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.

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.

That Donut though !

I was in LA the other day and a friend and I took advantage of a lovely sunny day and drove to Huntington Beach for lunch.

We decided on a place on the pacific coast highway called Simmzy’s Pub. It was buzzy, friendly and had a great looking menu.

We chose to sit on the terrace and overlooked the beach across the road. The beach wasn’t too busy and it looked stunning.

Simmzy’s has brilliant beer selections but we stuck with a fave….. Italian Pinot Grigio.

Choosing what to eat wasn’t easy as it all sounded delicious. In the end it was a salad for each of us. I chose a prawn and citrus salad with pepitos and a wicked dressing.

However…… it’s dessert that will blow your socks off. A donut filled with apples and cinnamon with salted caramel sauce and vanilla bean ice cream. A few pistachios and you have a masterpiece.

We shared it, needless to say!

Time to San Die…..Go

The Greek islands are becoming a memory, a pretty, blue water, welcoming village memory.

I have been in San Diego for a few days now and although I’ve seen a bit, there is still much more for another time.

The eating out choices are phenomenal. I have tried Mexican, French, and Farmers type freshness. None disappointed. The area I stayed in was Hillcrest and it gave off a really cool village vibe with many choices in Great cafes.

Wandering around Balboa Park was stunning. Home to 16 museums and numerous gardens, as well as the zoo, I did not see it all, so will need to plan a return visit. The rose gardens were absolutely beautiful with hundreds of colours and some amazing scents. Adjoining the rose garden is the cactus collection and while it can’t compete on beauty, it was equally interesting.

The park also houses a globe theatre which is the venue for Shakespeare plays and looks like it belongs in England. It even has a pub 🙂

Lots of very cool architecture is shown in all the buildings that house museums and in the California Tower, which was built for a World Fair in 1915.

The Navy has a commanding presence in San Diego and is home to an aircraft carrier called the Midway which is now a museum and is an awesome sight. How do those things float ??

Beside the Midway is a statue, that is a tribute to the famous V Day print that shows a kiss between a sailor and a nurse in Times Square in 1945. A favourite print of mine, I loved the statue and it was huge!

The Coronado Bridge leads you to Coronado beach. The beach is lovely and that’s not just my opinion, but shared by a family of squirrels living amongst the rocks at the edge of the sand.

The beach is also home to a stunning landmark, the Coronado Hotel, which opened in 1888.

This was the last stop on this trip, and has been fun.

Until next time …..

Monopoly anyone ?

Dormitory life is a difficult beast, as soon as one is awake, pretty much everyone wakes up, with squeaky bunks and feet climbing down ladders. We took turns in the communal bathroom down the hall, and turns having our suitcase open. There was no room to have more than one case open at a time.

We were finally ready and hit the London streets. First stop, a patisserie on the Edgeware Rd. I felt very sorry for the staff here, it was quite busy, they seemed quite disorganised and under pressure. We finally got breakfast though and it was fine.

After a group effort of purchasing day passes for the tube, we were away. For the first time time riders amongst us, you could see the excitement as we travelled through a monopoly board…… Baker St, Marylebone and Piccadilly Circus, where we got off.

The streets still had flags hanging from the lampposts and across streets, after the Royal Wedding. It all looked really festive. After a photo shoot with Eros, we wandered further into the monopoly board toward Leicester Square. This area had changed a little since my last visit. The grass area was bigger, the ticket booth was a real shop, not just a kiosk and the whole place seemed cleaner. The Empire cinema, the venue for many red carpet film previews was still the focal point of the square.

From here, I took the girls down some historical alleyways towards Covent Garden instead of along the direct route. We passed pubs that were a couple hundred years old, that made you want to put on a crinoline dress and step inside, and theatres that have seen so many musicals, you have to respect the history and the stories, and the celebrity that would have performed there.

As we approached Covent Garden, I felt like it was 30 years ago and I was returning to my flat after a day out. This had been my stomping ground and I was excited to be back there. Memories flooded in… favourite bakery, no longer there, the Punch and Judy pub, still there, and the sights and sounds of the market days. We wandered the Jubilee Markets and I grabbed a cheese and onion pasty, and devoured it, could have gone a second 🙂

Toilet calls were needed and in the Covent Garden market area, we could only find one and that required a pound to go! When you gotta go, you gotta go, so a pound was spent. Didn’t it used to be a penny!!!!!

Leaving the markets, we passed the Royal Opera house, which I was surprised to see had stores at the street level now, and up to The Nags Head….home 🙂 I poked my head in the door and apart from a wallpaper change, it looked pretty much the same, strangely comforting.

This is where the group had to begin peeping off as the rest of the journey was not as 6. Two we’re off to Paris, myself and is off to San Diego and 2 staying in the UK.

The goodbyes were hard and tearful. We had experienced so much love and laughter over the the 8 days in Greece and did not want it to end. And there were 2……we headed back to the dorm, picked up bags and headed to Paddington, and jumped on the Heathrow Express. This train service is costly at 22 pounds, but really efficient and quick. It was a nice feeling to see the Air New Zealand counters and check in, get rid of the suitcases and relax airside. The time flew by and we were soon on board choosing movies and eating dinner while winging to LAX.

San Deigo here we come, more soon……..

Yasu :(

Another stunner of a day, the only sad thing, we were leaving this idyllic island. We could not leave without a last wander through the gorgeous, quaint cobbled streets of Glossa. As I’ve said before, the windows and doors, the colours, the people have blown us away.

This morning was no different, in fact, we found a couple of gorgeous gift shops that we had not seen before. We were happy to make a couple purchases and add to the economy of this welcoming village. We carried on to our favourite bakery and coffee place and after brekkie there, said a sad goodbye to the lady owner and the coffee maker man.

As a parting gift the lady gave us each a pretty bag of home baked sweets. We have been so lucky here, always given a little gift with purchase or a complimentary sweet with dinner.

As we wandered back up the hill to the villa, we passed the supermarket where we had come to know the grocer and he wandered out to say goodbye. It was becoming real and we all had the same thought….. can we stay ?

The villa had to be tidied and rubbish disposed of.

We had that underway when our neighbour popped in with a gift each, her hand painted stones, these ones had our names on each one. Beautiful. She bought the latest addition to her tribe, the tiny puppy that had been dumped, so naturally more cuddles were had and as a treat she was given the last of the ham, and no other dogs in sight to have to share it with.

The villa manager came to collect the keys and apparently we have been the talk of the village since the day we arrived …. “the 6 ladies” 🙂

The rubbish was dumped and the car packed.

We all piled in and slowly drove down to the port. Along the way, many of our new friends were spotted and waved their goodbyes. I feel we have made a bit of an impact on this lovely island as much as it has on us.

The ferry arrived and back to Skiathos we went, and only a couple of hours later we were on a plane to Gatwick. It was a quiet flight back for us all, as we became lost in our own thoughts and memories of a perfect holiday.

A late night train trip, a taxi ride and we were at our Dormitory. A 6 bunk room above a pub on the Edgeware Rd. Checked in, selected bunks, 2 of us climbing up to the top bunk of 3, and goodnight.

The Tale of 3 Towers.

It was a team effort this morning for the sunrise, and once again, an amazing sight. Talk about lucky to be alive. That ball of light comes up so quickly but the first few minutes are stunning!

Coffees on the deck done, we decided to do a walk to a local church. The track was as expected for this island…. up and down, and along the way, beautiful views, plants and friendly locals. The church was at the end of a tiny road, looking over the sea and surrounded by a couple of tall swaying trees and the experience was almost spiritual.

The church had beautiful artefacts inside and although tiny, was beautiful.

After the church visit, it was time to revisit our new local coffee shop, for our daily fix of “real” coffee. As we wandered down the road, a man on a scooter passed us with millimeters to spare. As I side stepped the bike, I noticed his load, number 8 wire and a headline flashed through my mind…….”Kiwi Taken out by Number 8 Wire!” Hahahahaha.

We were greeted like long lost friends at the coffee place and today’s treat was a homemade donut that melted in the mouth.

As we were enjoying our cup of jo, a local man with his donkeys came by. This caused screams of delight from us and the lovely man stopped so that we could take photos and pat the donkeys. This place just delights us every day.

Our neighbour at the villa, rescues dogs and cats, and although it can be a little noisy at time, we absolutely support what she does and love chatting to her. She paints beautiful rocks to sell and assist with money to feed the dogs and cats, so we all purchased one. This morning as passed her villa, she popped out and had a wee puppy in her arms that someone had dumped! Needless to say, a cuddle of said puppy was in order. This lovely lady has organised us a car to hire for a few days, so we can get to all the hard to get spots.

It was beauty spa afternoon at the pool, sunshine, face packs, hair conditioner and 70s music….. bliss.

We grabbed the late afternoon ferry to Skiathos, as we loved the island on our brief visit and decided to explore it more. As the ferry approached Skiathos, we saw the runway and realised how short it is! Well done pilot!

The alley ways and cobbled paths led to all sorts of quaint shops, some catering to tourists and some with amazing clothes and homewares. I bought a beautiful plate that will remind me of Greece each time it is put on the table. Along with a few other purchases, we also wandered up a few stairs to a bell tower with views over all the house roofs. Now….. we saw a beautifully lit up tower when we were at our pension on the first night and planned to explore it…… was this it? No, but it was lovely to wander around this bell tower, and we noticed a wee box that a cat was eating from and it warmed our hearts to think that all the cats that we see wandering, are at least being cared for in some capacity. We were told on our first night that the locals live “in nature” with the cats and dogs on the island. There are MANY, and as alien as it to us that they don’t have owners, it seems they are tolerated at the least and cared for at the most.

After having a snack at our other “local”, the 7 Sins, we wandered in a new direction and found a church square that was filled with kids and families and bikes and fun. Was this the lovely lit tower we saw the first night? We all decided it was and breathed it all in. It was lovely to feel the family atmosphere, 9 pm at night and the kids were not on electronic devices, they were outside in the fresh air. The evening was balmy, the views beautiful and the company fabulous. As we left that lovely church square and lit up tower, feeling like conquerors as we had found the “light”, we went a little further onto the Old Port and looked up to the horizon. What did we see?…… the lit up tower …… it kept moving and we still hadn’t found it……… next time !

The ferry home was fashionably late, as we have come to realise is usual, so the heads were nodding off on the trip home. Taxi ride up the hill to Villa Pasifika, and bed ……zzzz.