Location: Whistler, Canada
Blake and Lyndall hopped on a Greyhound bus bound for 5 days in the snow at Whistler, we were all decked out with new snow jackets and pants so were very excited about all the snow to play in.
Dooly and Leigh met us there and their UK friends from Dubai, Laura and Brill. We stayed in a single room log cabin with one bedroom and a loft which is where Blake and Lyndall slept. It was very cosy and warm with metres of snow at the doorstep. Leigh and Dooly have a fully kitted-out van so were happy to stay in that for the next few nights.
The next day was beautiful, clear skies and everyone bursting to hit the slopes. Lyndall took a full day skiing lesson as she had never skiied before and all the others spent the days checking out the runs on Whistler Mountain. Skiing was pretty hard to learn but managed to learn a snowplow to a full stop which is very important to know. Lyndall's knees didn't like skiing though with the constant bending and forward slope of the ski boots so by day's end was pretty sore.
Christmas Day, we had a rest day to recover and went to the Tube Park for some easier snow fun. It was awesome sitting on a rubber tube and hurtling down a snow covered mountain. It was snowing pretty heavily so it was a good day to have off.
Boxing Day, Leigh and Lyndall headed out for a full day snowboard lesson. The others headed off together to find some more tracks to play on. Leigh skiis quite well so she picked up snowboarding pretty easily. Lyndall took awhile to pick up any skills but managed to fall over many times. By the end of the day, Leigh did a green run home while Lyndall caught the gondola home.
Our last day, Blake and Lyndall went to the beginners hill for some more practice. Lyndall started off well showing the 'pendulum' move back and forth across the mountain but is not great on the turns. Blake was very patient trying to teach her and tried his best. We decided to head down to the bottom via the easiest green run and it was all going well with Lyndall slowly making her way. Then a beginner skiier who apparently didn't know how to stop or turn plowed straight into her and they cracked heads. The stupid chick didn't even apologise or check if I was ok and just got up and kept skiing. Unfortunately, her confidence was shattered and the rest of the run was very slow and ended up walking part way down. But as they say, just need more practice.
We both had an awesome time despite some small accidents and are looking forward to some more boarding in Mt Baker for NYE.
Location: Mt Baker, USA
Blake and Lyndall drove down to our friend's (Sarah and Ray) cabin in Mt Baker USA for a long weekend. There hasn't been much snow yet so no chance to ski but we had plenty to keep ourselves amused.
On Saturday the girls (Sarah, Lyndall and Candice) drove out to the awesome outlet shops near Seattle. The motto for our day of shopping was "it's practically free" as the Canadian dollar is really strong over the US dollar. We managed to spend about $700 altogether which was pretty good for 4 hours frenzied shopping. We stocked up on leather handbags, underwear and shoes!
The guys wisely opted to stay at the cabin and enjoyed rounds of drinking/golf games, riding dodgy bikes in the pitch black dark and beating locals at pool in the pub. We all finally called it a night when the guys had been drinking for 15 hours solid...needless to say they were pretty hammered.
The next two days for the girls, were spent relaxing around the cabin whilst Ray and Blake crawled around in crap under the cabin trying to fix the sewer pipes...yuck! So we had no water for two days but at least Ray dug a hole for me as a toilet. It was just like camping but sleeping in a nice, dry and warm cabin.
Monday was sadly time to head back to Van but not before a massive storm overnight had blown over powerlines so no electricity to clean up...good ole candlelight and brooms.
We all had a great time with plenty of laughs and board games to keep us amused. Can't wait to head down there again when the snow starts!!
Location: Vancouver Island, Canada
Caught the ferry over Friday night with our hire car and stayed in Nanaimo, not much doing there so next day drove to Qualicum/Parkesville on the north-east coast of the island to check out this weird but kinda cool sandcastle show they had on. Saw some amazing sculptures just made out of sand and kinda makes the piddly drip castles we made as kids seem really lame. We were staying in Ucluelet that night on the west coast so after sandcastles just made our way over there. On the way we stopped in on some lush rainforest walks with 1,000 year old cedars and firs. Really beautiful, lush green moss and towering trees.
As we drove into the sleepy, small town of Ucluelet, just around a bend, a black bear walked out into a pull-out on the roadside. We couldn't believe our eyes, very exciting. He wasn't very big probably only about 2 years old or so and we couldn't stop as road was too windy but very cool for our first bear sighting.
We stayed in Ucluelet for 2 nights at a B&B which was really nice, relaxing place to stay near the water. Unfortunately, I came down with a hit-by-a-truck flu, high fever and terrible aches for 3 of the 4 days but we still managed to see and do everything except seakayaking..but that was postponed anyway cause it was also pissing with rain nearly the whole time, doh! So we went for more rainforest walks, checked out the Pacific coast beaches and watched literally, hundreds of people learn to surf at Tofino in closed out, raining and 13 degrees conditions. We were watching from the comfort of a posh restaurant so we were quite happy.
After that we made our way back across to the east coast for our last night in Fanny Bay at a very posh B&B. Our room looked straight out onto the bay area, it was so peaceful just sitting back and watching the world go by. That night we headed out to a good restaurant recommended by the locals and Blake enjoyed a yummy lamb sirloin washed down with a good Aussie red.
The next morning as we looked out at the bay eating our 4 course breakfast, we watched a bald eagle fishing for its breakfast then swoop right over us in the house, very cool. The sun was finally shining for our last day and I was feeling tonnes better so we got on a small ferry to Denman Island. We checked out some more rainforest walks and a really awesome view of Chrome Island and its little lighthouse.
So it was a pretty cool trip with plenty of animal spotting and just chilling out.
Location: Banff and Lake Louise, Canada
After many hassles, (us too disorganised!) a cab ride and two ferry rides we got a truck/camper combo and finally set off on Saturday arvo for a week checking out Calgary Stampede via Lake Louise, Banff and Jasper National Park in Alberta.
We spent the first night camped by the roadside near a pretty lake area called Sicamous after 6 or so hours driving. Banff was our next destination with Lake Louise as the first scenic stop. WOW...what an amazing and beautiful place. The turquoise blue water, like no other lake I have ever seen. Massive mountains and glaciers reflecting in its surface. There were masses of tourists at the starting point and the ugly and huge chalet, but once you started walking around the lake it became much quieter and peaceful. It was our first encounter with some wildlife, Columbian Squirrels and Golden Mantle Squirrels, very cute and much nicer than skanky grey London ones.
Location: Seal Rocks, Australia
Blake and Lyndall headed off for a week in Treachery near Seal Rocks NSW for Renee and Craig's honeymoon. This might seem a little unusual but really makes lots of sense, they have been together for 7 years, travelled the world and lived together so why not spend their holidays with friends who have travelled to see them for their special day so extending the celebration just a little. Also Renee said she would have spent most of the honeymoon on the beach, alone, as Craig went surfing.
Some people pitched tents whilst others enjoyed the log cabins with ocean views. Either way it was very relaxing and quiet with birds tweeting, dingoes lurking, rats stealing food in the night from our kitchen and the stillness only broken by occasional RAAF jets booming across the ocean doing 'tactical manouvres'.
It was though a relaxing few days spending time with friends, eating bbqs and roasting marshmallows and catching up on board games when the weather was unkind.
On the way home Blake and Lyndall stopped in to see the "Biggest tree in NSW" as Lyndall's dad had insisted that they see it. This tree is over 400 years old and it is pretty massive at 70 plus metres high and set in lush bushland, better see it quick before Johnny Howard turns it to woodchip!
Location: Newcastle, Australia
March 3rd 2007 - Well, Renee and Craig's big day had finally arrived. It was a beautiful sunny summer's day, all you could hope for on your wedding.
For the gals it meant we were off to an early start 8am to the hairdressers. It then took 3 hours to curl and pin our hair into place but the hair stayed in all day and night. The make-up lady swung into action at 1pm and it was go from then on having to paint five faces but it was worth it as we all looked beautiful, especially Renee the bride.
The photographer had been sneaking around since 3pm and always when Lyndall had food jammed into her mouth.
Limo arrived at 4.20pm to whisk Renee, Lyndall, Belinda, Lisa and Lindsay to the Town Hall for the ceremony. We were all melting by the time we arrived and anxious about falling down the marble staircase but still very excited.
The ceremony was lovely and everyone in the bridal party looked buffed and polished. The heat was bearing down on us but we all managed to hang on til the end without fainting.
Then the bridal party was hurried off to the cooling air on the beach to get the photos done and more in Civic Park.
7pm the bridal party returned to get the party started... with cocktails and finger food, funny speeches and dancing til we all turned into pumpkins at midnight.
It was a fantastic day and night and no better way to celebrate the wedding of a great couple.
Location: London, UK
Now it was Lyndall's time to leave London after 2 fond years tearing it up in ole Londontown. As Gab, Ed and I were all leaving London at the same time it was only fitting to have a combined farewell drinks. We reserved some lounge space in the Dirty Martini Bar and drank yummy cocktails until the wee hours.
Location: London, UK
Blake finally bid London goodbye (again). He left Lyndall behind so she could see out the remainder of her working visa until Feb 2007.
So in order to see Blake off properly we headed to Motion Bar near Embankment tube for a few drinks and nibblies. It was mainly Lyndall's mates and Blake's rels that were there, but fun was had by all and many drinks consumed.
Location: Cambridge, UK
On a rare and lovely sunny day in September we took an hour long train trip through the countryside to visit Cambridge.
Cambridge is a quaint, university town filled with little shops and curiosities. We found Hotel Chocolat in the back streets and spent ages drooling all over the rich, gourmet chocolates with yummy flavours like strawberry & black pepper and rasberry & cream.
We finally dragged ourselves away from the choccie shop and ambled into the main town centre which is pedestrian-only and looked at the old buildings and the impressive Kings College and other colleges found there.
There is a beautiful river which winds its way past the back of the universities and the best way to see it is by boat or punt. So off we went and paddled along for an hour or so by punt, just the two of us soaking up the sun. Well, Lyndall soaked up the sun and felt like a movie star kicking back while Blake did all the hard work pushing us along with a huge stick and trying not to get it stuck in the mud and fall in. There were quite a few other, less experienced boaters on the river so it got tricky at times and one guy decided to block the whole way by getting his stuck across the river, he was huffing and puffing but not much happening but at least his wife (and half the people boating) thought it was pretty funny.
After all that 'exercise' we found a good ole english pub to have some British tucker, fish & chips and pie with chips. The pub was an old hangout for squandron pilots in the war and they have their signatures scrawled on the roof along with an assortment of photos from the time so it was a great place to reflect on the relaxing day we had in Cambridge.
Location: Oslo, Norway
Blake and I had a very relaxing trip to Norway in August. We didn't see loads of tourist stuff but mainly relaxed, drank and ate well. We stayed in Drammen about an hour outside of Oslo with Blake's lovely mate Chris and fiancee Heidi.
On the one tourist day we managed to fit in, we went to a very cool sculpture park, Vigeland. There were naked sculptures of people everywhere in all manner of poses, enacting real life situations but very elegant and curious.
Also saw the Royal Palace and the Prince and Princess on walkabout in the city, saw the backs of their heads.
We went to a great Italian restaurant where I tried deer and reindeer. One was much nicer than the other but no-one seemed to know which was which!!
It would have been nice to get out of the cities into the Fjordlands but maybe next time.
Check out the pics link to see the sculptures.