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Day 63+64 - Transit Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Wanaka - (Neil and Di)

I've joined these two days together as other than traveling and getting to Wanaka the only important thing was - its Di's birthday. The transit was fine, all the flights worked, we got our luggage, the ski gear was waiting for us in Chch as expected, the hire car was OK (ford Territory) and the drive down as pretty as I remembered. The change to cold has beat me around a bit and I'm developing a nasty cold but the house is good and we're in our favourite place in the world. All very good - Over to Di

Waking up in Wanaka is one of the nicest things to do. Neil very sweetly brought me breakfast in bed for my birthday – juice & yoghurt. A nice way to start the day.

Unfortunately Neil had contracted a chest infection between the changes in temperature (30C to 6C) & the aeroplane air conditioning systems so was not feeling the best. So off to the doctor for him & later back with a pile of medications – fortunately they do seem to be doing the trick & hopefully we will get out & about over the next couple of days.

So we took it easy just enjoying soaking up the views & reading books. We did have a Snood championship – with Neil again whipping my butt – see you would think on my birthday I would get just one win in – NO!! We had intended going out to dinner but as Neil sounded so dreadful & looked worn out we stayed in & had the classic birthday dinner of French toast & soup!

Day 62 - Auckland - (Di)

It was great to wake up in the company of friends. We are staying with JoJo who is a superb host. After getting our proverbial acts together we went off to explore the local shops & get Neil some boy shopping time!!

We are elated at Tara's news – Rob is a great guy & they are as perfectly suited a couple as one could hope for. Congrats kids we are very happy for you both.

Unfortunately I need to get some medical assistance as I had run out of a script – unfortunately it is often as rare as rocking horse poo - but fortunately with Jo's connections we were able to have the tablets being sourced from across Auckland before we even got the doctor's appointment. Jo was also kind enough to do some manipulation on my back which had been troubling me for a wee while even further aggravated by carrying suitcases up & down – oh the penalty for traveling!! So after resolving all my issues & getting the script for free as it is covered under the NZ healthcare system – it would cost $116 at home!! we ventured off to explore.

Jo very kindly lent us her car so we were able to get back to her place in comfort. In usual style the Auckland weather was dismal – however as Neil had a significant amount of work to get on top of this was the perfect opportunity to chill out & catch up! I sorted out our gear so we only take war clothes to Wanaka – this is proving to be a bit of a temperature transition shock.

Tonight I actually cooked dinner for us all – Jo, Craig, Neil & I – not bad for not doing much more than boiling water for 10 weeks & also using someone else's kitchen! It was great to eat in & Jo & Blackie were great company (& Neil of course!).

Day 61 - In transit - again (Neil)

Well here we go again. Fiji has been fun but its time to go to the last real stop of our big adventure. Fiji was glorious as usual when we got up and we pottered about, got our stuff packed, had breakfast, called for a porter (who took 45mins - true Fiji time) and generally got organised to travel again. Its the last time on this trip when we'll be just us so it was a little sad although we're both looking forward to catching up with friends in NZ after all this time.

We got to Nadi airport to discover the power was out. Fiji may be pretty but its not comfortable and a huge tin roofed airport without air con is no-ones idea of a good time. As I'm obsessive we were there 2.5hrs early so got to sit and sweat in the airport and couldn't even go to the business lounge as it was pitch black.

The flight was painless although we left Fiji at 34 degrees and landed in Auckland at 14 degrees which was a bit of a shock. Di had refused to concede that we were leaving our extended summer and was wearing a cute Fijian dress with no sleeves and no warmth so it was a bit of a shock even though she knew it was coming. Our friend Jo Coleman kindly picked us up and let us stay with her so we had a nice evening chatting, catching up and showing her our photo's. As we were having dinner Tara (Di's daughter) called from Sydney. Her fella Rob had just proposed to her on the opera House steps and after crying for a bit she has said yes. Very Cool. I guess our example is rubbing off.

Tomorrow some house keeping stuff before we're away to Wanaka.

Day 60 - The Island of Fiji - (Di)

Today I had a plan to do 4 things:
1. Sleep in
2. Go across to the island & check it out (little island across from the resort & the Westin Resort folk take you across in a little boat).
3. Go to Port Denaru to do some shopping
4. Watch the Wallabies "win" the Bledisloe.

So with this master plan in mind (Neil agreed to enact most of my plan) & phase 1 completed we had breakfast & then headed off across to the island all of about 5 minutes in the boat. The great thing here was the beach was more sheltered & you could swim out in the Pacific Ocean. The water was warm & there is a fairly long reef near by so it is quite shallow - until you take one step to many & then you are in the channel. It was a great couple of hours just splashing around.

We then returned for phase 3 of my plan - I went shopping in Port Denaru - just trying to do my bit to enhance the local economy!! ( Neil stayed in & did some book work etc).

The cost of clothing here is pretty good & I bought a cute dress designed & made in Fiji! Also had to lash out & get new sunnnies as the Hong Kong ones ($7 HKD) are slowly falling apart! However when it comes to buying food with most things imported it is fairly pricey. With my shopping complete I trundled back onto the Port Denaru shuttle (the free shuttle around the island resorts) & home.

For Phase 4 we had a few choices of where to watch the game - so we decided to go into Hard Rock Cafe & watch it on their big screens while having some dinner. We had a delicious dinner at Hard Rock Cafe Pt Denaru with many kiwis & Aussies & a few locals thrown in - Phase 4 of my plan was a tad undermined with the wallabies not winning and all - however we did enjoy a great night .

I have really enjoyed Fiji - the people are very friendly the climate has been great - the company has been awesome as always & the Resort allows you a choice of things to do within easy reach - I really hope to come back here. Tonight is our last night in Fiji tomorrow we will pack & fly off to the land of the long white cloud. I am really looking forward to catching up with friends over the next few weeks - having now been away for nearly 9 weeks. I am however not looking forward to having to rug up - I like the swimmers, shorts & singlet tops - the price one has to pay!!

Day 59 - Adventures in Nadi Bay - (neil)

Another hectic day to deal with. We got up, had breakfast, read a book next to the pool, swam, drank and generally worked our guts out. After this amount of stress its going to be hard to go back to work (eventually). So overall you may have got the message that we didn't do anything very blog-worthy all day.

We had booked on a dinner cruise in Nadi bay for the evening so set off at 5pm to go down to Port Denarau (just down the road) and board our boat. The Port was just gorgeous at that time of night, beautiful boats (including a 2 masted clipper), great scenery, lovely waterfront houses. Absolutely idyllic.

We met another honeymooner couple from San Diego who were very nice. It seems that other than a couple we met in Vegas - we are the only honeymooners over 30 in the whole world. Luckily I'm immature so we still fit in.

As I'm admiring all the great boats around - ours came in. Not exactly in the same league as the clipper or some of the huge motor cruisers that were moored there - but nice enough. It was a 60' motor catamaran with a fly deck. How bad could it be? - it only had to take us 45 minutes across the bay to another Resort for dinner and get us back afterwards.

As we were crossing the bay the sunset was great and the Milky Way came out in a way that you can only see when well away from city lights. It was breathtaking. There was a light breeze blowing and other than the boat running out of champagne - all was very well with the world. I noticed that we seemed to be going very slowly and it was taking longer than the 45 mins promised but really didn't think much about it until we were about 500m off the Resort where we were to have dinner. at this point the skipper told us that the boat was only running on one of its two motors and as that was insufficient to hold the boat against the incoming tide - in the very narrow channel that goes in to the resort - we'd have to transfer to a 12' tinny boat to get in to our dinner. This probably would have been less intimidating had it not been that by now it was pitch black, the swell was running around 2 feet and the tinny looked very insubstantial next to the Catamaran.

So off we went (no choice really) - We transhipped from the dive platform at the back of the boat, the girl before Di banged her head quite badly as we crossed over with the movement between the boats - but eventually the 1st ten people were on the tinny and off we went using a torch to see the channel (there were no channel markers). Eventually we were all safely ashore. We were met by Fijian dancers and there was a great Islander cultural show as part of the dinner. The food was good, the entertainment great and overall we had a great time. In fact in retrospect - even the boat adventure was OK although a little nervy at the time.

They took us home by bus - which under the circumstances was just fine.

Day 58 - Fiji - (Di)

What a difference a day makes & about 12 hours sleep - we are now truly ensconced in beautiful Fiji & with a good sleep able to enjoy the challenges today presents.

Which pool will we swim in? What restaurant will we eat at? Will we stay at the resort or go exploring? I know you are thinking what tough choices to make on a honeymoon - how do they manage??

Well we got sorted after the sleep in - I enjoyed a visit to the Spa for some girlie stuff whilst Neil checked in on work & quotes etc & then off to brunch at the Steakhouse Bar & Grill. This little restaurant is located overlooking the pools & the Pacific - quite a delightful way to enjoy some local delicacies.

After brunch we took a ride about 15 mins into Nadi to explore the more real Fiji - the taxi driver charges $2 for the ride & as we learnt most Fijians only make $45 - $55 per week - so the guy was really impressed when Neil paid him $10-. The islands rely on tourism & then sugar for income so it is easy to see why they are so focused & eager to keep the tourists coming again & again.

We visited the local craft market where we purchased some great batik paintings from a local artist Erik who was very keen to discuss not only his art ability but also his "cousin" Loti Tiquiri (Wallabies rugby player). It is very easy to see why these folk are so passionate about rugby as it serves as a real opportunity to make a real go at life & be a role model & also earn a much bigger income.

The rest of the town was similar to most other pacific islands with fairly basic provisions & some tourist things thrown in. The locals keen to urge you to come & explore their wares.

As it was now mid afternoon & quite humid we decided it was time to return to the pool - & also check out the obligatory cocktail (Pink Coral) of the day. There are a range of interlinked pools to choose from & it is quite nice just taking in the view & having a chance to again chill out.

Tonight we returned to the Steakhouse Bar & Grill for more local style cuisine - this included a Margarita Prawn Cocktail. It is interesting to note that Fiji currently has a ban on importing NZ potatoes - not sure why but obviously the hotel gets theirs from somewhere else.

Catch you all tomorrow from somewhere in paradise......

Day 57 - Denarau Island Fiji (mostly) - (neil)

We spent most of the night an a plane. We left LA at 23.30 on the 28/7 (LA time) and arrived in Nadi at 05.30 on the 30/7 (Fiji time) and consequently missed the whole day of 29/7. From all reports this was a good thing as LA had an earthquake (5.5 Richter) on the 29/7 and I was happy to miss that. It was only a 10 hour flight so a bit confusing to have lost a whole day but we're not really keeping close watch on dates any way.

Air Pacific was nice and all the people were really friendly. It's a little disorienting arriving in an airport in a country you don't know at all at 5.30 in the morning, barely awake and then have to work out how to get to the hotel. We found a taxi driver who was really helpful and spent half an hour driving through deserted streets to get here. Luckily he was honest as he could have taken us anywhere and we wouldn't have known.

We arrived at the "Westin Denarau Island at 6.30am and check in is at 2pm so we had some time to kill. We did get to do one thing that we haven't done on this trip - watch the sun come up. This is a really pretty place and that was quite beautiful as best as I could see through sleep hazed eyes.

The Hotel did feed us and we pottered around quite happily for a few hours and then decided to go see "Port Denarau". The whole island (its only 50m from the mainland across a rickety bridge) is a Resorts district with Hilton, Sofitel, Sheraton and I assume heaps more hotels, so it typifies the Resort thinking of "don't let them leave" - Port Denarau is just a shopping centre and Marina so although the Bakery was good there wasn't that much to see. And there doesn't seem to be much more than a shopping centre and the resorts on the island so although Nadi town is only 7km away I haven't yet worked out how we can get there.

We finally got a room and did all our normal check in stuff - hang up the wedding clothes, check email, think about what we need to buy while we're here and what we haven't organised for future legs. We've developed quite a routine - I think it will be strange to get back into a normal one.

We lazed around the pool for the afternoon and then had an exceptional Japanese meal at a restaurant here on site. Apparently there are so many restaurants around the resorts that by catching the hotel shuttle you can eat a different restaurant every meal for three weeks. Our meal tonight was teppanyaki style and it was a little surprising that our teppanyaki chef was a Fijian woman but the food was excellent and we'll eat there again (too hard shuttling round all over the place just to get lunch).

Tomorrow I really want to figure out how to go look at non-resort parts of here.

Day 56 - Los Angeles - (Di)

Yes me again - I would like to think this is because I am so good - but in fact Neil is packing for us to go to the airport - yes again!!

But I am getting ahead of myself - today we returned to Universal Studios because there was stuff we didn't see yesterday & it's close & we get 2 days for the price of one! So hear we go....

We visited the 4d Shrek show which was way cooler than it sounds - the effects came from not only the screen but also the seats rocked the floor moved & this really creepy thing crept up your leg as a whole lot of spiders flew toward you - now that was creepy!! It is amazing how real this all seems.... we then ventured to 3D terminator where I was a little unsure what would happen. You get thrown into a full 3D movie cyber adventure totally surrounded with gut wrenching effects so amazing it is difficult;t to know where reality stops & fantasy begins. there is an interaction of real folk & movie scenes - again we got wet & smoked!!

Then we just roaned around & soaked up the atmosphere - you would all be pleased to know you can get an Eat It All voucher to do just that - the idea of healthy lunch has really escaped America - I will have yo tell you when we get home - but there is no drink less than 22ozs - & it has to involve lots of sugar - or fries or something with no vegetable content.

We returned & chilled out - I hit the pool now we are packed & off to Fiji - Aloha - or whatever the Fiji alternative is - we will talk to you when we again have internet access - love you all heaps - & for those we have spoken to it is great to hear from home & definitely the Aussie accent!!

Day 55 - Los Angeles - (Di)

Yes me again as we didn't think I contributed much in scribing yesterday!!

It is now day 55 & after a yummy American breakfast - I cannot come at the maple syrup on bacon thing - so scrambled eggs for me - we are off to Universal Studios to check out the back lot tour & anything else they had to offer. The hotel has a shuttle bus which delivers us right to the main gate & our ticket lasts for 2 days so we went exploring. The park is enormous with active production of shows such as Desperate Housewives, Fear Factor, Lost lands & some movies they have an upper & lower lot connected by 4 very long escalators.

They have a Studio tour on similar lines to that of Disney but with more awesome effects. We saw the set of Desperate Housewives - driving down Wisteria Lane, spotted the Grinch set with all the wintry wonderland still intact, the set from War of the Worlds & the crashed Boeing 747 was awesome with debris everywhere - then we visited the jaws beach - the Fast & the Furious cars did an automated stunt demo with great pyrotechnic effects - we got splashed & sprayed in a subway as there was a train wreck & rolling pertol truck - it was awesome!

We then returned to the lot & saw the special effects stages & saw some more of the effects - they seem to be keen to show you what they can do - but not how they do it. Then we checked out Backdraft a blazing inferno of heart pounding heat & fury in a 10,000 degree blast of searing pyrotechnics & special effects. (Can you tell I am in LA - can you??)

Today was also the premiere of the new Mummy movie & Brendan Fraser was visiting the site - people were queuing up for a glimpse of the stars & the scary ride. We also enjoyed checking out the Blues Brothers revue which as usual has great music & was fun to enjoy.

We returned to the hotel as I had a job interview - yes was I ever focused - not really but we will see what happens! Tonight we have decided to eat in as we are to lazy to go looking for a restaurant - tomorrow we are returning to Universal to see the bits we missed out on today because of the work stuff!! Stay tuned.....

Day 54 - Transit - (Di)

OK here we go again - off to the airport to get to LA. I am really sorry we didn't have more time to stay & explore San Fransisco as it is a city which hides its treasures & it pays to have time to source them out - it was great seeing what we did but the more I see of here the more I like it.

The flight was to leave at 11.20 so we got sorted early & caught the shuttle to the airport. We chose to fly Virgin America as our last flight was so cool - with no hassles - we hoped we were not tempting fate! As it worked all went to schedule they were nearly on time - service was friendly - & we got our luggage at the other end - a winner!!

Arriving in LA it was evident the Californian fires are still burning in the outlying hills as it is really hazy flying in & in the city itself. We found our stuff & a shuttle - Neil hates LAX so was not real chipper at this point. So after being driven around the airport twice - to try & get more passengers we were taken to our hotel in North Hollywood. The Beverly Garland Holiday Inn is nestled in the bush & it is really quiet considering we are near the freeway. We have decided to have a quiet one today enjoying lunch at the hotel cafe & a dip in the freezing cold - well maybe chillier than Bellagio pool & room service dinner - tomorrow we will go exploring.

Day 53 - San Francisco - (neil)

Today we're going to see some of the wine country on the north side of San Francisco Bay. We got organised and went down to Fishermans Wharf (were the tours leave from) and got on a bus to go exploring. Strangely - although I've been here twice before - this is the only trip where I've managed to go across the Golden Gate Bridge and have a look at the other side.

We're going to taste at 3 wineries, Cline's, Viensa and Larson Ranch. They're all reasonably well know in California although we'd never heard of any of them. The drive was quite nice and scenic and I just enjoyed soaking up the countryside and checking out the views. Aparently there was a NASCAR event scheduled for the speedway that was on our route so we saw the 1000's of RV's including some semi trailer ones that travel from all over the US to follow these events. Our tour guide told us that even though the RV camping ground is on a winery the NASCAR crowd usually stay away from it until they run out of beer on day 3 of the racing. Then they go to the winery to ask if they "make any wine that tastes like beer?" The owners of the winery have dubbed the RV camping area "The Redneck Riviera".

The wineries were all nice but I didn't think there were any real standouts. On the way back we went to a lookout on the Pacific Ocean side of the bridge which was a great place to take photo's of the City.

We also had tickets to the baseball. Di wanted to see a real live game and we'd gone to the stadium yesterday but the San Francisco Giants had cleaned up the opposing team (Washington) in no time and it was finished by the time we got there.
We had really good tickets - so went pretty early and found our seats and got organised. The Stadium looks over the bay to the Oakland Port on the other side - its truly scenic and as its purpose built for baseball - a great place to watch the games. This night the Giants got thumped by the Arizona Diamond Backs but it was definitely a truly american experience and I'd quite like to do it again.

We have to go home and pack as tomorrow we're off to LA.

Day 52 - San Fransisco - (Di)

Today we were keen to go on the tour across the Golden Gate so we got organized & grabbed a bus down to the tour bus office.

Our now infamous Hop on Hop off tour took us across the Golden Gate bridge - it was quite surreal going over in the mist that so frequently shrouds the bay. It gets quite cool & windy going across the bridge - amazing how Neil has got more sunburnt here than anywhere else. The view is awesome - & it is great being able to see for miles (through the mist).

The streets and architecture around San Fransisco are wide (some literally) & varied - between the flats where the land has been reclaimed to the most crooked of streets Lombard. Some beautiful homes mainly timber to sustain the earthquake issues are generally no more than 6 inches apart & most have no yards as property is so expensive!! There are also very few homes with garages resulting in most folk parking on the street - as they have strict parking regulations & streets are swept/ washed in the morning everyone has to move or be fined - parking fines are enormous & a big income earner for the city.

After the tour we lunched at Pompeii Grotto & enjoyed some more of the great seafood. We had intended going to the baseball (my request) - so we mastered the transport system - with a very entertaining tram driver - who kept telling me he was a true professional & I would know that because he would get me to the baseball ground!! When we got there we found they were into the last innings - so we bought tickets & will go to the Friday night game - at least we know how to get there now!!

Now with some time up our sleeve we returned to the hotel - Neil did some work / quotes & I sat on the sundeck - tonight we are having another quiet one & will explore some more tomorrow. I can't believe we will now have been married a week!! Boy how time flies......

Day 51 - San Francisco - (neil)

I've liked San Francisco since I first came here and its also the US city I know best as I've been here a few times. Its nice to be back.

Di is finding it quite cool (about 20 degrees during the day) but I'm really enjoying it after the 40 degree plus days in Vegas. We set out this morning just to go exploring. The idea was to wander the main city area until we found a "Hop On Hop Off" bus and go see the sites before we decided what we wanted to see more of. S'pose I didn't know the city as well as I thought as we walked all the way across town and over some of those famous SF hills before we ended up in Fisherman's Harbour where we found finally the bus route. Luckily SF is a nice place to wander around.

We got over to the Harbour at just the right time. The Tall Ships were sailing in under the Golden Gate Bridge just as we got to the beach. There is a Sail Festival here this week and the tall ships look great in this huge bay with Alcatraz behind them.

We watched the ships and soaked up the ambiance in Fisherman's harbour for a while and decided to do the Harbour Cruise. It was great to cruise under the Golden Gate Bridge and look at the Pacific coast on the other side. Then we cruised around Alcatraz and along the foreshore of the City.

By the end of the cruise we were ravenous so off we went to a great restaurant called "MacCormack and Kaluto" in front of the Ghiardelli Chocolate factory here above the harbour. Probably Di's perfect combination - great view of San Francisco Bay, a really good seafood restaurant and a chocolate factory - all in the same place.

We had a great meal and then went on the Hop On Hop Off Bus to go find our way round the City. had an early night after all that walking. Not sure about tomorrow. We'll see.

Farewell Bellagio

Farewell Bellagio
Time to say Goodbye

Day 50 - Transit to San Fransisco - (Di)

Well again we have done the packing & sighing about how much we have to fit in our bags - we have replaced Neil's as the zipper was looking very dubious & we weren't keen to see his sox & jocks on display at San Fransisco airport baggage claim!!

I was quite sad to be leaving the Bellagio as I now have so many great memories of our time here - our wedding - time with family - seeing great sights & shows & generally experiencing so many things that Neil had told me about - something I was never sure I was going to get to do. Tad disappointed we didn't see Gil Grissom (CSI) though - especially as we actually went to Clark County Court House.

The transit this time was completely painless - we flew Virgin America- the cabin room in business was huge & the service was awesome. They didn't even loose our luggage - this is with out doubt the best airline experience within the States - these folk even had a sense of humour!!

Along the way I spotted snow on the Sierra Nevada ranges - Neil thought I was seeing things but there it was amidst the rocky ranges & Lake Tahoe crystal blue lake (I know I sound like someone who writes for the wine labels!!). Now off to Club Quarters to experience all I have heard from Neil about the wonders of San Fransisco!!

The temperature here was the first shock for me with it being 40 degrees fahrenheit cooler than Vegas. This made my first impression of SF slightly jaded as I like being warm & it wasn't what I was expecting. We went for a walk & explored a little of Fisherman's Wharf - yummy dinner at Fisherman's Grotto - helped me warm to the area. I am sure tomorrow will help me warm (pun) to the place as Neil is enraptured by SF & I am yet to find him wrong

Day 48 and 49 - Las Vegas - (neil)

Its taken me a couple of days to get to this part of the Blog. We're married, we're more than half way through the trip, Lorne and Sabrina and Mom have all left for destinations far from here - and we're due for a rest.

The excitement of the days leading up to the wedding took a bit of a toll on me. It wasn't as hard as doing a 20hour festival or anything like that but I haven't been married for 10 years so I spent a whole lot of time thinking about it. I came to the conclusion that it wasn't going to be any different but just like last time - it is. I can't really explain it except to say my family is even more valuable to me than it was a few days ago.

So - as I was feeling lazy we haven't done very much. We've bummed around Bellagio, dropped a small amount of money on slots, wandered around the Strip near the hotel, gone to Madame Tussuad's, taken Di to see the fake canals at "The Venetian" Casino (as she missed the last time we went due to a hair appointment). We've also had a couple of great meals including a ripper at "Seinsi" - a Japanese influenced restaurant in Bellagio.

We did go the Premium Outlets after getting the photos & DVD from Cupids Chapel - however it was surprising to find that all outlets were outdoors - that is they faced on to a walk way / courtyard not the normal shopping centre style which would have been air conditioned - the fans blowing water were not cutting it!! So we did a little shopping - Di was very controlled & then we went to the hotel & hit the pool!

Overall just enjoyed being on holidays together. I could quite get used to this however tomorrow its goodbye Las Vegas and hello San Francisco.

Day 47 - the day after - (Di)

Today was a tad weird - now being Mrs Campbell although nothing has changed I do feel somewhat slightly different (nothing I can quantify so don't hold out waiting!!). I am certainly very proud of being Neil's wife & I am tickled pink at how yesterday went - especially as we had done all the little planning bits together - thanks Nic for all the guidance re the dress - thrilled with the result!! We got some great emails from friends & family at home & we are still reflecting on our chats with everyone back home - thank you so much for taking the time to share this important time with us - we really do treasure the effort & well wishes of all - makes it all seem like you were with us.

This morning - we didn't seem to have had a lot of sleep when we met up with Gerry (Neil's Mom & now my MIL) & Ross who took us on a tour beyond the strip - the degree of growth out here is phenomenal. However the variety in homes leaves a lot to be desired - all homes are pretty much required to be in earth colours which I get but they are same same same! It was great getting a view outside the strip & this was a unique opportunity having someone prepared to drive us around.

Neil's Mom seemed delighted to catch up with us & especially see her son after our 7 week absence from Perth. Gerry did say she was a tad nervous what Neil might say when she showed up - Neil said it was all OK providing he hadn't changed his mind which would have made it all a bit sticky!

We enjoyed great lunch at Applebees restaurant having some good old fashioned American cooking. I cannot believe how many things they can put syrup or cream on - one of my new local favourites is Banana Foster - which I think is a banana cooked in brown sugar etc (resembles very little banana). S & L told me of cooking sweet potato with brown sugar & then topping this with marshmallows that are grilled usually for Halloween - what are they thinking!!

We then got Ross & Gerry to drop us back at the hotel so they could get on with their 6- 8 hr drive back to LA. It was nice to catch up & talk to some folks from home.

Neil & I went back to the hotel & chilled out having a swim & a snooze. Tonight we ate in & watched Pretty Woman - the end to another great day.

Linked by the King

Linked by the King
Elvis has not left the building

Day 46 - The Day - (Di)

Well the day has come around quicker than I expected - in fairness this trip of a lifetime is somewhat distracting from any scheduling!! Today we are both going to write about our experience - so please excuse our indulgence....

My day started with a Summer Indulgence package of a manicure & pedicure with my "soon to be sister-in-law" Sabrina - this was a very decadent way to start feeling very girlie for my BIG day. It has been great to have some very personal time to spend with Lorne & Sabrina away from the usual rush when family come to visit at home.

We then both met up with the boys & enjoyed a great brunch at the Cafe Bellagio. Later taking in some more of the strip & allowing L & S to do the obligatory souvenir shopping. The goodbye thing is always crap when you have had such a great time experiencing some very cool memories together - but commitments required them to be in Canada - so we wished them well & thanked them for taking the time to be with us - again guys thanxs heaps!!

Following a little down time I resumed the girlie prep with another visit to the Salon for the hair & makeup - you need to check out the web cam results to see how you think this worked - I loved it - if only I could have a stylist travel with me..... Girls you need to know bangs are back in (guys - this is fringes) big time in the USA.

Now I was a little nervous - but some champagne assisted in calming my nerves & I promised I would not cry (made it!!) - between makeup, false eyelashes & the hair - this was not going to be an option.

When I returned we then got all tizzied up in our party frocks - and my groom to be looked so so handsome & I think I did pretty well. I now had something old (me) something new (dress) something borrowed (not sure I got this bit) & something blue (my commitment ring) - my dress was from Hong Kong (loving it) my shoes from Washington (sexy as) lingerie (Italy & DC), jewelery (Perth) & flowers from Bellagio a fairly international ensemble.

After taking some cute shots in the room & hotel we made our way to the limo - many along the way were congratulating us & commenting on how gorgeous we looked (even if they were joshing it was great for morale!)

The trip to the chapel (now 9.15pm) is not long but the traffic on the Strip is crap. Once there Neil did the obligatory paperwork & I started with the photographer (Mark) doing the bride shots -we then met up in the chapel. I walked down the aisle (bit funny on your own) & trying really hard to not trip off the cute sandals. We had a delightful marriage celebrant do our official service - it wasn't long & drawn out or too over the top it was however very genuine & sincere - I liked it a lot.

Now the fun was to really begin - we met with Elvis & agreed on the music - went thru the protocol - & then off we went. I was walked down the aisle by Elvis to the usual wedding march- something I will long remember - this certainly helped break the ice - I think I smiled all the way down to meet my handsome groom.

The chapel is only little - but certainly cute & pretty much what we had wanted. As I got half way down the aisle I glanced back as the chapel door opened & Neil's Mom walked in (with a long term friend of hers) - this was totally unexpected but a very sweet gesture.

We then did our individual wedding vows & my hunka hunka burning love & I exchanged rings. This was extremely intimate even though the words were funny & we had lots of friends & family watching I really felt I was all alone just with Neil. I have a beautiful gold band with diamonds across the top - Neil chose to keep his commitment ring as his wedding band. (Hot tip - cleaning rings on the road dip them in vodka for a little while they come out glistening).

The songs were great interspersed nicely through the ceremony & we were not left to look like a shag on a rock at our own wedding. We had Love Me Tender, Hawaiian Wedding song (Neil's Mom's request) a medley including I'm Going to be Your Teddy Bear & the finale was Viva Las Vegas. We had the opportunity to do our wedding dance even before we left the chapel!!

We have had a lot of photos taken at the chapel & we will get them on Monday - hopefully we will have a chance to share them with you when we return home - we will try & not bore anyone senseless with them!?

I have been extraordinarily flattered by the emails & messages we have received wishing us well - we really weren't aware there were that many folk watching our blog.

As we now had some family with us we returned to the hotel via Limo & enjoyed our wedding supper & bubbles. It was nice to share some of our travel stories as well as things about today.

It was awesome to phone home & speak to so many friends who were partying at our home & across the country - glad the link worked - the footage is now saved on the website if you want another giggle. Si thanks so much for ensuring everyone was connected up - we really appreciated your IT expertise. This was an amazing & uncomplicated way to make this commitment to the man of my dreams - I hope that others gleaned just a little of what appears to have been a very public commitment to one another - thank you for sharing this day with me.

Cool Family Loving

Cool Family Loving
Neil's Mom with us & the King on our wedding day

The Real Deal

The Real Deal
Reverend john did the official stuff before "The King" came onstage

Watching the Wedding

I'm so far behind and will get Las Vegas Pics etc up tomorrow but in the meantime - some people have had problems with the link to the webcast (see bottom of the blog). It should be noted that when nothing is on in the chapel the link fails as they are not broadcasting anything. If it all fails try this;
If the link on the blog is buggy go to
click "menu" (at the top of the screen) and click "watch live wedding" at the top of the menu

There may be a delay of up to 10mins. Hope all this works

Save the date!!

Save the date!!

Day 45 - Clark County Nevada - Neil

We're in the same place but we're both CSI fans and they work for Clark County (the council for greater Las Vegas). And today we have to go to the Clark County Courthouse to get our marriage license.

We went down to the Wedding Chapel to make sure all was well and go over the details. Everyone was nice and it was all according to plan although I have to say - like most of Vegas - the Chapel looks better at night. In Vegas you need a license from the county and then anytime within a year you can get a licensed person to perform the ceremony and then you're married. We went on to the Courthouse and stood in line with a lot of many and varied couples, older couples like us, a really short guy with an asian (non-english speaking) wife, and a few desperate teenagers including at least one pregnant one. We talked about if Britney stood inline with the punters and decided she probably made the Limo driver do it for her (I would have to but we'd caught a taxi). it was all fairly painless and after filling in some forms and parting with $55 we were half married.

We came back to Bellagio as Lorne had his heart set on doing a real Vegas style All You Can Eat - Buffet, and his research indicated that Bellagio had the best one. The amount and variety of food was amazing. Di said she couldn't think of a type of food that wasn't represented and the quality was really good to. We ate as much as we could and then fitted in deserts. I wont need to eat for days.

After a rest we all had tickets to the "Jubilee" show at Bally Casino. This is a classic Vegas Style "Tits and Feathers" variety show. I wasn't really that fussed to see it and only went as Lorne and Sabrina were quite keen. But I enjoyed it immensely. The sets, costumes (yes it wasn't all topless), choreography and general production values of the show were extraordinary and we all had a great time. I had a chat with the sound guy and it turns out he's been the system tech for Ivor Davis and Icehouse when they toured the US years ago - and knew heaps of aussie sound guys.

Need to get a big sleep in as tomorrows the big day.

Day 44 - Viva Las Vegas - (Di)

Wow talk about Disneyland for grown-ups!! We are having an awesome time - & it has been great to share some time with Lorne & Sabrina.

The Bellagio is designed in such a way that you really do not need to leave for anything: food, drink, gambling, shopping, spa, salon, florist, shows, patisserie the list goes on....

This morning we ventured out after a late yummy breakfast - overlooking the Conservatory which has the most beautiful display of plants & exhibits - there are these tiny yellow bush roses which are exquisite mixed in with impatiens & hydrangeas (Loz you would be so impressed!). The water ballet is presented in miniature within the display.

We then caught up with Lorne & Sabrina & went exploring the Strip! There is a maze of arcades within @ casino consisting of shops, restaurants & amazing art work. In Caesar's Palace there was a fully automated pantomime about the Roman Empire - great effects sound was a little suss!) The Venetian is an amazing replica of Venice including the buildings, canals & gondolas - inside is so well done you would think you were outside. One very clever aspect is the use of escalators & travelators (either in a circular fashion or over the "Rialto Bridge" so tourists & gamblers don't get to worn out!!

I then left my fellow travellers to do some pre wedding prep - hair day today - I caught up with them all at 7 to go to see Zoomanity - the liveliest of the Cirq shows. The show was at New York New York - an alleged short distance away (Not so in high heels) Amazing interaction with the audience (this was Sabrina & my first Cirq experience) - costumes, dance & flexibility oh my goodness!! We all feel we should now be off to the gym.

Afterwards we indulged in some great food at one of the many restaurants. On our return we tried our hand at gambling - no big winners here but we had a lot of fun - at times getting a 200% return on investment.

Everything is just so effervescent the effects are every where & I apologise now if I continue to use the word amazing. My son Si had always told me to come visit that I would like it - boy was he right!!

Day 43 - In transit - T minus 4 (Neil)

Here we go again. Salt Lake to Vegas was a pretty quick and easy flight and strangely nothing went wrong. We got in Vegas early afternoon and settled into the Bellagio which was the hotel I really wished I could have afforded to stay in when I was here 8 years ago. It was stinking hot, but I'm quite excited to be back as I loved this town when I was here before - and then the dollar was 0.62cents US. With close parity I'm really looking forward to having some adventures.

Our room is right over the road from Paris (the Casino). This is the 3rd Eiffel Tower we've seen on this trip and far and away the most accessible. The real one is so surrounded by tourists that its a 90min wait to get in to. The one at EPCOT (in Disney) is not ascendable - but this one is a wander in and pay you $5 dollars to geting the lift. As Las Vegas is in the middle of the desert there's no leafy parks or bohemian "left bank" to see like the real one, but you can see the desert, "Luxor" ( a full size pyramid made of black glass with amazing Eygtian theming all around and through it), "The Venetian" with a recreation of Venice and San Marco and a heap of other themes and countries and all sorts of strange stuff.

Probably wouldn't give up seeing the rest of the world and just come here but Vegas is much more accessible. For instance the real Rialto Bridge in Venice has big marble steps and is completely impossible for obese people in those "Gopher" motorised wheelchair thingo's (its even hard for able bodoed) - whereas the Rialto Bridge at "The Ventian" has a travelator across it (flat escalator) so even the most enormous person can just rev up their Gopher and go for it.

Lorne and Sabrina get here later tonight. Should be a fun few days - Oh yeah, and we get married in 4 days.

Day 42 - Salt Lake City - (Di)

This morning we took off on a tour of the Wasatch Mountains - this was really cool trip going only about 35 minutes out of town we went to all the Olympic venues for the Salt Lake City Olympics 2002. We had an insight into the K90 & K120 ski jumps (very steep!!) they train on these during the summer with just running water over the surface which supposedly mimics snow - I dunno?? This is where Alissa Camplin won gold!

We saw the ski jump training centre where the folk (kids & adults) go down a run somersault & land in a pool of water which has had the surface tension broken with an explosion of air from below - very cool. We lunched in Park City which is the Mecca for skiing in the Salt Lake area. It didn't seem to be that high but Neil & I both experienced some altitude sensitivity so apparently it is!!

It is apparent that anything of real interest (except the Temple) is located outside of the main city centre - the lake - the copper, nickel & gold mine & the Rockies. It is amazing there are 6 lane highways all around the city & building more yet the population is only around 1 million folk.

We returned to the hotel at 2.30 & chilled out - Neil working & reading me hanging by the pool. I ventured off to the State Liquor store for a bottle of wine - obviously the rules are quite strict within Utah - but I cannot remember seeing 1.5 litre bottles of Banrock Station & Jacobs Creek wine - not to mention the 4 litre flagons - quite an eye opener.

Tonight was a quiet one as we get down to some serious planning for Friday!!!! There is no doubt that Americans on their own turf are much nicer than when they are being tourists!! To all our American friends & family present & known company excluded.

Tomorrow is T minus 3 days so Las Vegas here we come.

Days 40 & 41 - Washington to Salt Lake City (Neil)

I'm writing about these two days together as we really haven't done very much. Yesterday we flew from Washington (Dulles) to Salt Lake City. There must be something in our profiles on the American Airlines database as we've now had our bags pulled apart and checked for explosives twice in the US. Luckily we left all our bombs at home.

Strangely for a US flight it wasn't delayed (even our connecting flight) and they didn't lose our luggage or give us any other grief. Unfortunately this means we've used up all our luck and all US flights from here on will be a complete debacle so we can get back to the average of 99% screw up. It puzzles me how such an affluent country can tolerate such bad service and it seems from people we've spoken to that its all airlines not just the ones we've been unfortunate enough to fly on.

Salt Lake is nice enough. Smaller than I imagined and doesn't seem like very much is hapenning but nothing really to complain about. We wandered up to Temple Square last night and saw the buildings that I've been seeing pictures of since I was a baby. The Tabernacle is a very cool building but once again - just smaller than I thought it would be.

I did work stuff and caught up on email all today while Di lazed around the pool and did little trips to check out close stuff. We decided to go out for dinner about 8pm but it seems you have more chance of getting a decent meal in Kalgoorlie on a Sunday night than you do in the Capital of Utah. You seriously could have let off a repeating rifle on the main street without risking anyone as there where so few people about. Oh well - when in Rome etc - we'll go to bed early like the locals.

Tomorrow we're going to go see the Winter Olympic sites.

Salt Lake

Salt Lake
The view from our balcony

Day 39 - Washington - (Di)

Today was another extremely enjoyable day - chilling out with family & enjoying all the energy that Jasmine has - oh to be a 3 yr old!

Today we ventured to the shops - Lorne had some time off so he & Neil checked out some boy stuff - Sabrina & I explored the greatest shoe shop I have ever been to!! I have now got beautiful & very sexy sandals for the wedding + a few others. The prices were so low - I know where I will be buying shoes in the future.

Lunchtime today was at a true American burger restaurant - the size of drink serves is enormous - there is no such thing as a small serve - the drinks may as well have come in buckets they were huge!! We had great burgers - but even the bread is sweet compared to Oz bread.

After lunch we explored the outlet shopping mall & picked up a few bargains. The cost of everything - except petrol seems to be generally much cheaper than home - I am really appreciating the exchange rate.

On the way home we went for a drive around the neighbourhood - it is very beautiful - winding roads - big leafy trees & very very quiet for bring so close to DC.

Tonight we are enjoying some more family time - Sabrina is doing her cake decorating (does some great work - extraordinarily creative!!) tomorrow on the plane to Salt Lake.

We chose to have home delivery Chinese & only in America would you have included on the menu french fries, sugar donuts & what I thought was human shrimp (it was Hunan!!) - what are these folk thinking!!

Unfortunately the cake decorating hit a few hitches & Marcia & Sabrina worked all through the night after Elmo's head fell of (on the birthday cake for Sabrina's nephew) - this is amazing work but extraordinarily time consuming - hopefully they will get in a nap!!

Day 38 - Washington - (neil)

This day started badly. I've had a toothache for a while and when I got up today Di had convinced Lorne and Sabrina to get me an appointment with their dentist - immediately.

We went over to Dr Scott's office and did a copious amount of paperwork for someone that they were never going to see ever again, then did an X-Ray and was told that my tooth had to come out. Leaving bits of me all over the world wasn't really in my plans but it did hurt so I said OK. All though I'm a dreadful sook about things like this - it was fairly painless while the anaesthetic held up but by the late afternoon I had that classic bone soreness that you get after an extraction. It's better today so I can't really complain.

In the afternoon Sabrina took us to Mount Vernon which was George Washington's farm (just around the corner from where Lorne and Sabrina live). The history is palpable and its fascinating to see how life was then. Its also in an awesome position looking over the Potomac River. We saw the house, the bed he died in and the tomb. It was really interesting and I like to go back and look around the farm more at a later date.

We had dinner at home with Lorne, Sabrina, Jasmine and Sabrina's mom, dad and grandma -which was great fun just talking and joking and enjoying the family atmosphere. Lorne cooked great ribs and brocolli salad. Di is going to get the recipes as the food was amazing.

Tomorrow we're going shopping. I'm not a big fan of shopping but Di needs stuff for her wedding outfit so credit card - watch out.

Day 37 - Washington - (Di)

Washington is a really big suprise. It doesn't have the feel of a big city at all. Today we tried some local cuisine starting with pancakes for brunch. Stacks of pancakes drizzled in blueberries or strawberries & lashings of cream - yummo!

Sabrina & Jasmine then took Neil & I exploring the capital. We visited part of the Smithsonian - the Air & Space museum - this is an amazing display of planes and spacecraft from the Wright Brothers up to the space shuttle & Hubble telescope. I cannot believe the blind faith the astronauts & pilots must have in technology to venture into space in something no stronger in appearance than glad wrap & an aluminium can!

The interaction between Jasmine & Neil has been awesome to watch - Neil was explaiaing aero physics & Jas was listening intently. Jas was able to tell neil that the Kitttyhawk was of course a biplane!!

We later checked out the Capital & Jefferson Memorial. Again it has been great just soaking up the sights. The architecture is so different from what we have seen in Europe.

In the evening Lorne & Sabrina took us to their uncle & aunts restaurant about 45 minutes away & we enjoyed sensational cuisine in a great family atmosphere.

Today was a great way to spend time & connect with our family who we rarely see - this visit is really about the family - the sights of Washington really are just a bonus.

The Whitehouse

The Whitehouse
The classic Washington picture

Day 36 - In transit (neil)

We had a to get up at a really vile hour as "the Magical Express" bellhop was getting our luggage at 7am. I wasn't really awake but we managed to get to Customs House (the checkout place) and do the checkout, get to the bus and were at Orlando International by 8.30am (which was a pain as our flight wasn't 'til 11.20). Disney in customary efficient fashion sorted our bags and checked them through to Washington with no fuss. We booked this flight ourselves as we were hazy on dates etc when we left Perth and were booked on "Continental" - Business class.

The Orlando to Newark leg was painless and the food was good and nothing much happened which seemed promising. In Newark we were only 47 minutes flying time from Washington DC - what could possibly go wrong???

First the flight was delayed - but this seems so common in the US that 20mins to an hour delay is really no big deal. I texted Lorne (my Brother in DC) to tell him we were running late - they delayed the flight again, changed the gate, made us walk all the way across the airport to a new gate, delayed it again and then un-delayed it back to the original delayed time (are you still following me?).

Eventually we got on a plane only 30mins from what was originally scheduled. The plane took off, I dozed off and 40 mins later (remember DC is only 47mins flying) the Pilot told us that as the landing gear wouldn't retract (and we were flying around with it down) so they'd have to go back to Newark. I missed all the middle bit but Di tells me that we did circuits of the airport - jinking left and right in an attempt to shake the landing gear into behaving. Di did get to see the Manhattan skyline which was cool as we wouldn't have otherwise.

The Pilot told us the landing would be routine even though the landing gear was suspect and it was - but as we were taxi-ing we noticed that all the fire engines and emergency response vehicles were out waiting for us so he can't have been that sure.

Then Continentals "service" really showed its stuff. A "Team Leader" came onboard to tell us what was happening next but he was useless and wouldn't speak to passengers - he told the gate staff to send everyone to the alleged "Service Desk". who told us to go back to pretty much where we had been and crowd onto another plane - the later service to DC. They also assured us that our baggage would be transferred.

We arrived in DC only 4 hours late (felt like much more). Lorne and Sabrina and Jasmine had been waiting for us all that time and as Jas is only 3 she was well over waiting. We had to go and stare at the baggage conveyor for half an hour before they would let us report our bags lost.

Miraculously - the lost baggage guy was really helpful and assured us our bags were on the flight due in at 9.30pm (it was 8.30 by now) and would be delivered straight to Lorne's house. Cool - we could go get some dinner and all would be well - But NO - more lies.

As I write this we have been away from Disney for 28.5 hours on what should have been a 4.5 hr set of flights and we still don't have clothes or toiletries.

Its great to be here. Lorne and Sabrina have been really welcoming and their home is gorgeous. We had a really nice Mex meal last night and then went for a drive around DC to see all the monuments at night. But if you're coming to the US avoid Continental Airlines and Newark Airport.

Day 35 - And more Disney - (Di)

Today is our last day in the magical world of Walt Disney. So off to the remaining theme park Animal Kingdom. I thought this might not be as interesting as the others but in true Disney style it again was full of surprises.

Again we were greeted with "have a magical day - or have a wild day in the animal kingdom" everyone is really so nice - & because we were given a "Just Married" badge each on arrival which we have attached to the backpack we are frequently receiving well wishes from staff (one customer today did offer Neil commiserations!)

We ventured into a world which really endorses the Disney policy of supporting the environment & around every corner they have constructed waterfalls, boulders, caverns, and forests which I dare you to pick from the real thing.

We had a great brunch at Yak & Yetti a real treat eating from real plates (not porcelain) served with great Californian wine. The food was a mix of countries cuisine but absolutely delightful - in true Disney style they can seat 423 at one sitting!!

We visited a Flights of Wonder show with amazing live birds from across the continents including a massive bald eagle & parrots. This was followed by Mickey's Jamming Jungle Parade - this is not of the same scale as the Magic Kingdom Parade but again some amazing effects - especially when one considers this runs every single day!

We then joined the throng of folk & using the Fast pass system (book in early & then come back & jump ahead in the queue) ventured on the Kilimanjaro safari trip through African savanna with giraffes, rhinos, elephants & lions roaming freely. There were some great effects with a rattly bridge, geysers & water crossings to be hurdled. Hopefully amongst all the bumps we got some great up close photos??

Again Disney has done a remarkable job at tailoring merchandise to meet the environs - camouflage mickey mouse ears & jungle water bottles!

We have now established a little schedule of coming home chilling out & having a swim - I am really going to have to work on a pool for summer!

Tonight we are venturing back to Downtown Disney where the grownups can go & play with restaurants, bars & music venues. Tomorrow morning we have to be up & on the Disney Express at 0800 so not to late a night.

Day 34 - More Disney (Neil)

I'm still blown away by how much Disney there is here. Since we got here we haven't left Disney World and we certainly haven't run out of places to explore. A couple of facts - a staff member told me "The Magical Kingdom" (one of four Disney theme parks here) has a capacity of 100,000 (they closed Magical Kingdom and EPCOT on July 4 at capacity). The Caribbean Beach Resort that we're staying in has 2112 rooms and its one of 19 Disney resorts here. The numbers are astounding.

We decided to check out the "Disney Hollywood Studio" Resort here today. Once again its huge and its also a working film studio. This Park gets talked down a bit by kids as there aren't as many roller coasters etc but to me its been the best one so far.

We walked straight into the "Indiana Jones Stunt show" (no queues is a major win here) and saw a great set of live reproductions from bits of the Indy movies including the famous rolling rock and many battle and explosion scenes. It was really good and again amazingly big to be able to do once an hour all day.

Then we wandered around soaking up the "backlot" feel and enjoying the attention to detail. Then we did the Back Lot tour which took us through a canyon where they created a flash flood and blew up a petrol tanker - this one uses 70,000 gallons of water but can be reset every 5 minutes. Had a great time and then came back for a swim.

For dinner we went back to "Magical Kingdom" which was much nicer without 100,000 people onsite. They run extra hours at each Park that are just for people living on the resorts. Tonight was Magical Kingdom and they close to the public at 11pm but stay open for us 'til 2am. We watched the parade, rode on the "Jungle Adventure" through the rivers of the world and did the "Pirates of the Caribbean" ride which is also on water and full of animatronic characters (great detail and a couple of dogs that are so lifelike you want to pat them). Overall had a nice evening just wandering around and looking.
Tomorrow - The Animal Kingdom.

Day 33 Disney World - (Di)

I am amazed at how big this place is - & with children everywhere during the day just how quiet the resort is?!

After the obligatory house chores (laundry etc) we went off to explore Downtown Disney - there is a Disney transportation system literally at our door with buses servicing all the sites on the resort - these then link with the monorail system & you never seem to have to wait very long.

Downtown Disney is a conglomeration of shops, restaurants, bars, theatres, walkways & boat rides. All the theme parks are situated in beautiful garden settings around waterways. We had breakfast at Wolfgang Puck's restaurant (for all the Las Vegas Fans - very nice!) & then just wandered around soaking it all in. I did a tad of the obligatory shopping - felt obliged really. There is an amazing array of displays - glassware in 18kt gold covered in crystals - homewares - anything really even accessories for you pooch.

After being suitably worn from walking we returned to the hotel - Neil did some work - I went to the pool. The water temp was delightful - & as we are in the midst of summer and somewhat in the tropics it gets pretty warm here during the day.

Now suitably refreshed (well me anyway) we went off to explore Epcot. The world renowned sphere at the front gate is somewhat imposing but a great landmark.

The park was easy to get around today with way less tourists. We ventured through the World Showcase which is displays of 11 countries including Italy, France, Canada, UK, Morocco etc. But these were not tacky little tourism displays these were reconstructs of major attractions in each country. Canada & China both had 360 degree films of the highlights & reflections of their country's - amazing footage. Each housed restaurants / cafes reflecting their cuisine. We probably walked at least 5kms in 35+ temps - but it was really enjoyable just soaking it all up. That was until a large lady (sic) didn't see me & ran over my foot with a wheelchair!! I thought I had lost a little weight but I am certainly not the invisible woman!!!

We then returned home & hit the pool - whilst watching an awesome lightning storm - Thel - you would have loved it. We then met up with a couple of Aussies - shared a drink & a chat exchanging stories - in all a magical day.

Day 32 - Miami to Orlando (Neil)

Every american we talk to slags off American Airlines as awful. Last night in the hotel it seemed that the whole bar was people who were only there because American screwed up their flights and they couldn't be where they were supposed to be. Our trip across the Atlantic had been great with American so we were a bit puzzled but today they did us to.

We had a 13.20 flight t Orlando so didn't rush to get to the Airport. Got out there about 11.30 and figured out the airlines "one stop" check in service which constitutes standing in a long line to wait for a machine to check in at and then standing in another long line to check your bags. Still not sure how this is "one stop" I'm guessing they needed bigger signs so forgot to put "long" in the middle. By the time we'd checked in, had an argument with 3 Indians (not American Indians) and a Hispanic (all separately) about the etiquette of how queuing works, and dumped our bags our flight had been delayed an hour. This sucked as it was Independence day here and we'd paid for tickets to Disney to see all the July 4 festivities which we were missing whilst in an airport only 65 mins flying away.

We eventually got to Disney world about 5pm (was supposed to be 3pm). Checked in and went to our room. The Resort (the Carribean) is huge and its only one of many Disney have here. Its made up of a series of villages spread around a lagoon. Di and I had romantic ideas of being able to peddle around Disney World but its so big we'd be doing well to peddle around our own resort let alone the whole 28,000 acre sub-division.

The first thing I noticed when we got to our room was, we had twin king size single beds - not a double, even though they know we are on our honeymoon. We phoned reception about this and were told that's the standard bed at this resort. There's obviously no canoodling at the "Happiest Place on Earth". Its puzzling even so as these beds wouldn't fit one of some of the people we've seen here.

Got out to "The Magical Kingdom" by about 7pm. It was as big and extravagant and extraordinary as I had imagined it would be. unfortunately there were about 70,000 substantially americans sharing it with us and this was a few people than the park could comfortably deal with. Fireworks were great but we'll go back when its less crowded.

Transit - London to Miami - Day 32 (Di)

Getting up at 5.30 for any other reason would not normally be on our agenda - but as we had a 9.55 flight & we had to master Heathrow & 3 flights of stairs with our bags 5.30 it was!!

Our friend Aloma very kindly picked us up & we avoided the Congestion surcharge (8 pounds) if you are in our neighborhood after 0700 - an attempt to reduce traffic in central London.

The check in was all relatively painless but in these 12 hours or so of flying & waiting we have had our passports & identity checked more times than on the entire trip to date!! We had a very pleasant stopover in Miami - very Darwinesque in both architecture and weather - looks like Broome all grown up.

Tomorrow Disney!!

Miami Overnight

Miami Overnight
Great hotel

London - Day 31 (Neil)

We had lots of things to get done today but we decided to go see a London show and consequently didn't get much else done.

We caught the tube to Leicester Square where the West End Theatres have their own Box Office to sell tickets. The deal is tickets that haven't been sold are available for today's matinees and evening performances at a reduced rate. They go on sale at 10am and the choices of shows get smaller as the day goes on.

We thought we'd like to see "Phantom" as neither of us had seen it - but they didn't have a matinee today. So we decided to see a new musical called "Wicked". Its a slant on the "Wizard of Oz' story. We didn't know anything about it but thought it sounded fun so of we went.

We had two hours to kill between buying the tickets and needing to be at the Theatre. As it was right on the way we (Di) decided to stop at Knightsbridge and check out "Harrods". I'm not a big shopper (in fact I hate it) but I gotta say this was pretty impressive. The size and scope was amazing. I saw a Breitling watch I really liked but it was 55,000 quid so I probably wont be getting it any time soon.

'Wicked" was exceptional. The staging, sets and tech were as cool as can be and it was even a not too silly a script. We really enjoyed it and would recommend it. However we both came out of the Theatre with sore throats so decided to have a quiet night. Tomorrow - off to Miami

London - Day 30 (Di)

I can't believe we have been away from home for 30 days - together we have seen so many great sites & experienced some amazing things.

Today was no different - today was Wimbledon!! The hottest day in London this summer - a cool 37 degrees & we were there. It was all jolly nice & terribly orderly - queues were short & being very British they even gave you a guide to standing in the queue!! We enjoyed soaking up the atmosphere - eating strawberries and cream - saw a few lesser lights play - ran in to Tony Roche - was tempted to tell him he taught me in a tennis camp when I was a youngster - but saved him the angst & me the embarrassment for failing to progress!

The crowd was quite large but easy to get around. The venue was very pretty lots of roses & hydrangeas in full bloom - again we travelled by train - there are heaps of scares which require them to wait or evacuate the stations so again a bit of a drag sitting underground for 30 mins with no air con.

Then we caught up with Gavin - (a friend of Neil's) & his girl in the evening & explored some of the local sites with them. Neil definitely enjoys the talking shop. We all enjoyed a celebratory drink for AAA's birthday over french cuisine - another great day.

Tomorrow - to the shops!

London - Day 29 (Neil)

Sorry we've not added any pictures for London yet but although we're in the home of Vodafone my wireless modem is running slower than in Dubai so we haven't been able to upload any. Will fix when we're in Miami on Thursday night (US time).

Today we thought we'd do something really different and get on the "Hop On Hop Off" bus. Once again it was a great way to see the sites and get oriented about whats really next to what - the tube system is quite deceptive like this (as its mostly underground). A friend here looked up on the internet how to tube from his address to a work site. The internet said 36 mins in the tube - when he looked it up on google maps - it was only 10 mins on his bike.

The bus tour was great as always and we had a Cockney guide to tell us about the sites and stories of London. We had lunch on Oxford St and decided to do the river trip down to Greenwich. I like seeing a city like this and the river is the reason London was here. Had a nice cruise, Greenwich was cool and we caught the tube back. Which wasn't so cool as there was a fire on the District Line (which we were on) and all the trains had to stop (underground) - by the time they had managed to clear all the trains between us in Greenwich and Earls Court where we were going - we been stop/start on the underground for an hour. Not really a big deal but hot stuffy and annoying.

Best of all - in the evening my friend Aloma Reid and her partner Ben came over for dinner. We had a great evening catching up and chatting and talked for so long they missed the last tube and had to cab home. I can understand why Australians tend to clump together her. Its almost like home but not quite and its re-assuring to be with people that have some background in common. We've - met, bumped into, caught up with - a few friends on this trip. For all the fun of traveling sometimes its really nice to sit down with friends and talk about WA.

Tomorrow - no fixed plans - so we'll see


Its great to see people we haven't seen for a while (Neil with Aloma and Ben)

London - Day 28 (Di)

There is an amazing familiarity about London - even though I have never been before the sights are so familiar from TV etc, that it is really quite easy to think you have been here before - (I haven't except for Heathrow!!)

We spent the day exploring using the metro & just following our noses to visit things that looked interesting. We went in to London - Westminster & walked around the streets looking at churches, houses of Parliament, the Tower of London - Big Ben, the Thames etc & the thing that really struck us was the number of security cameras absolutely everywhere!! There are many buildings now locked down & no longer able to be visited since 9/11.

I was great to explore & just hang out - the metro here is quite easy to use but so much bumpier than in Europe - how can train systems not progress over this many years to not smooth out the bumps!

We returned to the unit - which is on the 3rd floor with No Lift!! - this is part of our personal fitness campaign. A quiet night watching english speaking shows & the Euro 2008 final.

Love the Bus

Love the Bus
Another "Hop on Hop Off" Bus

Eurostar - Day 27 (Neil)

We're days behind as our roaming wireless modem isn't working very well in London - but Saturday we left Paris via Gare De Nord on the Eurostar cross channel train. We have both come to really like Paris after figuring out how to enjoy it like the French and not get caught in the constant Tourist crush.

Our train was leaving at the fairly civilised hour of 12.30 so we took it pretty easy and got out to the station at 11.00. Everyone tells me how cool the Eurostar is but quietly I have a little problem with the concept of traveling 27kms under a large amount of water in an aluminium tube that doesn't seem enough like a submarine to keep me safe (I'm not a great swimmer).

In fact the journey was painless. We got to see some of the french countryside and (same as when I'm on a bumpy flight) as soon as we got to the scary bit I fell asleep. Di doesn't think this is very useful but I quite like the fact that I can sleep through scary stuff. When I woke up we were in england and almost to St Pancras Station.

We caught a real London Cab (outrageously expensive) to our apartment in Earls Court. This is the area I stayed in when we were here years ago so at least I have some idea where we are and the Tube stop is just 4 doors away so its easy to get around.

Had a wander and a quiet drink and stocked up the apartment from Marks and Spencer's. We both have friends here we'd like to catch up with and I haven't told mine I'm coming so spent the evening emailing and texting to get phone numbers etc. Tomorrow out to explore


Here we go (not in a submarine but underwater)

Paris - Day 26 (Di)

Today was a day we had been looking forward to - visiting the Louvre! We again mastered the rail system & there is a stop right near the Museum - very handy.

You enter the Museum through the glass pyramid -into the Napoleon Hall. The museum is everything I had heard about & more - the crowds were manageable & it was relatively easy to get around. There were of course hundreds of people visiting from tiny school kids to obvious art connoisseurs.

The building goes for miles - with a multitude of staircases going off at different levels & priceless masterpieces at every corner.There is just so much to see it is difficult to know where to start. It is like watching 51 TV channels at one time.

We saw many of the greatest hits including the Renaissance art , 14 - 17th Century paintings, Napoleon III apartments, massive stone carvings from the Mesopotamia era which are enormous - they put our little stone dogs to shame - & of course we like many 1000's of others saw the Mona Lisa.

I am in love with the marble sculptures - I cannot imagine how difficult these must have been to craft with the limited tools available at the time - & the disappointment if their works were rejected! The degree of detail is nothing short of mind blowing.They are so pristine & inspiring - I so wish I was artistic!!

After this we took a leisurely lunch & wandered back to chill out for the afternoon & consider what we had seen - you could visit daily for a year & still not see everything the Louvre has to offer - guess we will have to come back??

Tonight is our last night in Paris - a truly engaging city once you escape the crowds - tomorrow we will head for London & more adventures.....

Mesopotamia Magic

Mesopotamia Magic
Neil admiring some puppies!

L-Acoustic Day 25 (Neil)

One thing about traveling continuously - it really shags you out. Today we are going out to L-Acoustics to have a look around and as weren't expected out there until 1pm we had a sleep in and a wander round the area immediately around the Hotel. We set off for Marcoussis (about 30km south of Paris) just before midday in a taxi however the traffic outside the hotel is so bad we'd paid 4 Euro in fares before we managed to get out of the cab rank. The fare was 30Euro ($50Aud) and the drive was quite nice once we got out of the chaos Paris traffic.

L-Acoustic was smaller than I imagined it would be (not that I know anything about manufacturing) but really well laid out. Apparently Christian Heil collects modern art and there was great pieces everywhere including a big bronze man with huge bollocks to meet us just outside the front door. Michell Brouard (our Oceania sales boss) was away in Asia and David Brooks from Tech support kindly showed us around and took us to lunch. David is an American but clearly has a great love for all things french - especially the cuisine. He gave us some great tips on places to eat real french cuisine as well as to experience the real Paris feel without the crush of the tourists.

We had a lovely lunch and then went back to the factory for a look around. It was really interesting to see the manufacturing and testing line plus the indoors and outdoors testing facilities. Christian was in and kindly remembered meeting me in San Francisco (I think that's 4 years ago now). We had a great and informative visit and came home on the RER (train). Frances train system is very good although I still panic that I'm going in the right direction every time I get on one.

Taking David's advice we headed for the Saint Germaine area (just near Notre Dame) to a Lyonnaise restaurant called "Monsonnier". It was every bit as good as he said it was and we finished the evening with a stroll along the banks of the Seine and past Notre Dame de Paris. Now this is really Paris living.

Visiting L-Acoustic

Visiting L-Acoustic
He greets you at the front door. David tells me that L-Acoustic and the "big tackle" are connected

Gay Paris - Day 24 (Di)

What a difference a day makes - yesterday we did a walk around Paris & it wasn't as I imagined - I thought it would be tree lined streets - lovers strolling by the river - all very pleasant - quiet & romantic movie look (I know a romantic at heart!) - but no! Busy people, chaotic traffic everywhere & not a tad of romance anywhere!! Then we had dinner at a little cafe & it was more than a bit ho hum - who can't cook a hamburger!!

However after a big sleep & breakfast we went exploring first on the metro (rail) & then on our favourite hop on hop off bus! As I have now worn out a pair of sandals, the bus is a great option. The day was amazing - beautiful weather, excellent company & an array of sights suitable for any history or geography book! I so wish I had paid more attention in modern history. Neil is like traveling with an interactive history lesson - G & B you should be very proud!

There is a real difference here to Italy (world according to di)it seems that the history is there/ here but everyone is really quite busy getting on with other things & it is really not as important. I love the avenues & the original villas - Victor Hugo, President Kennedy & President Wilson all have avenues in their honour for services to the City or for just living here. The Eiffel Tower is imposing but there are so many people there - I elected we look only from the ground!! The Paris Opera building is also outstanding - all buildings here seen to better kept than in Italy - maybe it is $$$ maybe they just have a different approach.

There is also the modern art - Luis Vitton, Prada, Guess, Chanel & Hugo Boss! We had a delightful late lunch at a little bistro near the Petite Ponte - many restaurants close at 2.30!! - but not this one - this one also had a happy hour from 1630 - 2130!! Great food and quite amazing looking out on such historic architecture.

So do I now like Paris? - Oui Madame et Monsieur!

Paris Opera

Paris Opera
One of the trinkets on the corners of the building

Zurich - Paris - Day 23 (Neil)

We had to catch a train at 7.00 this morning (if we missed it we missed our connection to Paris from Bern) so we were so paranoid we barely slept at all. It was another warmish night but the hotel found us a fan so it was a bit more tolerable. Eventually we gave up and got up at 5am.

We were only 10 mins from Zurich Central so ended up in the station by 6am and caught the train to Bern that was 2 earlier than scheduled. This was good as originally we only had 8 mins to find the right platform, get our stuff over there and get on the train.

When we got to Bern it was a typical peak hour in a capitol city. 16 lines in the station and people running everywhere. It was good to have the hour up our sleeve to get our act together and get where we needed to be.

The trip was painless as always. Very scenic through Switzerland and less so in eastern France. But overall uneventful.

We checked in to our hotel and as our travel agent had told them we were on our honeymoon they kindly upgraded our room and when we'd been settled for an hour or so - sent a man up with a bottle of french champagne - and as they are responsible providers - a bottle of Evian water to go with the bubbles. Unfortunately the little entrance corridor got the better of the waiter and the Evian did a dive and smash all over our room. You wouldn't think one 750mil bottle could makes such a mess but there was glass and water everywhere and both Di and I were in bare feet. He was of course appalled and got it all cleaned up fairly quickly but Di was stuck in the bathroom in bare feet for about 10mins while he did it.

After a bit of a rest we went for a wander. Lat time I was here it was almost winter, freezing cold and no-one was here. Today, Paris is as chaotic as I imagined it would be last time - there must be a least a trillion tourists here and they were all at the Eiffel Tower this evening. We wandered down, took a pic and wandered away. Tomorrow - definitely the "Hop On Hop Off" bus.

Killing time

Killing time
Taking pics of each other to kill the time on the train

Zurich - Day 22 (Di)

Well the temperature today is a little cooler- I never expected Zürich to be around 27 degrees! My picture was snow capped mountains, chalets - but no a massive lake, long river and heat haze!

We have had a great day taking in the sights by Ferry - utilising the Zurich card you get access to all trains, trams, ferries & buses. Our short ferry trip of 90 minutes went around about 1/3 of Lake Zürich it is so picturesque with what appears to be quite expensive looking aged properties right down to the water's edge. The beach is pebbles but heaps of folks are enjoying a swim.

After visiting the Lindt factory shop - the largest of its kind any where in the world!! Neil treated me to lunch at Chez Fritz - we mastered the local language & had delightful local cuisine whilst watching the water - tough I know but someone has got to do it!

Tonight we will have a quiet one as we have to be at the station by 6.45 to go to Paris - unfortunately we only have 8 minutes between trains so that may present a challenge. At least tonight we have a fan so hopefully cooler for sleeping.

Alps to more Alps - Day 21 (neil)

We left Innsbruck today for Zurich. We had a truly scenic train ride through the Alps with huge chasms and mountains and even a little bit of snow still remaining. I've really enjoyed traveling during the day and getting to soak up the scenery.

We came in to Zurich along Lake Zurich which runs for 24kms. Its hard to believe this is a big modern city as its so pretty and Heidi looking but it is.

Our hotel was only 300m from the central station so we checked in and got comfy. And then went into town for a look at the fan zone for Euro2008 (Switzerland is co-host). It was all very nice and we had a pleasant evening just soaking up the sights. However last night was the hottest night this year in Zurich and our hotel doesn't have Air Con (apparently don't need it in Zurich???) - It was as hot as a late January night in Perth as we had a fairly restless night.

Will have a look around town tomorrow as we're away to Paris the next day.

Innsbruck Tirol - Day 20 (Di)

Whilst never having been here before there is a real sense of familiarity about Innsbruck - a cross between Christchurch & Wanaka with a million years more history!

Our travels today took us up the mountain to Patscherkofelbahn - the Olympic mountain with great views of Innsbruck to the north. This was the site of 2 Olympic games & is quite magical place accessed by yet another cable car system. It is so green with lots of wildflowers including Edelweiss. We enjoyed a glass of wine & light lunch at the peak whilst thinking how much we want to come back & ski here!! I am not sure that I could master the forest but nothing ventured..!

After enjoyng the sunshine at 2300 metres we came back to reality & checked out some local ground level sites. Innsbruck has a great local transit system with trains, trams & buses all accessed through the Innsbruck card which makes this a very cost effective option - we maneuvered our way around back in to the city.

We have enjoyed some of the local cuisine - they basically rely on whatever is fresh & rarely freeze or even chill food. This is evidenced in the room where it is difficult to chill our wines. The local specialties include schnitzel, dumplings (cheese, apple, potato), sacher torte, sauerkraut & strudels. Really fresh & really tasty!

Euro fever continues & it doesn't seem to matter who is playing the crowds remain large & very enthusiastic - tomorrow more Euro travel - off to Zürich!

Mountain Travel

Mountain Travel
The Cable Car system for Innsbuck

Innsbruck Tirol - Day 19 (Neil)

I came here 26 years ago with my family and post my schooling sojourn in NZ. It was the first time I'd skied and I loved everything about this place. Of the time we spent in Europe (both as family and by myself) it is still far and away my clearest memory of the trip (other than being in Singapore by myself with no money and accidentally crossing passport control without my passport).

Nothing much has changed. This place and my affinity for it, is also why I love Wanaka so much. For a boy from a very flat place it seems I'm irresistibly attracted to mountains and specifically Alps.

We did our normal "Hop On - Hop Off" bus trip 1st thing today - it was great. Could I ask for anything more than a Ski Mecca that is immediately adjacent to this much history. Saw lots of amazing stuff and then took a different bus out to the world headquarters of "Swarovski Crystals". It wasn't what I'd expected - no glass pouring and stuff - more like a modern art museum with some really funky installations. It was very interesting and I could have kept myself amused for hours just figuring out where they had hidden the speakers in each installation (the domes was really hard as the acoustics lied).

We had dinner "up the hill" at the restaurant in the Nord Alpine Park area. A great trip up starts with a subway trip from underground, cross a river, go quickly up from 500m t0 900m, swap to a cable car and go to 1900m in less than a kilometre. The restaurant was great and the views incredible - but my favourite bit was definitely the trip up and back. One more day in Austria and then off to Switzerland - I seem to be meeting new friend with great speed - no sooner than to leave them for other friends (yet to meet).

From the Adriatic to the Alps - Day 18 (Di)

Today we left Venice for Innsbruck - after Neil lugged the luggage downstairs - I used the girl card & used the porter!! I don't usually check for elevators as a criteria for accommodation - but I do now.

We have again found the Eurail system painless. We travelled via Verona - Porto Nouvo who have a crazy interchange which requires you to lug your bag down stairs across a corridor & then back up stairs - I will never again bag out Disabled access ramps ever again as they are yet to be introduced in Europe!! Stairs, stairs and more steep stairs.

We arrived in Innsbruck at 4.30 & found our way to our delightful hotel right in the centre of the old town. It is very pedestrian friendly - I really like the malls & not competing with traffic. The place is crazy with Euro 2008 fever - & everyone is very pleasant & eager to help. Unfortunately my German is worse than my Italian but we are getting by.

Tonight we have enjoyed some local wine, cheese and speck (meat) & watching Euro - & an early night!


A 15th Century City and the Alps

Venezia - Day 17 (Neil)

I had a brain wave today and decided to buy us day passes for the local ferries (there are no buses). We got on the 1st ferry at Rialto and just went where the ferries went. When we saw a stop that was interesting we'd get off and then get on another one later. There are 6 or 7 ferry lines intersecting each other at various places so we had a really good look around.

We went to the Island of Murano which is famous for its glass works. Its a really nice little place without the bustle or crowds of Venice and really quite scenic. On the way there we went past the Venice Cemetery which has its own island.

Went on from Murano to Burano which is another Island famous for its handicrafts and lace.

In all we had a great day just wandering around and looking at stuff. Tomorrow I have to get the luggage back down the four flights of stairs as we're of to Innsbruck

Venezia - Day 16 (Di)

Wow - I am going to find it very hard to accurately describe Venice - it is like being on one big theatre set! There are gondolas, canals, masks, a maze of streets and alleys and amazing buildings everywhere. It is remarkably clean - the advantage of no road traffic but crowded with heaps of European tourists!!

After managing the stairs at the hotel we went off to explore the island on a 2 hour walking tour. Our guide (Maria) is a passionate local obviously a history major & gave us an amazing insight into how the island has developed since the initial settlements in the 3rd Century & then it really kicked up in the 9th Century when the Romans were running from the Lombards.

We visited Saint Marks church which was designed by Greeks' & built for the Catholic congregation & is covered in mosaic & gold leaf - it is an amazing piece of local history resembling more a Greek Orthodox style church & towers over St Mark's square.

The local population is 61,000 with many of the locals leaving the islands for the mainland - the main island is now referred to as Disney world as it is occupied by tourists with in excess of 21 million tourists last year!

We walked up & down thin alleyways & over a multitude of canals - everyone gets lost in Venice (part of the adventure)- it is only a matter of when not if! I can certainly attest to that as in the afternoon I went exploring on my own & ended up on the other side of the island entirely - sore feet!!

We also went on a ride in a Gondola. Very romantic but a serious rip-off. The locals keep telling us not to buy amything in Rialto or Paizzo San Marco (the tourist traps) and we keep forgetting.

The evening was spent enjoying the local production of Carnival which gives a musical theatre rendition of the history of Venice. Great use of sound & projection in a small space to depict how the locals experienced the evolution of Venice. We got caught in one of the local downpours - it is easy to see how this magical place may just wash away.

In Transit - Firenze-Venezia - Day 15 (Neil)

Here we go again. It seems silly but 3 days in each city is actually almost enough if you label your photo's and keep a blog to remind you of the chronology of where you've been. Its always been my intention that this trip be a taster for what we'd like to visit again and so far its working just fine.

Today we Eurail again the 3 hrs from Florence to Venice. Can't say enough nice things about the Eurail system as its a great compromise between relatively "high speed" travel and getting to actually see the country side.

We got in to Venice about 13.30 but it took us a little while to figure out the ferry (bus) service - there are no cars in the islands part of Venice. Caught the ferry along the Grand Canal to Rialto and went through the fairly traumatic process of finding our Hotel. I assume everyone has this problem but as there are no roads and the laneways seem to often be small and have the same name as the one before them - this took a little while.

Eventually after towing the bags for what seemed like ages (it was only really 20mins) we found the hotel - to be greeted by what has been the worst surprise of the trip so far - Our room is on the 4th floor and there are no lifts. A Porter carried Di's bag but I got to carry my own. I did say I'd do more exercise on this trip and that was about a weeks worth.

The hotel is actually very nice (if you don't have luggage) and spent the evening exploring St Marks Square and the area immediately around us.

Incidentally - it's said that Venice may not last another 50 years due to rising sea levels. If you haven't seen it you probably should sooner rather than later.

The Railway Square

The Railway Square
bit different from Wellington St Station

Firenze - Day 14 (Di)

Today we started in a very Italian way with leisurely breakfast in the hotel courtyard - delightful enjoying the fragrance of jasmine & fresh citrus trees.

Exploring this city is just delightful with a surprise around every corner. The roads are so thin - squeezing our double decker tour bus through is quite a feat in itself. As Neil said we have become a fan of the hop on hop off tour - this enables you to explore areas that you would otherwise never find - well not us anyway!! Whilst in Dubai we saw a Porsche Cayenne S on every corner here is the home of the Fiat - Citroen or Vesper - we have seen only one Porsche & it is not hard to fathom why. There are lots of pedestrian crossings - but these really just provide a target for drivers to aim at!

Today was much warmer & after booking our Eurail to Venice (tomorrow's adventure) we visited Duomo a mega church with green & white marble which dwarfs the city.

We then moved to a beautiful city square Piazza Signoria with sculptures of the Renaissance period - David, Hercules & many others - the vibe of this area on a sunny Sunday is almost tangible - there are people busking - shopping - eating (big habit here!) - soaking up the sites. We had the most delightful lunch enjoying the atmosphere, beautiful local white wine & pizzas.

In Firenze they do not use stelven wine caps at all - it seems they believe they have the best cork & would not risk the change! I bought a beautiful Firenze leather bag - Tarz it's gorgeous!

The city is so pedestrian friendly - it is a pleasure to move around.

Now that we have worked out the city layout & our hotel locale which is very central it has been really easy to get about. Tonight we will enjoy a local Italian restaurant & enjoy some more Euro 2008 - at least you don't need to know the language to get the coverage!

Baptistry of the Duomo

Baptistry of the Duomo
Amazing Buildings everywhere

Firenze - Tuscano - Day 13 (Neil)

Last time I wrote about living with history. In my defense I'd never been to Florence. Here we're living "in" history. Our hotel is a 16th century Villa as is every other house on this street and most of what we can see around us. I'm constantly fascinated by the art and sculpture and architecture everywhere we look.

We went in to a chemists this morning (Farmicia). It turned out to be a museum - as part of a Farmicia that had originally been established by some Dominican Monks in the 13th century and has survived ever since. Strangely it didn't have any Deep Heat or Nurofen but it did have Terrazo floors, Statues in nooks, and amazing (gorgeous) smells. Di will be mad as thats a story from today and I'm supposed to be writing about yesterday.

I've become a fan of the "Hop on - Hop off" sight seeing Bus'. You pay so much and they drive around with pre-recorded commentary and tell you all about the "greatest hits" of a city. Its a great way to get a quick intro to an unfamiliar city. We did it yesterday. They took us all around Firenze and the 2nd line took us to Fiesole, a beautiful hilltop town (originally Etruscan circa 500BC). It was so cool I'm speechless. Hopefully the pictures will help describe it.

In the afternoon we went to Chianti. This is the famous wine area and it was also cool. We first visited a little town called Greve' - Very traditional and very pretty and Italian Rosso (red wine) everywhere. There was a great T shirt that said "In Chianti the great question is to Drink or not to Drink" Its a problem I often have myself.

Then we went to Castello Via Maggio - A hilltop castle that was originally a Medici summer home but is now a breathtakingly beautiful winery. Nadia (our guide and a winemaker) told us all about the art of making "Chianti Classico", "Chianti Riserva" and "Super Toscano" (this one doesn't have to be based on San Giovese). I enjoyed it all immensely but slept very well when I got home.

Ariverdici Roma - Bongiourno Firenze Day 13 (Di)

Reluctantly we left Rome today enroute to Firenze! The joy of Eurail was to experience the Italian countryside without the hassle & lunacy of Italian drivers & traffic!! The green hills and almost medieval castles / villages & bridges are scattered along the route & resemble a magnificent oil painting. The trip took only 95 mins which saw us arrive in Florence early afternoon.

The Renaissance era is alive & well it is a truly artistic city with art & sculpture on every corner. The streets could not be narrower but the city is pedestrian friendly & it is quite easy to walk around the city without the hassle of traffic. The sculptures in the Palazzo are more than life like and stand approximately 10 feet tall - the use of marble & granite is a credit to the tradesmen of the time. The Ponte Vecchio across the Arno river is the home of the gold markets & a multitude of shops and cafes. This is also a corridor which connects both sides of the river. We enjoyed a great Italian lunch of pizza & Chianti by the river soaking up the atmosphere.

Our hotel the Palazzo Dal Borgo Hotel Aprille is a delightful 17th Century palace with the most delightful courtyard and rooms - ours has a little stepping walkway (up & down) between the rooms - obviously designed for very short Italians. I really would like to return here it is a beautiful city. Tomorrow we will broaden our horizons - Ciao for now!!

St Mary's Bassilica - Piazza De Republica

St Mary's Bassilica - Piazza De Republica
Michaelangelo Converted a Roman Bath house into a Christian Church

Bella Roma - Day 12 (Neil)

Today we just explored. Rome is amazing. It brings 2 things to mind, one is the concept of road rage. We've been in 3 cities with seriously chaotic traffic. Rome is evidence of Stephen Hawkins theories on molecular entropy (called chaos theory). And we've yet to see or hear of anything that resembles the idiotic behavior that we get in Perth. This is probably a diatribe for another time.

The other thing that struck me was the idea of "living History". Rome is the most astounding example I've ever experienced. This is really a cauldron of history. From the feudal village of Romulus and Remus in the 8th century BC to the golden era of the Roman Republic in the very late BC's and early AD's. To the Renaissance of Michaelangelo and the like. To the unification of Italy in the 19th century - This place oozes history and its not behind glass panels or in boxes to be looked at.

There are examples everywhere. The Vatican is a working city/state with offices and bureaucracy just like any other government - that works out of one of the greatest repositories of art that the world has ever seen. The Trevi Fountain (which must be CB DeMilles inspiration for his version of "Classical" in his classic movies) is attached to a building which houses offices for normal business'. Everywhere we go is "Live History"

Today we visited the Foro Augustus and the Foro Julius (the forum's of Julius and Augustus Caesar). This is an area that is still being restored but what really grabbed me was there was an 18th century building on one side which had built over a part of the forum using the original brickwork as its foundation. Historical integration.

There is no "High Rise" in Rome. The history is too important to risk damaging by digging those deep foundations. I love this idea. Friends who have worked here have told me how difficult it is to do a show in Rome but it seems to me that Rome is the show.

Firenze tomorrow. Loved Rome and can't wait to see the rest

St Peters at Night

St Peters at Night
When the Partying happens

Roma - Day 11 (Di)

Buongiorno - what a culture shift - the history of Rome oozes out of every cobblestone & statue - the size of the buildings & monuments is even more astounding when you consider how long ago this was all constructed!! Today we had an audience with Ben (the Pope) - well us & 20,000 others at St Peter's- Taz we never saw the New Holland Tractor!! We visited the magnificent Sistine Chapel & then walked through the streets just soaking up the atmosphere & history.

Later we took our life in our hands as we ventured in a mini van ride reminiscent of the Italian Job driving to meet up with our tour of the city by night light - the city takes on a whole different aspect after dark!

We first went to the Trevi Fountain which was tricky to access as President Bush is in town & many of the quirky roads / lanes were closed off. Walking down cobblestones from 2000 years ago - in stilletos - memorable!! The fountain is fed by an aqua duct constructed 2000 years ago & custom has it that if you throw one coin in you will return to Rome 2 coins - you will get married & for lots of coins you can get divorced !! We then did a drive by of many monuments & buildings including the Colosseum which looked quite eerie! The tour finished with dinner at an Italian restaurant complete with some singing from a local trio - they were definitely not the Carreras & Brightman but it was fun.

Sheik Yerbouti

Sheik Yerbouti
Not an Emirati but had a significant impact on Western Music

In Transit - Day 10 (Neil)

Well it's that time and we're away to Rome. Because of an idiosyncrasy in the "One World" round the world ticket we are unable to fly from Dubai to Rome direct. This will make a relatively easy 6 hour trip into a 16 hour marathon.

It started pretty well. Mike once again kindly picked us up at 6.30am to take us to the airport (thanks so much for taking care of us this week Mike - we've really enjoyed it). Traffic was mercifully light and we were at the airport by 6.50am and in the BA Lounge by 7.30. Dubai Airport is big but they're obsessed with huge so are in the process of building one that will be the biggest in the world.

Left Dubai for London at 9.10, 7.5 hrs later we were in Heathrow in the new terminal 5 which is a bit like a prison if you are in transit and can't cross customs. Hung about in the BA lounge for 5 hours before we could get on a plane and fly the 2 hrs to Rome.

Flying is easier than its ever been but days like this are annoying. Oh well - looking forward to Rome. Tomorrow we go to the Vatican to see the Pope speak.

Dubai - Day 9 (Di)

Today was our big adventure out & about on the Big Tour Bus!! This is a double decker bus which takes in the highlights of Dubai. It is a great way to get around as it is 40+ degrees and humid - not to mention the traffic has to be seen to believed. For a city of 1.4 million people 800,000 have cars - I am not sure the same number have a real license!!

On our tour we visited the Dubai Museum which gave a great history of how Dubai developed and has more than doubled in population since the late 80's. The skyline is awesome - when the heat haze lets up - there is serious temperature inversion here. Similar to Hong Kong if the Emiratees want more rivers / creeks or land they just go & build them. There is a road rule which prevents you turning left across traffic which means at times you go in a big circle to get a short distance. We then travelled around the WAFi Centre where there is a replica of a pyramid and amazing sculptures and drawings from the time of the Pharaohs. We saw the Gold Suq, the old Suq, the BurJuman (shopping Mall) the Jumeirah Beach Park & the Burj Al Arab Hotel which is 7 stars. This is located on the beach front with a helipad and attracts dignatories and superstars. The World Isles are located along this beach front but are only for sale by invitation - Rod Stewart recently bought the UK for 25 million pound!! Neil thought he could get one & start his own Chivas distillery off shore!! We also stopped at the Mercato Mall which is a fort surrounded by canals (think Venice) and was tastefully wild - the capacity to decide to get on & build something quickly just blows me away. What will be the tallest building in the world (once commissioned) is being completed at a floor per week.

We then went back to the Hotel & crashed for a bit after what was an intriguing but tiring day - we later joined Fudge for a great dinner to end to what was a fantastic stay in the Emirates!! Now to pack!!

The World's Tallest Building- Burj Dubai

The World's Tallest Building- Burj Dubai
Awaiting commissioning but is 160 storeys

Dubai - Day 8 (Neil)

Mike had to work today as Sunday is a school day here so we decided to figure out getting around for ourselves. Headed off from our hotel to the Bur Jurman Mall which is the closest to us. The shopping here is astounding. Every Mall has every designer shop I've ever seen in it and a vast collection of the most expensive jewelery and watches. This is by no means the biggest mall here but had Chanel, Valentino, Prada, Boss, Vesace and eall the other big names. I was maxed out on girly shopping in no time flat.

Had a swim and a rest in the afternoon and Mike pickup us up to go see the Souq's in the evening. The souq's are the remains of old Dubai and clustered round Dubai Creek which runs into the Arab Gulf. There are 17 million stalls and vendors and although they are in authentic looking little buildings they are all air cond (thank goodness - it was still 35 and humid) and full of designer brands and expensive jewelry (so much for escaping the girly shopping). We took a ride on an Abra which is a old style wooden boot down the creek almost to the gulf and back up. We ask o go to the "Gold Souq" but he took us to the "Old Souq". Would have been an interesting walk back to the right place except for the heat.

Had dinner in a great Lebanese restaurant and finished with night caps in an English Sports bar watching the Euro Cup.

To redress my girly shopping imbalance Di has promised I can buy a computer soon and she'll come with me to do some guy shopping. I was keen on buying the Lamboghini Diablo at the Car importers that we went to yesterday but it wont fit in the baggage.

Burj Al Arab

Burj Al Arab
The most expensive tennis court in the World

Dubai - Day 7 (Di)

Dubai is an amazing place - little like I imagined. It was 33 degrees and humid when we landed from HK at 8pm local time - from the news reports it seems we were lucky to get out when we did!! The typhoon rains came early & the road to the HK airport became flooded & flights were canceled - good timing for us!!

We are staying right in the heart of Dubai amidst the traffic & local chaos! We have had an incredible day soaking up the sights and sounds of Dubai & Abu Dhabi. Mike took us to one of the many large shopping malls - this one had Ski Dubai!! We resisted the temptation to ski although NMC was looking very keen!! In Abu Dhabi you can be fined for having a dirty car - so this was washed whilst we shopped for about $5 AUS. We then travelled to Abu Dhabi to check out the Red Bull Air Race site.

I was surprised at the amount of traffic, the really BIG buildings and the standard of the roads - they were at least 3 lanes & the Arabic way of merging is something to be seen - they beep their horns & merge anyway - most times it works!! I expected to see more desert but there was very little area that was not being built on. Building goes 24/7.

In Abu Dhabi we visited the Emirates Palace Hotel which was built at a cost of 6 billion pounds!! That is a lot of UAE Dinar (or $AUS 13 billion).

You should all be aware that it is on average 38 degrees here currently. We saw the largest Mosque in UAE - its enormous but the minarets cannot be higher than the originals in Mecca.

On return Mike took us to visit one of his favourite places - the import card yard - they had the most amazing array of high end luxury cars in one place the boys were both drooling - BIG TIME!! After some chill out time at Fudge's we returned to town for some local cuisine & then crashed - tomorrow who knows!!

Hong Kong Panorama

Hong Kong Panorama
The new camera has some software for this so I thought I'd give it a go

In Transit - Day 6 (Neil)

I'm a great believer in Murphy's Law and wouldn't you know it - just when we're having a blast - I get the worst case of Bali (read Hong Kong) Belly. In my normal world this wouldn't matter very much. I'd just skulk around in near proximity to a loo until I felt better. but today we fly 8.5hrs to Dubai with cramps and the squirts (sorry if you're reading this near a meal time).

The drive to the Airport was bizarre. HK has a great rail system but because I was feeling frail we opted for a taxi. The monsoon has just started in Asia and it rained so hard for so long that even the scary HK taxi drivers were obliged to slow down. Although I liked the idea of potentially not dying in a fireball on the freeway in the biggest storm I'd ever seen - the idea of taking longer to get near a loo wasn't really working for me - so I spent the 45mins in some trepidation.

The flight was painless and we got in to Dubai at 9pm (GMT+4 - 1am WST). My friend Mike Fudge (from the Purvisonic days) picked us up and ran us round to the hotel and then out for a drink and a bite.

Couldn't really see much but it was still seriously busy at midnight and it way hot compared to what we're used to. Mike will take us to look at the RBAR site in Abu Dhabi today and for a better look around.

The picture I've chosen for today is from Hong Kong. This is the dunny that was voted (in an internet poll in HK) the best public loo in all of the Hong Kong Special Administration Region. Hope you can see the appeal. I could

The Best Public Loo in Hong Kong

The Best Public Loo in Hong Kong
Neils lifeline

Hong Kong Day 5 (Di)

We had a rest day today - Neil wasn't feeling the best so we lazed around the hotel - I took a walk around the Avenue of Stars which is like a walk of fame - recognizing all of the famous movie stars from Hong Kong. Bruce Lee & Jackie Chan rate very highly amongst the locals - they also have sculptures displaying the Cartoon Heroes including Tiger Wong - great cartoonists!

In the afternoon I indulged in a Deluxe Pedicure - boy was that good after the Macau walk the day before. Last night we enjoyed local Hong Kong cuisine - this time Neil took his wallet and did not barter to get me back!!

Tomorrow we leave for Dubai. We've enjoyed HK a lot, be interesting to see what happens next

Hong Kong - Day 4 (Neil) - Viva Macao

We took the ferry to Macao today. Its a place I remember fondly from when last I visited. With an amazing history of 400 years with the Portuguese and 3000 years with the Chinese. It was absolutely dripping with cultural and historical significance.
Gambling - other than on horse racing, is illegal in Hong Kong (the British had strange rules) and Macao has been a day destination for Hong Kong people for a long time. It was said that husbands could tell how well their wives had done in Macao by what was served for dinner.
When last I visited there was one Casino in Macao, it was called the Lisboa and was a fairly decrepit (although kinda cute in a strange way). All the gaming tables had spittoons next to them and they were used. My girl at the time got pinched on the bum by a really old Portuguese guy and the Casino entertainment was a rip from the Lido (girly) club in Paris. The City itself was a bit rundown but full of interesting history.
What a difference 18 years makes. Las Vegas has come to town. There are major league Casino development by - The Original Lisboa, The Venetian, Wynn, MGM Grand and a heap I hadn't seen before.
The whole foreshore next to the ferry terminal (you get there from HK by Ferry) has had the hell themed out of it (all 2km of it) - and the theming is astounding (Kate you'd so much love it.) There's a Forbidden Palace, a working volcano, a 17th century european village, a roman amphitheatre (with EV Xlc Line System). Its gob smacking, enormous - and a little sad.
There is still the most amazing history - amongst the earliest for europeans in Asia, but its so overshadowed by the Casinos that its hard to see. The Portuguese history in Macao is in town, but its not really necessary to leave the foreshore so no-one will necessarily see it.
Overall we had a good day, saw lots of interesting stuff - and I'm stiff now from walking so much. Its a little strange that I felt this way as I love Las Vegas - but I think probably more in Nevada than in Southern China.
We don't have any plans for tomorrow. Be interesting to see what eventuates.

Hong Kong Day 3 (di)

Today we were up early to go to Tsing Ma & Lantau & PO Ling Monastery. When we got back from el cheapo breakfast there were security guards every where for an African president staying at the hotel - guards - police & every important person from the hotel - we left & went on or tour.

We had a great day exploring Tsing Ma the longest suspension bridge - bigger than the Golden Gate bridge - then off through the Lantau countryside - I really didn't think of Hong Kong as having mountains - esp so close to HK itself!! We saw a fishing port - beaches with life guards that looked more like nerds from High School then the guys we are used to - the shark nets at the pools were all donated by Australia. Every beach spot has shark nets!!

Then we had an awesome VIP vegetarian lunch at Po Ling Monastery & saw the largest Buddha in Hong Kong! This is 200+ tonne of bronze statue transported in parts and put together over 6 months - if you saw the roads you would see what a feat this was!!

We traveled back down the mountain on Ngong Ping Skyrail - 5.7km across Lantau to the Sth China Sea & airport - this was awesome with amazing views.

Returning to the hotel we took in a swim & spa & are now off to dinner to see the light show amidst a thunderstorm. Another amazing adventure - stay tuned!!

Hong Kong Day 2 (neil)

I came here before the China handover and was impressed by what a vibrant city it was. Its even more so now.
We went on a Hong Kong Island tour with a guide called Suzanne (or Yim in cantonese). Saw the business district, great views from the lookout, Happy Valley Racecourse, Aberdeen and heaps of other stuff. It was really fun just to look around and soak up the atmosphere.
Yim convinced us we should sample more chinese culture so we went out for dinner in a locals restaurant rather than hanging about the hotel. Food was good but when we went to leave I realised that I didn't have my wallet and Di only had here Amex card which they don't take. So I had to leave Di as surety as go back to the hotel for my wallet. When I got back I thought that as this is the home of bargaining I'd try bargaining for Di's return, I offered them $20Aus but they seemed to think I should pay the whole bill to get Di back. I was tempted to walk away from the deal but thought better of it and paid to get Di back.
Today we're off to Lantau Island. Should be good.

Destination: Hong Kong

We arrived this morning at 0800 and are staying in town right on the harbour at the Inter Continental Hotel. We went exploring the city and are mastering the locals bartering. Nic you will be pleased I found a tailor - they are not sure if they are game to cut the lace!! Tomorrow we will know.......

The hotel has 3 awesome spa pools which overlook the Harbour - one at 32 one at 38 and one at 18 degrees - very refreshing!!

Great dinner tonight watching the light show - early night tonight as we are both knackered - tomorrow we are going on a tour to explore Hong Kong Island. Hope all are well - love & hugs N&D - or as neil was called today Mr Mantell!!

Left on a Jet Plane!!

Well it is countdown no more we have left and are in Hong Kong the start of our honeymoon over the next 13 weeks we will visit a multitude of exciting and romantic destinations.

We have now booked the wedding and it will be at Cupids Chapel Las Vegas on 18 July (USA) at 10pm (again USA) which is equivalent to 1 pm on the 19 July 2008 - we hope you can join us!!