Last day : Lodi to San Francisco

Poppy has a sleep over last night so Jordan took her for a walk to get our coffee ! Great start to the last day.

Lisa went to work a little bit later to make the most of Poppy time and to farewell me.

Right on 10am John , Jordan and I set off for San Francisco. It’s a beautiful warm, blue day and they are taking me all the way to San Francisco. About 1.5 hrs with some great signs along the way.

It was an interesting drive past vineyards and into the delta area where we sang the song ‘ drove my chevi to the levy but the levy was dry ‘

There are a number of levy here which cater for the farms in the area. Many crops are grown here.

I could sing my way around America!

‘Are you going to San Francisco….’

‘Do you know the way to San Jose….’

Visiting any area of America produces the opportunity to sing about it!

We arrived via the rather beautiful Bay Bridge. It was replaced after an earthquake brought down part of the old bridge.

It has a great approach and is a rather lovely structure.

We arrived into SF and drove along the Embarcadero………

past all the rejuvenated piers until we reached pier 39.

We parked the car and walked out on pier to Scomos. It’s an old restaurant – like bring on a ship. I had a great shrimp salad. And a glass of Rose!

Last time I’ll see Jordan before baby M arrives!

The day was perfect so we walked along the water. I admired the people swimming! It would be just a little chilly!

Then John took me on a tour. Of course the famous zig zag Lombard St featured.

The views down Lombard St.

We arrived at Grove St at a rather small hotel, one block from the painted ladies of Alamo Park. John and Jordan helped me in and then it was goodbye. Next time I see my daughter in law will be with a baby in her arms.

As the weather was so lovely I headed straight out. Up the hill to Alamo Park and the infamous Painted Ladies. SF style houses painted different colours.

My hotel is just down the street to the left.

I then walked …… and walked……. past some great houses.

Past public buildings

City Hall
Love the circular rooms
Mosaics
Opera & Ballet Theatre
Great street art.

Until I had passed numerous homeless people to reach Union Square where I had stayed years ago.

By now I was quite exhausted so had a cup of tea! Watched the passing parade and caught an Uber back to the Grove Inn.

I refreshed in my little room and went to the Alamo Square Seafood Grill. What a find. It was a little FRENCH ! place and I had the best fish fish! Grilled blackened snapper with delicious veg. And a glass of Chardonnay.

Wandering the Hamptons

A slow start was in order after our 20+ hours of travel from Australia to New York.

Our hotel is just great. https://www.sagharborinn.com

Beautiful beds and large rooms overlooking the marina it is peaceful this time of year.

We sat in the comfortable breakfast lounge and planned the day.

It was raining but if it didn’t put off the runners passing our hotel in a fun run it shouldn’t worry us!

Our view from the bedroom!

We decided to go to Main Street for coffee then head off for the half-hour drive to Montauk to visit the Lighthouse.

The Main Street is a mixture of pretty businesses and shops. The flowers have been planted for Spring but the weather’s still cool and rainy.

The marinas are still empty waiting for the season to start, so the town is quiet which suits us.

We got back into the van and headed off through East Hampton to Montauk.

We visited the lighthouse which was shrouded in fog, taking the rocky path near the water to get the best views.

Moving on we went to the Marina which must be so lovely in season but is super quiet now.

Feeling thirsty we stopped at the Montauk Brewery. This was most crowded place we’ve been so far.

The beer is good and their marketing spot on.

I had the watermelon ale. A touch of sweetness to take away the bitter taste. A great aperitif for lunch to follow.

Driving through the still foggy streets I loved seeing the washed grey shingled houses. And the lobster shacks like the one featured in the TV series The Affair

The signs were catchy…..

And the beaches quiet and dreamy.

Back in Sag Harbour I couldn’t help think how different it would be in Summer.

Back to our hotel for a little R&R before dinner. The jet lag has just about gone.

Family Time in the Hamptons

Our flight over was smooth and uneventful – just the way I like it.

We landed in LA to blue skies. We’d like to have stayed a night to catch up with our friends Dan & Isabelle Garr but time didn’t allow. It was a short stopover before the 4 1/2 hr flight onto New York.

Unfortunately it was grey skies and light rain that greeted us there. We landed early but the taxi back to the terminal took about 35 mins. Waiting to cross a busy runway of plane taking off provided a plane spotters ideal but I was anxious to get off the plane.

Walking off the plane and into Terminal 8 we passed a wall mural that summed up NY. It was shiny and glittery and beautiful!

Lisa and John were there to meet us with a van and directions to Sag Harbour in the Hamptons. Traffic out of NY was the usual – stop, start, slow feature that leaving any city for the coast has.

The kids Rob & Jordan had arrived in the afternoon and were waiting for us at our hotel. The Sag Harbor Inn. We finally arrived and headed straight out for dinner. It was so lovely to see them again.

After eating a lovey meal at Il Cappuccino we planned tomorrow then fell into bed.

Start Spreading the News!

Yes, we are flying off to New York tomorrow!

It’s almost exactly a year since our son Rob married Jordan in Santa Barbara. They have been living in NY and we haven’t seen them since then.

So we are excited!

We land in NY on Friday at 5pm and will head straight to Sag Harbour in the Hamptons for the weekend. Sounds good doesn’t it.

So follow along for our three weeks in New York, Quebec, Montreal, Vermont, Boston and Newport.

Canberra: Lots to see lots to do.

Our last morning in Canberra was a little lazy. We enjoyed the hotel: the quiet room, the breakfast and the coffee in the sun reading the papers.

The Kurrajong Hotel is old but is an institution in Canberra. It was home to politicians over the years.

We stayed here two years ago when our nephew was married. It was good then and once again we enjoyed it.

You probably want a car if staying here as it’s not in the city. But Canberra is quite spread out and you need a car or you need to love cycling. It’s a city for cyclists.

I always get a bit lost here. Everything is spread out. The blocks are long, are tree lined and have 2 story block type buildings. All the main attractions tend to be along the lake and today we were going to visit a few.

First stop was Old Parliament House. Last time I was here it was with a group of Year 7 students on a school trip from Brisbane. This time we arrived in time to join a tour with Sergio. He was a volunteer guide but had worked for many years at Old Parliament House. He was so informative. And funny in a sage kind of way. He had opinions on Pauline Hanson and other Senators who despite having low numbers of votes were now holding the balance of power.

We toured the old building and heard some anecdotes about Whitlam, Hawke and Howard. Sergio had worked there in their days. It must have been interesting especially the stories involving Hawke!

Some of the items spotted in Old Parliament House

We continued on and decided to separate. I went to the Art Gallery and Steve to the National Museum. I’d been there a few times when on tour with my school. So I passed on that. I love the Art Gallery.

I spent a few hours in the large spaces of the Gallery. There was an exhibition on California Cool , Art Deco and Art Nouveau.

I left the Gallery and walked along to Questicon further along the lake. Steve had arrived and was having a great time interacting with the exhibits , primarily science based. It’s such a great place. Don’t miss it on a trip to Canberra.

The afternoon passed and before long we were flying to Adelaide to stay with Steve’s sister in Fullerton.

Adelaide is the city of festivals so I’m keen to see what’s on.

Beautiful Bali

Yesterday I repacked my bag after returning from Vanuatu and flew out of Brisbane into Sydney, then onto Bali!

Yes another lovely holiday coming up. This one will be a more relaxing holiday – no long distance swimming.

Coming out of the arrival hall I was greeted by a smiling Arys a lovely local man.

I’m staying at the Peppers resort in Seminyak with my niece and her family, their mothers ( my sister Catherine) and now me!

The resort at 11.30 was very quiet – unlike the streets around Seminyak which were awash with bikes , cars and groups of people wandering around.

I crept into the Villa and into the pavilion bedroom I’m sharing with my sister Catherine.

The villa is made up of 3 separate pavilions around a pool and lovely shaded cabana. And an outdoor bathroom! Bliss.

Breakfast this morning was in the central resort area by the pool and was served by the smiling Balinese. Fruits, eggs, pancakes ( not for gluten free me!) Now we are sitting by the pool chatting and playing with Jack and Zali.

I could get used to this.

From the High Line to the Beach.

This morning we allowed ourselves a little sleep in. Walking in this big city is hard work.

We had coffee and made our way to the start of the High Line. We thought we’d call into the Whitney Museum – but it was closed. So as we waited for our friends to arrive we watched the passing parade.

Even in this big city people like their dogs. All types of people were out walking and it was difficult to walk the street. There are some very big dogs living in what I’m sure are quite small apartments.

Bill and Betty arrived, the weather was perfect and we set off. Thank goodness dogs aren’t allowed on the Highline. It’s crowded enough without dodging leashes.

It’s a really pleasant walk, although our New York friends are not as embracing about its existence. They were a little against all the fundraising with locals to get something that is essentially for tourists. But I loved it.

It’s interesting to walk along above street level and see some of the great buildings in the city. New York is constantly changing  some amazing new building designs.

You may be able to see the sign behind Bill. It’s about Galapagos where we all met!

The gardens, as you walk along the curved and angled walkways are quite beautiful. We spoke to a few volunteers, including a mum with her young baby strapped to her.  Where would the world be without volunteers?

There are apartment blocks sitting next to the walk track. How could you relax with so many people nearby? Thank good it is closed at dusk!

This amazing apartment block was designed by British architect Zara Hadid. 

The High Line is a 1.45-mile-long elevated linear park, greenway and rail trail. It was created on a former New York Central Railroad spur on the west side of Manhattan in New York.

 

By now it was warm and Betty and Bill were the only keen swim trekkers ready to have a swim. So off to Brighton beach near Coney Island.

It was quite a trek, but troopers Lynn and Lois drove us out through Brooklyn to the beach.

I can only imagine how crowded it gets in summer.

We found a carpark and made it past all the Russian restaurants filled with Russians eating and drinking. You could forgiven for thinking it was St Petersburg.

The beach is wide and the sand almost white. There were a few walkers and mums and bubs. But no swimmers. Bill and Betty braved the cool water and in they went.

Coney Island in the background.

They swam for about 15 mins and the current was super strong. What champions.

By the time we left the beach storm clouds had gathered and we knew we needed to get back to Manhattan. Lois (who is over 79!) drove us back. The rain poured, the thunder rumbled , the wind blew and Lois chattered like there was no problem. It got crowded on the road and about an hour later we arrived back at our air bnb. Exhausted.

An hour or so to recover and off to dinner with Jordan and Rob to Carbone at a very up market Italian restaurant.

GuessWho!

A lovely night with the newlyweds.

Trinidad. Cuba. Let’s Salsa!

Arriving in Trinidad was a different experience. It’s a cobbled city. Quite small with lots of coloured houses which gives a festive feeling.

It was raining when we arrived. The hot days are often punctuated with a downpour that lasts an hour or so.

It gave us a chance to check in and have a little rest.

The house we are in is on a street with lots of painted houses and some have a sign outside indicating they are a casa particular. They rent rooms to tourists. It makes such a difference to the lives of the people – making an income to supplement their government wage. Salaries are so low here. The owner of our house is an engineer who was paid 28CUC (about $28 a month). Renting a room, he can make about 20-30 CUC a night.

Our owner Reginald pulled out all stops in decorating our rooms. Ours is a beautiful blue and Marg’s is pink.

When the rain stopped we headed out to the cobbled streets walking towards the main square (and wifi spot!) it’s quite a busy little town and is known for its salsa clubs. Can’t wait to visit one!

We passed a few craft markets seeing things of a Cuba style. I just had to buy a bell for my collection.

We saw the Trinidad equivalent to the Spanish Steps. It was littered with people (mostly young people) on their iPhones taking advantage of the wifi.

Alex guided us around the town pointing out the best bars and coffee places.

We ended up for dinner on a roof top in another casa particular. It was a feast with far too much food. Simple cooking but nice ingredients. So far we’ve been fortunate to have Alex point out the best places to eat. The Government run restaurants look quite ok but are not good to eat at (according to our guide).

Walking back to our casa stumbling over the cobbles, we called into few craft places and I bought some cute ceramic earrings.

It couldn’t be the end of the night without a rum drink so as our casa also had a bar (in the kitchen!) we ordered a pina colada to enjoy before bed. It came with something pink floating on the top and was heavily laced with rum. Sleep came easily.

Today we headed to the beach. White sand clean water. Mojito.

Now we’re exploring the cobbled street of Trinidad and getting ready for salsa tonight.

A great dinner in a restaurant Alec suggested then off to salsa.

Some hot moves on the dance floor. There were a couple of men there to dance with the ‘lady tourists’ for tips I take it. Everyone seemed to be having a great time.

There was one girl. Turns out she was from Sweden and she was mesmerising to watch. She swayed and swung her hips. Her hands rotated above her head and we were entranced. Another had a lesson with a big guy with white trouser who swivelled those hips! We thought we’d like to have a go but thought we needed another lesson or 6!

Sorry. Photos hard to load!

Vinales to Bay of Pigs

Vinales is a lovely quiet little town where the pace is slow, the people friendly and the food surprisingly good. We were told the food in Cuba was plain and rather ordinary and while it’s not Michelin standard so far it’s been fine.

Lots of rice yes! Last night we went to an eco restaurant on a hill on the outskirts of Vinales. All the food prepared for us was grown or raised on the farm.

We walked in the gardens – vegetable garden beds bursting with healthy plants and looked up at the house with breezy verandas.

The house faced the hills and the sun was just starting to set. It was quite beautiful.

The food started with a plantains and taro crisps & delicious vegetable soup then out came plates of roasted vegetable, chicken thighs, roast pork and shredded beef. Much more than we could eat!

We finished with creme brûlée and mint tea. No wine but we had a pina colada type drink with special herbs in it.

Today we left early, 8am and we knew it was going to be a long day as Alex planned a movie for us on the bus and Victor our driver was wearing a tie. Serious driving today.

We headed back in the direction of Havana and then in the direction of Giron and The Bay of Pigs. To give us some background Alex told us some history of the political life in Cuba including their heroes Fidel Castro, Che Guevara and what led up to the 3 day Bay of Pigs invasion by the Americans in 1961.

For a small country this is a big story. It is strategically placed only 90 miles from Miami and was wanted by Spain, America and Russia. Fidel led the revolution through the Baptista years. The country was crawling with Mafia types, communists and became a socialist country under Castro.

Then there was the ‘special period !’ In the 90’s when life for the Cubans became hard. It was anything but special. They were hard times. People were starving. Alex who is 34 said he remembers it well as there was so little food.

We arrived at the Bay of Pigs and had a swim. It was warm & tropical and lovely after sitting in the bus for several hours.

Next stop was the museum in Giron (passing Australia on the way)

to see the Cuban account of the Bay of Pigs invasion. Such a bad period of time.

We watched a short film and wondered what the American tourists would think.

There was a photo of JFKennedy who inherited the Cuba problem and didn’t seem keen to invade.

The Cubans are very pleased it wasn’t Trump in charge then!

We arrived at Cienfuegos and visited the former Palace. This small city is by the sea and in its former glory would have been lovely. The buildings are colonial style but many are in a state of disrepair.

We enjoyed our pina colada on the roof terrace before checking into the lovely old Union Hotel.

Tomorrow is Che day. All about that romantic political figure Che Guevara.

Today we have ‘Gone with the Wind’

Plantations are big here – both in size and reputation. We decided on a Plantation tour and not an alligator tour.

But which house do we visit? I read reviews and decided on Houmas House or the ‘Sugar House’ because it has a big reputation as a great example of a grand home.

I didn’t want to visit one with the slavery story. That is too sad.

We weren’t disappointed. Houmas House is grand and Southern style and the gardens were amazing.

We had an hour bus ride out along the swampy flat land in the direction of Baton Rouge. The driver was a super speedy guy – definitely the stunt driver from the movie Speed!

Arriving at the house was underwhelming at first as there is now an aluminium plant nearby with chimney stacks and smoke!

But pulling into the drive was like stepping back in time. All the attendants wear period costumes and the grounds are heavenly.

There were many sculptures in the garden both playful and decorative. So much money!

We heard the story of the building of the plantation. It’s named after the local Indian tribe. It was mainly a sugar plantation with 1,000 slaves working there. It made a fortune for its owner. It sold after the civil war for $1.5 million. That’s a lot of money for back then.

Our guide Susan took us through the house and had lots of stories. It’s a pity she spoke so fast ! Hard to follow her.

The present owner lives there in two rooms and is up and out each morning before the house opens. He’s not married but loves his dogs. Apart from close friends people don’t know who the owner of the house is or what he looks like.

Another heart thumping trip back to NOLA for a short rest before we went off to dinner. Now that’s a whole other story.