Pride vs The Fall

I wouldn’t call myself a proud person.  I don’t spout off about my achievements and am a typically very humble person. But maybe I am doing it all wrong?

Proud people tend to rise through life never even realising that they are, stepping over everything that gets in their way. They may not be considered nice, but who needs nice when you own your own empire?

People who promote their achievements get the job, get the work recognition and get the pay rises. Humble people are labelled as shy and are often forgotten. Perhaps I should take a leaf out of the proud people book?

They say pride comes before the fall. However in today’s society, the proud confident people seem to keep rising and rising and never fall. And in the case of celebrities, if they do fall, it’s all good publicity.

I think this idea is out dated as many successful people today now admit and promote the fact that they had failures before they succeeded. Failures are seen as learning experiences to educate your future successes and make you seem human. And failing is better than never trying at all in a lot of cases.

Plus you can always write a tell-all book about it. As Sarah Lewis says in her new book- “In order to succeed you must fail first- and fail hard.” So I guess pride can be a good thing- especially if the fall never comes.

Related posts: Dreams vs Reality, Adventurous vs Risk takerDo you need trauma to have talent?, What is News?, Kicking Goals, I first started writing

San Francisco, 2007, Part 2: This is not the end

The next day my husband-to-be (HTB) and I headed to Greenwich St with its rows of rounded houses and the Church of St Peter and Paul. I found my dream house and we got a great view of Coit tower from the top of Lombard St where you could really see the Z shape of the famous zigzag road.

From here we caught a cable car down the hill to Fisherman’s Wharf. I was excited to take a trip on such an iconic mode of transport and surprised to see the driver was in the centre of the carriage.

Fisherman’s Wharf had seal statues and dolphin topiary, so I knew straight away that it was my kind of place. We found an $8.98 store where my HTB cleaned up, buying jeans and t-shirts for only $8.98! All I found was a t-shirt by Sarah Jessica Parker. I didn’t even know she had a label, so I guess it never made it to Australian shores.

The number one thing my HTB wanted to do in San Francisco was go to Alcatraz. Another place I was not that keen on and wouldn’t have gone to if not for him, which actually turned out to be pretty damn interesting. Anyway, I am always up for a ferry trip, and the journey over affording views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Oakland bridges did not disappoint.

We disembarked the ferry at Building 64 under the looming watchful eye of the guard tower. We passed the officer’s club, lighthouse and warden’s house before heading inside the prison and switching on our audio tour. We saw the shower room and a cell house. I could really imagine the sounds of city drifting over at night and it reminded me of Chateau d’ If in Marseille. How creepy it must have been to be a guard here cut off from the rest of the city.

The gun gallery was wisely close by to maximum security cell block D and we continued through the dining hall and kitchen to a cell block where a tunnel had been dug in an attempt to escape. We went inside the admin building where visitors signed in and ended the tour in the recreation yard where I took a great photo of my HTB posing as a prisoner.

Back on dry land, we took a local bus to Baker’s Beach for an unobstructed view of the Golden Gate Bridge. We were the only tourists on the beach and the bridge looked much clearer than the last time I was in San Francisco when it was obscured by fog.

Searching for the Alamo, we found the Panhandle instead and went into Golden Gate Park. I came to see lakes and real Bison so was happy when we found them. I liked the cute little Shakespeare’s garden that grows all the plants mentioned in his plays; and the gorgeous Japanese garden. I walked across a few stepping-stones, found a Buddha statue and stood at the top of Half-moon Bridge and took in the sight of waterfalls and bonsai trees.

Even though we had seen a lot, I knew that there was more of San Francisco that I wanted to explore and I hoped that I would be back in the wonderful city soon.

Related posts: San Francisco, 2007, Part 1: Falling in love again, USA Road trip, 2007: Part 2, Grand Canyon, 2007,  Las Vegas, 2007, USA Road trip, 2007, Disneyland, 2007, Los Angeles, 2007, USA, 1990

It’s a winery thing

This month I am super excited to be going on a winery weekend away to the Barossa with a couple of my besties. This will be my third visit to the well-established wine region and it is my favourite in Australia so far due to its historical charm (i.e. old buildings).

I am an avid weekend wine tripper from way back and my husband and I have systematically worked our way around most of the states in Australia by wine region.

We have been to the Hunter Valley 6 times which is known for its Shiraz and Semillon and will be returning in June to prune my husband’s adopted vine at Drayton’s Family Wines. We also travelled to Tasmania in January to check out the Sauvignon Blanc down there.

I’ve sipped Pinot Noir at the Mornington Peninsula (Victoria) Winter Wine festival and had a personalised bottle of champagne made for me the French way. I’ve shared a Chardy with a famous wine dog at Voyager Estate in the Margaret River, WA, learned what a GSM is in McClaren Vale (Grenache, Shiraz, Mourvedre) and how to appreciate a good Riesling in the Clare Valley, SA. Next on the list is the Yarra Valley in VIC.

We usually drag a group of friends along with us and I’ve converted a red drinker to a white drinker and myself from a white drinker to a multi drinker in the process.

So what keeps me coming back for more winery trips?

Wine regions are typically set in scenically beautiful areas and are a great way to see the landscape away from the major cities. I always enjoy discovering a new part of the country this way.

It can be a lovely romantic trip for two and is also a great relaxing weekend away with friends. Even if we have been to a wine region before, going with different people usually means finding new hidden gems along the way.

Most wine regions also have good food to go with their great wine. Some of Australia’s best restaurants seem to be popping up in wine regions.

It’s also not a bad option with the kids. They don’t get bored, you can get tipsy during the day with free tastings (with one designated driver of course) and return to your self-catered apartment at night to polish off some new wine and cheese purchases from the day.

And of course it is the opportunity to try some different wines that peaks our interest. Each winery is a new cellar door to explore and new varieties I’ve never heard of to taste. Discovering a new favourite wine to enjoy when you get back home is one of the best ways to keep the memory of a good trip lasting.

Beautiful surroundings, great friends, good food and tasty wine- what’s not to love?

I can almost taste that Barossa Shiraz now…

Related posts: It’s a French thing, Degustation Delights

San Francisco, 2007, Part 1: Falling in love again

Being a fan of Party of Five and Charmed, I was in love with the city of San Francisco even before I revisited. I love the rows of terrace houses, the harbour that reminds me so much of Sydney and the hilly roads. Although, I’m sure if I lived here I would get sick of those hills after a while.

My husband-to-be (HTB) and I stayed in a small room in the Tenderloin district with an ethnic supermarket next door. I was a bit apprehensive about the area having just read a book about a prostitute that lived in the Tenderloin back in the days when it was a dangerous place to live. But that was years ago and it was a nice room, so I cast these fears aside.

We started our day with a walk up the Filbert steps on Telegraph Hill to Coit Tower. The walk up the long spiral staircase punctuated by murals made the climb interesting. From the top of the tower we could see all of San Francisco’s most famous landmarks: the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Oakland Bay Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, the Transamerica Building and Lombard Street. It was awesome.

Back down the hill, we went to Jackson Square with all its lovely old rounded buildings and colourful jazz murals. Murals was becoming a bit of a theme for the city! We found the foot of the Transamerica building, which turned out to be an office building.

Chinatown was pretty much like every other Chinatown all over the world- colourful with lion gates and the smell of incense in the air. I did get ripped off on the purchase of some postage stamps, which was new. Which just goes to show that no matter how much you travel, you can still become victim to a travel scam. I don’t think I ever sent postcards again after that.

The Macey’s in Union square was lit up and decorated with impressive Christmas decorations. Being the main square of San Francisco it was very busy with people rushing around running errands and shopping for Christmas presents. We found Lotta’s fountain nearby which was tinier than I expected and ran into a gay couple who gave us an Irish pub recommendation nearby.

The pub was packed, had good food, great beer and we met a guy who worked at Google. Gays and Google- you can’t get more San Fran than that!

Related posts: USA Road trip, 2007: Part 2, Grand Canyon, 2007, Las Vegas, 2007, USA Road trip, 2007, Disneyland, 2007, Los Angeles, 2007, USA, 1990

Discovery

When you are a kid the whole world is a place of discovery.

A 5 minute walk to park can take 50 minutes as there is so much to see along the way.

There’s the neighbours in the hallway and the trees next to the path. And the person with a dog passing by and the telephone box that I need to talk on. And the bus at the bus stop and the seat at the bus stop. And the man changing the sign at the bus stop.

There’s the kid on the other side of the road and the one riding by on a bike. And there’s that wrapper someone dropped and the fluffy toy that I dropped. Oh, and oops- lost my shoe, need to put that back on.

Now I’m hungry- I need a snack. And look at that flower, so pretty, I’m going to pick it for you. And I need to walk on this wall, and go back and do it again- this could take a while. Lucky we have all day.

The park itself is a world created just for me. There are other kids to play with and a swing I could stay on for hours. Sometimes the slide goes a bit fast, but it’s scary fun. And the round about is the best, even if I walk a bit funny afterwards.

The shopping centre is a wonderland of colours, lights and so many different people. Here there’s discovering new food like chocolate cupcakes and cappuccino’s and the yummy aisles in the supermarket. And all my favourite characters from TV on the toy shelf and the toiletry aisle at the pharmacy. There’s so much to see and do that sometimes its all gets a bit too much.

Bus trips are a whole new exciting adventure. First we have to wait at the bus stop and then wave at the bus driver. And sit down and look around at all the people. I always make new friends on the bus and like pushing the button when it’s time to get off. Often I don’t even like where we are going as much as the bus trip there.

And then there was that time I went on the merry-go-round for the first time. I was too little to go on the horses, but they were so pretty. Next time, when I’m bigger, I’m going to go on the Ferris Wheel.

Every day brings a new discovery and a new experience when you are a toddler.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our own backyard always stayed so interesting?

Related posts: Kid at Heart, It’s the simple things

USA Road trip, 2007: Part 2

I’d only heard of the town of Barstow in a Sheryl Crow song, so was surprised to find that it was a town of bail bondsman and cheap motels. Even the local gas station attendant didn’t know where the centre of town was! I guess it was a song about Leaving Las Vegas; and Las Vegas it most definitely was not. We found a deserted cheap Mexican restaurant, had a huge burrito and retired early.

The next day, my husband-to-be (HTB) and I drove through the Napa Valley, clearly in the off season as none of the vineyards were open for business. We bunny hopped up Big Sur in a storm to avoid possible falling rocks and got the most crazy brooding photo of Point Sur.  I braved the weather to see a beach full of Elephant seals and stop at Pigeon Point Lighthouse.

Hearst Castle was my absolute favourite part of the road trip. We saw zebra’s grazing on our approach to the mansion, had a hot cup of seafood chowder and took the first timers tour out of the 6 different ones that are offered.

Starting at the gorgeous blue Neptune pool on the terrace, the guide took us to Casa del Mar guest house where I was quite taken with a painting of French princess. The Casa Grande (main house) was decorated for Christmas with a tree made entirely of red Poinsettia plants in the main hall. We continued on through the refectory, the dining room and the after dinner room. There was a private cinema and the indoor Roman pool which I wanted for my own.

Our stop that night was in Monterrey Bay where we saw sea lions and otters from the pier. It was a place I wished we had stayed longer on our trip.

We went to Santa Cruz, but it was the one week of the year that the boardwalk was closed. Instead we saw classic blue lifeguard towers, spotted fur seals and envied at the nice houses on Pacific Ave at Beach Hill. Dinner was at a restaurant on fisherman’s wharf from where we watched the sunset over Cowell beach.

Our last stop before hitting San Francisco was the Big Basin Redwoods State Park. We went to Redwood circle, Old circle, Chimney tree and Redwood burl. The tall trees, like the father and mother of the forest, reminded me of Yosemite and the squirrels looked quite at home here.

Related posts: Grand Canyon, 2007, Las Vegas, 2007, USA Road trip, 2007, Disneyland, 2007, Los Angeles, 2007, USA, 1990

People vs Place

Discovering new places is always a big drawcard for me when I am choosing where to go to next.

I try to go to a new place every year and love discovering new towns, cities and countries.

I have more places on my want to see list than I have seen, as my Pintrest boards will attest to.

There are the places that are higher in priority like Japan, Cambodia and going on an African safari. And those I know I won’t get to for a while like Portugal, Malta and seeing the Northern lights. Plus places I don’t even know exist yet that I want to see.

Then there are my favourite places that I always want to go back to like Paris, San Francisco and New York.

So, why do I keep going back to places I have already been?

To discover new areas in places I am familiar with of course; and have new experiences.

Wherever you go and no matter for how long, there is never enough time to fit everything in. I missed Mont St Michel when I went to France and Rio de Janeiro in South America; plus all the other places in America in other states than the ones I got to.

But a lot of the time, I find myself returning to places because of the people.

I am fortunate enough to have family and friends in a few of my favourite places- London, Vancouver and Barcelona. There are more in Belgium, Singapore and Sri Lanka; plus other areas of England, America and Canada. Even around Australia if I feel like a domestic trip.

Perhaps part of the reason they are my favourite places is because of the people and the unique experiences they have given me (as well as a reason to come back). They have shown me places that are not in the guidebook or on my to see list, but turned out to be the best fun.

Of course fun times eating, drinking and going out are much better if you have some local friends to guide you. And sometimes the fun in a place is just seeing the people you love in the place that they love.

And there are always those people that I met on a trip to a place that may inspire a trip to a new place. The unknown element is one of the great things about meeting people when you travel to new places.

So I guess the perfect scenario is a mixture of both place and people. Or even better, you can meet up with people in new places to both of you and all have a great new experience together.

Who’s up for it?

Related posts: It’s a Sri Lanka Thing, It’s a French Thing

The Grand Canyon, 2007

My main aim for being in Las Vegas was to get to the Grand Canyon this time. So my husband-to-be (HTB) and I boarded a bus that would take us 6 hours to travel to the Grand Canyon and back and spend a mere 40 minutes at this wonder of the world; but it was worth it.

We passed Lake Mead, stopped at Hoover Dam on the Arizona border and went to Seligman- a well preserved area of the old Route 66. The temperature outside was so cold that my camera fogged up, so all my photos of these places look obscured by mist.

Our bus drive/tour guide was a bit of a character, full of facts and jokes about Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon.

Whenever we made a rest stop at a service station he would say in his American drawl:

“Ladies, ladies, ladies;

Please do not, I repeat, DO NOT go shopping.

We are only here for 5 minutes and we WILL leave you behind.

We WILL find a new wife for your husband, this is Vegas!”

In between his commentary, we watched National Lampoons Vacation to the Grand Canyon to get us in the mood.

Arriving at the Mather Point on the South Rim, we finally made it to the Grand Canyon. I was aghast. The bright blue sky contrasted with red canyon and the white snow that had fallen on the ground. It was the colours of the American flag and oh, so amazing.

I wished we had more time here or could afford the helicopter ride over the Canyon as I would have loved to explore more.

We walked the Rim Trail as this is the only path we really had time for before we had to leave. We saw the Temple and deer hiding in the snow laden trees. They were too fast, so I only go a picture of a white tailed bottom.

From Yavapai Observation Station we saw the Horseshoe and the Indian Garden and met back up with our tour guide at Bright Angel Lodge.

On the way back to Las Vegas we saw the sunset in desert which was a beautiful ending to an awe striking day.

Related posts: Las Vegas, 2007, USA Road trip, 2007, Disneyland, 2007, Los Angeles, 2007, USA, 1990

A Day Out for the Boys- Old Warden and other things, part 3

This week’s guest post is from my cousin Sean Mendis.

The story will unfold in three parts- here is the final part.

Anyway, the Bedfordshire countryside looked far better from over the dope and linen covered half wing of this vintage aeroplane and I imagined myself flying to Paris where a champagne and caviar dinner by the banks of the Seine awaited me. After all, this is the only way to fly to France, what a thrilling prospect. After twenty minutes, the familiar grass strip of Old Warden came into view as the pilot set a landing course.  At about 800 feet or so he yanked up the handbrake lever to full, releasing the almost redundant flaps.  He throttled back and the engine note receded to barely a whisper and then we glided over the perimeter hedge and touched down smoothly on the all grass aerodrome that was Old warden.

The display was good, and we were expecting to see the ‘Edwardians’ take to the air. This was a name given to vintage aircraft up to the end of the WW1.  The collection included a Bleriot, and a Blackburn monoplane amongst several others.  These had 3 cylinder Anzani engines whose horsepower was about as much as the HP49 that we’d just started. Consequently, they were only risked in fair weather conditions, and then only in a short hop up and down the runway. It might be said that the mere flapping of a butterfly may cause grave concern for the pilot and so we all held our breath, and other less pleasing eructations, lest we unseated the occupant. Today the windsock was mostly horizontal and regrettably these aeroplanes did not take part. However, we did have the early warbirds, including the “Brisfit” which always impressed.  The ‘balloon run’ and the ‘limbo dance’ which followed also provided some entertainment, owing to the potential for low level mishap; nothing too dangerous or massively life threatening I would hasten to add, but perhaps just the odd busted propeller and a shattered collarbone – a thoroughly gentlemanly injury to relay to the grandchildren at a later time.

After the Edwardians we settled down on the grass for half time corned beef sandwiches, cherry beer and a splendid bottle of Rioja.  This could have been something out of an Enid Blyton novel – ‘Three go mad at Biggleswade’ perhaps?  The Rioja proved the perfect accompaniment to the throbbing beat of a meaty Merlin as a Spitfire and Sea Hurricane tore up the strip.

The Sabre jet display was the last of the delights and we decided to head homewards soon after. The journey back was uneventful save for one dramatic lapse in concentration that Sean made at the wheel of the 730.  As if drawn by magnetic attraction he let the car drift onto the oncoming lane at the very moment a Ford Fiesta was coming the other way.  The Fiesta motorist took frantic avoiding action causing his car to skid headlong towards a pair of hapless motorcyclists who were parked by the side of the road for a freebie air show.  The accompanying screeching of rubber and dust kicked up by the tyres must have given them a very nasty brown trouser moment.  Their sphincters wouldn’t even have had time to pucker up.  These were the kind of skid marks they hadn’t anticipated!  The rest of the trip went peacefully enough though.

Related posts: A Day Out for the Boys- Old Warden and other things, Part 2A Day Out for the Boys- Old Warden and other things, Part 1