Week 40…from New Orleans to Orlando

So that culinary crawl I mentioned last week was sadly called off at the 11th hour! We were all dolled up and ready to go (I'd even bought new flats as apparently flip flops were banned and there was no way I was going to traipse around the city in high heels!) when I got the call to say that, as we were the only punters, they couldn't run the session that evening. Gutted. So, instead, we went to a run down bar/restaurant that always has a queue outside and had awesome local food before heading to bed at a reasonable 10pm. We are so rock n roll!

New Orleans was fab as ever and I, for one, was very sad to say goodbye again. If there is one city in the world I would happily move to, it'd be there (provided I lived in a charming French quarter villa and was free to be as hippy-dippy and arty as I pleased!)! One thing I love about it (besides the music, colour and food) is that people are free to dress however they choose. It is very popular over there to adopt a 1940s or 1950s look which, with the size of my “birthing hips” and bust, sits happily with me! I revisited my favourite shop from our last visit, Trashy Diva (www.trashydiva.com), and accidentally bought an incredible 1950s cocktail dress. I. Love. It. I was tickled pink when the sales girls all said that I was the first customer on which the dress had fitted perfectly first time!

After we left N'awlins, we drove through Mississippi and onto Alabama where we were booked into an Airbnb in the small “town” of Theodore. I had attempted to find us somewhere authentically Southern, preferably on the bayou, so we could get some local flavour. When we turned up at the property, I thought I had made the biggest mistake ever! The bungalow was stuffed, floor to ceiling, with dolls, figuerines, novelty mugs, themed photo shoot pictures and the suchlike. Alex and I spent the evening looking at each other apprehensively before retiring to our bedroom which, along with the FIVE duvets (unnecessary in the humidity!), sported caricatures and pictures of angels on every spare inch of the walls, as well as creepy dolls staring at us from every angle.

Having said all this, the following morning, we awoke to meet Andrea, our host who was utterly delightful and welcoming! She had been working very late the night before and had left a note to tell us not to wait up for her. She cooked us a hugely unhealthy breakfast of banana fosters waffles with fruit salad (Alex had seconds of both!) and then we all sat around chatting until 1pm. She is one of 32 siblings! So I am sure you can imagine how many stories she had for us! That evening, she gave us a Southern cooking lesson which essentially involves a butt-tonne of butter and cream and wine. If in doubt, add more butter. All a bit awkward as I've given up dairy recently! Haha! We made a shrimp and cream sauce over Tilapia fish with pasta. Despite it being enough calories to feed a sizeable army, it was delicious and Andrea had made us a yummy salad with blackberries, strawberries and goats cheese to accompany it…..AND brownies in a peanut butter and white chocolate sauce. I think we came away from her house a stone heavier, not to mention weighed down with her gift basket and “food for the journey”. True southern hospitality!

We have subsequently driven all the way to Orlando (via Tallahassee where we stayed for one night in an english guesthouse!) in preparation for DISNEYWORLD tomorrow!!! I am so excited and will be utterly insufferable when the alarm goes off at 7.30am! Lucky Alex! πŸ™‚

Milly x

 

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Week 39…Grand Canyon, Antelope canyon, Austin, Houston and New Orleans

There is a LOT for me to cover this week! We've driven nearly the full breadth of the States and have seen the insides of all sorts of redneck country restaurants, cafΓ©s and service stations along the way. Sometimes it has felt like we were in a stereotypical film…the accents were that strong and the mullets that ambitious! We even had waitresses in camouflage uniforms in one place!

When I last wrote, we were still in the Grand Canyon. We spent 3 days there and loved every minute but, I have to say, the highlight was the helicopter ride. It was incredible! It may sound pretty decadent to go for a helicopter ride but I would recommend it every single time (I'd also suggest that the cheapest option, which we went for, is the best option as you spent most time, proportionally, over the canyon rather than travelling to the further away spots)! I cried because it was so beautiful and I got overly emotional. Even for a scaredy cat like me, it was easy to forget that you're essentially hovering in mid air in a tin can with propellers, as the scenery is so beautiful. I can't really explain why flying over it was more beautiful than just viewing it from the ground…it's essentially the same view…but there's just something that sets it apart (the dramatic music being played through the headsets might also play a part in that!).

After leaving the Grand Canyon, we drove up to a town called Page which is about 3 hours away and a real eye opener! On one road in town, we counted 9 churches all next to each other. NINE! With only a couple of restaurants and no other form of entertainment, we could guess what most town members did during the evenings.

We were there to go see Antelope Canyon which sits just outside the town in Navajo owned land. Off we set from our motel, following our Google Maps to where we were lead to believe he canyon would be. I was dubious as the directions told us to drive into the desert, on sand “roads” out into the idle of nowhere….it was only when we rocked up at “our destination” to find it was the home of a Navajo gentleman and his many, very enthusiastic puppies that we realised we probably should have stopped at the canyon tours building we'd seen as we turned off the main road. Yep. Luckily, they had one more tour going out that evening and so we hopped into an ancient 4×4 and Stetson (his actual name!) drove us to the canyon. It is an interesting experience to be bouncing along in a rickety old car, across sand dunes, with a driver who was jacked up on not only a Dr Pepper but also a very large can of Monster. He also seemed pretty over enthusiastic about turning his steering wheel so we did drift a number of times when the wheels failed to get any traction on the sand! It was worth it, however. The canyon was absolutely beautiful…totally different from it's bigger, more famous cousin a few hours away, but was still a huge highlight. We walked through the canyon with Stetson, snapping photos every couple of seconds. It's impossible to get a bad photo of that place!

After our night in Page, we started to head towards Austin, Texas. It would have been an 18 hour journey so we split it over two days. One night we spent in Albuquerque and had steaks as big as our heads in a restaurant which, from the outside, wouldn't have looked out of place as the setting for a brutal murder! The inside, however, was better and the food was great!

The main event when we got to Austin was a night out at The Broken Spoke. Our waiter back at the Grand Canyon was originally from Austin so, when he heard we were heading there, gave us some great tips: the best of all being this place! Imagine an American country and western bar? Make it more country and more American….throw in cowboy boots as far as the eye can see, as many Stetson hats as you can imagine, accents so thick you can barely understand 3 words and rhinestones on the “fancy attire” and you'll have The Broken Spoke in your minds eye. It was incredible! We watched a band for a few songs while we ate dinner and then signed up for the “country swing dance class” which was an absolute blast! We are now proficient (maybe not!) Texan Two-steppers! Our glutes were certainly feeling it by the end of the evening as we'd danced to most of the numbers being played by the band! We also made friends with a group of people over from Oklahoma who subsequently invited us to the festival they hold on their land every July!

After Austin, we hotfooted our way to Houston to see my friend Tal who is a studio artist at the Houston Grand Opera! It was awesome to hang out and see where she's been living these past 2 years. She even managed to give us a backstage tour of the opera house which was exciting; Alex was full of questions like an excitable child! Sadly she was in rehearsals rather than performance while we were there so we didn't get to see her sing but we'll be buying tickets for her return performance at Glyndebourne back home!

Now we find ourselves back in one of our favourite cities: New Orleans. We came here for New Years Eve (12/13) and loved it so have booked three nights here again. Apart from accidentally indulging too heavily in the drinks last night, we are loving being back! The architecture is amazing, the atmosphere is wonderful, the music is fantastic….and ALL THE FOOD IS FRIED! Seriously, they fry everything. Today, we just wandered around the French quarter for hours, popping into shops and taking in everything that was going on around us. We also managed to get into Preservation Hall which, last time, we couldn't because the queue was too long. I had been here before, with my parents, and knew that Alex would love it and it would be worth the hour long wait outside. Not to blow my own trumpet (Ha!) but I was right and he loved the rundown look of the venue, the fantastic music and the whole experience.

We have one more night here, and I have booked us on a 5 course culinary crawl so we can sample some really good New Orleans cooking. After that, we'll be wending our way towards DISNEYWORLD via Alabama. I am ridiculously excited to get to Disney so I'm sure I'll have lots more to say in next weeks post!

Milly x

 

Week 38…San Francisco and Grand Canyon

Well, it's been very busy since I last wrote. I've had a full 10 days with my best friend in San Francisco, Alex has returned, I've driven 1500 miles in total, including stretches on the iconic Route 66 yesterday and Alex and I have arrived at the Grand Canyon!

So, first things first: I split my drive from LA to San Francisco into two sections so I didn't have to do the 7 hour journey in one go, all alone. It actually turned out to be quite nice to stop over in a little town called Pismo Beach where I indulged in yummy local seafood chowder and caught up on some seriously trashy American TV (UK TV execs: why do we not have “Say Yes To The Dress” in our scheduling?!). Although the drive was very easy, I do have a bone to pick with the American road planners though…who on earth thought it'd be a good idea to have the slip road coming onto the freeway immediately before the slip road to come off?! It means cross streams of traffic going at 70mph! Seriously puzzling, not to mention dangerous.

The following day, I headed to San Francisco International Airport to pick Wozzle up: after nearly 9 months apart, she came out to see me for a 10 day trip which was awesome! She'd booked possibly the nicest Airbnb apartment in a lovely residential area of 'Frisco and I think we both decided, upon entering, that we'd like to live there forever! We had acres of space, our own bedrooms, a huge kitchen and deck and the decor throughout was quirky and delightful!

Woz and I managed to squeeze in a LOT of sight seeing during our time together, including a trip to see the murals of “The Mission”, which is the Latin area of the city, an open top bus tour around the city (my favourite past time in most cities I visit these days!), a lovely dinner with old family friends of Wozzle's over the Golden Gate Bridge in Tiburon and an evening trip to Alcatraz!

The trip to Alcatraz was really interesting and, if you ever wend your way to San Francisco, it should definitely be on your to do list. The audio tour was informative, engaging and exciting. I especially loved the fact it was narrated by one of the prison guards and had interviews with other guards and four actual inmates! We got to walk the corridors that the inmates would have walked as they were admitted to the facility, as well as stepping into one of the cells and even into one of the solitary confinement cells! It was easy to see why the prisoners felt so isolated and why Alcatraz was such a deterrent for bad behaviour. The wind really whips around that little rocky outcrop and, even though the city shoreline is clearly visible, as we were repeatedly informed, the currents are so strong that anyone making a bid for freedom would be swept out into the ocean…and the waiting jaws of great white sharks! I wouldn't fancy my chances!

Half way through Wozzle's trip, Alex came back from the boat, so we had a few days as a little trio. We went out to Napa Valley together on a winery tour and, as you know from previous posts, Alex and I LOVE wineries! I am pretty sure Wozzle was well and truly converted to the winery way too! Alex and I spent far too much money on bottles of wine to take with us and enjoy over the next few months…and even a bottle of dessert wine that blew us away: we are saving that for dinner parties in our new home (location yet to be confirmed).

We also met up with Izzy and Aislynn of Thailand fame, which was lovely! They invited us over to their house in Oakland for dinner so the three of us drove over there and saw the girls' neighbourhood, met their dad and had a really lovely evening. It was great to mix very long term friends with very new friends and everyone got on incredibly well! A lovely little bunch!

Since Woz sadly left to head back to the UK, Alex and I have driven back down to LA and stayed another night with the ever hospitable Jan and Arabella (Alex got to meet Ella and all the animals so was in 7th heaven playing handball in the garden and then petting the dogs all evening!) and then made the very long drive up to the Grand Canyon! (We even drove part of the way on the historic a Route 66 which was quite exciting….sure, it looks like every other highway….but still!)

Alex has booked an incredible hotel here at the canyon….we can see the rim from our window…it takes 20 paces from the front door to the precipice edge of the canyon! Imagine that! On arriving, Alex and I hopped out of the car and headed straight for the edge (rather than the check in) and just stood there saying “wow” repeatedly. I highly recommend arriving just as the sun sets: it really is a gorgeous welcome to the area!

Today, we drove the length of one of the tourist routes and stopped off at nearly every view point. It's hard to explain what the Grand Canyon is like, even pictures don't give the same atmosphere or gravitas. You'll just have to visit it yourself to see what I mean! As well as being very awed by such a grand natural spectacle, I have also been battling a lot of anxiety today! If you know me, you'll know I am very afraid of heights and edges. My other half, however, isn't! He will happily toe the very edge of a cliff, usually in order to get a good photo! We've been working on an anxiety scale today where I give him a number of how nervous the edge/his or my proximity to it is making me….I've got up to a 10 on a few occasions! I was surprised that in the USA, the nation of the lawsuit, there are no safety barriers!

Tomorrow, I may be standing up to my fear of heights once more by going in a helicopter over the canyon. I am equal parts excited and terrified. Actually, that's not true: I'm definitely more excited!

Milly x

 

Week 36…Los Angeles and Las Vegas

Why hello there! Since we last spoke, I spent a week pootling around LA from Arabella's house and have had a whole week with my little brother! πŸ™‚

I haven't seen Gus for over 7 months so it's been really lovely having him here in the US with me! It's gone far too quickly, unfortunately, and we are currently packing before I take him to the airport tomorrow morning so he can fly to India for three weeks (for work, not fun, sadly!).

When he arrived on Saturday, we had a quietish evening as he was pretty tired after his flight. We also had timed things slightly awkwardly as the Oscars were taking place the following night….a stone's throw from where we were staying! So the surrounding area was swarmed with roadies, techies and the suchlike. It's lovely having siblings: even after so long apart, it was easy to go for dinner and just chat away. It also helped that Gus kept choosing the most revolting cocktails at the Mexican restaurant we chose…i mean, come on, a mango and jalapeΓ±o margherita?! Disgusting.

The following day, we utilised our morning very efficiently by driving around a lot! In true MacLeod form, however, it was the worst weather that LA has seen in two years! We got a lovely shot of the Hollywood sign through the drizzle and, of course, were practically the only people there: mad dogs and Englishman after all!

We also went to Venice beach, as Gus hadn't been, but this time we made sure to make a stop at James' Beach restaurant which is featured in the film “I Love You Man” where Jason Segal's character introduces Paul Rudd's character to the best fish tacos in LA. What did we order while there? FISH TACOS! And they were awesome! Locals may make fun of tourists seeking out film featured spots but it's very exciting for us out of towners!

The rest of the day, we spent in our rented Mustang driving to sin city itself: Las Vegas! We had three nights booked there and I can safely say we filled every last minute. We spent 11 hours walking from one end of the strip to the other….and saw so much! A quick synopsis in pictures:

The Las Vegas sign

A wedding chapel

Mandalay Bay casino and shark aquarium

The Luxor casino

Excalibur casino

The New York New York casino (where we went on the worst roller coaster I've ever experienced! Our brains felt like they were leaking out of our eyeballs afterwards!)

The MGM casino (no picture) where we went to the CSI:experience which was hilariously rubbish. We giggled our way through it and Gus solved the crime at the first step! We shouldn't be allowed to do these things together because we just giggle at things!

Caesars Palace casino, where we managed to lose a few bucks…whoops!

The Venetian, where we went on the gondolas which was lovely! Our go gondolier was very good and sang beautifully!

We hung out with Siegfried from Siegfried & Roy in their “Secret Garden” in The Mirage casino

And to top it all off, we saw The Blue Man Group at the Monte Carlo casino! Gus didn't know we were going to see it until the day as I'd booked it on the sly. It was incredible! It's an utterly bizarre show but was well worth seeing and we loved meeting one of the Blue Men after the show. It's very unsettling when someone just stares at you and doesn't say anything…and leaves blue paint on you accidentally!

Very excitingly, I found out one of my friends from Imagination (my old company) was in Vegas too. We organised to meet for drinks and, with her friend, we spent the evening gambling and drinking and generally doing what you do in Vegas! Diana was surprisingly good at gambling and ended up by $100 up, I think; lucky girl!

We then returned to LA and, yesterday, went to DISNEYLAND! Gus and I can do Disney pretty well by now and sped around the park. I was amazed by the lack of people there: the longest queue we had to wait in was 30 mins whereas, in Florida, you'd be lucky to get into a queue under 30 mins! It was a really great afternoon and thank goodness we didn't queue too much because we had to spend 2.5hours getting back to Hollywood! I like LA very much but the public transport here is abysmal! We worked out that, for half the time it took to get to Vegas, we travelled 31miles.

Today we have been getting in as many sights as possible before Gus heads off. Including heading to Pasadena where we paid homage to one of our favourite shows “The Big Bang Theory” by visiting The Cheesecake Factory (where Penny works), CalTech (where the boys work) and almost to a comic book store…until we found out it had nothing to do with the show as it had been built in the sound stage!

We topped off the day by going to Chateau Marmont for an afternoon tipple. Despite the $12 valet charge and the over priced drinks, it was definitely worth it as, even as we walked into the hotel, we saw Gwyneth Paltrow picking up her car! I did hear that this was the place to celeb spot, but I didn't know it would be so immediate! πŸ™‚

So, tomorrow morning, I drop Gus at LAX and start my solo drive up to San Francisco. I decided to split the trip into two, so I am stopping at a place called Pismo Beach for the night. I only have two nights on my lonesome until Wozzle arrives in San Fran!! πŸ™‚ yay! We have a few days together until Alex comes and joins us next Friday/Saturday! I am a lucky girl!

 

Mx

 

Week 34…Los Angeles

I last left you in New Zealand: I'm now in the USA! After a 23 hour journey and two 17th Febs (I crossed back over the international date line!), I arrived in Los Angeles where Arabella, one my dad's friends from school days, was waiting for me. Arabella and her family (husband Jan and daughter Ella) have very kindly taken me into their home for 10 days so I have a base from which to explore the “city of Angels”. I was very happy to discover that, as well as owning 10 horses, this household has 3 dogs and 3 cats, all of which are lovable, affectionate and friendly! I've been loving the fact that, every time I sit down, I will either find a loudly purring cat creeping onto my lap or a dog resting their head on my knee!

Buddy, Jake, Freedom and Scout

I am slightly skipping ahead if myself, of course, as I had a full week left in Auckland when I last wrote. As I had been in Auckland for a fair length of time, I wasn't rushing around ticking everything off my to do list any longer; in fact, I took the opportunity to relax and have some downtime. It's surprisingly tiring to be on the go for so many months.

I did, however, spend some lovely time with Caitlin (new cousin-in-law!) and her friend from home, Sheree, and something that really sticks in my mind was our Valentine's Day where the three of us and Caitlin's friend, Conor, went to a beach during the evening with take-away fish and chips and a bottle of prosecco. It was really rather lovely! It was so accommodating and great of Caitlin and her housemates to put up with me for so long: I really appreciated it!

Arabella, me and Ella.

Fast forward a week and I am on The Prairie Flower Ranch just outside LA, and Arabella and her family are also being wonderful and welcoming! I was taken on my first “western style” horse ride the other day and, I am ashamed to say, I was very nervous! As much as I love riding, I am not fantastically confident and the change from English to Western style riding certainly threw me! I'll just get back into the saddle, as they say, and get the hang of it!

As well as welcoming me into their home, I have also been lent Arabella's Porsche Boxter to drive around town! I have to say, I feel all shades of fancy-pants in it. I feel I should apologise to my car back home for being unfaithful with this nippy little soft top! As the ranch is about 40 minute so outside of Hollywood and Central LA, it is a great help as I can take myself off to do all the naff touristy things without being a drain on the family's day. Yesterday I embarked on my first solo drive into the city and, after a rather stressful journey once off the freeway, found myself cruising down Rodeo Dr. I tried to park the car to go for a walk but, for some reason, my card isn't liked by the card machines over here and I had no coins for the meter. Big mistake: huge! πŸ˜‰

So, instead, I gawped at the shops as I drove by and then took myself off to the Chinese Theatre and the Walk of Fame. As touristy as it is, I loved it! I even got the frisson of excitement that I get when I'm heading to a Disney theme park. As mum so eloquently put it: “you're certainly a first world girl” …that I am. What can I say? I love this kind of stuff!

Following in the vein of celebrity and movies, today I went to the Sony Pictures studio for a 2 hour tour. I encountered my very first instance of valet parking….and was suitably embarrassed and English about the whole process. I had no idea what the protocol was but I think I muddled my way through it…though goodness knows if the tip I gave was sufficient or wildly excessive.

Who knows?

Who tells you these things?!

Is there a handbook?

We may speak the same language but I do feel like a fish out of water at times over here!

I also drove around aimlessly for a good 20 minutes trying to find said “parking lot” which was not well sign posted at all. Having said that though, getting lost did mean that I stopped at another studio lot's entrance gates to ask directions and had a delightful conversation with the security there who asked me to stay with them instead of doing the tour! I respectfully declined as I didn't want to A.get them in trouble….or B.hang around with two security guards I had just met.

I eventually managed to get myself to the tour (before it had started: phew!) and was led around the sound stages in a group of 15. We saw the sound stages were films as famous as “The Wizard Of Oz” were made! We even saw the tallest sound stage in LA, which had previously been used for “Angels and Demons” (with Tom Hanks) in which they had reconstructed the Sistine Chapel…apparently the pope wasn't too keen on them filming inside the real Vatican City.

I also would have had my first confirmed celeb spotting today had I not been so prompt at following instructions. Our guide called us all together to tell us that there was a 10 minute hiatus during which we could view the gift shop (of course) so, in lieu of anything else to look at, I duly went into the shop. When I emerged some 3 minutes later, another member of the group asked me if I had seen Jack Black walk past “just before we went into the store” ….NO! Rats.

I have an almost chockablock itinerary until Gus arrives in 8 days' time! I am so looking forward to him coming out as, of course, it's been 7 months since I last saw him and, also, this will be the first time we've spent a week just the two of us! Time for some epic sibling bonding! πŸ™‚


Milly x

 

Week 32… New Zealand, South Island

Since my last blog, we've finished up Alex's break and he's gone back to the vessel for his shift. It went so quickly and I just know we'll be coming back to NZ in the future to explore more, as 3 weeks just isn't enough to get everything done comfortably!

For example, we wished we'd had a lot longer in Queenstown or, more specifically, Arrowtown. When we returned to the area (at the end of my last blog) we moved into a lovely, historical cottage in Arrowtown that I had found on Airbnb. I have been craving our own space and some normality so Pittaways Cottage suited us right down to the ground. It was beautiful and had a lovely sitting room filled with Chesterfield furniture and a wood burner, as well as a lovely squishy bed in one of the 2 gorgeous bedrooms. It felt like we had our own home again which is exactly what I was hankering after! Hilary and Graeme, who run the cottage, and the studio cottage at the back of the property, were so welcoming and friendly. I'm jumping ahead chronologically but, on Alex and my “fake anniversary”, we were sitting in the garden (with a bottle of wine and selection of cheeses and antipasti from the winery up the road!) and invited them to join us for a drink…we ended up sitting outside chatting for hours and Hilary split the food she'd been making for the 2 of them so we could join them for dinner! It is indicative of the people in New Zealand: everyone is friendly, welcoming and up for a chat!

Arrowtown itself looks like an 1800s American settler village which is not surprising I suppose, as it was a gold mining town originally. It's gorgeous and so small that you can walk the length of the “high street” in 5 minutes! They have an old fashioned sweetshop, independent grocers and butchers, lovely little restaurants and even a cinema (where, again, you can get wine and local cheese boards!) which we unfortunately didn't have time to go to. Something to save for next time!

While we were there, this time round, Alex did one of the biggest bungy jumps! The bungy was actually invented in Queenstown and both of Alex's jumps were with the company that belongs to the inventor, AJ Hackett. Luckily for me, it cost extra for spectators to come along (as the site was 45 mins outside the town itself) so I was spared the sight of my other half plunging head first into the abyss! Not so luckily for me, he got a video of it so I still had to see it happen…but at least I knew he was safe by then! Haha! Considering I am such a wuss, I don't know how I've ended up with such an adrenaline junky! Opposites certainly attract! πŸ™‚

As I mentioned earlier, we had our “fake anniversary” as Alex will be on the boat on the actual day (18th Feb). Alex organised a beautiful sunrise hot air balloon ride so, at 4.45am, we found ourselves getting ready to be picked up. By 7.30am, we were gliding noiselessly over the Queenstown basin, floating over Lake Hayes, scaring flocks of sheep with the sound of the engine (?) intermittently filling the balloon with more hot air and watching the sun rise over the mountain tops. We were even treated to a champagne and French pastry breakfast upon landing. It was a perfect way to start the day.

We also headed out to the winery area that day, as I had read you can do a wine and cheese tour. We had ordered our cheese hamper and, after having a stunning lunch at Gibbston's Wine Cave, headed off to the other wineries. Unfortunately, the ones we wanted to visit did not allow the cheese hamper…so we decided it'd be even more pleasant to come back to our lovely cottage with a bottle of red we'd sampled over lunch and sit in the garden with the spoils of the hamper.

Warning: the next paragraph will be sickenly mushy and emotional.(sorry Alex!)

I am a very lucky girl to have had two years already with my best friend and other half. It's not every friendship and holiday romance that blossoms into the real deal! Before I had him, I don't believe I would have had the internal strength to do this trip and so I thank you, Alex, for being such a support and such a rock. Here's to forever! I love you.

Back to business: another amazing experience we had in Queenstown was a 2 hour horse ride out by Glenorchy. The scenery was awe inspiring and, in fact, some of it had been featured in the Lord Of The Rings trilogy. You can imagine how exciting it was to amble through that vista on a horse. It was only Alex's 2nd time on a horse and, true to form, he was great! The guides were impressed that his characteristically skittish horse was so relaxed with him that he almost fell asleep on his feet! I was lucky enough to be the only member of the group experienced enough to go for a canter, so I got to break away from the group and get a good run in with one of the guides which was exhilarating in such stunning surroundings.

If you go to Queenstown, we'd also highly recommend paragliding which was beautiful. I was even brave enough to steer myself and my guide for approximately 30 seconds….and then I chickened out! The other incredible activity we made of the most of while in town was the Shotover Jet which is a high speed boat which can drive in 10cm of water. He pilot drove down the canyon at break neck speeds and threw us into 360 turns and narrowly (but expertly) swung us tightly round cliff face edges. It was exhilarating!! It was like a watery roller coaster! Definitely do it if you can!

After bidding a sorrowful goodbye to Queenstown, with promises to return, we made the long drive (stopping the night in a hotel by Lake Tekapo) all the way to Christchurch so we could return our car and Alex could fly out to work. Neither of us had expected the city to still be showing such shocking evidence of the earthquake, nearly 7 years on! We found ourselves in the CBD (central business district….I've only just learned that!) and all around us were shells of buildings with security fencing surrounding them and “no trespassing” signs peppered across the facades. In fact, until we stumbled across the new Re:Start shopping centre, we didn't see anywhere open, really. We were both quite shocked by Christchurch. Having said that, once again the people we spoke to were all friendly and expansive and the Re:Start centre had lots of community activity such as a stage for local musical acts, a market and a selection of artisan food stalls.

Now Alex is back on the vessel and I have returned to hang out with the lovely Caitlin for 10 days before heading to LA on the 18th! It won't be long now until I see my brother for the first time in 8 months, then one of my best friends, Wozzle, and then, in a couple more months, my whole immediate family! I'm so excited to see them all!

Today's blog is dedicated to my darling grandpa, who we lost this time last year. I think about you most days and wish I could tell you everything I've seen and done, Grandpa. I love you.

 

Milly x