Miami, Florida – October 2014

10 Oct
Cape May, New Jersey

Wynwood Art District, Miami

Photo’s are at: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/y3qdz591wp1o4dr/AACiV6LT5YeeYdyqlRIvzttUa?dl=0

Geoff got to play boring ol’ IT training stuff for a few days in North Beach, Miami whilst I got to play on the beach :-)

Managed to successfully fritter my time between getting free sand pedicures, watching sunrise and sunset from the sun lounger on the balcony, reading something innocuous and relaxing that I normally wouldn’t have the time to read ;-), and dipping my toes in the pool etc etc…

I wasn’t 100% idle for the whole time though – I did take advantage of my proximity to South Beach to reacquaint myself with how the beautiful, idle rich live; to wander the streets of Ocean Drive and Collins Ave enjoying the Art Deco architecture …. and, of course,  to marvel at the usual fascinating human sights on offer in Southpointe Park and Lummus Park ;-)

Any trip to Miami is completely pointless to me without a re-visit to the coolest place in the city – Wynwood Arts District – wall to wall (literally) street art (NOT graffiti !!) and art galleries ….. there is also a rather excellent bakery for lunch (extra brownie points!!)…. maybe a loft apartment here wouldn’t be so bad … ?? :-)

Whilst Geoff continued to slave over a hot desk I continued to ponder the possibility of upping sticks from the Gulf Coast and moving east to one of the rather flash condos on the beach but …. no ….. I managed to talk myself out of it (as always) – the heat, overcrowding and nightmarish traffic coming effortlessly to mind….and to quash any lingering desire to move, the extreme humidity (the likes of which we just don’t get to suffer in Sarasota, thank goodness!) and, unforgivably, the appalling things that does to my hair :-(

Obviously, that was the final nail in the coffin ;-)

For the finale to my east coast excursion (Geoff being otherwise engaged for 95% of it!) I stopped off briefly in Key Biscayne having been wooed by the travel brochures and various googling’s.

Ummm …. I have no idea what the fuss is all about – there was next to nothing to recommend the “town” (I shouldn’t have gone with visions of cuteness à la Captiva Island) I suspect. The allegedly multi-million $$$$$ apartments brought to mind 1970’s inner-city tenement blocks. Was I missing something?

To cap it all the Bill Baggs Cape State Park (the crowning jewel of the Key) was, without doubt, the least appealing beach I have set foot on in decades. The murky water was full of seaweed, there were battered tin-can trash receptacles every 10′ along the beach, chairs and umbrellas strewn about for rent and the sand itself was knee-deep in seaweed, trash and plastic bags. The pièce de résistance was a pair of men’s soggy underpants lapping in the grime against the shoreline.

How the State Park system has the gall to charge $8 to enter this particular filthy, unattractive piece of real estate I cannot imagine. I shall never set foot there again…… how pleased I am that I didn’t drag Geoff along for the experience … he may have fired me from my coveted role of travel planner and researcher ;-) ;-(

The one redeeming feature of having dragged myself over to Key Biscayne is that the views over downtown Miami from the bridge on the way out of the Key are excellent. Should have just driven over the bridge and turned round again ;-)

 

 

 

Cape May, New Jersey – September 2014

22 Sep
Cape May, New Jersey

Cape May, New Jersey

Photo’s are at: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/efdbtw7aqiisq4h/AAC0CZhZ_7OmGyvOace_-EnVa?dl=0

Looking for somewhere to fill in the intervening week up north between art shows in Alexandria, VA and Philadelphia, PA, we were reminded of some old friends’ suggestion that we might enjoy a 3-4 day visit to Cape May, NJ if we were ever at a loose end. A hard act to follow after the sophistication of Alexandria famous for its fabulous colonial homes, cobbled streets, excellent restaurants and miles of boardwalk running along the Potomac River with views towards the National Harbor and Washington – the State Capitol and the Washington Memorial visible on the horizon in the far distance… but we were prepared to give it a shot ;-)

Downtown Cape May is renowned for it’s Victorian architecture, it’s gingerbread, chocolate-box decorated houses, turrets, courtyard gardens and romantic period B & B’s and hotels.

Fall was just starting in mid-September which is our favorite time of year pretty much everywhere :-) , however, this was not the luminous technicolor fall of New Hampshire or Maine in October but a more subdued, genteel version with light golds and browns which reminded us more of an English autumn.

That, however, is about as genteel as it got – from then on, all bets were off – whoever manufactures house paint in southern NJ is obviously worth a packet – preferably, the gaudier the color, the better. The city regulations clearly require as many discordant colors as possible on each dwelling – and with an absolute prohibition on painting your house in any color which does NOT clash hideously and violently with your neighbor’s house ;-) I am guessing that the historical connection with the real Victorian England is tenuous at best as we have never, in all of our years, seen an english Victorian house in sky-blue pink with purple soffits and turquoise steps … perhaps we haven’t been looking in the right places??! ;-)

That said, these homes do make an interesting artistic statement and I, in particular, enjoyed strolling the streets for that alone – in addition I got to enjoy the start of fall… to kick a few fallen leaves in the beautiful, sunny autumnal weather – still warm enough for the sound of cicadas to fill the air and waste a few hours on the beach paddling :-) Or should I say, dodging death by wave? Bearing in mind we enjoyed the calmest of blue sky and puffy cloud weather with only the mildest of sea breezes, this has to be some of the roughest, unpredictable sea we have ever almost been killed by ;-) …… from gentle swell into 15′ overhead armageddon waves in the space of minutes. What it must have been like along the beach during Hurricane Sandy is too terrible to contemplate. The surfers in the town are not only good but also obviously crazed lunatics – Geoff – a previously enthusiastic surfer from his mid-20’s (until we moved to the land of the lapping wave on the Gulf Coast) did mutter that he wouldn’t have tackled those waves without a lifeguard back-up on hand ;-)

I managed to drag Geoff away from work for a sunset walk at Cape May Point State Park – when we arrived there was much whispered excitement at the hawk observation station. On a personal level I was more impressed with the vast collection of giant lenses, priceless photographic equipment and binoculars trained eagerly onto the marshland whose owners were waiting for a glimpse of hawks, kestrels etc etc …… all of which we can watch in peace, privacy and tranquillity over a morning cup of tea on the lanai back home ;-) I’m not much of a bird spotter but all I could see were ducks and a few swans despite the bird watchers enthusiastic chatter, occasional hushed silences (when the tension in the air was almost palpable ;-) ) and the superfast shutter activity.

Slightly off the beaten track from the excitement of the hawk spotting platform we wandered through boardwalks and trails, through shoulder high bulrushes and wildflowers, watching the Monarch butterflies and dragonflies fluttering around our heads and pottered aimlessly through the last of the summer daisies and fall flowers :-)

In addition to ambling through the multi-colored suburbs back in town, running the length and back of the boardwalk every morning and watching the sun rise on the Atlantic was also very relaxing – we could have got used to that if it weren’t for the surefire knowledge that had we been attempting our 4/5 mile running circuit in the summer months we would have been hurdling thousands of strollers, equal numbers of walkers (not the 2-legged variety ;-) ) and trying not to slip over and break our necks on careless kiddies’ dropped ice cream cones ;-)

So, for anyone contemplating a relaxing short getaway to Cape May, September is a perfect month to avoid the billions of summer visitors, the hideous parking, wall to wall people and overcrowded beaches…

There is a somewhat 1970’s feel about the place (specifically the clothing and jewelry stores and a good many of the eating establishments ;-) ) crossed with essence of  Stepford Wives in its picture perfection. Having experienced and/or rejected the allegedly “fine dining”options recommended by the concierge of Congress Hall (he clearly needed to eat out more :-( !) we did eventually find restaurants fitting our organic, meat-free requirements .. so it wasn’t a total culinary disaster in the end :-) The best by far was the distinctly upscale Peter Shields Inn – obviously high on the list of all couples celebrating anniversaries, birthdays etc etc….. we rather enjoyed the inadvertent company of the couple next to us who turned up in their Sunday best and promptly asked the waiter to explain what “pricks fix” on the menu meant and then exclaimed wildly (for some considerable time) in disbelief that they would get all that food for one price….. the enthusiasm continued all throughout dinner with the arrival of each course, and, as the temperature at their table soared in proportion with their excitement they asked for a bucket of ice to chuck into their red wine ;-) Still, a good evening was had by all and the food was fab :-)

In the long run, however, I suspect we couldn’t have taken much more of the low-key excitement of this place – the very end of the line of the New Jersey shore (and we certainly couldn’t have justified the calorific intake at PSI every night) . My suspicions were unequivocally confirmed when we saw the signs advertising the upcoming annual West Cape May Lima Bean Festival – then we knew for sure it was time to head back to the real world – to Philadelphia for some city life and to sell some art ;-)

Grand Teton/Yellowstone National Parks, Wyoming and Park City, Utah – September 2014

11 Sep
Schwabacher Landing, Grand Teton National Park

Schwabacher Landing, Grand Teton National Park

Photo’s are at: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/akkwq58e5rmeitx/AABzFBCDtqIjcmshAXXin0Vda?dl=0

Difficult to know where to start describing the Grand Teton National Park …..

Jackson Hole, Wyoming is as remembered from 20 odd years ago when I passed through it as a law student. Part tacky (specifically, the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar which I refused to enter on the basis that I wasn’t going to pay $10 just to step into the bar on the off-chance of getting a photo of one of us sitting on a horse saddle with the other millions of tourists ;-) ) …. part multi-gazzilion $$$ homes … fab restaurants and cafes ….. beautiful wild-western architecture …. galleries …. etc etc….

In addition, I got the opportunity to gape at real-life cowboys wandering about their business in town in full cowboy regalia – exotic snakeskin boots, impressively huge and highly decorated hats, too-tight Wrangler jeans ;-) and much extraneous adornment with shiny bling :-) Love it!!! :-) So much so, that after 10 years of nagging/begging and whining, Geoff finally caved in and let me buy some drop-dead gorgeous Lucchese cowgirl boots …. not entirely useful for someone who spends her life in flip-flops on a Floridian beach but they will certainly get plenty of use whenever we travel west :-) …. the custom bling’d cowgirl hat I also had made for me (similarly, a long-term nag request!) will at least double for use on the beach back home ;-) If the truth be known I may have frozen to death in Jackson without my ridiculous new boots as, although it was lovely and warm during the daytime in the sun, the night time temperatures have a nasty habit of plummeting in the mountains in the fall …. how fortuitous for me ;-)

And so …. the Tetons …. despite the relentless begging I just couldn’t get Geoff to sell up from the sunny Floridian Gulf shore and move to Jackson Hole immediately :-( … but I’m going to keep working on it ;-) ….!

We hiked most days 8-13 miles through the wilderness trails largely alone with only the occasional human sighting… we would have preferred the occasional sighting of a bear… or a rather closer encounter with the mommy and baby moose than we had (vaguely spotted in the undergrowth through the trees) ..but it was not to be …. oh well …. maybe when we move there ??… tee hee ….. :-)

Of course, with only 2 of us (and a can of bear spray) to fight off any psychotic marauding bears we might encounter on a hike, the possibility of stumbling across one in the wilderness sparked a banter of bear food jokes …. in the end Geoff had to concede that it was far more likely that he would be dinner for Mr.Grumpy Bear because, although he can run farther than I can overall before I literally run out of breath, I can, however, outpace him by some considerable margin – which in anyone’s book must mean that Mr GB would catch Geoff a long while before he would catch me … which was reassuring ;-)

Happily, the stunning scenery distracted us from the paucity of 4 legged wildlife and we spent a delightful week or so tiptoeing through the meadows, over streams, picnicking at emerald green crystal-clear glacial (freezing ;-) ) lakes, hiking through huge canyons surrounded by massive snow-capped mountains admiring the colorful wildflowers and trying not to scare off the pikas and chipmunks scuttling around in the undergrowth collecting nuts to store for hibernation.

Kayaking on Jenny Lake was serene.

Motorcycling was less so, on the back of a huge, throbbing, noisy Harley Davidson motorcycle – but it was a LOT more fun! Cruising the almost empty roads through the Teton National Park, into Idaho and over the Teton Pass was amazing – traversing wide sweeping bends, passing rivers, through canyons and putting caution to the wind by snapping happily with the camera from the pillion passenger’s “armchair” on the back of it. Rarely have we ridden in such a dramatically beautiful place on such roads – perfectly designed for motorcycling :-) Sigh……

Of course, not all of the roads and dirt tracks in the national park and its environs were really suitable for the low riding, postbox red Dodge Charger car we had rented – which, frankly, is better suited for escaping from cops from a crime scene at great speed ;-) Geoff managed to avoid most of the pitfalls of unmaintained mountain thoroughfares to get to whichever photographic viewpoint I was insisting we reached but the car finally gave up when we fell unceremoniously into a bottomless puddle. Unfortunate – as we were out in the boonies and “something” underneath got wedged on a rock, disentangled itself from its rivets and spent the next few hours dragging noisily underneath the chassis until we had the opportunity to take it back to Avis at Jackson airport complaining that an oil change warning light had come on (it had!) and – horror of horrors – the passenger seat was stuck in recline (it was!) …. luckily they had a far more suitable replacement for the rest of the trip … an SUV I could actually see out of instead of traveling along lying almost horizontal with the road :-)

The only thing we did notice about the roads in Wyoming which we felt could have done with some explanation were the overtaking markings – without exception on all winding, canyon roads and particularly on blind bends the markings allowed overtaking and on all straight, clear runs with visibility for miles ahead, overtaking was prohibited ….. interesting ….. Less explanation at the countryside road junctions around Jackson was required by the alternative to the rather mundane “Stop” sign one would expect to see everywhere else in the english speaking world – but this was real cowboy country – so obviously the only appropriate sign was “Whoa” !! ;-) :-)

Leaving our hearts in the Tetons we took a day trip up to Yellowstone National Park which I hadn’t seen in decades and had rather forgotten the enormity of its scale. The road system runs in a massive figure of 8 and we just about managed to drive all day, whip in and out of the car for some photo ops, a few minor hikes (no more than a few miles each) and some unpleasant, slippery, entirely vertical, “mountain” climbing to get THE photo shot over the queen of Yellowstone – Grand Prismatic Spring …. Overall, our adventure covered only the bottom half of the 8 before we gave up and drove back to Jackson, more exhausted than if we had been hiking uphill all day in the mountains ;-) We did see bison though … finally ! :-)

As much as we didn’t want to leave Jackson Hole and the Grand Tetons (ever!), we were looking forward to visiting our friends in Park City, Utah for the remainder of the trip out west so we packed up the cowgirl boots and the bling’y hat and shipped out. We took the long (and apparently circuitous and winding) road from Wyoming through Idaho into Utah … passing tin shacks and towns of corrugated buildings and caravans … and back out into Wyoming again … umm … odd … and finally back into Utah again…

The unanticipated detour back into Wyoming was fortuitous as Geoff was desperately searching for a bottle of wine to take with us to Park City that evening and our first gas stop of the journey was in Utah…. he requested that I ask the gas station attendant if they sold wine (guess he must have been really desperate and too scared to ask her himself ;-) !! ) … she shook her head slowly suggesting that we might get lucky 32 miles down the road at the next town ….. and, to be fair, he did get lucky 32 miles down the road because the road had just crossed the state line into Wyoming again and clearly residents in this part of Utah weren’t big fans of the evils of booze…. Welcome to Utah!! ;-)

Park City was as posh as we had remembered from a long ago skiing trip littered with great restaurants, art galleries and shops I was banned from entering (having spent my “allowance” on silly boots, a hat and an equally bling’y cowgirl necklace ;-) ). We spent our 6 days staying with friends, Terry and Jay, and as I joined them pottering aimlessly through the streets, checking out the food scene and galleries, poor Geoff was back at the ranch on his laptop working hard (the benefits of being a “remote worker”!).

He was allowed away from his desk for the weekend, however, which we filled with more food, an artist’s street fair (I couldn’t stay away!!) a brisk mountain hike in perfect fall weather with the trees in mid-fall color, the late flowering summer wildflowers and the breeze blowing through the shimmering yellow leaves of the aspen trees :-) It is a fantastic time of year to visit but it was disconcerting to get on the ski lift to the top of the mountain to hike the long and winding “Jenni Trail” without skis strapped to my feet ;-). The peace and tranquility was broken only occasionally by an emergency leap off the trail into the scrub to avoid being mown to the ground by mountain bikers flying by at great speed …. not a lot different to the ignominy of having to leap out of the way of insane fast-moving fearless (stupid!) teenagers on snowboards here in winter – good practice for our return trip to PC in Feb to hit the slopes in our more conventional manner :-)

Finally, we took a trip over Guardsman’s Pass from Park City through the Wasatch National Forest to check out the fall color which we missed in all its glory by about 5 minutes – you know how fickle nature can be when you are leaf peeping – green one minute, turn your head and they are hinting at all of the fabulous colors fall can bring, and turn your head back again and there they are – all brown and withered underfoot ;-) Glorious anyway even if we were 3 minutes and 29 seconds too early … or too late … depending on the tree! A slight detour brought an unexpected sighting of Hare Krishna monks hiking around Silver Lake ….we were too polite to photograph them so you will have to take our word for it!

Wonder if we’ll see them on the slopes in February too ..

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 ;-)

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