……to the May sun in Cuba!

Havana

Where do I start ? What an amazing day. From the moment we stepped off the ship, walked across the crossing to San Francisco Square, we saw colour, classic cars and classic architecture. ❤️

With a tour in a classic car booked for a couple hours later, we decided to wander.

First stop, a cafe in Plaza Vieja and the best Frappuccino I have ever had.

From a lovely outdoor and upstairs balcony we had a beautiful view of the square and a group of local school kids enjoying athletics day competitions.

As we walked on towards a market area, we were chatted to, smiled at, told we were beautiful more times than ever before. Haha. Such beautiful people, friendliness on such a scale that I don’t think I have witnessed elsewhere. The locals love to chat, ask where you are from and chat some more. It was impossible to get from street corner to street corner without someone talking to you.

Most of the buildings are stunning and many are under renovation, aiming to be restored in time for the 500 year anniversary in November.

Others are painted in bright colours with even brighter doorways. I loved the big wooden doors with smaller openings within the door to look out, without opening the large door. Brilliant!

Classic cars in every colour catch your eye continuously. The drivers wave and offer their services and when you explain that you are booked elsewhere, or just say no thanks, they wave and say, have a good day. No pressure, no aggression, and no bad feelings.

The markets are in an old warehouse dockside, with a selection of art, souvenirs, t-shirts, bags, coffee mugs and much more. The art works are incredible and I now own a piece.

Leaving the market, we headed back towards Old Havana, wandering amongst the cobblestone streets again. We found a second hand book market with many amazing first edition books, Che Guevara being a popular subject.

Like many islands, there seems to be a large population of street cats and dogs, mostly they seemed healthy ish. They were not neutered though, so I guess the population will keep growing. A local told us that lots of people care for the street animals and in fact, later that night, we came across an elderly lady putting food out for the cats so I gave her some money.

The tour in a 1954 Chevrolet, took us to New Havana, the 8 km Seawall, the Malecon, Revolution Square, where a million people once gathered, the embassy district and the Hotel Nacionale where many events, political and celebratory, in Cuba’s past took place.

In a bar in this hotel, with photos of the many famous faces who have visited, we had a Mojito, with both light and dark rum. Very refreshing after a couple hours in a convertible, in the sun, seeing the sights.

Leaving the car, back on foot, we headed to Floradita, Hemingway’s hangout. The place was very busy, full and lively. Live Music, people singing along and an air of fun.

We tried the Daquiri, and a lobster cocktail 😊

Another wander, this time down Obispo street and many more eating and drinking opportunities.

Wondering around Havana felt very safe even at 10pm, the locals all assuring us that it is very safe. Even at night, wandering around the cobbled streets, people chatted and smiled.

I’ll be back. ❤️Cuba.

Galveston oh Galveston….

Galveston was only just waking up from winter and preparing for summer when we visited but you could tell it would be a fun place once the crowds came back and all the shops and restaurants opened up again.

The main attraction on the Seawall was Pleasure Pier, with a selection of rides, games and eating places. Even though the pier had not opened for summer, Bubba Gump Shrimp, a staple of every pier across America, was ready to feed the hordes.

We chose a local IHOP instead and sat at a booth looking out at the Gulf of Mexico.

It’s quite a stunning length of coastline, and we were able to drive from West beach to East Beach and compare the holiday homes along the way. West beach was prettier with its brightly coloured wooden homes on stilts.

Most of these were right on the beach front and although the water was a bit dirty looking today, these houses would enjoy the best views all summer.

East beach was more built up, literally, with rows of condominiums.

Galveston Historic Downtown was worth the visit. An area called the Strand had many old buildings that had been saved from destruction and restored beautifully, now housing shops, restaurants and apartments. It wasn’t too busy as this area was also only just getting into peak season mode.

Galveston is only an hour and a half from Houston and was an easy drive.

I’d like to visit agin when she is wide awake 😊

Whistler Whistlestop.

Today’s adventure began with an early morning bus ride. The Epic Rides company has regular trips to Whistler in their really comfy buses.
The ride up to Whistler started in the dark, but once the sun was up the views were fabulous. I sat on the left of the bus, so saw all the islands that are off the coast of British Columbia. There was no wind, the water still and peaceful.
Climbing as we went, we reached Whistler in less than 2 hours.
My travelling buddies all headed for the snow immediately to ski and snowboard but I wandered through the gorgeous village of Whistler. Even for a non skier there is plenty to see.

The village has a real “alpine” vibe and is chocka full of eating and drinking choices, along with shopping options.
The village is divided into Village Centre, Upper Village and North Village.
You can also stop and have a pic at the Olympic Rings by Market Place.

After a long meander through the streets, I headed to the Gondola station. The ride up to the peak of Whistler takes 25 minutes and once at the top you have the option to jump across to another gondola, the Peak 2 Peak and ride to Blackcomb peak. That ride is only 10 mins and you don’t have to backtrack as you can take the gondola to the the bottom of Blackcomb, a true round trip.

The views are of course, birds eye. The weather started out really cloudy on the first gondola and I was excited that it was snowing at the Whistler peak. There were tons of skiers moving around so rather than risk being mowed over, I walked in the snow over to the next gondola, and a quick ride across the expanse between the two peaks, to Blackcomb.
The final ride was downhill and very peaceful. I was the only one in the gondola so the only sound was the moving of the cab.
When I returned to the village, it was even more alive, with loads of skiers breaking for lunch.
The bus ride home was pretty, peaceful and before long, I was back in downtown Vancouver.

❤️

Coffee at Capilano.

If you have an afternoon or morning free in Vancouver, grab the free shuttle bus that leaves from many spots downtown, and head to Capilano Suspension Bridge Park.

The park is a beautiful nature area, even on the misty, rainy day I visited.

At the entrance, some native totem poles welcome you.

The main suspension bridge is awesome, views to the river below and surrounding forest on both sides. It swung quite a bit, so I put my phone away rather than lose it over the side to the fast moving river below.

Once you get to the other side, the “tree tops” walk awaits. 7 mini suspension bridges set among the tree tops. The park area is temperate rain forest and was so nice, I had to drag myself away.

Back over the main bridge to a sweet little coffee place. I had a coffee, locally brewed and delicious, along with a piece of vanilla and maple fudge that I bought at the Trading Post in the park.

On a sunny day, you would probably spend even longer in the park.

Free shuttle bus back to downtown, through Stanley Park, leaving nature behind till next time.

Sitting on the Surfliner

Yesterday and today I rode the train from

Anaheim to San Diego and back. The train is named the Surfliner and wherever it can, it hugs the coast. Some of the views from the train are gorgeous, beaches, coastal towns and surfers waiting patiently for the next wave.

One of the cutest places was San Juan Capistrano, the area around the train stop had a multitude of little coffee places which all looked rustic and boho.

Wish the stop was longer.

The trip takes about 2 hours and if you have the time, the train beats flying. No hassles with security, no crowds and you can sit in the cafe car and still see the views. Train rides have that calming feel as you take in the view, you are rocked into peace and quiet.

Anaheim station is very nice, futuristic and clean, however it is sadly lacking in places to buy refreshments. Maybe that’s planned for the future as it is brand spanking new.

It’s been a great trip, hope you like the pics 🙂

Waco, Way Cool

You don’t have to be a “Fixer Upper” fan to love Waco, but that is what took us there. The drive from Houston was pretty easy, a couple pretty towns to pass through but we didn’t stop.

When we arrived in Waco and the GPS took us to the address we plugged in, we spotted THE Silos and excitement like Christmas ensued.

The area is so well planned and thought out. A central area with grass and bean bags would, I imagine, be well used in summer. There were a variety of food trucks around the perimeter which added some colour and interest around the edge. The seed shop with its gardens out front, was absolutely gorgeous. As I wandered, I was filled with inspiration for my wee garden at home.

Magnolia Market had us wandering for quite a wee while. The goods in that store were lovely, sometimes taking you back to simple days, simple cooking and family kitchens. You could buy table ware, baking and cooking items, traditional and modern, small shelving, artwork, clothing and books. Purchases made, we headed to the bakery …….. well the minute you stepped inside this little shop, the smells were heaven. Choosing a cupcake flavour took a while but I ended up choosing two of Jo’s traditional ones and they did not disappoint……..DELICIOUS.

For lunch we headed to Magnolia Table. Once we spotted this, as we drove around the roundabout, more squealing ensued, as on the show, we had watched this space transformed from an old derelict restaurant into what it is today. It had been an icon in Waco, back in the day, called “Elite” and Chip and Jo took on the task of restoring to even better than former glory.

Walking in the door to a space we had only seen on TV was very very cool.

The food was awesome all round but my two faves, a peppermint mocha and Jo’s biscuits with strawberry butter. The biscuits were so fresh, and light and the butter just the right amount of flavour. The staff did Chip and Jo proud and were awesome.

We didn’t have a lot of time in Waco so we headed to an antique store, as Waco is famous for antiques. We found a couple treasures to bring home, and then headed to the river to see the metal cattle and the very pretty bridges. With the sun starting to set, the light on the bridges and the cattle was captivating.

This awesome day was finished off with a stop on the way back in the town of Hearne, more precisely to Penny’s Diner. This was a treat. A retro diner with amazing basic food and the best waitress we could ask for ……Sylvia. Totally recommend a stop here.

Sylvia sat at our table, we were lucky as it wasn’t busy, asked us about our choices and where she could, she customised our requests, one of us a vegetarian and the others not too hungry. Such great service and customer care.

Waco is worth a visit even if you don’t love Chip and Jo like we do 🙂

#fixer_upper

Sassy Seaplanes, Ferries, Trains and Buses….and an Island.

7.30 am start.
We headed out of the hotel into a brisk but clear Vancouver morning and walked towards the waterfront and the seaplane dock. Handed over the appropriate documents and waited for a seat on a flight. We didn’t wait long in the very warm waiting area and our names were called. Out of our seats like runners in a race, and down the dock to our waiting plane.


Our hosts were Harbour Air on their 20 seater float plane. After a safety briefing by the co pilot, we strapped in, and waited for take off. It was incredible. First the slow movement from the dock, then a bit more power and we were making waves, then full on thrust and we started to leave the sea behind.

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Every minute of the half hour flight was filled with beautiful scenery. Over the greenery of Stanley Park, the ribbons of concrete at the international airport and over the water and many many islands. Islands with jetties and houses and beautiful green trees, turning on their autumn colours.


As we flew over Vancouver island towards Victoria, we saw local morning traffic, quiet beaches and boats underneath us.
The seaplane docks right in the heart of downtown Victoria, making it so easy to start the process of wandering the quaint streets, with beautiful buildings and some amazing shops.

After a great coffee and Cronut at the Crusty Bakery,

we wandered into a book shop called Russell’s.

This is not just any book shop! 3 floors of books, old and new. The basement has a mind boggling catalogue of 1st editions, vintage and rare books. I enjoyed finding Trixie Belden Mysteries, Donna Parker stories, along with Mark Twain, Frank Baum and AA Milne vintage copies. Very hard to drag myself away from this store, but the Butchart Gardens were waiting for us. We hopped on a local bus, headed to the gardens and after almost an hour we were there.

The Gardens are stunning, even in autumn. My favourite was the Japanese Garden, with it’s peaceful zen feel, stepping stones and water trickles, little bridges and monuments. It was hard to believe I wasn’t in the temple gardens in Narita. All the different areas were so immaculate and beautifully cared for that it was hard to choose. The Ross fountain will take your breath away.

The family who lived here and built the gardens did so over 100 years ago. Throughout the gardens are also beautiful statues. The warthog was wonderful.

The weather and the gardens didn’t disappoint. Next stop, another local bus to the ferry terminal at the other end of Vancouver Island.


The Coastal Celebration was the ferry waiting and we were soon on board and saying goodbye to Vancouver Island. The trip home was longer than the way over of course, taking an hour and a half, but it was still spectacular. This time with the view from sea level instead of a few thousand feet, we saw stunning inlets, islands with few inhabitants and beautiful beaches, trees and jetties.
The ferry is large and comfortable and the time passed quickly.
Docking back in Vancouver, it was still another 40 mins, bus and train to return to our starting point of downtown.
A 12 hour day, and every minute totally fantastically great!

Cable Car Bliss and Buddha.

What to do if you have 30 hours in Hong Kong…..

Jump on the subway to Tung Chung station on Lantau Island and begin a very peaceful few hours.

The train was easy to sort as the subway map shows all the interchanges.

As I left Tung Chung station, I looked up and there were the cable cars suspended in front of me, beginning their 5 km journey to Buddha. I crossed the road, headed up the escalator to the ticket booth. I had been advised to purchase the “crystal car” (glass bottom) for 2 reasons…… the view of course, but also because the line for this car is much quicker 🙂

I waited no more than 2 mins for my crystal car and then there it was. I jumped in, excited to see what was before me and as soon as we left the confines of the cable car station, ………..

The journey to the giant Buddha is a 5 km cable car ride , or a 3 hour hike. The hiking path was often visible beneath us and looked to be in good condition, so I would try this on another occasion, if I had time.

As we passed over the island, there were amazing views of Hong Kong airport, a dream for any aircraft geeks out there and I spotted a fave in the distance with her distinctive livery.

The ride was so peaceful with just the sounds of the cable and the wind, the island laid out below and beyond……

As the cable car neared the spot where we would disembark, I started to get glimpses of the reason for my visit………

The day was beautiful and I was excited to leave the cable car and head to the giant Buddha. There was of course, a small touristy area to walk through on the way to the Buddha, with eating places and shopping and something I found kind of disturbing…….Starbucks

There were also cattle wandering and eating, not at all bothered by the people. I later researched about the cows, and it’s actually quite a sad story, which I won’t share here. Like me, other animal lovers will find it frustrating that as humans we are once again not doing enough.

So after wandering through the wee “village” I came upon the steps to climb to get to my destination. I didn’t count exactly but there were just over 200 steps. Although it’s a steep climb, it is a fairly easy climb as there were landing pads after every 12 or so steps where you could catch your breath, take a photo, before continuing.

The views from the top are 360 degrees as advertised and it’s a stunning place to wander, enjoy Buddha and just “be”.

The return journey on the cable car was just as breathtaking and it was all too soon that I was back in the throngs of Hong Kong on a subway! This was a lovely way to spend an afternoon and I would recommend a visit.