Our Quick Trip to San Francisco

Yes, it has been a while! But back in February, well before Madison came along, we managed to do a little long weekend down in San Fran to meet up with Esh’s cousin Kurt and his new wife Kellie.

Here are a few pics from the trip!

First stop was a night at the basketball at Oracle Arena to watch the Golden State Warriors vs. Chicago Bulls. The tickets cost a bomb because (a) basketball is expensive here and (b) we bought them at the last minute, but the seats were awesome and the game was lots of fun.

The weather wasn’t the best on a couple of days, so naturally we ended up doing indoor stuff – including MOMA (Museum of Modern Art) and a local brewery!

Strolling about is also a must in San Fran. We didn’t go crazy (I was still 5 months’ preggers) but did a few walks here and there.

Here are a few of the iconic houses of San Fran …

… plus the wharf (very touristy) and Alcatraz in the distance (no we didn’t get there).

Chinatown was good too, will have to dine out there a little more next time.

And of course, there’s the Golden Gate Bridge, with cloud! Looks pretty regal from afar.

 

It was a good little getaway, and looks like we’ll need to go back sometime soon to apply for Madison’s Aussie Passport (what a drag …! ;)).

PS. Here’s gorgeous Mt. Rainier, coming into Seattle on the way home!

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A Long Seattle Winter …

It is FINALLY starting to warm up a bit in Seattle. Though when I say, “warm,” I mean it’s roughly 10*C instead of 5*C.

It feels like it’s been freezing and rainy forever, and the media reported a while back that we have had only 3 sunny days since October (if you can believe that).

In tribute to the receding coldness I thought I’d share some pics from this past winter season. Enjoy!

The outskirts of Mt Rainier National Park in early December:

Snow on our roof and street from the night it snowed it in Seattle (December 8th-9th) …

We took a walk to the Space Needle as well the next morning.

More snow on February 6th! Moby had a blast!

Let’s just say that summer better last a bloody long time this year!

 

Iceland, Land of Awesome Quaintness

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Finally, the Iceland post! It’s taken a while but it’s finally here. Back in August, we met up with our good pals Chris and Ana in none other than Reykjavik, Iceland. It’s about a 7hr flight from Seattle. What were we expecting? Other than lots of ice?

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Reykjavik in itself is kind of like a country town on steroids. I imagined more of a big city, but it’s actually tiny. It has a quaint, old-school quirkiness to it and is spread over about 5 main streets. It’s filled with restaurants serving amazing food, and good handful of bars and pubs and nightclubs (though I think the term ‘nightclub’ is used pretty loosely).

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Here’s a cool little pub we found after (a) not sleeping on the night flight (b) hiring a car, driving the hour into the city, then waiting another 2 hours for our hotel room (c) trying to find a place to eat and deciding to just drink beer instead. We came back here a few times.

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The first night we arrived was also the night of the Reykjavik Festival. Which we thought would involved all sorts of cultural stuff, but was more just like a music festival with various stages set up around the streets. Crowds everywhere! And fireworks at the end of the night.

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One of the first stops with Chris and Ana was the infamous Big Lebowski Bar. Where, of course, White Russians were in order.

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On our second day there, Chris and Ana headed out on a whale tour and we hurried off to partake in the Silfra Snorkelling Tour – where you get to snorkel in the rift between two tectonic plates. The water is freezing cold, but it was cool to see the land dropping away into darkness underwater – and the seaweed and moss was nothing short of beautiful. Sadly, no photos.

Outside of Reykjavik, Iceland is a land of vast flatness. Very rural. The lava fields are huge and rocky, and there are lone mountains rising up everywhere. World of trolls indeed.

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Our first day trip consisted of a lot of waterfalls. This one (Seljalandsfoss) actually had a small cave behind it, so that you can walk under/behind it … pretty cool.

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This one (Skógafoss) flows from the Skoga River over a huge cliff and drops about 60m. You can see it from the bottom and also walk, via that little path on the right side of the photo, to the top. It was a big hike, but after Esh made us walk up the Eiffel Tower (and back down) that time in Paris, I guess there’s no room to complain.

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In the afternoon, we made it down to the town of Vik, and to Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach, which sports those famous basalt rock columns (made by mother nature). Despite assumptions, they were actually quite huge. The beach itself was insanely cold and windy, but cool to see!

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We also came across this funny little house, where trolls once apparently lived.

Our second road trip was mostly focused around the Geyers and Gullfoss Falls on the famed Golden Circle!

Here are the Geyers (Geysir and Strokker), spurting forth with boiling water:

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And the notorious Gullfoss Falls, on the Hvítá River, where the water flows down in ‘steps’ and then drops into the perpendicular crevice below … It’s very loud and pretty spectacular.

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Here’s a quick video:

Two nice little surprises on this drive were 1) the Secret Lagoon. Not so much a secret, but more just a remote little hot spring pool set in the countryside with deliciously hot water. It was basically like a giant bathtub in nature!

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And 2) this little Tomato Farm, where we stopped for lunch after the swim. It’s family owned, and they grow their own tomatoes in a greenhouse, and use them to create awesome things like bloody marys, pasta sauce and tomato soup. The service was lovely and welcoming and the food was brilliant.

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Lastly, we made it to Kerid Crater, a volcanic crater lake. Apparently it’s around 3,000 years old (which is pretty young compared to other local craters), it was caused by a collapsed volcano and the water in it is on par with the water table.

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On our second last day we treated ourselves to an outing at the glorious Blue Lagoon. A huge complex of hot spring pools, free mud masks made from lava and a swim-up bar. It was well worth the hot soak and it wasn’t overly crowded.

We didn’t have our phones inside so there aren’t any photos, but here are some pics by the extended lagoon outside the front entrance to give you an idea of what it’s like. Or you can go to: http://www.bluelagoon.com/gallery/

As per usual, one of the biggest highlights of Iceland was the food. Every restaurant is pretty much stunning and the food is top-class. It’s a lot of fish and meat. We ate everything from goose pate (made the nice way), puffin, minke whale (I know, I know, but apparently it’s another common delicacy), and more. We asked for horse, but they didn’t have it (apparently it’s standard there, because they cull the horses every year to make room for the new ones).

Fish n’ chips in Iceland is meant to be a stand out as well, and everywhere we at it was pretty good. We didn’t get to try the traditional rotten shark, but we did go for this fish skin lemonade, which was surprisingly nice.

A few other cool and quirky things that stood out…

The Chuck Norris bar in the heart of Reykjavik:

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This Fish n Chip shop down south, which “probably” had the best fish n chips… Probably. Actually the fish was pretty amazing.

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This sign telling people not to throw coins into the geyers:

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The Icelandic attitude towards beer:

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Would we go back to Iceland again? Yes! But probably in the winter when you get to do things like see more glaciers and descend down into ice caves. Until then, really missing that hot spring.

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A Few Days in Maui, Hawaii

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I have to admit, I’m pretty depressed to no longer be in Maui! It was a fun-filled trip packed with awesome sights, luxurious activities and good times with Mark & Shaina. Other than seeing these two crazy cats, here are the main highlights, in no particular order, from our holiday:

Highlight #1. First Class (on the way)

Nothing beats a free upgrade! Even though it was just a domestic flight for us, were lucky enough to get First Class. With (genuinely) friendly flight attendants, big cushy seats. And Mai Tais.

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And yes, that is Thornton Wilder’s The Bridge of San Luis Rey. If you’ve never read it I highly recommend doing so (it won the Pulitzer in 1928).

Highlight #2. Swimming with Green Sea Turtles

They are everywhere in Hawaii and they are HUGE! These local green sea turtles are pretty amazing to see up close, and their shells are as big as your arm or longer. They come in close to shore to forage for food on the rocks and they’re not afraid of people. Every five minutes or so they stick their heads above water for air. The first time, I only managed to get few pics of it’s back.

You’re not supposed to touch them, but they don’t seem to care if you stand close and gawk (though one stupid woman did touch one so she could take a photo, and while doing so got viciously dumped by a wave … = karma or “mother nature wins”).

Highlight #3. The Road Past Hana

Unfortunately, the Road to Hana (from the airport to Hana along the coast) was a bit of a let down and somewhat of a tourist trap. We drove it ourselves. The waterfalls weren’t really happening, the Cave of Waianapanapa took all of 2 minutes to get to and look at, the smoked BBQ food we wanted to get at the shop stop wasn’t happening, and the Seven Sacred Pools were closed for swimming!

But – there was redemption. The drive that continued on after Hana/the Sacred Pools was amazing (most tours turn around at this point, I’m guessing). It runs along the southern coast of the island, past the Haleakala volcano. Technically, you’re not covered if you take a hire car along this (dirt) road, but it was well worth it. The views and scenery were spectacular and there was barely another soul around!

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Highlight #4. Snorkelling  

We went snorkelling in two bays here – Honolua Bay and Kapalua Bay.

Honolua Bay was nice but murky near the shore, and further out there wasn’t a huge amount of coral/fish about. The biggest highlight here was probably encountering a GIGANTIC school of fish pretty far out in the bay … at first I thought I was approaching the rock wall, and then I realised it was actually a huge school! Probably the size of a small room. It was fun to swim and dive at them and watch them dart away. Never seen anything like it!

Other than that, Kapalua was definitely the better of the two for snorkelling (though we went earlier in the morning) and managed to see a good deal of tropical fish (though nothing compared to what you see on the Fijian islands). We also saw a cuttlefish, a few cornetfish (very cool), lots of butterfly fish, moorish idols and my fave, triggerfish.

(Check out this link to see what these fish all look like).

At certain points the water was quite shallow, so the reef was just an arm’s reach away and the fish were basically right in your face! Need to get an underwater camera for next time.

This is a photo of Napili Bay (I think) but it gives you an idea of how they all look.

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Highlight #5. The Jeep Wrangler

Spat: “What kind of car do you want to book for Maui?”

Esh: “Just the smallest, cheapest car is fine.”

Spat: “Okay, I booked a Ford Fiesta to save some money.”

5 days later … we are driving off in a fricken Wrangler. Thanks to a cheap upgrade offer at the rental desk and Esh basically wetting his pants with excitement!! It was a chunky but fun car and despite the rain we still took the windows off!

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Highlight #6. Hawaiian Food 

It’s hard to go wrong in Hawaii unless you’re eating at some real touristy place. It’s kind of a blend of Polynesian and Asian food, so lots of stuff with meat and rice. Here’s the first meal we ate – Esh had the must-try Loco Moco, and I had real Mongolian Beef (rah! pretty much impossible to find in Seattle) with Pork Lau Lau (pork in leaf). Yummo

On our last night we also booked ourselves in for a luau at the Feast of Lele, which cost a bomb but included something like 5 polynesian courses (each relating to Hawaii, NZ, Tahiti and Samoa), all-inclusive drinks and cocktails (!!) and of course, music, dancing and info about each culture.

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The food was delish on on the more surprising side, we didn’t end up feeling as full as we thought we would be. Num num num.

Other foodie highlights include fresh fruit from the markets, and the food at the Fish Market cafe across the road from our hotel.

Highlight #7. Sunsets Over the Water

One per day! We had a great view from the back of our hotel. Here’s a video loop that will run through automatically:

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Highlight #8. Our Hotel (Paki Maui)

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Our hotel ended up being a winner (despite the rooms being a bit of a dump), thanks to the beach and water right out the back. Once you get past the rocky shore it’s fine, and we saw another huge turtle here! Drinking a few beers and swimming in the afternoons until sunset became a regular way to end the day.

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Other Honourable Mentions …

This bar in town with amazing views owned by Mick Fleetwood from Fleetwood Mac. Beautiful, but expensive.

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This guitarist who was part of the band at the Feast for Lele. Too many cocktails, boys, perhaps?

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This Bubba Gump restaurant from Forrest Gump, which I can’t actually remember but I’m sure is significant.

These views!

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And awesome friends! (Shaina, I stole some of these from you hehehe)

Til next time, Maui! I suspect I will need my tan back soon.

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Living It Up in Cabo San Lucas

The US doesn’t exactly get a lot of public holidays and long weekends, so this July 4th we took advantage of the free day off and headed to Cabo!

Cabo San Lucas sits right down at the bottom of the Baja Peninsula, Mexico. It’s about a 5-hour flight from Seattle, with a stopover along the way.

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After stuffing around at the airport, we finally made it onto the hotel shuttle with a beer in hand.

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We stayed at the Marina Fiesta, which was in a great location and easy walking distance to everything. This was our semi-view of the pool.

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We discovered a lot of cool little bars and eateries in the ‘back streets’ of Cabo, away from the tourist dock/strip. The food was amazing and best of all, it was cheap! Like $2 coronas and $3 tacos.

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One highlight was this awesome rock band, who basically shack up in an outdoor bar every night (the Jungle Bar, I think) and play cool tunes. They were playing War Pigs (Black Sabbath) when we first got there! \m/

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Another one of our faves was also this tiny tequila bar called Slim Elbows. It basically seated four people and was covered, like a few other bars in the area, in American dollar bills. Naturally, beers, (real) tequila and sticking a $1 bill up with our names on it was the go 🙂 It was great to chat to the barmaids as well, who were lovely Mexican locals.

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Of course, the biggest perk of the whole trip (especially having come from cold and wet Seattle) was the hot weather and the BEACH! We spent a lot of time here, mostly at the end where the locals hang out.

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That tiny figure in the water there is Eshy!

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Further down the beach there’s also the tourist spot and a few bars. The food was good but expensive! Nice views though. Here’s Esh waiting for some nachos:

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On our last day, we did (as expected) a boat tour out to the famous El Arco. The tour takes you out of the bay and around to the Pacific Ocean side of the peninsula, which is beautiful but not swimmable.

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What they call Coyote Rock:

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Lover’s Beach – on the other side (the Pacific side) is Divorce Beach. Apparently called so because if you swim there you’ll get swept away.

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Looking back towards the mainland:

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A few more street shots to give you an idea of what it looks like there.

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The region outside the city seems like a vast desert wasteland… lots of bush, scrub and cacti!

It was a fantastic little long weekend, and we were thrilled to get some sun, get a tan (well, I did) and hit the beach like old times.

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Next time, I think we’ll head over to the other side of Mexico, to the coast of Yucatan, and maybe even head down to Belize!

 

From Seattle to the Olympic Peninsula

We don’t get a lot of public holidays here in the states, so when one does come around, you have to make the most of it.

This year’s Memorial Day saw us loading up the car, Moby and all, and heading across to western Washington, to the Olympic Peninsula.

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The Peninsula is basically a big chunk of land on the western border of Washington state, with its coastline overlooking the Pacific Ocean, thus:

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Our drive took us onto the local Seattle ferry, where we crossed the water to Bainbridge Island, drove up it and then across the Hood Canal Bridge.

The day was sunny and warm (though cold out on the water), making for some great pics of Seattle, the Sound and Mt. Rainier from the ferry.

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On the drive, we stopped at 3 places along the way. First, Port Angeles, a quaint little town holding a small market day. We both ate (yet again) a giant pluto pop a.k.a corn dog. The coolest thing about this town is that across the water, you can actually see Canada.

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Next, we moved on to Forks, where there’s not much going on. Apparently this is the place where Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series is set (and you can even do a Twilight tour here). I think the movies were filmed around here, too. So interesting I didn’t even take a photo.

We also stopped off for some quick viewing of Crescent Lake, a lake that was formed by a glacier during the last Ice Age.

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Finally, we ended up at a grey-sand beach called Rialto, which was very pretty but super cold and windy (and we’d stupidly forgotten to bring jackets). It was, however, refreshing to see the actual ocean!

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Moby also had a ball running around.

Unfortunately we didn’t get into the actual Olympic Mountains either, but there’s always next time. Maybe in winter, when the mountains are snowcapped.

Most unexpected thing about the Peninsula 1: Apparently it’s the prime place to stock up on fireworks! We saw a tonne of roadside fireworks stalls. How 80s.

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Most unexpected thing about the Peninsula 2: It seems to be crowded with Republicans?! We saw a heck of a lot of “Donald Trump – Let’s Make America Great Again” signs out the front of people’s houses and shops. America is likely doomed.

The highlight of the trip (after being delayed for hours on the way back due a crash on the bridge) was the ferry ride on the way home at sunset. Mind you this is around 10pm at night – love these long summer days!

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Approaching the city … You can see the tiny Space Needle near the middle. With views like this, it’s no wonder we’re so in love with Seattle!

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Stay tuned for our next post on our upcoming trip to Mexico!

To the Bridge at Deception Pass

It’s an entire state park, but Deception Pass – at least in the short time we spent visiting it – is also a tiny straight separating Whidbey and Fidalgo Islands in Seattle / Washington.

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It’s known for it’s famed bridge (the Deception Pass Bridge) and it’s gorgeous views, and so we took a quick day trip out here with Moby the other week.

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Some shots of the views below… You can see the small beach at the water’s edge, though we didn’t make it down there.

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Kayakers!

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Moby liked the view too!

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We took a short ‘hike’ underneath the bridge, which was fun. It was pretty hot though and at the time Moby had a sore leg, so we didn’t get too far.

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According to this plaque the Pass was named by Captain George Vancouver (the same guy Vancouver is named after) who had originally thought Whidbey Island was a peninsula.

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From the State Parks website:

“The name Deception Pass derived from Captain Vancouver’s realization that what he had mistaken for a peninsula was actually an island. He named that island Whidbey in honor of his assistant, Joseph Whidbey, who was at his side when Vancouver realized the mistake. The captain named the inlet at which he was anchored Deception Pass to commemorate the error.”

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All in all, it was nice to visit another glorious part of Washington state – if only for a short stop. Thank god for nice spring days. Maybe next time it’s hot we’ll stop off proper and go for a (freezing cold) swim! Til next time.