After a few days in New York we flew home to San Francisco via Florida to catch up with our friend Kara who lives there. We stayed with her in a small town on the east coast where everyone drives, houses have bug screens on every window, it’s warm in the middle of winter, there’s no decent coffee (lucky we traveled with our own), there sadly weren’t that many oranges (isn’t Florida where oranges come from?), there’s lots and lots of blue sky and green golf courses, everyone is either retired from the space center or currently works there, strip malls are abandoned, churches and gun stores exist on the same block – it was so great to have a couple of lazy days in the sun and catch up with Kara.
Entries Tagged 'Travels' ↓
January 31st, 2013 — Travels
January 30th, 2013 — Travels
We had our first trip back to New York in 8 months and we’ve only visited briefly in the winter before – 2 days after Christmas in 2007 – and it wasn’t as cold as this trip. Things had frozen. The temperature was -11C (12F). I’ve never been so cold before. If we lived there we’d have proper coats and The Mister would have to wear a hat but we piled on layers, decided to only be outside for about 10 minutes max at a time so we just scurried to the places we needed to be on the subway (yes freezing in the stations too!). The fountain in Bryant Park was almost frozen over. Someone spilled coffee outside Culture Espresso and it froze so a guy had to come scrape it off to stop people slipping on it!
Even though the California Zephyr train (train log here) goes from San Francisco to Chicago, we got off in Denver for a night and day before flying back to San Francisco (last Friday). The train arrived 3 hours late so we had dinner on the train and got in well after dark, went straight to our hotel to bed. We were outside enough to feel that it was very nippy compared to San Francisco – about 8 degrees! But we’d been prepared for that as a nighttime temperature.
When we woke up the next morning, I was feeling rather drugged thanks to sleeping very heavily after not really sleeping on the train so I was a bit befuddled when The Mister lying next to me held up his cell phone and said “have you seen those little sparkly things on the weather app before? What is that?” and I screeched “That’s snow!!!!”, leaped out of bed, yanked back the curtains and squealed “SNOW”! Not much, but it was real snow!
Now then, we didn’t have anything to wear in such weather! I’d checked 3 days earlier before we’d left San Francisco and it was forecast to be 15 or 16 – not 3!!
However, we rugged up in what we had (we did pack scarves and I had gloves) and left the parents-in-law enjoying the hotel buffet while we braved the cold and bus to head 20 minutes out of the downtown area to find decent coffee and a croissant for breakfast. My god it was bitter, although bearable if you could walk in a patch of sun. A guy we shared a table with at breakfast said it was the first sprinkling of snow for the season and was unseasonably early – usually the last day of October was when the first snow fell. So we’d come from a heat wave in San Francisco to a cold wave in Denver!
We spend the middle of the day wandering along the city mall and around Larimar Square braving the cold as much as we could – it was slightly better after an emergency coat purchase stop. The temperature got up to 4.4 degrees – 40 degrees Fahrenheit!
After warming up with a soup and sandwich we headed over the bridge and through the park at the end of the mall to get to more good coffee, hoping it would be a warm cafe we could hang around in for a couple of hours before heading back to the hotel for our bags and transport to the airport – it was, and that’s what we did. On the walk over the bridge we discovered snow still lying about!
To use up some time after coffee before we needed to get to the airport we rode from one end of the mall to the other and half way back on the free mall bus – a great service and I can imagine they’d need it in the winter – it stops frequently on the single mall street so that you can come out of your office building, dash onto the bus, ride a couple of stops and dash back out into a shop or cafe or chemist or train station – barely needing to go outside!
So not a very adventurous day in Denver but despite the cold we walked from one side of our hotel map to the other – the route largely determined by coffee but that’s us!
7.35am Arrived to an Amtrack signpost on the sidewalk outside the Ferry Building, sweating (the heat is still hanging around the city) from rushing with our cabin bags and coats, expecting it to be cooler in Denver. Amtrack bus pulled up just as we did. It was with some disgust I left my beautiful orange cabin bag on the side walk to be hurled under the bus for the first leg of the trip, bus ride to the Amtrack station in Emeryville.
7.45am Bus is filling up, I realize we might not’ve brought the right train clothes, is a felt hat really necessary for the dining car?
Wondering now if Amtrack will in fact be like the Orient Express … also, we’re the youngest on the bus so far.
8.10am Arrive Emeryville Amtrack station where I find out it’s another hour wait until the train leaves! Railway waiting room mm-mmm. Absolutely stunning view of San Francisco, the bay, Ferry Building, Alcatraz and a little bit of the Golden Gate bridge from the bus going over the Bay Bridge. AmtrackConnect poster in the waiting room advertising wi-fi on board other train services, but not the Zephyr. Thank goodness we brought the mi-fi.
8.50am Met the very cheerful conductor who knew who we were by the time we got to him – looking on his list I think he figured, young couple with greyer-haired couple following, heading to car 31 – must be the Walker family!
9.10am Thought I was fainting standing there looking into my phone but it was the training creeping into motion while I was facing the wrong way! Sat down to look out the window. Room is not too bad – pokey and The Mister will have to pick up after himself and learn where everything goes!
9.20am Mi-fi success! Yaaay we have our own in-room internet! Devices all connected. How long will it last? C’mon AT&T 4G keep on working right into the mountains.
9.30am Arrrrgh, wondering if I can cope with 36 hours of this, I’m sure I’m feeling motion sick. Wandered down through the dining car to the observation car and sat sideways looking at the view for a while.
Realized we were passing through Hercules and thought of Eileen so tweeted her to see if the baby was on his way.
10.10am Out the window yellow California desert.
Morning tea time! Out comes the travel coffee kit and precious Supreme beans recent visitors have couriered across for us. Hunted down Johnny the purser for some hot water “for a cup of tea” – turns out there’s an urn in the dining car so I know where it is for next time. Set up a coffee making station on the table.
How the simple things make my heart swell – sounds naff but I was SO excited sitting there grinding the coffee, moving the cups and packets of sugar around to make us a morning tea.
News that the baby is not yet coming. Computer time.
September 30th, 2012 — Travels
Had a great time in London – I really enjoyed the city, not that I had bad memories of it having lived there for a couple of months 19 years ago – and we just did our usual thing of wandering around, drinking coffee and taking in the sites. A sample from the London Flickr photos:
- London was a lot cooler than San Francisco – and rained on 3 of the 5 days we were there. We generally had the right clothes for the weather.
- We used a great site called One Fine Stay to rent an apartment for our time there rather than a hotel, so we cooked in one night and enjoyed takeaway meat pies from the Battersea Pie Shop in Covent Garden another night. Nice not to eat out all the time.
- Covent Garden wasn’t quite what I remembered from my youth – I thought I remembered vegetables and flowers, not upper class trinket and scarf shops. Perhaps they have market day during the weekend.
- We had a lovely tea-and-cake meeting with ex-Xero Adam. No scones though – they only do those in the afternoon and we were there in the morning. Never-the-less Victorian sponge cake and pink raspberry lemonade was delicious!
- Regent Street was just as majestic as I remember.
- Black cabs aren’t black much anymore – some are – but lots are all graffiti’d up with advertising – flashing colorful single company ads.
- People smoke still, everywhere. Well, not inside, but in door ways, park benches, wandering the down the street blowing it onto people following them.
- The London Eye is huge! We didn’t go on it because it was really windy the day we wandered along the Thames. And it had one orange bubble/capsule/riding pod thing on it. Wonder how hard it would’ve been to engineer waiting for that one!
- Waiters and baristas are French, Australian or New Zealanders.
- The tube is expensive! GBP4.30 for a single zone – so $2.25 for the New York subway doesn’t seem so bad. And the tube carriages are way more cramped & stuffy than the subway and felt quite claustrophobic.
- Butter is good and yellow. And proper bread.
- Our few days there coincided with the first XeroCon (Xero Conference for our accounting partners) in London (6th for Xero) – The Mister gave a presentation and I sat down the back at the ‘press table’ live-blogging and watching social media channels.
- Lots of good coffee – the flat white is a live and well and we went out to different places pretty much twice a day while we were there. Here’s the line up of – London coffee.
September 10th, 2012 — Travels
We had our first trip to Sacramento this Saturday – decided to do something out of the city for a day and knew this was a doable return drive so despite the heat I knew would be out there we packed our jandals (flip flops) and went to collect the Zipcar from the building next door. Except it wasn’t there! Normally they phone if the car is going to be returned late and offer an alternative but it just wasn’t there. I started walking all the floors of the car park while The Mister phoned the Zipcar people. They had no idea where it was. No GPS it seems! Perhaps that’s some kind of privacy violation but would’ve been very handy in this case. They couldn’t rouse the previous users by phone either. They found us another car available for the day a couple blocks away – it was orange (yaaaay!) but a Mini, not so great for driving in 35 degree heat on the freeway. However, we were underway only half an hour after we planned.
So, Sacramento was about 2 hours drive away, freeway through sprawling Bay towns and cities, over a couple of bridges and a tiny bit of country side. We did what we planned – just a stroll around old town and a trip to the coffee shop someone from work recommended.
- Their water tasted funny – like it had silt in it
- The city seemed a bit run down, reminded me of Kawerau or some other small residential town in NZ with wrought iron signs. It’s the State capital with a Capitol building and everything which looked very gleaming and important but the city itself was a bit lazy. Perhaps it was the heat.
- There was practically no-one in the park and gardens surrounding the Capitol – too hot I think. Other parks in other cities, people are reading on park benches or picnicking.
- There were orange tress with oranges on them dotted all around the place!
- It was DAMN hot, 35 degrees C.
- The Macy’s smelled funny and carpet tiles were lifting in places, like a run down old Farmers store in NZ – we stopped in for a bathroom break.
- The old town seemed almost fake for the tourists, I’m sure it wasn’t, but there were no dates on anything, just lots of candy and trinket stores.
- A steam train rattled through the old town by the river – that was quite exciting, the tracks were right there on the riverside path, no barriers, could’ve touched the train as is rattled passed.
- There was a big yellow bridge!
Other photos on Flickr here, tagged ‘Sacramento’.
(By the way I tweeted Zipcar the following week and asked what had happened to the Audi we’d booked because we noticed for the next 2 days walking passed that building that it wasn’t parked in its usual space – I only had a ‘hope you enjoyed your ride in the orange Mini’ tweet, no explanation.)
August 21st, 2012 — Travels
Had our first visits to Seattle and Vancouver (Canada) the last few days. Sara & Lucy were up that way so it was our turn to fly up and visit so they didn’t need to detour through San Francisco. The trip will be memorable for seeing them but also for the heat wave. Yikes! Warnings on weather sites about ‘excessive heat’ – not my kind of weather. Seattle was sticky and disgusting and mid to high 30′s – we had clothes and shoes for mid-high 20′s. Blisters!
Seattle was a pretty nice town, a lot like Portland really. I was quite intrigued by the volcanic cones we saw out the window in the last 20 minutes or so of the flight. The city is leafy, has lots of good coffee (more on that later) and quite a compact downtown area – rising up from the pretty harbor. Obviously a huge draw card for visiting, besides the coffee, was the Space Needle painted in orange (officially ‘harvest gold’) for its birthday so a visit to see that was a priority. Although I was quite disappointed to discover that when you got up close and rode up it, you couldn’t see the orange! Only from afar. A company we’ve got to know through work (Avalara) has their headquarters at Bainbridge Island, just off Seattle and a friend from their California office was in town that week so he showed us around – good coffee, Space Needle, Chihuly glass garden, ferry to Bainbridge Island, more coffee, tour of their very ORANGE offices and dinner on the island. A great day … well … except for the heat. Sorry to harp on about it but you could tell the city was largely unprepared for the heat, like San Francisco: cafes and restaurants didn’t have air conditioning, so they’d all run out to the Home Depot or Target stores and got portable fans that cluttered surfaces and door ways!
Our next day and a bit in Seattle we visited more coffee shops, found a knitting shop, had lunch with a friend, met Sara and Lucy then set off on our road trip with them to Vancouver – had to drive across the border!
Volcanic cones between Portland & Seattle
Space Needle! Where’s the orange?
And I thought it always rained in Seattle?
Orange glass in the Chihuly Glass Garden
On the ferry to Bainbridge Island
Lovely orange offices – Avalara
Even had orange toilet paper!
With Sara & Lucy in Seattle
Vancouver was less charming. No offense intended. And thankfully a little cooler but also at the tail end of the heat wave. It was a huge city and the bits around the harbor very pretty. Actually reminded me of Europe at times – driving through the warm countryside lanes (took a rather scenic route after we got through the border) and seeing the harbor with pine-clad hills rising sharply upwards almost straight out of the water. We had a great view from our hotel. We were in the historic part of town, quite a few tourists around and people bothering us for money and to go back to the ‘less charming’ comment, I think it was just a bigger city and when coffee (pfifff! not so much more on that later) and wi-fi turned out to be rather scarce, I got a little ratty. However we did some very cool things there.
Sara and Lucy took us up to the top of Grouse Mountain – in the gondola – for amazing views. We learned about the Grouse Grind which is a walk up the side of the mountain instead of taking the gondola which a lot of locals do as regular exercise – Mother Nature’s Stairmaster – all I know is they’re mad, and they all stink when you’re jammed into the gondola with them on the way down! We dined outside – beautiful balmy evenings and lovely food. My eyes rolled into the back of my head when warm bread and butter was brought to the table one night – bread that wasn’t sweet and butter that was yellow and salty. GOD it was good.
The Mister joined Sara and Lucy when they did the Grouse Grind on Monday morning! They’d done it before and told him stories of legs crumbling and butt cramps but he was up for it. They got Grouse Grind t-shirts with ‘Fast’ on the back of them and set off at 8am. While I went out for coffee and a croissant of course! The Mister survived and did it in 51 minutes which is very impressive – he’d read about it and was hoping to do about an hour and a quarter. What a star!
Pretty Vancouver waterfront
We spent a lot of time sitting on the waterfront watching the float planes
Gondola to Grouse Mountain
Room with a view
At the base of the Grouse Grind
All in all it was a nice few days away (except for the heat!) and SO so great to see Sara and Lucy again.
May 11th, 2012 — Travels
I was super-excited to actually lay eyes on the shuttle riding on the back of it’s 747 as we were arriving at JFK on Sunday. You have to look hard at the photo, under the road sign but you can see it – I’m impressed The Mister managed to capture it out the back of the crazy cab window!!
May 11th, 2012 — Travels
Spotted this little tag on a tree in New York last weekend – there’s a project to plant one million trees. They’re almost at 600,000.
Girls showed New York a bit of orange last Sunday – Nichole wore some orange to keep me company! Had brunch and a wander and came upon a cool looking orange bike at a random store in Tribeca.
Also got to see proof that Triburbia as Tribeca is often colloquially referred to because it’s one suburb on Manhattan that attracts families is true! All these strollers parked outside a Tribeca cafe at brunch time!