Location: Barcelona, Spain
Well here we are in Barcelona airport about to embark on the marathon journey home - 26 hours of flying but 8 hours of waiting!
Hard to believe after the planning and anticipation that it's all drawing to a close. What an amazing holiday it has been - both of us agree the best we've ever had. We've been to vastly different places and stayed in some amazing hotels, and travelled in style in between.
Barcelona was very low key. Yesterday Lloyd had nausea and diarrhea and was confined to bed all day so our planned visit to Cal Pep, a restaurant, was shelved. This morning we took a reminiscent walk down Las Ramblas and through the Boqueria (food market), but had to check out by 1300 so now it's all done. We're so looking forward to home and seeing everybody. Love you all heaps. ¡Hasta pronto!
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Now our second day/third night in Barcelona. Lloyds conference finishes at midday tomorrow so we'll do some sight-seeing. I did a lot of walking yesterday (yeah!!!, the ankles and hips were no problem) on a mission to find a fecking post office. When I did get there I was confronted by a rude pig of a man who kept talking over the top of me rather than speak more slowly so I could understand him better! Anyway, eventually, after stuffing up the first form, I luckily encountered someone much more obliging, and we successfully completed business all in Spanish. I've been really happy with how well I have communicated and have understood reasonably well, in spite of the very different accent here compared to Latin America.
Last night we dined at a 2 Michelin star restaurant called Lasarte. Absolutely beautiful, and reasonably priced. Libby, Lloyd has devised a challenge for you and Stuart to take on in retirement(not too many sleeps now!), which he will explain on our return!
I feel guilty about lack of activity today, but I'm ready for home.
The weather here is gorgeous - good time of year.
Adiós amigos. Hasta pronto. ¡Todos cuidaos mucho! xxxxx
Location: Adare, County Clare, Ireland
Can't believe it's already our last night in Ireland! :(
What a wonderful time we have had, enjoying the ultimate in indulgence and golf. The only negative has been the 20 knot (about 60 km/hr) winds that have battered the west coast this week! Quite a different experience to last year.
At Doonbeg we wimped out of Sundays golf and spent a delicious day vegging out in front of the fire, reading, then spent an hilarious evening with a random older woman who latched on to us. She was from South Carolina and subsequently her sister also arrived - Pat and Betty-Jean, both in their 60s traveling with their 85 year old mother.
Next day we played golf in the afternoon. As you will see from the photos it was very cold and windy - constant roar of the wind and pounding ocean. Many of the holes almost impossible into the wind. Lloyd played brilliantly and scored 40 points, so finally dealt with his unfinished business. I didn't play particularly well but had some flashes of brilliance, including getting out of ridiculously high bunkers. Played again the next morning - not quite as windy but still tough on the exposed holes. Similar results to previous day so the Lady of the Links crown has slipped, now its Lloyd of the Links.
Then drove to our last destination, Adare Manor and Golf Resort. Another amazing place - it's certainly been a very special holiday. Played golf today here, a beautiful parklands course, but still windy - about 45km/hr. Rated top parklands course in Ireland. Amazingly the bodies have survived our 180 holes of golf. Next game back at home!
Drive to Dublin tomorrow and fly to Barcelona tomorrow night.
Missing you all and looking forward to home. xxxxxxxx
Location: Doonbeg, Ireland
How I love this wild place where leprechaun's roam and blarney prevails. Doonbeg is magic today with the beautiful coastline; and fearsome windy (2-3 clubs) south-westerly gusting to about 40 km per hour. The daylight saving allows tee times as late as 1720 and the sheer unspoiled "natural" beauty is spiritual and humbling. (wish I could play golf as well as I bull shit)
Connemara is a little area in north Galway on it's border with county Mayo. It is James Joyce country and extremely Gaellic. The topography is both Irish and reminiscent of the Scottish Highlands. We stayed there in a castle on the river Cong for the last two nights-acceptable enough until we get home. Had a great drive through picturesque towns and villages along narrow lanes and by fast flowing rivers and still Lochs. Connemara Golf course is considered one of the three hidden gems on the west coast and is a flat links course with the usual pot bunkers. The inward nine is unequalled and one readily retires to a pint of the worlds best beer (Smithwicks of course).
The only negative of an experience like this is the unmasking of the gene for gluttony always existing only just out of site at least in my genome. USA primed us and now Ireland feeds (and feeds) us. Oh for the Irish breakfast!!
My knees are causing problems and unfortunately limiting us. Guess I will have to bite the bullet.
Apologies for leaving SWMBO to do most of the updates; sloth and gluttony are bedmates. LD.lg
Location: Doonbeg, County Clare, Ireland
Left Chicago on Wednesday night. Flight delayed 3 hours because of thunderstorms, 2 of those hours spent sitting in the plane! Good flight once we got going, arriving at 1045 in Dublin.
Picked up hire car and drove 3 hours west to County Mayo and a village called Cong where Ashford Castle is. An amazing place built in 1228 offering superb accommodation and service. Over indulged yet again and loving it. Spent 2 nights here with some sight seeing. Too wet and windy for golf.
Arrived this afternoon at Doonbeg ( green doesn't suit you Benny and Simon). Better weather here but insanely windy. Took forever to drive only 90 km. Thought we'd be clever and avoid the narrow winding coast road we travelled last year, only to drive further on equally narrow roads! That's Ireland, to be sure!
Off to dinner now and golf tomorrow morning. Praying for all body parts and functions to survive!
Location: Chicago, USA
Last 2 days have been pretty laid back. Dramatic change in the weather to high 20s previously low teens and I think I was the only person in Michigan Ave without a coat and scarf as I battled by MMSs with the changing temperatures from street to store.
Thought I'd lash out and get my hair styled as well as colored but no real difference :(. I guess theres only so much you can do with a sow's ear!!
Organized a dinner for the last night with some other GC gastros.. Sitting at the table next to us were 3 guys one of whom was an old associate of lloyds from the 80's!! What are the chances of that! Of all the joints...... Anyway it proved a little expensive as we moved to drinking Hill of Grace, and Lloyd foolishly bet his mate that his recall was more accurate. Needless to say it wasn't, and there went another Hill of Grace!! Could have been very messy but we got away before that happened.
Last day did a cruise on Lake Michigan which was beautiful, and now we're ready for the next leg!
Talk to you all from Ireland, to be sure!
Location: Chicago, USA
Quiet day. Went to dinner at an unusual restaurant called iNG. We were a little apprehensive when the cab pulled up in a very shabby warehouse district and no overt signs of restaurants. We found the discreet entrance, the restaurant set up similar to Longrain with long tables. We opted for the tasting menu with matching wines- mostly good but instead of using Blumenthal type 'tricks' to enhance the food experience, some of was in conflict. The prime example was the last of 3 desserts, aptly named Breakfast. It looked just like a crispy rasher of bacon with a fried egg and hash brown, but the bacon was a crispy biscuit, the egg panna cotta with pineapple jelly for the yolk, and the hash brown was a coconut macaroon. All very tasty but truly weird to have the visual expectation in conflict with the taste !
Location: Chicago, USA
Played golf this afternoon at a club called Harborside International where they have previously played the US Seniors Open - so right up our alley!
Needless to say it was windy with occasional brief showers and the course is basically a links course but an obscene number of very long bunkers. I played off the whites as the reds play too short a course (only around 4600 metres). However I only scored 10 points on the front 9 as playing tees further back with strong winds took me from one hazard to another. For my sanity and Lloyds well being I changed to the reds and scored 22 points. At the 18th Lloyd was 1 point up and I needed to win to be able to consider getting 2 puppies. I managed to sink my putt from off the green for a bogey and 3 points, which I did with finesse, leaving Lloyd having to sink his putt for a par and 2 points, but the poor baby missed :(
Had a quiet night at the hotel as had no sleep the night before as our room was apparently the only one on the 28th floor not invited to the massive parties taking place around us. Shouting and fighting till 0330, especially the room next door. Another reminder of our aging.....intolerance!
Lloyds conference starts tomorrow so activities will no doubt slow down. I am uploading photos to Facebook as I can't now upload the files to planet ranger
Love to you all. Xxxxxxx
Location: Chicago, USA
Beautiful morning in Chicago but very fresh. We have certainly gone from one end of the spectrum to the other in terms of weather. In Palm Desert and Vegas it was hot but very low humidity - less than 10% - and such a contrast to Queensland. For the first time in months I didn't have one Menopausal MuckSweat but now were back to higher humidity they've returned to haunt me!! Yeah!
Temperature here around 10 to 14 during the day. Today we braved the open double decker bus to do a city tour. We were blessed with a bitter and twisted, cynical tour guide who was a natural comedian so we had great fun and gathered a great overall view of Chicago. Including a recommendation to a restaurant, The Grand Luxe Cafe, where they have the record for the most expensive martinis ever sold, $900, because the olives had rubies and sapphires secreted in them! We opted for the more basic menu - mini burgers which were delicious and freshly baked hot beignets served with a trio of sauces - chocolate, raspberry and cream. Beignets are a cross between a profiterole and a doughnut. Yummy, but not for daily consumption as we struggle to fit into our clothes.
Tonight we went to a play/musical for which one of the presenters was Whoopi Goldberg (no she wasnt there, just financed it). It was called White Noise and was a very confronting subject around the extent to which you will compromise values in order to succeed. Lots of politically incorrect subjects and language, but a great play, albeit only average singing and dancing.
Location: Chicago, USA
Travelled to Chicago today - 3 hour flight and we're now another 2 hours ahead making the time difference 9 hours. Arrived late afternoon so headed to the John Hancock Observatory as it was such a beautiful day, albeit cold. Magnificent 360 views of Chicago and Lake Michigan and a beautiful sunset as we sipped (actually make that guzzled) our G&T (previous day an AFD)
Our hotel room is a big disappointment - no real surprise after the Bellagio - it is at the conference centre, we hav a spectacular view over downtown, but the room is pretty basic. Busy planning our stay here. Lloyd doesn't start his conference till Saturday. Even planning a round of golf ( what tragics!)
Location: Las Vegas, USA
Last day in Vegas - both spectacular and a spectacle. It has such an incredible energy reminiscent of the excitement of the Regatta when you were a kid. So much of it has been brilliantly done and of great quality, but then there's the underbelly of gambling, sex etc and an annoyance for the geriatrics - constant cigarette smoke.
The Bellagio has been a magnificent indulgence - opulence, decadence and impeccable service.
Lloyd didn't mention that Shadow Creek which we played yesterday, had been built from flat desert. There were rolling hills, lakes, undulating fairways, elevated tees and gullies designed to psych you out. Apparently over 20,000 trees were shipped in and the end result is a magnificent course.
For our last night we went to a brilliant show by a ventriloquist, Terry Fator, who won America's Got Talent. Absolutely hilarious and so talented.
All in all we had a ball in Vegas and definitely worth a trip for pure escapism and entertainment
Sorted out the iPad accessory and will upload photos soon
Location: Las Vegas, USA
Shadow Creek- a piece of Georgia built in the desert in 1989 for $49M. Initially it was just for the owner of a few Vegas casinos and he lived on the 18th hole. He allowed the high rollers to play and even now most of the rounds are complementary.
Off the front tees, there are no ladies tees, it is 6000 m. And off the blues 6600 m. The back tees are just over 7000 metres. Course record 60 off the blues (Fred couples and tiger woods) and 66 off the back tees. The club does not list any record for the white tees so I suppose my 95 yesterday sets the benchmark.
Chris had 24 points and that was off the white tees 6000m. Pretty good. But winners are grinners and my 29 pts. was enough to give me a victory. Chris and I are currently 3 a piece.
The course is truly beautiful with bent greens and manicured fairways. It wa s not difficult and if one was playing to potential 36-40 pts. would have been achievable.
The post game Gins were like a Spanish pour and an afternoon siesta was essential.
My take on Vegas:
Glitzy, booze, sex, unbridled capitalism at it's best and worst, architectural excesses and brilliance; it certainly has the wow factor.
I still can't get over the money wagered on one card in either blackjack or poker- $25000is maximum bet and this is not in the high-roller room. The hotel is geared towards gambling and to get in or out of your room you have to go through the casino.
One of my highlights was the drive from Palm Desert to Las Vegas. Within 20 mins. Of leaving the oasis that the Coachella Valley is we were in badlands I was waiting for rattlesnakes apaches and bandits; it was just so desolate. How can people live there and what do they do?. Ld
Location: Grand Canyon, USA
Today was an exceptionally early start. Picked up by limo at 0600 for our helicopter trip to the Grand Canyon at 0700. Picture perfect day but a little fresh.
Only six of us on the flight, we flew out to the Canyon arriving on the floor of the West Rim about 45 minutes later. The Canyon is over 400 km from Las Vegas, and itself spans a distance of over 400 km - the distance from the Gold Coast to Coffs Harbour.
It's width varies from 1 mile to 29 miles at various points. We landed at a narrow point and went on a short boat trip on the Colorado River to view its spectacle from below, cliffs rising above for 1250 meters. It truly was an awe inspiring experience.
From there we flew to the Sky Walk - an elliptical glass platform which extends 70 meters out over the Canyon over 1200 meters below. Staggering to see the fear of many people, in particular men! Lloyd and I embraced it, completely fearless, and had a number of photos taken - no cameras etc allowed in case they are dropped and cause damage - even had to wear theatre boots! At this stage I had hoped to load photos on line, but the accessory I bought for the iPad doesn't work with my camera :(. Still working on resolving that problem.
Flew back to Vegas at midday. Amazing how small the strip is - not even the length of Surfers (Broadbeach to Main) and looks like a mirage rising from the desert particularly since it's a replica of so many iconic landmarks from around the world.
Last night was fantastic also. The Cirque du Soleil performance Love, based on Beatles hits was staggering and breath-taking, not just because of the athleticism of the performers, but the way they evoked the illusionary mind-altering effect of the substances in use by the Beatles when they wrote a lot of their later hits. Unbelievable and a must see if you're over here.
Catch y'all tomorrow. Xxxxxxx
Location: Las Vegas, USA
Headed off to golf at Royal links, a course that has recreated some of the famous holes from links courses that have hosted the British Open, even down to a replica castle for the clubhouse. Very well done, not tacky as you might expect. It was insanely windy - gale force with gusts peaking at 60 km per hour made for a very challenging round of golf. We played with a random guy who I swear was the human model for Barney from the Simpsons!!!! Very large O shaped man. He nearly got wiped out by a pine tree which blew over on to his cart as he travelled just a few seconds behind us! He was OK but the cart was pretty misshapen!
I played well with 37 points and Lloyd had 34. His knee packed it in so not sure we'll make the round at Shadow Creek - the very upmarket course which was the focal point of coming to las Vegas , but hopefully he will rally.
Tonight we went to see Steve Martin. Initially we were disappointed to find out that it was in his new role of blue grass musician and song writer, but the music was great and it was still very funny. His comedic timing is so good.
Las Vegas is so over the top it's beyond tacky and is really quite exciting. Planning a quiet day tomorrow with a show tomorrow night called Love - no I was not scheduling a night of unbridled passion into our trip - it's a cirqu du soleil show based on Beatles music
By the way, to those of you who recall my visit to Melanie - she saw Lloyd playing golf in very strong winds with castle nearby!........... Food for thought