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All things Canadian …

We said goodbye to Toronto with a breakfast of scrambled eggs and croissants, toast and jam, tea and pastries.
Finding the road out was problematic as there are no signs, no place names to aim for and no signs telling you where the road we needed was. As said before, Graeme has a wonderful sense of direction and knew roughly which direction we needed to go, so by trial and error we eventually found the right highway. And it was busy as it was 8 am and rush hour.
We headed off the main highway eventually, onto the more minor roads with corn fields either side and much, much less trafic. Bliss!

Our first stop of the day was Munro Honey and Meadery, being fans of the odd drop of mead. It was in the town of Alvinston, down ‘back’ roads lined with corn. The speed limit was 90 km/hr and that is what we were doing, following a police car. The traffic built up a bit behind us, until one guy had had enough. Graeme said ‘he’ll see the police car and pull in behind it’ which is exactly what he did, but then, for some inexplicable reason decided to overtake the police car – at which point the blue lights came on and he got pulled. Baffling!
The meadery was lovely. A small shop full of all things bees and honey. We had a browse then picked up a bottle of mead to buy with our remaining Canadian dollars. We got talking to the lady serving us and ended up tasting three different meads of varying sweetness (the sweetest was my favourite of course!) and one callled Melomel, a blend of mead and fruit juice. Then she showed us the bees, hidden behind a board in the shop. She explained all the different moves they do, the way they dance to tell the other bees where the nectar came from and how plentiful it was, how the queen has a red spot painted on her back and how the queen lives three to five years when the workers live about forty five days.

As we were crossing the border into the US at Sarnia/Port Huron we thought it would be good to see our third great lake, Lake Huron. We left the main highway and plunged into small town Cananda to take a look. We found a gem. A  pathway led down a grassy incline to a sandy beach with a few people sunbathing. An idyllic spot. I would have liked to stay and sit for a while. Blue sky, blue lake so large it looked like the sea.

But we had an appointment to keep, and not knowing how long it would take to get through the border, we had to go. As it was, customs was a formality. Did we have anything to eat in the car? No. We wereback in America – and welcome back SamSam. We’d missed her gravelly, deadpan American voice telling us where to drive.

Lunch was Tim Hortons, this time chilli and mac and cheese. They do combos of sandwiches/soup with donuts, pastries and a drink. Two combos cost us $12 with tax so a good cheap meal. Tax is awkward because you aren’t sure how much it’s going to cost. The amount of tax varies each state and some don’t charge it at all. At the meadery the tax was included, usually it isn’t.

After fuelling up we continued our journey to Dearborn, close to Detroit, and the Henry Ford Museum. We’d booked tickets for the Rouge factory tour. We parked our car at the museum and caught a free shuttle bus for a 15 minute drive to the plant. After a couple of video presentations on Henry Ford and the rise of his car production company, we got to see the production of F150 trucks for real. Gantries overlooked the production line and we could watch workers fitting door panels, wing mirrors, headliners, steering wheels, etc. It was very interesting, not only to see how the production line worked and the order in which a car is put together, but to realise how efficient the process is. Each worker does a tiny part, at a work staion equipped with the tools and parts required. They don’t move far but if their work takes a little longer their platform moves along with the car. Some tasks require two or four people to complete it. It looked boring and repetitive for the workers, we had no way of knowing how long their shifts were or how often they got a break, they worked on their feet. But for us as visitors it was fascinating. Trucks without doors trundled on conveyor belts, doubling back on themselves, being raised up or lowered down depending on which bit was being worked on next, being lifted up above our heads before coming back down, the bed of the truck was worked on seperately as were the doors. This particular truck has been the best seller in the US for 47 years. We could take our time in this section. There we plenty of mini videos and information boards explaining what was being worked on at that particular point. It must be distracting for the workers to have a succession of people peering down at them all day long …

We jumped on a bus back to the museum but didn’t go in, deciding we’d seen enough for today. Instead we drove to Ann Arbour, home (for those that are interested) of Starkidz. It is a charming little town, with a university, and has a thriving town centre. The shops are open until 9pm, there are numerous cafes and restaurants and full of life. We loved it.
Dinner was at an Israeli restaurant called Jerusalem Garden. We had hummus, kofta kebab, falafel and mixed salad with lemonade (no alcohol) and the waiter sat at our table whilst he took our order. Very friendly atmosphere, we ate outside as it was a warm (76F) evening and then took a stroll round to look at the shops and find a fairy door. There are fairy doors are all over Ann Arbour. There are about twenty in total but hidden away, you have to go and find them. Luckily we knew of one just off Main Street, a little red one, mirroring its giant counterpart.

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Monday 29th July 2013

We took our leave of Niagara Falls after a superb breakfast of bacon, eggs, sausage, hash browns, fruit, yoghurt, toast and crepes. Don’t think we’ll need lunch.
First stop was the whirl pool where the Niagara turns a corner and results in a swirling eddy that you can take a cable car over. We didn’t as you can get a good view of it from either side of the basin, which we did. The water was a deep aqua and white.

Then we paid a quick visit to the floral clock, near the hydro-electric plant, made to offset some of the ugliness of the industry there. There are also botanical gardens.

This is another wine region, famous for its ice wines. The grapes are frozen at some point during the process and I was eager to try a sample so we called in to one of the numerous vineyards for a tasting. We came away with a bottle of ice wine and another of Riesling-Gewerztraminer blend.

We had a brief look at Fort George – the 1812 war was a major factor in this area’s history – before continuing on to Niagara on the Lake. Very pretty town with flowers everywhere, a monument in the road and lots of boutique type shops. It was also very expensive, probably due to the fact that a lot of wealthy people own property here. The houses along Queen Street reek of wealth, large and opulent in extensive grounds, and you’d want to own one! We weren’t very impressed with the town. It seemed locked in time. Not the buildings so much as the goods for sale. There was a British shop there with, amongst other foodstuffs, Atora suet, Marmite and  Colemans mustard for $6 an item.

A canal unites Lake Erie with Lake Ontario and very large ships take 12 hours to pass along its length at a cost of approx. $40, 000. There are a series of locks the ships pass through and visitors can stand on a gantry overlooking these locks and watch the progress. We were hoping to be fortunate enough to see one in action so went to lock 3, near the town of St Catherines. But it was not to be. The next ship wasn’t due until 4.30pm.

Then we got a phone call from our last hotel to say we’d left all our US currency in our room. Luckily we hadn’t gone far and it only took us 20 minutes to go back and get it!

Finally we turned to Toronto, having lunch in a Tim Hortons, a chain of fast food restaurants doing sandwiches, soups and bagels. The main highway took us in along Lake Ontario and the hotel wasn’t far off the highway. After booking in we drove to Kipling station, left the car and caught the subway into the city.

There are only four subway lines, the main ones going north-south and east-west. We went to Union and walked to the CN Tower from there.
The CN Tower was the tallest free-standing structure for 34 years. For $32 each we rode straight up the tower to the observation deck. From there you get a view over most of the city and the bay including overlooking Toronto City airport. It is possible to go higher but it cost another $12 each so we didn’t bother.
One floor lower was an all-round platform and a glass floor to look straight down the tower. The only problem with the lower level is that it is outside and has mesh, not glass, to look through meaning photos were less than ideal.
There was the usual souvenir shop selling all things CN.  The themed photograph here cost $23 for two large photographs and $33 to add two small ones. You couldn’t buy just the small ones.

Toronto has an underground world. Below the streets, shops and towering office blocks is the Path. A subterranean walkway where the citizens of Toronto can reach their work places, shop and eat without going outside, especially in the long cold winters. It is very easy to navigate, has maps and signs for each block above and plenty of entrances and exits.
We walked from the CN Tower to China town underground and found a charming Japanese restaurant for dinner. Red dragon roll and tapas with a beer and wine for $35. Not bad for the largest city in Canada.
After China town was Kensington Market, recommended by our waitress, but it was mostly closed by the time we got there. Walking through the university area to the subway meant we had walked the equivalent of seven subway stops before getting on the train at Spadina back to Kipling.

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Sunday 28th July 2013

Rain. Again. But intrepid, hardy and soon to become soggy travellers that we are didn’t let that deter us and we set off for Letchwoth State Park, bought and built by a wealthy man, by the name of Letchworth and a good job he did too.
Beautiful parkland, surrounded by trees with numerous views over the Genesee river and the Mount Morris dam.
Surprise, we had it practically to ourselves, and as Americans don’t walk anywhere (we’ve been told) all we had to do was get out of the car, take the photo, and get back in the car again.
We stopped for coffee at the Glen Iris Inn, overlooking the middle falls. They were preparing for a wedding that day, and what a wonderful location. The ceremony would take place on the lawn in front of the house with a backdrop of trees on the other side of the river.
The weather, whilst not conducive for long views, was excellent for atmospheric cloudy ones.

Buffalo was our next stop, home of the Buffalo Bisons and the best hot wings according to Pete Lattimer. We parked near the art deco city hall, not the prettiest building you will have ever seen and reminded me of one that was used in Ghostbusters.
There was a bike race in progress, through the city centre, so we had to scoot if we wanted to cross a road. It was very quiet, no-one around, but a warm sunny day for following a short walking tour.
Lunch was in Starbucks, having just missed the chocolate cafe we were hoping to eat at. Getting back in the car we tried to find the only glipmse of Lake Erie we were going to get, and managed it, just.

Turning the car in the direction of Canada, we headed for Niagara Falls. We were staying on the Canadian side and used the Rainbow bridge to cross the border. It took an hour of queuing.
Then we hit a bit of a problem. The Garmin satnav we’d bought with American maps didn’t have Canadian ones. We managed to find the hotel using a tourist map and the tiny map printed on the booking sheet.
Lovely hotel. Just a bead and breakfast, family run by a young couple, Dan from Croatia and Alexandra from Serbia. We got a guided tour of the hotel and a lot of information about the best places to see the falls, to eat and where to avoid. The room was lovely, the bathroom was lovely, and both full of touches like robes and slippers to use, moisturiser, sweets, a fully-fitted kitchen to use and a fridge full of soft drinks and water, all complimentary. Wi-fi was free, as it has been all holiday.
We walked to the falls, about 15 minutes, and WOW. The falls are just WOW. There are two. The American falls are pretty much regular falls but huge with enormous rocks at the bottom, and the ones we saw first. Further along the river is the Canadian, horseshoe, falls. A breathtaking arc of thundering, spray producing water. The roar of them both together is tremendous.
We headed straight for the Maid of the Mist figuring that if we got soaked we had the rest of the day to dry off. The cost was $19.25 each and for that you get a bright blue poncho and a ride on a boat past the American falls up to the horseshoe falls, turning around at the base of those falls and a ride back again. We didn’t get soaked but we begain to get wet far sooner than we anticipated near the horseshoe falls. The spray extends further than you think! It’s a bit crowded on board, and of course everyone wants to be on the top deck next to a railing, and not everyone gets there. The ones that don’t get something to hold onto are thrown about a bit. The running commentary is next to useless as you can’t hear a thing, even less the closer you get. But then we aren’t there to listen, but to see and experience this wonderful natural phenomenon as closely as we could. I loved it.
Once back on dry land we could buy the photo of us, dry, before we got on board. They cost $30 for two photos.

The other ‘up close and personal’ experience is Journey behind the Falls’. For another $16 each you get to go into tunnels behind the water, and that’s exactly what you do – look through a hole in the wall (twice) at falling water, from a distance of about six feet. You could be anywhere. You can’t see through the water, but you do get an idea of the force of the water. For those that are interested, there are information boards all along the tunnel with lots of facts from how far the falls have receded to how the hydro-electric power is generated. I wouldn’t like to try and read it when it was busy.
But the best bit was going out alongside the base of the falls. Wettest experience of the lot. They do give you a fetching bright yellow poncho to keep you drier and you get a real sense of just how much water there is and how strongly it flows.

Outside again you can see the entire river basin, it is extensive and the water looks impressive, deep and powerful. The photos we took will not do it justice. They wanted another $25 for a pair of photos …

We struck lucky for dinner. Opposite the American falls was a building with several food outlets, one of them being a fairly non-descript buffet. It was great. In effect all you could eat: soup, salad, main course and sweet for the price of $15 each. In a town like Niagara Falls it was a bargain.

As darkness fell a live band played and at 10pm there were fireworks over the falls. Spectacular. The town was heaving with people by now. More people than we’d seen in total since we’d left Boston. Even the light rain didn’t deter anyone just before the fireworks started. We were pleased we hadn’t taken the recycling option with our ponchos. We sat on one and wore the other!

Niagara Falls is akin to Vegas in parts but the real attraction, the water, is definitely worth a visit. The souvenir shops are plentiful but inside large shops and quite imaginative in what’s on offer. I would go back, not to go on the water again but maybe to try out the skywheel or the sky tower.

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Saturday 27 July 2013

The day of the Gathering.
Bit of a lie-in, up at 7am. Breakfast was … scrambled eggs, bacon, potatoes, but I was good and had a toasted bagel. The dining room was small and therefore busy as it’s a big hotel.

We visited the High Falls in Rochester city centre, but it looked neglected and sad.
So it was on to the convention centre for the technical and commercial vendors in Empire Hall. One of the first people we met was Linda, also from the UK. We were at Arrow Springs stand. I bought glass and frit and a couple of tools.
We had a wander round – torches, findings, tools, glass, frit, murrini, there was a bit of everything. I bought some Double Helix glass and a bit of murrini.

Then we moved on to the commercial vendors, the bead sellers, approx. 50 of them. The variety, size, shape and colour was huge. I loved walking round, chatting to the sellers, admiring the beads on offer, marvelling at the skill. Everyone was very friendly, willing to talk about their work and let me take photos. It was great to see Sharon Peters again, meet Marcy Lamberson and her cute seahorses, meet Kristina Logan and see her beads in real life, ditto J C Herrell.

We had our lunch there and got chatting to two local ladies, Wendy and Farress – jewellery makers not lampworkers. It culminated in Farress inviting us to her house for dinner.
After lunch we looked at the remaining stalls, including quite remarkable insects in 104, including the most delicate stag beetles and, my favourite out of everything, fish with jelly fish in.

Then it was time to leave and head off to a Native American festival at Ganogdagan. Not arriving until 3pm meant we’d missed a lot of the live shows but were in time to see a tribute to a member of staff of the Ganodagan trust and a musical show by Arvel Bird. We looked round the stalls. Lots of silver and turquoise jewellery and dream catchers as I expected. I didn’t expect everything to be as expensive as it was. $20 for a pair of small woven seed bead earrings. As we’d already eaten, we didn’t partake of fry bread, beans and hand-pulled pork, but it sounded interesting. It rained heavily during Arvel’s performance but was only drizzling as we walked back to the car.
It was very warm and humid, and stayed that way all evening.

Dinner was at the home of Farress and John. She did us proud with typical 4th July fare – fried chicken, beans, corn on the cob, hot dogs, potato salad and coleslaw with apple pie for dessert. We had lots to talk about, we asked questions about all things American and they about all things English. John also had a renovated 1941 Chevrolet truck in his garage. It was an enjoyable evening.

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Friday 26 July 2013

New York state.
Houses still clapboard, but the trees have been replaced with grass and corn fields. A very large truck on the interstate tried to drive through us and anyone else in his way as he thundered along. I’d hate to think what his stopping distance is at that speed. Cayuga Lake is in the Finger Lakes region of NYC. It is lined with vineyards and we visited the one that opened first, Cobblestone House.

They were still setting up when we arrived but we browsed the many sauces, salsas, pickles, oils and wines on offer. We tasted six, from a dry red to sweet white and bought three bottles. One in particular, Country Porch, tastes very similar to sangria. The  creamery we’d picked out for an ice cream didn’t open until 11am so we visited Taughannock Falls while we waited. It was billed as an overlook so we were expecting to be above the fall. In fact we had a spectacular view of the whole waterfall, the tallest single drop in north eastern USA. There were some cool trikes visiting too, driven by women.

Back to the ice creams, cherry jubilee and maple pecan on waffle cones. There is so much choice, not just for flavours but cone or dish, cone regular or waffle, plain or sugared. Those eaten, next stop was Watkins Glen state park, Watkins Glen claiming to be the home of motor racing in the US.
Cost was $8 for the car but we ended up parking across the road as it was so busy. The kids had obviously finished school for the summer, something that had not been apparent in the other states.
It was hot and sunny so the gorge offered shade and, as we passed under the cascade, a brief shower. We climbed up innumerable steps with views of rushing water, to the top where the falls began. It was a small river, the force of the falls coming from the narrow gulley and the height the water fell.

A very unusual waterfall was found at Montaur. In the middle of a residential area, and surrounded by far more large churches than you’d think was necessary, was a large wide fall, down a sheer face of rock. Parking was limited, but of course Graeme found a spot right alongside.

We were hungry by this time, after all that walking, so we found a real life roadside diner called Chef’s Classics. It looked just the same as on TV, with an enormous menu – every eating place seems to do a menu several pages long. This one, amongst other things, offered a monster burger – 2 lb burger, which with all the trimmings weighing in at a massive 4 lbs of meat. We had roast beef hash and a Texas special (two hot dogs with meatloaf, cheese and tomato on top). With drinks, the entire bill was about $10. Bargain!

Then it was time to go to one of the places I’d been looking forward to. Corning Glass Museum. We had to park at the welcome centre and take a bus the 5 minutes ride to the museum. We could have walked, but it was hot 🙂  It cost $17 each to get in. I’d already booked paid for my ‘Make your own glass’ flower session at 4pm and as it was already 3 we sat and watched a demo making a glass bowl and started looking at some of the wonderful exhibits before we had to go. I was asked the colours I wanted for the flower – green for the stem and (naturally) purple and blue for the flower, before donning leather covers for my feet, long arm covers, a leather apron and safety goggles. These guys were taking no chances! Then it was my turn. The young guy explained what was going to happen then did a quick demo in clear glass. He got my gather, coloured it in green frit and I got to roll it whilst the glass cooled. The next colors wer added to the next gather, it was paddled flat (by me), reheated, then I pulled the petals out. It was reheated and pulled into a flower shape before curling the stem and heading for the kiln. We still had a bit of a drive to go so after looking at more exhibits, watching a talk on fibre optics and browsing the gift shop it was time to leave. We needed longer to do the museum justice, but we didn’t have it to spare.

Driving to the hotel we drove along eerily quiet roads past farms and cornfields. We had diner in a little German restaurant, Rheinblick in Canandaigua. German food, American sized portions so we were pretty full! We hadn’t found any other blicks today.
The Americans don’t seem to want to stop and look at the view. Nowhere was available to take photos of the beautiful lakes, we drove along three, over 20 miles long and the only parking areas were in heavily wooded sections where you, quite literally, couldn’t see the lake for the trees. There were few cars too and even less on foot. Baffling!

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Thursday 25 July 2013

Our last day at the Marriott and I was determined to have waffles for breakfast. I learnt how to use it the first morning but already had enough to eat; there was too big a queue on the second morning,  but today was my chance. Pour the ready made mix into the waffle maker, turn the whole pan over on the spindle and wait 2 minutes until it beeped. Easy. Unfortunately it didn’t live up to expectations, a bit thick, a bit dry, but if I hadn’t already had scrambled egg and sausages, maybe I would have enjoyed it more. Never mind, we were due to visit a maple syrup sugar house later. I’d go to town there.

First stop of the day was a double span covered bridge.We’d had a few to choose from but this one was more on route. It was very pretty, white, open criss-cross sides and a bright orange roof, over a fast flowing pretty river. Then we went to find where the first self-propelled vehicle was produced, a small town called Hinsdale, but there wasn’t much there bar a sign. Obligatory photo taken, we moved on. Brattleboro was where we filled the car up for the first time. Less than £30 to buy us 500 miles of travel.

A quick detour past an elementary school revealed the world’s largest chair, a wooden ladder back. Another photo later we headed to the French King Gorge, travelling all the way down to the river to take a photo of the new bridge across the gorge from the old one. The new bridge saves the local residents 45 mins in travelling time

The Connecticut River took us to Shelburne Falls, a lovely little town that had three things to interest us: a bridge of flowers, glacial potholes and a glass artist’s studio. The studio was in fact a gallery showcasing work of artist’s living within 50 miles with everything from textiles to ceramics. The glass artist in question, Josh, creates planets including a 100 lb one commisioned by the Corning Museum of Glass.

The glacial potholes can be seen right in the centre of town, next to the road bridge. But the jewel in the crown is undoubtedly the bridge of flowers. Crossing the river alongside the roadbridge is an old trolley bus bridge, decommissioned and planted with an array of beautiful blooms. Visitors can walk its length free of charge, which we did, and took no end of photos. There were some curious bugs crawling around on a lot of them. To my untrained eye they looked similar to grasshoppers, black and brown ones. Another flower teemed with bees.

Lunch was in the West End Pub, a misnomer if ever ther was one, being light and airy. Rachel, our waitress, was very patient with my inability to understand the menu fully. I heartily recommend the broccoli slaw. Delicious!

We continued along the Mohawk Trail. Trees, nothing but trees. The only time we could see any distance was at the Eastern summit. There was a shop there, selling all sorts of goods, run by a very grumpy woman. The shop was smelly..

After that there was more trees, even after dropping down into North Adams. This a mill town. Whether or not the mills are still active, we weren’t sure. They didn’t look it. I felt I was back in Lancashire, the mill buildings were identical in design, and looked as much in use. We visited the root of the mills, the Natural Bridge State Park, where marble was mined for many years and has a marble waterfall and bridge.

Then the long drive, over 100 miles into New York state, to Syracuse. Dinner was at an Italian restaurant, 20 mins walk from the hotel. Lovely food, starter & main course for $20. The waitress tried to relieve us of $10 when she short-changed us but it was sorted when we pointed out her ‘mistake’. Of course we still had to leave her a tip so she got her $10 back, such is American culture!

The hotel was lovely, a suite with lounge area and kitchenette, complimentary tea, coffee, cerreal bar and … popcorn. Breakfast was scrambled eggs and sausages, again, think I’m going to get fed up of that.

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Wednesday 24 July 2013

Bit of exploration today. We could have gone back to Boston and picked up all the places we missed but decided that would take up most of the day, so instead we went upstate.

First stop, Cantebury Shaker Village, passing a tortoise crossing sign on the way. A preserved group of houses and other buildings dating back to 1800s. We chose the history tour, one of three to choose from, and Darryl was our guide. Basically, the Shakers were Puritans who came to America from Manchester, UK, and started their own brand of Puritanism. It consisted of pacifism, celibacy and commual living. Men and women co-existed, but lived seperately. Today there are only 3 Shakers remaining, the main purpose of their religion, mutual support and benefit, dying out with the rise of the benefit state.They got their name from ‘shaking’ whilst dancing during worship. It was an interesting and informative tour, cost us $17 dollars each, and includes the tour and access to any open buildings.

We headed for Lake Winnipesaukee near Gilford. We had search very hard to find a roadside view, the viewpoint being completely hidden by trees! We snuck down a holiday home road to take a couple of photos. Saw two baby deer in a grassy area, had lunch (grilled cheese sandwich and hot dog) at a diner come shop then continued on to Nubble lighthouse in York, definitely a holiday destination. The beach was crowded with bronzed bodies, the types of tan I will only dream about. There were plates from as far away as California and Quebec. The lighthouse was built high on it’s own island, a stone’s throw from shore, with a pulley system reminding me of ‘The Lighthouse Keeper’s Lunch’. Then we had ice cream from Brown’s, billed as the best ice cream for miles. A huge helping for $5.

The wiggly bridge, the world’s smallest suspension bridge spans the end of a small dam into a harbour area. Very picturesque and peaceful.

On to Salem. We arrived after most of the shops had shut, but there were a couple of diehards still open, enough for our wants. Salem was a bit of a disappointment. Modern town centre, I was expecting a quaint area steeped in witches. They seemed to pay lip service comercially. The old witch house looked well preserved though. We had dinner at The Lobster Shanty before heading back towards Boston. The houses in Maine, whilst still clapboard, have more of a Dutch barn look to them with the roof coming down the sides of the house. The day had been hot and sunny, little wind. The countryside is reminiscent of England, rolling with lots and lots of trees…

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Boston, Mass.

Rain. Lots and lots of torrential rain. We sat on North Billerica station, waiting for the train, watching the rain. By the time we got to North Station in Boston it had slowed to a drizzle and within minutes the sun had come out and we were peeling off our waterproofs because we were boiling hot. It was very humid.

Boston in the fog sm

Boston is a lovely city – it felt like London with small, old buildings mixed in with more modern ones. We’d booked a trolley bus tour before arriving and it was great to hop on and off round the city.

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Land of fire and ice …

Iceland. Rugged, brooding, mist shrouded. It was cold after the UK.

iceland - land of fire and ice sm

We hired a car, necessary to get around, and visited the land bridge where the American and European plates are pulling apart. It was very windy and quite chilly.tectonic plate bridge 2sm








There are few signs and no souvenirs. It’s just a little bridge across a not very deep ravine, but amusing to walk from the American plate to the Eurasian plate, and to be able to say you’d done so!

But the place to go when it’s a bit chilly is the Blue Lagoon. Warm/hot geothermal mineral waters. Like a huge, healthy bath.

blue lagoon 4sm











The lagoon can be seen from the outside, but from the inside it’s amazing. After getting changed, and showering naked (compulsory!), I walked down the steps and into the lagoon area in a towelling robe, available to be used freely.

Stepping into the lagoon was like walking into a very large, perfect bath. The warmth envelops you and you can float, without any effort, due to the high mineral content of the pale, grey-blue water. It tasted very salty and the air is ripe with sulphur. It was like being in a different world.


blue lagoon 3 sm











The size means that although, there were a lot of people in there, it did not feel crowded; quite the reverse. Areas of the water are hotter than others, not that I minded, but some may find it uncomfortable. There are separate pools to lie in and a waterfall to stand underneath, and round one of the edges are buckets of mud for applying to your face and body. Total spa treatment!


Getting out was not so pleasant with temperatures around 14 degrees. The showers are equipped with plentiful supplies of shower gel and hair conditioner, but my hair still felt like straw afterwards.



After that we were off to Reykjavik. This is the capital city and houses approx. 60% of the population of Iceland.The Hallgrimmskirkja dominates the city and is an architectural marvel.

Hallgrimmskirkja Reykjaviksm

From the front it’s an elongated fluted triangle, the tower is very tall – and has a lift for visitors to get an aerial view over Reykjavik.

Reykjavik view from the top 4sm We had to go up as it was unexpectedly open. Views from the top showed how flat Iceland is round the edges and how small Reykjavik is.

Reykjavik view from the top 3smDarkness fell at around midnight with sunrise about 2am. It was strange coming out after dinner, in a charming little fish restaurant, to daylight.


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Friday 19th July 2013

Last day of work, odd finishing before the end of term, and left hoping I didn’t forget to do something …

Had my first spray tan to bring my pale body up to hot, sunny holiday standards. It had better not get washed down the drain in the morning!

I am taking a lot of focals away with me, to have as swap beads at the Gathering. I do hope people will swap with me, even though it’s not official swap day.

So now I just have to hope I don’t forget anything vital.

Next stop: Guildford

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