England

I know I’ve been a bit secretive as to what’s going to happen now. A reason for that could be that we weren’t entirely sure ourselves…

But – now we’ve decided, we’re going to settle down here in England, my husbands home country, which he’s been away from for almost thirty years. We have our eyes fixed on a lovely flat in Woking, Surrey. That’s south-west of London, a 20 minutes journey by train to Waterloo. Almost all the family is in Surrey, so we’ll be close to baby-sitting opportunities ;-) The deal is not done yet, so cross your fingers, please.

We’ve got ourselves a bank account – sounds easy-peasy doesn’t it? Well, it wasn’t! You have to produce evidence of residence – e.g. an electricity bill with your name on it. That’s not easy when you’ve just arrived in the country! AND you have to be on the electoral register, which is only updated every three months… Well, I wont go into details about how we got all of this fixed, but we did and now have a joint account with Natwest. The bank manager was all apologies over these new rules – you can try a wild guess as to why they’ve been implemented…

We’ve also bought a car – that was a lot easier than getting a bank account. You just go to the car dealer, choose a car, pay with your credit card and sign on the dotted line and Yippeee, you’ve got a car! Ours is a slightly battered eleven year old Audi A6 stationcar. It’s a lovely car, although a bit of a hassle to park. And it was dirt cheap, compared to Danish prices.

Until we’ve cleared it with the flat we’re staying with David’s sister and her family. Dane is having a fantastic time with his cousins Avi, 11 and Simmie, 9 and all their friends. He has really been missing other children on our trip, so this is just great. The family is most gracious, letting us stay, lending us all sorts of things that we need, giving us advice on schools (that’s a BIG deal over here!), public transport, parking, shopping etc. etc. Families can be really useful, you know!

We’ve been driving around the southern English countryside and – oh, it’s just so beautiful! It’s so much more hilly and wooded than the Danish countryside and villages seem to live on, in spite of the spreading suburbia and the huge supermarkets everywhere. We’ve heard from a number of sources that the preservation of villages is a cause that has captured many Englishmen’s hearts, besides the ones owning the ailing village shops. I’ve borrowed the picture from this page.

Oh, and on another note – my travel blog, still this one, just being transmogriffed into a different kind of blog (with some kind of purpose, don’t know which yet), has been nominated to an award. I’m very honoured, but can’t quite do what I’m supposed to do yet, since I haven’t had time to look at many blogs lately. Hope it’s ok for me to get back to my duties later. Thank you to Capac for thinking of me and promoting me this way!

If you only stumbled over my blog today, just click the travel category and you’ll get all the posts from our travels. There are quite a few, we travelled for six months and have only been home for about two weeks.

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Lying a bit low

We’ve been lying low for a couple of days, because Dane has been ill. As usual we have no idea what hit him, but he went down with a fever and an upset tummy. He then slept 16 hours non stop, and that was that.

We visited the Saturday morning market in Chinatown (before he got really ill). Chinatown is almost next door to our motel. Among the stands was a book stand. And would you believe it, the guy sold only good books! Took ages to browse through his boxes – which were in perfect order, naturally, just like a library

Afternoon and evening were spent with our books and the telly, watching Dane sleep off the fever. This morning we took it easy, but then Dane insisted we went out. And he really was well again. We went for a walk in the Brisbane Botanical Garden, cruising along the river. And then we went to the movies and saw Alvin and the Chipmunks. It was great fun – Dane thought it was hilarious, his jaws were sore from laughing. I thought it was pretty funny too – loved the record company executive ;-)

(picture from IMDB)

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Laid back paradise

Again I’m on a porch to catch the feeble signal from a router in an office. Last time I was freezing off a certain body part, this time I’m wiping the sweat off my brow.

We’ve left the lovely Capitan Suizo and moved less than a 100 km. south. Mind you, the journey took five hours… It’s much greener here, because they get more rain, but still the roads are so dusty that people wear dust masks when they ride their bikes, motorbikes and dirt-bikes on the roads – or what passes for roads around here.

This hotel – or lodge really – is very different from the Capitan, but also very nice. It consists of a number of small cabins or huts with little porches in front. Each cabin has a nice large room with a half partition, so the beds are separated. Centrally on the property is the open air restaurant (almost all restaurants here are open air – a steep roof on pillars and a kitchen in the back) and the swimming pool. We don’t use the pool as much here as in the other place, because this one is very deep and not as big. Besides, the sea is 25 meters from our cabin.

The Pacific is even wilder here than in Tamarindo. At high tide the waves are awesome! Which is why we only let Dane surf at low tide. The waves are still pretty wild then, but more manageable.

This is another surfer’s paradise, but these surfers are a lot different from the bums at Tamarindo. These guys – and some girls – live for surfing. Their lives revolve around that board. They are mostly young, but there are also quite a few in their thirties and maybe even older. They have lean, muscular bodies with tans worth dying for, big and generally very beautiful tattoos, long sun-bleached hair, wear long shorts and washed out t-shirts. It seems that the only things they spend money on is surf-gear and sunglasses. Very fashionable sunglasses they all have! They surf from the early morning just at sunrise, which is around 6:30 till they have to go to work. The good(looking) ones teach surfing school, the less fortunate tend bars and work in surf shops. The girls are almost all very, very pretty and the predominant fashion is tiny mini-shorts that almost cover their buttocks and skimpy little tank tops. They are also tattooed. The surfers come from all over the world to surf these fantastic waves.

Life is very laid back here. Apart from the surfers, there aren’t many tourists. And some of them are clearly parents, who’ve come to visit their straying offspring. You only have to walk a few steps along the beach to have it more or less to yourself. Only time you see crowds are the obligatory sunset half-hour. At 5:30 everybody is at his or her favoured spot on the beach (not too far down, because the tide comes in with surprising speed at this time) with drink in hand to watch the sun set over the Pacific. And what a sight it is!

More tropical pictures here, if you can bear to see them…

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Living under the volcano

Everything revolves around the volcano Arenal in the entire area. Which really isn’t strange, since it

1) looks like a volcano from a child’s drawing.
2) is covered by clouds 75% of the time and makes you say “WAUW” when it occasionally makes an appearance from behind the clouds.
3) Rumbles frequently (several times a day) so it can be heard over most of the area.
4) Spews lava that is white and smoking by day and orange-red by night. We didn’t see it at night though.

Check the facts about the volcano and it’s outburst in 1968 here.

On our first day we went on the previously mentioned Canopy tour. It was SO MUCH FUN! We’d definitely do it again if it weren’t so relatively costly. Dane is going on about it every day – how he flew over the tree tops, about the howler monkey and it’s little baby and about crossing a river 30 meters above ground.


On the following day we went on a three hour tour of the so-called hanging bridges. Hanging bridges are widely used in rainforests here to be able to show off the fantastic nature to us tourists without totally ruining the eco-system in the forest. So a good deal of the time, you’re walking among the treetops. As 40% of all plants in the rainforest are epiphytes (plants that live on and off other plants), there really is a lot to see up there.

In between our adventures we spent time in the lovely hot springs at the hotel, heated by the volcano. David and I agree that a so-called wet bar really is the height of decadence!

More and larger pictures here.

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A family Christmas

The day before Emil and Ida’s arrival, we drove up to the Point Reyes National Seashore. It was a wonderful day with a good deal of hiking (to allow for the food and goodies over Christmas) and fantastic sights. We started out at the visitor’s centre, from where we took the short earth quake hike and the slightly longer hike to a remake of an Indian village. I’m afraid I’d let Dane to believe that there would be a big hole in the ground at the epicentre of the 1906 earthquake. Well, there wasn’t. It had been filled years ago. But there had been a fence, which had been split by the earthquake. This fence had been maintained ever since, so we could see how far it had moved. On the picture you can see me showing Dane the distance between the posts and explaining that I’m standing right on the San Andreas faultline, where the ground split open.

The Indian village even had a herb garden with good explanations of what the Indians used the various plants for. There were teepees for sleeping, food storage etc. Their staple food items were acorns and whatever could be salvaged from the Pacific. The acorns were ground into meal, which was then made into a variety of food stuffs.

Then we took the long, but very scenic drive to the Point Reyes lighthouse. It was 18 miles of up, up, up till we reached the very tip of the peninsula. Then we parked the car and went up again, this time on foot. Only to reach the top, from where the lighthouse is 302 steps down. Going back up corresponds to walking to the 30th floor of a highrise. But it was great fun and good excercise.

After that we drove to another vista point, the Chimney Rock, to watch the sun set over the Pacific. Before the sun set, we saw elephant seals down on the beach. What a peculiar creature!

We’d spent several days of serious Christmas shopping, so we were well prepared, when we could finally drive to the airport and pick up Emil and Ida in the early evening of the 24th. It was great seeing them and we had a really nice Christmas together. They had had a real Danish Christmas dinner with Ida’s mother on the 23rd, so we settled on a leg of lamb with all the trimmings. I love the Danish duck with red cabbage, sugarcoated potatoes and everything, but David and Dane don’t fancy it much, so there really wasn’t much point. The weather was great, so we walked down to the town and along the waterfront before dinner.

The following days we went to the top of Mount Tam (again) and took the boat to San Francisco. Today the four of them have gone fishing, while I’m in the local library writing this and researching for the next leg of our trip.

More pictures here.

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Happy Holidays

That’s what they say over here, so as not to offend anybody with the Christ-word.

We’re doing the last bits of frantic Christmas-shopping just like almost everybody else and enjoying it. We’re looking so much forward to receiving Emil and girlfriend Ida here tomorrow and are trying to guess what they’d REALLY like to eat and drink…

Dane is producing Christmas decorations as if his life depended on it.

The little Christmas tree stands gleaming with decorations and glittering lights in the living room; will post photo later.

We hope you all have lovely and peaceful holidays!

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Thanksgiving with the family

We’re now back in Texas and today is Thanksgiving. The whole family is together and it’s very lively. I think there are twenty of us. Dane is having the time of his life with four older boys to play with. And they’re so good to him too! The turkey is cooking in the oven and dirty rice are being prepared on the stove. Desserts are pre-prepared and tucked away around the house where there’s room. The tv’s are on in every room and people are watching the traditional Thanksgiving parade.

It’s all very homely and strange at the same time – at least for us, the Danes. Dane finds it pretty funny that they call us all the Danes – he thought he was the only one!

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We have officially re-entered the South

as we are now in Memphis, Tennessee. More about that tomorrow, when we’ve actually seen something other than this, the bleakest of campsites.

Yesterday morning David got up very early again – despite the freezing cold.

Inspired by the catch the night before, he litterally flew out of the RV and down to the river (Ohio River, Indiana) where he started pulling out fish. It was quite the reverse of the previous week. When Dane woke up, he quickly joined David to catch some fish of his own.

We drove further along the Ohio into Illinois and then into Kentucky. I’d made a “slight” miscalculation reading the map – not noticing that the crossing of the Ohio I’d chosen was actually not a bridge, but a ferry! We debated a little whether we dared chance it and go for the ferry – not having any idea how wide the river was going to be at that point, what kind of ferry it was, if it would let RVs on board, how often it sailed. And sunset was approaching fast, with another 30 miles to drive on the other side of the river – or 60 if we couldn’t get on board. We decided to chance it – and – if we weren’t lucky once more!

And so – besides having saved around 30 miles’ driving, we had this quite fantastic experience of being ferried across the river on this little pram together with 3-4 other vehicles (=pick-up trucks), that clearly made this journey every day! Check out that sunset! More pictures here. Furthermore it was free!

And speaking of luck, check the weather forecast for Memphis!

On today’s journey I was the one with a song in my head. And it’s not by Elvis. It’s probably one of my 20 favourite songs. Paul Simon’s Graceland.

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Rising Sun

I like it. Most of the time the Americans seem very unoriginal when they name their towns. We must have passed at least a dozen Madisons, Columbus’, Fredericksburgs, Hoovers and Lebanons. We’re wondering a little bit about the Lebanons. Why is that name so popular? But Rising Sun, isn’t that just lovely? We also passed a town called Satan’s Kingdom (Vermont) – I don’t really believe in Hell or Satan or any of that, but still wouldn’t like to live there! And try to picture this: I arrive at an isolated spot by a beautiful lake in the mountains and say: Oh, it’s lovely here, I’ll settle with my family and I’ll call it Satan’s Kingdom???

By the way, early on in our travels I believe I wrote that my American family lives out in the sticks in the Texas hill country. I take that back. Where they live it’s litterally urban compared to rural Vermont or rural Ohio!

Today’s campsite is lovely. It’s right on the Ohio River (which forms the state line between Indiana and Kentucky) and David is thrilled to bits. The people here are very nice and friendly – they haven’t had any real Europeans (as opposed to Americans with a German grandmother) before, so we are a real novelty, totally exotic!

We just drove past Seagram’s Distillery, a huge factory complex which let out an awful smell and had stood there since 1857. That made us wish for G&T’s, but would you believe it? In Indiana they won’t sell you alcohol on a Sunday! Must be because we’re now in the bible belt, all though I don’t seem to remember any such restrictions in the Carolinas. Anyway – we’ll stick to the beer we already had in the RV and hold our gin-craving till tomorrow.

Dane is also very happy today. In the camper next door is a little boy from Tennessee, who’s just as thirsty after a playmate as Dane is. So they are playing away – it’ll be hard to get them to bed, but luckily they can play again tomorrow.

Huge barges sail by all the time. This river isn’t just for fishing and fun!

We’ve had an ongoing thing on our trip. David seems to have a hidden repertoire of old pop songs with references to American states, towns or rivers. And he drives along and sings happily. For those of you who know him well enough to have heard him sing, feel free to imagine.

The first time he burst out in song was when we were headed for Galveston. And today he remembered Olivia Newton-John with The Banks of the Ohio. This clip is just so funny!

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David is in love

It’s not that he’s fallen out of love with me (I hope), more that he’s fallen head over heals in love with coastal Maine. And it is indescribably beautiful here. Except for one day, when it poured down all day, we’ve been blessed with fantastic October weather. A sky that reaches, well, to the sky I guess… as blue as anything, a few wisps of cloud, and the rivers, lakes, bays and the sea in a million shades of green and blue. And then there’s the foliage. Actually, Bill Bryson describes it marvellously in A Walk in the Woods:

(…) when the world is full of autumn muskiness and crisp, tangy perfection and the air so clear that you feel as if you could reach out and ping it with a finger. Even the colors were crisp: vivid blue sky, deep green fields, leaves in every sharp shade that nature can bestow. It is a truly astounding sight when every tree in a forest becomes individual; where formerly had sprawled a seamless cloak of green there now stood a million bright colors.

On David’s birthday (28th) he got to set the pace for the day. We started with breakfast and presents. He got two long sleeved smartwool microweave t-shirts that he wanted badly after having bought one a couple of days ago. David is very particular with fabrics – he’ll only wear certain kinds and they have to fit him in a certain way. Dane is exactly the same, it’s funny, but makes it hell to shop with them. He also got some Red Sox paraphernalia, a reading light and a book about autumn in New England. And for dinner David had lobster – his favourite food. It’s still the lobster season here, so we saw the little lobster boats going out by the hundreds and in every bay you can see the little buoys telling of the lobster trap beyond and you can see the traps stacked in front of every other house out on the peninsulas. While writing this, we were at a place called Land’s End in an area called the Harpswells – it’s on the very tip of one of a hundred peninsulas in this part of Maine. From here, all you can see are the tips of other peninsulas and the Atlantic – glittering in the sun.

You’ve guessed it already; David and Dane were fishing while I sat inside the RV on the sunny side writing this. Even if I’ve got my life’s first classy outdoor wear, I still find it too cold to just stand about. I’d much rather go for a brisk walk.

Me on the Internet – only place at Maine campground where it was accessible. And Dane in front of lobster traps.

A note about Halloween

We went to a Halloween party at the local YMCA. It was very well done. The entertainment was excellent, the games fun and for everyone, the costumes funny and many of them very inventive. And the parents were all very nice and the children generally very well behaved. There was a haunted house so scary that Dane wouldn’t even go through it together with me. Actually, it was pretty scary! Very well done. Dane looked great in his wizard outfit with a magic wand and pointy hat. But the thing that he wanted the most was to meet other children and play with them. And we had no luck with that, unfortunately. So it wasn’t the success we’d hoped for.

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In a library, finally

I wonder what they mean by that, “The Way Life Should Be”? Must be something with reddened leaves, fresh-cheeked youth, noisy snowmobiles and lobsters for dinner???

I’ve spent a good part of today in Freeport Community Library and it has been lovely. Outside it’s sunny but cool, and Dane and David are fishing. In here it’s quiet, comfy and… eh… bookish! Haven’t read a single page though, been busy on the computer.

Freeport probably wouldn’t exist if it hadn’t been for the extraordinarily well run and well stocked out-door department store L.L. Bean. We spent the best part of yesterday in there and got some good autumnal clothing for the three of us. David is now a record-holder in the number of fleeces owned by one person (who’s not a mountaineer).

I bet that stockholders in L. L. Bean have a lot to say in the town – it’s got the fiercest anti-sign-pollution policy I’ve come across over here. Look at this McDonalds:

It looks so nice you’d almost consider going in there to eat! And the whole town looks like that. Real neat, as the Americans put it.

We think we’ve solved the Halloween problem I mentioned yesterday. We went for gas at a little gas station out in the woods. In there everybody were talking about baseball, baseball, baseball and then a little bit about Halloween. It turns out there are several public arrangements, so we’ll go for some of that and hope that the usual American friendliness will extend to our little Dane. Will tell you how it goes.

And so, don’t you want to know if the Red Sox won the game last night? I bet you don’t give a toss. But they did. They wiped out the Colorado Rockies 13 – 1. We’re already readying ourselves for the next game tonight. Can they do it again?

(picture of master pitcher Josh Beckett borrowed from the Boston Globe)

More commented pictures (not of baseball stars) here.

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Halloween help!

As some of you readers know, we’re travelling through the US in an RV for three months. Right now we’re in New England (right now, southern Maine), planning to see as much of it as we can, before it gets too cold. Then we’ll make a U-turn and go south again, this time a little bit inland.

In a week’s time it’s Halloween and no child in America cannot know this. Every front yard, every house, every shop is full of orange. From lovely hand-carved pumpkins and nice autumnal decorations to awful plastic stuff and Halloween-packaged candy. We’d like 6-year-old Dane to experience Halloween in America – it’s a tradition that’s only now reaching Denmark, where Dane grew up. But how can we do that? We don’t know anybody here with children except the family in Texas and Louisiana, and they are too far away (we’ll be back there for Thanksgiving).

What can we do? Are there communities with arrangements throughout the day, so that Dane could get to know some children, before the actual Trick or Treating? I hesitate to buy him a costume, worrying that he’ll sit at some campground all dressed up, surrounded by retired people in big campers and being too timid to go trick or treating among them, all alone (or with Mom hovering in the background).

American readers, please come forward with suggestions!

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