24 January 2014

Days 37-40: Last Days | Around the World in 40 Days

As I write this we are already safely back at home, still can't believe our big trip is now over (a depressing thought!). Our last stop was Vancouver BC, which made my country No.26, or No.23 if you count Scotland/N.Ireland/Wales all as U.K. but I'm sure there are plenty of people who will disagree!

Vancouver was an interesting place, crossing the border on land certainly gave it a different perspective. In many way it is similar to the U.S. and yet different, more relaxed perhaps, certainly when compared to their southerly neighbour Seattle. Again our stay was short so we only saw a glimpse of it.

Caplipano Suspension Bridge is a must see in Vancouver. "Originally built in 1889, Capilano Suspension Bridge stretches 450 feet (137m) across and 230 feet (70m) above Capilano River." There are definitely far superior pictures on the official website, my iPhone camera could not compete, particularly on a overcast day.  I'm sure you can still get a taste of what it is like even from these amateur photos, although if you're scared of heights perhaps this is not for you. But I would still encourage you to give it a try... I'm not a fan of great heights, just walk in the middle of the bridge, hang on to the rails, and don't look down!
If the suspension bridge is too much of an excitement you might prefer the gentle shores of English Bay and Stanley Park.
The totem poles in Stanley Park are amazing, each depicts a story. Creatures often found on totem poles are: raven, sea turtle, thunderbird, eagle, wolf, bear, frog, otter, and killer whale. In the historical Gastown there is a steam clock that whistles the "Westminster Chime" every half hour. We were lucky to be accompanied by our friend Elaine and family, they drove up with us, they even lent us one of their cars so we could save some money. Such is the generosity we found throughout our trip from our family and our friends, without these lovely people our trip would not have been possible, and certainly wouldn't be as much fun.

So that's it, that was the end of our epic tour of the world in 40 days. The return journey was equally epic, the flight from Vancouver to Sydney was 15.5 hours then another short journey of just over an hour from Sydney to Melbourne. Technically we lost one day when we crossed the International Date Line in the middle of the Pacific, but as we were continually going west we only lost what we gained along the way.

The whole trip has been a blast, I doubt we could top that anytime soon. Oh well, maybe when I'm 50 we can do it all over again! But for now, life must get back to normal, reluctantly.

19 January 2014

Days 29 - 36: San Francisco & Seattle | Around the World in 40 Days

OK, so my travelogue is long overdue, I got a little slack... but I did do a Fibre Arts Friday post last Friday which covered a little of what we did on Day 30, that was when we met up with my yarny friend Vivian and her family. It was great spending time with friends, especially to finally meet someone you feel you know so well and yet you'd never met. Thanks to Vivian, Bill and Henry we got a taste of what Santa Cruz has to offer: yarn shops (I have to put this one first!), flea market, bookstores, record shop, cookies, the ocean, mini golf and the arcade, good food and beautiful weather. It's a lovely place to be.

The day of our visit was actually Phil's 50th birthday, which was partially the reason we're doing this big trip. The lucky guy got to wear his birthday badge (he managed to wiggle out not wearing the flashing one), and he got a candle on his pancake at lunch and everyone sang Happy Birthday, just so he could get properly embarrassed :P

We only had one day to visit San Francisco so we had to be very selective and only chose the things that ranked the top most on our list, which included Alcatraz, Fisherman's Wharf, cable car (tram) and Chinatown.
Alcatraz was worth every penny, we were lucky to get ticket on the day because it's the low season. Apparently in high season the tickets can be booked out 90 days in advance. So if anyone's visiting do make sure to check for tickets. The ticket includes return ferry to the island and audio tour, the audio tour is the best, it takes you through the entire jailhouse building from the cells to officers' quarters. The audio was narrated by ex-guards and convicts with tales of attempted escapes, sound effects and necessary pauses, it really brings the place to life.

We only got a glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge on the ferry to Alcatraz, but as we planned to drive across it on our way to Seattle we didn't worry too much of getting a closer look. The bottom right photo above was taken when we drove across it, it was pretty impressive!
The drive to Seattle, well Federal Way actually, which is a suburb of Seattle was a long one and we did it in two days. We aimed for Eugene/Springfield on the first day, but there was a heavy fog when driving through Mount Shasta so we only made it to Roseburg. The following day we made a whistle stop at one of Portland's outlets to take advantage of some tax-free shopping before heading further north.

We are staying with my dear friend Elaine and family in Federal Way, who's making our visit very welcome. Her husband even played our private chauffeur driving us into Seattle and picking us up later on.
The Piker Place Market is a great place to visit, it has everything from fresh produce, fish and seafood, to cafes, bakeries, souvenir shops and crafts markets. There are also a couple of secondhand book shops and a map store which really caught Phil's eye, we had to drag him out of there, but not before he bought a big map of USA! Even J, who hasn't spent a penny so far on this trip, has found something (finally!) to part his money with: a magnetic travel chess set and a handmade ocarina. Of course we had to find the Original Starbucks whilst in Seattle, see above top right, the queue was so long and it was hardly moving, we didn't bother to wait. There was also a yarn shop but I was not impressed, there was a fair selection of yarns but the reception was cold which was a shame.

Today was our last day in Seattle and the last day in USA, tomorrow we will cross the border to Vancouver. Elli's biggest wish for this trip was to play in snow and he's been very disappointed so far, there was no snow in England, and we just missed it in New York, there was no chance of snow in San Francisco and there is no snow in Seattle. He thought he was going to go home disappointed but Elaine had a brilliant idea, there's a ski resort about an hour east of Federal Way and there's tubing!
Tubing was a lot of fun, doesn't require any skills and hardly any risks, the boys all had a wonderful time. This was really the icing on the cake, for Elli at least!

I'd better sign off now, our bags are packed (yet again!) and all ready to go. See you in Vancouver!

17 January 2014

Oh Goodies :D

I really should be doing my travelogue updates for this week but I really want to show off my goodies so Fibre Arts Friday won out.

Last Sunday we met up with a very special friend - Vivian of Bits and Pieces. Vivian and I met on Ravelry a few years ago and we've become good friends even though we have never met face to face, but I felt like I'd known her for a long time. So when we were planning this trip I said to my husband that we had to find a way to meet Vivian and family. I'm so pleased we did. We spent a lovely day with Keys with them welcoming us to their home and showing us around Santa Cruz, we went to a wonderful bookshop, wandered through the flea market, had a lovely lunch then we split up in two groups: the boys went to the ocean front to play mini golf and the arcade and Vivian took me yarn shopping. But before I let you on to my loot I have to show you the presents I received from Vivian:
There are a whole box of them! There is a beautifully cabled scarf, a set of Signature sock needles, a skein of silk/sea cell yarn, silk and satin ribbons, silk hankies, Chinese tea. There's also a box of boutique chocolates but they didn't last until I got a chance to take photos, very yummy they were ;)

I am so spoilt, thank you Vivian!

Now my loot from the yarn tour:
Sorry about the photos, I should've taken them in daylight.... given the limited time we had managed two LYSs: The Golden Fleece and The Swift Stitch. The bottom three skeins are from The Golden Fleece, all are hand painted sock/fingering weight. The top ones are from The Swift Stitch, they have a good selection of Madelinetosh which you can't get easily in Australia. I could've easily bought more but I had to think about our luggage retrains (that's another story!)

I only wish we had more time with the Keys, everyone got on so well it's a shame we had to say farewell after such a short time! Here's a photo of myself and Vivian, one of friends said we look like sisters, I think so too :)
Now we have arrived in Seattle we are staying with my friend Elaine whom I knitted the Murano cardigan for, I'm glad to report that it fits! Elaine has been receiving packages for me in the weeks leading up to our arrival. One of the packages contained these beautiful Alpaca/merino roving from WonderWhyAlpacaFarm, I can't wait to try these out!
Another package contained a little Delight, yes it's a Turkish spindle from Jenkins. I must thank Rachael (a.k.a. Sparrow) for this :-)
Aren't I a lucky girl, thank you all my dear friends! xx

Thanks for dropping by, there is more fibre arts fun at Wisdom Begins in Wonder. Indulge your creative side and join the party!

11 January 2014

Fibre Arts Friday Special: Weaving and Beading Samples by Native Indians

I haven't been doing Fibre Arts Friday for a fews weeks while I'm on the road but there's something I'd like to share. I found some amazing weaving and beading samples by different Native American tribes when we visited the American Museum of Natural History, the intricate patterns and details left me in awe.
Shown here are some samples, consider these were made a couple of centuries ago you have to marvel at the crafters' skills. Top left and bottom right are wool weavings, top right and bottom left are beadings in tiny beads.

Thanks for stopping by, you can read about my travels here or click on the "Travelogue" at the top left of the page.

There is more fibre arts fun at Wisdom Begins in Wonder. Indulge your creative side and join the party!

Days 26-28: New York City | Around the World in 40 Days

I still can't believe we are actually in New York, the Big Apple. It's a place one dreams about coming, but being here just makes me speechless. The city is very much full of life, everywhere you turn you sense the energy that make up "The Empire State of Mind", it's everything I'd imaged it to be.

Our stay is very short, only three full days so we had to make the most of it.
Day 1: We went to the Statue of Liberty, unfortunately there was a burst pipe the day before due to the deep freeze so we could only walk around the grounds, but it was still amazing and you get a fantastic view of Lower Manhattan across the water. Then we went to the 9/11 memorial and Empire State Building, we even climbed from floor 80 to 86 because there was such a long queue for the lift/elevator.

Day 2: We walked through Central Park which is only three blocks away from our hotel (Wellington) on 7th Avenue. We found the Strawberry Fields that commemorated John Lennon's life (middle right in the collage above), it's a mosaic arrangement with the word "IMAGINE" at the centre. Then we went to American Museum of Natural History that was featured in the "Night at the Museum". The museum is 10 times better than the movie, we could've easily spent a whole day there. But we wanted to watch a Broadway show so we left early to have dinner underneath the Grand Central Station. OK, maybe it wasn't such a good idea to trudge through the Grand Central during rush hour on a weekday, but we did get a glimpse of what is like in it's true grandeur. Then we made our way to Time's Square and managed to secure four seats for "Matilda the Musical" even though we had to be split up. The show was fantastic, I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in theatre both young and old and anywhere in between. It's based on the same book by Roald Dahl but with a modern flavour, great music, great choreographic, gripping storyline and a brilliant cast. I guarantee you will have a fabulous time... can you tell I love it? ;)

Day 3: Our last day in this fascinating city. The boys were feeling a little worse for ware - J with his deprived sleeps and Elli feeling his sore feet (he's a little flat-footed), so that just left P and myself wanting to fit in more. We went to the Brooklyn Bridge, Wall Street and the Vietnam War Veteran's Memorial. There was a consistent drizzle so we didn't linger too much, also we needed to pack our bags again as tomorrow we fly to San Francisco to continue our journey there.

So tara for now, see you in SF :)

07 January 2014

Days 20 - 25: Last Days in England | Around the World in 40 Days

Our last days in England was spent with family and friends whom we will miss very much when we leave, we also managed to sneak in a couple of day trips to Cambridge and London.
Cambridge is one of my favourite cities. The architecture is fantastic, the whole city oozes history and culture and yet it is also modern in the sense that it is kept abreast with the latest technology. It also has a vast array of shops ranging from souvenir to designer labels, and of course book shops and markets. Unfortunately we are only halfway through our trip we dared not to indulge in too much shopping, but we enjoyed taking in the sights by meandering through little alleys and along cobbled streets. This visit was intended to inspire them, not that I'm putting pressure on them or anything but it would be a dream come true if one of them could get into a college here.

We met with some very special friends, friends I met during my first pregnancy whom we kept in touch despite our moving away from England. We all had our first child within days of each other, even the subsequent children were born around similar times. One of my friends put this wonderful collage together, it was great to catch up with everyone after many years!
London was our last day trip in England, luckily the weather held while we were up there. When we got to Trafalgar Square I pointed out the Nelson's Column (shown top left in the collage below) to the boys and Jelly replied "Nelson Mandala?" No my dear boy, it was Admiral Nelson. Clearly we need to brush up on some English history. The Buckingham Palace was flying the Union Jack instead of the Royal Standard, which signaled the Queen was not home. So we didn't pop in for tea, maybe next time. We did climb the 311 steps to the top of The Monument (bottom middle in the collage below) that commemorates the Great Fire of London in 1666 that burned for three days and destroyed most of the London that was.
Well, this is the end of visit to England. Last night and this morning we said farewells to family which was the hardest part, hopefully we won't have to wait another seven years to visit again.

Today we leave for New York via Zurich, thankfully the weather that caused severe travel delays to the northeastern states seemed to have subsided somewhat, although more bad weather is being expect in Northern America. But at least for now, we can continue our journey.

Cheerio England, until next time... logging off from Heathrow Airport.

02 January 2014

Days 11 - 19: Merry Christmas & Happy New Year | Around the World in 40 Days

Wow I don't know where the days went but suddenly we are in 2014! The last week or so has been such a whirlwind, I can't believe we will be leaving England in 5 days' time.

Our Christmas day was spent with DH's brother and family, they'd put on such a feast - it was a traditional English Christmas dinner of roast turkey with all the trimmings, followed by Christmas pudding and brandy butter (you can't get this easily in Oz!). We all had too much to eat, drank a lot (adults only), and enjoyed playing games which ranged from board games, quizzes to Heads Up.
After Christmas we travelled up to my FIL's house in Beccles, which is a small town in Suffolk county in the East of England, in the area that is known as East Anglia. My in-laws fell in love with Beccles many years ago and they bought a holiday home here and later moved into a larger house that can accommodate all the family. When we lived in England we used to come up for weekends and summer holidays, it has a very relaxed atmosphere compared to all the hustle and bustle of London. The top half of the collage below shows the Beccles town sign, some frosty leaves by the roadside when we took the dog for a walk, and a couple of photos of Great Yarmouth - a seaside tourist destination since the 18th century and one shows the signs that has seen better days.
Of course no visit to Beccles is complete without a trip to Southwold, a seaside town on the coast of the North Sea. Southwold is particularly special to us because it was my mother-in-law's favourite, sadly she passed away fourteen years ago just before her 60th birthday. The family put a plaque in her honour on the Southwold Pier where it faced her favourite spot. In the photo above you can see J polishing his grandma's plaque. The day of our visit was a typical wintry day with chilling wind and rain, but I can assure you on a sunny day the scenery really is quite stunning. 

All the family congregated in Beccles to see the New Year, there were 21 of us all together. It was an evening filled with laughter, food, games, and more food (and plenty of drinks too of course) - occasions like this really make us homesick for England, we miss the family the most.

Today is the New Year's Day, in a few days time we shall continue our journey to America. Next stop: New York City. I've always wanted to visit NYC, still can't believe we are actually going to be there!

In the meantime, Happy New Year!