Monthly Archives: February 2015

wpid-wp-1424563836626.jpeg

A hire car? We need a canoe!

Friday 20th February – Noosa to Brisbane (Vicki)

Well, as the various posts have mentioned, cyclone Marcia seems destined to make our time in QLD a little damp. Nowhere was this more evident than during our drive down from Noosa to Brisbane.

image

We had been due to go to Australia zoo on the way down, but it was closed due to flooding. We then decided to go to Lone Pines Koala Sanctuary, just south of Brisbane, but the weather was so appalling that driving any further than necessary just seemed ridiculous.

We did manage to fit in a quick game of glow in the dark, wild west themed mini-golf on the way down – although several diversions were required due to roads being closed due to flooding.

image

I was definitely breathing a sigh of relief when we made it to the hotel – I would have been quite happy just to hole up in the hotel and hibernate for the rest of the day. However, we were only due to have a day in Brisbane so felt that we should at least see a little bit of the city. To be honest, the rain pretty much tempered everything. I am sure it is lovely in the sun, but it is hard to appreciate Botanical Gardens with rain dripping off your nose.

Our original aim in Brisbane was to run a parkrun and then get an overnight train up to the Whitsundays, but due to Marcia, all parkruns in QLD were cancelled, and as we found out during the day, so was our train. After a frantic half hour trying to sort out alternative transport up to Airlie Beach, we headed to the South Bank to at least have a look at the parkrun course. Mercifully it had stopped raining so we were at least able to appreciate the city by night. There is a big wheel and a mini rainforest, and a lovely peace pagoda just next to the river, as well as a great tapas restaurant (thanks for the recommendation Graham) where we were able to regroup.

After dinner, we headed up to the ‘west end’ to a couple of craft beer bars, and could have got very settled if it wasn’t for the 6.30 alarm call the next day, which would hopefully mean that we would be in the Whitsundays by lunchtime….

Saturday 21st February – Brisbane Airport (Rich)

…unless our plane is struck by lightning and forced to turn back. What are the chances of that happening though? Oh…

With our current luck I can’t see you being surprised that this has happened. We are in the airport waiting for a new plane that is due to take us up to Proserpine. It is a bit concerning that a fire alarm keeps going off on the other side of the airport and rain continues to pour outside. Evacuation would be a very unwelcome diversion at this time.

Our theory is that bad things happen in Brisbane (delayed getting here, cyclone, cancellations, lightning strikes). Once we are out all will be well. As such I figured I would mention this now so we can forget all about it when we are on the beach this afternoon. Let’s just not think about our return journey to Sydney transferring through Brisbane.

image

IMG_7228_thumb.jpg

D.I.N.G.O!

D.I.N.G.O!

D.I.N.G.O…

…Dingo was his name-o!

IMG_7228

Due to cyclone updates we are slightly out of sync. Here is what we wrote before it got really wet…

Wednesday 18th February – Hervey Bay & Fraser Island

Yesterday morning we woke early again for a trip over to Fraser Island. This was quite an ask following the long and late drive the night before. The weather wasn’t tempting us out either as it was wet and windy. It really didn’t seem the ideal day to be going to visit Fraser Island, the worlds largest sand island and a UNESCO world heritage sight….

Here are a few of the things we saw:

  • Rain forest. Second of the trip after seeing this on the Great Ocean Road too. This one was unique thought as it is a rain forest grown on sand. Some lovely creeks snaked through and our guide Steve (not a cat) was extremely knowledgeable about the trees and plants that it contained.
  • Sand tracks. Serious 4WD territory on the island. Good job we didn’t try and take our little red hyundai over. It wouldn’t have made it off the ferry. The bus we were on was quite a machine and handled the terrain with ease.
  • 75 mile beach. Wow. That is a long beach isn’t it. It is also a public highway which Steve (guide, not the cat) seemed to enjoy zooming along.
  • Dingo! Hence the post name. The dingo came out to say hi. We also saw a sea snake that Steve (guide, still not a cat) brushed (as in, with a broom) off the beach/road back into the sea. I kept a safe distance and let Vicki take the photos. I am not a snake fan.
  • Mckenzie lake. We got there just in time for our only rainstorm of the day. Fortunately we were already in swim gear so frantically stuffed our other clothes into the dry bag and dived in. Very refreshing and warmer in that out due to the rain storm. We had a lovely 50mins swimming around and admiring the wonderful setting of the lake. This is one of the main draws for a lot of the visitors to Fraser Island and it finished the day well. The rain shower was very short (about a minute) and it warmed up nicely for when we had to get out.

Another special treat for the day was a scenic flight over Fraser Island. We did  this when offered on a whim as we thought it would be a good way to see the extent of the island. We were glad we did the flight which although short gave a new vantage onto the island that we would have missed otherwise. The length of the beach, inland lakes nestled in the rain forest and sand dunes sweeping over the forest could only really be appreciated from above.

IMG_7244

Overall the trip was well worth doing. Although as a day trip we saw just a snapshot of the island and had to cram a lot in it was worth it. It would have been good to be more independent as waiting for others on a trip and sitting around with strangers at lunch is a bit of a drag however for a day, getting our own 4WD or private tour just wasn’t practical. In weather terms we were actually quite lucky. Although it wasn’t gloriously sunny it was clear and the rain held off. Apparently we were just in time too. A day later and the cyclone would have ruined our trip. More on that later.

Our evening involved a whistlestop tour of Hervey Bay where we were staying including seeing many fruit bats, shopping in Woolworths (a supermarket over here) then takeaway pizza. We then had a very early night (in bed at 8:30pm) as we were exhausted from the last few days.

Thursday 19th February – Travel to Noosa

So it seems we are in Queensland at the same time as Cyclone Marcia. Bad planning that. She is due to make land tomorrow in Hervey Bay so we headed off pronto. There was no escaping her preceding storm though so today has been wet. Rain all day. Actually, it did stop for a few minutes at lunch. So rain nearly all day. The rain after lunch more than made up for the slight break though as it has been torrential!

What to do in the rain then? Well we planned to head to Noosa to go to the beach so we carried on with that plan. It was about 2.5 hours drive over all with two stops planned on the way. These were in pretty much the only significant towns on route. Australia does contain a whole lot of nothing!

First stop was Maryborough a heritage town. Lots of interesting buildings. Good to see ye olde Australia. Also many Queenslander style houses. These are raised up to avoid floods (possibly needed in the next few days) and verandas to keep cool on in the heat (probably not this week). We also saw a kangaroo on the way out of town…another Australia site ticked off. Second town was Gympie. In Maryborough we saw a bakehouse and decided pies were in order for lunch. While Gympie doesn’t offer much more than a funny name we did find great pies.

On to Noosa for the afternoon. Staying in the Noosa Sun Motel which is perfect for us even if false advertising as there is no sun here. Nice big room with kitchenette. We chilled out for a bit with a bit of TV and then braved the rain again. In Noosa we wanted to sea the National Park. Rain wasn’t going to stop this so on went running kit and we headed out for 4 miles along the coast.

G0050318

The forest and rocky coast combined with beaches were well worth seeing even if being battered by the storm rather than bathed in sunshine (Sunshine Coast by name only today). We were far from alone in the rain. There were hundreds of surfers. They were running along with us to get to the best launch spots and would then dive in and tackle the violent surf. It was great to watch but we had no intention to partake. Although very wet it is still warm so we were happy to stand watching. We even had a swim in the pool when we got back to the motel since we were wet anyway!

GOPR0293

Not sure what is in store for tomorrow. Australia zoo may not be a good idea so we may head straight to Brisbane. Will have to see what Marcia has planned for tomorrow!

Washout

Cyclone arrived but not where we are. We did however get rain. So much rain.

Australia Zoo closed because of flooding.

Couldn’t get to other zoo because roads were flooding and closing fast.

Brisbane sightseeing done in the rain so not much covered.

Parkrun cancelled throughout Queensland.

Train on from Brisbane cancelled.

Overall a bit of a washout.

image

Fear not though. We have regrouped and tomorrow morning we fly on to the Whitsundays a day early where it is sunny and hot. For now we have booze and tapas.

image

Cyclone Marcia

It seems we find ourselves in Queensland at the same time as a cyclone. We are on the coast at the moment but away from where it should touch down tomorrow morning. Despite this we are still getting a battering from wind and rain. As I write this I can hear the rain beating against the roof and the windows are rattling from the wind. Tomorrow morning, provided all is clear we will be heading down to Brisbane which is further from the centre of the storm. We will keep you posted with details.

In blog news, you have just received two Melbourne updates as we have been without a reliable internet connection to make posts until now. We have another post about our time so far in Queensland however I will leave that to post another day as there is enough to read already on the site.

Goodbye for now from stormy Queensland.

R&V

10923593_10152604563647027_3922210012685049338_n_thumb.jpg

Wedding #1 – Graham & Vicki

Monday 16th February – Wedding #1 – Rich

The day of the first wedding we are travelling for has arrived! This will be the big day for Graham and Vicki. It will be held at St Kilda pier where we have already been to see the penguins.

As the wedding was at 6pm we still had a lot of time for activities. We started the day with a run through Melbourne. We passed through the centre and headed to the Kings Domain park and botanical gardens on the far side of the city from where we were staying. The parks are circled by a famous running track called the Tan (at least famous in the running community). A number of our running friends had already recommended this to us. We weren’t going to break any of the records posted at the start of the course however enjoyed the run and saw a lot of other Melbournites out being active.

IMG_20150216_094006

Post run was time for breakfast. We joined the bride and groom plus best man Dave (yes, David Robinson from Singapore yet again) for a hearty “monster sandwich” breakfast in the centre of Melbourne. Fully fuelled we left the wedding party to their preparations and went for a wander around. We had been recommended to do the Immigration Museum but as it was such a lovely day we decided against this (we did get as far as putting our heads through the door). Instead we walked back through Fitzroy Gardens where we had been on Saturday. This time we circled the parliament district first and headed for the MCG (cricket ground). Passing through the tennis arenas we returned to the park we ran round the morning before arriving at the Southbank via the Remembrance Shrine. The walk covered a few areas we had been to before but nicely linked everything together. It was such a nice day that it was well worth doing even with a few repeats. Our final stop for the day was a tour of the docklands close to our hotel before getting ready for the wedding…

IMG_20150216_181234

The wedding was an intimate and relaxed one. Although a late start kept the groom waiting (traffic issues!) everything went without issue. We really enjoyed ourselves. There was good food, good drink and good company. We had a great time getting to know Graham and Vicki’s families. This was evidenced as we were still out at 3am back in the casino for a few drinks and a flutter for a few people. The bride and groom even came out on top with an early win on blackjack.

10923593_10152604563647027_3922210012685049338_n

Tuesday 17th February – Goodbye Melbourne – Vicki

The morning dawned way too soon after we headed to bed, and we were certainly a bit bleary eyed as we boarded the bus to the airport. Our mood wasn’t improved when we arrived at the airport and checked in our luggage only to realise to our flight was delayed by 6 hours and now was departing at 6pm rather than 12pm….

After a quick rant at the airline staff (note to readers – never travel Tiger Air) we hightailed it back to Melbourne for brunch with the Graham, Vicki and Dave, who were also feeling less than sparkly. A big brunch sorted us out, and we spent a very chilled out day mooching around Melbourne, before heading back to the airport in time for our flight. Much of the time was spent near to the Melbourne Exhibition Centre. This area had what we expected the docklands would have the day before. Lots of shops, bars and restaurants made it a place we could easily pass some time and recover.

A straightforward flight later and we were on our way up to Hervey Bay in a little bright red car. I’m sure during the day it would be a lovely drive, but in the dark, it is 3.5 hours of fairly tedious straight roads. The delay on the flight was far from ideal and meant a relaxed journey with an evening to settle in on the coast became a tiresome slog. Eventually however we made it to our home for the next 2 days, a caravan park in Torquay, just a few minutes from the coast. Not that we would be spending much time in it – come 7.30 the next day we were due to be on a coach, heading for a trip to Fraser Island. It’s all go!

wpid-wp-1424347536894.jpeg

Manchester in the sun

Friday 13th February – Melbourne arrival – Vicki

We are in Melbourne for Graham (Rich’s school friend) and Vicki’s (not me) wedding on Monday and are all staying in the same hotel. We arrived in the centre of Melbourne around 9am on Friday morning, and were just in time to catch the groom (wearing the world’s brightest shorts) before he headed out to check final arrangements with the venue.

Once we were free of bags, the first stop was breakfast, in a nice little cafe on the central shopping street, only a short tram ride from the hotel. One of the great things about Melbourne is that all of the trams in the CBD are free – you can just hop on and off, and you only pay if you go outside the CBD. It would be great if TFL did that in London, but I can’t see it happening somehow!

Refreshed and revived we then started exploring Melbourne, starting with a few of the shopping arcades, which are basically similar to the Burlington in London – snazzily decorated with lots of cute little shops and quirky features – one  had a Gog and Magog clock…not entirely sure why, but there we go.

It was now getting pretty toasty and by the time we had wandered round the Queen Victoria Market, a huge fruit and / veg /deli / bit of everything market we were ready to find a pub. The pub we chose (or to be honest, the only one we could see) was part of a backpacker hostel, and wasn’t the nicest place. However, it did give us a chance to sit down and cool off and plan the rest of the day. [Rich: I thought it was fine and had some charm.] We opted for a picnic lunch from the market and sat in a lovely park, before catching a tram back to the hotel for a well deserved (and much needed) nap.

Waking up a couple of hours later, we were very confused….it appeared to be raining. Not just a few spots either but proper British torrential rain. This was not part of the plan – we came to Australia expecting sunshine and so hadn’t packed a brolly. However, not to be deterred, we joined the wedding party for dinner a few streets away. By the time we left the restaurant a few hours later, we had just about dried off and decided to head to a casino for a nightcap.

Australia’s casinos (as explained by Bill Bryson) are a huge deal. Just the one casino in Melbourne generates 15% of all of Victoria’s tax revenue. And heading in there, we could well believe it – it was huge! Bars, restaurants, hotels, all in one place. To be honest, the gambling seemed kind of secondary, most people seemed to be just there to have a drink – a very different atmosphere to other casinos we’ve been in (Macau, for example). There were also many different non-Casino options. The Crown is a $1billion entertainment complex with food options, a cinema, three hotels and much more. It is vast!

After one drink we were ready to hit the hay especially given the fact that we were due to be running at 8am the following morning….

Saturday 14th February – Albert Melbourne parkrun – Rich

It never rains at 9am on parkrunday. Especially being in Australia of course this must be doubly true and it wouldn’t rain on us. Well it didn’t rain at 9am on this Saturday either. Sadly parkrun here starts at 8am and it was raining. Although by the time the run started it was only a light drizzle and we finished in the dry. Sadly we chose to get to the parkrun on foot. This started ok as it wasn’t raining too hard. Halfway there we once again got torrential rain though so when we arrived we were soaked.

Despite the rain it was well worth the trip. The parkrun (Rich’s 146th parkrun and 64th different event and Vicki’s 124th at 56 events) is a lap around the lake in Albert park in the south of Melbourne. F1 fans will know this park as the site of the Australian GP. There were some bits of the GP course already setup but fortunately nothing in the way of the run. It was a hard run dodging puddles and what became a steamy heat part way round. Vicki did a good time of 24:28 which considering our wet run down then warmth later on, coming in as 4th lady was a great achievement. Rich also ran.

IMG_20150214_075342

At the parkrun we chatted to a few people, mainly expat Brits. We weren’t the only visitors, we were mentioned at the start as visiting from Kingston however there were also visitors from Bushy Park. Strangely it was a lady we had met before as we have mutual running friends (Jenny & Andrew Melbourne – will the co-incidences ever end?). As we ran home after we passed by the designated breakfast cafe and were invited in by someone whose brother was from Surbiton. It really is a small world. parkrun followed by breakfast is always a great way to start your weekend even when on holiday.

After a break to refresh we headed out for the afternoon to explore some different Melbourne neighbourhoods. We found these to be varied and each distinctly charming. Fitzroy Gardens were a delight. Nearby to the MCG we saw a lot of people walking through these to head to the cricket (Aus vs Eng) however we gave that a miss. The Fitzroy area itself is a trendy area with a real hipster feel. Not necessarily our scene but good to wander and we found a really good pub for refreshment. Finally Lygon street is the Italian area where we settled in for a pizza and watched people pass us by.

Our evening was spent sitting on St Kilda pier. This is where the wedding would be in 2 days time. We went for a sneak peek due to the presence of penguins. While we went far too early and ended up sitting for quite a while we did get to watch the sunset over the city while we read our guidebook. Eventually we realised that penguins weren’t going to arrive on the beach in a hurry but we did get to see some sitting on the rocks waiting for their parents to return. Overall quite a while spent waiting unnecessarily but worth it to see the penguins.

IMG_20150214_214308

We completed the day back in the city with a stroll though the Chinese New Year market on the Southbank. Tired out after another long day we returned headed to bed ready for another early start.

Sunday 15th February – Great Ocean Road – Vicki

Day 3 in Melbourne saw us up bright and early for a trip along the Great Ocean Road. We had considered hiring a car and doing it ourselves, but time constraints and the dodgy weather the previous day meant that we figured the best option was to let someone do the driving for us while we took it easy and admired the views.

At 6.45am we were sitting on a minibus on our way to pick up some other day trippers. Luckily as the first pickup we got the best seats, right behind the driver, whose name was Wookie (apparently he looks like the Star Wars character, I couldn’t see it though). The prime seats really made the trip as we could chat with Wookie and had a great view.

The aim of the day was to get to see the ‘12 apostles’. In truth there aren’t actually 12, and were named that just to get more people to visit them. Regardless of the number, in the end we enjoyed Lock Ard gorge just a few miles on from the aposltes a lot more. This was because it wasn’t so busy, and you could actually get down onto the beach rather than just standing at the top of the cliffs. At the apostles you had to shuffle round with a large crowd of day trippers who all arrived at the same time.

IMG_20150215_151108

Rather than list all the sights, I’ll just set out a few thoughts:

1. Koalas are very cute (we saw three at a stop along the way), although like pandas, something of an evolutionary dead end.

2. The views from the road are amazing, although most of the main view points are crowded with tourists trying (and failing) to park their camper vans. (John and Lauren – we saw plenty of wicked vans, although none as bad as yours)

3. People, people everywhere – the main sites are ridiculously busy as many of the tour groups arrive at the same time as they are all following the same route. It would be good to be able to time it so you could actually spend some time looking at the views rather than just battling your way through the other tourists.

4.  I dread to think how many photos get taken on the road each day. I know it is a bit rich of us to complain about people taking photos, but we really noticed the number of selfie sticks on this trip. One person in our group must of taken literally hundreds of selfies during the day, each one preceded by excessive preening, and each one with the exact same ‘selfie face’. The poor koalas that we went to see were also victims of this, with the telescopic handles of the sticks allowing extreme close-ups of their furry features.

IMG_20150215_112521

Despite all of the people and the selfie-taking, it was a really good day. Wookie was a great guide (full of useless facts) and not having to drive meant that we could both relax and look at the scenery.

After a quick change at the hotel, we joined the groom and his family for dinner and another trip to the Casino and its sports bar. This time the bar was overrun with cricket fans, with India playing Pakistan. However, within seconds of India taking the required wicket, the place had emptied out, leaving just a few bemused drinkers finishing off their pints. Very strange.

Post naming – Rich

We weren’t originally sure what to call this post. Vicki was going to go with “Trams and penguins” but as I control the website I have changed this to “Manchester in the sun”. The reason for this is that Melbourne really reminds me of Manchester but with added sunshine. Maybe it is the trams, maybe it is the size of the city or maybe it is the atmosphere, I am not sure. In any case we both really like the city and agree it feels very familiar. Our first impression of Australia is that is is very like home but with some aspects of American added on the top. I am sure more impressions will follow.

wpid-wp-1423875089482.jpeg

Surbiton to Singapore

Our flight was a bit delayed out of Heathrow but nothing horrendous. Rather a delay to fix a leaky fuel pipe than running out of fuel part way.

Our friend Dave Robinson met us at the airport. Like last time round we would be staying with him while in Singapore. We headed straight from the airport for food in Newton Food Centre. This is a Hawker centre where we dined on chilli crab and cereal prawns. All very good and great to be back on the tasty Malay food.

After a few beers I was ready for bed. Sadly this only lasted until 5am when I was wide awake. At least it gave me chance to start reading Bill Bryson’s Australia book, Down Under, in preparation for our arrival there.

As we were spending the day in Singapore city and heading straight to the airport we didn’t rush out for the day. We started with a leisurely breakfast at Toast Box. Very tasty peanut butter on toast was just what the doctor ordered.

image

Our main sightseeing choice for the day was Gardens by the Bay. These gardens were great. With two biodomes (cloud forest and flowers) and super trees it kept us amused for the morning and early afternoon.

image

Lunch was at the Maxwell Road food centre. This is another hawker stall place but this time mainly Chinese. Again very tasty.

Our final stop for the day was Raffles for a Singapore sling. A touristy thing to do but something we missed put on our last visit. We were happy to have had a mixed day sampling a variety of what Singapore had to offer and quite different from our last trip.

image

The day ended at the airport with a swim in the transit hotel pool to cool off before jetting off to Melbourne. It had been a hot day of sightseeing so this was really needed.

wpid-wp-1423588606345.jpg

Travelling hobo

We are now sat in Heathrow terminal 5. We have checked in and we have a beer. We are all set to start our Round the World Adventure!

Planes this time around instead of trains. Much more hard work. We seem to have a lot more stuff in our back packs this time due to the two weddings we are going to. At least planes and cars will be doing a lot of the heavy lifting this time so we won’t have to.

First stop is Singapore for the night to revisit the Big Adventure and some of the sightseeing we missed last time. Then on to Melbourne to arrive Friday morning.

Since we are off to weddings I decided to de-hobo myself.

Here is the transformation…

image

Somebody stole my beard…

image

Better trim the rest…

image

Vicki of course needs no transformation and looks as lovely as ever.

image

Onwards to Singapore!

RoughRoute-DCtoDurham_thumb.png

National parks and more importantly parkrun

When we visited the USA in 2015 we wrote two blog posts that never made it to the site. We did not blog the entire trip, missing our details of Charleston, Savannah and Florida. Since we wrote these posts though I feel I should add them to the site before we start our next adventure. Hopefully our coming trip will see us keep a little more up to date and provide some fresh insight into the trip as we go.

Travel dates: 24th April – 26th April

Location: Virginia and North Carolina

Road Trip (Rich)

On the road we didn’t have a destination set for Friday night so were winging it. We had to be in Durham, NC on Friday but that left a lot of choice in how to get there and where to stop in between. In the end we were tempted by an indirect route taking in Shenandoah National Park. With 104 miles through the park at a 35 miles per hour speed limit this was never going to be the quickest route but it promised to be much more interesting than heading down the interstate. Our rough route is shown below, at some point I will find a better way to map where we went:

RoughRoute-DCtoDurham

Having spent until after midday getting the car and visiting space shuttles we only reached the national park at nearly 3pm. We had picked up a picnic on the way from a Mom & Pop road side deli. We ate this at the visitor centre marking the start of the Skyline Drive. This is the 104 mile drive mentioned above running along a ridge through the blue mountains. The road was a pleasure to drive along taking in the stunning scenery as we went. Spring hadn’t quite reached the top of the mountain so the trees were still bare but looking down to the valleys you could see spring fast approaching. The road must be spectacular in autumn as the colours change and I would happily come back and drive it again then.

At one point in the drive we came across a number of cars stopped in the road. We took this as a sign that there was something interesting and were not disappointed when we found a young bear feeding just off the road. We were able to approach fairly closely to get a good picture whilst remaining safely on the other side of a wall from the bear. We were still very aware that the wall would be no match for him or mummy bear should she be around. Safe to say we didn’t hang about too long to find out if she was near. For the next several miles we happily entertained ourselves with “Bear Left” jokes while Vicki gave directions. Quite sad really.

At the visitor centre we had enquired about accommodation and been told we might find a Mom & Pop style motel in a town called Elkton about 60 miles through the drive. Arriving there at 7pm we were ready to stop. Our first pass through Elkton didn’t yield much. There were some closed motels and only one that looked like it was still open. We managed to get phone signal and Trip Advisor told us the one motel we had passed was reasonable so we gave it a go. For $50 for the night we got a small cabin. Although smelling a bit smokey and with a tatty carpet the bed was fine and bathroom clean and functional. The location was stunning though and it lived up to the name Country View Inn.

A short run was made shorter by a yappy dog and a chat with locals who were confused why we would want to run and couldn’t suggest anywhere to go. We didn’t want to explore too much as we were worried Mama might have a gun if we strayed onto her property. Despite Elkton being very small and on first impression not offering a lot it had a great Mexican place recommended to us by the cashier at the 7/11. Fed and watered we got an early night ready to hit the road again in the morning.

Another treat Elkton offered was a country store that served “Bear-ekfast” sandwiches. These were delicious if quite unhealthy and were consumed by us at ‘overlook’ on the Skyline Drive. Finishing the scenic drive we were in Charlottesville before lunch.

Charlottesville is made famous by past resident Thomas Jefferson. We were on the Jefferson trail visiting the university of Virginia that he founded and his home at Monticello. It made a very pleasant day of exploration. At Monticello we were happy to have done the gardens and Jefferson’s grave first as an epic storm arrived during our house tour. Even with a bus ride back to the visitor centre I got soaked when going to retrieve the car.

With a 3 hour drive to Durham ahead of us the bad weather wasn’t encouraging. Fortunately we soon outran the storm and were rewarded by a fabulous drive through the Virginia countryside. The open road through farms and towns was an easy drive. Only when we entered North Carolina and neared Durham on a stretch of interstate to finish the drive did the storms return. By the time we made Durham though the vastly changeable weather had done its thing again and we had clear skies and a beautiful sunset. Fortunately we avoided the tornados that had hit elsewhere in the state.

A quick stop at our Red Roof Inn preceded BBQ food for dinner. QShack provided huge portions of pulled pork, beef brisket and plentiful sides. It was easy to see why our fellow diners were on the large side. We justified the excess as trying the local cuisine and with a run planned the next morning to offset it.

parkrun (Vicki)

As is usual, Saturday dawned, and we found ourselves on the start line of yet another parkrun, this time in a lovely park in Durham, NC. We had checked out the competition on line and were expecting to have to put a lot of effort in just to avoid coming last. A quick chat with the run director Julie and her husband Martin and we were off on  a hilly 3 lap trot around the park. It should be mentioned that the field was a little on the small side  – there were only 10 of us, and perhaps more surprisingly, all but 3 were tourists!

As mentioned, the course was hilly – more to the point, there was a one hill, which you had to do 3 times. It seemed manageable the first time round, but by the third time, definitely not much fun. We decided to set a decent pace for the first mile, and then, finding ourselves in second and third place, decided to carry on, finishing First Lady and Second Man in the end!

Having burnt lots of calories it was time to refuel, and breakfast with Julie, Martin and some of the other parkrunners was at a great little coffee shop not far from the park. The grits were good, but the idea of a breakfast burrito still seems a bit strange. Julie and Martin had kindly offered to show us the botanical gardens in the afternoon, and so after a quick shower we headed back into town to see Durham itself before heading off. Unfortunately we were too late for the Farmers Market, and didn’t have enough time for the Tobacco Heritage tour, but we did have a good time wandering around the centre, looking at the old Tobacco warehouses and newly restored downtown area.

The botanical gardens at Duke University really are a sight to behold, especially with the tulips in bloom. The sun was shining, and it was a lovely way to spend an hour before we had to get back in the car and hit the  road again. Next stop, Wilmington.

Capital Segway fun

When we visited the USA in 2015 we wrote two blog posts that never made it to the site. We did not blog the entire trip, missing our details of Charleston, Savannah and Florida. Since we wrote these posts though I feel I should add them to the site before we start our next adventure. Hopefully our coming trip will see us keep a little more up to date and provide some fresh insight into the trip as we go.

Location: Washington DC

Travel Dates: 22nd – 24th April

Segways. Are. Awesome.

I just wanted to make that clear. We did a Segway tour around Washington DC and it was great fun. Until you have tried one you really don’t appreciate how much fun they are. They are easy to ride being quick and manoeuvrable and contrary to how they appear, very difficult to fall off. I would recommend trying them to anyone and we will be definitely be back on them again in the future. We did a tour that took us around sights such as the White House and the National Mall. As Washington’s sights are quite spread out the segways made seeing many of them light work.

IMG_2915

I am jumping ahead a bit here though. Our Segway tour was on day 2 in Washington. Day 1 involved a bit of orientation visiting a few sights on the national mall including the Natural History Museum, Museum of American History (mainly to see Dorothy’s red shoes) and the Lincoln memorial. Seeing just these few sights already involved a fair bit of walking which is why we decided on the Segway tour.

Our accommodation in Washington was in the embassy area, it is called Embassy Circle Guest House. It is a B&B where guests are encouraged to socialise at both breakfast time and for evening wine and nibbles. This isn’t usually our style as we generally stick to the anonymity of hotels. The guest house feels like staying in embassy and was extremely comfortable. We enjoyed the socialising aspect although we did feel that the host sometimes tried to force high brow conversation. Discussing the political situation in the Ukraine over breakfast was a bit much for us, we were happy chatting about what people were going to see in Washington. Apparently political conversation is the norm though what with being in Washington DC.

Day 1 ended with a salad in a deli as we wanted something a little healthier having been on American food (i.e. burgers) for several days. The salads were huge though so we were still stuffed. After dinner Vicki retired early as she was under the weather. I headed to meet the best man from Tom’s wedding (Edmund) who lives in DC. I had a drink at his apartment where we discussed the wedding and DC plus had the obligatory political conversation with some friends of his who were also there. This time Scotland leaving the UK which I can’t say I am an expert on.

With time short in DC (only 2 nights) we prioritised museums and went for the Air and Space Museum after the Segway tour. Vicki took advantage of the planetarium to have a nap as seems to have become a custom for her in planetariums as she did the same in New York. I won’t be taking her to any more.

Our evening started with a run up to the Washington Cathedral past more embassies. It was a fun game to guess the country from the flag as we ran and went someway to taking our minds off the big hill. The rest of the evening was spent at the baseball watching Washington Nationals take on the LA Angels. It wasn’t a great game and as it was quite cold so we left our seats before the end. Washington were down 4-1 and we figured it was over. As we got up Washington scored a home run in the final half of the 9th inning. They then went on to bring the score level at 4-4 with an impressive double. All they needed was a final run to win which they got much to the delight of the remaining crowd. Fortunately we hadn’t completely left and actually quite enjoyed the atmosphere from the back of the stadium where we stood with a group of others where as we would have been alone back in our seats. It was also very slightly warmer up at the back.

There were more Washington options available that tempted us to stay for an extra day however we decided to get on the road on Thursday morning. We will have to return to DC sometime to explore more. Picking up our car at the airport we did have time for one more activity. We headed to the Udvar-Hazy addition to the Air and Space Museum. This is a huge hanger near Dulles airport. We saw a Concorde, blackbird spy plane but the real highlight was the Discovery Space Shuttle. Well worth a trip out to see.

IMG_2995