We just returned from a 5 day trip to Sedona and the Grand Canyon. Sedona was stunning as always. Such a beautiful and spiritual place set in the red rock canyon.
While we were in that part of the country we made a side trip to Jerome. It is an old mining town on the side of a mountain. There is an old west vibe in the town and they have a haunted hotel.
The Grand Hotel was the hospital for the mining town and it is said that 9,000 people died there. I guess that is enough souls to leave a few behind to haunt the guests.
We also got to spend a day at the Grand Canyon. No matter how many times I go there I am always overwhelmed by this natural treasure.
It was a wonderful break in the routine. We will be leaving for Florence in 2 weeks. We will be taking a cruise across the Atlantic to Barcelona and flying to Florence. After a month there in an airbnb we will begin pet and house sitting in Europe. Go, go, go…..
Hobbiton was the film set for The Lord of the Rings in 1999. It is a beautiful sheep and cattle ranch on the North Island of New Zealand. Director Peter Jackson thought it had the perfect green rural valley look for the homes of those delightful hobbits . They put in 37 hobbit holes and decorated them with gardens and hedges. It is an interesting site for any Rings fans.
But it was not built to last and after filming it was partially torn down after filming. In 2010 , it was rebuilt in a more permanent fashion for the filming of the movie The Hobbit. Now, it has been converted into a tourist destination. The tour we took was about 2 hours long. We had a very nice tour guide. who filled us in on stories about filming the movies and other funny tidbits about the set.
It was an interesting tour and well worth the time and money. We thought it was the best tour that we took in New Zealand. Here are some photos from the tour.
We would highly recommend this for any visitor to New Zealand, it is a must see. The tour ends in the Green Dragon Inn, with an (included) cup of beer, wine, or ginger beer.
Hobbiton is only a couple of hours from Auckland, and Rotorua, our next stop, is only an hour more, so it was convenient to visit on the way.
We landed in Auckland. This trip was a sightseeing trip and it did not include any pet sits. The three of us took an uber to our hotel which was in the center of the city right by the Sky Tower. David got us rooms on the 22nd floor and we could see all of downtown Auckland from our room. Here is the the view of the Sky Tower from our bedroom.
We walked over to it the next day. There is an observation deck that is 360 degrees round. You can look down on the city, and the harbor from there.
Under the top deck there is a restaurant and a snack bar. We got a gelato and sat in the Sky Cafe until the sun set.
It was good that we went up the tower that day because the day after we left they had a fire on the roof of the convention center that was being built right behind the tower. The smoke was so heavy that we would have had to stay in our hotel for the day. It was a sad day for Auckland.
The next day in Auckland we went to Howick Historical Village. I love to visit this type of historical museum that has houses and exhibits that explain country’s historical time. “Howick Historical village is a re-creation of a New Zealand colonial village using houses and cottages saved from the surrounding Auckland suburb of Howick. ” ( Wikipedia) The English government offered retired soldiers and their families (called Fencible soldiers ) free passage to New Zealand, a house and an acre of land for 7 years of service in 1847. Their main service was to attend military parades every Sunday.
In 1962 the local historical society decided to put this village together with cottages and buildings that were still around the area.
It was a bright and sunny day; perfect to see the village and the reenactors that were bringing this history to life.
We spent an enjoyable afternoon exploring this historical village. The next day we were off to Hobbiton, the set for the Hobbit movies and The Ring trilogy.
We were so excited to start our cruise to New Zealand from San Francisco. We spent three days touring the city before we got on the Golden Princess to start our 20-day cruise to Auckland. We were travelling with my sister, Sandi for the trip. Our cabin was an aft cabin that had a wonderful balcony on the back of the ship.
It was exciting to see our ship go under the Golden Gate Bridge. I took this photo of it.
We were at sea for several days and finally arrived in Hilo on the big island of Hawaii. We got off the ship and rented a car and drove down to the Kilauea volcano. It was almost completely closed because of the volcano’s eruptions last year. So we drove down the coast to see the black sand beach where the sea turtles rest on the sand.
Next day we called at Honolulu where we visited the summer palace and walked around Waikiki. We had lunch at Duke’s, which we do whenever we find ourselves near one of their locations.
After six more days at sea, we arrived at the island of Bora Bora. The color of the sea was extraordinary. The variations of blues were stunning. We took a boat out to the lagoon to snorkel in the crystal blue waters.
The next day we landed in Tahiti. It is another beautiful island . We took a bus tour around the island to see their historical sites and beautiful beaches.
After a few more days we landed in American Samoa. There was not much to do on this island. We went off and walked around the city. It was very hot and muggy and it rained. We, and about 60 other passengers, visited McDonald’s to try to use their WiFi. It was a little, umm, slow. I did get a good photo of a beach as we left.
We celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary on the ship on Oct. 13. We had a special dinner in one of the specialty restaurants on board.
After a total of twenty days on the Golden Princess (and crossing the international date line), we arrived in the modern city of Auckland, New Zealand. We spend two nights in a hotel on the 22nd floor in downtown Auckland. Here is a photograph from our hotel room of the Auckland skyline. That’s the Sky Tower, which we visited on Sunday evening. You might have read about the big fire that erupted at the adjacent convention center the day after we left.
I will continue the story of the two weeks we spent touring New Zealand before flying home to Los Angeles.
We are cat sitting in Hillcrest in San Diego. We love this city. It is a pleasure to take care of these two kitties in this fun part of San Diego. The sunset view of the downtown from Shelter Island is a beautiful photograph.
We got to spend some time walking around Balboa Park and saw some of the baby ducklings in the pond before the botanical gardens.
Today, we drove up to the Old Point Loma Lighthouse. My great, great grandfather, Christopher McAleer was the assistant light house keeper around 1865. The lighthouse is on the end of the Point Loma peninsula. In 1865 when he was working there, it was about a five mile ride over empty land to Old Town, San Diego. It must have been worth the ride because he went to a party in Old Town and met my great , great grandmother. After being the assistant light house keeper for only 8 months he married the pretty ,young senorita and the rest is history, as they say. Thank God for this meeting as I would not been here today.
Needless to say, San Diego is an important part of my family heritage. So staying here is always a pleasure.
I am two weeks out from losing my dear dog, Mac. I am still sad but I am doing better. So I thought I would start to catch up with the adventures in our trip.
We spent two days in Lake Como. It was really lovely and because it is the end of the season there were less people to contend with. We used the all day ferry pass to visit small towns on both sides of the lake.The second day we took the hydrofoil ( fast boat) to the city of Como because if you do not it takes two and a half hours by regular ferry. Como is a lovely small town with a cathedral.The late afternoon brings a light fog over the lake.The last sunset over the lake was stunning.
I will be putting up more blogs as we are going home on the Celebrity Reflections across the Atlantic.
We said good bye to sweet Nell and hello to Mr. Enzo. We stopped in Laughane which was Dylan Thomas’ final home called the boathouse. He lived there the last four years of his life and wrote some of his best work in this ideal setting. He died at the age of 39 in New York.
View from the boathouse
Here is a photograph of Dylan Thomas’ writing shed where he did most of his writing.
Dylan Thomas’ grave in Laughane
His house is down the shore from the remains of the Laughane castle.
These are a set of houses that are around the castle.Here is a photograph of David watching the Taf estuary and waiting for me to finish taking photographs.
I will post some new photographs from Stratford upon Avon.
We are here at the southwestern tip of Wales, in Druidston near Haverfordwest out on a small farm and taking care of sweet Nell, the border collie. We do not have sheep for her to herd so she must make do with us.She loves walks in the fields but really loves to chase the ball. Here she is catching the ball.We have been in the city for all of the sits this year, so coming out to the country is an entirely different feeling. We can see the sea from our bedroom. Those tiny dots on the hill are cows.This was a clear and sunny day, but most of the days have been overcast, windy and rainy, which is fun for us since California hardly ever gets rain. Yesterday, we went to two small beaches near us, Little Haven and Broad Haven. (“Haven” comes from the Norse havn meaning harbor.) The wind was almost 40 miles per hour, which made the waves very large and strong. I was up on a promontory over the ocean and I nearly blew away taking this photo.In the harbor it was a different story. The waves were small because they were protected by the high cliffs.
Little Haven harbor
Here is a photo of me being blown away.We then drove over the hill from Little Haven to Broad Haven beach, which is a very long and sandy beach .
Broad Haven beach
We also went one evening to Druidston beach, which is by where we are staying. After walking down a very steep dirt lane we were able to watch the sun set over the beautiful and almost empty beach. You get a feeling of being alone with nature here.
Here is one of my favorite photographs of David walking on the beach.One day we drove through the tiny lanes they call streets to Pembroke castle. This is a 13th century castle that has been restored so that you can climb the stairs in the various towers and read about what life was like in the Middle Ages.
They have set up a tableau of what dinner in the castle would have looked like in the 13th century.And they have free castle tours around four times a day. We went on the tour and learned a lot about the history of who lived in this famous castle and what they did.
We mostly have been hanging out and enjoying the country and the beach. Reading, playing with Nell, working on photographs, doing art in my journal and doing laundry. It is so beautiful and peaceful here.
Our next stop is a return to Stratford-upon-Avon to take care of Enzo the border terrier. We took care of him last year, and I am looking forward to seeing him and Anne and Steve again.
We have been so busy here in Ealing because we are only 25 minutes outside of London by using the tube. The museums here are mostly free so you can go back when you cannot get to see everything in one visit. I have been to the Victoria and Albert Museum two times.The Museum of London, which has excellent exhibits on Roman London and the middle Ages in London.
Remains of the Roman wall in London
Model of the Rose Theater
Then there are many interesting art and theater events to see. Here I am at Shakespeare’s Globe, where I saw an excellent production of Othello.
The Globe Theater with the groundlings
We went to see the Old Operating Theater that was opened in 1822 to do operations on poor women who were in the St. Thomas hospital. This was done before there was any anesthetics. There are exhibits of the primitive tools used in this theater to train new surgeons. I could almost hear the screams of the poor women who were treated in this place. It was closed in 1862.
The wood chips under the table was for the blood
Now to end this blog post on a more pleasant note. We stopped by the glass blowing studio featuring Peter Layton’s latest works called Homage. Mr. Layton was in the studio and we got to talk to him about his remarkable work.
Artist Peter Layton next to one of his glass art works
Glass artist blowing and shaping an art work
London is a wonderful city to explore and discover and it does not have to cost you a fortune.
We have been here in Haywards Heath for about a week. We are taking care of a sweet kitty named Coco.
We rented a car and drove to a nearby National Trust house called Standen House. It was built between 1891 and 1894 and designed by architect Philip Webb for the Beale family. It was designed in the Arts and Craft style, and in the interior it was decorated with William Morris carpets, fabrics and wallpapers. Here are some photos of the wallpaper.
I love this style of interior design. This house is particularly pleasing because they have set up chairs for the visitor to sit and read about the furniture and even have letters written by family members who lived there. It is like being invited into their family home on a lovely summer day in 1935. Here is the dining room table set for the fruit and cheese dessert course.This is a photograph of the business desk that the family used; including the typewriter. If you are careful you can hit a few keys and experience what it was like to type on one of those machines.But when you go down to the kitchen you are reminded that our modern stoves were not in use in the 1900s. Here is the stove in Standen House.The gardens have been restored to what they would have looked like in the early 1900s. There is an extensive kitchen garden with lots of healthy pumpkins, pears and flowers.The staff is very kind. One gentleman sat with us on a bench for a few minuted to answer our questions about the buildings. The cafe in the old barn has a nice range of lunch food on offer and ice cream too.
It was a delightful afternoon of historical adventuring in a lovely part of Sussex.