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Carol and Peter's USA trip 2011

Welcome to our Travel Page. Here is where we will be keeping a record of our travels for all of you to read. Please feel free to leave a comment for us. We will reply as soon as we are able to.

Diary Entries

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Location: Chicago, Illinois, USA

We are now in Chicago and packing ready for our flight back to the UK tomorrow. The weather here is still warm and sunny which is not what we expected so all the warm clothes we brought with us have been a total waste of space. Today we took the bus down to the city centre and visited the Art Institute. We have been there before but it is a huge place and there are many display rooms we have missed. This time we concentrated on American Folk Art, European Art before 1900, European Modern Art 1900 - 1950, a Japanese Kimono exhibition, and some French Impressionists. This is about a quarter of the whole collection. We took a break from the Institute by taking a walk across the elevated bridge way which connects the Art Institute to the Millennium Park on Michigan Avenue. The views of skyscraper architecture around the park are stunning.
So this is the end of another amazing US trip. We have enjoyed every day and have lots of great memories of spectacular places and fascinating people. Thanks for keeping company with us on our travels. I will add the final pictures of our last couple of days after we arrive home.

Friday, 07 October 2011

Location: Omaha, Nebraska, USA

I am a couple of days behind so will catch up with this entry. On Wednesday we departed from Dodge City and motored north eastwards across Kansas towards our destination Manhattan. I think it was given this name because of a group of early settlers who came from Manhattan in New York. The further north we travelled the scenery improved so that no longer were we traversing featureless plains but entering the attractive Flint Hills of Kansas. Rolling tree covered hills were reminiscent of parts of England. The changing colours of the trees and the green of more fertile land made a pleasant contrast with the earlier part of the drive across the plains. Before we arrived at Manhattan we saw a sign for the historic Custer house. Custer had stayed here while based at Fort Riley before he was assigned further north on his infamous mission against the Sioux and Cheyenne. But as we turned off the interstate we found ourselves entering a huge modern military complex which is now the base for “The Big Red One” the 1st Infantry Division which is one of the key operators in the Middle East nowadays. Apparently the Fort Riley base houses 25,000 personnel and looks absolutely massive. So not wanting to get involved with security procedures etc. we did a quick U-turn and left.
On Thursday before driving to Omaha we visited Konza Prairie which is one of the few places where you can experience the prairie as it existed at the times of the pioneers. Only 4 percent of the original prairie of Kansas survives. The rest has been put to the plough and made into farm land. We hiked the 3 mile nature trail which gives a very nice feel to what it must have been like to trek across the Santa Fe trail in the 1870s.
After that we drove northwards into Nebraska and across to Omaha. The last stretch from Lincoln to Omaha was on the Interstate highway 80 which just reminded us why on this trip we have carefully avoided Interstates whenever possible. It is just like driving on an English motorway - nose to tail and hideously congested all the way.
Today in Omaha so far we have had an enjoyable time wandering about town and seeing the sights. We like Omaha very much. It has nice architecture both modern and old and a very pleasant relaxed feel about it.

Tuesday, 04 October 2011

Location: Dodge City, Kansas, USA

Today we started our return leg across the great plains of America. We left New Mexico, crossed the panhandle of Oklahoma and started across Kansas. We are much lower now and the temperature was back in the 90s. The roads are straight and stretch away into the dimly visible shimmering horizon. There are no features apart from man made structures, ranch buildings, water pumps and the odd agricultural machine in the distance raising great clouds of dust. It is so dry. We crossed innumerable rivers without a drop of water. For a long period the road ran parallel to the railroad. We saw one massive Union Pacific double stacked container freight train about half a mile long hauled by three locomotives with a fourth pushing at the rear. The roads were busy which made it difficult to overtake given the sluggish nature of automatic transmission cars. You need to put your foot down in advance of making a move. It is no wonder that most American drivers seem to have a problem with overtaking. On the positive side what is good about driving in USA is the lack of aggression, or impatience and the very courteous attitude that you find from most drivers. We Europeans could learn a lot about attitude from American motorists. Of course I am talking about here in the west and I don‘t doubt that driving manners are different in the cities. We did not take any photos today although we could have stopped and shot some fine views of ethanol plants, grain silos, the odd dust storm, the occasional dried up water course and the ever present plain stretching into a hazy merge with the pale sky. We are now at Dodge City at one time the most famous cattle town of the West. For a short time in its violent past Wyatt Earp served as a lawman here before he went on to Tombstone, Arizona and earned his fame at the OK corral shootout.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Location: Silver City, New Mexico, USA

We had a lovely drive today from Holbrook, Arizona south to Silver City, New Mexico. It was scenic and crossed two ranges of wooded mountains. The roadside flowers were especially colourful and bright. Part of the route went through an area which had been extensively damaged recently by a huge forest fire caused by a couple of campers who failed to extinguish fully their campfire. We were surprised to see the extent of fresh green growth under the blackened trees. These forests can recover pretty quickly. Silver City is an old mining town as you may guess from the name. The old part of town is colourful with lots of art galleries etc. so it was fun to wander about although by the time we arrived most places were closed. It was very hot in the 90s so we stayed on the shady side of the street. We are not far from the Mexican border here so the character of the place and people has changed subtly from further north.
It is a rather worn out cliché to say the world is a small place but how about this. Yesterday when we were exploring the Petrified Forest National Park in remote Arizona we took a break at the Rainbow Forest Museum run by the national park people. We were relaxing with a sandwich and a cool drink in the café which is part of the excellent gift shop at the museum. A group of very friendly Americans at the next table engaged us in conversation. They were from Tennessee and were delighted to find out that we knew the North East of England because they recently had visited friends in Cramlington, Northumberland which is not far from where I (Peter) grew up. So we had a great discussion about all the places they had visited there - Roman Wall, Sage centre, Morpeth, St. Mary’s lighthouse and so on. They live not far from the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee and were very keen for us to visit that part of USA in the future and to come and see them which is very tempting.
Anyway just after we had exchanged cordial farewells a coach load of tourists descended on the shop and as I was finishing my drink I overheard some Geordie accents from two ladies from the coach party who were looking for souvenirs. I mentioned to them that I was also from their part of the world and told them about our Tennessee friends and their visit to Cramlington. The conversation went something like this. Pity that I can't write with a Geordie accent!

Geordie Lady “Cramlington! That is not far from where I live”
Peter “I used to live not far from Cramlington in South Gosforth”
Geordie Lady “Eeh, South Gosforth that is where I live”
Peter “Really! Whereabouts?”
Geordie Lady “Up Hunters Road”
Peter “Oh, I used to live in Bowes Street”
Geordie Lady “Well I live just opposite in Hunters Court”
Peter “You must have known my mother Susie Mullen who lived for most of her life in Bowes St”
Geordie Lady “Susie! She was wonderful. I used to go shopping with her. I really miss her”

So that lady who is called Cindy was a good neighbour and friend to my mother. I just wonder what the odds of this kind of encounter are?
My brother Doug will be tickled by this story. So it truly is a small world.

Friday, 09 September 2011

Location: Torrey, Utah, USA

We had a nice drive south today from Vernal to Torrey. The sat nav (GPS) behaved well and directed us on a very scenic route. When I looked earlier on the map I had decided not to use this route as it appeared that a long section was unpaved however the sat nav was correct and the route was completely paved. Yesterday we had a brilliant rock art day courtesy of the park rangers at Dinosaur National Monument. One lady in particular who was clearly a great enthusiast about all things out of doors and in particular historic rock art spent quite some time showing us the most interesting places to visit. So a big thank you to her as we really enjoyed McKee Spring and Dry Fork Canyon which without her advice no doubt we would have missed.
From now on we are following Harvey's advice and dropping the diary entry texts and just showing text with the photographs. So to follow our travels just go to the photographs at the right hand site of the diary.

Tuesday, 06 September 2011

Location: Douglas, Wyoming, USA

On Sunday the weather was glorious and sunny but the temperature had dropped to around 70 deg F and felt quite cool. We drove W into Nebraska, the road, the US 20 again, getting quieter the further we travelled. We made a diversion at Orchard to visit the Ashfall Fossil Beds state historic park. This is an illuminating, unless you are a creationist, display of the fossilised remains of hundreds of rhinos, three toed horses, camels and other extinct beasts. They had died together around a watering hole, suffocating from the ash fallout from a huge volcanic eruption in present day Idaho several hundred miles further west. This occurred nearly 12 million years ago. The well preserved skeletons lay undisturbed in a blanket of ash, tiny glassy particles, until the 1970s when scientific study of the fossils began.
As we were walking around the site we were approached by an earnest be-spectacled young man who thought he recognised both of us from a previous encounter. It became clear that this was most unlikely as we were from England and he was a Mormon from Utah. However, undeterred he went on at length about his English/Irish ancestry and was very interested in our travels and where we came from and so on. Fortunately his 82 year old mother came to our rescue and dragged him off. We finished that day in Valentine still in Nebraska.
The next day Monday was another beautiful day and it got pretty hot later, in the 90s. We continued west along US 20 to Chadron where we visited the Museum of the Fur Trade. This museum is on the site of a trading post where Indians and trappers brought their furs to exchange for food, tobacco, whisky, knives, guns, cloth etc. The excellent exhibits cover a fascinating period of North American history when furs were in huge demand in the civilised world. Transportation of goods in and furs out was virtually all by water, river and lake. Many of the vessels used were flimsy birch bark canoes. Some of them were huge 36 feet long canoes which could carry a load of 4 tons. The voyageurs were largely French Canadian and Indian who were recruited each year. They had an incredibly hard existence travelling 2 to 3,000 miles each season. Expected to paddle 15 hours a day at one stroke per second the most difficult parts were the portages where they carried 90 pound packs. Most men carried two or even three packs at once for several miles. This method of transport started around 1650 and the last canoe brigade used to supply upriver trading posts sailed in 1947.
After this we drove on to our destination Douglas in Wyoming. Before we left Nebraska we stopped at an information centre in Crawford. The very entertaining information officer regaled us with accounts of local history. Close by, Fort Robinson which achieved fame as the assassination site of the famous Sioux leader Crazy Horse, was used during WW2 as a POW camp for German and Italian captives. They never had it so good. They were fed and treated well and many opted to stay in the US when the war came to an end.
Today in Douglas the weather was cool and clouded and after visiting the Wyoming Pioneer Museum we drove out to Fort Fetterman historic site. We were lucky to have this opportunity because officially the site closed down for the season following Labor Day which was on Monday. A very kind lady at the Pioneer Museum in Douglas rang the Fort people who were on site today closing up shop and wrapping exhibits etc. and asked them to allow us entry. We have met so many very helpful kind people on this trip. I just think that many Europeans have a completely false impression of Americans and do not realise how friendly and genuinely obliging they are particularly in the west and mid-west.
By 1870 Fort Fetterman was well established and despite its exposed position during the severe Wyoming winters continued to play a conspicuous part in the Indian wars for the next few years. Jim Bridger, Wild Bill Hickock, Calamity Jane and Buffalo Bill Cody were among the colourful personalities whose travels brought them to Fort Fetterman. The military abandoned the fort in 1882 and it was transformed briefly into a notorious rowdy saloon and brothel town. Nowadays only two or three buildings survive. Anyway it was interesting and we had fine views of the Laramie Mountains to the south and the N Platte river to the north.

Saturday, 03 September 2011

Location: Sioux City, Iowa, USA

After the extreme heat of the last couple of days it was a relief to be awakened in the middle of the night by a thunderstorm and heavy rain. Thunderstorms continued most of today as we drove across Iowa with torrential rain at times. The temperature dropped to a more comfortable 72 deg F. After 325 miles we arrived at Sioux City in the sunshine. We had followed the same US 20 highway in a straight line west the whole distance. The plains of Iowa can be monotonous but the monotony was somewhat relieved by the spectacular lightning displays as we drove into dense black skies. Even with the wipers operating at maximum speed the cascades of rain made visibility virtually non existent although, judging by the vehicles tearing past, American drivers must have inbuilt radar sensors. Perhaps they just rely on the fact that the road is very straight. Otherwise we enjoyed the drive. The predominant crops are maize which form interesting patterns on the undulating hills punctuated by traditional white painted farms and dutch barns shielded on the west and north by stands of protecting trees. The road verges are colourful with clumps of golden rod and rudbeckia which grow in profusion.

Friday, 02 September 2011

Location: Dubuque, Iowa, USA

After flying across a thick blanket of cloud over the Atlantic and across Labrador also covered in cloud we were expecting Chicago to be cool and cloudy so were surprised to find it in a heat wave with temperatures in the mid 90 s F. We could hardly believe it when we arrived it was so hot. After getting the rental car sorted out we drove down town to our hotel in the Lincoln Park region of Chicago. After a walk into the park trying to keep in the shade as much as possible we had an excellent meal in an Iranian restaurant. There are lots of different ethnic eating houses in this area of Chicago. By this time it was dark and we wandered back to the hotel in the still overpowering heat. It just did not cool down at night time. Thank goodness for air conditioning.
The next morning it was even hotter and our car external thermometer registered 101 deg F. We drove to the northern suburb Glencoe to visit the Chicago Botanic Gardens which is a magnificent 385 acres living plant museum. We didn’t quite get our money’s worth as we eventually gave up the struggle in the oppressive temperature and cut our visit short. It is a very impressive establishment with different areas ranging from aquatic gardens, bonsai collections, Japanese garden to a natural prairie. It also houses a science centre dedicated to plant conservation.
Afterwards we returned to O’Hare airport to change our rented car. We had initially selected a Ford Edge which is a SUV vehicle but found that we really did not like it. It was uncomfortable and neither a genuine off road vehicle nor a decent road machine. After some discussion and sampling of other cars available we decided on a Ford Taurus which is the American version of the Mondeo which is very nice and handles quite well. The poor guy at Dollar car rental said it really hurt when I was critical of what he had to offer by pointing out they were dirty with torn upholstery and chips in the windscreen etc. But give him his due he did make the effort to give us something which met our needs.
Today it was still hot but a few degrees cooler than yesterday so more comfortable. We left Chicago and drove north west to Rockford and then on to Dubuque on the Mississippi. Before reaching Dubuque we stopped at Galena and visited the historic home of Ulysses S Grant which had been given to him from a grateful Unionist nation for his heroics during the Civil War. Shortly afterwards he was elected President. His wife was from a prominent slave owning southern family and Grant’s people were staunch abolitionists so family relationships must have been tricky to say the least.


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Recent Messages

From Keith
Very impressed with the territory you have covered on this vacation. Definitely given me ideas of further places to visit!
The photos and descriptions are fascinating and I have been particularly interested in the wild landscapes and with all of the rock art you have managed to see.
Will be in touch when you return to hear more about it.

Hope you both enjoy your remaining days out there!
Response: Thank you. And we will be very interested to hear about your trip and to see your pictures.
From Doug
The aliens photo at Roswell seems to be attracting attention. My initial thoughts were that you were both responding instinctively to some background Chubby Checker music by bursting into your famous 'twisting at the hop' mode! Very commendable! It is all very interesting and I am greatly impressed with how much you pack into your holidays. After last week's mini heatwave it is back to normal here. Keep the photos/stories going.
Response: Obviously I have missed my vocation.
I saw the weather over there was good. Typical - we always miss the good spells.
From Alex
There's still time yet! No, I thought it was great - you did have a look of terror on your face! You may give George Clooney a run for his money yet ;)
The Loretto stairway is fascinating. Did you have any theories? Luv Alex
Response: I just think he was a very skilled craftsman who built a well engineered stairway. He was probably religious and didn't want any reward except from God.
From Gay and Alastair
We love your photos Alastair would like to know what camera you use Peter?

Thank you for the birthday wishes and for the books Carol will enjoy reading them, hope all going well. Love Gay
Response: Thanks. It is a good camera but by no means a top of the range one. It is a Konica Minolta Dynax 5D which when I bought it 5 years ago was considered a reasonably priced good quality introductory digital SLR. A month after I bought it Konica Minolta announced they had dropped their camera business and sold it to Sony. So the Dynax was their last camera. I have been very pleased with it and the results are pretty good - how it would compare with a top Nikon or Canon would be interesting to find out.
From Alex
I love the photo of you and mum being abducted by aliens! Very funny. It looked like a painful experience for Dad though! UFO center looked interesting.
Response: That was supposed to be a look of terror not pain. So much for my acting future.
From harvey
have you read A Brave New World? I keep expecting to see a noble savage jump out of your photos!
Response: There must be some lurking about.
From harvey
nonsense the blog is very entertaining, but I am enjoying seeing the rest of the family's interaction too.
Response: That makes it all worthwhile.
From Doug
Phew, I thought it was a different Cindy you had come across! What a remarkable coincidence to meet someone who lives so close to the old homestead - it must have been quite a nice experience to talk to someone who knew mam so well. That Cindy used to live opposite at the end of Hunters Court and then moved around the corner near the cut on the way to the field. The odds must be similar to that of winning the lottery - I wonder which you would have preferred! I'm still enjoying the photos. Nice one of Carol on the cave ladder - I assume she is being trained for clearing the gutters on your return! All the best. Doug
Response: The lottery odds did occur to me but of course it was much nicer to meet Cindy. What a good idea about Carol.
From harvey
re: jesmond dene comments, good to see that wryness is hereditary.

re: Cindy - what are the odds?

re: Jim - who else could tell it like that? (He must have looked a state after a direct conker hit!!)
Response: I think the message correspondence is more entertaining than the blog itself.
From Matthew
Just looked at your photo's this evening, superb. You guy's really do quite a lot of travelling between destinations & then all that walking in the heat, you'll be coming back tanned & very fit :) I'll have a read of your extensive blog another night. Take care.
Response: I think we will be reasonably fit but we cover up and use lots of sun protection so we will probably retain usual untanned pale and uninteresting British appearance.
From Jim
Hi Carol & Peter,
We have just caught up with your now very extensive Travelblog. Great pictures and I agree that the commentary with the pictures is more interesting. How do you find the time to do all this?
Lynda and I enjoyed our trip to London very much and we have quite a few pictures to show you when we meet in October.
We managed to catch the Mayor's Festival which took place mainly on the South bank of the Thames. The final carnival procession was very impressive with Samba bands and huge floats reminiscent of similar events in Rio. The whole procession took 65 mins. to pass the point where we were standing.
It was very windy but in general the weather was quite mild and when it did rain it was mainly confined to night times. Our wedding anniversary fell on the Friday we were there so I decided that Lynda should have a special day out at Ham House near Richmond (National Trust property). I checked that the house was open thinking that it was Thursday and when we arrived (4 buses and 2 hrs later) the house was closed! Fortunately the gardens were open and we went on the organised tour. I thought it a good idea to have a meal in the restaurant there but unfortunately it was closed (as the house was closed). We then decided to walk back along the Thames towards Richmond and as I walked under a very tall Horse Chestnut tree a conker, together with the prickly outer covering hit me on the head and Lynda was splattered in the fallout. I think God was telling me to wake up! We then took another couple of buses back to Brixton where we caught the no.3 bus back to our destination at Crystal Palace. I was getting pretty tired by then so I just sat on the upper deck reading the news about Al Quieda in the Evening Standard. Just as we were entering the last part of our journey there were several loud bangs and I stood up to see smoke billowing from the rear of the bus. Aparrently the engine was on fire. Needless to say we led the upper deck evacuation from the bus. We did not stop to investigate further but put as much distance between ourselves and the burning bus as possible. It made the London 6.00pm News (just 2 days before the 9/11anniversary). So ended another perfect day out in London and a wedding anniversary we shall not forget in a hurry (try as we might).
Safe journeyings ,Jim & Lynda
Response: I thought we were having an exciting time out here but it pales into insignificance compared with your exploits. Look forward to exchanging stories in October. Congratulations on your wedding anniversary - 45th wasn't it or is that next year?
From doug
Enjoying seeing the places you have visited recently, especially Bryce Canyon which reminded me of The Quarry at its best!
Response: And I suppose The Grand Canyon of Jesmond Dene at its best!
From harvey
No I didn't, although having now looked it up in wiki, I see that nothofagus (the deciduous beech) is an indicator species of Gondwana - we saw lots of it in tasmania
Response: I am not quite sure what that has to do with continental drift or have I missed something.
From Gay
What wonderful photos, Carol I am very impressed with pictures of you climbing up dodgy looking paths!
Response: Glad you like our pictures.
Hope to come back without major injuries. Hope you are having a great time with Carla and give her our love.
From Harvey
gosh, Bryce is stunning isn't it? I was thinking, given your interest in rock art, you should think about seeing some of the amazing aboriginal sites in the NW of Oz. Apparently there are islands with thousands of petroglyphs.
Response: A tempting thought. We just learnt something interesting today. Did you know that Australia was connected to India when they were both part of Antarctica before the continents separated and started drifting northwards?
From Steph
Fantastic photos! Quite inspiring - the walks look great and full of interest.

Particularly like 'Goblin' country and the rock art.

Love,
Steph xx
Response: Thank you for your kind remarks. Yes, the walks are amazing and we also love the rock art.
Love Peter and Carol xx
From Harvey
Some great photos, although I am scared to make such a judgmental comment in case I am accused of expertism again!
Response: Now, now don't get sensitive.
By the way Rob and Alex are now engaged. Rob made a romantic proposal on the top of an Austrian peak.
From Doug
Hi there! I am enjoying following your trek and am impressed with the walks - some terrific scenery and interesting exhibits of course. As someone who finds it difficult to complete a holiday postcard I won't enter the debate about the best way to present your diary! All OK here as summer peters out. Cheers.
Doug and Marion
Response: Talk about family pressures. I wasn't even intending to do a blog this trip but by popular request I was pressurised to do it again. Actually I enjoy the discipline of selecting pictures and providing a sensible commentary. It is also a good record when we get back home. And of course we enjoy reading messages from home while we are travelling.
The weather has been less stable than on previous trips but we rarely have a day without some hours of sunshine.
From Alex
Hello. Personally I enjoyed reading the diary entries and hope that the reason you have decided not to include them is because they are taking up too much of your time when you would rather be relaxing (not because there is an obvious expert in the family)!
Response: Yes. I am just doing the same as two years ago because it is easier for me. Otherwise Mum is complaining that I am spending too much time on the laptop.
From Harvey
PS - "Didn't we meet in Twisted Forks?", oldest cold-calling trick in the book, mormons eh? Anything to start converting you, don't they know that one wife is enough work as it is?
Response: After maligning the poor bloke we are now wondering if in fact we did meet him two years ago in Escalante when we joined a very affable group of model A Ford enthusiasts from Salt Lake City who were having a Dutch Oven dinner at the Wild West Retreat where we were staying.
From Harvey
Don't get me wrong, I enjoy reading your detailed reports but the illustrations take it up to the next level.
Response: I had been coming to that conclusion anyway. It is just too much effort to write up everything. Also too much information is the typical mistake of most bloggers.
From Alex
Hi Mum and Dad,

Sounds like you are having a great time in America although very hot! We got back earlier today. We had a great holiday although the best weather was in the first week when Austria seemed to have a heat wave. Unfortunately it always seems to rain in the mountains! I love your photo of the monarch butterfly. I have some lovely photos of blue butterflies including an adonis blue to show you. Unfortunately I did not get a photo of the southern swallowtail that flew over our heads in the mountains as it was only around for a few moments. I hope you continue to enjoy your holiday. Keep in touch. Love Alex and Rob.
Response: We will telephone you in the next couple of days.
Love Mum and Dad
From Harvey
Liking the info with the photos rather than separate text, much more photo journalistic.
Response: I think you are correct. I will revert to this approach for the rest of this diary. But I have already entered another slug of text in the meantime befor I read your comment. Thanks
From Harvey
Hi, good to see you weren't disrupted by the hurricanes, I had wondered if there would be knock-on effects.

The Japanese gdns look very fine. Nice to have a vicarious holiday altho' we're off next week and down in Denmark again.

Have a good time, love Harvey and Steph
Have a nice time and we will catch up when you are back.
Love Mum and Dad
From Jim Weaver
Hi Peter & Carol,
I have just visited your blog for the first time. Looks good. I am not sure that I could handle the high temperatures out there but the Chicago Botanic Gardens sound great.
We are off to London for 7 days next Wednesday and I am busy researching things to do at the moment.
Tony finally got off OK though he missed his booked flight which was in fact on 31st August and not 1st Sept as he maintained. I did ask him to check his flight details on 3 separate occasions but he did not. The airline rebooked him for the day he thought he was going (1st Sept) and will charge him a re-booking fee. A costly lesson! His pills did not arrive until after he had left but we have posted them on to him. We narrowly avoided getting the bike back without the one lock key we have, as it had been accidentally thrown in Peter's rubbish bin. Apart from that all went really smoothly and we can breathe a sigh of relief for another year.
Best wishes and have a safe journey,
Jim
Response: That was unfortunate. Hope it didn't cost too much. Enjoy your London trip and keep in touch.
Yes I think you would love the Botanic Gardens. They have a very active group of sponsors and volunteers providing funds and time and effort to maintain the whole thing in pristine condition with many organised activities and lectures.