Abilene to Los Angeles

usa-flight-2017-boys.pngDuration 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.

Beautiful West Texas Sunset
Headed West

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. Screen Shot 2018-07-18 at 11.11.53 am.png

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 AveKingman. 

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.

13th December Flew home on QF12 from LAX

Two of the most beautiful parts of the world!

P1040720.jpgWhistler  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.

Last drinks – Pimms

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…

So many more photos – no time to share them

A glimpse of the highlights..




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Our Canadian round trip by train

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
444 George Street Prince George BC V2L 1R6 CANADA


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
300‐999 Canada Place Vancouver BC V6C3B5 Canada

Slideshow of just some of the highlights from our train journeys


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Glimpse of Canada by train

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.



and the first purchases of the trip









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.

Girl in a wetsuit

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.

All aboard and back to England

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 IMG_7684night 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.


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…