Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Happy Birthday Pops!

My dad is about to celebrate his 60th birthday and my sis decorated this cake for him. I think its ace and she has managed to show all aspects of his personality and what he likes to do best.

Cake gallery

Sunday, 17 August 2008


"A scouser - How awful!"
I had to go all the way to California to hear those words coming from a British woman. My good friend and fellow Liverpudlian, Tracy was talking to a store holder in the farmers market in Burlingame where she lives with her hubby Peter and their two dogs Skooch and Lucy Lou. We were both flabbergasted with the womans reaction to our accent.

A woman on the Trek America tour also had an issue with the Liverpool accent. She expressed great relief that my friends accent wasn't 'too strong' as she didn't care much for the scouse accent. I wasn't given the same compliment as my accent is much stronger, and leaves no doubt about where I am from. I didn't realise how ugly prejudice was until it was staring me in the face.

I studied dialects on my MA course in uni so I have always had a great interest in different accents. I have always thought such diversity should be celebrated and I think it would be a boring world if we all spoke, looked, and dressed the same.


Burlingame - Home to the Ismerts

Ismert Abode
We arrived in Burlingame late afternoon on that last Friday and the Ismerts cooked us up a great dinner.

Pete made some margaritas and we had a good laugh catching up. We dropped Jen off at the airport as she left us for Costa Rica and more adventures.

I ended up staying for a few more days in Burlingame and had a great time. Tracy and I walked around Burlingame on the Saturday. We passed a garage sale with some interesting sofas. One was 9ft long. The guy wanted $50 for it so long as I paid the delivery.

I picked up some gifts from a cute little shop called Therapy. We also ran into a few of her neighbours. Goldie, who was a part time dog sitter and she drove the stars to and from the airport. She wasn't too fond of Jude Law, but said George Clooney and Brad Pitt were lovely. We also ran into Danny and Debbie, a lovely couple with 4 cute kids. Debbie had the funniest laugh and Danny gave us 2 bottles of his home made wine which was very generous. They were really sweet.

That evening we had a bbq and their friends Duncan and Mark came over. I had the best giggle. They were great company - very entertaining. Duncan had some great stories and I learned a few new catchphrases.

On Sunday morning we went to a flea market where I picked up a gorgeous cherry brooch for the bargain price of $10. Then we picked up some food at the farmers market in Burlingame for dinner that evening. We spent the rest of the afternoon sunbathing in the garden which was my last chance to soak up the California sunshine. It was scorching hot and the pool was great for cooling off.

Pete and I took a bike ride early evening to pick up some ice cream for dessert. Then it was another great meal and lots of margaritas and great conversation.

Pete dropped me off at the airport on the Monday morning before work and I began the long trek home. I was so sad it was all over. It was the holiday of a lifetime. I cant wait for my next adventure.

San Francisco - The finale

On the last day in San Francisco we visited SF MOMA. There was some amazing photography by a guy called Peter Wenger which I loved. There was also an exhibition of Lee Millers photography which was quite emotional. She was the official war photographer for Vogue and some of the pictures were very moving. There was one of her in Hitlers bathtub. I also got to see the Frida Kahlo exhibition and of course the roof terrace which had a great view of the city as well as a really cool Dinosaur sculpture.

After a coffee, we headed over to Yerba Beuna park and then onto City Hall. There were a couple of weddings going on inside and lots of photography going on. It was a perfect setting I think to tie the knot. The location was very picturesque. There was a newly married couple outside of City Hall with their kids and I took a picture for them on the famous steps.

We headed back to the hotel and waited for Tracy to come pick us up. It was the only time we had by the pool. We dipped our feet in and a lovely man gave us some chocolate cup cakes which were gorgeous. Everyone we met at the Phoenix was really friendly.

We picked up our luggage from the guy on reception and as I was about to pick up my bag I just heard 'Claaaree'! And there was Tracy with her pooches looking fab as usual. We left the city that afternoon and headed over to Burlingame to spend some time with the Ismerts. I was really excited about seeing them.

San Francisco IV

Haight Ashbury
We explored Haight Ashbury one afternoon. The architecture was beautiful and there were lots of retro neon signs which I loved. There were plenty of second hand clothing stores full of really cool stuff. It was so tempting. I had to force myself not to spend too much money.

I did buy some cds at Amoeba Records on Haight - The Pippetes, Albert Hammond Jnrs new album and some Flight of the Conchords. We had some tasty crepes in a little place on the Haight then took the bus back towards the hotel.

We had a drink at the Bambuddha lounge which was part of our hotel. The staff were really friendly and so helpful.

There was a great Vietnamese restaurant called Mongosteen just over the road from the Phoenix which we ate in 2 nights in a row. The food was amazing and the location pretty convenient. It also meant we didn't have to venture far out after dark down 'crazy' street.

San Francisco Gallery

San Francisco III

Golden Gate Park

The conservatory in the park was as pretty as I had seen in pictures. The stark white structure stood out amongst the trees and grass and colourful flowers that surrounded it. The funniest object I saw a double coconut. It looked like a woman with too much junk in the trunk bending over.

The De Young museum was an impressive building and we arrived at the Japanese Tea Garden just in time to take a guided tour with Ted who turned out his family were originally from Liverpool. We learned a little of the history of the garden and the family who maintained it. The gardens were really beautiful, full of ancient trees that were imported from Japan. We drank some tea by the pond where we threw in coins and made some wishes.

San Francisco Gallery

San Francisco II

Angel Island via Tiberon
We made our way back to the wharf and took the ferry over to Angel Island, stopping at Tiberon on the way. The houses on the side of island looked amazing, each with a view of the pretty harbour down below.

The ferry trip was cold due to the fog but once we arrived on the island the sun was shining. We didn't have enough time to see all of the island which was a shame. The views were breathtaking.

San Francisco Gallery

San Francisco I

Phoenix 60

The Phoenix hotel in San Francisco was the coolest hotel but it was in the craziest location I think I have ever stayed in. It was located in the Civic Centre close to City Hall. The walk to Union Square and Market Street was certainly interesting. So many waifs and strays and crazy ass people.

Fishermans Wharf
On the first night we walked to Fishermans Wharf and watched the sunset on the waterfront. The sea lions had already departed the Bay Area. It woulda been nice to have see them again.

San Francisco Gallery

Marin County

It was scorching hot on the day we left Santa Cruz. The plan was to stop at Half Moon Bay for a short while before passing through San Francisco up to Marin County. Headed up to Muir woods with in the intention of hiking the Mt. Tamalpais trail.

Because of the cool air conditioning in the car we failed to realise how hot it was. The heat hit us when we got out of the car at the start of the hike point. We quickly changed into out bathing suites and headed down to Stinson Beach to soak up the sun instead.

I had been to Stinson on a previous trip to California with my friends the Ismerts. It was still as beautiful as I had remembered it. I slept in the sun then dipped in and out of the ocean to cool down.

Marin County Gallery

Santa Cruz

After the disappointment of Big Sur, we decided to spend that time in Santa Cruz. It turned out to be an excellent alternative. We found a room at the Knights Inn. It was very basic but it was a 2 minute walk from the boardwalk where everything was happening. We ate our first chilly dog, which turns out is a hot dog in batter. Not the most appetising meal. I will be avoiding these from now on. We took the chairlift to the other end of the pier and I bought a hula girl statue in a tiki style shop at the end of the pier.

We explored downtown in the afternoon, sat on the beach and walked along the boardwalk which was my favourite place. Mostly because it was used in one of my favourite movies, The Lost Boys, but also because of the fair rides. I couldn't wait to get on the rollercoaster. We tried the pirate ship first and it was so much fun. I had forgotten how much fun it could be. I convinced Jen to try the Giant Dipper and I laughed so hard, even squealed at one point. It made me so giddy, I couldn't stop laughing for about 5 minutes after the ride had stopped.

We ate at a lovely restaurant on the pier and watched the sun go down and pelican fly onto the roof. Their silhouettes looked amazing in the dusky sky.

After dinner we walked along the rest of the pier and I had a delicious chocolate strawberry. We found some sea lions resting on a jetty under the pier. It was quite spooky under there.

We were heading up to San Francisco the next day and I was starting to feel a bit sad that my trip was coming to an end.

Santa Cruz Gallery

Monterey and Carmel

We decided to drive up to Big Sur on our way to Monterey to check out the hiking routes for when we stayed there. The drive up the coast was really beautiful. There was mist coming in from the ocean rolling over the hills and smothering the road.
We failed to see the road closure signs until it was too late to turn back, then we thought we might as well keep on driving, because the view was so spectacular. We hit the road block about 10 miles away from the Big Sur Lodge. The police informed us that the fires were too great and everyone was being evacuated from the area. I was so disappointed to be missing out on Big Sur. I was looking forward to the open fires and relaxing by the lake. So we did a big u-turn and started our drive around the fires. We crossed over towards Paso Robles back past Hearst Castle and continued up to Monterey along route 101.

We stayed at El Adobe Inn, a short walk away from the Marina. It was dusk by the time we made our way down to the harbour. We found an English themed pub and watched some live music and had a few drinks.

We hired some bikes the following morning and rode along the waterfront. We headed toward the 17 mile route down to Carmel. We stopped off at a country club for some refreshments and a man was kind enough to give us some bottles of water for free. I felt really bad because I had no change to give him a tip.

That afternoon the weather cleared up and we drove over to Carmel for some lunch. I had the best shrimp tacos from a cute little place called AW Shucks. Carmel was full of quaint little shops and pretty hotels. It was very picturesque and you could sense the wealth in the air.

We discovered a small addiction in Monterey. Entertainment TV!! We spent the early evening watching the Denise Richards show and Girls of the Playboy Mansion. Denise Richards is hilarious, poor white trash made good. Even though she has all that money, she is still white trash and its very entertaining to watch. The Playmates were just as much fun. It was fun to watch their relationships that evolved around this one old man Hugh. There was a lot of jealousy between his current girlfriend and an ex playmate. They also taught us a new phrase - sausage wallet. Its a term used for a woman who likes to sleep around a lot. It was one of my favourite phrases for the rest of the trip.

After the TV session, we headed back down to the main street and watched some live music in a little bar we found hidden away. Then it was our last visit to the english pub where it was karaoke night. Those yanks really loved their rock and karaoke. There was only one bad performance of the night when some poor guy killed Mr Brightside.

Monterey and Carmel Gallery

4th July

I saw some graffiti on the street in Santa Barbara calling it the playground for the rich. There was certainly a wealthy feel about the place. But it also had its fair share of homeless and more 'interesting' characters.

After lunch on the pier we hung around in town waiting for the fireworks. Had the best chilli fries on the beach and people watched til the show started. Once the fireworks began it was pretty impressive.

4th July Gallery

Santa Barbara

The destination for the day was Carpinteria, Santa Barbara. We drove along route 1 passing through Malibu. We checked into the hotel then ventured out to downtown Santa Barbara. State Street was full of shops ranging from little boutiques to department stores including Macys and Saks. We stopped for a coffee but it took us a while as there was a black out because of the forest fires. Ash from the fires was pouring down on us as we walked up and down the main street.

We managed to get in some pool/jacuzzi time while at the hotel the next morning before jumping the bus into town to spend the day shopping and exploring. Happy hour was from 4 til 10 in most places and after a long day the margaritas went down really well. When we got back to the hotel that evening and broke the pool curfew having some jacuzzi time before heading off to bed. The next day was 4th July and I was looking forward to the fireworks.

Friday, 15 August 2008

On the road

From LA we drove to Santa Barbara, stopping off at Century City shopping mall for much needed retail therapy. We had lunch before setting off along the coastal road route 1. I was a little worried about driving in America, it was my first time, but I was amazed at how easy I found it. There were some scary incidents along the way but for the most part I enjoyed it

Lost in LA

We ventured further afield into LA the next day. The bus ride to the Getty Centre was epic - maybe we shoulda hired the car as soon as we got to LA. I had no idea it was such an enormous city. We spent most of the day jumping on and off the wrong bus, heading in the wrong direction to where we wanted to be. We made it to Melrose Avenue, but it was the wrong end, it was spookily deserted. Reminded me of a quiet afternoon walk I took in Harlem on one trip to New York. It wasn't the safest I have ever felt in my life. The bus drivers were really friendly though and helped us out loads. Plus the sun was shining so I wasnt too worried about getting lost in LA.

It was a relief when we reached familiar surroundings back in Santa Monica. We spent our last evening in beautiful Santa Monica on 3rd street, shopping, dining and supping margaritas, just what we needed after the LA hike.

LA Gallery

Santa Monica

Me and my monkey
We stayed at the Seashore Motel, which I can fully recommend. It was a cute little place, so close to the beach and surrounded by a great selection of restaurants. The owners were really friendly. We managed to catch up with two of our trek buddies on Santa Monica Pier. We ate some Bubba Gump shrimp and I won a Monkey on one of the games at the fair, proving I am still champion at Kentucky Derby races.

After doing our best Hasselhoff poses at the life guard stations we headed down to Venice Beach. There were so many different characters, most of them drunk and begging then of course the muscle men the beach is so famous for.

Santa Monica Gallery

LA Gallery

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Dreaming California
You can buy a copy of my book Dreaming California buy clicking on the link below. Its just a collection of a fraction of the photographs I took on the California trip. More to come...

Friday, 8 August 2008


I got to put my hand in the cemented hand print of the beloved George Clooney!! There were plenty of other sites on the LA tour. Hollywood Blvd is littered with sex shops only metres away from the famous Kodak theatre where the Oscar ceremony is held.

The Hollywood sign was so far in the distance. Can you spot it?

The trek tour ended at the Gateway hotel called the Hacienda close to LAX. We said our goodbyes and it felt kinda sad. We had all experienced so much together in one week. It was an intense seven days.

After a morning swim in the Hacienda pool, Jen and I took a cab to Santa Monica where we were about to start a whole new adventure. Starting in Santa Monica, continuing up the west coast and finally ending in San Francisco.

LA Gallery

Lake Havasu

Temperatures of 117 degrees can make the mind go a little crazy, but it was the real London Bridge I saw in the middle of the Arizona desert stretching across Lake Havasu. The guy who bought it thought he was getting what we know as Tower Bridge.

The plan was to stay indoors til it got a little cooler then we headed down to the lake. Once we were at the lake we all hustled into our cozzies and jumped in the water. I coulda stayed there all night. I was sent, as my nan used to say. It was paradise. Second only to the warm Caribbean Ocean.

That night we had a lovely meal of spiced sausage and shrimp cooked by the amazing Linda - the girl who could do anything, she was like superwoman. It was so warm that we slept outside under the stars.

Noisey birds woke me up at dawn but no one else was moving. I watched the sunrise alone sitting by the lake, it was idyllic. I didn't want to leave.

Lake Havasu Gallery

Grand Canyon

The average time a tourist will spend at the canyon is 1 - 2 hrs. They drive up, get out of their cars, take in the view and then off they go to the next great landmark. It took me an hour to get over the fact that I was standing on the edge of the beast of a canyon.

The brightest night skys and smos around the campfire. Howling coyotes made for an excellent alarm for the 3am start to see the amazing sunrise over the canyon.

That morning there was only enough time for a short hike down the canyon along the Khabib Trail. We ate lunch and took in the view and fought off some pretty fierce squirrels. I ended up nursing some bruises from a fall on the way down the slippery dusty path. Took forever to clean off the canyon dirt.

Grand Canyon Gallery

In transit

Some of the sights along the way...
These rocks looked like they were flipping us the bird.

Blurred patriotism.

Its all about the love.

I like pylons.

I didn't wanna risk my chances with the dead chicken.
(Seligman - Route 66)

In transit Gallery

Route 66 Gallery

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Elvis lives!

Vegas baby!!

Whenever I think of Vegas now the thing I will remember the most is that it was hot Hot HOT!!!

I never thought I would appreciate air conditioning so much. A walk down the strip consisted of blazing hot sunshine then dipping in and out of the casinos to gasp for breath and get our hands on some ice cold water.

A clear favourite of the hotels had to be the Venetian. Venice recreated under a clear blue artificial sky with gondolas floating down the turquoise blue canal.

Other highlights included the pirate show at Treasure Island, the miniature Eiffel Tower at the Paris Hotel and mini New York. The fountains at the Bellagio were magnificent.

The winnings at the Bellagio, not so magnificent.

Overall Vegas was very entertaining. I have to admit I wasn't looking forward to the limo ride, I was worried it was going to be a little tacky. But turns out tacky can be more than enough entertainment. Especially when we had our own professional pole dancer to show us the moves. And one more thing... Elvis does in fact live. I found him on his mobile phone hanging outside the Venetian.

Vegas Gallery