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.

In & Out in Lodi.

I’ve been told by many people to experience the taste sensations of the local burger place. Or is that palace?

Recently, Qantas, our Australian airline, wrote that when in LA one shouldn’t miss out on visiting an In & Out Burger.
Started in 1948 it is basically the same today. Read about it here :

https://www.in-n-out.com/mobile/history.aspx


I was told it was better than McDonalds!So today John , his mother Ann and I visited an In & Out. Jordan was working from home so passed. Perhaps avoiding a burger !

My first impressions. Bright, clean, with the feel of an American diner – what I think is a diner!

I went for the basic cheeseburger. And we shared the ‘animal fries’ what are these! No not fries in the shape of an animal. They are fries topped – or loaded with cheese and a chopped onion.

We helped ourselves to the drinks while waiting for our number to be called.

I checked out the kitchen where the staff, all looking very neat and tidy we busy freshly chopping potatoes for the fries and serving at the take away windows.

John collecting our order

We settled into booth. And checked out the food. Neatly wrapped burgers.

Well presented cheeseburger!

It wasn’t too big so I really enjoyed it.

We cruised around the big streets of Lodi past other drive in shopping areas and made another stop at My Yoghurt. Yum!

The owners are neighbours of John & Lisa. In fact they seem to know someone every time we go out. Lodi isn’t that big.

I stopped in at Ann’s place to look at her garden. She a keen potter- taking cuttings and successfully nurturing them ! She’s a loving grandma to Jordan as was reflected in the present from her grandchildren on her 80 birthday. Take a read of this ….

We picked up Poppy, John & Lisa’s 2 year old granddaughter, and went for a walk to the beach. I really love this community private park and river beach.

Poppy is gorgeous and much loved by all the Donati family. My grandson will be born into a loving family, so I couldn’t be happier.

Lisa cooked a lovely family meal for my last night. Thank you John & Lisa for making me part of your family.

Exploring Lodi

Today we were going to explore the local area. Both near and the not so near.

It started with a walk to the coffee shop with Jordan and her lovely friend Stephanie. We got halfway there and I tripped over! Skinned my hands and knee so headed back home for first aid.

When I’d recovered and the girls had delivered my coffee, we headed to ‘the beach’ . It’s an area of the river which belongs to a community of local house owners. 160 local owners can choose to become members of the cooperative. It’s a part of the river , some sand and parkland. The co operative look after it and get to use it for daily activities or family / friends parties.

Entrance to the private park / beach.

It’s so beautiful. Lots of parkland , a bbq area, picnic tables, a volleyball court, and a sandy beach leading into the river water . What a lovely community idea.

The volleyball court
John, Jordan & Stephanie in beautiful weather

We headed back to the house to meet Lisa, who had gone to work for a few hours ( it’s a public holiday here – Presidents Day).

And so, off to explore Lodi and the surrounding wine area. First stop

Wine & Roses. This winery/restaurant/hotel/spa /wedding venue and cafe is where Jordan worked just after university. She had met Rob in Barcelona , came home to complete her degree at Santa Barbara, worked in marketing at this lovely hotel winery before leaving to head back to Barcelona to be with Rob. The rest is history!

Entrance to Wine & 🌹 Roses

We explored the hotel and restaurant and had lunch in the cafe, stopping for a chat with the resident bird.

Rudy

We continued on and headed east out of town past many vineyards with some hundred year old vines.

We stopped at Bokisch. This is influenced by Spanish wine making techniques – the owner is Spanish. The wines are very good and the Tempranillo is quite delicious.

Rolling hills of vineyards

We met Alicia, the wine maker, a really lovely woman who has been making wines for about 12 year’s – winning lots of medals for her delicious wines.

I bought a bottle or two for you Steve! And then we headed towards Lodi town and stopping in at McCays for another tasting. John is a member of their wine club – just like the last winery. It gives a number of free wine tastings each year. Lucky me!

Cheers from McCays

The weather was still unseasonably warm so we strolled down School St – the Main Street of Lodi.

Such a lovely afternoon.

The evening finished at a Mexican restaurant. Beer and tacos. A great evening.

Colombo

Our late night after a long day of travel didn’t slow us down.

After a good sleep at the Galle Face Hotel we met for breakfast in time to enjoy the beautiful offerings before our walking tour commenced.

Breakfast in India, and now here in Sri Lanka, is a treat. Very different to an American, British, European or Australian Breakfast. I love the fact different countries offer their own twist on breakfast.

Here we had egg hoppers – a rice pancake with an egg in the middle. You can add dahl curry and coconut sambal. Delicious. Then there are curries, fruit, curd, breads, freshly prepared omelette. And delicious fruit drinks.

Following breakfast we left with guide Jude on our walking tour. The architecture here is lovely. Much of the Colonial style has deteriorated but buildings are gradually being restored.

It’s so sad to think of the bombings earlier this year. This city is a lovely place. It’s clean and trying hard to to win tourists back.

We covered some distance around the port (being rebuilt by the Chinese – they have their fingers all over this place).

The markets were another eye-opener. In an abandoned building almost entirely run by men selling the most amazing looking varieties of vegetables. Apparently tropical aubergines are good for smokers. They use many plants for health purposes. Ayurvedic medicines are as popular here as in India.

I’m hoping for a good Ayurveda massage.

Tired and thirsty after 3.5 hours’ walking, some of the group headed to the Ministry of Crab. A very stylish restaurant in the restored Old Dutch Hospital shopping precinct.

We had crab – some pepper, chilli, crab salad, a prawn curry and a cold, cold beer. Delicious.

Back to the hotel in a tuk-tuk for a refreshing swim and a visit to the hotel’s museum which houses a car owned by Prince Phillip!

We finished the afternoon with a visit to Geoffrey Bawa’s house at 11, 33rd lane. It’s a quiet spot and demonstrates the famous Sri Lankan architects style. It’s minimalist, invites the outside in and the inside out. It’s natural and is all in black and white. It was a haven.

The man Laki, who I had corresponded with was a little upset that we arrived late! Our tuk-tuks were late so we arrived after the start time of the movie. https://geoffreybawa.com/number-11

It’s a beautiful place and won us over with it simple approach to design.

Leaving the house we walked for about 10 minutes to the Gallery Cafe – another Bawa design. It’s a beautiful space to enjoy a drink or dinner in a courtyard setting. Again it is inside / outside with black and white dominating.

Tonight dinner is at the hotel. A seafood buffet included in our room rate. I thought it might be a bit ordinary but it was wonderful. So much beautiful seafood cooked on a grill to order.

The hotel is right by the water and it was lovely sitting on the wide verandahs with the fans above gently turning enjoying the company of our fellow travellers.

The Wonderful Wallace Collection

When I asked visiting ADFAS lecturer Viv Lawes “which London Gallery I should not miss?”, she had no hesitation in answering “The Wallace Collection”.

So today was the day.

I also wanted to check out Marylebone High Street. So off I went and Steve went to the National Army Museum (which he thought better than the Imperial War Museum).

The High Street is lovely. Lots of beautiful shops including The White Company – which just happens to make the pyjamas handed out on Qatar Air – for business class passengers.

I witnessed a rather posh baby christening where the guests looked dressed for a wedding. It was in St James’ church.

Then at 11.30am I joined the tour for an overview of the Wallace Collection. Our guide was a very little, very posh lady dressed in a lovely suit. She was a good age, so probably had been volunteering for ages. She led us around the house at a snails pace which suited me as I wasn’t in a hurry.

When it finished right on 1pm I made my way to the cafe to meet Steve for lunch.

Museums and Galleries generally have great cafes and gift shops and this was no exception. I had a lovely light quiche and salad. Just right!

The next hours were spent wandering the large house separated into rooms of various colour with an amazing art collection. Canelettos everywhere. And at the moment in each room are shoes.

Not just any shoes but Manolo Blahník works of art. They have been arranged to match the colours and the themes of art in each room. It’s extraordinary.

Steve was rather taken with the armour room and there was a ‘try it on session ‘ so naturally I tried on a glove!

Leaving the gallery we walked back to our hotel through the streets of Marylebone. I saw a little chair on the pavement! Needed some care and a new home! A lovely area of London.

The evening held another adventure. We met up with Chris, a swim friend from our very first trek in Sardinia back in 2013. We met in a pub near St Martyn’s in the Field – a church near Trafalgar Square and the wonderful National Gallery.

Again we caught the bus there as I love looking at the famous landmarks from the front seat on the top deck!

Following a pub meal and a goodbye selfie with Chris we went to the church for a performance of some “oldies but goodies”. Vivaldi & Bach just for starters. Very enjoyable.

Then the evening ride back to Marble Arch by bus.

Swimming the Pond at Hampstead Heath

Today it’s catch up day with friends made through our swim trek in Montenegro several years ago.

Somehow swimming is a social sport- something I didn’t realise until I took it up several years ago.

We’ve now been on about six Swim Trek holidays. They involve a week of swimming with like minded people. We’re there for fun, exercise a holiday.

This group from Montenegro: 6 came from England, 1 each from France, Germany, Switzerland and Australia. And us!

We’ve kept in touch and the ones from England, France and Switzerland have all caught up and swum together. So when we said we’d be visiting London we organised a catch up.

And where better than the pond / lido ( as pools are called here in England) at Hampstead Heath. You may have been there so let me know if you have. This area has featured in a few movies including one last year starting Diane Keaton. It looked great so I was keen to visit The Heath.

We caught a bus there. I prefer a bus if the traffic is flowing as you can see where you are going. We arrived at Hampstead for coffee then walked down some charming streets towards the Heath.

It’s a beautiful area to visit. Both the village and the Heath.

There were lots of people out walking, most with dogs, as we made our way along the track leading up the mixed pond. There are three bathing areas: a mixed pond, a women’s pond and a men’s. We were meeting at the mixed pond in case Steve wanted a swim. He didn’t!

I’ve heard the women’s pond is amazing and I bought a book in a book store which is a collection of women writers writing about their swimming experience st the Ladies Pond. Anyone read it?

Well the two brave girls, Lucy and Catherine jumped in ! not a problem. Water temperature was 18! Yeeks.

When they got out they had to have a cold shower !

Brrr. We must be soft Qld swimmers.

We then went to the nearby pub – the Freemasons Arms , where we were joined by Ellie, Rosie and Lexie. And that’s where we stayed all afternoon.

Steve was the only guy there – Chris couldn’t make it today so we’re seeing him tomorrow.

What a great group.

Walking London

London is a great city to walk. Not hilly and so much to look at.

I set off this morning across Hyde Park. Steve went off to the Imperial War Museum and I wanted to see the Saatchi Gallery.

The park is wonderful. So central but you feel miles from anywhere. You can only see one high rise building.

I passed the Serpentine with ducks paddling and little blue boats all lined up for people to pedal them around the lake later in the day.

I crossed out of the park to Sloane Street and followed the road down past the high end shops. Vuitton, Hermes, Tom Ford. Not for me. I took a detour to walk past the houses. There are some beautiful houses in this area.

I came to a cobbled street so pretty it could be a movie set. Motcomb St. And there was Ottolenghi deli. I’m a Yotam Ottolenghi fan. We went to Rovi his restaurant in Belgravia two weeks ago and this is a little deli. There a lot of cakes etc and most come and take away. There are two little tables outside but as it was chilly I sat at the round shared table inside. It seated 6 and had a big vase of flowers in the centre for privacy?! On the table a young couple sat sharing food from the one plate then a woman with a headscarf and dramatic eye make sat spooning cake into her mouth as she talked loudly in her mobile phone. Not good company when it’s loud and in a language other than English.

I continued on, weaving in and out of streets, then through Peter Jones , a department store I didn’t know. Rather lovely and expensive !

I passed a children clothes shop with a hairdresser in the back of the store – for kids. They got to sit and watch fish swimming around in a large tank. Very inventive.

the Saatchi Gallery has a lovely setting with a small oval in the front, tall white pillars and flags advertising Free Entry. That’s good I thought. I went in and the rather sullen lady on the desk looked at me with no smile and said ‘£10’.

I ventured a return comment ‘ I saw a sign outside saying Free Entry. ‘No she snapped. We charge now. I paid. No smile just a curt ‘ £12 for the special exhibition. ‘I declined and went through to find out that for my entry fee I got two small galleries. That’s it.

So I walked to one of the 7 galleries with the special exhibition and just walked in. No one on any of the doors to check tickets. Lucky! Also because I didn’t really love it! It was called Rave and it is…….

An immersive exhibition that celebrates the birth of dance music and the impact of rave on youth culture today. 

https://www.saatchigallery.com

So I relived a few memories and left the gallery.

I walked along Kings Rd Chelsea and window shopped or popped into some I found interesting.

I came upon The Chelsea Gardener and spent done time soaking up the garden settings both plants and furnishings.

I walked onto St Luke’s and nearly stopped for lunch in the church cafe. It was set up in the back of the church and on the portico. It looked good but the queue was long so I walked on.

The shops around Chelsea are good to look at …….

Arriving at the Brompton Oratory is always exciting. It’s wonderful. The surrounding road and building works aren’t so appealing. It seems half of London is being rebuilt or renovated.

I stumbled into a cafe. It was another great people watching place.

Delicious salads

I headed back onto the street and just had to call into Harrods. It’s iconic. It’s a pity it’s so expensive these days.

I finished by retracing my steps through Hyde Park. It was a lot more awake than this morning.

It’s a really great place to visit and walk.

Visit London.

I got back to the hotel around 4, met Steve and off we went to Kew Gardens.

I must have been mad. Walking all day then heading to the wonderful Kew Gardens which involves lots of walking.

I’ll do a seperate post on the visit to The Chihuly exhibition. It was an incredible experience. So read the next post.

Has anyone seen it? Please comment.

Sunday in London

We finally had a sleep in! We’ve been so busy – up and swimming and running around.

Today we had a slower start. We heard the Church bells from St Mary Abbots, a very old church at the back of our place. They got us going. We wanted to investigate.

Coffee at the same cafe as yesterday. When you find a good place I think you should stay with it. This place is great.

Then a wander down the street to look at the Church. We went in and chatted to a lady there about the history of the place. Steve’s sister nursed at the nearby hospital of the same name when she lived in London in the 70’s. It’s gone now – turned into luxury apartments!

Our good friend from our first swim trek, Chris invited us to lunch today. It’s nearby in Kensington. We really looked forward to going there and meeting his French wife, Cecile. She doesn’t do the swim treks, so hadn’t come to the various swims since we met Chris back in 2013.

We bought some gorgeous flowers and headed to their house. It’s a lovely 4 level house with a garden and sun terrace. Very special in this part of London. I didn’t like to whip out my camera so have very few photos.

The sun was out so we sat on the terrace and their daughter Susan was home from Paris where she works for a fashion company. She’s very sweet.

Then their eldest son Tim arrived. He’s been living in NY but is transferring back to London with his Australian girlfriend.

They are a lovely family. Cecile was a teacher Librarian like me! But works now as a careers advisor at the French Lycee.

Later in the day Steve went to the Science Museum and I went walking and window shopping in the area. It’s so nice around this part of London.

The blue spot is where we are staying. Quite close to Kensington Palace.

Later in the evening we walked to The Ivy Kensington Brasserie just down the street. We just had one simple course – but it was very nice. I had a fish curry and Steve had Shepherds Pie. Both little serves and quite delicious.

Now we are packing to leave this little Airbnb. Tomorrow we head towards Henley. Our friend Bill – yet another friend from our Galapagos swim trek – has a ‘camping’ spot on an island in the Thames! Yes. We are camping tomorrow night so that will be a change of pace. And the temperature is dropping.

Apparently we’ll be swimming in the Thames, perhaps a little rowing and hopefully a Gin & Tonic!

London

Arriving back in London was a change of pace.

Our Air BnB in Kensington is centrally located and great. It’s small but has everything.

Landing at 8.30pm it was late – so straight to bed.

The morning was clear and fine and I explored out the back of our apartment.

It backs onto a garden which is private and quiet. Really lovely.

We got ready and headed off to Covent Garden and Somerset House to explore it before lunch at Spring.

Covent Garden was alive with buskers – very good performers including an Australian opera singer. There’s so much life to the place. It’s infectious.

Then a tour of Somerset House built into 1547.

https://www.somersethouse.org.uk/plan-your-visit

In the new wing of Somerset House is Spring. It’s a restaurant owned by Skye Gyngell, an Australian.

http://springrestaurant.co.uk/about/skye-gyngell/

It’s elegant, pretty, delicious. I’d heard about from Gourmet magazine and a friend, Shelley who visited it earlier this year.

She was right. The sommelier, Monique from Cape Town, was welcoming and friendly and looked absolutely gorgeous in her ‘uniform ‘ as did the young waiter.

Everyone admired her ‘uniform’ and she demonstrated how it tied up!

If they looked so good, with attention to detail , then the food would be great.

We had the set menu at 27 pounds. It was delicious. I had a salad then octopus (yes can’t get away from it), Steve roasted beetroot with tomatoes and onglet (hanger steak) with beans. So pretty, so delicious. But light!

Passing by the restaurant we saw the latest demonstration about Brexit. They are heartily sick of it here. Boris is standing arrogantly against opposition and I think not worrying what the demonstrators are saying. They blocked the bridge near Somerset House causing disruption to Saturday traffic.

So we escaped the blocked traffic and caught the tube to the V&A where we were meeting Bill, our Galapagos swim trek friend.

The V&A is wonderful. Another tribute to Albert, husband of Queen Victoria.

We saw the exhibition on baths (pools) or Lidos in Great Britain.

Then an eye opening exhibition on Food.

We really need to wake up and get moving with sustainable food practices. It’s a wonder we could eat after we saw the way some food is produced – en masse. We should all be growing our own and never waste anything.

With that in mind we went to Royal Albert Hall, another magnificent building used for big concerts notably the BBC Proms – one we were attending tonight.

https://www.royalalberthall.com

We had a pre-concert dinner at Elgar one of the lovely restaurants.

Then into our box for the Henry Wood tribute concert. Henry Wood a former great conductor, musician and composer. He died in 1944 after a long career. He started the Promenade Concerts in 1895 now called the Proms. What a legacy.

The concert was wonderful. A real mix of music types but all told his story.

The Royal Albert Hall is a great place to visit if you come to London.

Hellespont: Race day arrives

Steve left at 5.30 for a light breakfast before heading to the wharf for the 6.30 boat across to the start line – 800 staters for the race!.

I stayed and packed and made my way to the finish line. It was quite the scene.

Many Turkish families gathered to cheer on their sons and daughters.

It was hard to see the swimmers arriving. Some were being swept by the current past the finish line – adding a difficult swim back to finish.

I was hoping Steve wasn’t amongst those unfortunate swimmers.

I saw Vanessa. She was beaming. She’s had a great swim and came in under one hour. A really great time.

I couldn’t see Steve and started to worry. Not another swim like Hong Kong!

Finally Hussein, our local Swim Trek guide, came and found me. ‘Steve arrived about 10 mins ago. He came in around 1hr 5″. Then George arrived around 1hr 15. All three had great swims and were jubilant.

They all wore their Hellespont finishers medal with pride.

After photos and watching the last swimmers arrive (or not! – as some were pulled out) we had a beer before racing back to the hotel to change for our flight back to London. When booking we made a mistake with dates and booked a day early.

Steve was lucky he got to do the swim!

We had time to watch the award ceremony – we were hopeful Vanessa would get a medal.

The young Turks won the first 3 major places, and then they did the age groups starting with the eldest – for a change – and unbelievably “Stefan Maitland” was called out as the bronze medal winner for his age group. Third. Wow. We all cheered and Steve was a bit knocked out!

Then Vanessa won Gold in her age group!

What a day.

With Simon Murie, owner of Swim Trek and “foreigners” organiser for Hellespont.

From there to the airport for our flight to London. Talk about a busy day.

Looking forward to a change of pace and weather. It was very hot in Turkey but London will be cooler.