Archive for category Holidays

Morzine 2010

A wee movie that I put together from our trip to Morzine 2010.

Thanks to Sarah, Sarah, Chris, Steve, Caroline and james for a great holiday… if only it could have been longer than 3 days skiing!

Thanks to Chris for his additional video.

Singapore

Our friendly taxi driver was waiting for us at the airport to drive to the hotel while pointing out the various landmarks on the way. The highlighting of the various airport college essays for sale terminals less useful than the war memorials and churches.

Sarah in front of our HotelWe settled into our hotel (The Fullerton) and wandered down to take in The Merlion, Boat Quay, Clarke Quay and the various shopping centres around the CBD/ Chinatown area. Having never visited Singapore before, my preconceptions were all I had to go on, and were predictably shattered by the reality. Singapore is probably the most overtly prosperous city I have ever visited, by which I mean, well organised and clean while still being bustling and vibrant.

Our expedition to Raffles hotel, delayed by what at this time of year is the inevitable rain storm of the day, resulted in he equally inevitable Singapore Sling. The Long Bar certainly evokes a certain colonial romance, with the distinct architecture, odd fan arrangement on the cieling and the straw furniture. They could charge whatever they wanted for the aforementioned beverage in Raffles and the tourists (the colonial harking British ones at any rate) would still flock. Well that seems to be the policy. It was fun and definitely worth the visit.

Next stop was Muthu’s Indian restaurant on the recommendation of a friend – Thanks David!   Meal was great and the waiter pretty much ordered our food for us, even saying at one point to one of our choices “that is no good” – fair enough as the food was great!

I later watched an American history program on the ancient ruins of Rome that exist below modern Rome provided a contrast to BBC approach to documentary film making, placing enthusiasm way above factual content in terms of screen time… Cut to presenter… “unbelievable”… cut to graphics… “Look at this”… “Wow! Incredible herring bone paving… called that ‘cos it looks like fish scales” – no shit. I kept watching, so I suppose it worked.

We also took a trip to the Night Safari which was really great.

Brisbane City and Australia Zoo

On Sunday 3rd January we headed into Brisbane city to have a look around the State capital.

Our first port of call was The Brisbane Wheel, located on the South Bank… which is not a monument to the invention of the wheel in Brisbane which would have been a bold claim indeed… rather a mini version of the London Eye that affords great views of Brisbane and a commentary to boot. As a way of getting a quick feel for where you are in location to everything else it is ideal.

We decided that as the weather was a little ropey, we would take in Sherlock Holmes at the cinema next to where we had stopped for a drink. It is a thoroughly enjoyable romp so long as you don’t think about it too much – devoid of much of Guy Richie’s standard cockney pishilating, it is actually pretty good.

On the Monday, with Simon working we decided to attempt to go to Australia Zoo again… our first attempt at a visit having being aborted due to an over successful cereal packet promotion.

The great thing about Austraila Zoo is how close and personal you can get to the animals, and it would certainly be fantastic for children of nearly all ages. We saw crocodiles being fed, stroked the kangaroos and had parrots flying so close you could have grabbed them in the main arena – magical!

The highlight was the tigers, simply brilliant and a wonderful demonstration of the majesty of the animal and why it should be preserved in the wild – there are less than 3,000 left.

The slight downside is the disneyfication of the attraction and incessant promotion of the Irwin family which rubs me up the wrong way. Bindi Irwin’s singing was just plain odd.

New Year in Maroochydore

Sarah, Simon and RachelWe headed to Rachel’s dads brewrey (how handy was that) to pick up the beer before we headed North up the coast from Brisbane for Maroochydore to move into our apartment and celebrate New Year.

The apartment was ideal – two bedrooms, sea views and a roof terrace.

The previous evening we had booked (after many frantic calls) a table at Belissimo, a restaurant on the front in Maloolooba. Our expectations tempered by the lateness of our booking, we headed along the coast from our apartment towards Maloolooba. We were not to worry as although not about to make any Michelin guide, it was perfectly placed in the centre and near the beach and provided a perfect vantage point for the ensuing mayhem.

As an aside, I really wish Australia would force restaurants to have toilets… just really annoying.

We were not only see in the New Year but the arrest of a young man and a crowd pleasing brawl involving two young female revellers.

We left our table for The Bells, catching the New Year fireworks from the beach which was fantastic – being the first time I have seen in the New Year in the southern hemisphere, it was a delight to be able to enjoy the balmy temperatures and enjoy the waves lapping against the shore while watching fireworks.

Thanks to Rachel and Simon for sorting it all out and inviting us along!

Brisbane

After a remarkably smooth passage across the 10,000 miles* to Brisbane from Edinburgh via London and Singapore, where we both managed to get a modicum of sleep and flight delays were kept to the minimum it seemed somehow inevitable that there would be some form of hickup.

And so it proved as we stood watching the final items of battered and seemingly deliberately abandoned baggage slip past us for the twentieth time – our bag was not going to turn up.

It was not a complete disaster as our clothes bag did turned up but a pain nonetheless and not the ideal start to our Brisbane stay.

Anyway, we wandered out to the pickup area to be shortly greeted by the whistling Ford Laser and a Simon looking somehow more native than any of the locals despite only living in Australia for nine months or so. We set off for Si & Rachel’s in Brighton the Laser air conditioning keeping the stiffling heat at bay.

Si and Rachel enjoying the 'Club

After settling in we headed for a lovely walk along the sea front and a coffee in a “Coffee Club” where we managed to eat despite none of us holding membership. Our food arrived about two minutes after we ordered which must be some sort of record as at least some of our orders required proper cooking, very impressive! The travelling, quite out of nowhere, caught up with us and Sarah and me crashed out while Si & Rachel bottled some beer in preparation for our stay.

* I have no idea if 10,000 is anywhere near the truth, but seems about right.

West Palm Beach, Florida

Sarah and I set off this morning nice and early for West Palm Beach, top down and sat-nav primed!

Me on Juno Beach, West Palm Beach, Florida

I had a story about a Frenchman called Drefuss buzzing around my head, it must have been on the radio when I fell asleep last night. He was wrongfully imprisoned at the end of the 19th century and prompted a famous author to pen “j’acuse”, pointing the finger at the French Army and establishment… must look it up in more detail.

Anyway, it took us about 2h 45 to get to West Palm Beach (aka Palm Beach) from Kissimmee and we headed straight to a pedestrian friendly area (a rarity in these parts) where we wandered around some shops, grabbing some lunch in an Italian place next to a fountain in the square.   I had a walnut, gorgonzola and pear salad… no real gorgonzola, soft walnuts… but the pears were ok.

Sarah on Juno Beach

On the advice of the waitress, we headed North on I-95 to Juno Beach to stroll along the sand and dip our toes in the Atlantic.

Juno is a very nice, sandy beach with coast guards actively patrolling. Considering it is so close to such a built up area, I was pleasantly surprised by how relaxing it was – and how quiet.

Only one comically pumped, bandana sporting, bronzed Miami-style runner to speak of!

Following the beach stroll, we got back in the motor and set off north on route 1, heading back homeward with a vague notion to stop somewhere on the way for dinner.

Where are the towns?

Sarah and I drove around Florida a fair bit and I have no idea where they keep their towns!

The feeling you get is that everyone lives in one giant suburb with 3 lane highways ploughing through the middle giving no clue as to the character of the places you are passing. For a European, this is really frustrating as in general if you get of the main motorways in Europe, you will find something resembling a town that you can stop in and walk around, instead you are forced into a mall, some form or drive through or purpose built car park.

Now, vague notions to stop somewhere can work in Europe where the roads generally take you through towns and villages where you can spot a potential venue… in this part of the States at least, you are specifically routed past anything of interest, pushed in rows of 3 or more at 55 mph north, south, east or west.

We did stop somewhere called Stuart that resembled a town in some respects but it was difficult to find and this was after a few failed efforts to find somewhere that would be nice to walk around and find a place to eat.

Once you have figured this out and you make a real effort to leave the main drag, you can sometimes find places that resemble towns and find a good place to eat.   We managed to stumble upon Stewart, and had a fun meal, the home made Lemonade and Orangeade were a highlight!

Air Boat Ride, Florida

Today we drove, top down towards Cape Canaveral to take a trip on one of those “Gentle Ben” style air boat rides that are the done thing when you are in Florida.

A Bald Eagle from our air boat, Florida

A Bald Eagle from our air boat, Florida

Our sat-nav guided us to the venue without too much trouble, only a slight hickup taking us 2 miles (which in US context is nothing) in completely the wrong direction for some reason.   We pulled into the empty car park, with no sign of life other than a pickup parked on the grass near what was obviously the shop entrance.  As we walked gingerly into the shop, we were greeted with a friendly lady whose voice I recognised from the earlier booking telephone call, “you must be Morris… your captain will be with you shortly” she hollered and pointed us in the direction of some camouflage covered seats to await his arrival.

In what must have been a deliberate attempt to tick as many cliché boxes as possible, we had to step over a large pig (yes pig), negotiate our way past at least 5 snakes (including a python) and along the line of stuffed Gator heads to our seats.   My attention was drawn to the “Rockets of the World” poster, showing world rockets all to scale from smallest to American – I thought to myself while we awaited our captain that it must have been a difficult exorcise collating that information given how secretive many countries are about their rockets and if you were to do it train spotting style this would be even tougher given how fast rockets generally travel.

Florida Everglades

Amongst the Cypress trees in a feeding tributary into St. John's river, Florida

We shared our boat with only 2 others – a man in his early twenties and his great grand father – plus of course the captain. Our captain/driver/tour guide took us on a whirlwind (literally) ride through along the St. John’s river pointing out the wild life plus an indian burial ground.   It would have been nice if he had identified the flora and fauna more than once for each item, he was a little too economical with his words – “Blue Heron over there, and that is a Cormorant” was kind of all we got despite the large number of both birds on display and there must be more to each species than their names!

The highlight was being taken into the mangroves amongst the Cypress trees, extraordinarily beautiful.

Our fellow passengers on the trip, approached us in the car park afterwards – in a Grandpa from The Simpsons moment the first words the great grandfather declared to us were “I drove semi’s for 40 years you know!”, and when we asked him if he had ever been to Scotland he declared: “I ain’t never been out the state much, ‘sept to Main on one of those big planes, y’know big planes”… big plane arm waving followed.   The grandson seemed a little embarrassed.

See: airboatridesatmidway.com

Lying Downtown

Looking at the Balloon in Downtown Disney

A brief summary of today would read…

  • Shopping in Downtown Disney
  • Lunch at Rainforest Café
  • Lounging by

    the pool

  • Cinema to watch “The Invention of Lying”

and indeed it did read like that.

Sarah under the Downtown Disney Lights

Elvis, Golf and Sunbathing

We spotted '68 Special Elvis watching Las Vegas Elvis

Today was a lazy day – we did a little sun bathing and swimming before heading to Kissimmee Old Town for some crazy golf and finished the day watching some americans pointlessly driving down the high street.

This was described as “cruising” by the over excited announcer man (wittily playing “Here in my car” by Gary Newman) so I suspect this is a regular activity – I am not sure if it is the same 10 cars or if they get other cruisers along each time.

Our Old Town experience was not in vain, as we spotted there was a band due to come on at some point soon.   We hung around in front of the stage as the area filled up with people of a certain generation, and the air of anticipation grew. We started to think that perhaps the coming event would be something of significance – and we were right!

The band fired up and started to build up as the star of the show walked in from stage right: it was Elvis!

Well, no it was Dwight Icenhower.

He also started belting out the Elvis classics and as time went on, handing out freshly sweat clad scarfs to the ageing audience. The Colonel handing fresh, pre-sweated scarfs was a nice touch.

It was at this point we noticed that 68 Elvis was standing directly in front of us in full leather gear!   The amazing thing that has subsequently illuminated most of my Florida experience was that this was taken with absolute sincerity.

Florida – Day 1

Simon is informed that the flight is delayed

Simon is informed that the flight is delayed

The day started early (7.30, which for me on a Saturday morning is really early) to drop our car off at Mum and Dad’s before Dad gave us a lift through to Glasgow.   In return for a lift the get 2 weeks use of our Audi

TT which Dad seems to be looking forward to a little too much, we will probably find he has planted it in a ditch upon our return.

No problems getting to the airport and check in was only slightly delayed when we confused them with the old baby on board but no seat required which although you would imagine is a fairly regular occurrence, the system was thrown by this freak event!

We the learnt of a slight delay, which as you can see from the photo, did not go down well with Simon!

The plane journey itself was pretty uneventful with April enjoying running down the aisles between groups in our party and eating her jelly snakes.   I think the Snakes on a Plane reference was lost on the four year old however.

One year old Violet only got slightly miffed towards the end of the flight which was a bit of a miracle given we landed well past her bed time UK time.

Sarah and I picked up our hire car, managing to sneak a cheap upgrade to a convertible… woo hoo!