Flashback Friday #21

Road Trip: USA California – San Fran to Carmel

On a visit to California, a few years ago, we had to travel to San Diego from San Francisco and decided that it might be fun to drive down the coast using the PCH rather than fly between the two cities. So from that decision a little road trip was born.


This is the first section between San Francisco and the lovely town of Carmel-by-the-Sea.

Distance: 133 miles via Halfmoon Bay, Santa Cruz
Time: 3 hours without stopping

The PCH (Pacific Highway) is one of those iconic drives that should be done in a pink Cadillac convertible with the top down making the most of the azure blue skies and brilliant Californian sunshine with plenty of Beach Boys and Mamas and Papas CDs on board. In reality this was February and an open top car was not an option. We ended up with a Chevvy, but a poor imitation of the Chrysler PT Cruiser with black tinted windows; the skies were gun-metal grey. Not the ideal start, but hey it felt good to be on the road.

We began our journey in San Francisco and immediately headed southwest on to the Cabrillo Highway at Pacifica to follow it south to Monterey and Carmel – our first stop. This is not a long section, but it can take a long time, as there are plenty of scenic viewpoints to stop off at on your way down the coast and in the summer there are several roadside food stalls to entice you.

Half Moon BayThe section between Pacifica and Half Moon Bay in San Mateo County is prone to periodic landslides and road closures and one stretch is known as the Devil’s Slide*. This particular stretch of road reminded me of Chapman’s Peak Drive in the Cape Peninsula, South Africa, as it hugs a similar steep promontory with equally stunning vistas. We stopped at Half Moon Bay to admire the surfers and the beautiful beach until the rain sent us scudding back to the car.

*(This stretch of the Cabrillo Highway has since been replaced by a road tunnel).

Don’t forget to stop at the family run Duartes Tavern in Pescadero which is a little further south and only 2 miles off the state road; it is still run by the 4th generation of Duartes and home to the worlds most divine Olallieberry Pie, world-famous Cream of Artichoke Soup, and Crab Cioppino. We, on the other hand have had a full breakfast there and no complaints. In this small town you can also find interesting craft shops, artichoke bread and a goat dairy. If you have the time a stroll along the Pescadero State Beach back at the junction with Highway One may bring you into contact with harbour seals among the sand dunes. Continue reading Flashback Friday #21

Flashback Friday #19

This post stems from a visit to London in late April 2014 – hard to believe this was seven years ago! Seven years! And yet I remember it as though it was last week.


Just Back From… London

It’s a funny old world. I lived a little more than an hour away from London for 7 years, but in all that time I’d never spent a day there other than for attending meetings for work. So a train in, a tube to the location and back again, sometimes with a glance at some interesting architecture, thinking I really should bring a camera with me next time. Never spent any time in recent years exploring the city. I didn’t like London you see. I found it dirty, noisy and too busy so all I wanted to do was get in and get out as quickly as possible.

I have ‘done’ the tourist things years ago – Buck Palace, the Mall, Trafalgar Square, Big Ben, Camden Lock, Greenwich Market, but never been interested in what else it has to offer, until now, when I decided that I should at least visit the splendid museums that lie within the centre and are free. I like free. And Kew Royal Botanical Gardens. I like gardens.

So last week I accompanied the OH who was going there for business purposes and found myself in a reasonable hotel a spit away from Earl’s Court. With three days at my disposal. And a tube strike for two of those days. I dislike the tube at the best of times but at least it gets you to where you need to go, usually. Now buses, not only are they complicated, but also they are slow. On account of all that traffic you see.

Tuesday

On my first day I spent an hour and a half going round in circles as I attempted to get across to Chancery Lane tube station to go on a London walk.  Eventually it dawned on me that there was no way I was getting anywhere close to the centre as Circle, Central and Piccadilly lines were not running. Had I realised that at the start of the journey I could have made my way differently, but by the time I’d sussed out an alternative route it was too late. Frustrated now, by all the hopping on and off tubes going nowhere, I opted for some fresh air in Kew Gardens, but even that was a challenge as it involved a tube to Turnham Green, a walk to a bus stop, a bus to Kew Gardens Station and a walk to the gardens. Phew! I was quite exhausted before I even got there! Continue reading Flashback Friday #19

Flashback Friday #15

Cape Town Revisited

When I met my OH in 2002 we each had a different favourite city in the world, which the other had not visited, so we made a promise to see each place together. In 2005 I went to Vancouver, his choice, and a very good one too, this is the story of my choice – Cape Town, South Africa at Easter in 2008.

I lived in Cape Town, on and off, between 1973 and 1984 and fell in love with this beautiful city. I was eager to return with my (new) husband to show him my favourite parts. It had been over eight years since my last visit to the Mother City and a lot longer since I had travelled along the Garden Route, so I was keen to explore old and new places and show him what I thought made this the best city in the world. On arrival at the politically neutral named Cape Town International airport we picked up the VW Polo hire car and drove to our first destination in Constantia. We were staying in a lovely, welcoming bed and breakfast close to the beautiful Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens.

Lily

The only slightly off-putting aspect was the electric fencing surrounding the property and the guard at the entrance of the electronic gates. Oh, how things have changed, and not necessarily better for anyone. I was concerned that this might put my husband off. He already had some misgivings about visiting the country because of its notorious crime rate. Seeing the neighbourhood covered in ‘Armed Response’ signs wasn’t going to appease him.

The weather on the other hand was perfect with azure blue skies, a soft, gentle breeze and it was pleasantly warm. Having unpacked in our large bright bedroom, overlooking gardens to the front and rear, we strolled up to Kirstenbosch to stretch our legs after the long flight from London, via Windhoek and get some well-needed sunshine.

sunbird

This botanic garden is so tranquil and the backdrop of Table Mountain is so dramatic I could have stayed here for the entire trip photographing the many spectacular proteas and sunbirds. It became a regular evening walk during our stay.

Table Mountain
Table Mountain from Kirstenbosch

Later we drove over Constania Nek and down to Hout Bay and along the coast road to Llandudno hoping to see a decent sunset, but cloud on the horizon put paid to that idea. As we drove back to the B&B we called in for a meal of Kingklip, a firm white, buttery, local fish and chips at the Constantia Nek Hotel and Pub.

City Tour
A South Westerly brought in rain, wind and cloud overnight, but it brightened up over breakfast which was excellent – fresh fruit salad and yoghurt, cooked breakfast with choice of eggs, multi seeded bread and good coffee.

Cape Town City Hall
City Hall

We drove into the city and parked in the eerily empty Grand Parade, where the Italianate City Hall is located, and made our way along Adderley Street for a wander through the Government Gardens or ‘Company’s Gardens‘ as it is also known. The pedestrianized tree-lined Government Avenue links the top-end of Adderley Street to Orange Street where you will find the famous Mount Nelson Hotel, “Cape Town’s famous pink hotel”, with her distinctive blush-tint and English High Teas. Tea at the ‘Nellie’ (as it is fondly referred to by locals) starts at 2.30 pm and runs until 5.30 pm. (And where I actually worked when I first arrived in Cape Town back in 1973).

The grey squirrels which inhabit the trees lining Government Avenue are a delight, though this one isn’t really sticking his tongue out.

Cheeky Grey Squirrel
Cheeky Grey Squirrel

They were introduced by Cecil Rhodes in 1890. These are larger than their European counterparts and the Garden’s oak trees and plenty of water channels offer a perfect habitat.

They are fairly habituated to humans and will eat out of your hand,  you can find someone to sell you a packet of peanuts with which to feed them. However, the downside is that you may also see huge rats. It has its own rose garden, aviary and fish-pond. In fact they used to sell off some of the fish from here when they got too big or too many, though I don’t know if that practice still occurs.

Also within the Gardens is the ‘Tuynhuys‘ which is used by the President on state occasions (and not open to the public), the neo-classical designed ‘Houses of Parliament’ with its distinctive red brickwork and impressive porticoes with extravagant Corinthian capitals, the ‘Delville Wood Memorial’ and the ‘Rutherfoord Fountain’

Tuynhuis
Tuynhuis, Gardens, Cape Town

This area is known as ‘Museum Mile’ in that the vast majority of Cape Town’s museums are concentrated into the same small space around Government Avenue including the South African Museum and National Gallery.

Iziko Slave Lodge - Cultural History Museum
Iziko Slave Lodge – Cultural History Museum

The Iziko Slave Lodge lies just outside the entrance on the corner of Adderley Street and Wale Street and is now a Cultural History Museum. Close by in Greenmarket Square you will find another museum in the Old Town House.

Greenmarket Square
Greenmarket Square Flea Market

We strolled along to Greenmarket Square where a flea market is held, but found that rather disappointing as there were only a few African craft stalls present and all selling the same objects (wood or soapstone animals, wire and bead ornaments, masks etc.) which to be honest looked mass-produced. The city centre was a bit like a ghost town with hardly anyone about and it felt a little unnatural. My last visit to the city was in December 2000 and it had been much livelier with buskers and shoeshine ‘boys’ so I can only assume that Sunday is not the best day to venture into the centre. Continue reading Flashback Friday #15

Flashback Friday #10

This was part of an amazing road trip around some of the canyons in the USA in March 2014 setting off from San Diego and finishing in Las Vegas.


Sedona via Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon 


Today was a much shorter drive, though very different from yesterday as we were driving through the snow that had fallen overnight. After a lovely breakfast and snapping a few shots of Steller Jays and Dark Eyed Juncos who were breakfasting outside on monkey nuts  we were on our way to the Grand Canyon. Would it live up to the hype I wondered? Or would the reality fall flat.

(please click on an image to enlarge)

We continued along 89A through Oak Creek Canyon weaving its way up and around the mountains. At the top we pulled into a viewing place to take a few photos of the canyon and the road on which we had just driven. I am so glad that they clear the roads in this part of the world!

GC2-412
A winding road

By noon we’d arrived at Tusayan the town just before the south entrance to the park and we stopped to visit the IMAX theatre to watch a film about the Canyon which is well worth doing if you haven’t been there before. Though I must be the only person on earth who suffers travel sickness whilst watching these films! I have to close my eyes to stop myself from feeling dizzy.

On the road to the Canyon
On the road to the Canyon, North Rim in the distance

The Grand Canyon fills me with awe. It is beyond comparison – beyond description, absolutely unparalleled throughout the wide world. Let this great wonder of nature remain as it is now. Do nothing to mar its grandeur, sublimity and loveliness. You cannot improve on it. But what you can do is keep it for your children, your children’s’ children and all who come after you, as the one great sight which every American should see. Don’t let them skin this wonderful country – as they will try to do” ~ Theodore Roosevelt, May 6, 1903

Now we were in the park and following the one-way system to our hotel – El Tovar – where we had booked for the night. It is a  National Historic Landmark and is right on the South Rim with views of the canyon from rooms on the northern wing.

The hotel is made from native stone and Oregon pine and the design is based on European hunting lodges and has a world-renowned restaurant along with canyon views.

Continue reading Flashback Friday #10

My Photographic Journey

Photography has never been ‘a thing’ in my family. I don’t even remember my parents having a camera, but they must have done as there are a few black and white ones at the beach when I was very small, along with the usual studio shots and school portraits from that era.

I must have had one to take with me on a school trip to Germany when I was 15, but the photos are about 2.5 inches square and very bad! Although I didn’t cut off people’s heads my compositions weren’t great. Next was a 10 week trip hitch-hiking around Europe, with the same camera I think. Again, nothing very special. With film and developing being expensive you didn’t take several shots of the same thing, hoping that the photo you did take would be what you wanted Sadly so often the results were very disappointing. And no way to go back to the Acropolis for another take. This camera accompanied me to Geneva where I worked as an au pair, six months working in Norway and on the overland journey to India. What missed opportunities! The photos are small and square and don’t even scan well.

For my 21st birthday I got a Kodak Instamatic into which you could pop a sealed cartridge which enclosed the film. No more having to close the curtains and sit in a darkened room to wind your film on or off the sprockets. This was used for many years for mostly family photos. At some point I moved onto a Fujifilm point and shoot camera which accompanied me on my first and second visits to Australia in 1998 and 2000 where I began to be interested in landscapes (though not necessarily understanding light and shade).

The Apostles, Great Ocean Road, Victoria, Australia (2000)

And then on my Southern Africa trip in 2000. This camera had a panoramic setting, the problem was that once you had set this feature you had to use it for the whole film. It was on that trip that I decided I wanted / needed a better camera. For the first time I was desperate to capture the landscape, the wildlife. And all I had was a little point and shoot camera.

African Adventures (2000)

As a single parent who worked all week and did chores all weekend and saved every spare penny for holidays there wasn’t much money to splurge on fancy cameras. And so the Fuji accompanied me to Australia on my third visit in 2003. On that trip my future OH joined me with his Canon SLR so I didn’t take many photos. Unfortunate as when we arrived back home we discovered the SLR had a fault and had been letting in light so a lot of photos were ruined.

Uluru (2003)

With this in mind in the autumn of 2003 we decided to buy a digital camera. An HP PhotoSmart C945  5MP and 8 x optical zoom with a 5 cm colour LCD display. It was not cheap, but neither was it the most expensive camera around. It took 4 AA batteries so wasn’t all that light either, plus you had to carry a charger around with you.

The Ring of Kerry (2003)

A few years later we moved on to better bridge cameras – the OH bought a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ50 to replace the Canon and I went for a Fujifilm S8000fd with 8MP and an 18 x zoom as I loved my compact Fuji. We also had a little Nikon Coolpix for when the OH went abroad and didn’t want the hassle of carrying a larger camera. And why is it as soon as you decide on a make and model a newer version comes out weeks after you have bought it? I’m not sure my photography improved, but the number of shots I took certainly escalated.

Knysna Marina – South Africa (2008)

Photography was becoming serious now. And seriously expensive! I even took out a subscription for a camera magazine for a year and read every review about DSLRs and the mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras, but I remained indecisive. In 2011 I upgraded to a Fuji FinePix HS20 EXR which had 16 MP and 30 x zoom and everything was good until I became quite obsessed with flower photography.

For decades I had a garden and although no plantswoman I enjoyed getting out there each week and growing and planting things. When I no longer had a garden we started visiting public gardens around the country and even when on holiday and I started to develop a passion for flowers and insects on flowers and especially close-ups. What I really wanted of course, was a Macro lens. And no bridge camera was going to give me that, which led to my first digital mirrorless camera with interchangeable lenses. I wanted something small enough to put in a handbag if necessary so the Olympus OM-D E-M10  with a pancake lens was ideal. Followed swiftly by the Macro lens.

Over the past eight years I have been blogging, initially to have a place to store all these digital photos and write about my trips whilst I could remember them, then to share favourite walks and gardens and join in with photo challenges and even record the development of the garden I eventually got. I have learned a lot from my fellow bloggers, some of whom are the most talented photographers. Now I am pretty addicted to photography; I still don’t understand all the technical aspects, but I like to think that over the years I have improved and that now I am more discerning. I take my time when composing a shot. I even walk away if I can’t get what I want.

New Forest, UK (2012)

My photographic journey has been long and slow, but there are still moments out there to capture, improvements to make and memories to return to.

Dee Why beach, NSW (2014)

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #133 |photo journey