop for the art show. Having said that, the park in the centre of RS is also known affectionately as “Hobo Park” and there have been many engaging interactions with some of the local inhabitants over the years – thankfully outweighed by the number of interactions with baseball players wives, lawyers who own their own block (never mind their own buildings) and other miscellaneous wealthy glitterati. We love Philly for lots of reasons :-)

However, we love NYC even more :-) !!   Poor Geoff spent most of the trip (minus one lunch) glued to his phone and laptop whilst I enjoyed the city sights…  he did however, manage to make the most of the array of cocktail bars and restaurants in the evenings … what a surprise …  :-)

One block from Central Park is not a bad place to park oneself for a few days. Despite the horrendous heat in the bowels of the NY subway (I think it is nicely heated to a boiling 120F regardless of the season) I am now more familiar with it than the London underground – and – frankly – it is cleaner – so zipping about from one end of NY to the other is a breeze (albeit warm) :-) We did see some more unusual sights this trip – a couple of teenagers with a boom box break-dancing their way  through the carriages for tips – anyone who can maneuver about the handrails with their legs spinning in the air while they hang upside down from the ceiling AND manage not to inadvertently kick anyone in the head at the same time gets our vote :-)  On the same journey, we also shared a subway bench with the largest most disheveled man I have even seen who sat down next to us , curled up on the seat and slept in fits and starts punctuated with intervals of loud and violent mutterings to himself  with his trouser flies unzipped, his belt hanging off and liberally coated in some really nasty stains. We also got to experience NYC at its most chaotic as our trip coincided with a UN convention. As our illustrious president was, obviously, in town – almost the entire area around the Sheraton, 57th and 6th Ave… for endless numbers of blocks … was in traffic shut-down and crawling in NYC cops (probably 1000’s) and Secret Service agents – as always subtly blending into the crowds by virtue of their identical black suits, regulation ear-pieces and bulging muscles ;-)

In addition, of course, we enjoyed the more usual NYC favorites – a boat trip, the Green Market at Union Square, the Brooklyn Bridge (not sure why, but whenever I see it I am reminded of the 80’s movie Arthur and find myself humming ” If you get caught between the moon and New York City….. ” ;-)

Also took a jaunt into Brooklyn itself which was a whole lot quieter than I had imagined – I kept thinking I was missing something but couldn’t really work it out … the views of NYC are, obviously, to die for so it is always worth the trip over the river just for those :-)

I zigzagged back through the Financial District to take a glimpse at the new Freedom Tower  …stunning … but mixed emotions as it wouldn’t have been there at all in a more peaceful world :-(    …couldn’t face the huge crowds to see the WTC Memorial and wove my way back through Chinatown – always a colorful favorite filled with unidentifiable exotic fruit and vegetables and rows of purveyors of plastic junk nobody could ever need in their lives :-)  … by which stage a brief but brutal Chinese foot massage was in order to recover from pounding the warm sidewalks for days. With barely a word of decipherable english to elicit what might be aching, my masseuse decided to go straight for the jugular and I was relieved to discover I could still walk at all once she’d finished with me – the Chinese certainly know what they are doing – no messing about with a gentle warm up ;-)

And so on to Long Island about which I knew absolutely nothing but discovered quite quickly that the southern end (Long Island City) is a lot rougher around the edges than the northern end (the exclusive Hamptons)!  Having said that the street art around “5 Pointz” in the south was almost up there with Buenos Aires (albeit on a much smaller scale) and all that The Hamptons had to offer was some of the worst (and overpriced) food we have ever eaten, some interestingly designed multi-million (who knows? – maybe billion) dollar residences along the coast, wide yellow sand beaches reminiscent of most other standard beaches in the northeast (but the latter without the $40 daily parking charge) and some very expensive and seriously pretentious clothes stores reminiscent of upmarket outlet malls – designer towns with designer shops (how many $5000 handbags does a girl need?).

Not sure quite what all the fuss about The Hamptons is – although there were some bucolic farmland/vineyard type scenes crossing the island which were attractive. Sag Harbor was pretty and more “real” than The Hamptons themselves but overall , 2 days up at the north end of Long Island with the outrageously wealthy was quite enough ;-) ….

Vancouver, Vancouver Island and Whistler – September 2013

16 Sep
Chesterman Beach

Chesterman Beach

Photo’s are at: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/pjwr1tmots89srh/EzPqT-cmP0

…. and so onwards we arrived on a typical grey cloudy “summer’s” day in Vancouver. Apparently we had arrived on the only rainy day all summer – which we might have believed (with the best will in the world) if it were not for the fact that a friend who has recently moved there confirmed that it rains – a lot – and when it starts raining it never really stops. Obviously then,  this city is not a likely relocation destination for the Gardner’s ;-)

Whilst we regretted leaving the Rockies we were all (in local parlance) “stoked” to be moving on to an entirely new city-based British Columbia experience. Unfortunately, our (group) enthusiasm didn’t seem to last long which was a big surprise for me as I had been raving about Vancouver forever (well – for 24 years to be precise – as I was 23 the last time I was there!!). Clearly, something was amiss and it wasn’t just the cloud and rain …..

I route marched our team (once it had stopped drizzling) over the local walkable areas of the city – the harbor – Canada Place, Granville, Robson, Hornby and Howe trying to extol the virtues of the modern architecture, clean lines,  and “livability” of the small downtown city on the water filled with parks and surrounded by mountains. Finally, we made our way over to the famous Granville Island Market via the cute(ish) little multi-colored ferry feeling assured that we would all, at least, enjoy the fabulous  colorful farmers market and the fish and chip shack that our friend had recommended for lunch. Whilst the view from the fish shack across the harbor to the city was probably one of a glittering metropolis of luxury high rise apartments in the sun (this is not by any means a cheap city to live in) , Dave observed that it looked more “eastern block” in the rain. I vigorously defended it but to no avail – I was out entirely alone on a wobbly limb with the troops dissenting across the ranks – and even I had to admit, sadly, that if it is grey and gloomy for most of the year and (in reality) the apartments and office blocks DID take on a grey and concrete-y appearance in that dull light, then, I supposed, there was a slight essence of eastern block about it… from a distance :-(

So, thank goodness for the market – everyone loved that – it had the added benefit of being a respite from the rain – AND – perhaps most importantly in the circumstances – it provided a kaleidoscopic assortment of fabulous bakery items which kept Dave and I happy for hours and lots of fab fruit and veg displays for the more virtuous  amongst us (Geoff and Ali)  :-)

Finally, it did stop raining (again) and I rallied the troops for a quick visit to Gastown (cleverly I had booked a beautiful boutique hotel within 2 blocks of this famous tourist destination area – so it wouldn’t be far to run if the heavens really opened up) ;-)  My recollection (albeit aging and now rapidly crumbling ) of Gastown was of a larger area – it is still attractive with it’s 1850’s architecture, steam clock and lots of bars and restaurants (and shops selling “stuff” no-one really needs) – but it did seem to have shrunk somewhat. In addition, we started to notice a number of hobos and drunks careering about the pathways. Not to be deterred (as things were looking up weather wise for the early evening) we decided to head to China Town 2 blocks away.  Who couldn’t love a colorful Chinatown with all of its vibrancy and cultural diversity?? With hindsight, I almost wish we hadn’t gone. By now I was rapidly losing all credibility as proponent of the beauties of Vancouver!

Not being one to greatly exaggerate… ;-)  I have to say that our trip through and around Chinatown (and particularly along East Hastings should anyone wish to avoid it) was filled with the most soul-destroying human misery, degradation and depravation any of us have ever seen outside of a Hollywood drugs movie. We were, quite literally, tip-toeing over, through, and around hundreds (the boys estimated probably 200 by 5.30pm) drunks lying in gutters and accumulating on street corners; drug addicts – people so sickly, drawn, covered in open sores and starved looking that it was a surprise they weren’t keeling over in the streets; poor souls so high they had no idea we were even there – tip toeing to get the hell out before any of them noticed we were dripping in $1000’s of dollars of camera between us. Most of them were so far out of reality that barely even once were we given a second look. In all of the cities and weird and wonderful places in the world we have been between us none of us have ever actually seen heroin addicts shooting up in the streets or crack addicts huddled in groups smoking in broad daylight. It was the most pitiful sight of rejected humanity we have ever seen :-( Not much else to say really – slightly heartbroken and considerably baffled that this was the Vancouver I had loved for 24 years – I had to ask myself what the hell happened?

We arrived back in silence at the luxurious St Regis hotel (2/3 blocks away from abject poverty) to a smiling concierge interested to know  if we had enjoyed our day. Dave uttered that it had certainly been interesting and, when we mentioned we had taken a trip up Hastings his face fell and he muttered they didn’t usually advise their guests to go there (all of a 5 minute walk, by the way), that it was a terrible embarrassment for the city, getting worse every day and that the police and authorities simply didn’t bother to deal with the problems there. Well, I sure hope someone in power notices soon before the whole of Gastown and the rest of Chinatown are totally consumed  …. including a large number of lovely hotels .. some really excellent restaurants and Geoff’s new favorite martini bar  :-(

One final word – we were asked a number of times by complete and utter strangers – locals – (which is odd in itself) our impressions of the city – all obviously mortified by the burgeoning drugs problems. We were told 2 stories – first that the authorities had closed a mental institution and put their patients out on the streets to fend for themselves (great idea) and – secondly – that there were a lot (we certainly saw a LOT) of shelters for the homeless (not a bad thing as everyone has the right to somewhere safe to sleep) but that in addition they received a vast array of benefits which they were happily spending on crack. Whatever the reason – it’s a nightmare.

By this stage we were pretty much ready to move on out of the city and over to the tranquility of the Pacific Islands ;-)

Still, we had another full day to experience the joys of soggy Vancouver (including the food – which was excellent!) so we headed off in the rain to famous Stanley Park (this is still lovely thank God). Dragging soggy ” team Gardner/Oatley” around the seawall (normally fabulous views of the city and Canada Place, no doubt) I pointed us in the direction of the famous totem poles. I had remembered them from my youthful visit as much larger, more numerous and distinctly more impressive. Geoff was less than thrilled (after a long and very damp walk in the torrential rain – in his leaking raincoat) that they weren’t even authentic native tribal poles but replicas made in the 1980’s!   I had forgotten that morsel of information – I wasn’t popular ;-) From bad to worse of course, we decided to call a cab from a concession next to the totem poles – 5 phone calls and 1 hour later dripping from head to foot we managed to hail a cab on its way around the park (the company we called never did turn up). By way of final nail in the weather coffin, our very chatty cabbie was rather nonplussed by the weather cheerfully informing us that it probably wouldn’t stop raining (now that it had started –  this being the end of August, of course) until next May. So back we went to the only refuge in the city we really liked – Granville Island Market for some more cake to cheer us all up ;-) !! Luckily we had arranged to meet our recently implanted friend for dinner at a reallyyyy excellent restaurant which helped a little to ease the pain of our misgivings about the city and its god awful weather ;-)

Vancouver Island couldn’t come a moment too soon!!

First stop – Victoria, the diminutive capital of British Columbia – sigh of relief – everyone loved it – sunshine – flowers everywhere – kind of kitschy English feel – colorful Chinatown – more colorful harbor – excellent fish and chip shacks at Fisherman’s Wharf – eccentric painted and decorated boat homes at the Wharf – and a classic boat show for the boys in the very picturesque inner harbor – sun glistening on the water –  brightly colored flags  fluttering in the breeze – and the famous Fairmont Empress Hotel (distinctly nicer looking than the Lake Louise version) in pride of place on the harbor side :-) So – back on target – I wasn’t fired as tour guide yet!! ;-)

And so on to Tofino and the Pacific Rim National Park  on the Pacific Coast. Up and over the mountains through “small town” Vancouver Island with numerous stops – variously famous for waterfalls, giant sequioa groves and totem poles – and plenty of other towns uninhabitable by anyone requiring more than a hermit’s existence out of life ;-)

Needless to say the Pacific Coast is everything it should be – crashing waves; rainforest covered mountains, so damp the moss here was growing on moss which grew on the moss.. etc .. etc .. ;-) ; the smell of seaweed; windswept wild beaches liberally decorated with driftwood; sea-mist; rock pools filled with orange, red and green starfish; and huge rocks (re-living his youth Dave clambered over all of them like an excited 7 year old  – but then again it is that kind of place :-) ! )

In between long beach walks, absorbing the peace and quiet, and paddling in the Pacific we also managed to squeeze in a morning’s sea-kayaking in the Clayoquot Sound gliding across “fields” of giant sea kelp, exploring the tiny islands and sampling sea asparagus (probably never again ;-) ). Our final trip in the waters around the beautiful fishing town of  Tofino was, however, less than idyllic.

Never having been whale-watching before, Ali was excited to see the Pacific grey whales in their natural environment so we all tagged along for the ride. Dressed from head to foot in a bright red all in one cover-up (fit for -50 on a windy ski slope) we pottered slowly into the Sound (rapidly frying and shedding all the layers we had been encouraged to wear – before any of us actually passed out ;-) ) The guide had mentioned in his welcome introductory speech that we may have trouble finding any whales (??!) as they hadn’t seen many in the previous week and he then proceeded to dangle his fishing rod into the calm waters and  motor off slowly across the bay leaving us with a slightly sinking (as well as a very over-heated) feeling ;-) The upshot of a very expensive and subsequently very cold and wet morning was the sighting of  a slither of grey on the horizon, one whale head breaching the water at some considerable distance (how I managed to catch it on film I will never know as I certainly didn’t spot it with my naked eye ;-)…. some aimless bobbing for an hour whilst he finished fishing for his dinner, a soaking wet trip in a sudden squall to see some equally damp sea otters clinging onto giant kelp for dear life ….. another damp speedy zip into the Pacific to see a sea lion … and more otters ….. and finally a less than fascinating flit past a lighthouse …. By this stage we were all a little perplexed so Geoff shouted across to him in the howling wind that it would be nice to watch some whales on this “whale watching trip” at which stage we were returned forthwith fuming mad and soaking wet to the base. With the previous knowledge that nature is at its own whim and that refunds are never issued regardless of wildlife sightings – or not – we then spent an hour sharing our thoughts with the manager on the quality of their “whale” watching trip. By some miracle (and, we did, of course, have the benefit of being in possession of “Dave the negotiator” ) she finally caved and issued full refunds. None of us are entirely sure at what stage (or as a result of whose particular relentless argument) this sudden change of heart transpired, but it was, according to our host at the lovely B&B we were lodging at – absolutely unheard of!

And so – we left the Island with some reluctance and made our way back across the mountains to the final ferry trip of the vacation and up the Sea to Sky Highway for our final day in Whistler. Apparently North America’s top skiing resort – this town was (to us at least) a little like a Disney resort – with all the authenticity that that implies – not really the kind of old town wild west Colorado resorts we prefer – but it was worth the trip to see it (probably discount it for any skiing vacations) and for Ali and I to zipline and scream our last morning away over Fitzsimmons Creek – which was fun :-) Dave wouldn’t be persuaded to attach himself to a wire and jump off a platform over the trees … and Geoff had a cold – what a couple of girls ;-) !! ;-)

Fab holiday had by all :-)

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