Greetings Bloggers

Life. Not so long ago I had all the time in the world, to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. I was sometimes even *whisper* bored. What a young fool I was….

Only kidding. I love being busy. Life is good my blogging buddies. I have more work than I can do. My kids are both happy, settled and living life to the max – daughter just road-tripped during spring break to Texas and now wants to move to Austin – son is busy learning to blow up the world studying nuclear, atomic and plasma physics (well, he might not be blowing up the world, but I have no idea what he actually does at university). Husband got head-hunted and just started a new job and we’re about to sell our house and move to the next State over (Help!!) Oh and I’ve been ill and it dragged on for a whole 3 weeks. I don’t have TIME to be ill! All of which leaves me very little time for photography or blogging. But as a friend said to me, surely I can spare a few minutes (42 to be exact) to talk about life, the universe and everything.

So a couple of weekends ago, after 8 years of vague “oh yeah, we’ll come visit you soon!” we actually did go visit some friends in Cincinnati. A 3.5 hour drive from where we currently live was just far enough to be enjoyable but not too far to be “are we there yet?” I loved Cinci and enjoyed being touristy, but 2 of the highlights of the quick trip were Jungle Jims International food store and Nicholson’s Scottish Pub. Jungle Jim’s has a whole aisle of British food so $210 later we were sorted for crisps (potato chips), chocolate, biscuits, more chocolates, Magners Pear Cider, a tin of Quality Street (chocolates) and a tin of haggis. You can take the lassie out of Scotland… etc. etc.

Photography wise I was snapping away with my Fuji compact camera as I didn’t want to lug my DSLR all over the city. It does a fabulous job and it’s so easy to stick it in auto for night shots or when you don’t have time to mess about with the manual settings. Another thing on my ‘to-do’ list when I get some free time (hah!) is to look into Topaz Editing Software. I downloaded a free trial but haven’t had time to play about with it very much but for the five minutes I have used it for it was SO much fun! These pics were all edited with Topaz and I can see me having endless hours of fun with it.

Anyway just saying hi “Hi!” and letting you know life is good from where I’m sitting. Hope it’s good for all of you too.

Alba.

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Cincinnati buildings
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Cincinnati bridge
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Cincinnati Ball Park

 

Turnberry (more Scottish photographs)

Last month when I was home in Scotland on holiday (vacation for US bloggers) some friends took us out for the day to a lovely restaurant (Wildings in Maidens, Ayrshire – highly recommended!)

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Walking along the harbour wall in Maidens – I’ve always loved being near water, as a kid I was always coming home soaked to the skin!

We decided to have a wee walk along the Ayrshire coast to Turnberry.

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Looking towards Maidens from Turnberry

I have wanted to photograph the lighthouse for years and I finally got the chance.

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Turnberry Lighthouse

We were very lucky with the weather as you can see from the photographs because we got there before the storm came in.

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Turnberry Lighthouse

While I was wandering about the cliffs, deciding on the best place to photograph from, the rest of the gang were being impressed by a couple of cars driving up to the lighthouse – the first was a Bently and the second was a McLaren which really impressed the guys.  I couldn’t have told you what it was… next photograph is one my friend took with her phone of the McLaren and Mr. Alba trying not to look impressed as the car passed him by…

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McLaren, or if you’re like me, ‘A sporty black car’

So we got talking to a caddy, who told us for 3,000 GBPounds a night! you could rent a room in the lighthouse, which comes with it’s own private butler and chef. No wonder they’re driving McLarens and Bentleys!

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Turnberry with the isle of Arran in the background

All of the accents of the golfers we could hear were Americans btw. I’m not sure how much it costs to play golf at Turnberry, but probably the locals can’t afford it!

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Turnberry Golf Course (I think there’s 3 courses here but I’m not sure which one this is)

And of course there’s Turnberry Hotel itself. Beautiful and now owned by Mr. Trump, but I refuse to call it ‘Trump Turnberry’. This blog isn’t political at all and I am aware I’m a foreigner living in the USA but still it’s my blog and I can say it if I want – he’s an eejit….. but he does own a fabulous hotel and golf course!

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Turnberry Hotel

Edinburgh

Now that I’m finally back to normal (almost, pesky tickly cough is driving me nuts!) I’m only now getting round to editing my photographs from Scotland. This set is from the day we climbed Arthur’s Seat….

My son, who never gets to choose what we do as a family, was asked what he wanted to do the day we had to drop my mum off at Edinburgh Airport. He wanted to go climbing he told us; he wanted to climb Arthur’s Seat.

So off we go from the Park-and-ride at Edinburgh Airport on the tram to the city centre. I had a rough idea of where it was (behind the castle somewhere) so we decided to walk towards where we thought it was. Long story short is we found it in a roundabout kind of way. My family and friends always laugh at my directions because whenever anyone asks me where something is my reply is always “it’s just around the corner”. I actually have a good sense of direction, but maybe not as good a sense of distance.

Anyway we eventually end up at the bottom of Arthurs Seat and husband and I say to the kids that we are going up the ‘easy’ way and they can go up the hard way. I had looked it up on The Google and it said there were two ways to climb it. I should also have looked it up on a map because what we pointed out to the kids wasn’t Arthur’s Seat at all. It was Salisbury Crags. We didn’t realise this until our ‘easy’ route rounded the corner and there was an even bigger hill behind the one we’d just pointed the kids towards! About an hour later, after much huffing and puffing on my part, we reached the top and of course no kids! They’d done what we’d said (for once in their lives) and stayed at the top of the hill and didn’t move till we get there as none of our phones worked in Scotland apart from husbands. Well daughter is a sensible type, she is the one you’d call in a Zombie Apocolypse to help you out; son is the phone-a-friend in Who Wants to be a Millionaire, ie. no use in a crisis! We were certain she’d find wi-fi somewhere, which she did as Edinburgh actually has city-wide free wi-fi, so when she texted us with “where are you!” we were on the way back down.

Poor boy – the one thing he wanted to do the whole fortnight was climb Arthur’s Seat and he didn’t even get to do that. We offered to wait at the bottom till he climbed up it by himself, but by this time he was starving and food was more important than climbing. He did say he’d enjoyed climbing the Salisbury Crags though, and judging by the photos his sister took of him, I’m glad I wasn’t there to see him scale parts that were pretty dangerous looking to me. Yes, I’m a paranoid mum. Yes, he’s 20 years old, but he’s still my wee boy!

So here are some photographs from the top of Arthur’s Seat which I am happy to say I climbed without the need of oxygen!

 

Aloha, part 4

SO many more photographs… haven’t even begun to edit the helicopter trip photographs!

Anyway as a wee change from the scenery/landscapes that I’ve been posting, I thought I’d post some people pics. Most of these were taken with my compact (Fuji F900exr) so the quality isn’t as good, plus the lighting was bad at the Luau, but I think the atmosphere of the time was captured pretty well, so no, they’re not perfect shots, but they tell a story.

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Hula dancers

Telling the story, through dance, of the first people to settle in the Hawaiian islands from Polynesia.

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Beautiful Hula dancer

As I said, not the greatest photographs, but a great memory.

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Hawaiian dancer
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Laka

At the Luau we attended we sat next to some friendly people who were happy to tell us their life stories. A lot of people we talked to had been in the military and stationed there at one time or another and kept coming back. I think Hawaii must have that kind of effect on people.

We met some fascinating people in Kauai, everyone was so friendly and relaxed. The ‘Hang-loose’ atmosphere was evident everywhere.

One guy we talked to at the airport had flown over 400 helicopter missions in Vietnam and as he told us “Only got shot down 5 times”….. People kept coming up to him and shaking his hand and once he started talking to us another man told us the reason why he was being mobbed. He was so genuine and really down-to-earth and funny! Aren’t people great?

 

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Tiki carver

The local crafts were fabulous. We packed so much into a week that it would be impossible to relay it all, but I’m throwing up the next set of photographs as a quick guide to ‘things-to-see-in-Kauai.’

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Tikis
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Coffee plantation

Unfortunately I’m not a coffee drinker (but I love the smell of coffee) so this visit was more for my mum and sister. Kauai Coffee Company has over 4 million coffee trees grown on 3,100 acres.

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Coffee beans (I think?)
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Leis

On the Friday evening there was an arts, food and music festival at Hanapepe. We had fun strolling the streets, listening to the music and popping in and out of shops. Of course being an ex-library employee and total bookworm they had to drag me out of the bookshop – the farthest west bookshop in the USA.

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Bookshop, Hanapepe, Kauai
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Arts and crafts shop, Hanapepe
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Cool truck, Hanapepe
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Elephit

We saw these notices everywhere and after a quick Google (what would we do without Google?) found out that it was a clothing company in Kauai that donates 100% of it’s profits to saving the elephants. Very cool, eh?

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CHICKEN!!

Whenever we saw a chicken we had to yell out “CHICKEN!!” Yeah, childish but fun. This particular one was walking around under the tables at the restaurant one morning when we were eating breakfast. Pretty, isn’t he?

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Allerton Garden Jurassic Trees, plus tour guide

The place he’s standing in is the exact spot where Dr. Alan Grant discovered the T-Rex eggs in Jurassic Park. The tour of Allerton Gardens in Kauai was fascinating, even for non-gardeners like myself. These Moreton Bay Fig trees were enormous and very cool for photography (more pics of them to come). The tour guide was equally fascinating. He was one of many people we spoke to who had decided Kauai was the place for them. He back-packed there 40 years ago and never left again. So many people had told us the same sort of story. I guess there’s something about the Hawaiian lifestyle that just grabs people and captures their imagination.

Shaka!

Aloha, part 3

I could actually have ‘Aloha, parts 1-500’ the amount of photographs I have, but I’m going to try and cut them down to 5 posts. I don’t want to get boring…

In the meantime I have 3 posts to go so sit back and enjoy the stunning garden isle of Kauai for the 3rd time! *said in my best David Attenborough voice* British friends, I’m SO jealous you get to watch Planet Earth 2 – I have no idea when US Public Television will pick it up here.

Back to piccies – this first one is of the Waimea Canyon, also known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. It is a large canyon, approximately ten miles long and up to 3,000 feet deep, located on the western side of Kauai. The road runs right along the side of the canyon with handy ‘Stop here’ lay-bys (paved areas you can pull your car over Americans. I never actually realised you don’t call them lay-bys until I confused an American friend by talking about them.) Anyway trying to whittle hundreds of photographs down into my favourite one was really hard.

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Waimea Canyon

Driving up the road admiring the Canyon on the right hand side we saw a lot of cars stopped and people climbing over the fence on the left. So being the nosey types we parked the car and climbed over. So glad we did. A pretty little waterfall in the red-dirt made for a fun mini-hike and some good photo ops. I tried to find out if the waterfall had a name, but could only find it referred to as ‘the red-dirt waterfall in Waimea Canyon’.

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Red Dirt Waterfall, Waimea Canyon

Then when the road ran out at the top of the canyon we were at the Pu’u O Kila lookout (photo from previous post of the rainbow) and a side on view of the Na Pali cliffs. My favourite part of the island.

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Na Pali cliffs

The next couple of photographs were taken from the helicopter when he took us over the mountains and down into the volcanic crater. I tried to find out what the volcano was called, but it just seems to be part of the Loihi Seamount chain of volcanos. The Wai’ale’ale crater is believed to have been extinct for 5 million years. All I know is that it was spectacular and sometimes I had to put down the camera and try to soak it all in with my eyes.

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Wai’ale’ale crater

The Wai’ale’ale mountains, resting sleepily in the scenic background behind Kukui’ula, located almost exactly in the middle of the island, this towering green mountain range is usually tucked behind a shroud of wispy rain clouds. Waialeale means “rippling water” or “overflowing water” in Hawaiian and is the second wettest spot on Earth, receiving about 450 inches of rain each year. The rainiest year on record is 1982 with 683 inches.

Sorry Scotland. You’re NOT the wettest place on Earth!

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Wai’ale’ale Mountain

My sister loves lighthouses so of course a visit to Kilauea Lighthouse on the North side of the island was a must. Unfortunately the day we went there the lighthouse was closed (it’s only open Tuesday to Saturday but we managed to come back the day we flew home and get closer. I have many more photographs of the lighthouse and also of the seabirds that roost in the cliffs but still haven’t edited them yet. The recently completed restoration of the century-old lighthouse has returned it to essentially its original state in 1913.  Twice a week, lighthouse lovers can climb up into the tower that once projected a beam 22 miles to sea. This structure stands at the edge of Kīlauea Point, 180 feet above the ocean. Pretty, isn’t it?

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Kilauea Lighthouse

And finally for Aloha, part 3 is a pretty little shot of the Opaekaa Falls. You can totally see why they call Kauai ‘The Garden Isle’. The waterfall is located on the ʻŌpaekaʻa Stream in Wailua River State Park on the eastern side of the Hawaiian island of Kauai. It is a 151–foot waterfall that flows over basalt from volcanic eruptions millions of years ago”Opaekaa” means “rolling shrimp,” which were once abundant in the stream.

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Opeakaa Falls

I hope I’m tempting you to go visit Kauai. It’s a long journey to get there but it’s totally worth it. I wasn’t joking when I said it was photography heaven!

Aloha, part 2

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Just around the corner from Shipwreck Beach

In my family I’m probably the only one with any sort of good sense of direction, therefore I’m nearly always the map reader and directiononteerer (I just made that word up). The kids nowadays nearly always use their phones for (they say) more accurate directions than mine, which usually consist of “just around the next corner” when I really mean just around the next 5 corners. Anyway, on the photo above of the cliffs at Shipwreck Beach, Kauai (which WAS just around the corner) believe it or not they actually cliff dive off the point at the LHS of the photograph. Madness!

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Shaka – Hang Ten or Hang Loose

Yeah, I didn’t have a go at surfing. Maybe if I’d been younger and didn’t have a dodgy hip…. But I did embrace the Hang Loose sign (tried to find an emoji that I could cut and paste into my text, but after countless hours searching Google (2 minutes!) I gave up)

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Na Pali Coast

Na Pali. Undoubtedly one of the most amazing places on Earth, and definitely one of the most fabulous places I’ve ever seen. I was totally in awe of the beauty of this place. It’s pretty inaccessible except for hikers or from a boat or helicopter. This fifteen-mile stretch of rugged coastline on the northwest shore of Kauai literally means ‘The Cliffs’. Much of Na Pali Coast is inaccessible due to its characteristic sheer cliffs that drop straight down, thousands of feet into the ocean. I could stay there all day and NEVER get tired of the views. Nature at her finest I’m sure you’ll agree.

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Lucy the Duck

Lucy decided to join the guided tour around Allerton Gardens in Kauai. She was very friendly and posed nicely for me when I asked her.

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Spouting Horn, Poipu

On Kauai’s south shore you’ll find the spectacular Spouting Horn blowhole, one of the most photographed spots on Kauai. The Poipu surf channels into a natural lava tube here and releases a huge spout of water during large swells. You’ll also hear a hiss and a roar that is the basis of a Hawaiian legend.

Ancient Hawaiians believed this coastline was once guarded by a giant moo (lizard) named Kaikapu. Everyone was afraid of the moo because it would eat anyone who tried to fish or swim in the area. One day, a young boy named Liko entered the ocean to outwit the lizard. Kaikapu attacked him, but Liko thrust a sharp stick into her mouth, swam under the lava shelf, and escaped through a small hole to the surface. The moo followed Liko and got stuck in the lava tube. To this day, you can hear the lizard’s roar and see her breath spraying from the blowhole. *copied from ‘GoHawaii.com’*

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A curious gecko

A lucky shot for me. Sitting eating lunch one day and this little fellow comes up and goes “Whatchadoing?” so I grabbed my compact camera (Fuji 900exr) and got exactly 2 shots before he ran away. This is a huge crop and zoom so I’m very pleased at how good it turned out considering. Anyone want to buy some car insurance now?

Aloha

I thought about trying to be sensible and write a ‘proper’ travel blog seeing as I’m just back from Kauai with my mum and sister, but all my thoughts and impressions from the holiday are all jumbled up, so I’m just going to throw photographs up and maybe write a bit about each picture and try to convey how awesome and photogenic the whole island is.

We started off on the right foot though; overnight at the airport hotel we met an Irishman who offered to party with us because “Floor tree is the Celtic party floor” *that was my best Irish accent btw*, plus our hotel receptionist was Wil Wheaton and I’m sure he would have been up for a shindig. Unfortunately we had to get up at 3.30am the next morning so declined the party. Am I sensible or what? Well maybe not…. sharing a room with my sister for the first time in mumblemumblethirtysomethingmumblemumble years meant of course that the long (vaguely) light-sabre shaped pillows meant a pillow fight. Hey, mum was next door and couldn’t tell us off! Anyway absolutely NO sleep that night, plus American Airlines terrible planes (Get with it American. You need to update your planes!!) meant we were pretty exhausted when 16 hours later we arrived in Kauai. Not too exhausted to go explore the beachey though!

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Aloha Kauai

The rest of this blog (and probably the next couple of blogs I post) is going to be pretty random with photographs just thrown up any old way and not at all in any kind of order.

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Beautiful Kauai – you can see why they call it the ‘Garden Isle’

The photograph above was taken from the helicopter trip we booked as a surprise for mum’s 70th birthday, so I’m not really sure what the mountains are called.

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Kalalau Lookout

The rainbow shot is from the lookout at Kalalau Valley and the Na Pali Coast. The Kalalau lookout stands at 4,000 feet above sea level and gives you a peek at a valley that as late as the 1920’s still was the home to residents who farmed crops there. The only way into the valley is by foot along the Kalalau Trail or by boat. There was a total eejit standing up on the railings trying to get a better shot than the rest of us mere mortals standing on the ground. He tried to get me to stand back while he was shooting, but 1. He wasn’t supposed to be standing on the railings (plus there was a huge drop off on the other side. THAT’S WHY THE RAILING WAS THERE SILLY MAN! and 2. By the time he’d finished shooting the rainbow could have gone! So I walked up beside him and started shooting despite his objections. Hey, he was shooting over my head anyway and he was in the best spot.

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What a plonker!

I understand nothing getting in the way of a good shot, but really!!!

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Wailua Falls

This waterfall was just a short car ride from Lihue. Located at the south end of the Wailua River it cascades into two streams, dropping into the pool below. I vaguely remember watching Fantasy Island when I was wee, but seemingly these are the falls in the opening credits.

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Selfies

Then last and most certainly least is us. Hummed and hawed about posting this and losing my anonymity – my secret life as a ninja could be exposed now, but I love this picture of us. My mum had a blast on her holiday and doesn’t she look great for 70?

Many many more photos to come.

Bucket list

Do you have a bucket list? I don’t. I’m not nearly organised enough to create one, plus I wouldn’t really know what to put on it. I’m more of a ‘whatever happens happens’, hakuna matata, manana, and as my granny used to say “Whit’s fur ye wull nae go by ye” type of person. Yes, lazy I guess is a pretty good description too.

My mum however is the most organised, to-do-lister, bucket-list type person you’ll ever meet. She never slows down, never SITS down, and does everything at 100mph. She does have a bucket list and I’m happy to tell y’all that I’m going to be helping her to cross a few items off this list in the coming week.

She’s taking me and my sister to Hawaii with her (item 1 on her bucket-list) as it’s her 70th birthday next Saturday. Hiking a volcano (item 2), snorkelling (item 3), going whale watching on a boat (item 4) – I haven’t the heart to tell her that I googled the ‘whales in Hawaii thing’ and the whale watching season is November to May. There’s also a helicopter ride (item 5) on the bucket-list, but my sister and I have secretly organised that one ourselves for the actual day of her birthday. I’m sure there will be many more items crossed off the list by the time the vacation is over.

I’m just happy I’m getting a free trip to Hawaii and get to take my camera.

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A bucket – for your bucketlist!

So tell me what’s on your bucket list….

 

Miami’s Dual Personalities

First night in Miami we booked to stay in a hotel near the port for the cruise ship. Bad mistake. Downtown Miami was an eyeopener to put it mildly. I mean the hotel was lovely (apart from the glass wall in the bathroom…. nobody wants to see their other half use the toilet, no matter how many years they’ve been together. Or is that just the prudish Britishness in me coming out again?) So after pressing everything that was pressable in the bathroom incase it was one of those glass walls that fog up when you shut the door (it wasn’t) we walked out of our hotel to find a restaurant, a nice cold wine and a Walgreens for emergency snacks and bottles of water. Restaurant found, $19 for a burger and $12 for a glass of wine (whit!) then following my phone directions to find the Walgreens, looking amazingly like a couple of tourists. Especially since I couldn’t stop gawking at everything I passed. Like the drug deal stopping the traffic in the middle of the street. Like the prostitutes running away when the undercover cop car pulls up and puts on it’s flashing lights. Like the guy in a wheelchair puking into a carrier bag in the middle of Walgreens (which we found eventually. Who knows what way is North anyway Siri?!?) Like the elderly woman (105 years old I’d guess) naked under a flimsy see-through dress (again at Walgreens) I guess Walgreens is THE place to be in Miami…

Miami panorama

So after the cruise we were meeting up with my sister and her husband for a couple of days in a hotel at South Beach. What a difference! From the beautiful art-deco hotels, the amazing art-district with all the fabulous graffiti (photos to come) to the gorgeous boardwalk and beach. I loved Miami second time around. I was still people-watching but this time round I wasn’t scared and I even took some street-shots of people. Would I go back? Yes, but not to the downtown area. More Miami stories and cruise-ship stories and pics coming up later peeps.

 

Things I learned in New York

New York 24You can fit five (large) adults in the back seat of a hire-car… not something I hope to repeat in the near future though!

New York drivers speak to each other in code by honking their horns. Apparently it’s an official language.

“Watch yer heid” in broad Scots is understood in any language, especially when the tour-guide is standing up on an open-topped bus.

Laughing hysterically whilst using Snapchat sitting in a bar draws eye-rolls and looks from the younger generation who are probably all going “Check out the old dudes learning to face-swap”.

If you keep your eyes closed on the taxi ride from the airport it doesn’t make it any better – I’m still traumatised!

The Empire State Building is NOT the Eiffel Tower, no matter how  many times I called it that.

This isn’t the Empire State woman, this is the Statue of Liberty.

I get confused at my age….

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