“Sometimes the road less traveled is less traveled for a reason.” ~ Jerry Seinfeld
As we head off on our summer vacation, we take the time to celebrate a little ‘L’ lovliness. It’s been a summer so far dotted with landscapes of up and downs and everything in between. From friends and loved ones fighting illness, some losing the battle, others getting on top of things, to the emotional summer festivals in Tohoku, and our own adventurous exploits with wedding bells, contracts and UNESCO escapades, 2011 is a summer to remember and very much a time to reflect. AND it’s always time to grab a cocktail or three. Today’s L cocktails… Lover’s Kiss and a little Lemon Daiquiri Punch. DeLish.
UK. The grand resonance of its very name suggests history and might. It’s a city that exhilarates, intimidates and stimulates in equal measure. A grubby Monopoly board studded with stellar sights. Between HRH and Boy George, Bow Bells and Big Ben, the Millennium Dome and the 2012 Olympics (just under a year away now…) – it all hangs together. Visiting while Matt was still living there was great. While he showed us the pubs and restaurants of the moment, we had Pili to take us on a tour of the more traditional areas of London. But when it comes to sightseeing, nothing compares to the big, red, open-aired double-decker bus! Memories: Matt’s apartment, Dee’s birthday dinner, the Tower bridge, the pubs, Baker Street, Piccadilly Circus, West End, the changing of the Guard, Trafalgar Square, Marble Arch, St Paul’s Cathedral, Buckingham Palace, Shakespeare’s Globe, Tower of London, the London Eye, Fleet Street, Downing Street, the Great Fire monument, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, not having enough time to see all on offer. Back soon. We promise…
Banff NP, Canada. Wander to the lake, with bubbling streams of aqua promising something special. It was. Wow! We took the Lakeshore hike, 4 kms round trip and saw the Lake from various vantage points. Then up before the birds to take in a highlight of our trip – sunrise over Lake Louise. The sun crept up on the mountain and bounced on the rim of peaks surrounding Louise. An intense fire red, mixed with fushia, reacting brilliantly with the snow. The wind stopped completely. There was a semi-circle of fire in the sky, forming a perfect ring in the water. It took our breath away, we couldn’t do anything but stare. Head up to Moraine Lake, famous for its’ superbly aqua-blue hue. Even more beautiful than Lake Louise. The drive to Moraine took us through some of the most rugged scenery so far in the Rockies. This area is definitely one of our favourites of all the places we’ve been. Memories: chipmunks, the wind, ripples, reflections, a crazy horn-blowing Canadian man, the amount of people there in the mid-afternoon, the best Japanese ‘Bonsai’ ever, one of the most spectacular sunrises of our life.
Nevada, USA. I can’t summarize this in a paragraph. I just can’t. One-armed bandits, beautiful desert and unlimited glitz. It’s crowds of people in polyester pantsuits, big hair and gold chains, staring at neon signs and spinning wheels like deer hypnotised by headlights. As often as we saw it on TV or in a movie, there is nothing that prepared us for that first sight of Las Vegas. The skyline is hyperreality, a mélange of the Statue of Liberty, a giant lion, a pyramid, and a Sphinx, and preternaturally glittering buildings. At night, it’s so bright we suffer from a sensory overload. And that’s without setting foot inside a casino, where the shouts from the craps tables, the crash of coins from the slots, and the general roar combine into the greatest adrenaline rush of your life. In other cities, hotels are built near the major attractions. Here, the hotels are the major attractions. Once you get to Vegas, you’ll want to come back again, if only to make sure you didn’t dream it all. We’ve had to return 7 times now – and we’re still not sure if it’s all a dream. It’s the casinos, the mountains of shrimp at the buffets, the wedding chapels, Megabucks slots, it’s Frank and Dino and Sammy, it’s Elvis – the Fat Years, it’s volcanoes and white tigers and cocktail waitresses dressed in Roman togas. It’s cheesy and sleazy and artificial and completely unique. It’s wonderful. It’s awful. It’s wonderfully awful and awfully wonderful. This is not a cultural vacation. Memories: 7 visits worth of insane adventures, crashing Star Trek conventions and limo rides up and down the strip.
Tasmania, Australia. Tasmania’s second-largest city is Australia’s third oldest, after Sydney and Hobart. Situated at the head of the Tamar River and surrounded by delightful undulating farmland, Launceston is a pleasant city crammed with elegant Victorian and Georgian architecture and plenty of remnants of convict days. Launceston (pop. 104,000) is the gateway to the wineries of the Tamar Valley, the highlands and alpine lakes of the north, and the stunning beaches to the east. Plus, Jude and Dave live here (almost). And Dee grew up here. Well, not in the big city per say. But just up the road, on the way south to Hobart in Perth. Yes, Tasmania does have a Perth. And it was first. Way before that other one. And it is indeed worthy of a post all of it’s own. Memories: the Gorge, the peacocks in the park, new mall for us, Chicken Feed, York Mansions, Gloria Jeans, Myer, the sales, the dining experiences, the Casino, enjoying the relaxing country town feel.
LAMINGTON NATIONAL PARK
Queensland, Australia. The park is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Gondwana Rainforests of Australia and added to the Australian National Heritage List in 2007. Subtropical rainforest, 2,000-year-old moss-covered Antarctic beech trees, giant strangler figs, and misty mountain air characterize Lamington’s high, narrow ridges and plunging valleys. It’s great stretches of dense rainforest make it one of the most important subtropical parks in southeast Queensland, and one of the loveliest. We photographed the rosellas, bowerbirds, and lorikeets. Saw plenty of pademelons too. The park comes alive with owls, possums, and sugar-gliders at night. Totally fascinated by the park’s Antarctic beech trees, which begin to appear above the 1,000m line. Like something from a medieval fairy tale, these mossy monarchs of the forest stand 20m tall and measure up to 8m in girth. They are survivors of a time when Australia and Antarctica belonged to the supercontinent Gondwana. Memories: a night at Binna Burra, doing the blind sensory hike, amazing nature, totally fun hanging out and enjoying time with Trace’s brother Matt, no tv, clifftop portraits, not too many hiking meltdowns.
Tibet. ‘Shangri La’, ‘the Rooftop of the World’ – locked away in its Himalayan fortress, Tibet has long exercised a siren’s hold on the imagination of the West. Don’t want to say too much about Lhasa just now as we have another Tibetan phtographic expedition in the works for later this year. The last itme we were here, we took rolls and rolls of film, had camera malfunctions in the cold, and still haven’t catologued all those slides. But a digital journey is being planned and we just know you’ll get thoroughly engrossed in all those photos. Tibetans are used to hardship, and despite the disastrous Chinese occupation, they have managed to keep their culture and humour alive. The effects of martial law, declared in March 1989, are still felt in Lhasa, particularly in the nearby Geluk monasteries of Drepung and Sera. All Tibetan Buddhists aim to visit Lhasa at least once in their lives, drawn by the sacred Jokhang Temple (another UNESCO World Heritage site), which forms the heart of the Tibetan quarter. From 8am, pilgrims line up to enter the Jokhang. Then the rooms are unlocked, allowing pilgrims to rub their foreheads furiously against the sacred images. We extended out stay in Lhasa, not wanting our visit to this fascinating city to end (and also recovering from a touch of food poisoning…). Memories: the Potala Palace, prayer wheels, monks, yak, altitude sickness, yak burgers, a spiritual awakening, a promise to each other on the roof of the world.
Have a lovely, laid-back and preferably law-abiding weekend.