A Travellerspoint blog

Virginia - Charlottesville

sunny 32 °C
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We went from one luxury pad to another... it was great! We had left Chicago and gotten cheap internal flights to richmond in Virginia to stay with my relatives - Eimear and Khalil and their 2 wee boys. It was great we were getting used to being spoilt, picked up at the airport was even a big thing!

We arrived late at night as our flight had stopped over at Pittsburgh so when Eimear had picked us up and brought us home the boys were in bed but Khalil had prepared a gorgeous afghan meal and we all sat chatting and drinking wine to the wee small hours. It was great to see Eimear, i felt like i was at home with my own family and again their house was massive so we were enjoying every minute.

The boys were up the next morning and i didnt recognise them as they had gotten so big - Ronan 3 and Lorcan 1 and a half.
Charlottesville were they lived was a quaint university town and the nighbour was so peaceful and quiet we feklt as if we were in the countryside. We went to the pool the first morning and chilled out the kids were a laugh and kept us all going.

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Khalil came home exhausted as his hangover was still lingering from the night before but we got our the beers and wine again and sat chatting and catching up. We were staying with the guys for only four days, so teh next day we got a picnic packed and drove up to the Thomas Jefferson house. It was really lovely and totally different to what we expected as it was a massive estate and the gardens and vegetable patches were fab and still going strong.

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Ger felt right at home with the gardens and could have stayed there all day!

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With the kids exhausted we all headed home but stopped off to do some fruit picking at the local market place, the place really was gorgeous and it felt as if we were in Italy somewhere..

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The following day we all headed out to the university Rotunda and the great Lawn to meet Khalil for a picnic lunch with the kids, and they were great even though Ronan the eldest could win hands down in a " how many why questions can you ask in 1 minute!" but he was very helpful with the housework later!

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On our last night we all went out for a great Thai meal in their local restaurant.. i had forgotten how much craic it is taking young kids out for dinner and seeing just how much they can get on themsleves and the floor!

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One of the gifts we left for the kids was a New Zealand game we picked up called the crazy kiwis, however myself and Ger had spent many a night in the campervan trying to work it out we were eager to see if eimear and the lads could do it... they tried but as yet we still havent managed to crack it!
We left the following day heading for New York for a week - back to hostels, fast food and packing rucksacks! Ger even let me shave his hair before we left .... We had been thoroughly spoiled again and it was sad to say goodbye to everyone.

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Posted by geranddebs 16:01 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Jasper - Vancouver - Seattle

sunny 35 °C
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We got dropped off the next day and got our free lift back to Jasper with a guy that looked very much like the trucker guy in Wolf Creek but he was sound though..

We were booked into the HI hostel in Jasper which was grand as it was only minutes from the wee village centre. We had about 3 days to chill out here before we had to get the via rail train acropss the rockies to Vancouver, Ger even managed to find his mate...!

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We immediately fell in love with Jasper, but it is very hard not to as it is just so idyllic you want to stay for longer, its not terribly big but the quaint shops, cafes and bars are gorgeous and all to the back drop of the snow capped rocky mountains.

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We just chilled out around the town but we did go up the Whistler mountain cable car for the amazing views and then its optional to continue further on foot to the very top of the mountain and as it looked the world.
Obviously we did it and it was amazing, it took about an hour to get to the top but it wasnt that far it was more the altitude that slowed you down, oh and the fact that i had left the house in flip flops as it was about 35 degree heat but up the mountain it was windy and a lot colder and some parts were covered in snow - this didnt help!! But once we got to the top it was brill and it felt like a super achievement..

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On the friday we were leaving on the 3pm train to cross the rockies, the train looked weel exciting as the roof was see through and raised so you could get the full experience of travelling through the mountains. We had booked our trip at home and didnt realise that we got a full 3 course dinner and free champagne when we boarded so it was a treat to be treated like first class as opposed to the travelling look we were used to.. i think we shocked the train ticketer as she advised us to buy our own food before getting on the train as it was quite expensive on the train haha... i guess we werent looking our best that day!

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Our dinner seating was at 5pm so we headed for that first and a few glasses of free wine and champers.. meet 2 other girls that had actually won the same trip who were lovely. After dinner we got to go up to the viewing carriages and watch the mountains as they passed by, it was really brilliant we were both just in awe and i dont think we spoke for about an hour!

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It was like luxury compared to the train journeys in the hard sleeper in China with Andy and Jane (... but we we were thinking of you guys!). They made up the beds for you at night - whch were huge and it was just gorgeous being able to fall asleep looking up at the rockies and the stars - very romantic lads!
We got into Vancouver the next morning at about 8am and had to wait then til 12 for our bus to Seattle where we stayed for a night before heading to Chicago and Ger's cousins house for a full week. We were kind of sad to leave Canada and would encourage anyone to go as it was definitely one of our highlights!

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Posted by geranddebs 10:09 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Chicago

sunny 30 °C
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Before i even start to write the Chicago blog we would like to welcome Helen and family to the site!!!!

Ok so we arrived in Chicago on a wet monday evening thankfully only delayed by 3 hours in Pittsburgh we made it home to Ann's for beers and pizza, and immediately it felt like home, it was great. We planned to stay with Ger's cousins for a week and it was like luxury after backpacking for so long..

Our first morning we got up very relaxed and chilled out for the day and Tom and Mary took us out to Pot Belly's for lunch and then in to see Ann at work - oh and meet all of her colleagues and see the new fish tank!!!
We all headed out for dinner that night then to a place called Flattops - kind of like mongolian bar -b -q where you chose what you want to eat and then they cook it for you and you can return as many times as you like! However myself, Ann, Mary and Helen decided to start our meal with Horny monkey cocktails so we were already set for a good night!

After dinner Mary arranged for us to go to a club with her and her friends called Joes where the Randy
Rodgers Band were playing and who we had seen on tele that morning... the $2 pitchers were another reason but after 3 of these Randy and the boys sounded great!

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We managed to get up the next morning with bad hangovers but decided to go into the city to walk it off. The city was fab, and it was all very chilled, and we took our time and Ger got to be my tour guide for the day as he has been here so many times. The city is class not too crowded and everyone is very friendly, especially when we went shopping... the magnigficent mile - avenue for shopping, had to be visited but i did well only getting a chicago cubs hoody whereas Ger left town with a new phone/ internet gadget by Nokia!!

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My favourite was the bean which was shaped as such and was like a huge round mirror!

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When we got home that night we just chilled out with Ann and the family, her back garden is great just to sit out on the deck and with a couple of beers in hand this is pretty much how we spent most of the week..!

It was great just to be able to chill out in a home from home and Ann and all the family made us feel so welcome, we got tyo catch up with mails and more importantly washing!
The weather was great and bar b q's were a must from Ann back garden to her neighbours everyone was so friendly and we were introduced to everyone including Bob and Tina - bod who works for Charcrust a steak seasoning company was kind enough to give us some samples and some " rub my meat" t-shirts!!..... i even managed to squeeze in a visit to the beauty salon with Ann and Mary to get pedicures! and Ger got to listen to the Dublin match that morning!

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One of Ann's neighbours Sue invited us up to her house at Lake Geneva then that weekend so off we went on the sat morning - it was only a 2 hour drive and the weather was great so we all had picnics with sues kids and even managed a dip in the water off the end of the pier into the lake!
The houses up there were gorgeous all with yachts moored outside their private piers and some with slides etc

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When we got back from Lake Geneva - you guessed it more bar b q's and beers in Dan's brother Robert's house and we also got introduced to their new arrival Sophie only a few months old!

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Sunday morning and our last day in Chicago so Helen and Dan treated us all to a sunday lunch in her back garden..myself and Mary had been lying out on the deck that morning but when a skunk decided to join us under the deck we were ready to go!
It was a great spread and myself and Ger were definitely leaving a little heavier... we spent the whole afternoon drinking cocktails and beers and all staggered home.
For us this had been 5 star and more in our ratings and we didnt want to leave but as we told the folks they will see a lot more of us in future!

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Posted by geranddebs 10:07 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Calgary - Canadian Rockies - Banff

sunny 33 °C
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Our flight from san francisco had to go via dallas to get to calgary but oh yes because dallas had been flooded all week all flights in and out were delayed and then so were we.. When we did get landed we had missed our connecting flight and had to run to catch the last one of the day to calgary but via denver this time with a different airline!
We made it to Calgary that night 1am but our luggage didnt.. Nightmare! We were starting our tour the following morning up the rockies at 730am so the guide maria advised that the luggage should be sent ahead of us as they wouldnt find us up in the mountains and national parks.. So we had to go shopping for stuff to keep us going for the next few days, not bad really seeing there was a gap store next door!

There was about 9 of us in the group and once we got our shopping sorted we were away..our first stop was Banff and from here the famous beauty spot Lake Louise. It was a gorgeous day and the place was packed but it was absolutely beautiful, the lake was a green/glacier blue colour and the chateau lake louise was just as breathtaking...

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we spent a few hours here so myself and Ger decided to hike up to the tea rooms right at the top of the mountain, after an hour of step climbing we made it to the top along with the other few hundred tourists! It was so busy we didnt have time to get a cuppa but the scenery and views had been worth it.

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We headed away from Lake Louise and up the mountain to our hostel for the night called the Mosquito creek hostel - it lived up to its name but it was cool, very rustic, no electricity, toilet outdoors and just the company of the mountain animals - chipmonks, and a camp fire for the night - oh yeah and beers!. The Big Rock grasshopper, kokanee and honey brown went down a treat and by 12 midnight we were having a right laugh...so much so that when a small man approached our fire asking if someone needed luggage i nearly fell on him with delight. We couldnt believe he had found us,although he did say he had been driving around for hours looking, so he was as relieved as us to have the luggage!

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The following morning up early, hangover city but with clothes! We headed for the Columbia icefield. This was a huge glacier that you went up to on huge big tonka trucks, each wheel apparently costing $5000.00!

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We spent the afternoon here and it was gorgeous, although everywhere in the rockies is a picture postcard so its very hard not to love the place.
From here we headed to Lake Annette for an afternoon dip seeing it was about 35degrees in the shade! The Lake was a glacier lake so it was absulotely freezing but all the girls braved the water while the guys took pictures and got bitten by more mosquitos.. haha

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After our swim we headed into the mountains again for our second hostel on Mount Edith Cavell. On the way we got to see Caribou and moose which was class.. but i was still holding out for a big bear! We had been warned what to do if we came across the brown or black bears and everyone had their eyes peeled - it was funny because when you spotted a group of cars stopped it was a free for all to try and get a glimpse as to what animal was there...

We arrived at our hostel which was inside a national park and they had had a mother and 2 cubs in the campsite a few days ago so we were all excited...usual routine though again, dinner on and get the fire lit and the beers cold and we all settled in for another campfire night. It was great craic, we met a couple from Cambridge Eoin and Corin and along with them and our leader Maria we managed to finish all the alcohol!

It had been a great few days and the following day Maria was kind enough to drop us off to another hostel and arrange for the owner to give us a lift out to Jasper for our next few days...

Posted by geranddebs 10:03 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

San Francisco

sunny 25 °C
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We arrived into San Francisco after transferring at Los Angeles late on wednesday the 17th June... it was like ground hog day as we had left Auckland at 6pm on wednesday the 27th and got into San Francisco at 9pm the same day - very weird and it took us a few days to get the body clocks adjusted.

We stayed at the Heritage Marina hotel which is very near the Fishermans Wharf but their record keeping leaves a lot to be desired - we waited for an hour for our room but when we opened the door someone was already in there, but hotel staff ensured us they had checked out so they took all their clothes etc out of the room and in we went... only to get a knock/bang at the door by that resident at 12am that night! She wasnt happy and had to go and get another room... only in America!

San Francisco is really gorgoeous - so chilled out and relaxed we immediately loved it not to mention the warmer weather! It was a 20 minute walk into town and the wharf/pier area. On our first day we just walked about and booked some tours out to Alcatraz and Angel Islands, which was just as well as there was a 2 day wait for tickets! The restaurants and fish especially are gorgeous, their speciality being Dunge crab...

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The city is very accessible and we walked all around the trendy north beach, seen the famous sentinel building owned by film maker Francis Ford Coppola and the Vesuvio bar, not to mention the street entertainment!

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Our hotel was also minutes from the famous crookedest street - Lombard street, but instead of walking down it we walked up! pretty cool though as you can get great views from the top but its always busy with tourists doing the same as us or traffic jams as others want to experience the novelty of driving down it.. once we got to the top though we got the cable car down again!

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On the saturday after chilling out for our first few days we went on the tour for angel island. It was lovely - the whole island is a national park now but was once the immigration centre and then a military base, the views from the island of the golden gate bridge and the san francisco coast line are fab..

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After Angel island we decided to hire some bicycles and ride across the golden gate bridge and the surrounding area. Very cheap to do but it was brilliant, the area around the bridge is really scenic, once you got to the bridge the wind picks up and you had to hold on!.. it was great though one of the best things we did..

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After congratulating ourselves that night we were up bright and early the following day for our boat trip over to Alcatraz island - Alcatraz spanish for Pelican, which we soon found out as there are birds everywhere...

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The tour price includes your boat and fee into the jail and we thought it was brilliant. The audio on it was super and it gave you a great insight into life on Alcatraz and the islands history, not to mention the views from the island and the bird wildlife and gardens surrounding it, or the fact that it was claimed by the indians for 16months after the jail closed..

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It was quite eery walking through the history of the place knowing what went on with the noises to let you be part of it and well worth the fee. Ger even got to check out some of the gardens and felt slightly at home but they had the fire engines and escape routes all on show as well..

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We left San francisco heading for the rockies then on the 2nd June but of course not before we visited the Ghirardelli chocolate factory!!

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Posted by geranddebs 09:06 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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