3 things & 5 days in Wales

Sheep

Climbers

Consonants

 

We had five lovely days with David’s brother Peter and his significant other, Frieda. They showed us all sorts of things, medieval castles, one of the worlds biggest mazes, a stunningly beautiful hidden valley, climbers clinging to the rock wall and an exceptional National Trust garden, the Bodnant. As it is obvious from the pictures, the weather wasn’t very good. But since it wasn’t really bad either, we’re not complaining.

We’ve taken quite a few pictures and mine are already uploaded with comments. See here. Look towards the end of the set.

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A family holiday in pictures

We only had weather like this one whole day. Trust me that we enjoyed it from breakfast on the terrace till stargazing on the beach at night. This picture is taken from the front door of the family summer house, just to give you an idea. We’re in Pagham, Sussex.

 

David caught a mackerel and ate it!

Linda is showing off her wellies! Low tide and high winds.

 

Notice the “door steps”. When the tide is high, it really is. The road along the harbour is flooded on a daily basis! This is Bosham, Sussex.

Hot chocolate with whipped cream and marshmallows is just the cure for a rainy day!

We went to Portsmouth and toured the Victory, Admiral Nelson’s ship at the battle of Trafalgar.

 

The plaque commemorating that Nelson fell here on this exact spot and a view heavenward, where you can get an idea of the weather conditions!  We can really recommend Portsmouth Historic Dockyard for a day or two out – also when the weather is good! We had a great time!

And here’s what we did when it just poured with rain (there wasn’t room for anything as prosaic as playing cards in this picture, but we did play a lot of Canasta and Estimation Whist):

(don’t bother burgling us – we always sleep with our Iphones and most of the gear isn’t ours anyway…)

 

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Will the sight of a boy in a tree become a rarity?

It’s Dane up there in the trees!

The Times and quite a few other media have the story today about a study made by GE Money Bank. The study shows how we spend much more money on boys than on girls. The boys’ sports gear and electronics cost a lot more than the odd bangle, pink mobile phone or black-black eye-liner. A reader comments quite sensibly that we’re still treating boys and girls differently in ways that we shouldn’t (will come back to the ways that we should): Namely for instance by choosing to call a girl’s tennis lessons or music lessons “luxury” while a boy’s football lessons are “necessary”.

The Times then links to an article that so much speaks my heart. How boys just can’t handle sitting down for hours on end and how we’ve become scared of our own shadows and won’t let children out to climb trees and play with the neighbours the way children used to. I agree, traffic is a lot worse than it used to be. But it seems to me that many parents fear the big media beast “the male abductor” even more. Although he’s less prevalent now than he ever was. Also, I so often hear how just about everything is dangerous, the children could fall and hurt themselves. Yes, that’s true. But if we overprotect them throughout their childhoods and never let them experience the consequences of  this and that in relatively safe surroundings, then how will they get along when they grow older and have to?

When I was a little girl – and my parents were very protective of me – I was still allowed to take the bus on my own to school every day. Jaws would have dropped if any of the children had been driven by their daddies to school. Today I think the jaw dropping has reversed. If you don’t drive your child to school in your big gas-guzzling “safe” 4WD, you’re just not doing right by him or her. I walked on my own to violin lessons once a week, right through the neighbourhood where another little girl had just been gruesomely killed. But my mother reasoned that as long as I didn’t stray and didn’t go with strangers – and I had to solemnly promise this many, many times – I would be fine! And I was.

In my child’s preschool (in Denmark) we several times experienced what I found to be weird and very irrational uproars from parents. Once was when a boy fell off the climbing structure and broke his leg. A cry for the instant demolition of the climbing structure. Luckily the school didn’t fall for it. Picture a playground without a climbing structure! YAWN!!! Another time was when my son fell and hit his head on the edge of one of the milk crates they played with endlessly. He had TWO stitches and was perfectly OK the next day. But instantly a cry from some parent to have the milk crates removed. Playground with no climbing structure and no stacking of milk crates. Double YAWN!!! And in a fluke accident with another preschool, a little boy was killed when a tourbus he was a passenger on collided with a tractor. A terrible accident. My heart goes out to everyone involved. But it was the type of accident you can only avoid if you stay in bed for the rest of your life. But some parents instantly said that they would never let their child be transported by bus ever again. Despite the fact that all statistics show that the most dangerous means of transportation on the Globe is daddy’s car…

Oh well, those articles really got me going. Time to cook some supper!

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Days in and days out

My oldest son Emil and his girlfriend Ida are spending some time with us this week. Where we’ve hardly been up to London since we got here, obviously the two youngsters didn’t want to miss out on the big city. And they wanted me and Dane to come along (David was away on business). So we all took the train from Woking to Waterloo. It only takes 20 minutes, so it’s really not such a big deal.

Also our friends Lotte and David were in town with their son, Dane’s best friend, Adam.

We trotted around a bit without any particular aim, but then Ida wanted SHOPPING and Dane wanted HAMLEY’S… So Emil let himself be dragged round crowded clothes shops (sale’s on!) and I let myself be dragged round Hamley’s – five floors of toys. Only the the girlie-floor can be avoided… Anyway, Dane was quite good about it and I got off lightly…

We met up with our friends and spent the afternoon together. We had dinner in an Iraqi restaurant on Edgware road. After dinner we tried to find a place to have a cup of coffee, that wasn’t completely crowded and also would accommodate our two little boys. All the Neros, the Starbucks and the Costas were either crowded or with only inside seating, so we just trotted on and on. In the end we were rewarded – we found a little French Café, the French Bakery, in James Street (off Oxford Street) where we had lovely coffee, good sweets and great service. From Waterloo we made it home in exactly 34 minutes (including taxi from Woking – Dane was too tired to walk – it was after all 11 pm).

We tried to make the most of Emil’s and Ida’s stay, so the next day we did a barbecue with David’s cousin Karen and her two boys Robert and Max. We sat out all evening and enjoyed the rare balmy night.

 

In the weekend we took a longer trip to the CLA Game Fair in Oxfordshire at Blenheim Palace. Emil just absolutely had to visit the app. 50 suppliers of fishing equipment all present in one spot. His hands were practically shaking… (maybe I haven’t told you, but he’s an avid fisherman and has recently started fly-fishing). David is also rather mad about fishing, so Ida and I just tagged along, knowing that there would be lots of other things to look at. Although an extremely hot day, it was still nice and even Dane had a good time.

  

With two new fly-fishing rods aquired the obvious next step was of course going fishing.

No way that Ida, Dane and I wanted to stare at those two throwing their lines all day, so we spent the hot, hot day at Hampton Court Palace. We enjoyed it very much – Ida is a real castle & museum kind of girl, bless her! And Dane was at his very best behaviour, curiously interested in furniture, four poster beds and tapestries. He’s rather fascinated with Henry VIII. But then, he is a most fascinating character, isn’t he?

Now we’ve sent Ida and Emil home and are by ourselves again. David has spent three days doing our tax returns for both Denmark and England. An absolutely horrifying enterprise! All three of us are very happy that it’s done now!

What’s left now is to plan our holiday. You may laugh at this – planning your holiday after August 1st, but it was only in March we came back from six months of fantastic holiday and we’ve decided to go very low key and local this summer. We’ll spend some time with David’s sister and her family at the summer house on the coast in Sussex and then we’ll go and visit David’s older brother in North Wales. Dane has another five weeks left of his summer holidays, so we’ll also make some day trips to get to know this bit of England better.

More pictures with captions (see Emil’s three beautiful salmon trouts) on Flickr.

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A Sunday outing – Our way

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but David and I are great fans of the National Trust and go to their houses and gardens whenever we have the chance. Before we lived here, we’ve been on holidays in Devon/Cornwall and in Yorkshire and darted from one National Trust property to the next.

Today we visited two properties, Clandon Park and Hatchlands Park. Clandon Park was OK with an incredible collection of Meissen, Wedgwood and Sèvres (which I prefer) porcelain, but I much preferred Hatchlands Park, which also holds great promise as a prime picnic site. There were pictures there by Tizian!!!

Hatchlands Park also had the world’s largest collection of pianos connected to famous composers. I was quite awed to stand in front of a piano, which had been graced (=played on) by Chopin himself.

We had a nice traditional lunch at Clandon and then cream tea (just as traditional) at Hatchlands. After that we had to go for a little walk and also found time to take a few pictures. Lovely day out!

Photos: Dane and me in front of Hatchlands Park House taken by David. Sèvres porcelain bowl from the Sèvres museum site. Chopin’s piano from Cobbe Collection’s website. My picture of clover from the field ind front of Hatchlands Park House.

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Settling in

I think I owe those of you who know me personally an update on our progress here in Surrey. We’re very happy in our converted convent and have many very nice and interesting neighbors. Last month saw the Oldfield Wood tennis tournament, which was a lovely social event with barbecue, wine, beer, Sunday papers, chat and lovely sunshine. And a lot of tennis. And would you believe that David won the tournament (with his partner, a very nice lady). Dane did not win the mini golf tournament and was very upset. He might be just as competitive as his Dad! I didn’t compete in anything and thus did not have to confront any personal shortcomings (that day…).

Dane has been to school six weeks now and loves every minute of it. We’re very, very happy with our choice of school – and only last week it got an outstanding Ofsted report. Every Friday after school there’s football and Dane’s improving every week. He loves that too. After a bumpy start where I thought he might never get the hang of it, he’s now doing really well with his reading and can read sentences like “It is my book” or “I can skip like you, said Dad”. We’re so proud of him, because to catch up with the other children, he has to do a lot of extra homework and he’s been quite graceful about it.

David has been away working for three weeks in Germany and Switzerland, but now he’s home again. It takes a bit of getting used to, the uncertainty and short notices of being freelance. But we’ll get there, I’m sure.

One of the things our trip through the US etc. has left us with is a great appetite for walking and experiencing nature. We’re also very fond of gardens, old houses, castles and the like. We’re members of the Royal Horticultural Society, so we can go to RHS Wisley, which is very close by and also of The National Trust, so we can visit numerous nature reserves, houses and castles throughout England. We’ve been to Polesden Lacey, a beautiful Edwardian mansion and we go for walks by the canal in Ripley, an area protected by the National Trust. The lock there is the oldest in England and right next to the ruins of the first of many monasteries and priories demolished by Henry VIII in his fury over the Catholic church’s refusal to grant him a divorce (from his first wife). It is an amazingly beautiful place!

Picture from Weyriver.co.uk

Finally, we’re members of Surrey Wildlife Trust and yesterday went to an event they were hosting at Ashtead Park. It was a lovely day – we had a picnic on our own and then went on a guided walk, where a ranger told us about the work they do to keep a forest with meadows, when you don’t have animals grazing and when you want to improve and increase the habitats for animals, insects and plants and at the same time have to keep it safe for human visitors. There’s a great deal of work involved!

 

Pictures from top: Our living room in the library of the former convent. Dane on scooter after school. Newark Priory, picture from a history of Pyrford (village between here and Ripley), Newark lock, picture from Wey river. Dane and Daddy on our picnic. More and larger-format pictures here.

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Copenhagen in spring

is just absolutely lovely!

With one friend I went for a walk here:

Kastellet

With another here:

Landbohøjskolens Have, Frederiksberg

and I visited more cafés and restaurants in one week than ever before in my home town.

I’d like to tell you about my wonderful friends, but they are generally not as exhibitionistic as I am and would probably rather stay off-camera, so to speak. So I’ll just tell you that I’ve probably got the best friends in the world and that it was a marvellous experience to spend intense time with them all, in the span of little more than a week.

The cafés and restaurants I can talk about, and I will:

Brunch at Dan Turèll in St. Regnegade. You can always count on café Dan Turèll! Actually, when Uncle Danny was alive you could count on him too. He might have seemed rather flippant, but he always kept an appointment and was well prepared and on time. At least when I dealt with him (in the prehistoric times when I was in the music biz).

Dinner with Emil at Sticks’n’Sushi, Gl. Kongevej. The decor was some of the most original and beautiful I’ve seen in a restaurant.

Sticks’n’Sushi back room. Picture taken from their homepage.

The food was excellent and matched the price.

Brunch at Emmery’s in Hellerup. The food is top quality, but the service isn’t. When I pay more than 40 dkr for a cup of coffee, I expect the service to be friendly and impeccable, which it wasn’t. And I expect the toilets to be spotlessly clean and have both hand towels and toilet paper. I was there three times in one week and each time one or more of the toilets lacked one or two of these things.

Dinner at Wagamama. The food was good as it generally is at Wagamama (tried one in London, one in Brisbane, one in Sydney and one in Sydney airport), but the service rather helter skelter. Generally, it’s problematic when several waiters serve the same table. The same problem seemed to occur at above mentioned Emmery’s.

Morning coffee at Kafferiet on Esplanaden. Has been one of my all time favourite coffee shops since Dane was a baby and I walked the pram on Kastellet every day. Still lovely and very recommendable.

Picture borrowed from Kafferiet’s homepage. Check that out by the way. Very original!

Tea & cake at Tante T in Victoriagade on Vesterbro. Very nice but very crowded place. Would like to come there when there are fewer people. Wonder when that is?

Lunch on the noisy but wonderfully sunny sidewalk outside Björg’s on Vester Voldgade. Not all that interesting, but fair enough at the price.

Breakfast at Dag H on Østerbro. Nice coffee…

Lunch at Sommersko. Rather like Dan Turèll, dependable. The potatoe wedges were great.

Coffee at another Emmery’s. Jægersborg Allé, Gentofte. Nicer atmosphere, smaller place.

While waiting for David and Dane to arrive from England, I went to the Grand cinema and saw an absolutely wonderful Swedish film by Simon Staho: Himlens Hjärta. If you’re in a relationship or if you ever intend to commit yourself to one, go see this film. It’s like a lighter, updated version of Ingmar Bergmann’s Scener fra et Ægteskab. Since I first saw him in a film, I’ve been a fan of Mikael Persbrandt. He’s one of those actors who always burns through the screen. Although he denies it, he seems to have had some sort of problems (very likely involving alcohol) for a period of time, because now he looks slim and fit and a good deal better than last time I saw him in a film. I snatched the picture at salongk.se.

Breakfast at Kenya Kaffesalon on Strandvejen in Hellerup. Nice little place with free wi-fi. We always appreciate that!

Family lunch at Brede Gamle Spisehus. Unfortunately the weather was not on our side, so we couldn’t go for a walk in the beautiful surroundings. Brede Gamle Spisehus was always nice, but seems to be living a little too much off their reputation. Neither this time nor the last time we were there, did the food quite live up to former standards. At first we had a very nice and  very attentive waiter, but then he was replaced by two women of which the eldest apparently was the owner’s wife. She wasn’t very nice and they both kept forgetting our orders. Rather irritating!

Coffee at Hacienda in Ørstedsparken. When the sun is shining, this is the ultimate place for advanced people watching. We spent hours there and among many characters met this charming fellow, who promoted himself and Save the Children at the same time.

Dinner at Don Don’s. OK – but no more than that. I strongly disapprove of having my dinner served on plastic when I’m actually eating in a restaurant. I would guess that all that plastic leaves more of a carbon footprint than the washing up of plates does?

Now we’re back in England and Dane has started school. So far, he likes it!

PS: Just discovered that somebody has immortalized me by making an entry about me on Wikipedia. Beat that! Wouldn’t it be nice though, if it weren’t for past achievements but for something I’d done/written lately? Anyway, it’s funny and not entirely correct! 

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Sunday Lunch in Oldfield Wood

After not having had a home since September 2007 it felt a real luxury to invite some of the family over for Sunday lunch yesterday. As you non-English readers may or may not know, Sunday lunch is still an established thing over here. Not everybody does it and not every Sunday, but the butchers and supermarkets certainly cater to it, as do the pubs, so it’s not obsolete as it is in Denmark. When my great grandmother was alive we had Sunday lunch at her house almost every week, but since then the family gatherings have become less frequent and a lot more formal. That’s not something that’s particular to my family, I don’t know of any other family in Denmark who does Sunday lunches on a regular basis.

I’d cooked real food – what a nice treat! A roast leg of lamb with a glaze, diced potatoes and parsnips, sweet onions and garlic* with green beans and broccoli. And gravy, not least… Very traditional, but lovely all the same.

After lunch the sun came out (more or less for the first time in weeks) and we scuttered outside. Dane quickly convinced David, Chris and Colette to play a game of tennis – it’s tempting now that his uncle Chris has donated several rackets, a dozen or so balls and a rather ingenious contraption that picks up the balls without you having to bend down.

When everybody were sweaty and tired (not me and Granddad, we’d just been watching and picking up the odd stray ball), we returned to the flat for tea, coffee and Canasta.

What a truly ordinary yet lovely way to spend a Sunday!

* Here’s a little tip I found in Sainsbury’s Magazine: For a roast in the oven (in this case leg of lamb) when you want to have onions and garlic in the bottom of the pan to enrich the gravy: Peel and halve the onions and separate the cloves, then boil them for app. 10 minutes before you put them in the pan with the roast – they become much sweeter that way. For six people use 8-10 smallish onions and 1-2 heads of garlic.

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Oh no!

Up early, all eager and happy. Arrive at new flat in excellent mood and lovely sunshine with son and helpful sister-in-law. Get call from movers that they can’t get through gate. Look like big questionmark – gate is very wide, removals lorries, delivery vans etc. drive in and out every day. Appears they‘ve used a 17 meter long giant-lorry to transport our stuff…

Must be the one at the back…

Bottom line – they drive back to depot, reload our stuff into a smaller vehicle (See, it’s possible, it fits!!!) and come back. On Monday.

I don’t cry about things like that, but I do feel very, very disappointed!

So tonight we’re back with our hospitable and patient family for another weekend with nothing much to do.

While sitting in the almost-empty flat waiting for a delivery (new vaccuum cleaner), I found that one of the undoubtedly nice neighbours has left his/her router without protection, so I’ve been perusing the Internet most profusely in my echoing and almost-empty kitchen.

Here’s some of the interesting things I’ve read today:

The Independent tells about research that has now proved that some colour additives bring on or enhance ADHD or “just” generally unruly behaviour in children. If this subject interests you, be sure to check out the other articles in the series, found at the bottom of the story.

My heart fluttered a little when I saw this headline:

The Email Habits That Make People Hate You

because I use e-mail a lot and often wonder why some some people don’t reply. Maybe they just don’t care about me and think I’m a general nuisance (just let it lie there, will you…), or maybe I’m just breaking lots of e-mail rules and annoy people that way? I was relieved to learn that I only really break a couple of the rules (4 & 5) and only some times.

On my friend Gabriela’s blog I found this wonderful speach to the American people, which made me laugh out loud. I thought of John Cleese only yesterday when I overheard two Englishmen doing their traditional good bye routine, where both parties try to pile as many compliments and niceties on top of the other person as possible within a couple of minutes. Cleese & Co. had a lovely sketch about that once upon a time. Maybe one day I’ll try to locate it on Youtube. If you’re one of those people with sticky brains and long memories, please tell me the name of the sketch and where to find it.

The Chief Happiness Officer had a look at office pranks and this is his favourite. It’s mine too. But I couldn’t help wondering when these people work and what they do?

Finally, I learned that videos can now be uploaded to Flickr. So I tried it – and it worked. Next step is to learn how to embed videos here on the blog. I just haven’t had sufficient time online to look into these matters, but mark my words, I will SOON! After all, on my old and much simpler Danish blog, I embedded videos succesfully.

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We’ve got a home

now all that’s missing is the furniture, which should supposedly arrive Thursday or Friday this week (cross your fingers, would you?). We just can’t wait – having vivid dreams of sleeping in our own bed again with our own duvets etc. Oh, what luxury!

Our flat (rented) is in a converted convent. On the pictures you see the whole convent and the part we’re going to live in and the fireplace in what used to be the convent library, but will now be our livingroom! Woah!

We’ve been windowshopping for a variety of necessities, both online and IRL. It has been both fun and exhausting! Except for a bed and a chest of drawers for Dane, we haven’t actually bought anything yet, since it’s probably best to be on the actual premises before you start acquiring stuff. Oh, but that’s not quite true; yesterday we ordered cable-TV, phoneline and (most important!!!) broadband to be installed. It should all be in place by the middle of the following week, so by then we’ll really have moved in…

In the meantime we’ve been enjoying the company of the family, the boys playing endlessly, the grown-ups chatting, cooking, eating, teasing each other and playing cards. Several members of the family play a neat hand of Canasta. I’m still a total novice, having to be reminded of one rule or the other every 10 minutes. But it’s still fun – we were never card players in my family, so I only know how to play a few games.

The second week we were here, we had a much missed visitor: Dane’s best friend Adam came to visit over Easter and it was the happiest of reunions. We were glad to see his parents too, but that was quite overshadowed by the happiness of the two boys.

On a lovely day with the promise of spring in the air, we visited the Brooklands museum, with a vast collection of old and not-so-old airplanes and cars. It was just down Dane’s and David’s alleys, but I have to admit that I got a bit bored after the first 2-3 hours…

Such an impressive and beautiful aircraft – what a pity we’ll never get the chance to fly in it!

Check the flag on the tail of the aircraft!

Today we woke up to what was an expected change in the weather. All the same it was quite a shock to look out of the window and see this:

Sure, it’s pretty, but honestly, it’s April 6th and this is Surrey, England, not Denmark!

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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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The Quetzal and Costa Rican hospitality

We had heard and read about the rare resplendent Quetzal before we took our tour of the cloud forest. And as they estimate that only 50 pairs are breeding in Monte Verde’s cloud forest, we hadn’t imagined seing more than a fleeting glimpse of this incredibly beautiful bird. But again we were so lucky – our guide spotted a beautiful male perched on a branch no more than 20 meters away, maybe less (I’m no good at estimating weight and lenght and that sort of thing). Anyway, we could see it clearly with the naked eye and close up with our binoculars and with the guide’s telescope, through which the above photograph was taken.

On the three hour trip we also saw a number of different colourful hummingbirds (very noisy birds! I’d never have imagined), a rather large tarantula (asleep in its hole, luckily) and a number of other birds and dozens of different orchids and other exotic greenery.

In the afternoon it was time for our visit with the Monte Verde fair trade spokesperson Guillermo and his family. His beautiful, charming 14-year old oldest daughter Maria showed us the way – in 100% perfect English, since Guillermo and his wife Ana have their children in the Quaker school, where they are taught a number of classes in English. We share many values with the Quakers, catholic Guillermo and Ana told us. Well, we do too!

Ana is a gifted artist, who paints, does ceramics and mosaics and has left no part of their intriguingly beautiful home untouched by her magic. There are no pictures – you must imagine it. We were treated to home baked bread and – of course – coffee. We had a lovely time and probably overstayed our welcome…

The next day we followed the bumpy road down to the Guanacaste peninsula towards our next destination: Tamarindo. The town of Tamarindo, sitting on the most beautiful stretch of beach, a surfer’s dream, is on the brink of over-development. It’s brimming with American tourists and surfer bums and on every street corner, somebody is trying to sell you a time share apartment.

The hotel our travel agent had provided turned out to be quite awful, which was a surprise, since the other two hotels had been so nice and we hadn’t been warned that this one was below standard. Not only was it practically ON the extremely dusty and noisy road, the rooms were tiny, had no space for clothes, let alone empty suitcases. There were around 10 worn-out plastic chairs scattered around the minuscule swimming pool and the so-called children’s pool was the size of a large bathtub. But that was the least of it – the room was filthy and it was full of very large ants. They were everywhere, litterally. So we checked out. And are now at the lovely Capitan Suizo where we were lucky to get their smallest room (considerably larger than the other one, though) at a very good price. And that includes impeccable service, a beautiful garden full of exotic animals, a huge swimming pool and breakfast. And very, very friendly and competent staff.

As Tamarindo isn’t really our kind of place, we spend the most of our time by the pool or walking along the beach in the surf. Which isn’t at all bad… Both Dane and we enjoy the fantastic wildlife in the hotel’s garden.

A howler monkey. A flock of them are always around the hotel and have the kindness to wake up the guests around 6:30 in the morning with their unmistakable howling. But they are such fun to watch.

The iguanas are all over the garden and after a day or two you stop getting near heart attacks every time one of them comes hobbling down the path. They climb the trees but aren’t that good at it, so regularly you hear a big thump and it’s one of the iguanas, which has fallen out of a tree! A couple of raccoons can be seen every evening and they are practically tame, as are many of the birds here. It really is heaven for children!

A couple of howler monkeys silhouetted against the evening sky.

More pictures here – as usual.

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On the road again…

We’ve left San Francisco. It was a bit sad, we’d come to love the city, the area, the house. But we’re now en route to Las Vegas to meet my brother, who accidentally won a ticket to Vegas in some competition that he’d entered without thinking too much about it. Together we’ll drive out and see Grand Canyon, the last great sight on our American journey.

On our last day, we had lunch in San Francisco. I’d been complaining that we’d been a whole month in SF and hadn’t had Chinese food. We went to the Far East Café on Grant Street and had a traditional family lunch there together with hordes of Chinese. Nice finishing touch!

Dane’s fortune cookie said: Life to you is a dashing and bold adventure. For those of you who know him, this probably rings a bell :-) Mine said: Investigate new possibilities with friends. Now is the time! Anyone up?

Last night we spent at a La Quinta hotel in Bakersfield, CA. And this afternoon we’ll join my brother at the not-so-new-and-shiny Tropicana hotel on the Strip in Vegas. Will be interesting! Talked to him yesterday and asked: What’s Vegas like? And he kept saying: Different, different…

Remember to check out pictures here.

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