Retired athlete but not retired runner.

I am now in my mid fifties and still love keeping fit.

 

 

That’s me far right, getting in the zone

before a highland games sprint.

 

 

Pipped at the post by some young guns ūüôĀ

 

Back in the day, I was a keen sprinter and got to a reasonable level. Like most sprinters I never really enjoyed ‘jogging’ but would still plod the streets during my winter training as I knew it would benefit my endurance and ultimately enhance my training regime.

When I retired from sprinting, I started jogging and even though I was able to run further and quicker than I had in my sprinting days, I still didn’t enjoy it.

This dysfunctional relationship with jogging carried on for some years. Luckily my training regime didn’t just involve jogging.¬† I also enjoyed weight training,¬† circuits & Metafit, cycling (road, mountain & track),¬† badminton, volleyball and walking. In fact cycling had become a perfect athletics alternative for me. (until a recent injury but that’s for another day) So jogging was way down my list of activities and could get excluded for weeks.

              That has now all changed. I now jog regularly and love it!

What caused my change in mindset?

Well I’m a mental health nurse and decided to analyse myself. (My wife would probably say that I need to do this more often!)

What I discovered isn’t unique to me, I’m sure of that and this isn’t a pitch but maybe you can relate to it too.

 

A typical run would involve a chosen route, depending on the distance, required pace and intensity that I had programmed into my training regime. I would time myself to see if I was improving or had reached a plateau.

As a result of my well meaning training approach, I would regularly finish with a feeling of disappointment or extremely out of breath as I pushed for a new PB. Pushing myself was easy, it’s both in my nature and ingrained into me from years of tough sprint training and indeed I enjoy this pain but these feeling of disappointment would lead to over analysing my training. Was I eating at the correct time? Did I go out too fast at the start? Did I go out too slow? etc.

 

Analysis of my personality and how it was being negatively affected by this style of jogging made me realise I had to change my approach to jogging in future.

 

So what has changed?

 

  • I have stopped timing myself.
  • I no longer have a set route. Preferring to choose my route ‘on the run’. This creates a spontaneous ‘adventurous’ element to my runs. Obviously aware of my safety and not getting lost. Although there has been occasions where my ad hoc route has resulted in discovering my intended route is closed, resulting in a new route but again this just adds to my enjoyment.
  • My preparation has became so flexible. I can change the time of my run depending on how I am feeling. No more worries about my upcoming run. Will I beat that PB? Will I have time to get the miles in? All of a sudden I don’t care!
  • This new freedom and enjoyment has resulted in me running regularly and although I don’t time myself, I know these runs are roughly between 20 – 60 minutes.
  • I have also discovered that I am just as tired at the end. That unexpected hill, that sudden change of pace or those extra miles have actually ensured I don’t take it too easy. Which as I have already indicated isn’t in my nature.
  • So what HAS changed? – Jogging / running has become fun without any loss of effort.

 

I am well aware that this won’t be for everyone. Some people need structure and clear goals. I struggled with park runs and set routes

 

After some self analysis and years of strict training regimes,  running is now a pleasant experience for me.

 

Tom (retired athlete but not retired runner)

 

 

Loch Trool circular walk

We decided to take a road trip in Dora the Explorer, our Autosleeper Duetto Camper, to Dumfries and Galloway, South west Scotland. This region has the potential to be our favourite part of Scotland. There’s so much to explore and offers everything that Aileen and me enjoy – mountain biking, amazing beaches, hills to walk, Lochs to discover, castles, music festivals, wild camping and world famous dark sky’s (perfect for stargazing).On this occasion it was Lochs to discover.

 

 

Loch Trool is perfect if you are looking for a reasonably short walk, just over a  5.5 miles loop.

 

 

We started off at the car park next to a huge carved rock dedication to Robert the Bruce, king of Scots, who defeated an English battalion using local rocks as an ambush.

 

You will initially feel that you are walking away from the loch but it soon loops back and you will be met with spectacular views down the loch.

This path is also part of the southern upland way.

The walk took us about 1hr 55m, which was a fair pace but this was mainly due to the constant menacing presence of midges! The minute we stopped moving, they were on us. So it was best to keep up a fast pace.

All in all. We would thoroughly recommend this historic and stunning walk.

 

 

 

 

Our trip to the Isles Islay & Jura, Scotland

November 2016

Our trip to the islands of Islay and Jura was going to be special enough but just to add some extra specialness, we were also going to stop off at Aileen’s favourite town – Inveraray and visit its famous Inveraray jail. Then on to an overnight stay at Stonefield Castle before catching the ferry to Islay the next morning. Our trip included 3 overnight stays – Stonefield castle, Islay hotel and Jura hotel. Hopefully packing in as much as possible.

Inveraray is situated on the A83 in Argyll and Bute, Scotland. It is on the western shore of Loch Fyne and has a long history, which has helped define it’s architecture and hospitable way of life. I can well understand why Aileen enjoys visiting this special wee town. When entering the town from the east, you will go over a humped back bridge and if you look to your right, you will be met with a sight to behold. Inveraray Castle with its unusual green colour and gothic style.

On this particular visit, though, we decided to visit Inveraray Jail. We choose the self guided tour, complete with headphones, allowing us to wonder around a building that oozed history, tragic stories and fascinating facts.  We would thoroughly recommend a visit to this thought provoking place.

After a quick lunch, we were on our way again. Staying on the A83, we finally arrived at our accommodation for the night, Stonefield Castle . ¬†It’s a bit pricey, although there are Groupon deals available at times but it’s worth it if you are looking stay in a castle for the night. It’s well maintained grounds are perfect for a stroll and the views across the Mull of Kintyre Peninsula¬† ¬†are very special. Again, this would be an ‘On the Way’ recommendation.

The next morning, after a hearty breakfast, we set off for the fishing village of Tarbert where we would catch the ferry to Islay. Arriving early, we decided to climb a nearby hill and say hello to the locals!

This would be our first trip to Islay and the tight schedule created a bit of a whistle stop tour of the Island. So once we had checked into the Islay hotel, we set off in the car for a quickish look around.

I don’t know if it’s because Aileen and I have been spoilt by Scottish scenery over the years but personally, I was underwhelmed. Don’t get me wrong, It’s a beautiful Island and I feel I am doing it an injustice considering we only stayed for one night but I’m being honest with how I felt.

There were highlights such as quaint little villages like Portnahaven.

Distilleries galore and not just whisky but also Gin as its popularity continues to grow.

Most Scottish Islands will regularly delight you with glimpses of their wildlife and Islay doesn’t disappoint.

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Port Ellen, where our hotel was situated, had a sleepy charm to it with colourful houses and the village of Bowmore had an unusual round church.¬† ¬†The local grocery shop is an interesting place to stand and observe the local’s interactions. Clearly the weekly shop is a great chance to catch up on all the Island gossip.

So yes please go to Islay and explore it but you might need to stay longer than one night!

The next day we set off for Jura. This trip involved a short ferry from Port Askaig on Islay to Feolin on Jura, the journey takes only 10 minutes. 

Jura has fewer people living on it than Islay, it basically has one main road the A846, which becomes a single track road from Lussagiven, taking you from the Feolin Ferry port to Kinuachdrachd at the north of the Island.    Along the way you will treated to the Paps of Jura to your left and to your right you can see the Scottish mainland with endless hills and mountains. 

I loved Jura. I loved its remoteness, its scenery, it’s hotel and its single track roads.

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 Again, we only stayed for one night but for some reason I remember our stay in Jura much clearer than our stay in Islay.

Of course creating memories needs moments in time than linger with you and become hardwired into your special memory bank and Jura did that.

During our ‘Jura road trip’ we decided to go off the beaten single track and take a road that we hoped would lead to a spot for some seal watching. This road had no passing places with little room for error either side. We eventually reached a set of large gates, possibly the entrance to a local estate owned by laird! This created a dilemma as our journey back would mean reversing at least a couple of miles and who’s to say what we would meet. Maybe an angry laird! So I persuaded Aileen that I could do a 3 point turn. With a sharp fall into a stream at one side and a bog to the other, Aileen got out and began to give me some instruction. I began to manoeuvre the car, quickly realising that a 3 point turn had been a tad ambitious. I kept a close eye on Aileen’s instructions in the mirror. To be honest, her instructions closely matched a highland dance routine. Arms flying in all directions and darting from side to side. I decided to make a executive decision and inch a bit further into the bog. I was now perfectly place for one last reverse and we would be on our way. That’s when my heart sunk as I heard that unmistakable sound of my front wheels spinning frantically and mud was now flying in all direction.¬† ¬† Luckily Aileen had avoided the mud but our car was covered in it and we were now stuck in a bog in the middle of nowhere.¬†

Just as this scene was about to turn into the domestic of all domestics, we both heard the squeak of the large iron gates being opened and out drove a man looking bemused by what he was faced with. Was it the laird coming to give us a telling off for ruining his bog?

As it turned out, it was a fellow tourist who had had the sense to drive up to the gate, open it and drive on to the seal viewing point. This wasn’t a gate to a lairds private land but nothing more than a benign boundary gate. He was now on his way back, luckily for us, and was more than prepared to help push our car out the bog; at the risk of being covered in copious amount of mud. As it turned out, he was also staying at our hotel.

We were now back on the road deciding to waste no more time and head for the north of the Island.

We quickly rejoined the single track road north but before long, we had stopped again. This time we were hypnotised by the views of snow capped mountains and miles of nothingness.

We felt the need to get out for wee stroll into the nothingness but with no obvious established paths, we decided to turn back as we didn’t want to disturb the flora. Although there was time for Aileen to have her obligatory loss of footing and nose dive into the bog. Luckily I managed to pull her out without the need for any help from a passing tourist!

The remainder of our trip to the north of the Island was relatively incident free and we relaxed into our default setting of wonderment.

Later that evening, back at the hotel, we met the tourist who had helped us get our car out of the bog. Let’s just say he was shown our appreciation with some large glasses of alcohol.

And that was our trip to the Islands of Islay and Jura. As you will no doubt have realised by now, we don’t do typical travel blogs full of step by step facts or 10 things you should know about – whatever.

No we prefer to include some helpful links and give you a general personal flavour of our trips. Please feel free to read our other blogs, set out in a similar personal and times humorous way.

 

Please feel free to subscribe for future stories, if they are your kind of thing.

 

 

 

Haltwhistle

Haltwhistle is a small town in Northumberland, England and may not be on your travel radar but think again.

Sections of Hadrian’s Wall are close by. ¬†It is nicknamed the centre of Britain, because of its geographical position in the exact centre of the country. It is a popular place to stop, especially with walkers and cyclists. The Pennine Way, national long distance trail includes Haltwhistle as a well earned rest. There are a number of campsites in and around the area. The town even hosts its own walking festival, so you can put your best foot forward on a range of walks, including the Haltwhistle Rings ‚Äď 22 circular walks through historic countryside bordering the town.

Just under 5 miles away is the Sycamore Gap Tree, which featured in the 1991¬†Kevin Costner¬†film¬†Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves¬†and has subsequently become known as the “Robin Hood Tree”

    

My dad has stayed in Haltwhistle for a number of years but it has only been recently that I have appreciated it’s style and surroundings. Maybe it’s an age thing.

We would definitely recommend  Haltwhistle as a place to visit, stop over or stay and we will be making the most of it during future visits,

Lake Lugano

Following the success of our West Highland Way trip the previous year, we decided to meet up again for ’round 2′. This time we were going to go abroad and this time Aileen and I were not going to be the organisers! We looked forward to sitting back whilst another couple stepped up to the mark and delivered a well organised trip that would need lots of planning, coordinating dates, coordinating sleeping arrangements and spending hours researching local sights and entertainment. This would be fun to watch. After all Aileen and me are the king and queen of organisation. Lets just see how much the stress of it all takes it toll!

So it came as a bit of a surprise when, a couple of days later, we received a phone call from Gordon.

He had been tasked with this arduous task and he informed us that it was all sorted!

It turned out that Gordon, who had just retired from the police, had put his name into a scheme that offers retired police officers the chance of staying free at various properties. There’s no guarantee that you’ll be lucky enough to be picked but low and behold Gordon was the lucky man. So all we had to do as a team was book our flights.
Lavena Ponte Tresa, looking out over Lake Lugano with the Swiss mountains in the distance, was a perfect location. The accommodation itself was also perfect. We would be staying in an old rustic villa spread out over 3 floors and with plenty of charm, as well as a large garden and a tennis court. We all felt fortunate to be given this villa for a week.

Lake Lugano is stunning and we had a perfect lake side view.

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Lavena Ponte Tresa is a border point between Italy and Switzerland which involves a short walk across what feels like a token border into the Swiss town of Ponte Tresa. Clearly both towns are keen to keep their national identity with Italian and Swiss flags prominent in their respective towns but the ease of walking from one to the other makes it difficult to immediately feel that you have entered another country.

With this is mind, Aileen and I decided to hire bikes and cycle beyond the border and deeper into Switzerland. In the end, to be honest, our cycle to Lugano wasn’t exactly a cycle into the Swiss Alps but it did at least give us that sense of cycling in a different country. We cycled through some small villages, stopped at a local cafe with no spoken English to be heard and marvelled at the beautiful scenery.

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Our second trip into Switzerland did feel like a trip to the Swiss Alps as all 6 of us walked over the border and boarded a train to Rivara for the Monte Tamaro cable car taking us up 1,530 m then on foot to the summit at 1,962 m. The views were stunning and well worth the trip.

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It’s a great place for all the family and being the big kids that we are, we could resist the Alpine coaster bobs. Described as ‘An awesome, breathtaking downhill ride’. We were given our instructions before we set off down hill. Basically – that’s your brake and about 30 metres from the finish, apply your brake or you’ll overshoot. Hindsight is a great thing and it would probably have made more sense to put those that wanted to go faster at the front but as we had just randomly took our turn and as fate would have it, this created a bit of a domestic. Steve was keen to show off his army training and’An awesome, breathtaking downhill ride’ was perfect but he had done the gentlemanly thing and stepped aside to let his wife Susan to go first.

Susan, who was clearly petrified and still had the instructors warning in her head regards braking, decided to apply the brakes about 150 metres from the end. Resulting in safe but slow, extremely slow, decent.

Swiss mountains are renowned for the human yodel travelling great distances but on this occasion it was Steve’s dejected tones – ‘Susan!’ ‘Susan!’ ‘Go faster!’ ‘You’re spoiling my ride’ That could be heard for miles around.

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Lake Lugano doesn’t have the same popularity as other Italian lakes but the close proximity to Switzerland and the ease of walking over the border just added to our memorable trip. We would highly recommend this lovely part of the world.

Bridge over the Atlantic

We decided to take advantage of a spring Groupon deal and headed to Argyle, Scotland. We arrived at our hotel Lochmelfort for an overnight. Once checked in, we were shown to our room. The hotel had a certain amount of grandeur about it but it also had a more basic wing and this is where we were shown to. Unfortunately the room door was locked from the inside and our hotel rep looked concerned. Was there still somebody inside? Was there a body inside? How would he get us in we wondered. He proceeded to ignore every hotel health and safety book and opened the room next to us, climbed out onto the balcony and completed a manoeuvre that Spiderman would have been proud of! Opening our door, now from the inside, he calmly stated ”sorry about that” handed us our key and walked off. Needless to say our balcony door remained firmly locked for the remainder of our stay.

Clachan Bridge is about 8 miles from the town of Oban on Scotland’s west coast and was built between 1792 and 1793 and links the Island of Seil to the mainland.

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Our trip to this bridge took in some lovely scenery as well as the historic Kilmartin Church, with its ancient carved stones.

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Clachan Bridge is well worth seeing. It might just be because of its unofficial name but it felt like a special place to stand on and take a selfie Рas you do.

Crinan Canal

Described as Britain’s most beautiful shortcut, the Crinan Canal is one of those must do cycle routes. The route follows an iconic canal and as a cyclist you will share it with walkers, canal boats, canoes, Kayaks and fishermen. All enjoying the beautiful scenery and¬† historic surrounding.

We decided to drive to Ardrishaig and cycle along the canal to Crinan. This is a round trip but the canal is only 9 miles long, so 18 miles with a half way stop at Crinan, makes for a pleasant and relaxing journey.

 

One of the residents has an eye catching abode and was more than happy to spend some of his time talking to us about his love of the Canal and why he has move there from Canada to set up home.

 

2016

2016 We decided to make up for our lack of camping the previous year and made a concerted effort to get on the road as much as possible.  Of course our wandering spirit also resulted in another year of tent free side track travels:-

Crinan cannal

Bridge over the Atlantic

Lake Lugano

Haltwhistle and

Islay&Iona

In between these adventures, we did make plans regards camping and our first plan involved purchasing a Daxara trailer.   We were fed up with cramming all out camping gear into the back of our car and it was becoming a dangerous place for our dog Sam, who was going to be squashed to death one of these trips.  We invested in a hardtop lid for the trailer complete with roof bars and a roof box. Finally, we were able to pack the majority of our camping equipment into the trailer and roof box. Sorted!

This camping business suddenly seemed more expensive than we had thought it would. ‚Äė‚ÄôFFS we could have spend a week in Spain all inclusive with the money we‚Äôve spent!‚Äô‚Äô was a regular rant.

We also decided to research a new tent. Not that our Kampa was giving us any problems but now that we had the storage sorted, it seemed that we needed something else to get right in our never ending quest to find the ultimate camping experience that would be the perfect combination of storage, transport  and stress free tent erection.   

Meantime in between our tent research, we had some camping to do and off we set to  Nicholaston Farm south Wales then back up to Scotland and off to Inver caravan park Dunbeath (Links to follow)

We knew we could manage one last big camping excursion before the season finished and this focused our minds in finding that elusive tent that would make our camping experience even better. We decided to buy an inflatable tent. We did our research and bought an Outwell Vermont 7 berth. This would eliminate the need for a separate bag for poles, it would go up quickly and would be the answer to all our small issues. At least it had better! It cost a small fortune.

Truth be told this tent turned out to be the wrong decision. Yes it was big and had a well thought out interior but it was too big and as for space saving with no poles Рthe air beams and the tent combined just created a big mass of tent that had to be squeezed into a large bag, all the time trying to squeeze out the air. Its dismantled bulk was heavy and now our small trailer was full. Our tent was too big!!  We quickly realised that we had also limited what campsites we could go to but we had no choice. It had cost a lot of money and we would just need to accept it and be aware of where to camp.

Our first outing with our new tent was to Fields end water caravan park Cambridgeshire (Link to follow). We managed to squeeze it into our pitch but it stuck out like a sore thumb. This was a perfect tent for a family who wanted to go on holiday for a week or two but not for a couple with their wee dog who just wanted to stay a few days then move on to anot her site. It was too big, too much hassle putting it up and packing it away and  took up too much space in the trailer. It had to go! Just not yet.

Los Angeles

Los Angeles Р Our final destination. We said our goodbyes to a ship that in reality had been no more than an expensive taxi for us. Although that had been disappointing, at least most of our destinations had lived up to our expectations. Would Los Angeles do the same?

We would be staying for two nights before flying home and had pre-arranged car hire and accommodation in the Topanga hills. Our car was a soft top VW Beetle and our accommodation was a B&B which had amazing reviews.

Highlights –

Our VW Beetle. After spending a week at sea, we were looking forward to getting back to some independent travel. We had originally looked at hiring a soft top mustang but we couldn’t find any for hire during the dates we required but we still wanted a soft top and a Beetle was available. Our first issue was trying to fit in all our luggage. Luckily with it being a soft top, we just threw it all in the back and off we set with the roof down and the rear passenger seats accommodating two large suitcases, with seatbelts on – just in case! Our second issue was actually my (Tom) issue. Personally I feel comfortable driving abroad and quickly adjust to driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road. Even on the busy chaotic roads of Los Angeles with only Google maps to guide us to our B&B I still felt comfortable. That is until Aileen’s stress levels turn her unto the back seat driver from hell. Slow down! Careful! Shuffling about in her seat and regularly taking in sharp breaths or exhaling with the occasional OH! ¬†Being in Hollywood, I think Aileen thought she was in a car chase movie.

Oh yeah! Just to add. Coming from Scotland, we didn’t appreciate how important air conditioning is in a hot country. Naively thinking a soft top would keep us cool but as it turned out, the roof was nearly always up so we could stay cool inside an air conditioned car. Lesson learnt!

Our B&B Tuscali Mountain Inn – This is worth a mention. Described as – Nestled in the heart of the Santa Monica Mountains, Tuscali offers two elegantly furnished rooms. The inn is situated on a gated three-acre property with amazing views across Topanga Canyon and the 13,000 acre Topanga State Park as its backyard. We just knew it was for us and it didn’t disappoint. Tranquil with a touch of elegance and a warm friendly welcome. Each night we were presented with a bottle of wine and canapes. We would sit in this special place, talk about our day and imagine staying there forever.

In late 2018 a devastating fire ripped through parts of California, close to where we had stayed. We don’t know if the Tuscali Mountain Inn was spared or affected. The website is still online but the Inn is now closed….

Malibu beach and Sport Fishing Pier – We all travel for different reasons and each destination will tick some or all of those boxes. Happy long lasting memories, for us, signifies – this was special and Malibu beach ticked that box. Even before we arrived, driving down Sunset Boulevard then seeing the signs for Malibu beach just helped to start engraving those happy memories. ¬†After a spot of sunbathing and watching surfers, many of them looking every bit the Californian surfer, we browsed the hippy shops of the Sports Fishing Pier before taking a drive further along the beach for another stop – Venice Beach and Muscle Beach. Both didn’t disappoint, equal measures of weirdness, coolness, edginess, brashness and happiness. Can’t wait to go back one day.

Hollywood – I know, it’s all been said before. It’s tacky in places, run down in places, the TCL Chinese Theatre¬† isn’t anything special but you have to go because if you don’t then what benefit would that achieve. To be fair, I’ve walked the streets of much worse places and the parking wasn’t a problem. Yes it was busy but again no worse that a lot of busy cities and at the end of the day we can now say we have been.

Thank you Los Angeles for living up to our expectations. Yes you’re weird, stunning and edgy but your also a place that has its vulnerabilities and that’s what makes you normal.¬†

Cruise aboard the Coral Princess. Vancouver to Los Angeles

This would be our second cruise. Our first had been a Thomson’s Mediterranean cruise and it might have been because it was our first cruise or the variety of destinations or the fact that we were with family members who were just as excited as we were but it has a special place in our heart.

That might explain why we didn’t enjoy this second cruise as much. Don’t get me wrong, the ship was grander, the destinations were amazing (apart from Astoria which I’ll get to) and the weather was perfect but there were issues. That said (we’re not naturally negative people) there were a lot of special memories.

For the purposes of this blog, we have split our issues and special memories into two sections.

So without further ado here were the issues as we saw them, though others might have seen them differently :-

The ship РNo atmosphere. Age range 65+. It had a large section of the ship dedicated to  an art gallery with the option to purchase. Who goes on a cruise to buy a painting?

The gym had a section that enabled us to create a small exercise area and we would regularly use it. Whilst using it we would observe a mix of passengers getting health checks, filling in questionnaires etc. It became quickly apparent that this ‘service’ was another way of cashing in on the demographics of our fellow ‘worried well’ patrons. Of course nobody from the fitness team would acknowledge us. Not even a ”good for you”! We were obviously too healthy for them and our fitness appeared to unsettle them.

The onboard activities continued to disappoint. One activity in particular was the putting tournament. This involved a golf club, a carpeted section, a golf ball and a plastic target. As it turned out I (Tom) was rubbish at it and with my Scottish accent, Scotland having a long golfing history, it made my rubbishness seem even more magnified. Luckily Aileen saved the day with a great performance and won it! My reactive grumpiness was further boosted when this guy came up to me, after hearing my Scottish accent and asked – ‘Do you really think that Scotland can afford to be an independent country?’ Obviously referring to the independence referendum the year before. I think I barked back something like ‘I’m not interested in talking about that right now pal, I’m trying to win a game of putting!’¬† and he walked off.

Then there was the flood in our room. We returned to find our room ankle deep in water and we quickly headed to reception. The receptionist took a note of our room number and with a face that a poker player would have been proud of i.e. no emotion, empathy or sympathy stated ”I’ll get someone to look at it”. Safe in the knowledge that we would be looked after, we headed for lunch. On return to our room we discovered that there was now a large noisy machine attempting to dry out our room. A maintenance guy suggested that it could take at least 24 hours to dry out and we should head back to reception to organise another room. Our current room was with a balcony and we were given an alternative room in the bowls of the ship with noisy air con and uncomfortable beds. Sometimes that’s just the way things happen and we accepted it. It wasn’t anybody’s fault. ¬†What we did struggle with was the lack of apology or acknowledgement that we had been inconvenienced. I questioned this approach back at reception and to be fair they did accept that this was poor practice and offered us breakfast served on our balcony the next morning, when we were back in our now dry room.

So basically those were our non life threatening and insignificant issues that in the greater scheme of things are not that important but hey ho they were our issues and we thought we would mention them. Now onto the whistle stop tour of our amazing memories :-

 

Astoria. We’re not quite sure why we stopped at Astoria. Maybe it was a convenient distance between Seattle and San Francisco. It had a rundown feel to it, which we don’t mind as some run down places can have that ‘something’ about them as well as a rich history but Astoria didn’t leave us with that feeling. Nevertheless we decided to make the most of it and go for a wander.¬† Our initial research had suggested that we should take a walk to the Astoria Column. A tower built in 1926, the concrete and steel structure is part of a 30-acre city park. So we began our hike to the top of a reasonably steep hill, only to find this – photo. It was closed and not only was it closed, it was covered up. That was it, that was Astoria and apologies to everyone in¬† Astoria but this is our personal account and we may have missed many things.

 

Vancouver РOur perfect city. Views to die for, beaches, clean with friendly people who stop and ask you if you need any help, cycling around Stanley Park and Granville Island with its markets and artisan shops, walking along the port with huge ships docked and the sight of water planes coming into land.

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We were only in Vancouver for a couple of nights prior to embarking on the cruise ship and it was too short and we plan to return there one day and spend more time in a city that we fell in love with.

 

Victoria – OK but a bit too British for our taste. It has some lovely¬† architecture, beautiful parks and wide clean streets but I suppose when you’re looking for

something different, it can have an impact on your experience of a place. So basically – sorry Victoria it’s not you, it was us.

 

Seattle – We won’t forget waking up, going out to our balcony and trying to adjust to the sight of a large American city. It was still early but starting to heat up and Seattle was starting

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to wake up. Sky scrapers, car horns, the background noises of people shouting at each other. We loved it and couldn’t to get off the ship to go exploring. Highlights included a city bus tour although we soon realised that we had gotten the more reserved tour as our but would regularly pull up beside another tour bus which was blasting out Reggae music, driven by a Rastafarian and it’s passengers were having a great old time.¬† ¬†We were given the educated tour. Oh well at least we now know about – Starbucks, Grunge music, Frasier, Microsoft¬†and of course Sleepless in Seattle.

 

 

San Francisco РIf ever there was a city that we want to go back to it is San Francisco. Our ship arrived early in the morning and we had pre-prepared our own itinerary. So off we went, like a couple of demented tourists, keen to savour as much as possible before we would have to return to our ship:

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Open top bus tour – check. This was a great way of taking in vast areas of the city and was fascinating and informative.

Golden gate bridge – check. We walked over it and back again, as well as going over on a bus, although that was an accident as we had got on the wrong bus but it was another chance to go over the Golden gate bridge and how can you not be happy about that!

Alcatraz – check. What a great day trip this is. Well organised with a mix of helpful guides and an opportunity to wander on your own. An amazing and thought provoking place.

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Peer 39 – check. Just time for a bite to eat in a vibrant part of the city. With the sun going down, live music and surrounded by people who appeared laid back and friendly, it was a perfect end to a special city.

 

Los Angeles Р Our final destination. We said our goodbyes to a ship that in reality had been no more than an expensive taxi for us. Although that had been disappointing, at least most of our destinations had lived up to our expectations. Would Los Angeles do the same? This part of our journey requires its own special page and you are welcome to read it here