A Travellerspoint blog

England

One month in a car with Fat Freddy's Drop

overcast 21 °C

Arrived at Heathrow and negotiated Hertz ok .. got a complimentary upgrade of vehicle. it was supposed to be a Ford Mondeo but I ended up with a VW Passat, fancy thing took me about 10 minutes to work out how to start it ! the key isn't even a proper looking key ! negotiated the M25 and A21 plus a lot of country lanes in heavy rain to get to Rye my starting point, funny to be driving again after 3 months. I went to visit a small neighbouring village walled Winchelsea where dad's grandfather (I think it was that generation) left from in 1841 to come to NZ. the countryside and villages are pretty, pity the weather didn't co-operate, but I may still be on some of those roads taking photographs if it had.
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Observations on driving in UK after not driving for three months :

Driving has been interesting. I tend to concentrate a lot when driving which is fortunate. The roads around villages are so narrow and vehicles parked on streets that there is a lot of stopping to let opposing traffic go by. The biggest problem is that if you make a wrong turn or choice on these country roads it can be a while before you find a suitable turning place ! And the number of Lorry's on them are ridiculous

Of course wouldn't you know it, In my car at home I just got used to windscreen wipers and signal stalks being around the opposite way to all my previous cars, and now this one is back to the old configuration, so occasionally the windscreen wipers go on instead of the blinker ! And reverse is on the left of the gear box instead of the right as it is in my Vectra ! I'll get used to it in a few days, it's amazing how muscle memory takes over still though.

I only have 3 CD's, I will find a cheap second hand store to increase my library but at the moment enjoying cranking up Fat Freddy's Drop as I'm tootling down the M20 this morning going to Leeds Castle.

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Leeds Castle was very picturesque, great to see something built almost 1000 year ago.The entrance fee was 15 pounds which I think is exorbitant, I'm hoping to visit many more so the 65 Pounds I spent on a Great British Heritage pass which allows me access to over 500 heritage buildings will pay for itself very quickly.

The drive from Rye to Salisbury Plains was in constant rain, but I decided that wasn't going to deter me from crossing off Bodiam, Pevemsey and Arundel Castles

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The day dawned a little brighter and I decided to take the opportunity to see Stonehenge before it rained again, and got a "Stonehenge Rocks !" T shirt to prove it :-)0

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Salisbury cathedral has the tallest spire in the UK and the oldest working clock (apparently) in Britain
I was also interviewed in the street about UK tourism,
A lot of driving for not much today .. well in saying that I really mean only two venues not the actual attraction (flagged Stourhead when I saw the queues on A303 - I can do that the following morning on the way to Bideford).

The stone circle in Avebury is impressive for it's size alone!! dwarfing Stonehenge And there is some excellent archaeological information in the museum there ... built 4500 years ago it is just impressive with it's earthworks and stones.

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I received a military escort for 10 miles from Salisbury to the motel, lots of Tank & ATV training on the Salisbury Plains
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Off to Bideford to meetup with Fotothing member Thor who has offered to show me around some of North Devon. Managed stops at :
1 - Stourhead (got lost in some wood up the back of the grounds ... muddy tracks and stinging nettle !
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2 - South Canterbury Hillfort - site of Camelot apparently ... muddy steep track up steep hill, I'm guessing there weren't many castle deliveries in those days !
3 - Tiverton Castle ... disappointing

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After arriving we went for a walk around charming Bideford, a lovely provincial town and also had a look at Appledore and the famed Westward Ho ! beach. Lots of great photo op's including kite buggies on sand and the famed sunset. We missed the grill at a pub so got some chips and washed it down witj a beer at Thor & Kath's
Next day off to Buck's Mill, Clovelly and Hartland Point.Highlight was Clovelley (ADD LINK) very picturesque but certainly a fair hike up and back
Interesting to do some people watching of tourists as well.

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Dinner back with Thor & family - all in all a delightful stay - grand hospitality and Fotothing members come up trumps again. I forgot to mention stunning blue skies all weekend :-))

Monday I drove down to Penzance, picturesque Cornwall was a bit grey for the visit, but I also got some admin stuff organised while here. The hotel promised free internet in rooms but apparently a storm had knocked it out so I had to resort to a data cord at reception, that seemed to work ok and I must say as with everywhere else I have stayed he was most accomodating. Possibly didn't make the most of the sight seeing here .. but occasionally you need some down time.
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Had some offers of a room for a few nights from FT members and when it was convenient and on the track I was pleased to ... I noticed Pam's photos when she was posting some of her NZ trip and we have been on each others friends lists for a long time so a stop at Stourbridge in the Midlands was next on the list. Trip up the A 30 and M 5 was supposed to take 5 hrs... I must have taken a short cut because it took 4 !!!
Arrived and talked about a lot of stuff and went to had an authentic English pub experience complete with Steak & Guinness pie and Baileys ice cream (& a pint of course).
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The following day we caught a train to "Town" (Birmingham) met up with FT'er Mary99 and Chris and I was guided around some main points of the city. Symphony hall was a highlight ...
But all in all a lovely tour and a few laughs.

Bid farewell to Pam & family and off to Chester to look around. It is a "walled" city I think the walls date back as far as 1200 AD, there is much outside the walls of course now as the city has expanded, but it is kind of neat to be able to walk around it all. Apart from the walls there is a lot of interesting architecture but I think one day was enough. heading on to Manchester, Stuboy from Fotothing was the main reason for the visit we have been friends online for a couple of years and share a love of Man Utd, along with another FT'er Lynn we visited a major park there. When you are with Stuart you acan prepare to be stared at .. he is a 40 something 6ft plus punk with spiked and often coloured hair, but the nicest of guys. After the park adventure during which anumber of deer had an unhealthy attraction to Stu emded up at the "Tavern" and a great night was had by all. A funny coincidence Stu was the first to stay in the motel !!!! illegally he was dossing down while it was being completed after a night on the booze but got rumbled by the cops
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Off to the Lake District next, which everyone was telling me would be beautiful especially if it was sunny. There was a warning from Pam however that if I had seen New Zealand's South Island (and I have seen much of it) then I may be a little disappointed and not to believe all the hype. The South Island was the Lake Dstrict on steroids she said. Anyway the first day I arrived around 1 PM in beautiful sunshine, it's pretty much all broke up for school holidays here so any holiday spot is pretty packed. Missed the hotel the first time and ended up driving another 6 miles or so, which was Ok because I found a little park to look around.

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The drive to Whitby started off in glorious weather and stayed that way until 5 miles from Whitby when deep cloud and fog rolled in :(( ...ohhh well that's life ! I was pretty pleased with the navigation, about quarter of the way thru the trip I realised the Google Map directions I had must have been wrong, I must have typed in one of my other stops because looking at the map the planned route was too far South ... so navigating on the fly ... I managed to get there in less than three hours with no wrong turns ..

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Spent four nights in Whitby with side trips to York one day ... Castle Howard, Pickering, Helmsley & Riveleux another, Whitby Abbey & Robin Hood Bay and around Whitby town most other times.
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Then off to Nottingham to stay with a lovely FT couple Joan & Barry after stopping at Bolsover Castle on the way through. A lovely walk at Woolerton House Grounds the first afternoon, summer was warming up too !

We visited Nottingham City "or own" as it is called, plenty of history to see and a lot of personal memories shared by this lovely couple (where they met, were engaged etc) a fascinating tour with a personal touch

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Bourton-on-the-Water is a lovely town in The Cotswolds. I arrived on another particularly warm sunny day, with school holidays in full swing it was particularly packed - people wading down the stream that runs down the middle of the town, very picturesque setting. Day two here dawned overcast and there were a few drops of rain late in the day. In the morning I went on a cross country hike to Lower Slaughter and Upper Slaughter I was reasonably keen to try for Stow on the Wold from there but I hadn't written the directions down and wasn't too sure on whether to risk it, so returned from there was gone a couple of hours .. visited the Cotswold Motor Museum. I'm not a motor nut but it was certainly interesting. The rest of the time both days I just people watched and of course spent the obligatory time on the net with Fotothing and checking upcoming travel plans.

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Having access to the internet at most places has been a godsend, not for keeping up to date with home, I'm strangely uninterested in events at home, which surprises me a lot. Being able to keep in touch with travel plans and arrangements has been essential, especially when doing things on the blind like I have to some degree in England. But the main benefit of having my laptop has been saving and organising my photos and also the Fotothing Community. Spending time there fills in the quite moments in the day or night, I can keepin contact with the wonderful friends I have met along the way,

Starting to catch up a bit on this blog .. it was almost two months behind at one stage, now only just over a fortnight

Posted by Midworlder 18.08.2008 10:35 Archived in England Tagged round_the_world Comments (3)

Back to Port Angeles

Good Times

sunny 19 °C

So, next I found myself back in Port Angeles

.. it just seemed the right thing to do, I had planned 4 days in Providence & Mystic then 6 days in New York. there were some transport problems wih Amtrak which would have made that difficult so I decided to toddle off to PA instead and come back to NY. One near disaster on the way, I was last off a commuter shuttle plane at La Guardia, baggage is dumped off pretty quick so One of my bags isn't there ! I'm checking with the Baggage Desk and the guy is originally from India , when he hears I'm from NZ he is dying to talk cricket (1 Day series NZ v England on) but
He held off telling me the good news about the NZ victory until he had done all he could to find out about my missing bag. Turns out there was a similar one still there and some guy on the way to JFK to fly out to Brazil had taken my bag by mistake !!! With 30 minutes left before everything closed down he sheepishly turned up at the baggage area with my bag .... Phewwwww !

I had to check with Londi that she was around and that I could stay there (all ok), but we decided to surprise Heather (almost spoilt the surprise by cutting & pasting the wrong message to Heather .. but Londi saved the bacon explaining it away) . So I turned up at their work 15 minutes before she was off home and there is a classic photo of her dumbfounded look.
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Friday Londi's hubby Paul was off work and we took their grand-daughter Naomi up Hurricane Ridge on a gorgeous day. Black bear sighting on the way up and Naomi had a photo op with Park Rangers .. so if her singing or acting career doesn't come off she might be a Park Ranger. Naomi was a constant companion for a few days, a great kid and totally devoted to her grandparents Londi & Paul for the special love and care they have given her

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Had the usual great times and photo expeditions that I had got used to last visit. The trip out to Neah Bay / Cape Flattery was impressive scenery. Another day I hopped on a bus and looked around Lake Crescent & Marymere Falls. Had a tour of Port Angeles which has an interesting early 19th Century history, effectively having it's business district raised up one level an impressive engineering feat almost 100 years ago
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I was supposed to get back for a few days in New York but it didn't seem long enough to do what I wanted to there .. so I decided to extend my Port Angeles visit to include 4th of July. A lot of that night was spent lying on a trampoline drinking, laughing hilariously and watching fireworks !
All in all a great decision (the best of my trip) to come back and then to also spend extra time with my special friends.

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One near disaster .. my passport decided to jump out of it's hiding place and fall in the most hidden place in the bedroom ... almost like it didn't want me to leave .. only discovered it was missing as I went to check in at PA airport .. fortunately the flight was a 1/2 hr late .. Heather was with me fortunately and we zipped off on the search, couldn't find it at home, was ringing restaurant, supermarket etc, where we had been earlier that day and about to return to search checked in bags again when the 3rd search revealed it. Big Phewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww

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I'll be back :))

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Posted by Midworlder 03.08.2008 07:07 Archived in USA Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Canadian Maritimes (and Maine)

17 °C

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The tour started in Boston, I missed the informal get together just, but had a chance to catch up with Tour Director Jamie that night and all set for tomorrow. I was in Boston so I went out and had a beer ... couldn't find Norm or Sam :-(( But still said Cheers :-))

Next morning of we go this morning to Canada ... it rained !!! I have hardly seen rain all trip, this was to be a common theme along with overcast skies
A new crowd for this trip, far too many Aussies ... and they don't seem to have the same sense of humour as the couple on the last trip. One kiwi lady but to be honest I can't seem to see myself hanging with her like I did with Ngairie last trip, we don't seem to be on the same wavelength. So this trip may not be as simple as the last one. Anyway I'll be doing my best to enjoy it.
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I'm not sure whether to call the annoying Aussie lady two seats behind me Mrs Obvious or That's Beautiful ... every second sentence on the bus is "That's Beautiful" ... and when she isn't saying that then it as something bleedin' obvious like "That's a lot of water" "Aren't those trees green" Then I discovered an annoying Aussie man too. No manners and very odd .. strange or something !! So much so that I bet when he was a kid he got lost at county fairs and had to ask policeman "Can you help me find my parents?" to which the polieman probably replied "I don't know kid .. it may be difficult .. there are a lot of places for them to hide !!:-)) "
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Canadian maritimes trip was marred a little early on by some grotty weather but i had been spoilt with the weather on my trip so far I guess. I have to expect there will be some wet dull days and just get on with it, The day trip around Cabot Trail was prtty much a washout

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I found the Alexander Graham Bell museum absolutely fascinating ... the guy moved to Lake D'or in Canada and continued numerous inventions, he really was a later dat Da Vinci - his later achievements were with hydrofoils before his death in the 1920's. But it was also iteresting that his passion and experimentation with helping make the world a better placefor the deaf was what ultimatimately lead to the invention of the telephone (ironic really)

Halifax was probably the least interesting of our ports of call but the information on the great explosion in 1917 was impressive and I found a couple of glass bottles in an antique shop for Londi & Paul.

I was one of the few on the tour not going to the Anne of Green Gables Play ( 100 year anniversary of the books apparently) but Charlottetown was beautiful and interesting as was all of Prince Edward Island and the fine weather had finally found us in Canada. Lovely countryside and rich red earth due to the high iron content is ideal for lots of crops especially potatoes

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Confederation Bridge was a photographic highlight 13 km's long ! $1.3m to buildin the 90's joins Prince Edward Island with New Brunswick.

On the way back to Boston the final stop is at Bar Harbour .. with a trip through beautiul Acadia National Park on the way. Views from Cadillac Mountain were impressive and I certainly liked the beautiful town itself, perhaps a bit touristy .. but I am a tourist after all. !!

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Posted by Midworlder 01:05 Archived in Canada Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Historic USA

Founding, Independence and Civil War

sunny 36 °C

Washington

Friday & Saturday

Well Linda who I was meeting with her husband Jake had warned me it was hot. On Friday I left the airport and straight into the hotel, needed some sleep and so didn't venture out. The next morning Jake & Linda were kindly coming up from West Virginia, to take me visiting for the day. I stepped out of the hotel that morning and the heat hit .... heatwave in Washington is pretty oppressive. In the high 90's in the shade !
We popped down to Annapolis, a playground for the Washington rich and site of the Naval Academy. Jake is ex Army (special services) I believe and has worked for Defence and contractors for most of his life. he should be retired now but still works away. Linda is from a Italian New Jersey family .. they actually met through the internet 8 yrs ago ... lovely to see them together ... just what you would have imagined from there conversations in Fotothing.

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We looked around the harbour, toured the Naval Academy, very interesting. I hadn't expected to be going to a military base so only had a photocopy of my passport as ID, but Jake flashed some special ID out and talked us past the guard. It may have been ok with just the photocopy if we hadn't been honest and said we were going to be taking lots of photographs.

We finished off with a lovely long lunch at a restaurant where I think they had their first date. That night Jake ordered Raw Oysters, Linda didn't like the look of them and told himhe better eat the "squid sperm quick or get it out of her sight" they survived that night ! Lots of talk and stories, in the end the time we spent there (I had Maryland Crabcakes ... Mmmmmm) along with the heat outside meant the best option was a direct return to Washington.
The meet and greet for the Historic Highlights tour was that evening. I discovered I would have a kiwi lass on my tour. Ngaire a well travelled University administrator based in Wanganui was to prove a godsend, we could get around and spread the word about NZ, also it was good to have help in the back & forth verbal jousting with the Australian couple !!! We also tended to keep each others company when it came to free time .. walking museums historic sites, because we understood what was interesting to us and two pairs of eyes are better than one, finding more than if it had of been just one person.

Sunday - the tour commences

A lot more family groups on this tour, and three generations in some cases, this makes for a good mix. The tour guide is a lot more Sergeant Major than Bob on the Trail Blazer tour ... but as always very knowledgeable.

So off we go into the Washington heat on a Sunday ... quick visit's to Whitehouse, Lincoln WWII, Korean & Vietnam memorials , a longer trip through the moving Arlington National Cemetery, but all the time an oppressive heat. looking forward especially to seeing photos from the War memorials.

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the afternnoon was free time and a few things were on my list like the Library of Congress, but given the time and heat I plugged for the Smithsonian, the one I really wanted to see was industry and commerce but it was closed. Ngaire wanted to see Air & Space and even though I had been at Kennedy Space Centre a few days before I thought it was the second best option. Also I could add a bit to her experience with what I knew already by being closer in age to the the beginning of the space race and had picked in Orlando. It was great to wander round two sets of eyes are better than one .. so it ended up being a great choice. We also had a chance to relate tour experiences and the current one and differences in culture & ways of doing things between us laid back kiwis and Americans.

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Monday

On the road to Williamsburg with a stop at Washington's home at Mt Vernon and Yorktown, site of the last battle (more a siege actually) in the Revolutionary war . And off to Williamsburg, wireless internet was ok the first night then practically non existent so I have a lot of half finished threads of conversation with friends, travel agent and credit card company (possible bogus transactions) ... very annoying !

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Still oppressive heat ... Interesting history at Mt Vernon, Jefferson was certainly a collector of items from around the world.
The grounds offer a chance to walk around, but ability and speed limited by the heat, still the kiwi team got around most of it. We then st

Yorktown was as were the rest of the Historic Triangle that we visit next day (Jamestown and Williamsburg) a lot of recreations, interesting to learn about life then and how and why things happened.

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Overnighting at Williamsburg two nights .. internet crap ...
Historic Williamsburg was interesting but very hot again which restricted what we felt comfortable doing.

Wednesday

Came into Shenandoah National Park late evening. Staying at Big Meadow Lodge, wonderful scenery (Blue Mountains in the distance) in a peaceful setting. Wonderful sunset and a very entertaining folk / country singer in the taproom ... Most beers I have had since leaving Washington State. The kiwi / aussie banter has everyone else in hysterics

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Thursday

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Hiked out to Dark Hollow Waterfalls, leaving before 6 AM ... just three of us, unfortunately one of the girls had some breathing difficulty on the way back coming up the inclines so we ended up not getting back until almost 8 AM ... missed breakfast, but after all these hotel meals I can afford to miss one or two now & again.

Stopped at Harper's Ferry for an interesting self tour. Event's there were the final spark that started the Civil War. John Brown hoped to start an uprising but ended up being hanged. A pretty place, lot's more history and great buildings. Another Roger / Ngaire walking tour, glad to be finally getting a bit of walking exercise, but heat is still opressive.

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Friday

Gettysburg battlefields in the morning and a stop in Amish country for lunch, found some pertitent gifts for special friends. We didn't have much interaction with the Amish, and as expected photography was difficult.

Off to Philidelphia, last rites of the tour and unfortunately it took until about now for some people from the tour to come out of their shells and mingle. Apart from the kiwis & auuies of course, we were so far out of our shell we may as well have been Mexican Jumping Beans ... but everyone from tour guide & driver all through the passengers appreciated the humour we brought to the table.

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The tour ends on a bit of a whimper, we have sort of seen all the historic stuff, heard about it all, went to a light show ... then again this morning we heard more about the Constitution in various visitor centres.
I needed to get to Boston so rather than bussing back to Washington & flying to Boston I left the tour in Philly and am flying to Boston

Posted by Midworlder 15:30 Archived in USA Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Trailblazer tour pwo

0 °C

Off to the magnificent Grand Canyon ... vegetation almost exclusively Ponderosa Pines on the way in ... a good look around the one of the rims and a small trek down, the thing with these tours is that they have to format it for wide appeal and to see as much as possible so we didn't stay as long as I may have wished but we got to go back at sunset .. stunning .. and then up early for sunrise, not quite as stunning but still magificent
Almost missed the helicopter ride !! completely lost track of time ... big rush to chuck everything loose in suitcase, as we were on the road from there, held the bus up 5 minutes ... but as it turned out we were at the helicopter base on time. What a buzz the canyon by helicotor (sorry couldn't resist it) .... unfortunately I had a seat one away from the window but it didn't matter that much ... more the experience than the photos, and I still I think I got some goodies.

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We had a cruise out into a water filled canyon .. stunning scenery, you could see from markings on the crater wall that due to a prolonged drought the level had dropped probably as much as ten metres, although it didn't seem that much in the dock area where we left from (perhaps that had had to be rebuilt?). Great scenery and a nice dinner afterwards

Got up at sunrise and caught one of the few sunrises I have seen on this trip, quite spectacular.
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A stop at Bryce Canyon ... hoodoo country ... lovely colours and pinnacles, more great scenery. One thing about the trip is that has been plenty of spectacular scenery but it has all been quite varied one day or place not alike. The hoodoos are like the pinnacles out by Cape Palliser on the East Coast of NZ, but on steroids, really big ones !!

Zion National Park got the treatment the next day ... free to explore as much a possible on trails ... Kelvin was a bit crook and stayed back at the hotel so Jen & I teamed up and did the Riverside Walk and Upper & Lower Emerald Pools .. lots of exercise which was great.

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Last morning of this tour and really only the drive back to Vegas ... one brief stop on the way at a mormon town of Saint George ... Claim to fame is that it was the winter home of Brigham Young and it had the first mormon temple in the west ... built in 1877.. the bus had hardly stopped before some of the church were offering us peanut brittle (and the way to enlightenment no doubt)

A long layover ( 10 hrs) at the airport waiting for the flight to Floida .. I found a large unused part of the airport with power adn wireless and one chair .. time to update blogs .. post photos .. check future arrangements and get some photos tidied up

Eventually I reached Orlando .. got into the hotel about 11.30 AM and by noon I was lunching with my Fotothing friends Debbie and Carolyn, they were very taken by my accent and how they could misconstrue my words for a laugh.

Tuesday was a rest and relaxation day ... and with Debbie & Carolyn I wandered round a few bars for drinks and dinner. Of course I knew these lovely ladies would be a barrell of laughs and I wasn't disappointed.
Missing them the moment I left Orlando

Wednesday was a very full day at the Kennedy Space Centre ... fascinating ... lots & lots to see. Always amazes me how small those original Mecury and Gemini capsules were, but then again Apollo wasn't much bigger. Like flying Economy class all the way to the moon without the ability to go for a stroll down down the passageway

Thursday was moving day ... off to Washington DC via a long wait in Miami airport but I managed another lunch with the girls and a sad farewell. Debbie baked a huge batch of chocolate chip cookies which was very handy for the long trip to Washington DC. it was a great few days and a lot of laughs, was nice to see two people who were obviously great friend with each other and so generous in their time for me, pity it wasn't the weekend, but would I have survived :-))

In the airport I overheard an older lady saying they couldn't find any food and were hungry, it sounded like her son was with her and they things were a bit tense. Reinforced by the "What would Londi do?" mantra (she is so caring this thought often pops into my head when it needs too) I wandered over to offer some of Deb's cookies .... well sometimes you should just heep your head down. Turns out they were dossing down in the airport because they had nowhere to stay. The older lady (who was American) told me they were waiting for a substantial inheritance, there lawyer told them it would be 20 days at least, in the mean time they had no money. Of course they did have property in South Africa and I shouldn't think they were vagrants !! The airport police had asked them to leave .. but they were now dodging them in the terminals, they may try and get some sleep ... but if I saw the police I was to try and warn them ... okkkkkk thennnnnn ..... I retreated to a seat the other side of telephone booths and after a few minutes snuck away to another terminal !!!

Apart from that all was well, some very long emails were composed ... lots to say ... travel blogs were composed (but still I am behind) & fotothing was hammered. All went well and eventually I was off to Washington.

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Posted by Midworlder 23:16 Archived in USA Tagged round_the_world Comments (1)

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