CHAPTER 6 : AMERICA (13 trips there altogether) SEE GROUPS BELOW
STOP PRESS: I did not know it then with all those trips to America, thirteen in all, that we would now have a gorgeous little American grandson Benny.
FOURTEEN STATES IN FOURTEEN DAYS 1992
Fourteen states in fourteen days, This was an orientation tour to America in order to put some groups together, so we would know what was best for people to see. We did this because North West airlines offered agents in Australia a very special price when they introduced the trans-polar flights from New York via Japan to Australia. The trip was fast but we saw a lot of the United States of America in a limited time. John and I decided we would just share one case, big mistake, this just did not work, and we decided then and there never again! Nearly caused a divorce.
First stop was Honolulu, Hawaii for a quick tan to look “the part”. In our two day stay there, we were right on Waikiki beach and took in all the beach sights of this lay-back relaxed holiday destination, as well as hiring a car and driving right around the island of Oahu, which is easily done in a day, as long as one remembers to stay on the ‘wrong’ side of the road. We stated right on the trip in the Sheraton Waikiki, in an ocean facing balcony room which was just lovely to watch sunsets over the water and listen to the Hawaiian music from the live band below at pool-side. Utopia.
A great nightspot to have a memorable beer, was Moose McGillycuddy’s Bar. Swimming at Honolulu is quite an experience, it is the only place in the world the water smells and tastes like coconut oil, thanks to so many tourists excessive cheap sunscreen. Waikiki beach does not have big waves or swells, these are to be found right up at the northern end of Oahu.
Next, on to California to catch up on friends Deb and Jack Aakhus at El Segundo, I first met Deb Lawrence-Aakus who worked for Insight International tours with whom I went on my first educational tour to Europe, We had some enormous slushy margarita’s of course and a little Mexican cuisine, and checked out the old Queen Mary now a hotel at Long Beach Ca.
and then go by car driving on to Palm Springs where all the wealthy Americans while away their leisure time. Staying at the Marriott, we took in all the luxuries offered, having been told on check-in and escort to our suite – we had just missed out on Liz and Larry. I was about to ask, who the f…. are Liz and Larry when the “penny dropped” Elizabeth Taylor and Larry Fortensky one of her husbands! The suite was large enough to have had Ma and Pa Kettle and all their kids, just huge, complete with dining room setting and eight dining chairs, over-looking a lake and golf-course you only see the like in glossy brochures. A boat with captain in white uniform picked us up in the atrium and sailed us across the lake to the Japanese Restaurant.
Memorable too (not) at Palm Springs was the ‘herbal wrap’ that cost an arm and a leg – almost literally, as the purveyor of steaming hot towels (I think a lady from some German military establishment) seemed to forget we were cooking in swaddling steam towels and as we had been told on being “wrapped up” with cucumber slices on the eyes and lips, and told not to speak for half an hour, imagine me not speaking for half an hour, this imposition was almost too much to handle. I now deem, ‘herbal wraps’ in the realm of masochism along with the other alternatives offered “Loofah Scrub”, “Full body Algae Mask”. All little Deb and I got out of it was a massive headache. Never again!
AERIAL TRAMWAY Whilst in Palm Springs, not to be missed is the Aerial Tramway ride rising 8,000 feet to the peak at San Jacinto mountain passing through 5 different ecological and vegetation zones on the way up – from desert to alpine at the top with 20 degrees change to cooler.Once at the top you can look down over the hot Sonoran Desert and Coachella valley below. It is so much more evident from up the top just how Palm Springs is just perched on the very edge of the desert. I must say, I must have gotten over my fear of heights by then! The tramway has been running since 1963 and carried hundreds of thousands of visitors to the top, so has a good safety record.
You rise up slowly to the first tower, where we rock a bit before then the steep one mile ascent over Chino Canyon up to dock at Mountain station and the observation decks.
There are just the two Tram cars each car staying on its own cables, that hold a maximum of 80 passengers each, standing room only, no seats, these tram cars counter balance each other, they go up and down without turning around and you pass each other half way up, or down. It is truly amazing
Passing back from Palm Springs to L.A. does not happen,without a stop at the Cabazon Factory Stores where there are over 52 outlets – wow – towels are sold by the pound, and cheap. Pity this stop was so early in our journey. Only No.2 state!
Following all the normal L.A sites, we took an evening flight right across the continent, which was just like a Mary Poppins ride looking down on all the fairy lights below. America, not like Australia is lit up all the way, there is not one patch where you don’t see some lights.
We then landed at sun-up at Memphis, Tennessee. There we partook in an airport breakfast of grits and gravy with friend Ginger and her husband of friends Judith and Harley, before flying on to New Orleans, Louisiana.
Oh! my – does that place swing? New Orleans the jazz capital of the world, just buzzes with the sounds of jazz coming from every nook and cranny all day and all night, giving forth a mood not to be forgotten. Down the French Quarter, it all happens – that spicy Cajun cooking, that cocktail of Creole culture, swing and Bourbon Street go to make a unique atmosphere.
A Dinner cruise on a paddle-steamer on the Mississippi along with a Dixieland Band it just the “cat’s whiskers” and next day a visit to Bayou country and old Southern homes along the levy-banks, surrounded by huge magnificent trees complete with Spanish beard, just like in the movies.
It was hard to leave Louisiana, and we said au revoir reluctantly as we flew over Lake Pontchartrain and its long causeway to the big apple New York, New York.
Start spreading the news… we were about to hit the epitome of big city living. That place, just has it all, what pizzazz, it really is ritzy and glitzy, so we just had to stay at the Waldorf Astoria,(where else)? It is right on Park Avenue on 50th Street, this hotel, since 1931 embraces both the rich tradition of New York along with sophisticated contemporary life-style. You know you are there when you are standing in the elegant old foyer with its iconic clock. The people staying there look very classy, well they must be we were there!
We planned a big surprise, we had booked our dear friends and clients Ian and Marilyn Mosel from Adelaide to New York and new they were staying at the Mayflower on Central Park so we, called their apartment and they were absolutely thrilled to see us, so we just had to go to a Broadway Show, the one chosen “Five Guys Named Mo” as we were with our friend Mo and his wife Marilyn. We even had a chance to dance on a Broadway stage when the cast invited a conga-line from the audience up and over the stage, but that is one thing I always regret that I did’nt dance on Broadway, because I was stuck in the middle of a long row. After the show a stroll down Times Square where Broadway meets 42nd Street, and supper at Woody Allen’s night spot.Funny thing happened here, we arrived in time for the second sitting to be in a very long cue. And I hate cues, so on skirting the cue and asking at the entrance how long till Woody’s next show, and being told 10 minutes, I yelled out “Woodies not coming back tonight” (ha ha, guess what…. He did’nt !)
Next day the full New York tour, taking in the mandatory Empire State Building. Funny thing happened on the way on walking out, I said to John, there is Greg our local bank accountant, and who lived in our street. To which, I was told “don’t be so bloody stupid Colleen, every one looks like Groucho Marx in New York”. On returning home I asked at the local bank, where Greg was, to be told he was in New York at the time.
Then on to the ferry to Liberty Island and the Statue of Liberty, the Lincoln Centre,Central Park, Rockefeller Centre, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Wall Street, China town. A visit to The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine was an inspiration as it is a vibrant living, working church, still being built, with stone-masons carving and creating in the vestibules. They say the blessing of the animals on St. Francis of Assisi Day is something to behold with everything from pythons to elephants to goats and monkeys entering through the mighty entrance.
That night was a real treat, we met up with friends from Adelaide Ian and Marilyn Mosel who we had booked to the states who were staying at the Mayflower Hotel on Central Park, for a sunset dinner at ‘Windows on the World’ on the 107th floor of the World Trade Centre. The meal, of Baked Snails, Smoked Skin Crisp Fillet of Salmon and New York cheesecake was secondary only to the view. The wine waiter was very pleased to offer a 1988 Jacobs Creek Red, the cheapest bottle on the wine-list to us Australians! It was such a thrill to catch a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty, so tiny, down below about 3mm high to the naked eye.
We actually went to the top of the World Trade Centre twin towers twice, once for dinner and once with our group in 1994, and it is a very surreal and eerie memory to think we were there at another time another place. Timing in this life plays such a huge part doesn’t it?
It’s off again, this time on Amtrak, a great way to see America, swinging out in first class seats, on the rail-line, for a great view of Manhattan before heading up state through New Haven, Connecticut to Providence, Rhode Island and on to Boston Massachusetts our next ‘port of call’. A Boston Tea Party it was indeed. We did the Freedom Trail, taking in Faneuil Hall, and Copley Square, alighting at Boston Common to have a beer at the ‘Cheers Pub’.
We visited an old school chum of mine, Grahame in Boston. He and I were best friends all through primary and high school, and his University days in Adelaide. (see photo in Chapter 1) He was living with Richard in Boston.
We then caught up with other friends Cathy Toohey who taught our kids at Mendooran Central school as an exchange teacher from the states, and she took us driving up through New Hampshire to Portsmouth for lunch,- very English, as is all this New England area and into Maine. This was where we had lunch on the way, the day we went to Bangor!
Our next little expedition, was a TPRO coach tour was with a bus full of non-English speaking Spanish tourists, we could not speak any Spanish and they no English so was a funny trip up through the Catskill mountains and Finger Lakes district to the “other New York”, delightful countryside, to “shuffle off to Buffalo“.
We got on well with the Spaniards understanding their body language and gesticulations, and toward the end of the tour it was funny because they would say “sing Woodwards” so John and I would sing “Start spreading the news, we’re leaving today, New York, New York”.
We had two nights in this small city, and can answer the question, does Niagara Fall? Yes it does, and in spectacular fashion – this wonder of nature, has to be seen to be believed and having been once seen, you just can’t wait to get back for another look. I have now seen it from over-head and under-neath and along-side. Yellow rain-coats denote the tunnel vision, blue-raincoats the Maid of the Mist boat trip.
You also see it from this side and that side, meaning the US side, but the Canadians say their side looks better. The Skylon Tower with its revolving restaurant affords the best view by far, and a sunset dinner there, seeing the illumination of the falls, is quite spectacular.
Our coach took us down through Corning and its glass factory and museum, through Pennsylvania where we saw the Amish people going about their traditional farming methods of horse drawn plough and all-natural means of cultivation. No electricity or modern day conveniences such as cars are allowed. Horse and buggy are still the only means of transport. Here the woman-folk are the back-bone of the life-style doing almost every chore. Next on to Gettysburg where we visited the stirring reminder of the bloody Civil War fought in this area, by driving through the actual battle-field where one can sense the very atmosphere of death by battle, from canons fired from armaments still standing in position there. Now through Maryland to our next stop, Washington D.C.
This is a beautiful city, with wide boulevards and cosmopolitan flare. It is extremely well planned with stirring landmarks and monuments. We saw the White House, Washington Monument, took a stroll through Arlington National Cemetery to view the Kennedy’s grave-sides, took a visit to the Smithsonian Institute which houses so many gems of cultural and historical value.
Visited the Jefferson Memorial and Lincoln Memorial staring back toward the Capitol building. The Vietnam memorial and Korean statuettes are a more modern addition, the former still having a tearful and moving affect on many Americans and Australians who visit the long wall of names of those giving their lives in a war that is still deemed as un-necessary. We travelled to Alexandria, Virginia (our 14th state) the delightful early settlement town on Potomac River for a seafood dinner and strolled through the lovely little novelty shops,this place really has atmosphere. Then back to Washington to see the Illuminations tour of the Washington monuments which was a real highlight. Those Washingtonian “pollies” sure know how to live. I have to tell you, whilst staying at The Mayflower Renaissance hotel on Connecticut Avenue, you get the feeling these rooms have a story to tell of politicians spending some extra-curricular time. If only those walls could tak, shh! the walls have ears!
From here we went north through Baltimore to Philadelphia where we visited Independence Hall and saw the Liberty Bell here,
Well, we did it, fourteen states in fourteen days, and we took off from J.F.K airport for the trans-polar -Arctic circle flight to Osaka in Japan, to explore that lovely country for a total stay of 3 days! Thereby, hangs another tale, read in Chapter 4. I must say this flight we got upgraded to first class which was marvelous, first for first and last time.
This means we have now flown over 2 poles as well as 14 states! Well around the south pole anyway after we refuelled at Tierra del Fuago en-route from Buenos Aires back to Sydney.
HWT COWRA GROUP TO USA & ROCKY MOUNTAINS 30th JUNE 1993
The first of the 2 groups we took to the states was on 30th June 1993. This first group of 32 to first stopover at the Princess Kaiulani Hawaii.
We showed them all the sights we did the trolley car around Honolulu, visited the Arizona memorial to Pearl Harbour, took them for a stroll around most of the travel draw cards, including the Pink Palace.
Here we had bachelor Tom with us, but this was fraught with a farcical beginning where on our first night out from Australia, Ernie who was sharing a room with Tom at the Princess Kaiulani Hotel in Waikiki, came down for dinner declaring “I think Tom is dead! I said “Oh no”, (not a stiff on our first group tour to America) Ernie said “ I have tried waking him by banging everything in sight, door, toilet seat etc, not even a blink from Tom”. So I psyched myself up to see a ‘dead person’ took the keys to open Tom’s door, but got a bit scared, so I phoned his room on the in-house phone, and a chirpy Tom answered the phone, to which I said “Oh Tom, you’re still alive!” and he replied with “What time’s dinner”?
Tom who turned 80 at our day in Disneyland where we gave him a donut with a candle in it and a Mickey Mouse shirt and he said it was the best birthday he had ever. Tom actually lived to be 98.
We then flew to LA spending three nights staying down at Anaheim where we went to Disneyland and visited Universal Studios as well at Rodeo Drive, stopping for a toilet break at the Beverly Wilshire to the surprise of its guests seeing a troop of Aussies storm through the flash hotel.
We took a coach from Anaheim through to Las Vegas and another funny toilet stop mid-way in the middle of Death Valley where screams emanated from the toilet block, I thought because I had spied a sign saying ‘Beware of Rattle snakes” but no it was because our ladies had spotted another lady from Cowra not in our group also stopping at the same toilet.
We stayed 2 nights at the Flamingo Hilton Las Vegas doing their fabulous evening show of follies on ice. We did a day tour, flying out to the Grand Canyon in 2 separate aircraft, actually landing right at the South Rim airport where we were coached for scenic shots of the canyon then had lunch at a funny old pub there.
We then flew from Las Vegas direct to San Francisco, staying 2 nights at the Ramada Fisherman’s Wharf. We took the group on a cable car, visited Pier 39 and all its lovely shops, went to the Japanese gardens. Then did a full day coach tour down to scenic 17 mile drive, stopping at pretty Carmel village, Pebble Beach golf club where all the group hopped out and bought mementos in the Golf club house on to Monterey where we had lunch right on the wharf at Sabu Shake’s Old Fisherman’s Grotto restaurant famous for its clam chowder. Sabu was famous as he appeared in the 1937 movie The Elephant Boy, from Rudyard Kipling’s ‘Jungle Book”.
We spent a few hours at the Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo, also known as the Carmel Mission is on the National Register of Historic Landmarks, started in 1770. It has many different buildings all with a very obvious air of spiritual and natural beauty and significance. There is the Basilica church the centrepiece of the Mission, where the walls are 5 foot thick. There is a beautiful courtyard with a well, a chapel and lovely gardens. The cemetery has a history to tell, as many indigenous Indians were killed here when the Spanish first arrived.
Whilst in San Francisco and on the way back from Monterey our Coach driver Richard had thought us a lovely bunch of Aussie visitors and impromptu decided to ask us all back to his house for afternoon tea! So he phoned his wife up on his cell phone and said “Dear I am bringing 35 people for afternoon tea” because do you remember when we went to Europe, specifically Switzerland, we would have loved to have visited a private home there. We thought his wife would kill him, but no she had cakes laid out, glasses of cool drinks, cups of tea and coffee and really spoilt us with Californian hospitality. Their delightful unobtrusive bungalow was very comfortable and the rear of it faced one of the water canals of San Francisco.
We then flew direct from San Francisco to Vancouver where we then joined an Australian Pacific Tours 10 day Royal Canadian Rockies tour with a lovely host named Bobby Robinson and driver John.
Our first stop was Vancouver where we went to see scenic Stanley Park with its totem poles, cyclists galore, lovely walking areas etc, and Queen Elizabeth Park with its famous Bloedel observatory, an indoor tropical garden with flora and birds. We walked the Capilano suspension bridge, and visited Gastown.
Then up through Leavenworth where we stayed overnight, then on to Lake Louise where we stayed at the Inn and paid a visit to the Chateau at Lake Louise where we explored the beautiful environs.
Next day we visited beautiful Moraine Lake and the valley of the 10 peaks, before following the Bow River to Banff Springs staying at wonderful Banff Springs Hotel. Banff is a lovely town, lots of beautifully appointed specialty gift shops, We did the gondola car to the top of Sulphur mountain with 360 degree views for miles over the widest valley from the summit ridge.
From Banff we went to the Columbia Icefield and went up to the Glacier in the Ice explorer vehicles with the hugest tyres and stood on the Athabasca glacier. Then on to view Peyto lake which looks like blue crepe paper, and Bow lake surrounded by high pine trees both memorably scenic.
Next on to very scenic Jasper for the night before going on to Calgary for one of the highlights of this tour “The Calgary Stampede”
Now the Calgary Stampede is quite something, it is huge, you could spend days there exploring the different attractions such as the ballroom dancing tent, the boot scooting line dancers tent, native Indian Teepees, animal exhibitions in the Saddledomewhere the animals were so different from what we see in Australia, huge breeds of draught horses, buffalo, funny looking sheep etc.
There were staged items with a very good Elvis Presley impersonator, could have been the real thing. This is all besides the main attraction the covered chuck wagon horse races which we watched from the Grandstand restaurant behind glass high above the race track where stage shows were also held with marching bands etc.
We then came back through Kamloops at the Dome where we had a lovely evening meal in the round dome, followed by karaoke where Maurie, and John and David sang their hearts out until midnight. It was in Kamloops where Mamma was looking for bear. We then left on the ferry from Horseshoe Bay terminal North Vancouver to Victoria on Vancouver island, where we stayed for 2 nights.
John had a cousin Carina in Victoria he called to see whilst there. Victoria has the magnificent Fairmont Empress Hotel where the rest of us went to have a very special high tea, where you feel like royalty.
Whilst there of course we had to visit the splendid Butchart Gardens, and whilst there we had 3 people in wheel chairs to push around, Mamma whose legs had blown up to twice size because she refused to take her diuretic pills, because they would make her pee! Shirley who had fallen over a low wall in the Victoria’s museum of natural history, and Hal who was having trouble walking.
The Butchart gardens are a phenomenon, built in an old limestone quarry originally by one woman Jennie Butchart started in 1908. The Butcharts began with a Japanese garden, then an Italian garden on their tennis court, then a rose garden where their vegetable patch was. The only remnant of the former cement quarry, is a tall chimney in the sunken garden, which does not look at all out of place.
I have been fortunate to visit in spring, summer and autumn, all very different exhibitions of flowers, but spring has to be voted the best with hanging baskets alive with colour. The most magnificent sight was the hanging baskets of Schizanthus, Cineraria, Tuberous Begonia, Alyssum, Lobelia, etc. In early spring if you arrive in May you can see the Wisteria over the walkways, Azaleas in profusion, Rhododendron, Daphne, Lilac, Philadelphus (mock orange) the Anemone, Camellia, Hyacinth, Tulips, Pansy, Primula.
Then in June tall Snap dragons, and Foxglove, Linaria, Stocks, Columbine, Oriental Poppy, Fuchsia, Salvia, Zinnia, Phlox, Marigold, Roses blooming. The gift shop there is to ‘die for’ so many things you would like to buy.
Vancouver island has to be one of the prettiest places in the world. We then caught the ferry from Victoria to Seattle staying one night and visiting the Boeing aircraft factory, the largest covered area in the USA, it has to be seen to be believed housing hundreds of aircraft in the making. An interesting visit to see the Pike place fish markets and had a lovely sunset dinner from on top at the Seattle Space Needle tower.
Then flew Seattle to Los Angeles home.
WE TOOK ANOTHER HWT COWRA GROUP BACK TO USA & CANADA 1996
We began with a Brennans 10 day tour “Majestic Canada” 11 days beginning in Seattle.
In this group we had Mr Ron & Mrs Della Toohey, Bill Muir, Ted & Colleen Smith, Lola Frecklington, Betty Rush, Mr & Mrs Robson, David Bigg, Andrew & Audrey Gidney, Marie Delaney, Annette, Nancy, Mrs Phyllis Nicolson (portion of trip) also Lyall and Judy Amos and Ernie & Barbara Porter (part of the trip)
John and I had done this trip in 1991 with Brennans Tours as a foretaste to escort this group to. Staying one night and visiting the Boeing aircraft factory, the largest covered area in the USA, it has to be seen to be believed housing hundreds of aircraft in the making. An interesting visit to see the Pike place fish markets and had a lovely sunset dinner from on top at the Seattle Space Needle tower.
From Seattle we took the ferry across to Victoria on beautiful Vancouver island, staying two nights. The Butchart gardens are a phenomenon, built in an old limestone quarry originally by one woman Jennie Butchart started in 1908. The Butcharts began with a Japanese garden, then an Italian garden on their tennis court, then a rose garden where their vegetable patch was. The only remnant of the former cement quarry, is a tall chimney in the sunken garden, which does not look at all out of place.
Then we caught the ferry back to Vancouver where we visited scenic Stanley Park with its totem poles, cyclists galore, lovely walking areas, and then to Queen Elizabeth Park with its famous Bloedel observatory, an indoor tropical garden with flora and birds. We walked the Capilano suspension bridge and walked around Gastown.
We caught the train from Vancouver north station up to Whistler staying overnight at Whistler Inn. Whistler is such a pretty little village in the summer to wander around, walk down to the golf course covered with tulip beds. We had drinks at the Chateau Whistler, before tiptoeing back through the tulips like ‘Tiny Tim’ after too many Budweisers, and then caught the train up to 108 mile, staying at 108 mile resort a pretty place on the side of a hill overlooking a lake where a show is put on, we remember the dualing banjo’s.
We then re-boarded our coach that had travelled parallel to the train line up to the Rocky Mountains staying at The Whistlers at Jasper. Below see this funny scene of Brown Bear leaning ona car, the lady passenger is getting closer to the driver each minute, but what about the guy taking photos on the road, doesn’t he know, bear can outrun man every time!
The next day we went through to Calgary for the Calgary Stampede. One of the features this day was the World Marchin championships in the Saddledome as well as the regular chuck wagon races etc.
Then back late that night from Calgary to Lake Louise where we stayed right on the Lake at the famous Chateau for 2 nights, undoubtedly one of the world’s best hotels where we dined.
From here we visited Moraine Lake and saw the Natural bridge over the Bow Riverand the Valley of the Ten peaks, on up to the Columbia Icefields and on to the Athabasca glacier. Then on to Banff this time staying at the high rise Rimrock Resort Hotel right at the foot of the gondola cars to the top of Sulphur Mountain which the group did.
We coached from Banff to overnight at the lovely Penticton Lakeside Resort in the Okanagan valley right on the Lake in the middle of the stone fruit growing bowl, we had a very refreshing swim here in the lake. Then next day back to Vancouver, before we farewelled Phyl Nicholson and the Porters and Amos’s for our onward flight to Buffalo and Niagara Falls and the east side of USA
We stayed for 2 nights at Niagara Falls on the Canadian side, doing the Maid of the Mist on US side in blue rain coats, and again on the Canadian side in yellow raincoats.
We then joined a tour that took us down through the Gettysburg and Harrisburg, and Williamsburg and Civil Warfields through Virginia to Washington.
We stayed in Washington where we stayed for 2 nights visiting the White House, Smithsonian Institute, Abraham Lincoln memorial, Vietnam wall of fame, Arlington national cemetery, John F Kennedy’s graveside, etc.
Then on up to New York where we stayed 2 nights right on Times Square at the Milford Plaza. We visited the Statue of Liberty, Staten Island, Chinatown etc. We took the metro (an extremely uncomfortable ride, is as hot as hell down where the metro runs, I do not know for the life of me how commuters travel every day there) to the basement of Twin Towers World Trade Centre and caught the lift from there up the 107 floors to the top to the viewing platform, and this was just 5 years to the day prior to the September 11 raid on the World Trade Centre’s twin towers.
We visited the United Nations building which was extremely interesting. Our tour guide took us to dinner at Greewich Village on our last night in New York which was charming.
We then flew from New York to Los Angeles, staying 3 nights at Anaheim where we visited Disneyland, Universal Studios, Avenue of the Stars, Chinese Theatre, Olivieri Street, Dorothy Chandler pavillion, and Hollywood Homes and Rodeo Drive before flying home.
VENTURE HOLIDAYS EDUCATIONAL GROUP TO CALIFORNIA IN APRIL, 1992
Venture Holidays hosted another of their wonderful educationals of which I did 4, first one Thailand, then Hawaii, then this one to the states, then Penang and Malaysia, and there was another one, I just can’t recall, but I will.
On this educational our escort was the perennial “Wee Andy” Andrew McGinlay one of the nicest guys you could have wished to meet in the travel industry, a real gentleman, always a smile on his face, and willing to front up at karaoke. Also in this happy group of troupers, Jenny Williams (Venture) Jimbo Cooper, Val Shields, Kathy Habgood, Chris Pettit, Steve Crabtree, John Collins, Pat Pead, Mandy Davis, Robin Edgar, Brian Nicoll, Sue Denenberg, Eddie Young, Jacquie Scott, David Burns, Helen Touralis, Doris Drew and Melanie Clare.
This one we flew into San Francisco, staying at The Handlery Union Square Francisco, staying at the Handlery at Union Square from which we did all of the regular touristy things like hanging on the side of a “Clang, clang, clang goes the trolley” as Judy Garland used to belt out. Up and down the many hills down to Fisherman’s wharf and exploring Pier 39.We were lucky enough to do the Big Sur drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles, first stop Pebble Beach Golf Club. Monterey, Carmel shopping centre on our way down to Solvang.
Whilst we were at Solvang on 29 April we found out that the Rodney King riots had broken out in Los Angeles in which 53 lives were lost and we did not know if we could continue with our tour to be there the next day, right in the thick of the riots. Fortunately Venture Holidays management took the executive decision to continue on, so we did but with some curfews and restrictions set in place there.
So we continued south, I do not know why we did not stop at Randolph Hurst castle which is a real tourist stopper, just off the main road at San Simeon, I always sent people to on this route. But we did stop to see the fabulous Madonna Inn, famous for its 115 themes rooms and kitsch décor. You can actually go online and choose the room theme you want here, the are all, almost sickly to look at with patterns and unbelievable colour combinations. Some rooms the Golfers room, Fox and Hounds, cave and rock rooms are not too bad but some you would gag all night for instance Hearts and Flowers and Love Nest etc.
We proceeded down to lovely Santa Barbara where we went into the memorable Mission Church, down through Santa Monica and Venice Beach before driving right into the CBD of LA on Day 3 of the riots, to stay at the Westin Bonaventure an iconic landmark of LA with its 4 glass circular silos, very daunting edifice of modern times with the glass encased lifts rising up and down the outside of each cylinder. The first time you went up to the top you drew in a deep breath and hoped for the best.
It was Day 3 of the riots and the armed National guards were called in to take control of the city. Barricades were put up all the streets which made it look like a war zone. All entertainment and sports events had to be cancelled or shifted out of town. The riots were mostly contained in the Korean district, but our hotel was under lock-up for some time whilst President George W. Bush snr. was staying there for 2 nights from the Thursday.
A few of us Venture Holidayers ventured out amongst the national troops with their guns pointed at us as we strolled up the street, just us I might say there were no people about anyway, so we were really very game and tempting fate I might tell you, now with a little trepidation at what might have happened. The Home guards told us we should go back to our hotel, and we just kept walking. Uh Oh, But we strolled up to the Avenue of the Stars and Chinese Theatre, and checked out the lovely Biltmore Hotel.
Four of us, Dick Thornton,Val Shields, Steve Crabtree and myself hired a stretch limo to do the sights of Hollywood sign, Hollywood stars homes, Beverley Hills, Dorothy Chandler stadium which holds the annual Logies and Oscars presentations, etc.
On day 6 Mayor Bradley lifted the curfew. It was good to catch up with my little ex Insight International tours sales representative Deb Lawrence-Aakhus then living in Los Angeles with her partner Jack a Trek America guide whose photo often appeared on the front cover of the Trek America brochure in various poses on various rocks in various great national parks. We had a lovely evening dining right at the top of the Westin.
Bonaventure’s rooftop fine dining with fabulous views out over the city. Although LA as a city does not have much to recommend it. It is described very well as a city without a heart, very true, because it is busy and bustling during business hours, but when all the workers have commuted home, it is dead at night because there are not many restaurants in the CBD you have to go out to the suburbs like Beverley Hills etc for this. I was a bit worried about Deb driving home on her own, but she said she would be OK and I was relieved when she phoned a half hour later to find she had arrived back at their bungalow at El Segundo unharmed.
The group shifted down to the Holiday Inn at Anaheim where we all went to Disneyland, and the next day were taken by coach up to Universal Studios
Next day we had a free day so Deb showed me the beaches along the southern coast where we had a nice relaxing lunch at Hermosa Beach near El Segundo
Then the next day was a funny one where we hired cars and drove south down to San Diego where we went to Seaworld to see the killer whale show, it actually did kill one of the workers at the zoo not long ago.
MEXICO : We drove in hire cars down south from LA to San Diego Sea World then went through extensive checks at the border control to Mexico where we went to Tijuana to a Bull fight would you believe. Tijuana was a dirty, decadent looking city with obviously a lot of crime, there were lots of broken down very old rusty police cars with crooked tyres and dents everywhere cruising around all day. It was a funny day, as we had been drinking slushy Margarita’s there and we took them in large milk shake containers to the Bullfight sitting half way up the stand, things got very noisy and heated with the passion and emotion of the bullfight, and me feeling terribly sorry for the poor bulls who were mercilessly slaughtered and then unceremoniously dragged out of the stand, started yelling out “Come on the Bull” to which cushions, and cokes and God knows what got hurled in our direction! It appeared I was on the wrong team. It was all about the matador. Anyway we got out unscathed fortunately, although there was a car blown up in the car park when we got there. Just as well it wasn’t our hire car!
The next day we departed LAX for Sydney, still in one piece after a very eventful edifying, educational education.
WE TOOK ADAM ON OUR FIRST TRIP TO THE STATES IN 1989
Our very first trip to USA in 1989 we took Adam with us when he was 15 years old. We flew to LA staying at an airport hotel. The first thing we did was hire a stretch limo with an Ethiopian driver/guide, who introduced himself “just call me Zee” and he took us all over LA to see the Avenue of the stars, Chinese theatre, Hollywood homes and Hollywood sign, stopping at Rodeo drive for a window shop
We then joined a tour meeting our tour guide Graziana who would take us from LA through to San Francisco including next stop Las Vegas staying 2 nights at the Flamingo Hilton. I was amazed that Adam could go with us into the casinos at age 14, as long as he didn’t go too close to the slot machines or bars. I kept refusing drinks offered by casino staff at Caesar’s Palace, thinking they were pestering me, until I found out the drinks were free!
We did a flight over the Grand Canyon in a 6 seater plane, not touching down at the canyon on this trip. Funny thing happened when we went to board the 6 seater light aircraft for the flight over the canyon, our pilot said as we were about to board “my first flight”! To which I started to back away and asked “Ever”? “No for the day” was his quick and welcome reply.
From here the coach took us through Death Valley and Bakersfield where the returning space landings take place. Up through Fresno to stay the night in a hotel that we were told not to go out at night as this city was one of the most dangerous in all of America because of all the itinerant workers there in the food growing bowl. No one walks the streets here, only be vehicle from place to place. Interestingly enough our hotel was hosting a school graduation Ball that night, and all the graduates and guests came in twos by car.
From Fresno on to Yosemite National Park where we had the whole day in this beautiful spot, time to ride bicycles around to see the waterfalls, the Dome rock and you could almost see Hiawatha roaming with a bow and arrow in the native woods unchanged by humans or time there.
From Yosemite to San Francisco for 2 nights, in San Fran we did a coach trip up to Twin Peaks to view over the city, stopped at Pier 39, Graziana took us to show us the Hyatt San Francisco where the movie ‘Towering Inferno’ was filmed. We dined down in Chinatown.
We did the full day 17 mile drive down to Carmel, spent time at Carmel village shopping cute little specialty shops, visited the Monastery went to Pebble Beach Golf Club (of course Adam had to see the course) had lunch at Monterey wharf at Sabu Shake’s famous restaurant Old Fisherman’s Grotto , famous for its clam chowder. Sabu starred in the 1937 movie “Elephant Boy” based on Rudyard Kipling’s “Jungle Book”. We saw the house where the psycho movie “Birds’ was filmed with Australian actor Rod Taylor.
We actually stayed at the beautiful luxurious Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco which was a lovely place to end this tour. This hotel had the memorable with the glass walled outside lift, and the round seat in the hotel foyer, with all the world flags flying outside.
From here we flew back to LA and we went down to Anaheim for a few nights to visit Disneyland where John and Adam did ALL the rides there, and I did just one ‘the Tea Cups’! I am not partial to those dizzy rides. We also visited Universal Studios for the first of many times.
On the way home we had a couple of nights at Hawaii, where we hired a Nissan Maxima, and drove up north to see Turtle Bay Hilton, the Waimea Falls, Pipeline surfing beaches, right around the island. We stayed at the Sheraton Waikiki right on the beach which was fabulous.
We hope you have enjoyed this chapter on our travels to America and Canada.