Tag: Great Experiences

At Apple HQ

At Apple HQ

Having used Mac computers professionally since 1988, Roger is a bit of an Apple fan.

So with Culpertino close to San Francisco airport (we had just taken Stephanie there to catch her return flight) we went for a mini Steve Jobs pilgrimage.

First stop, the 32 acre existing Apple headquarters One Infinite Loop – a University campus both in terms of the buildings and the young people. But they have that purposeful “Apple strut”. Second, we drove a couple of blocks to spy out the new $5billion Apple Park development designed to take 12,000 employees.

Apple bought the land 11 years ago and Steve Jobs personally worked with Norman Foster on the ‘spaceship’ circular design.

A line of Apple employees waiting for a shuttle bus home at One Infinity Loop. Note the obligatory backpacks, colourful sneakers and the intense focus on the iphones
Apple Park glimpsed. In terms of scale, it’s bigger than the Pentagon
Cannery Row

Cannery Row

Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream. So wrote John Steinbeck in his American classic Cannery Row.

Steinbeck lived nearby from 1930 through to 1941 when the fishing and canning of sardines would have been on an industrial-scale. But then the sardines declined, and the canneries all closed down during the 1960s.

Where once workers toiled, now tourists stuff themselves with calories and drink in the renovated cannery buildings. But look closely and there’s still some of the industrial heritage to see.


On the Monterey coast

On the Monterey coast

Initially in mist, and then bright sunshine, we cycled the famous 17-mile drive from Cannery Row to Carmel and back. It’s a private road passing opulent housing and windswept golf courses. But on the other side of the road are rocky inlets, crashing waves and seal colonies.

The Lone Cypress has been called one of the most photographed trees in North America. Some 250 years old, the Monterey Cypress has been held in place with cables for 65 years
The attractive Mission in Carmel was established in 1771 by Junípero Serra who is sometimes called the “Father of California”
The beautiful beach at Carmel where we ate a picnic lunch. This is such a desirable town, with a real sense of community cohesion and environmental protection
Ferndale – ‘Cream City’

Ferndale – ‘Cream City’

The ‘Redwoods curtain’ cuts off Humboldt County from the rest of NW California. It’s a place of hillbillies, Frisco-leavers and increasingly ‘growers’ (marijuana farmers).

The most appealing town by far is Ferndale. Known as ‘Cream City’, it’s where the dairy farmers lived in their Redwood-built houses. The entire town is registered as a California Historical Landmark.

Interestingly Americans call this Victorian-style. Not sure why, didn’t independence come earlier?

Beautiful Bend

Beautiful Bend

Settlers founded Bend (Central Oregon) in 1904 when irrigation turned the desert green and the land was divided into plots and sold off. Today, Californians are moving here because of “high prices there and the lack of water”.

Of all the places we have visited over the past six months, this is where we would live tomorrow. Situated on a bend in the River Deschutes, Bend is the American lifestyle at its best. A fantastic park on the riverbank, artsy shops and all the cafes you need. No wonder everyone here looked so happy. As the sign in the shop said Kiss your Life.

Think ‘Half a Sixpence’ in stones. These two stone halves link Bend with its sister city in Japan – Fujioka
The Wonder of Elvis

The Wonder of Elvis

Hilary fell in love with Elvis Presley in 1970 when he sang The Wonder of You. And still remembers where she was on 16th August 1977 hearing news of his death; it was in southern Scotland on a pony ride.

Despite dying young at the age of 42, Elvis has sold an estimated 600 million records worldwide and is acclaimed as one of the most successful solo artists of all time. Today, he’s still the King of Rock and Roll.

Five years after Elvis’ death, his widow and daughter opened up Graceland to the public. The tour of the house is fascinating, with so much personal archival content on display. We spent hours here, indulging in Elvis and 1950s-1970s nostalgia. UAlso, it was emotional seeing the racquets court where he played his final game – which caused his heart attack soon after – and his grave.

We were lucky with our timing. Last month, a huge improved exhibition area was opened devoted to his aeroplanes, cars, motorbikes, films and records in addition to his early years in Tupelo, his time in the US Army in Germany and all his amazing jumpsuits. A wonderful day.

Banos on a Sunday

The Loney Planet guidebook describes Banos as “One of Ecuador’s most enticing and popular tourist destinations”.

This morning we probably saw it at its best. The sun was out, the surrounding green peaks at last visible, the Cathedral packed with worshippers and a priest with a fantastic singing voice and the streets full of colour and lived-in faces.

The above photo montage hopefully brings you here too.



We’ve followed the River Parana down to probably Paraguay’s most attractive city.

The recent raising of the Yacyretá Dam’s water level has created a new waterfront at Encarnación complete with lots of modern bars and restaurants and an artificial beach. Great when otherwise the nearest beach is something like 14 hours away by bus. Across the lake is the skyline of Posadas in Argentina.

We walked to the main square. Very young mothers watched their children playing on the swings. Couples took selfies of themselves and drank tereré, or what we’d simply call cold herbal tea. Teenage boys were transfixed by their smartphones. And on another bench a middle-aged couple observed life happening.

Life on the Estancia

Don Emilio Estancia has been our home for the last two days.

Located 6km south of the Paraguayan town of Coronel Oviedo, you approach it down a rich red dirt road past an isolated village. Oxen, bulls and horses roam the countryside. Birds sing in the forests. Cowboys ride by. This is an idyllic privately-owned landscape of 10000 hectares.

We read under the fans in the heat of the day, went swimming in the pool as it got cooler and took walks watching the setting sun. This estancia was founded one hundred years ago by a brave, pioneering family. Hard to believe it is still so unspoilt.

Thanks to Virginia, Daisy, and Deanna for looking after us so well – being the only guests we were really pampered.

Stopover in Aregua

Today, we took our first local bus in Paraguay. From Asunción bus station about 30km east to the small village of Aregua.

The now defunct Asunción to Encarnacion railway line used to pass through here and alongside the down-at-heel cafes and ceramic sellers there’s plenty of beautiful ‘colonial style’ houses that just need some tender love and care….. and money.

We came here without booking any accommodation and indeed without knowing for sure there were hotels nearby. Thankfully, after we had nearly given up finding somewhere suitable a young couple told us to get in their car and they drove us – with directions from the locals – to a rural hotel some 3 km away.

We could enjoy sitting out the afternoon heat on the verandah.

Thanks to the brand new supermarket in Aregua there are now no roadside stalls selling fruit and vegetables. Progress at a price