Thursday, 16 April 2009

San Francisco

Couldn't resist getting a photo of Martha next to 'her' boat!

I love the cable cars. I've been to SF once before and bought a Christmas Tree ornament in the shape of a cable car. Each Christmas I relive the joy of travelling on them. So, it was wonderful to be able to share the experience with Brian and the children, who love it as much as me.
We've bought a three day pass so that we can hop on and off them (and the trolley buses) as much as we like and we're taking full advantage.

This is the view from our hotel window. The road is California and the cable cars run up and down there.
Yesterday we went to Muir woods, just outside San Francisco. It is home to the oldest Redwood forest. The trees are SO tall, some of them are over 1000 years old.

Everywhere you look there is a tree taller than the one you saw before. A very beautiful place.

It look ages to find this road. We could see people on it, but couldn't get to it. I'm glad we persisted, the view of the Golden Gate Bridge was fantastic.

Today we are off to Alcatraz! And a walk around Chinatown. Then it'll be packing the cases ready to come home tomorrow. It feels like we been away for about a month. It will be sad to leave, but I am looking forward to sleeping in my own bed...

I hope to be able to update you one more time before we fly home. If not, you'll have to wait until I've got over the jet lag... And then I should be back to the jewellery! I've not bought a single bead... yet...

Take care, all.

Much love.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

The looooooooooong drive north

We knew it was going to be a long drive from Las Vegas to Yosemite...

We looked it up on the sat nav (we have become so reliant on Jane, as we call her, that we only have a very small map of the west coast. She's not let us down yet.) and Jane said that it would take 9.5 hours if we went the whole way on the freeways/interstate highways and 12 hours if we went on smaller roads through the national parks. We took a vote and decided to go the pretty way.

We said a fond farewell to Las Vegas and set off. All went well and we passed through amazing, amazing scenery:

We even stopped off to find an ATM and found ourselves on Route 66...
But when we got up to the place where we should turn left to go over the mountains and into Yosemite, the pass was closed. We pulled into a petrol station and were told that the pass would be closed for the next couple of months! We couldn't wait that long...

The second pass was also closed, so as we'd already been on the road for 9 hours, we decided to go onto Lake Tahoe which was the next big place and the pass over the mountains from there was open.

Although we were sad to miss Yosemite, Lake Tahoe ran it a pretty good second. When I've heard people say on the TV and in films that they were going to Lake Tahoe, I'd never imagined that it was high, high up in the mountains and that it was a ski resort as well. It is a huge lake - 72 miles round - and it's stunning.

So, the above two pictures were taken within moments of each other. The one with me reading the paper (I'll explain in a minute) you can see the blinding sun on the mountains... and then the one with the three of us is looking in the other direction where there was a snow blizzard! There are mountains in amongst all that gloom.

The paper... Jim (back in Colorado - which seems like weeks ago to us now) publishes several papers and magazines for his area. The free daily paper is the Summit Daily and they publish occasional pictures of people reading the paper in unlikely settings. So, we've taken this copy around with us, photographing ourselves reading it in front of all the sights we've seen. Will let you know if we make it into the paper!

Did you have Dead Fly Cemetery when you were at school? It was a pudding with loads of currants - I didn't like it. But here's our version - the front of the car...

And then it was time to drive down the other side of the mountain and more gorgeous scenery. If you're ever short of a photo of mountains, we're the guys to see, we've got hundreds...

OK, so now we're in San Francisco and the last phase of the holiday. It's super sunny, but very windy.

It feels like we've been away for months, not a week and a bit.

Right, must get in the shower and get on with the day.

Much love to all,

Easter in Las Vegas...

... isn't like in any other place...

It started when we were walking back to the hotel on Saturday night when several police cars went screeching by with their sirens wailing. Then as we got nearer we saw a police helicopter circling. But then we realised it was circling our hotel!

Must admit to being rather wary. But as we got nearer, the helicopter wheeled away and shone its search beam elsewhere. Phew! Or at least I thought it was Phew... We went to bed and I read for a while, but when I turned off the light, I could see flashing lights. There were several police cars parked in the car park at the back of the hotel and then the helicopter returned. I eventually fell asleep, but I was still uneasy.

The next thing I knew there was someone banging on the room door. Being the coward that I am, I woke Brian up. It was 6 o'clock. He answered the door to two policemen! They said they'd had a report of a disturbance and was he OK. Brian assured them that he was. So then they asked if his family was OK.

We never found out what it was all about, but it was worrying for a while.

THEN, on Sunday morning, I looked out of the window to find a jet plane writing in the sky! The writing was done with the jet stream. Goodness knows how high up it was - I couldn't see the plane when the stream was turned off. I didn't get a very good picture... but eventually the message said, Jesus 'heart' U.

On Sunday, our original plan was to go to the Grand Canyon. However when we put it into the Sat Nav, she said it would take four and a half hours each way. Given that we were going to do a very long drive on Monday, we decided to miss it. So, it remains top of my 'Places I want to go to' list where it has been for a very long time. However we did fly over it when we were going from Denver to LA, so here it is from 30,000 feet!!
So instead we went to Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam. And it was a great trip. Here's the Dam taken from the Lake.
One of the best things for me was that the boat we took on the lake was paddlesteamer. I've always wanted to go on a steamer. When Mum and I came to America about 20 years ago we tried to go on one on the Mississippi, but the river was frozen and the boats frozen into it! So, this was a dream come true for me.

Here's the view of the lake from the dam. There's a long long traffic jam to cross the dam. So they are building a new road and a bridge...
... I'm kinda glad we visited before they finished it. Yikes!!
OK, that's got you up to Sunday. I'll try and catch you up a couple more days tomorrow.

Take care, all.

Much love

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Bright lights and sore feet

OK, we're now in Las Vegas... after a long, long drive through the desert from Los Angeles. This shot is of the New York, New York hotel. You can just about see the huge rollercoaster that runs around the hotel - even through the casino - and reaches up to 65 mph. And no, I won't be trying it!
Lovely metalwork.

The hotel on the left that looks like it's made of Lego is the Excalibur. We've not been in there yet.

This is the front of the Paris Hotel - and a half size replica of the Eiffel Tower.
The attention to detail in these themed hotels is just amazing - like this replica of the Arc d'Triumph at the Paris Hotel. And just look at all the detail in the metalwork of the canopy.

We were taking a breather on some benches here. We've walked MILES and MILES! My feet are so sore...
The reception of the Paris Hotel. The whole place just twinkled and twinkled.
If you thought the Paris Hotel was something, you should see the Venetian... all the sights of Venice boiled down to the front of the hotel. I took the photograph from a great replica of the Doge's Palace. Inside the hotel the shopping mall has a false sky... And there are more gondolas and gondaliers inside too.

This shot is for my brother. He just loved American trucks when he was younger. They are all so well looked after, the chrome has a polish that I'd be pleased to get on my jewellery!

There'll be more pics of Vegas soon... as long as my feet recover!

Hope all well with all of you.

Much love

Friday, 10 April 2009

It all lines up

The beach at Santa Monica... there's miles and miles and miles of sand... and hardly anyone on it.
Palm tree at Santa Monica... they are SO tall and there's loads of them.

We spent the day at the John Paul Getty Centre... or Center as they spell it here. What a fabulous place.
This is in the central plaza. I did an architecture tour while we were at the centre and the guide explained that everything is based on a 30 inch square. So each of those blocks of stone on the building is 30 inches, and the aluminium squares around the windows are 30 inches and the windows are 60 inches. And what makes it so attractive to me is that it all lines up. You can see how the lines between the windows line up exactly with the lines between the aluminium squares and where the aluminium meets the stone in the corner, it lines up, and where the stone meets the floor, the lines between the stones line up with the lines between the blocks on the floor. Very pleasing to the eye.
One of the eateries. We had lunch here and it was excellent - and great value. The whole centre is great value... it's free to get in (my favourite price) - just ten dollars to park the car.

This was one of my favourite piece of art at the Getty. It's Delusions of Grandeur by Rene Magritte. I loved the fact that none of the collection was behind ropes, you can go right up to it and examine it closely... even Van Gogh's Irises, the Monets, Gainsboroughs, Cezannes... you can get close enough to see every brush stroke. And you can photograph it... such an alien concept... so alien that I couldn't bring myself to do it!
I just loved these - located in the central garden. The structures are metal and the bourganvillea grows up through the core and spills out in a froth of flowers at the top.

This is the cactus garden at the south end of the centre and it represents Southern California.

And this is the north end, representing Northern California. You can land your helicopter on the circle at the end. And over to the right is the San Diego Freeway. The only thing I've not liked about LA is driving on the freeway - scary!!! We switched the Sat Nav to take us on the shortest route rather than the quickest and that's kept us off the freeways and finding much more interesting parts of town.
But for us, that's it for LA. Today (Friday) we head for the bright lights of Las Vegas!
Take care, All.
Much love,

Thursday, 9 April 2009

What a difference a day makes...

a day and a two hour flight to California! Our hotel is a snowball's throw from Venice Beach:
We discarded our layers and went down to the beach, stopping off on the way for Brian to enjoy his first ever pint of beer with an orange garnish!!
We walked for a long, long way along the beach, enjoying the sunshine, warmth and the fantastic architecture of the beachfront houses:

Then we walked back to the hotel along the canals that give Venice its name. More stunning houses:

Then yesterday, Wednesday, was our movie day. We started with a tour of Warner Brothers Studios, which was just amazing.
They're in the process of taking down all the sets they have used for ER for the last 15 years... it was really sad.

If you know The Gilmore Girls, you'll recognise Lorelai's house.

And unless you've been on another planet for the last decade, you'll recognise Central Perk from Friend's. Although the series has finished, they have preserved the set as it's one of their most successful shows.

We saw SO much cool stuff that we weren't allowed to photograph... like the museum where they have the costumes from The Matrix, Willy Wonka (although we didn't see Johnny Depp's costume as he has it written into his contract that he keeps all his costumes) and a whole floor of bits from Harry Potter. This includes the Sorting Hat from the first film... and we could be sorted. I'm a Huffelpuff...
It was an amazing tour and we had a super guide called Wes, who was a veritable mine of information.
From the studios we went to investigate the Walk of Fame, stopping off for some lunch in this shopping mall from where you can see the Hollywood sign. All the people on the bridge are taking their photos. I liked it better from here:
Onto the stars. These go on for miles. We saw most of them, but I missed Katherine Hepburn which was the one I really wanted to see. Ah well, next time...
Sam is an excellent second choice.
Near one end of the Walk of Fame is the Chinese Theatre with all the hand and footprints. Martha and I made a bee-line for Johnny Depp. He has very small hands!

From there we went over to Carroll Avenue which you won't have heard of, I'm sure, but it has amazing houses, including this one, which was used as the house where the witches from Charmed lived. This is Martha's favourite programme. It was supposed to be set in San Francisco but was actually filmed in LA.
An amazing day.
We're off to investigate museums today.
Hope you're all behaving!
Much love to all.