This BLOG is a way of sharing the highlights of our travels near and far with family, friends and anyone who is interested. This has mostly been about our international travel with a couple of domestic trips. It recently occurred to me that my international followers may be interested in my travels in my own backyard. 'The trouble with not having a goal is you can spend your life running up and down the field and never score.' – Bill Copeland
Author: Ange Bowman
I live in Sydney with the love of my life. Work to travel and thrive on learning new skills and about new places. My interests are technology, cooking, agricultural shows, horse racing, photography and all sports. A mother of four grown children who have provided me with six amazing grandchildren (so far).
Didn’t make the hotel for the wifi for Japhite’s race but certainly had the taxi driver giving me peculiar looks when I started to cheer her on as she finished second which was fantastic. I didn’t mention I had my earpiece in so all of a sudden he had a mad woman urging on something or someone called Japhite without being able to hear the race lol.
Our bags deposited at the hotel for out again for an activity to get us through to check in time. Walked to the Galleria Lafayette for coffee before visiting a supermarket for the makings of rolls and some fruit and cheese as we decided once we hit the room we didn’t want to leave again until tomorrow.
A rest before we truely begin our France trip 2018..
We slept most of the afternoon and night. I got some work done and watched the replay of the race again. We ate our sandwiches and we were all the better for the long rest.
Flight to Singapore 222 departed 3pm And right on time. The food was good lunch was served about an hour after taking off. Flew directly out over Alice Springs and Derby in WA. We were ahead of the setting sun for most of the flight.
In flight wifi available but quite expensive but lasts long enough to send a few messages and etc. Due to land in Singapore 8:50pm and have a transfer organised our hotel Jen Orchard
Not planning on any activities too early tomorrow. But hop on hop off booked for the 2 days.
Arrived a bit early and only two people ahead of us in customs. That is always a welcome sight and not always the case in customs anywhere.
Waited short awhile for our transfer. It was very good apart from the slight hiccup of the driver not taking us to the right Jen Hotel, apparently, the confusion happens all the time. A quick $7 10 minute taxi ride we were quickly checked in.The hotel gave free access to executive lounge for the duration of our stay. Free breakfast, afternoon tea and evening drinks on the 19th floor.
Our room is 1202 and very well appointed, the bed will never be my Adjusta bed by it came very close.
A room service tea and coffee quick showers and be both slept like the proverbial logs
Our first day in Singapore off to a great start with a complimentary breakfast at the hotel. We stepped outside and after a short walk decide taxi to the main
Hop On Hop Off stop to redeem our vouchers was the order of the day. Very humid and a 20-minute walk wasn’t going to enhance our day.
The sunset city mall is enormous. They hand out guidebooks lol.
It didn’t take long to locate the Hippo Hop On Hop Off tour office. We board the yellow loop bus. This city is filled with greenery and green spaces like no other I have seen. The buildings are so interesting from the old to the new, they really take pride in designing them in such a way that each building has its ‘own thing’. Conveniently stop 17 was near our hotel time to recharge both our devices and ourselves. The 7 eleven next for a couple sandwiches and then nap time. Feeling somewhat refreshed it was back to stop 17 to continue on the yellow route back to Suntec city to swap to the red route for a look at little India and China town as well as my hotel the next time I come to visit the Marina Bay Hotel. Both Little India and Chinatown as beautifully maintained with the original buildings very well maintained and interesting
Singapore is very clean and organised
People aren’t rushing around, a sense of time to get things done.
Service is very friendly.
Cabs are spotless
Doesn’t have the loud noise of a big city
Heard one siren during whole stay – fire response vehicle
Shops – a shoppers paradise not sure if the prices stack up but the choices are beyond belief.
You would never starve- choices and good food everywhere
No powerlines above ground
Greenery everywhere you look and almost on every building
Day 2 Our last in Singapore – 26th September
Eased into the day with a sleep in and slowly start today due to the fact we don’t fly to Paris until a bit after midnight tonight.
Our breakfast was a very leisurely one before leaving the hotel we checked out the amazing rooftop pool and bar. I could have easily spent the rest of day right here. We had decided that today we would revisit the stops of interest on the yellow bus line, the Casino which was worth a look just to see so many people playing the tables so early in the day. The access to the casino from the hotel side of the road was via a sky bridge. It was six stories high and lined with trees and provided amazing views. The Casino was big and built in a circle with two public gaming floors and several private gaming rooms and classy looking restaurants on the floors above. The Marina Bay Sands hotel across the road was equally mind blowing up close. The price per night might have the same effect.
Back on the bus I did knock over a few emails, posted a couple horse reports and by then we were pulling into the Botanical gardens stop. It was all you could imagine from a rainforest garden. (One of only two Rainforest Botanical gardens in the world located in a city, Rio De Janeiro is the other). We visited the orchid garden which was a bit spectacular, how they maintain such a beautiful place all year round is beyond me. I can’t keep parsley and basil alive lately.
We were just about walked out by now so it was time to climb/crawl back on the bus for the final leg back to the hotel. We stopped off to have late lunch somewhere is bowels of the biggest shopping mall I have even been in with its two subway stops right in the mall along with 335 food and retail outlets. ION Orchard is recognised as one of the top shopping malls in Singapore.
We raised one last effort to walk back along Orchard Road to our hotel. The hotel on arrival Monday had gifted us with 3 days access to the club lounge where we will spend the next few hours before our car picks us up for the 13hr flight to Paris. We take off at 15 minutes after midnight (no curfew here) and land in Paris at 7:30am on the same day. Looking forward to a few 💤 on the flight.
Oh Singapore I will be back to explore some more. Still, have to get to races and have Chilli 🦀. Au revoir
Not as big in sheer size as yesterday’s but made up for that in class. The Château de Chenonceau is a French château spanning the River Cher, near the small village of Chenonceaux in the Indre-et-Loire département of the Loire Valley in France. It is one of the best-known châteaux of the Loire valley. The estate of Chenonceau is first mentioned in writing in the 11th century.
If you could only see one Château this should be the one says she who has only seen three out of the hundreds in France.
I loved how it spanned the river and was not as fortresslike as the others although it was protected by a pretty significant moat. The gardens were well laid again not complex but simple plantings then repeated again and again to provide perfect symmetry and best overall effect. After an hour so going from room to room. Yes, a few more stairs to reach 1st level rooms and gallery.
The floral arrangements were something to behold. I really liked them all especially the table centre. I have never seen such bright pink hydrangeas.
After a wander around there garden, we had lunch in the bistro. I had the soup of the day and something I love but never have, strawberries and cream. Not just cream it was chantilly cream. It was so delicious and now I can reflect on it next time I go without dessert. We decided we had seen enough and it was time to find some fuel and cash for the next leg of the drive.
We headed back towards Amboise and I fuelled up on the way. I love that you can pay at the pump and no need to go inside. Wish this was more widespread at home. Not much chance how else are servos going to entice people into paying over odds for their snacks foods and drinks. They need those sales to offset the fact they make nothing from fuel.
We headed in the old part of Amboise to have a wander around. I purchased a cotton string bag for home. Woo hoo, I hear you say but it has a purpose and brings me joy. Home again around 4pm and looking forward to a break before we enjoyed our lamb chops and turned in for an early night.
Tomorrow we hit the road again headed for Rocamadour. Rocamadour is a small clifftop village in south-central France. Amboise has been a great place to stay and I would happily recommend staying in Seb and Fredricka’s gitè.
Accommodation:Airbnb Highly recommended if you want to be a little out of town, lovely family. The children love practising their English. Getting Around: Car is the best option, you could get the train to Loire valley from Paris but then need a car to see the area to best advantage Time: Need a few days to really explore the area, there are so many Chateaux within a reasonable drive and need to leave time for other activities. Favourite part of stay: Visiting Château de Chenonceau Least Favourite part of stay: Not enough time – needed at least 4 days
Sarah and Dan got a great deal on visiting Disneyland in both Shanghai and Tokyo and grandma got to tag along – she never needs to be asked twice. These are the kind of experiences I like to fill my life with I would rather create a memory then buy things any day of the week. The less you buy the more you can spend on making memories.
Flight Qantas 129 A330-300 – Departed a few minutes late at 9:35am
Great seat in row 57KJ DEF 2 3 2 configuration at the back of plane allows room to stand in the aisle while someone passes. Food was good chicken for lunch and beef and rice for dinner were my choices
Kids were amazing never complained or asked once ‘how long now’? Emily and Daniel had several hours sleep and Ollie (so many movies too watch lol) got at least 2-hour nap during the flight.
We landed just after 6:30 pm. Shanghai is two hours behind Australia so no jet lag. Customs was a very simple and easy process and given the number of people in the queue we were through very quickly. We are confident now that we could have entered through the 144-hour visa waiver line. We had obtained a visa in Sydney just to be on the safe side. We didn’t want to put Japan part of the trip at risk if we were turned back. After finding bags lapping around carousel 10 we spilled out into the throng people in arrivals. Our transfer driver spotted us quickly. The Donald Duck and made Mickey Mouse luggage might have been a give away or that we only fair people in the place. After a very comfortable 30 minute ride our hotel stood before us and was a welcome sight even though only 8pm were all ready for bed.
The hotel is amazing Toy Story theme from top to bottom including woody appearing in the lobby from time to time. Not sure how many rooms all built on figure eight design which makes getting around easy. The grounds were so peaceful and a great place for an early morning walk
We were up early for the day our first day in the park and on the first bus for early entry. Hotel guests get early entry access to the park which is really good as giving everyone a chance to get set before the masses pour in. Our first ride was xxx one of the best in the park for all ages. Then we were off to slinky dog for a mini roller coaster. Dan and Sarah then tackled Rex’s Racer which looks relatively tame but was more of a stomach churner than it appeared.
Pirates ride was the next Emi didn’t like this much but Oliver loved it. Kept saying go again. The graphics were so real it felt like you right in the battle and on the galley rising up through the sea. We waited to meet Jack Sparrow and just got there right at the right time to beat the line. Jack spent ages talking to Ollie and Emi. Oliver just thought he was the best, everything was about Jack said this Jack said that for a long while afterward. After some bbq corn and yummy chicken sticks, it was time for the Fantasia show in front of the castle. The props and costumes were amazing and so well done. The kids were totally meresmised.
Next, it was time for the parade we settled down in a spot to wait. Sarah and dan ducked off to do the seven dwarf ride. The parade was fun and the character loved Ollie and Emi in their hats. Everyone in the park loved them. The characters to cast members and the people who were always wanting to take their photos. After the parade found the hotdog stand and they were quite tasty buns a little hard, not soft like ours but filled a spot. Next, it was time for Ollie to hold court with all the Marvel characters especially Captain America. Kids love all the characters and love meeting them over and over.
In meantime, Pluto and Goofy came walking out to do their stint. The waiting line was closed before we were finished with the ducks. So Ollie waited in the middle of Main Street and sure enough, when they were leaving Pluto spotted him took his hand and Emi with goofy to walked all the way back to the exit. It made Ollie’s day perfect and it was only 3pm with dinner at Cinderella’s table and fireworks to come.
We headed back to Main Street to meet Donald and Daisy together.
Before dinner, we decided to take the boat ride and the kids were delighted when the cast member loading the boats organised with our boat captain to let them steer – it didn’t seem to be something they were doing for others so kids felt a bit special –
No doubt their hats which caused a stir all over the park helped them secure this opportunity. They did
a good job and we made it around safely.
Dinner in the castle was really good and the food was delicious the character spent ages with the kids and although tired the kids were still loving their Shanghai Disney day with another day to come.
No rocking to sleep needed at night for anyone.
Up and at ‘em early again to take advantage of early park access which is a part of being in the Disney hotel. Enter through. Special entrance before the park opens. Our second day was a bit of a blur for me but I know there were more character visits and slowly the book was filled with character signature on their page.
Sarah had purchased a Disneyland storybook (A- Z of characters I think) and kids were getting each character to sign their page. Emily patiently waits for a long time to meet with Snow White and she was made feel very special.
We had a shorter day today as kids were starting to get worn out so we decided on a late lunch at Cheesecake Factory which is located in the downtown Disney area before heading back to the hotel for a rest – well grandma and kids. dan and Sarah headed back for a night session to finish their Disney experience Dan called the Tron best Disney ride at any park he has visited.
The kids day was complete a very tired Ollie walks into the hotel and who’s there no other than Woody. He suddenly found a second wind to do once last character visit before grandma took them to the hotel convenience store for a scratch up dinner. Next stop Tokyo
This park is really amazing and I would recommend to anyone. So well done and very organised.
Our car service Sun Transfers got us off to a great start and returned us to the airport with no fuss and worth every penny for peace of mind. Hotel staff we so helpful and we had no language issues.
All in all, it was a brilliant experience mostly down to Sarah’s hours and hours of research and a great understanding of all things Disney which means she plans everything to get absolute best out of the park visit. Plenty of hidden gems if you do the research.
Next stop Disneyland Tokyo Japan
Duration of this trip was from 28th November to 13th December so that we could take advantage of the boys’ early school break up to do one last overseas trip with them altogether
Leonie has been out for past month visiting her mother and took the opportunity to fly home with us. The purpose of this trip was to visit family in Abilene Texas so our grandsons could meet and reconnect with US family as well as experience a belated Thanksgiving dinner prepared by Leonie. We love our turkey day celebrations that is for sure!!
via Qantas QF7 (A380) Direct to Dallas great flight well looked after. Scott and Leonie were there to meet us. We picked up our Dodge Caravan hire car which was perfect for our needs.
Having previously had this type of vehicle in LA with four adults and two children on that occasion. So this time it was perfect for three teens and the grandparents (us) for our planned road trip to Los Angeles.
In no time at all, we were away on our way to Abilene (2.5 hours west Dallas Fort Worth)
The first stop unanimously voted on as Cracker Barrell at Weatherford where we meet Scott and Leonie for dinner. Everything was up to its usual standard and the boys reminiscing about previous visits on their last trip.
After eight days in Abilene which included a couple days back up in Dallas/FortWorth where we did the JFK tour and visited the Fort Worth Stockyards before catching up with more family for dinner and movies.
A highlight of the stay in Abilene was the opportunity to watch a high school playoff game in the new Abilene Christian University (ACU) Stadium. It was amazing the Graham Steers were playing the Sweetwater Mustangs. Scott’s sister Stephanie teaches at Graham High and the rest of Scott’s family live in Graham, Texas so we happy to hop aboard the bandwagon and become steers supporters for the night.
Our Abilene stay included lots of good food at places like Perini ranch and BBQ brisket and a visit to Sonic which intrigued the boys no end having their orders served to the car window.
A highlight was a visit to the Abilene Heritage centre which provided a fantastic insight to Abilene down through history, the boys loved this and spent hours exploring and watching the shows and reading stories.
Soon it was time to hit the road towards Los Angeles taking in El Paso, White Sands National Monument the Santa Rosa Blue Hole and some of Route 66. It was pretty cold and miserable and wet when we set off but we made good time to be at the border for our first night. I always wanted to drive west of Abilene and keep going.
Alberque was our next overnight stop where we ate at the Standard Diner before settling in for the night at another LaQuinta Hotel. These hotels are great budget rooms when traveling and the complimentary continental breakfasts come in handy as well.
The next stop along the way was at the historic El Ranch Hotel the historic El Rancho Hotel provides a unique Southwest Experience in the midst of the American West. The El Rancho Hotel is a pillar of the West and was the Home of the Movie Stars throughout the 1930s to 1940s who filmed Westerns in the area.
Back on the road to our last overnight stop at the La Quinta Inn & Suites Kingman Arizona before arriving in Los Angeles.Dinner was at yet another diner, this one had not changed a thing in 50 years, Rutherford’s 66 Diner 2011 E Andy Devine Ave, Kingman.
We hit the road early the next morning and ready ourselves to handle the LA traffic. As I have driven in LA peak hour(s) a number of times before we thought we endeavour to get there before the peak.
We achieved this and had a good run into Hilton at Universal and checked in about 2pm.
Ian and I returned the car to the closest car hire which was at the Bob Hope airport. We took a taxi back to the Hilton and settled in for our final few days. It is always a relief to get rid of the car’s unscathed. The Hilton is the perfect location for everyone to do their own thing and for the boys to explore all that universal and the CityWalk where everyone could do their own thing. The grandparents could get a bit of a break and relax in the hotel before a full day at universal and our flight home.
We used a great car service Lansky Transfers (used previously when in LA) to collect us from the hotel and get us to LAX in plenty of time to check in and board QF12 for the flight home. Very reliable and no fuss, takes all the stress out of getting to the airport that is for sure.
This trip goes down in the archives as another successful travel experience with the boys we love being able to broaden their horizons. We like to spend their inhertiance on having great adventures and experiences with us not on us after we are gone.
Whistler 3rd and 4th October and Victoria, Vancouver Island 5th to 8th October 2017
Always wanted to see Whistler after Sarah travelled there 10 years ago to work for 6months in the ski season. He description and love of the place did not disappoint in any way shape or form. It is such pretty place and I can only imagine what it would be like to visit at the height of the season. No wonder Sarah fell in love with the place and she was staying in a hostel not the opulent Fairmount like we were. I could have just absorbed the hotel for the two days, so much to experience without leaving the place. We did wander down and caught a local bus who kindly told us if we stayed on the bus we could take in his whole run up to other parts of the mountain. He said he was the number bus driver which he was as he shared so much information about the whole area while we communicated with the locals. He dropped us back to Whistler village where we did some shopping, tried poutine in Sarah’s favourite pub before catching the hotel shuttle back to the hotel for a spell, both getting tired now. Whistler you are so pretty can’t wait to come back someday soon.
The pictures won’t do the place justice but have to share just the same
After our final leg back into Vancouver and saying goodbye to new friends and the most comfortable train I will ever travel on we headed back to Vancouver by shuttle and check back into No 1 Canada Bay for the night.
The next morning we up early so as to not miss our pick up and transfer to the coach that was taking us to Vancouver Island via the BC Ferry. A bit of waiting around but eventually we were on the coach from the train station and headed to the ferry terminal. It never ceases to amaze me how many vehicles including large semi-trailers and buses can go on one ferry. We were soon up on deck enjoying a coffee and a look around before settling back to enjoy the 2-hour long ride. Disembarking was as smooth as embarking all on the bus, wait our turn and off the ferry and on our way in no time. The drop off point was just behind our hotel for the next two night, the worldly and magnificent Fairmount Empress Hotel. It is the only place to stay when enjoying such a beautiful place as Vancouver Island. After choosing the longest and most stairs to access the hotel we were eventually checked in and had booked our day trip to Burchart gardens for the next day. We decided on a walk around after resting up for a while and explored the main shopping area and found a good pub for a meal before heading back for an early night.
We decided on a good breakfast in the hotel before heading out to the front of our hotel to pick up our tour bus for the day trip to the Butchart Gardens.
I am not going to say much about the gardens and let the pictures speak for themselves but seriously if there is an opportunity to visit do so as it worth the time and money and will go down as a highlight for this trip for sure.
We decided to enjoy a Thanksgiving dinner in the hotel restaurant as the last dinner in Canada for this trip. It was delicious and we really savoured every moment of the whole dining experience, the surroundings, the food and the excellent service.
Time to go and reorganise the bags for our return to Australia. The next morning we stayed in the room until check out before cloaking our bags with the hotel. We decided to the hop on hop off bus for a couple hours to fill in the day and have a good look around Victoria. This took us a couple hours and the commentary provided insight into some the history and interesting places within the city. After making our way back to the hotel we still had a couple hours to kill so settled in to the bar and with a couple Pimms, our flight was a late one from Vancouver but we did need to be on our ferry connector bus at 4pm to start the crossing back to the mainland and to the airport.
As always it is a relief to get checked in at the airport and get to the gate heading home, another trip with no missed connections, incidents and no one getting sick is always a blessing. Slept most of the way home as per my usual go on plane watch couple movies eat then sleep the rest of the flight. That is trip 3 of 4 overseas trips for this year. Definitely going to take a break next year maybe just one or two at most.
Another amazing trip draws to a close – Oh Canada we have hardly scratched the surface so we will be back…
Up bright and early on the 30th September and off to the Vancouver Airport to catch our 8:50am flight to Prince Rupert Air Canada AC8278. It was a good flight, I think I slept most of the way but we did fly over some beautiful but rugged country.
Getting to Prince Rupert
The Prince Rupert airport is on another island so once we landed everyone piled onto the shuttle bus for the ride into town. It took about an hour to get to the drop off point in town. We decided we could manage to walk to our hotel and it wasn’t too bad but probably having some second thoughts halfway there. Check-in was uneventful and after a bit of a rest we set of in search of food, which happened to back near our drop off point but the walk was much easier without bags to drag us down. After food, we wandered for awhile around town, not a lot to see but we did visit the museum before heading back to the room for rest and reorganise bags ready for the train tomorrow.
Booked the corner table in the hotel restaurant for a lovely dinner, a wine and view of the harbour and cruise shipping leaving port. It was an early night as our cab was booked for 6am to make sure we were at the train in plenty of time, we were first there but it is good to know you aren’t running late.
The next morning was the beginning of an amazing two-day cross-country train ride. The was only a few people on the train which meant although we just had regular seats we had one row each and as much access to the dome car as we wanted. We had xxx looking after us for all food beverages and pointing out the places of interest or making sure we were in the dome car as the most beautiful sights were coming up. He had been doing this job for over 40 years and knew every no and cranny of the train and every single farmhouse or place of interest along the way. He made the trip so informative and interesting.
Not having to stop and wait too many times in the siding for the goods trains to pass(they have right of way and were often more than 200 cars long) Nearly always carrying timber, I have never seen so much timber either standing as trees or milled into dressed timber in my whole life.
After some 12 hours onboard we finally came to a stop at our overnight in Prince George (halfway) Arrived in the dark and leaving early am so no time to look around. As the next few days of the trip were on this train and then transferring to the 5 star Rocky Mountaineer complete with its heated seat and 5 star dining the rest of this post will be a photo pictorial of the sights and sounds of our journey. The next and final post for this trip will cover out two nights in Whistler and our few days on Victoria Island and Butchart Gardens.
Some details of our train journey
Our Stopover hotel
RAMADA HOTEL DOWNTOWN
444 George Street Prince George BC V2L 1R6 CANADA
PRINCE GEORGE (YXS)
ROCKY MOUNTAINEER HIGHLIGHTS
3 DAY RAIL JASPER TO VANCOUVER
RAINFOREST TO GOLDRUSH WESTBOUND JASPER TO VANCOUVER
SERVICE LEVEL GoldLeaf
Day 1: Jasper to Quesnel Oct 3
Travel onboard the Rocky Mountaineer to Quesnel. Highlights include the Rocky Mountain Trench, Mount Robson, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies, Yellowhead Pass, Moose Lake and the Fraser River. Overnight in Quesnel.
Day 2: Quesnel to Whistler Oct 4
Your journey continues south to Whistler. Highlights include sweeping views of the Fraser Canyon, the crossing of Deep Creek Bridge, one of the highest railway bridges in the world, and the shorelines of glacial‐fed Seton Lake and Anderson Lake. Overnight in Whistler.
Whistler Accommodation, Hotel Room
Day 3: Whistler to Vancouver Oct 5
This afternoon returned to Vancouver on the Rocky Mountaineer. Highlights include the Cheakamus Canyon, Mount Garibaldi, Howe Sound and the Coast Mountains. An afternoon snack will be served onboard. On arrival, you will be transferred to your accommodation in downtown Vancouver.
Our Hotel on arriving in Vancouver for our first 2 days and 1 night after returning to Vancouver on the rocky mountaineer – Would recommend this hotel for its location and service, the harbour views were spectacular room our room
PAN PACIFIC VANCOUVER HOTEL
300‐999 Canada Place Vancouver BC V6C3B5 Canada
DELUXE HARBOUR ROOM
Slideshow of just some of the highlights from our train journeys
Mum and I set off on our long-planned trip to see a small part of Canada in the fall. Our flight from Sydney on Air Canada Flight 34 was uneventful and quite comfortable l, lucky enough to have two seats at back to ourselves.
After arriving in Vancouver and clearing customs in record time we in back of a cab and head on the x mile ride to downtown Vancouver. Vancouver definitely hadn’t woken up yet and our first glimpse was of a bit of untidy shutdown city. It may just have been the streets we were on to avoid traffic as we never saw this side of Vancouver again.
It proved to be a very pretty green city that is easy to navigate. Out lodgings were the Pan Pacific Hotel at number Canada Place.
A lovely hotel which was home for next 3 nights. After a walk down to Old Town (checked out the steam clock, it nice area but very touristy) and had a coffee while we waited for our room to be ready.
After our coffee, we headed back to finish our wait in the comfortable lobby. The hotel had us checked as soon as they had a room free which was a couple hours early which we both appreciated and head straight to shower before settling in to watch the coming and going of the seaplanes on Vancouver harbour and relaxing.
With help of concierge, I booked the hop on hop off bus for day two and a tour to Grouse Mountain & Capilano Bridge Tour for the following day. Dinner was in-house at the restaurant which was very nice and it wasn’t long before we turned in for our first night on Canadian soil.
After breakfast at Tim Horton’s, we set out to board the Hop on
Hop off the bus and set off for Stanley Park. Designated a national historic site of Canada, Stanley Park is a magnificent green oasis in the midst of the heavily built urban landscape of Vancouver.
Explore the 400-hectare natural West Coast rainforest and enjoy scenic views of the water, mountains, sky, and majestic trees along Stanley Park’s famous Seawall. Discover kilometres of trails, beautiful beaches, local wildlife, great eats, natural, cultural and historical landmarks, along with many other adventures.
We had a full but enjoyable day which includes a small ferry ride across to Granville Market I mean a short ferry ride is a small ferry. The markets were well worth the visit and we lunched there and wandered around for an hour or so before heading up the hill to rejoin the Hop on Hop off bus on the other line to continue our journey. This took the rest of the day with one more hop off at the Chinese gardens in china town. Back to hotel for a rest before heading out cheesecake factory in the old town for dinner. We fell into to bed feeling like we had good look at Vancouver in one day.
The next morning we decided on a hotel breakfast before our full day tour to Capello Suspension Bridge, Grouse Mountain and the salmon hatchery. Wow so glad we did this tour. It was great to see a couple of bears up close which was a highlight.
The lumberjack show was great despite the very poor visibility due to heavy fog. It was a shame when coming down in the cable car we could actually see more than a few inches in front of us. The sights going down the very steep mountain would have been amazing. The suspension bridge was good to see and experience. It had cleared a bit by then and so views were pretty amazing. After an hour or so on the bus ( we didn’t mind needed to the rest) we arrived right back at the hotel.
Dinner was a few goodies and coffee from Tim Horton’s before packing the bags ready for our early taxi to the airport for our short flight to Prince Rupert.
Feeling refreshed somewhat or maybe a second wind, just enough to get me on the Eurostar where I could grab a couple hours sleep, John, Michael, and Fran were in the carriage behind me so it was welcome quiet time for me and I think I was asleep before they cleared the breakfast things away. Uneventful trip arriving although train hour or so late leaving due to issues with another train we arrived at St Pancreas at a bit before 2pm. John and I were booked at the Ibis near the station as our train to Walsall was leaving 6.30am the next morning.
Michael met us at the station and we set off on our train ride with one change at Birmingham. We were in Walsall a little after 10am and after a quick cab ride to collect our final hire car for this trip.
First stop was the Leather Museum which was interesting and John spent quite a while with the in-house saddler looking at various works in progress and techniques. Michael and I left them to it and found the coffee shop and caught up on emails and messages etc. After a lunch, at a non-descript pub in an ordinary area of Walsall, we headed to the Cedric tannery and saddlery suppliers. Michael and John spent a long time looking at different leather and checking our saddle trees. They pointed in the direction of another place where we arrive just before closing so after a chat and a quick look around they arranged to come back tomorrow, minus Michael who was needed back in London on the night train.
After delivering Michael back to the train John and I set off in search of a hotel for the night and found the Novotel in nearby Wolverhampton we were grateful to see our beds as soon as we had a quick steak in the hotel restaurant.
Next morning it was back to Sedgwick &Co where I spent a glorious couple hours dozing in the car and searching our a couple contacts for John while he did a complete tour of the tannery and came away with sample dye for his leather edges and contacts that will be good in the future. We hit the road again headed to Beam House Engineering hoping to make before they closed, which we did just. Michael and Colin were great and Colin showed John all over the operation and some of the old machinery they had around the place. The most important thing was Colin was able to link us up with a friend of his at the North Hampton University which runs a three-year Bachelor Course in leather tanning.
It was all arranged and Colin took lead us over (about 30 miles away) to the uni and made the introduction to another Michael. They then when through every machine and technique used to tan various leathers. John spent several hours poring over the equipment and gathering as much info from Michael as he could. The two fellows might be the best contacts of the whole trip.
We left around lunchtime and headed south in the hope that we could get back to our starting point in at Devon.
John spent time on the phone trying to confirm if the guy was going to be there. In the end, it looked doubtful so we pulled the plug and headed back to Heathrow to ditch the car. Check in somewhere for the night and then leaving our bags at airport head into London for couple days and one night. We arrived back and eventually ended up at the Hilton near terminal 5 after Hilton at Terminal 4 was fully booked. It was a taxi ride away but the hotel was good although I didn’t think the restaurant was all that good for the process they charge. Should have tried the in-house Chinese restaurant never mind, next time.
After a good night, we headed back to terminal 4 to leave our suitcases at the ‘Left Luggage’ storage at terminal 4 and boarded the Airport Express ( for convenience, the tube is a cheaper option and not that hard to work out. We arrived at Paddington found the first Red Hop on Hop Off bus and set about doing the loop to see the sights (included a river cruise on the Thames from Tower Bridge to Big Ben. We ended taxi back to the financial district to our hotel. Managed to book the Apex Hotel (5*) for about $160A a night it was so nice and we decided on room service for dinner. Tonight was the night I was getting up to see Irithea run at Gosford and win her second race this preparation. So at 2am, I am in the bathroom watching while someone back home (with FB live video of tv) for me (thanks, Jeff). Sarah and kids were only ones able to make the races, so the got to be in the winning photo which was lovely.
Up the next morning and that was that our last day spent getting to Harrods (after failed attempt to finish loop on the red bus, cycle London was on and many roads closed and traffic horrendous) we ended up bailing and taking the tube to Harrods then to Heathrow before checking in for the flight home. Lots of sleeping on the plane for me, can’t believe we managed to fit so much in such short time. After a quick stop in Dubai and negating the strongest security yet( due incident back home where groups tried to board and bring down Etihad flight from Sydney), they went through every single carry-on bag, we had very little which saw us through quickly but some people took ages to get through. Another reason for not taking much carryon.
Dinner before flying hoem
Last Drinks – We did it!!!
In summary words can not explain how great this trip was and I only hope it gives John the desire to travel more and take the girls back to see the places he has seen( of course not at breakneck speed like we did it) I will never forget how lucky I have been to experience this trip and it will sit very high on the best ever trip list. Phew finished this a couple weeks before the Candid trip. I have said it before and will say it again. Must write as I go it hard to catch up and remember everything. Although this exercise has been good to recall and relive the trip again…
Picture this – a couple of little kids from Back of Bourke as adults standing on the balcony of the US Embassy with everyone from the Cannondale Drapac Cycling looking over the Champs Elysee watching the conclusion of the 2017 Tour d France. No, I can’t believe it either – still pinching myself as to what an amazing opportunity this has been. Thank you, Michael and Fran, for firstly giving John a reason to travel (hope he has the bug now it’s a big world out there) and allowing me to tag along with John.
Now back to day one Paris after a good breakfast at the hotel, we took a taxi to the first meeting point. Twenty minutes later we were meeting up with Michel Fran and Nikki in from to of the Hermes saddlery. Breathtaking is the only word I can use to describe the whole experience. Maybe one of the most exclusive places I have ever visited, their horse gear was amazing but I would be too frightened to use on a horse my luck it would pull back or rear over on the saddle and break the tree. I will go back one day so I can just take it all in more slowly next time. It would take a small village of people to staff the place never seen so many attendances in a place of retail. Did I mention our bags were checked on the way in before they open the doors to let us in?
After Hermes, it was off to ‘the best’ cake shop in Paris with Michael taking the lead and my sweet tart was decorated with the tiniest wild strawberries I have ever seen. They were so yummy even for me who doesn’t eat much sweet food. Finished our sampling our cakes and tarts we were off again heading for the Brute Saddlery the highlight for me was the man who just doubled parked ‘the merc’ to duck in (resplendent in his joddies and boots ) to do a spot shopping on the way to ride out. Despite the honking of the horns while traffic negotiated around his car all while he made his purchases and headed off on his merry way. The arrogance of it was priceless or maybe he thought they had valet parking and didn’t wait for valet lol.
After leaving Michael and Fran (having walked all over Paris) John and I decided to get the shopping out of the way, John wants to go back to the first shop we saw that morning to make his purchases for the girls. What’s the rule, Grandma? If you see like then buy it now, because we won’t be coming back. We did go back and he was really happy with his purchases, the last of which he made while I sat in a cafe sipping coffee and resting up. I did a Disney store run for Sarah and purchase Pluto for Ollie to replace the one that was left at the airport in LA earlier this year. He little face lit up when it arrived home. I purchased my pandora Eiffel Tower to add to my collection and that was shopping done for me.
We decided after a rest to head around the square and look for some dinner which we found can’t remember what I had but it was okay from memory. After dinner we decided to cab it over and take a look at the Eiffel tower at night, this area has changed a bit now you go through security to stand underneath and purchase tickets to go up. This is a change for the better as even if you don’t plan to go up you are not badgered by the street select rattling their junk souvenirs and trying to get you to buy tacky little Eiffel towers. Allows more time to wander around and take in the enormity of the tower. We didn’t go up but decided to walk back towards the hotel before cabbing it home the last bit. We collapsed into bed ready to meet the team tomorrow for the big day.
After breakfast, we set off to meet the others at Criterion Hotel and take the bus out to the start of the final stage. The binding of the most amazing sporting day ever for me, one I will never forget. I can’t thank Michael, the Cannondale Drapac team and especially Yas for looking after us so well. On the bus we quickly introduced ourselves to everyone, people from all around the world connect with Michael and the team.
It took about 40-50 minutes to get to the village Montgeron. Montgeron is a commune in the southeastern suburbs of Paris, France. It is located 18.5 km (11.5 mi) from the center of Paris.
It was a sight to behold there were people, buses and cars with bikes on top everywhere. It is such amazing logistical nightmare that seems to just work day after day for 21 days every year. We got to witness all the sponsors parade where they throw samples to the crowd. I thought they were going round and round but it was just one lot but went on forever. After the sponsor parade, we headed to the team bus and met the team and watched them get ready to ride the final leg. The all have different ways preparing some listening to music come out with the crowd sign autographs other checking their bikes. Can’t believe were we so close, John and Taylor Phinney (who must be 6’4”) shared a few laughs over their difference in their heights.
We boarded the bus to try and get back as close to US embassy as we could before abating the bus, unfortunately, it was not close at all as Paris had been transformed after we left and all roads were closed. So it was off the bus to walk many miles from one side of the River Sene down past the Louvre and back up the other side to the embassy, we were exhausted and very thirsty by the time we got there although at on stage John ducked off and purchased welcome water for those in our walking group. For a while, it looked like we wouldn’t make it in time to see the finish but we just made in time for them to come into town and down the Champs-Élysées the first of 20 laps around the Arc De Triomphe. What a sight!!
Can’t even begin to describe what this was like on the balcony of the US Embassy overlooking the Champs Elyse as the riders did their stuff and finish of 21 days of racing.
The celebration began in earnest when the Cannondale Drapac rider Rigoberto (Rigo) Urán crossed the line in 2nd place (their best ever finish top 10 was the goal. The champagne was flowing until late into the night. The team riders all arrived back to rousing reception and settled into the celebrations with much relief that it was all over for another year. It was almost 11pm when I called it a night and walked the couple black back to the hotel, leaving the door unlocked for John who rolled in couple hours later. We had to be on the train to England earliest the next morning, so made sure I was packed before collapsing into bed for our final night in Paris. Still, can’t believe how fortunate I have been to have this opportunity it will go down as the biggest world sporting event I have ever attended by far.