Thursday, January 26, 2012

Washington DC

Leaving Sydney
The USA trip started, as most trips from Down Under do, with an interminable arse haul from Sydney Airport - in our case flying to Washington, via LA, surely the most awful airport in the first world. After arriving at 6am and what seemed like hours of queuing we finally made our way into Terminal 3; only to discover the choice for breakfast was Starbucks or Burger King. Luckily we persisted and found a great seafood restaurant, Gladstones, which served a spicy Mexican breakfast - accompanied by a mean Bloody Mary !
Bloody Breakfast
At Washington Airport we were enthusiastically greeted by Angus and quickly made our way back to Arlington where Caren and 4 month old Lochlan were waiting for us.  A 4 hour house tour followed - Angus and Caren have got some work ahead of them to fill up their place -  although Angus has already started knocking down walls luckily.


Speaking off renovations, Saturday was also dedicated to gardening and preparing for a BBQ with some of Caren and Gus's local friends. An overgrown corner of the yard was turned into a seating area; plants were transferred and fertile soil was saved and re-used.

In between the social activity there was also time for seeing the town. Friday morning after arriving we headed into the mall to see the prime sites - White House, Congress, Lincoln Memorial - and the Washington Monument from 27 different angles.
Jefferson Memorial

WWII Memorial - Pacific


Washington Monument

The last full day in Washington was spent at the Smithsonian - fewer photos indoors (none at the National History Museum), although we managed to visit the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum and saw some great old rockets. Amazingly the only food available in the museum is provided by McDonalds - so Ilaria relented and had what she calls a 'dirty meal' - fittingly an Angus burger.

Dirty Burger

Sputnik - or similar !

Finally - the two most famous buildings in Washington - if not the USA.
Chez Barack
We also found time for a trip to Alexandria - with so many photos it gets its own blog post. The rest of the Washington photos are here.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

USA Trip 2011

July 2011 saw me travelling for pleasure for a change. As my cousin was getting married in Montana, we decided to take a trip to the United States built around the wedding. It quickly became an Epic in 6 Phases - built around the wedding, visiting friends, some fun cities and a 2500 mile road trip !

Phase 1 of the trip saw us visiting friends in Washington DC (photos). The 5 nights spent with Gus and Caren (and 4 month-old Lochlan) were the longest stay we had in the one place all trip. A mostly social visit, we also managed to see the main sights of DC, visit a few museums and check out the old town of Alexandria.

Phase II was a too short two night visit to New York City - staying in the famous Chelsea Hotel, which shortly after was closed to paying guests. We still had enough time to catch a show; walk from Chelsea to the tip of Manhattan; then from Chelsea to the middle of Central Park via way too many shops on Fifth Avenue.

Glacier National Park

Phase III, the wedding was next; in Whitefish Montana for 3 nights. There was just enough time between all the formalities to pay a visit to Glacier National Park - even if the weather wasn't our friend. Sunday lunchtime, after the post wedding brunch, we drove to Whitefish Airport and picked up our friend Rachel who had flown from Vancouver to join us for Phase IV - the road trip.


Phase IV was big enough to be broken up into multiple sub-phases; 1 per National Park. From Whitefish we drove all the way across Montana to Gardiner at the North Gate of the Yellowstone National Park, via the scenic town of Livingstone.

Yellowstone National Park

From Yellowstone we made our way down the Grand Teton National Park, staying in Teton National Park and finally seeing the long hoped for bear.

After Teton was the longest leg of the road trip - around 550 miles from Teton Village to Bryce Canyon; from Wyoming, touching Idaho and crossing a large part of Utah - including lunch in the slightly bizarre town of Provos, where the cafes don't serve coffee.

Roadside Trains in Idaho

Finally we arrived in Bryce Canyon village, staying the mega-hotel-complex of Ruby's Inn.
Bryce Canyon
From the amazing Bryce Canyon there was a shorter drive into Zion National Park, along a spectacular road that comes out into the middle of the Canyon. We were only there for a day, which was still time enough for some exhausting hikes in the National Park; including wading chest high up a narrow canyon.
Zion in the mist

After Zion Canyon it was time for the spectacular grand finale of the Grand Canyon - we visited both the North and South Rims of the Canyon. It's 22 miles to hike between the two rims or 220 miles and 5 hours to drive. Monday night we dined at the El Tovar lodge before Tuesday's 5 mile hike in and out of the canyon before breakfast.

After driving the main look outs of the South Rim in the morning, it was time for the final leg of the road trip - to Las Vegas, which appropriately enough followed part of the old Route 66.

Phase V in Vegas was over in a flash. Two nights in a suite in Vdara Hotel was a much appreciated luxury after 10 days on the road; the one day in Vegas was spent wondering the streets and checking out the famous outlets. Strangely it was me who out-shopped the girls.

We said goodbye to Rachel and made our way to Las Vegas airport; for 1 hour flight to San Francisco and the sixth and final phase of the trip. Somehow we lost nearly 30 degrees on the flight as well; and it was only after arriving in the 12 degrees mid summer's day did I hear of Mark Twain's supposed quote 'The coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent in San Francisco.'

The final three days - spent with Ilaria's cousin Nicola - were over in a flash; and the iconic bridge never fully emerged from its foggy shroud. Sunday morning was spent in a Castro night club before getting back to the airport for the long flight back to Sydney.

Over the next few days I'll be sharing more photos and stories from each of the phases ... stay tuned !

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

6 Months 5 continents

Guess where !

In January 2010 I blogged about the previous 12 months travels where I'd ended up visiting 5 continents with my trip to Egypt on the way home from an Irish wedding. Little did I know that 18 months later I'd be visiting my fifth continent of the year mid-July - on the start of our USA trip. I now have 4 months to get to South America - not likely, but never say never :)

Early January, work took me to Qatar for 4 hours of meetings. By chance I was staying in the same hotel as the Socceroos; unfortunately the unexpected call up to replace injured stars never came. I did however manage to score tickets to the Asian Cup Final match between North Korea and Iran (playing for the Axis of Evil cup) which was quite an experience.

Axis of Evil Cup

From Qatar we jumped via Kuwait to Cairo for some customer meetings. Despite their proximity, Cairo is very much in Africa whereas Qatar is considered part of Asia. I stopped the taxi on the way back from the meeting to take the photo below of the Pyramids in the rain - a far cry from the beautiful weather I had a year earlier. A couple of weeks later, all hell broke lose in Cairo, of course.

Wet Cairo

By May I'd been not once but twice to Europe; managing to visit countries as varied as England, Ireland, Bulgaria and Sweden. On the way home from Sweden I stopped in on Mumbai - from  4 degrees to 44, which made for interesting packing. A few days after the first trip I was up in Jakarta - meaning I'd covered West Asia, South Asia and South East Asia by April.

The Liffey in Dublin
I happened to be in the UK the weekend of the Champions League final - though once again I missed the last minute call-up I was secretly hoping for.

Of course, the fifth and final continent is also home sweet home in Australia.
Hill End

Saturday, January 16, 2010

12 Months 5 Continents

Jan 09 in Machu Pichu

In the last 12 months (and 2 days short of being able to say calendar year 2009) the balance in my travel between work and life was for once skewed in favour of life; and I managed to visit 5 continents (all except for North America and Antartica - although I did get to the town, Ushuaia, where the Antarctic boats leave from). Included in this travel was the only existing Ancient Wonder of the World (Pyramids of Giza) as well as two of the 'New Seven Wonders of the World' (Taj Mahal and Machu Pichu).

Taj Tourist

... and in Giza

The year started in Argentina, with New Year's Day spent hiking Cerro Fitzroy near the Patagonian town of El Chalten and finished (for the purposed of this note) flying to Egypt on New Year's Day 2010 after spending New Year's eve in Clonakilty.

In between I managed to visit South America (Chile and Peru in January), Asia (India in July / August) and Europe (England, Ireland and Switzerland in December); as well spending the rest of the year in Australia - travelling to Melbourne multiple times for work; and Euroa in Victoria on the October long weekend. There were also stop-overs in New Zealand (first year in 7 that I didn't visit NZ) Dubai and Singapore. All this before finishing in Africa (Egypt).

Best not to think of the carbon footprint all that flying might have left; at a rough calculation 30 flights + 5 or so Melbourne returns, and instead reflect on a great year's travel.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Umpire Gonzalez

A small crowd gathered at Erskineville Oval for a challenge cricket match to celebrate the end of bachelorhood for one of their friends, Captain Mackay, shortly to sail the wedded seas in the good ship Caren.

Esteemed umpire Gonzalez, R dusted off the whites and came out of retirement for the day. Retirement has done him no harm at all; and his characteristic posture was still in evidence as the players waited for the start of the afternoon session.

Captain Mackay won the toss and elected to bat, resplendent in the baggy green.

Farmer Adcock, up for the weekend from country Victoria, opened the bowling from the Kurajong end, and soon had the assembled crowd reminiscing about great Sri Lankan 'spinners' of the past.

Singing Murali Murali ...

With the 6 stitcher moving around in the early afternoon breeze, it wasn't long before Mackay was tempted by one down legside; clearly collecting a top edge. The team went up as one, confident they had bagged their buck ...

... but Umpire Gonzalez was unmoved.

Next up Mad Matheson flashed at one outside off stump; the sound of the nick even waking up the old geezer asleep at the bar at the neighbouring bowlo.

Umpire Gonzalez was, however,


By now the bowling team was getting frustrated. Star batsman Slee was called in to face the music, and could only poke at a sharp lifter at his body. The ball lolled up in the air; and was safely taken by the bowler. The fielders appealed in unison ...

Umpire Gonzalez was,



Evo played all over a straight one from the opener, and the death rattle was heard in neighbouring Newtown.

Clean bowleds rarely require confirmation from the umpire; however all eyes turned in anticipation. Surely this time they had their man.

Umpire Gonzalez





To the onlookers delight; last man in Dubbers poked at one, only to see the bootbail dislodged, provoking one final raucous appeal.

Dubbers dislodges the boot-bail

Umpire Gonzalez ........

... under the spotlight

.... was

... frustratingly,

... but stubbornly,

.... unmoved.

Time was running out and Captain Mackay swung wildly at a short one.

... the runner ducked

... the fieldsmen scattered

... the ball was straight as an arrow

... all eyes turned to the umpire;

... and umpire Gonzalez,

... ever so slowly,

... and unexpectedly,