Spanish Snippets

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Since our blogpost on Barcelona, we have spent a little more time in Spain.  We had a great time in Valencia, Granada (above) and Malaga, followed by Seville and Madrid.

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Being Spain, it was no coincidence that we happened to be there during a couple of festivals: an amazing Easter Festival (above) in Granada and then the annual festival in Seville .(below) Fun times!

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Here then are a few snippets about Spain:

*  Some of the hanging hams look as old as the buildings.

*  The Spanish know how to party!

*  After the lunch-time alcohol, many Spanish NEED their siesta.

*  You wouldn’t want to be a bull in Spain.

*  The wine and beer are ridiculously cheap: a 6-pack costs less than a bottle in some other countries.

*  At the Seville Festival, horse-shit and  cobble-stones don’t mix.

*  The ladies of Seville look stylish in their Flamenco dresses.

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*  The Spanish sound like they lisp when they talk.  And I always thought Nadal had a speech impediment.-Barthelona!

*  There are definite signs that Spain was once the greatest nation on Earth.

*  Christopher Columbus was lost when he discovered America. Now America is lost.  Ironic.

*Lovely weather and beaches!

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* Gaudi, with all his talent, did not deserve to die a pauper.

*  Picasso was prolific and talented.

*  Barcelona Football Club fills its 94 000 stadium for matches, but is broke and wants to build a bigger and better one.

*  Gaudi was sometimes gaudy with his creations.

*Lovely castles – especially Malaga’s!

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* Sagreda Familia, Gaudi’s iconic cathedral, one century on, is still ahead of its time and still unfinished.

*  Sangria looks like punch and packs a punch.

*  Tapas, ah tapas! Yum!

*Beautiful countryside.

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*  Valencia is famous for its oranges and deserves to be.

*  Leo Messi, Barcelona FC, is a great soccer player, but Neymar Junior, same team, may be even better.

*   At Easter, many Catholic celebrants parade in Ku Klux Klan outfits, which can be unsettling for many Americans.

*  The Spanish festivals all seem to go for a week.

*  If you are going to celebrate for a week, and party all night, you need to pace yourself.

*  To see the fair in Seville, you would never suspect that the economy was in trouble.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Portrait of Portugal

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Portugal is a great place to visit: interesting, full of attractions and cheap.  We spent an enjoyable week there.  Our two major stops were Lisbon and Porto, (plus the beautiful countryside in between), and both are well worth a visit.

Porto in particular is off the radar for most tourists but it’s a beautiful city and a really great place to walk around or simply chill out with a wine or a coffee, (or a port!!??) and watch the world go by.

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In Lisbon, head for the main city square and for Belem and in Porto, go across the upper level of the 2-level bridge to the monastery on the other side for spectacular views.  Also check out along the river.

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Some random reflections on Portugal:

*  Every café is also a pub.

*  Sections of Lisbon are in severe need of renovation.

*  Porto is a beautiful city.

*  Porto is famous for its port (the drinking variety) and you should drink some port in Porto.

*  The local specialty dish, Francesinha, with layers of meat, cheese and sausage in a beery sauce, is delicious heart attack material.

*  The bookstore that inspired the stairs in Harry Potter, in Porto, is stunning, ranked 2nd in the world apparently.

*  No wonder Vasco da Gama prayed all night before his famous voyage: it’s a big ocean out there!

*  The Catholic church has always had plenty of money.

*  Superbock is Portuguese for beer.

*  Cork is a major industry in Portugal so they still use corks in all their wine bottles.  But Cork is in Ireland.  Go figure.

*  If a beer costs 1 euro in a bar, you can’t afford NOT to drink.

*  There is no shortage of places to sit down to eat or drink.

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*  The queue for the local pastries in Belem is longer than it deserves to be.

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*  When the Portuguese speak English they sound like Russians.

*  They use a lot of tiling on their buildings, even through one entire Metro station.

*  If a can of beer costs 35 cents including the 23% government tax, I wonder how much the brewer makes?

*  The Portuguese are not afraid to hang out their washing on their balconies.

*  Pastries are popular in Portugal.

*  There is still evidence that Portugal was once one of the greatest nations on Earth.

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Random Moroccan Observations

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How do you sum up Morocco?

 

 

 

After 3 entertaining weeks in this amazing country, here are just a few random observations, each worthy of an  exclamation mark!

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*   Moroccan fruit goes off quickly but has great taste!

*   You still see guys with yellow vests standing at railway crossings with flags to warn motorists about oncoming trains!

*   There is a shepherd for every small flock of sheep, herd of cattle etc!

*   What a life for many, with no way of ever escaping poverty!

*   Lots of guys hang out at the coffee shops!

*   The regular calls to prayer are ubiquitous!

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*   Some areas of Fez have had running water for over 20 centuries! – Some still haven’t got it!

*   Who grows prickly pear?!

*   Almost all of the houses are square-shaped and many look unfinished!

*   The outside of a dwelling may look ordinary, but the inside may not!  Some riads are like palaces inside!

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*   How do camels last so long without water?!

*   Thank god for dung beetles or there would be a lot of camel shit in the desert!

*   Morocco needs a better garbage collection system, involving bins!

*   One often becomes aware of the distinctive Moroccan smell, which is a mix of garbage, olive oil, spices, donkey shit and rotten fruit!

*   You can’t make a huge living selling single cigarettes on a side street!

*   It is possible to learn 7 languages, quite fluently, without ever leaving your village!

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*   And the main square of Marrakech has to be seen to be believed, with its acrobats,  storytellers, stalls, monkeys,  snake-charmers, cafes, souvenirs,  false teeth, exotic animal skins for sale, restaurants, arts and crafts, clothes, spices, lanterns and so on, especially at night!

*   If you are lost then a guide seeking a tip is only steps away!

*   The people are friendly and you will be sad to leave!

Leather tannery, Fez

Leather tannery, Fez

 

Cruise to Morocco, the Canary Islands and the Spanish Coast

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Casablanca

Casablanca

Just when we thought we may not be doing any cruises this year, we scored a bargain out of Barcelona.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We only needed to juggle one of our bookings to squeeze it in and we are so glad we did.  The cruise was amazing and we again met lots of wonderful fellow travelers on board.

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Starting and ending in Barcelona, the cruise had 4 ports of call: Casablanca in Morocco, two of the Canary Islands and Malaga on the Spanish coast.  We passed through the Straits of Gibraltar on our way out of the Mediterranean into the Atlantic Ocean.

 

The Arecife,  Canary Islands

The Arecife, Canary Islands

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meanwhile, on board, the entertainment was outstanding.  Every night we were treated to a high standard show in the ship’s theatre.  The resident group of singers and dancers put on some great shows.  On other nights we had aerialists, a comedy juggler, a magician and a funny group of talented string musicians.  And then there was the late night poker game which again proved lucrative.

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Casablanca gave us a good taste of what Morocco will be like when we return there soon.  We visited the world’s largest mosque, featuring the world’s largest minaret. It has been built out into the sea on reclaimed land.  Non-Muslims are allowed to visit so it attracts a lot of visitors.  We wandered all over Casablanca, including a long walk along the seawall and an entertaining visit to the medina and all of its colourful stalls.  The locals were surprisingly passive and friendly compared to what we had both imagined.

Tenerife,  Canary Islands

Tenerife, Canary Islands

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Canary Islands also took us by surprise.  The islands enjoy excellent weather for almost the entire year, so they attract a lot of tourists from all over Europe.  The British can reach the islands in less than four hours, so they are a popular destination.  We were quite surprised by the level of infrastructure on the islands.  Apart from the obvious hotels and resorts there are impressive office buildings, churches, shops, parks and many of the things you see in other European cities.

Santa Cruz on the island of Tenerife was our second port of the trip.  We explored the city and caught a local bus to one of the most popular beaches on the island, Las Teresitas.  There we walked the full length of the beach and out to the end of the breakwater.  Next we walked around the nearby town of San Andras, with all its coloured buildings dotted across the hillface.  Then it was back to Santa Cruz for more wandering around.

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Our next stop was Lanzarote.  We took the free shuttle to the downtown area and walked across a bridge to an old fort.  Lanzarote has had a great deal of volcanic activity in its past, which explains all the black soil.  It was where they filmed The Planet of the Apes.  The resorts have solved the black sand issue by covering it with white sand.  A lot of money has obviously been invested in resort developments, but the further we walked from the port area, the less successful they appeared.  Probably victims of the economic downturn that has effected Spain and most of Europe.  Still, a nice little place to spend a holiday, but not quite enough going on for a long term stay.

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The final stop on the cruise was Malaga on the Costa del Sol.  Malaga is a wonderful city with lots of attractions and you can see why it is a popular destination among the Brits, seeing they enjoy cleanliness and a nice bit of sun!  We again just about walked our legs off.  From the ship we walked all the way to the fort on the top of the nearby mountain.  The Spanish have done a wonderful job maintaining the fort which is in two sections stretching almost all the way back to the downtown area.  There was also plenty to see in the old town area, with many shops, restaurants, bars, etc.  For those interested in gastronomic pursuits, you were again spoilt for choice.  There are so many dining options and all seemed to be reasonably priced.

And then it was back to Barcelona, with the 9 days over all too quickly.  But what a fantastic cruise it had been on the Norwegian Spirit!

 

Sahara Desert Camel Trip With Berbers

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Wow, what an adventure!  A chance to ride camels into the heart of the Sahara Desert, eat Moroccan food, meet fellow adventurers, see lots of diverse scenery and spend a couple of nights in tents with the Berbers.

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When we discovered the trip, we knew we had to do it.  The company we chose (Smart Holidays) was offering 2-day, 3-day or 4-day trips out of Marrakech.  After reading some reviews we decided to do the 4-day.  If you are debating about which trip to choose, we would recommend the 3 OR 4.  The 2-day is action packed and lots of fun as well but you don’t get right into the actual Sahara Desert with the massive sandhills and the real desert feel.  We know this because being on the 4-day package meant that we left the 2-day group on the 2nd day and hooked up with the 3-day people for the rest.  DSC08433(2)

 

 

 

 

 

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Which ever you choose, they all represent great value.  Choose a mini-bus like us or pay much more for a 4-wheel drive vehicle.  And DON’T pre-book online because trips go daily (in season), are readily available and you can bargain the prices down.

The ‘bottom’ line of our choice was that we were the only two people that were on camels on each of the four days!  And camels aren’t particularly kind on your bottoms!  The dromedaries aren’t anyway.  No matter how much padding you put on the camel’s single hump, your arse will still feel it and after several hours of movement, you will wish you were sitting somewhere more comfortable.  This is also because there are no stirrups.  But it is certainly bearable and well worth it for such an incredible experience.  I felt like Lawrence of Arabia and even checked out where it was filmed, along with a huge list of other movies including Gladiator, Jewel of the Nile and Babel.

I won’t bore you with all the minute details of our trip but I will mention 10 personal highlights:

  1. You get to experience the real Sahara Desert which is simply a stunningly beautiful place.  With sandhills stretching as far as you can see, it is simply a wonderful feeling to be there.
  2. Amazing sunrises and sunsets, which are all the more impressive because of the location.
  3. Lots of interesting things to see as you travel around the area.
  4. The contrasting geography as you travel from Marrakech towards the Sahara, across the Atlas Mountains: lush in parts, snow-capped mountains in the distance, oases, gorges and thousands of palm trees.

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5.   Seeing where many desert-based movies were filmed: locations, studios, as well as an interesting museum (only on the 4-day) featuring props, rooms, costumes and equipment.

6.   Mixing with the wonderful Berber people who own the camels.

7.   Staying in a Berber tent in the middle of the Sahara Desert, with star-filled skies and clean air.

8.   Eating Moroccan cuisine in the middle of the desert.

10.   Meeting and mixing with a diverse group of like-minded adventurers from many countries and having the time to have meaningful discussions with them.  In our case we had Italians, a Phillipino, French, Americans, Japanese, Polish, a Bangladeshi, British, an Argentinian and New Zealanders.

9.   Visiting the World Heritage listed Ksar Ait Ben Haddou, an amazing, authentically Moroccan place.  It features in many of the locally produced movies, particularly Gladiator and Jewel of the Nile.  The locals had almost deserted the place but since it has been heritage-listed and a bridge added, 40 or 50 families are living there.

If you get a chance, do it!  You may have occasional feelings of boredom with the great distances (most), tiredness (everyone), exhaustion (Anna), sore muscles (Anna and Damien), shortness of breath (Anna), nausea (Francesca, Jasmine and Rebecca), desperately wanting a shower, (most), a sore arse (everyone), or a chronic fear of dung beetles (Francesca!) but believe me, and my fellow travelers, it is all worth it.  And if the camels are all too much, there is always the back-up vehicle (Marco, Tanja and Anna!)

Footnote:  Marco chose not to use the camels on Friday!

Barcelona

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If you have never been to Barcelona, as we hadn’t before this trip, then put it on your list.  You will not regret it.  Barcelona is a fantastic city and we thoroughly enjoyed our time there. We were going to stay for a week initially but we extended to 10 days to hook up with a tempting 9-day cruise out of Barcelona, visiting Malaga, Casablanca and the Canary Islands!

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Barcelona has a wonderful feel to it.  It’s a big city with great infrastructure and is easy to get around.  It has an effective subway system which we used only sparingly because we love to walk so much.  And Barcelona is a rewarding city to walk around.  If you are pressed for time then the subway would be the way to go.  Many people also use the Hop-on hop-off bus.  That is a good option if your time is limited, but we save heaps by doing it all ourselves.

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If you use the subway they have a good deal of 10 trips for 10 euros, versus the single ticket price of more than 2 euros per trip.

So, the highlights of our time in Barcelona?

*  We loved all the sights and almost all of the smells

*  The food and drink are fabulous and very economical

*  Fantastic markets!

*  La Rambla, the central walking area where everyone likes to ‘ramble’

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*All the Gaudi stuff!  Gaudi was an extremely talented artist who somehow died a pauper, but his works remain as a monument to his genius.  The cathedral he worked on until his death, the Sagrada Familia, has to be seen to be believed!

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*The beach areas and the walkway along the coast

*  Placa Catalunya, the central square, is a hive of activity and there are lots of restaurants, bars and coffee shops in the area.

*  Barcelona football club.  We were lucky enough to score tickets to one of their games while we were in town.  Their stadium, Camp Nou, holds nearly 100,000 spectators.  We weren’t disappointed, with Barcelona scoring 3 goals against the visitors, including one by the famous Leo Messi!  I have heard of some spectators from other parts of Europe paying $1000′s for this experience, but we picked up our tickets at the stadium (in the nose-bleed section) for only 17 euros each.

*  Mont Juic is well worth a visit.  There is a fernicular that takes you up there for stunning views of the city and you can visit the 1992 Olympic stadium as well.

Do yourself a favour – visit Barcelona.

Carnival Poker Cruise in the Caribbean on the Carnival Breeze

Grand Turk - Caribbean

Grand Turk – Caribbean

 

Having won the Poker Cruise  back in February while on our South American cruise, it had been a long wait for it to finally arrive.  But it did give me a little time to practise my poker in the meantime.  The cruise was based around a typical Caribbean cruise, visiting 4 interesting locations: Grand Turk, Dominican Republic, Curacao and Aruba.  Having never visited any of these places, it was perfect for us.  It also sailed out of Miami, which we were keen to re-visit from 35 years ago!  And it was on Carnival’s newest ship, the Carnival Breeze, which carries over 4000 passengers.

 

The cruise was supposedly a normal cruise but was literally packed with gamblers.  Apart from more than 300 poker players on board to play in the tournament, there were a number of ‘elite’ gamblers (people who had previously lost a lot of money on Carnival ships!?) also on board.  With 10 electronic poker tables in addition to all the regular casino offerings, this made for some crazy action.

Grand Turk

Grand Turk

 

 

 

Grand Turk  We walked around locally and checked out the beach in both directions.  There was a tourist promotion related to when John Glenn splashed down to earth near Grand Turk.

 

 

 

 

Margarittaville - Grand Turk

Margaritaville – Grand Turk

 

 

The snorkelling was amazing, featuring a cannon, an old anchor and lots of interesting brightly coloured fish. The water got deep very quickly, which enabled the ship to dock close to shore.

 

 

Wave-surfing: Grand Turk

Wave-surfing: Grand Turk

 

 

There was a massive Margaritaville establishment with swimming pools, swim up bars and a Flowrider Surfing machine.  This created a lot of amusement for we observers, with lots of wipe-outs and the odd surfer temporarily losing part of their swimming costume.  Good for Glenelg, S. Australia perhaps?

 

 

 

 

Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic

 

 

The Dominican Republic shares an island with the impoverished Haiti.  There is poverty here too but it is counter-balanced by wealth, with resorts, golf courses and other tourist ventures.

 

 

 

 

 

Village

Village

 

 

We took two local buses to see the attractions.  The first took us to a ‘traditional village’ which was stunning.  Although it was built in the 1980′s it was made in the style of 17th century Spain.  It featured cobblestones, an ‘old’ church, a huge amphitheatre and a range of ‘old’ buildings.  They also had people dressed in traditional clothes who danced and played music.

 

 

 

 

Village

Village

 

 

It was lucky we went there first because the downtown area didn’t offer much.  There were lots of souvenir stalls and a baseball walk of fame, but little else, other than desperate local salespeople hoping to make a few $$ from the tourists. Hopefully they did.

 

 

 

Curacao

Dominican Republic

Curacao

 

Yes, this is where the ‘Blue Curacao’ liqueur is made.  The locals have painted up all the buildings around the port, so it presents well.  There is a deep canal where another cruise ship was docked and a pontoon bridge that opens to let the ships pass through.  When this is open you need to return across the canal by local ferry, which we did.

 

 

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On the other side of the pontoon bridge there is an area called ‘old town’ which features lots of shops selling gear to the locals and tourists alike.  There was also an interesting ‘floating market’ featuring local produce.  We didn’t recognise this at first because it was on land next to the river.  The store-holders however, arrive in their  houseboats, which is where the floating part comes in.  There were some nice restaurants and bars lining the canal too.

 

Curacao

Curacao

 

The locals are friendly and the influence of the Dutch is very strong.

 

Then it was back to the ship, ready for more poker at night.

 

 

 

 

Aruba

Aruba

Aruba

 

 

Our final stop on the cruise was the island of Aruba.  The island is idyllic from a swimming point of view with white sand and turquoise coloured, warm water.  Resorts and expensive houses and units are everywhere, but the island itself offers little else.

 

 

Aruba

Aruba

 

We did a tour of the island on an old bus with a very funny local woman as our guide.  She kept us entertained for a couple of hours as we visited the local attractions:  a light-house, some of the rich peoples’ houses and an interesting pile of rocks with an overview of the nearby desert and the odd cactus.  And some iguanas.  Those who wished were then dropped off at the beach for an extra two hours.  Very relaxing, and the icy cold local beers were refreshing and memorable.

 

 

 

Iguanas everywhere!

Iguanas everywhere!

Meanwhile, back on board, the poker games were fun and rewarding too.  Unfortunately I crashed out of the two tournaments on board with bad beats.  My most annoying was when, just short of the money, my AQ lost to KJ.  I hit my Ace on the flop and my Queen on the river.  My opponent hit neither, but the river Queen gave him a straight.  That’s poker!  However, I did make a solid profit in the cash games.  A personal highlight was when my Royal Flush beat AAAKK, although the poor woman only had $53 to donate, so it wasn’t as lucrative as it might have been.

And Jenny played in the Main Event too!  As I was unable to sell off my 2nd ticket, Jenny agreed to have a go.  After a brief coaching session the night before the tournament, Jenny sat down to play her first poker game for real money.  She did really well too, defeating 20 other players but finally busting out when her JJ ran into KK and didn’t improve.

All in all a wonderful eight days on board the Carnival Breeze, with interesting ports, smooth sailing, fine weather, good company and fun at the poker tables.

Lake Havasu

Lake Havasu

Lake Havasu

 

We were finally able to link up with our friends Douglas and Georgianne in Lake Havasu, Arizona, home of the reconstructed London Bridge.  We met Douglas and Georgianne on the Carnival Splendor cruise around South America.  They live only a few hours from Las Vegas, but we weren’t able to catch up over summer because Arizona is HOT at that time and they always take off for cooler climes in their amazing motor home.  Good idea.

 

 

 

 

Old London Bridge

Old London Bridge

 

 

We travelled down to Lake Havasu on the Aloha shuttle, with an ‘interesting’ group of people.

Douglas is an ex-navy captain and was a ship’s pilot bringing in ships to the port of Los Angeles for a further 2o odd years.  I met him at the poker table on the Splendor. Georgianne was the life of the party wherever she was on the cruise ship.

Lake Havasu is centred around a man-made lake.  The re-built London Bridge is another attraction which must bring lots of tourists to the area.

 

 

Gold mining town

Gold mining town

 

One day we went out to the historic town of Oatman, which is an old gold mining town.  Seven of us piled into Douglas’s Cadillac SUV.  They have kept the town true to the gold-mining era, with a cute main street that is interesting to wander down.  There are lots of souvenir shops and quaint little restaurants and hotels.  One establishment has its walls literally covered in US $1 bills with peoples’ names on them.  The other draw-card for the town is its mules!  The mules are a carry-over from the town’s mining days but it’s fun to have them wandering around the streets.

 

 

 

DSC05744Another highlight of our time in Lake Havasu was a boating trip on a friend’s boat.  Willie took us out on his boat with wife Shirley, Douglas and Georgianne plus Wayne and Carol.  Kim joined us later.  We stopped at a cove for lunch, washed down with cold drinks. We even managed to see a mountain goat.  On the way back we called into Copper Canyon and motored under the London Bridge.  A fun day.

Meanwhile, back at Douglas and Georgianne’s, our down time was spent chatting, relaxing by their pool or getting whipped at 10 pin bowling on their Wii.  We also had a chance to check out their latest motor-home in one of their storage sheds.  It is amazing, with four TV’s, a log fire heater, bathroom and laundry facilities, four ‘pop-outs’ and the size of a modern bus.  Luxury!

At the end of our stay they dropped us back in Vegas.

 

Page Arizona, Zion National Park and Bryce National Park

Lake Powell, Page, Arizona

Lake Powell, Page, Arizona

 

We finally made our way out to see Buddy in Page Arizona, where he looked after us royally for three nights.  Buddy lives in the midst of some of the most stunning desert scenery on earth and the area is well worth a visit.

 

 

 

Zion National Park

Zion National Park

 

On the way to Buddy’s in our Ford SUV rental car, we visited Zion National Park.  There we made use of the shuttle buses that take visitors around the park.  The scenery is incredible and there is lots of wildlife including deer and wild turkey.  On some of the sheer rock faces we spotted some rock-climbers way up.

At one point I had to drive through a tunnel some two kilometres long.  This was a fun experience because in total darkness I was unable to find the headlight switch in the rental car.  I could find the high beam, which I used ‘intermittently’, but nothing else.  The approaching motorists, not realising our dilemma, found this annoying and flashed us constantly, whether or not we had the high beam on.  Somehow we made it through the tunnel without incident.

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Buddy took us to a local Autumn/Halloween Festival in Page with some interesting stalls and features.  The next day we went off-road driving in his jeep.  This was fun because with Buddy’s local knowledge we were able to check out lots of interesting places that a lot of regular tourists don’t find out about.  We visited the Dinosaur Centre where the resident expert recently discovered traces of a previously unknown dinosaur!  It is now of course named after him.

 

 

An example of a hoodoo.

An example of a hoodoo.

 

Buddy also showed us some hoodoos. These are rock formations shown in the photo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon

 

The next day we checked out Antelope Canyon, which is famous world-wide among photographers.  It is on Indian land, so the  native people charge to visit, but this place is unique and well worth a visit.  Our guide was happy enough to adjust settings on everyone’s camera and suggest exact angles for the best photographs.  Since our visit we have seen a number of photographs of the canyon in galleries and exhibitions across America.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lake Powell boat trip - Jon & Buddy

Lake Powell boat trip – Jon & Buddy

 

Later that day we took a boat tour of Lower Antelope Canyon, Lake Powell.  This too was quite picturesque.

On our way back to Vegas to return the rental vehicle, we took a dirt road through Cottonwood Canyon.  We saw more stunning scenery and stopped off at Grosvener’s Arch.  Our next stop was Bryce Canyon National Park.  Entry to the National Parks is $25 per vehicle but you can get an annual pass to all national parks for $80 and I think it’s only $20 for a lifetime pass for seniors 62 and over.  In the words of our friend Teresa, “It sucks being young!”

 

 

Bryce National Park

Bryce National Park

 

Bryce Canyon National Park was amazing!  There are lots of great scenic points and overlooks.  The weather was cooold to say the least, but it was worth getting out of the car for all the views, if you were quick.  As the day wore on we experienced a few flakes of snow, which came as a bit of a shock after the heat back in Page, where daytime shorts were  necessary.  There was also a very good visitor centre, with excellent photos and displays.

 

 

 

 

Snow - high in the mtns. near Cedar City

Snow – high in the mtns. near Cedar City

 

From there we took the recommended scenic route, over the mountains west to Cedar City.  Imagine our surprise, as we travelled along Highway 14, when we found ourselves in a snow storm!  We were descending from about 10 000 feet, so I guess it wasn’t all that surprising, but it certainly came as a shock to us!  To add to the drama, snow soon covered the road and the driver’s side windscreen wiper stopped working!  With my head over Jenny’s side of the vehicle as I drove, we tentatively made our way down the mountain.  Luckily we came up behind a snow plough, which allowed us to emerge from the snow-covered areas without further incident.

 

 

 

Oregon

View from the train

View from the train

 

After San Francisco, we trained up to Oregon to see cousin Linley and her husband Dave in Canby, near Portland.  What a beautiful part of the country it is too!  Everything is unbelievably lush and green as a result of all the rain.  The lawns are immaculate, water flows everywhere and the soil is rich and productive. It was great to leave all the crazy traffic behind as we looked out of the viewing carriage of the train as we passed huge mountains, pine forests, rivers and the occasional  snowy scenes.

 

 

With Linley, Dave & Jessica

With Linley, Dave & Jessica

 

We spent 10 days up in Oregon, mostly with Dave and Linley and their two cute ciahuahuas, Chico and Cheech.

 

 

 

 

We also spent an enjoyable few days in Portland, which is a great city.  An Australian journalist recently suggested that Adelaide should model itself on Portland, which would be a good idea because Portland has a lot going for it. There is a bit of  a campaign going on to ‘keep Portland weird!

So, the highlights of our time in Oregon…

*  the train trip from San Francisco

*

Silver Falls

Silver Falls

 

Silver Falls near Canby…. beautiful

*  the covered bridge at Gallon, named during the Prohibition era when grog changed hands

*  Bauman Farms, decked out with local produce and Halloween decorations

*  the Oregon Trail Museum, for an understanding of what the American pioneers went through (lots!)

*  Dr McLoughlin’s house

*  the two hour walking tour of Portland with Eric… a very funny guy!

*  Powell Book Store in Portland… absolutely massive and definitely the best bookstore I have ever been to!

 

 

Food carts

Food carts

*  the food carts of Portland.. huge array of economical food choices to enjoy.  They have 100′s!

*  Washington Park, Portland, with its rose garden, Japanese garden

*  the Edgefield Poor Farm, historic building now redeveloped as a hotel

*  the fish hatcheries, featuring Herman, a 70 year old, 3 metre long sturgeon

 

*  Multnomah Falls, which Carly and I hiked to the top of.  Wow!  Worth the climb.

*  the Aurora folk museum, a great insight into local history

Dave & his plane

Dave & his plane

 

The absolute highlight though was a late afternoon flight in Dave’s plane.  We flew from the Aurora Airport, up over the Washington border and back.  On the way we saw the coast, Mt Hood, the mouth of the Colombia River, Mt St Helens, Mt Rainier and a spectacular sunset.

Thank you Dave and Linley for your warm hospitality.

 

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