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Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Jolling in La Jolla

I couldn't resist playing with those words....and it was a jol!

On Tuesday we arrived at San Diego airport and we picked up the car, a manageable Nissan Infinity Q50, and drove to La Jolla, on the outskirts of San Diego, where Brian and Sandy positioned themselves on the pavement outside the partially hidden wooden house, and guided us in.

With sufficient bedrooms and bathrooms to accommodate the gang of Brian and Sandy, us, Max & Judy Hahn (flew in from Joburg) and their offspring Richard (Australia) and Claire (London), and Alan and Luned Clegg (Australia), the wooden house was a perfect choice.  There was lots of space both indoors and out, and we were all set for a great reunion and the main reason we were all there - Brian's daughter Julia's, wedding to RJ.

Julia Higgins and RJ Suoko - Before
The time sped by, with some of us going for walks along the coastal road, or exploring the little town.
Judy, Claire, Max, Luned, Alan and Russell at the start of the coastal walk, La Jolla
There are lots of sea lions, seals and brown pelicans along the route.

Sea lions have ears, and seals don't!

The town is quite pretty and touristy too, with some delightful shops and galleries.
Charming church in La Jolla, with a rather splendid statue group on the pavement.
There are some very nice hotels and restaurants in La Jolla.  We liked this one.

We took a trip to Coronado, a very desirable holiday destination of the rich and famous, and a pretty seaside town.   We walked along the frontage and down on the beach.

We saw several warships setting out for the Pacific, where it seems they would be on some sort of alert - according to the news.
There were lots of sunbathers.

Sunbathing squirrel - either that or it was lying in wait!
The hotel del Coronado was built in 1886 and besides being where "Some Like It Hot" was filmed, was the venue for numerous political rallies and so on.   It is a large, complex building and my sketch shows only a piece of it.
Hotel del Coronado from the beach road.
We had some refreshments in the garden...pleasant.

We returned over the San Diego/Coronado bridge, and saw yet another warship gliding out to join the fleet.

The Wedding

Before the wedding, we attended the rehearsal dinner as guests of RJ's parents, and had a most delicious meal.
Judy, Russ, Me, Alan, Luned and Brian
On the day, the Father of the Bride...good ol' Brian, aka Professor Higgins (yes he really is the Emeritus Professor of Chem Eng, UC Davis)....was forced into a suit and tie, which is garb he never wants to see again, so he says.
Brian nevertheless was in fine spirits - at the Wood House before setting out for the venue.
I had previously done an idle but unflattering sketch of him...

The wedding was held at the furthest end of the beach from where we were staying, on a grassy spot graced by palm trees, overlooking the ocean, on a wonderfully clear day.

Julia looked gorgeous, as did Sandy.

Sandy with Tony Crews

RJ and Julia Suoko - the After photo

Alan & Luned Clegg, Tony Crews, Me and Russell

Sketching in Bilboa Park with Dominique Eichi

The next day, Sunday, Dominique Eichi collected me to go and sketch in Bilboa Park.  Dominique is a member of Urban Sketchers and also Sketching Workshop.  I had contacted her, and she had generously arranged to collect me and take me somewhere nice to sketch.

Wow!  Bilboa Park is a jewel in the crown of San Diego.  Dominique loves sketching there and it is abundantly obvious why.  There are so many things to do and so many things to see and sketch, that one could lose oneself there with a dozen sketchbooks till the paper ran out!

Dominique and me in Bilboa Park
We walked about and I realised that there are lots and lots of museums, theatres, galleries, etc etc to see, as well as the gardens themselves.  It is a huge park and very beautifully laid out.  There were lots of buskers and lots of music in various areas. We eventually found a place out of the sun, with a view towards some lovely buildings, and sketched.

My sketch in Bilboa Park
And on Monday, at the unearthly hour of about 3am we were wrenched from our beds and having packed the night before, hurtled about getting the final touches on packing and cleaning up the house, and then left to return hire cars and get to the airport.

Brian & Sandy Higgins, Max & Judy and Richard and Claire Hahn, Alan and Luned Clegg and Russell and me all blearily awaited our flights to Maui, Hawai'i.

It had been a really wonderful six days and we were looking forward to our first taste of Hawai'i - on Alaskan Airlines to Kahului Airport, Maui Island.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Big Easy to H-Town

New Orleans

NOT N'Awlins, although the local pronunciation sounds like NooAWlins.  Also known as The Big Easy - which I note is also Ernie Els's nickname.   The Joburg golfing boytjie probably earned it for his easy swing and being easygoing - and one can say precisely the same the same for New Orleans.

Known for its supernatural myths, ghosts, and Cities of The Dead...and also its eating, drinking and jazzing...its all voodoo and late nights.

Eating....holy moley but these people eat unhealthy food!   Fried stuff accompanied by loads of fried carbs and nary a lettuce leaf to fan oneself with.   Of course you can pay three times the SA price for food that is often not as good, to eat at the better restaurants.  As food is not that much of a big deal for us, we did not bother fighting for reservations...

On the streets you will find a lot of homeless people of the sort where getting put in jail is probably considered social climbing.  Of course hurricane Katrina had a lot to do with that.

We got our bearings by combining a hop-on, hop-off bus with a $3 day pass on the streetcars.  We saw a lot using these modes of transport, as well as the ferry and our feet (the only way you can really traverse the French Quarter).  There are some really picturesque buildings there and a whole lot of history and legends.

Canal Street streetcar.
 We found a little fresh market - called, predictably, the Fresh Market - in an old Colonial style building on Louisiana Avenue.  We bought delicious seafood salads, a large Greek salad, cold drinks and a large packet of the most delicious cherries I have ever tasted.  We sat on the verandah and ate this cordon bleu meal while watching the world go by.

This is in the heart of the French Quarter.
 We found that the French Quarter is just one bar or restaurant after the other, each offering even more exotic cocktail specials.  Some had live music, but we powered on and found a quiet restaurant with jazz on Frenchman Street on the other side of the Quarter...much nicer.   The French Market also has some nice sidewalk cafes where you can actually get a salad!

The feted beignets looked to me like flattened koeksusters filled with something sweet so we ignored them.  No, I would not say that the food is that great, from jambalayas to gumbos, crab cakes to po-boys.

We opted NOT to do a paddleboat dinner cruise.   We were warned that the food was not that good.  Instead we found a jazz festival over the river in Algiers, accessed by the ferry.  As it was populated by odd people smoking smelly weed and eating fried stuff (I did not know that you could fry Oreos!), we wandered about and then ferried ourselves back.  Found another restaurant with live jazz, on the riverside.

The Best of New Orleans - the WW2 Museum

Very special.  Founded by Stephen E. Ambrose of Band of Brothers fame.  Tom Hanks and various other Hollywood celebs like Spielberg got together and made an amazing 4D movie, and there is an interactive submarine experience as well as a train carriage that....but go and see it yourself if you are ever there!

We were glad we went to New Orleans, and we did see lots and lots of interesting things, but the things its famous for....the food and the music....well the music was nice.

I can recommend eating at a small place in the backstreets of Lafayette, en route to Houston....the Old Tyme Grocery!   Great shrimp salad.  Famed for its po-boys too.


We hired a car in New Orleans and drove to Houston ...its not that far.   The country is interesting to start with, drying through the bayous, but once you get to Texas its pretty monotonous.

Soon the Houston skyline came into view, and with it the immense, spaghetti-like motorways and interchanges.

H-Town is the fourth largest city in the United States.  It was the first word heard from the moon let's see, was that word "Houston" followed by "we have a problem"?  Surely not.

Few cities in the world can match Houston as a source for blues and rap talent, or so they say - its the home of ZZ Top and BeyoncĂ©.

Its reputed to be one of the best places to live, work, play, eat, play music, hear music, do art, see art, get sick, get well, work out, hang out, and make a decent living doing whatever your heart says you were put on earth to do.   The U.S. economy can be up or down but there's always money to be made in Houston, because everyone always wants oil.

Alastair & Lauren's house is the fourth from the left (or second front he right! 
Our son Alastair and his lovely wife Lauren bought what is known as a "new build", that is only about ten minutes from where Lauren works and not much more from where Alastair works.  Its a quick motorway trip into town, and most of the neighbours in the small complex are young professionals.

Lauren took us on a little tour of the quirky and the spectacular in Houston.  This included a bottle top house, and Scrapdaddy.
One of the large sculptures made from scrap metals by Scrapdaddy, with another in the background.
On Saturday we went to Springbok Bar to watch some rugby game or other....
Where are all the people?
Hardly anyone is on the streets, other than some homeless people.  Where they are, is underground.

Houston has a hot and humid climate.   Very tiring.  So it has an underground system of "tunnels"...6 miles of them, interlinking most of the large buildings.   These are huge excavations, containing restaurants and shops, and they are busy with people and business.  We were amazed.

Alastair and Lauren took us on an organised tour of some of the tunnels.  They chose the ones highlighting the "historic" buildings.  These are mostly very lovely, large buildings from the early twentieth century.
The Chase building, a gorgeous art deco building that we had just left, reflected in the glass fronted building across the street.
Houston City Hall, seen from a few blocks away, peeping over the tree tops.  It has an excellent Visitor Information Center.
We had a lovely few days with Alastair and Lauren, and in no time we were off to the airport to fly on, to San Diego and La Jolla in California.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Traveling Times

On Sunday August 10th we drove the four hour trip from White River to Pretoria, had a business lunch, and then brother John drove us to O R Tambo.

We flew SAA to Washington DC, via Dakar.  Its a bit difficult to sleep well when after an early dinner you sleep for a few hours, only to be woken for the landing at Dakar midway through the flight.

A few passengers got off and mostly Senegalese passengers then boarded.   Almost without exception, they had far too much cabin baggage, very much in excess of the cabin allowances.

It was an education to see how the SAA female cabin staff dealt with this....they took no prisoners, I promise you!  The overlarge items went straight to the hold, despite protests strongly delivered by the passengers concerned, and just as strongly and pointedly ignored by the cabin staff.   We sat right at the doorway through which the new passengers entered and so had front row seats.

This staff member had such a lovely face and a really intriguing hairstyle!   I decided to sketch her while we waited, delayed because of the cabin luggage skirmishes as well as several late passengers.

At Dulles International we went through immigration, collected bags, and found our way to the Premier Lounge in order to wait the several hours till we boarded the connecting flight to New Orleans.

Remembering Cleo

Only four days before her thirteenth birthday and our departure for the United States, our dearly loved Airedale terrier Cleo, died after a short decline and organ failure.  

Cleo was Tiffany's dog, and such a happy, loving girl...a pleasure and a joy.

We shall miss her terribly.

The Move North and Preparing to Fly to the USA

After Russell had had his back operation (a lumbar laminectomy, which required overnight in hospital and four weeks rest and recovery time) we prepared to move from Simon's Town northwards by car around mid-July.

We decided to do a road trip, first having lunch outside Robertson with Patti & Charles Lipp in their cool farm cottage, and then on to George, where we saw cousin James Moore.  Jimmy was in hospital, having been diagnosed with a lung complaint in the aftermath of very suddenly losing his wife Maureen to a heart attack.  Very shocking in its suddenness and a great and sad loss to the family.

While in George we took a trip on the PowerVan up the Outeniqua pass, and in the process discovered the rather lovely Railway Museum and its appendage vintage cars.
This was a small (!) section of the cars, most of which are privately owned and stored here as a display.
There was a whole building - old railway station - display in the huge structure housing all the many trains and steam engines.   There were also carriages, old ambulances, trucks, benches...etc etc
The cars were a huge bonus for Russ
...but it was the trains that caught my attention....lots of them!

In the coffee shop dining car at the Railway Museum
After this we went to Samara Game Reserve, where we stayed in their luxury lodge...lovely and luxurious but I don't know when last I've been so cold!  Mid-winter int he Karoo is something to be carefully thought out.    Two nights here but not much seen really....go back in a warmer season!
A very cold game drive!  Hot water bottles, additional blankets, etc...brrrr!

Then on to the Royal Hotel in Bethulie in the Free State, and I found that it is possible to be even colder than on a game drive in Samara!   However, the warmth of our host, Anthony Hocking, more than made up for the frozen water pipes that prevented us from showering in the morning.

After a few days in Johannesburg, collecting our furry family, we drove on to White River.
Furry family en route with us in the car - Tosca ensuring that Russ obeys the rules of the road and does not speed!

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Froggy Farm Autumn

Its the best weather we have ever experienced here and long may it last!

Since we got back here six days ago the weather has been getting progressively nicer.

I have spent a lot of time in the pool, and also decided to go swimming with the penguins at Boulders Beach in the evenings after the official closing time.   The gate is left open, but I have a Wild Card so can go in before closing if I like.


I find swimming at Boulders is so refreshing and of course quite as calm as a Lily Pond!

Here is a panorama photo I took from our deck this morning - the sun being low in the horizon, perhaps I should try again later.....

Panorama shot from our deck.

February, March and Tankwa 2014

In February we endured the southeaster, had a little rain, and focussed on walking dogs, entertaining and being entertained by our neighbours, and generally sorting out some gardening and other chores around the house.  We did repairs to terracing, removal or regrowth of alien species, and such other orderly things.

This continued right up till we flew on S A Airlink direct to White River on March 13th, leaving our furry family in Maria's care.  Tiffany was due to arrive on April 21st, and we were to go into Kruger to the guesthouse at Letaba the following week...but all went west!

The north of the country had experienced the most severe rains for the season in living memory and all was wet, lush and green.   However, somehow I managed to contract severe bronchitis and a bit of pneumonia, plus laryngitis, pharyngitis and sinusitis (I may have omitted an "it is" or two!) and was rather sick, with no voice (forbidden to speak by my doctor).  So Tiff settled for nursing me, seeing her friend Annie as much as she could, and just chilling until she left for the Natal Midlands a week later - to attend Scott and Wendy's wedding.

So we returned to Froggy Farm on March 30th, and my voice was still pretty dodgy by the time we drove off on April 3rd into the Cederberg to stay a night at Kagga Kamma.

Kagga Kamma photos

We enjoyed a drive on 4x4 routes in the afternoon, which gave Russ a chance to put the new Prado Landcruiser through some of its paces.  A sighting of bontebok and elephant shrews at a waterhole was delightful.

Next morning we did the San Rock Art tour, and while I thoroughly enjoyed it, I think a lot of what our guide told us can be taken with a pinch or two of salt.

More Kagga Kamma and San rock art - photos

Tankwa Karoo National Park

Tankwa Karoo photos

There are not many photos - we were too busy birding.  We were participating in the Birding Bonanza run by the Boland branch of the Honorary Rangers.  Of course Russ and I are totally ignorant when it comes to the LBJs of the Karoo, but we learned fast.  In fact, my iPad and its Roberts was invaluable.  I used bird songs to some extent and the location bird list.

It was a great experience, shared with our friends Keith and Liz Hall (who went on from there to Kglagadi for about 8 days - lucky dogs!).  And we came second!!  I also managed to score high in the quiz at the dinner, so won a small prize for that - tweaked a muscle patting myself vigorously on the back............