A Travellerspoint blog

The Final Lap

The Leaving of San Francisco

They are still talking about the election result and it's been wall to wall analysis since Wednesday morning. Perhaps what is most shocking is the turnout, even by UK standards, which are not great! In California over half of the possible electorate didn't vote and that's in a state where those that, presumably did vote, were talking about the result right up until the moment we left on Friday. Our theme of contrasts was re-iterated on Thursday.

We visited the Museum of Modern Art in a beautiful new building a few blocks downtown from our hotel and right next to a beautiful and tranquil urban garden, but you've guessed it, with its quota of homeless and distressed right outside the doors and on the garden benches, what price art?

We also rode a tramcar that afternoon and encountered the usual confusing and mis-informed information about timetables, costs and alighting points, was there ever such a city to try and negotiate? To be fair it was quite fun, but returning from Fisherman's Wharf took a very long time, although we had interesting conversations with our neighbours in the queue. On Thursday evening we returned to the wharf for an excellent 'farewell' dinner, which we much enjoyed.

Having packed our bags early on Friday morning, we hit the shops, on what turned out to be 'Veterans Day', although we expected to see some evidence of commemoration events, there was no sign and as the morning went on, more and more people seemed to be hitting the shops. And there were bargains to be had if you were the right size. Not for us, needless to say.

And so on the light railway out to the airport, where British Airways could only afford to pay for three staff on the desks for economy passengers, which led to long waits, for us over an hour. Then there was the 'cattle market' chaos of security, or was it a rugby scrum? Whichever term you choose to give it the overwhelming sense was that it was chaotic and confusing with little apparent order and lots of noise. So unlike our own dear Heathrow which we negotiated in just forty minutes from touchdown to standing on the tube platform.

In all we've been away for forty three days of which six involved significant travel, but writing this on Sunday I think it's fair to say we don't feel jet lagged. It has been a memorable and significant experience. We've met some wonderful, friendly and helpful people, seen extra-ordinary and awesome sights, been present at what might be a significant moment in history and can remove at least two items from our 'bucket list'. Would we do it again? Certainly. Have we a thirst for more travel to far away places, no doubt. Will we re-visit some of the places we've been, probably yes, certainly Australia and New Zealand have much more to offer. So this is our last posting for now, as we return to UK in bright November sunshine, will we need an update from someone about The Archers?

Posted by pennyandrew16 07:09 Comments (0)

Hot Geysers to Hey Guys

The Morning after the Night Before

I'm writing this the morning after the Trump victory or the Clinton defeat, whichever way you want to look at it. We're here in San Francisco and the Californians we've spoken to so far, are absolutely devastated. We left New Zealand on Sunday after a very enjoyable stay with Mike and Rae Firmston in Auckland where they gave us a whistle stop tour of their lovely city. We really should have left more time to discover its secrets.

However, on the way north to them we visited the most extraordinary geysers and thermal pools at Orakei Karako, it was to use an American term awesome! A beautiful blue sky, a tranquil lake and the most amazing geological features were one of the real highlights of our journey.

Now we're staying in downtown San Francisco where our theme of contrasts has yet again been spotlighted. We're near super rich accomodation and restaurants, yet every night there are homeless camping on the streets and almost eating the scraps from the gutter. We meet extremely warm and welcoming people but have encountered real intransigence and obstruction when trying to arrange our visit to Alcatraz, it's not as if we were trying to escape and we'd paid! A story much too long for this report.

Last night, having visited the delightful village of Sausalito in the afternoon we boarded a 'Big Bus' for an evening tour of the bay. With brakes that screamed, passengers who fell over unlit obstacles at 'rest rfoom' stops, a guide who was making it up as he went along and a massive traffic jam it was just too much when we went in a bar to be met by the young staff with very long faces. All Clinton supporters they were monitoring the East Coast results which were not making happy reading!

Today we've retreated to fantasy land at the marvellous Walt Disney Family Museam, not a statue of Mickey in sight but a fascinating story of his rise to fame and success with professional personal and family memorabilia. Set in beautiful parklands owned by the military, we've basked in the sunshine and delightful quiet before we return to the city streets this evening. Just one more day before we fly home. By the by, how is November in UK?

Posted by pennyandrew16 18:23 Comments (0)

Thermal Pools

We are now in North Island which is very different! We arrived late on Sunday afternoon after a rolling crossing from Picton to Wellington but marvelling at the lovely scenery in the Queen Charlotte Sound. On Sunday morning I'd run along easy tracks half way up a hill, on Monday I'd run through an industrial estate!, land of contrasts or what?

That morning we made our way, somewhat carefully into the capital city to look at the Te Papa National Museum. What an experience. Currently they are showing an exhibition about the role of New Zealand troops at Anzac Cove in the Gallipoli campaign of 1915 -16. It was simply magnificent. The quality of material and presentation was stunning, but, oh what a misguided idea to invade Turkey and at what a cost. Does History teach us anything at all?

The other exhibition we looked at was about Maori culture. There were some marvellous artistic artefacts and much to think about. The way in which Maori culture has striven to work with European settlers seems quite different to the Aborigines and Native Americans attitudes and procedures. We also noted that the carvings of faces and the expressions of the 'Haka' seemed remarkably similar.

Then northwards along the west coast including a delightful sunny outdoor lunch by the sea at Waikanae Beach towards Aukland stopping for a whole day in the charming town of Whanganui which has the most old buildings in New Zealand, 11% in fact. This is due to an absence of earthquakes in this area. They are however busy working on these lovely Edwardian and Victorian villas to make them earthquake proof for the future. We are in a land which lives with instability and extremes.

Tonight we are encamped by Lake Taupo amid the thermal pools and geysers, it is very beautiful and we have bathed in 34 degree open air pools and feel pretty good after it. Tomorrow we go in search of geysers. Tonight we are content to have watched a beautiful sunset and seen the thinnest sliver of moon ever.
It feels as though our time on New Zealand is running out rapidly and there is so much more that we could have seen of this simply beautiful country.

Posted by pennyandrew16 00:49 Comments (1)


South Island New Zealand

Well again it is the holiday of contrasts. NZ South Island can do 4 seasons in one day. We have gone from glorious sunshine to torrents of rain to snow and below zero temperature!
South Island is truly beautiful and I feel that I am overusing the word. The southern Alps which we passed over on our flight into Christchurch are magnificent, snow capped and are the spine of the country which we have crossed three times. The west coast is wet, very wet! We landed in Hamner Springs after a soaking journey through mountain passes to a pleasant evening. Hamner Springs is a charming spa town with streets named Leamington, Cheltenham, you get the picture. We strolled round and discovered a hospital that was used initially as a convalescence home and then as a sanitarium for soldiers from World War 1. It is still set up as in those times and was most interesting.

We woke up the next morning to find the mountains covered in snow and hastily fled for the East coast and warmer temperatures. Wrong, Blenheim was wet and freezing, but offered great wine tasting at Wairau vineyard, (available in London Jess and Nat). I personally recommend the rose! Picton where we stayed overnight was pretty cold, however the sun shone in the morning and we began to warm up.

We visited a fascinating museum dedicated to a ship built for the East India Company, the Edwin Fox. The ship has had a varied history from transporting convicts, one from Lincoln for sacrilege, to immigrants for NZ to the Crimean War until it finally came to Picton to be used as a refrigeration ship. A conservation society has lovingly preserved it and has built museum around it. We spent an absorbing morning there before catching the ferry through Marlborough Sound to North Island, Wellington where we are camped for the night.

Andrew has just reminded me that I have said nothing about my birthday. How remiss, I had a lovely day, the sun shone and it was warm, the champagne and my dinner were superb and I did still receive some cards and very lovely presents secreted over here by himself. Andrew topped it with a beautiful silver ring with an inset tourmaline, my birthstone. Who says he can't be romantic!

Onwards into North Island and more adventures.

Posted by pennyandrew16 00:08 Comments (1)

Singing in the Rain

Three fantastic pieces of theatre

No we didn't see that musical but Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour was full of great harmonies from 9 incredible Scottish girls who wowed the audience as well as shocking them with their language. It kept on raining and blowing a freezing gale but the theatre warmed our hearts. Robert le Page with an uncannily clever piece of theatre and a set that worked miracles, Gob Squad with their inimitable deconstruction of War and Peace which was very funny.
We left Melbourne in the wet wee small hours and arrived into early spring in Christchurch, hurrah! Our first night in our campervan went by without mishap, although Andrew can't find where I have stowed things! This morning we visited the city of Christchurch, a city of real contrasts. The peace and beauty of the Botanical Gardens, filled with a plethora of azaleas and spring flowers contrasted totally with the devastation of the city centre, notably the cathedral. Six years on and so many buildings totally uninhabitable and in a sorry state. How awful was that earthquake.
We are now in PeelForest for the night and hardly a soul is around. Travelling here we saw snow capped mountains and blue, icy rivers, but it's not cold! Our campervan is really well designed and very cosy.
Tomorrow I hit 70 and the champagne is in the fridge!

Posted by pennyandrew16 00:26 Comments (1)

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