I keep my blog as a personal record of what I'm up to, which might be seen as working towards "An elegant sufficiency, content, retirement, rural quiet, friendship, books, ease and alternate labour, useful life"

I'm certainly not there yet.  There is quite some way to go!










The strange thing is…




Just when I think I’ve seen all of the ship, I stumble across another place; one I haven’t discovered so far.




Today it was the library. 

We were at sea today, sailing from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas, where we’ll arrive around lunchtime tomorrow.  We had nothing much planned, though I had arranged to meet friends this morning, to go to the needlepoint session and begin a new project and would go to listen to one of our favourite lecturers this afternoon, to learn about the Maya.  Meanwhile, my hero would learn one or two new songs for his choir schedule this term.

Oh, and then there was Trivia, of course.




So, we pottered about, chatting to people here and there, discovering people from the East Riding who speak uncannily like I do and meeting some near neighbours of Mary’s, too.  But when I was on my way to the needlepoint group, I spotted a rather lovely, sunny spot which I’d not seen before.  I stepped inside to take photos, admired the books and the artwork in there and made a mental note to come and sit in one of these peaceful, comfy chairs some time and spend a while looking at some of the gorgeous books in here: weighty tomes on fashion, travel and art.




I pottered about a bit, taking photos and generally marvelling that such a nice space was completely empty, when I heard a cough!  Sure enough, in the far corner, a chap was sitting reading quietly.

I guess he’s found his favourite spot already!




Normally at lunchtime, we’ll go to the pool deck, for burgers or grilled fish and salad.  Today, though, I spotted that the French restaurant Chartreuse was open for lunch and taking a quick look at the menu, we decided to give it a try.  How glad we did, for who should bring the menus over to us but Darle, a sweet waitress from Myanmar, who we’ve known since she first started on board Regent ships.  How lovely to see her again!




Delicious leek and cheese quiche!

Of course, the thing is, after a nice lunch with a couple of glasses of wine, going to listen to a lecture in a darkened theatre has inevitable results.

We both fell asleep.

Thankfully, we had woken up in good time for Trivia and with our new found team, we did rather well…




We won!   (Definitely down to the team, however – I mean, we’d never have known Kris Kristofferson wrote Me and Bobby McGee -  would you?  Thankfully, our team mate Don did!)




This evening, then, we were relaxed.  I’d drunk my Aperol Spritz before I even thought to take a photo.  But we miss Gusti and his amazing Hendricks Gin and Cucumber, for sure.




We ate dinner in the steakhouse, Prime 7




where my wish for just two king crab legs as a starter was fulfilled – they were perfect, as was the steak and affogato dessert which followed.




Returning to our suite after a funny show in the theatre (comedy + magic, very good indeed) we found our travelling companions have a new little Regent friend.



In San Diego today




We woke as we sailed into San Diego this morning.  I couldn’t resist peeping out, then rushing back to get my camera to capture that lovely sky, but soon went back inside when I realised we had the company of a couple of small boats alongside.  I didn’t want to get caught déshabillé ! 




Our travels around the world have introduced us to some wonderful friends here and there, two of whom were waiting for us when we got off the ship this morning.  What a great way to spend the day – conversation, laughter, great food, blue sky….life is good.




Our first stop was just across from our ship. Unconditional Surrender is a bit of a landmark and very cute, especially set against the backdrop of the USS Midway.




Adjacent to that is this great collection of bronzes, in tribute to Bob Hope.  The characters are so well depicted and have so much personality.  Love it!




Again, the USS Midway provides a fitting backdrop.




I especially liked the young woman doing a pencil sketch of the comedian though actually, each figure had considerable charm.




Our next stop was over the Coronado Harbour bridge, past the huge Naval base and to the Hotel Del Coronado, usually known as The Del.




A grand place, this, with plenty of history within its (wooden) walls.  Some Like it Hot was filmed here, so there are pictures of Marilyn and other timeless images here and there.




I could easily have spent the day here, looking around and admiring the beautiful details which make somewhere like this so special.




Clever, smart decoration details like these umbrellas, hung in cases behind the cloakroom desk (or whatever).  There were several similar cases here and there – something to remember for when I have an exhibition wall to fill!




The star of the show, so to speak, was the Crown Room.  All wood, the ceiling was something to behold, so enormous was it!  Terry told us of her high School Reunion which had been held here and it was easy to imagine all kinds of lavish events taking place beneath those wooden rafters.




The Crown motif was here and there throughout the room, most clearly in the chandeliers.




Outside were some smart gardens, peaceful places to sit and enjoy a cocktail or two, for sure.




But just through another door lies the beach; a broad, sandy expanse, beautifully maintained (of course) though a little chilly on this January day.




The Sandcastle Man was here, sitting beside his latest creations.




And on this Martin Luther King day, there was a special construction in honour of the man.




Apt words for these days, don’t you think?




Anyway, Terry and Tim had reservations for lunch in nearby La Jolla, so our next stop was a table with magnificent views, high above the ocean and overlooking the rocky coastline.  As soon as Terry suggested we might see whales out there, I knew that I’d be on the lookout.  In fact, I had to stop myself peering out over there into the blue and focus instead on the great conversation going on around me.




But just a minute!  I grabbed everyone’s attention to the water spout just over my hero’s shoulder.




Sure enough, a pod of whales – we thought about four or five – made their way past us, on their way to Mexico (just like us).  Well, either that or Terry paid some people with big snorkels to put on a show for our benefit Winking smile




Lunch was grand, so good that we needed to walk it off by taking a stroll down there by the cove where the seals were basking in the sunshine.




For the second time today I had to steel myself and be brave in the presence of huge birds nearby.  (This morning, whilst enjoying breakfast on deck, someone lost a slice of bacon to a passing seagull!)




Here, the seals were providing great entertainment both in and out of the water.




The coastline is prettier than it smells, believe me.




Yes, we know who’s to blame, too!




Kind of annoying when you put on your best pose, only to find the camera has focused on the bracken in front of you, though!




We stood for quite some time, watching this rock and wondering if any of those argumentative seals would push one of the others off – but though they crawled over one another and seemed to be quite aggressive, all of them stayed dry.  I think new arrivals would get short shrift though.




No, you look nothing like the Little Mermaid – though you are probably around the same size!




Of course, people will do whatever they can to get as close as possible to these creatures, occasionally risking life and limb in these rough and rocky places.  The lifeguards made announcements and called out to those foolhardy souls.




From here, we had a great view of our lunch spot, right up there under those umbrellas. Wow.




We also had a great view of some pretty stupid people too.




As we walked along the pathway back to the car, we spotted this curious green lifeguard box.  Clearly a piece of art, we had no idea of the significance until coming back and googling.




The Lifeguard Box is a tribute to lifeguards everywhere and seemed to be in a most appropriate place!




Our last view of La Jolla was of the “Children’s beach” where the seals had almost completely taken over – well, it’s clear who’s in charge here! 

After a really memorable day with Terry and Tim, it was time to return to the ship.  We drove through the San Diego beachside towns, getting a clear understanding of why this university is so popular!  Who wouldn’t want to spend a few years in such a lovely place?  (Answer: those who’d rather study at University Party Central Santa Barbara Winking smile )

Saying goodbye to our friends by the dock entrance, we counted our blessings yet again.  Such a lovely day filled with fun and laughter – and yet another pair of friends who’d stowaway in our closet given half the chance!


Adventure Part Two


Having had such fun over the last few days, it was hard to say goodbye to Los Angeles.  But it was time to move on to the next part of our adventure, so this morning my hero returned our rental car whilst I did the last bit of packing up.  Around lunchtime, we were there ready for the transfer to our next transportation: Seven Seas Explorer, trademarked as “the most luxurious ship ever built”.

Hmm.  we’ll see!

The fun part was that Mary and Ellis were joining us for lunch on board and having travelled independently, they were there already, waiting for us on the pool deck with cool drinks in hand.




We had caught our first glimpse of what will be home for the next couple of weeks as we drove through the Port of LA. 




By the time we’d progressed through customs checks and embarkation processes, we could see up close that there were quite a few changes from the sister ships we know and love.  Rather spiffy deck furniture for a start.




Dropping off our bags before going in search of our friends, we were struck by the differences in the design of our suite.  This is altogether a new concept ship and though it’s the same size as those we are more familiar with, there are so many changes and new developments that it’s hard to relate one to the other.




We headed right to the outdoor restaurant at the back of the ship, normally involving a climb of several flights of stairs but this time, our suite is on the deck above it. How lovely to see Ellis and Mary again – maybe we could persuade them to stowaway?




Having had a bite to eat, we began to explore, starting at the very top.  More photographs will appear as the week progresses, but for now, why not come back to ours and see what “home” is like for now.




Our suite is on deck 12 and opening the door, the first section of the room is a small galley area.  There’s a coffee machine and a bottle of gin there – all the necessities, eh?  Underneath is a fridge, stocked with wine, soft drinks and beer, plus several empty cupboards for….who knows?




Turn left and you are in the bedroom area, filled with a huge bed and separated from the rest of the suite by a double sided partition with a TV on each side.




The sitting room area is furnished with comfy seating and a coffee table, though in the galley area, there’s a round table for two at which meals could be served.




There’s a smallish closet, fine for our purposes but rather small for a lengthy journey, I’d imagine.




And last but not least, the piece de resistance, the bathroom.  This is huge with a large shower with several shower heads and sprays (fun to work out which tap works which, I can tell you – especially turning on the overhead rainfall shower by mistake when standing beneath it!)




There’s a separate loo to the left of here and double basins with plenty of storage underneath.  Actually, storage is my one issue: there isn’t really a desk as such, so nowhere to put my art kit and the few bits and pieces I brought with me.  sure, there are empty cupboards and drawers here and there, but none of them are in the right place or in the right format for my pens and paints etc. 




Whilst I think on this little issue, the safety drill bell rings and we have to gather our lifejackets and learn what to do in an emergency.

I hope we won’t need that knowledge!

(and no, Ellis and Mary didn’t stow away but are safely back at home with a copy of the brochure to book their next cruise Winking smile  We miss them already)


City of Stars

Though I try to blog every evening, before I turn off the light, there are occasionally good reasons why I don’t.  Sometimes, there’s no internet connection (and that might happen in the coming days) but just once in a while, we’ve been out on the razzle and it’s simply too late.

Guess which box I ticked last night?




We woke to an altogether clearer day, with blue skies and a view.  You know what we were looking for?




So here we were, with another day in the City of Stars to look forward to!




First things first: breakfast!

Canters has always been a favourite and with no plans for the morning beyond an 11am meeting to make last minute arrangements for tomorrow, it was an easy decision to make.




Portions are…HUGE!  But the corned beef hash fan was more than satisfied and the Challah French Toast girl did her best to do it justice.




Well, we have to try, don’t we?  Perhaps it wasn’t as fancy as yesterday’s, but my goodness, it tasted great!




As we paid the bill at the counter, we spotted that we’re not the only ones who drop in.




I believe we even sat in those seats, too.




Driving back along Fairfax, we meandered through the roadworks and wondered what that building is (The Petersen Automotive Museum) – maybe one on the list for our next visit?




Back at the hotel, business done and all arrangements for tomorrow sorted, we hopped back in the car and headed out towards Mary’s.  Instead of the freeway, we took the Beverly Glen route, taking that same old sharp intake of breath as we hit Sunset!  (it never fails!)   Our plan was to meet Mary and Diana in Sherman Oaks, because they had made plans.




Strangely, in the twenty or so years we’ve been coming here, we’ve never done a “real” Studio Tour.  We’ve been to the theme parks and seen mock up studios, but the real thing?  Never! 




Diana works just a step from here, so had got us all tickets and with passports in hand and closed-toe-shoes, we checked in as instructed.




Whilst we waited, we scanned the posters: Just what programmes do Warner Bros make?  (The answer was the RIGHT ONE!)




with our chariot awaiting and guide Mark (not my hero!) off we went.

(I know that in my photographs, it looks like we had the place to ourselves.  We didn’t!  It was actually a bit of a zoo, but we’ll blank out that bit and pretend, shall we?  After all, the whole place is a bit of make believe!)




We drove through backlots, simple frontages built of lightweight materials with nothing behind them and mostly, empty shells inside too.  Having said that, some of these streets have been standing for many years and have featured in many movies.  As we drove, Mark listed them, but not being any kind of film afficionado, I’m afraid I couldn’t begin to tell you what they were!




But as soon as we reached the “New England Town Square” I knew immediately that we were in Stars Hollow!  Just one thing was missing: the gazebo.




That’s because it’s on wheels and it was parked in a spot marked “Gazebo parking only”.




At this point, Mark invited us inside one of the structures on the square, to show the empty shell and for us to see some of the sets in context.  The Music Man scene 76 Trombones had been filmed here too, but judging from the reaction of our group, we were all after just one thing:




Where is Luke’s Diner?  Doose’s store? 




There!  Luke’s on the corner, Doose’s on the next one, back there.  And yes, when we watched The Music Man, sure enough, the marching band are coming out of Stars Hollow High School and marching past Luke’s Diner and through the square.  Hmm.  Takes the magic away, doesn’t it!?

We wandered around, spotting familiar settings, though of course, everything looked very bleak and empty without all the dressing that brings it to life.




I mean, Rory’s “thinking tree” from Yale?  Again, one for the GG fans, but who would have recognised it? (We’ll watch again when we are home and try to see how it was all staged)




Anyway, as we drove around the lot, we made short stops here and there, including a few minutes at the archive, where there were several of the comic book characters and some Harry Potter artefacts.




I’m not really familiar with any of that, but I did find these shoes from Suicide Squad rather curious.




and my attention was grabbed by the folded map from Harry Potter.




A little further along, our tour took us inside a sound stage, where we had to put cameras away and agree not to share any details, for current sitcom scenes are being filmed here and any hint of them on social media creates havoc.  We saw the sets of The Big Bang Theory which could have meant more to me if I watched it!  It was all fascinating, but by now, we were flagging a little, finding the little transporter cart tricky to get in and out of and getting increasingly irritated my Mark’s constant “you guys” in his commentary.




Thankfully the next stop grabbed our attention and brought us back in line.  It was the prop store – not called that, I think, but that’s what this enormous four storey warehouse contained.




Everything is bar coded and tracked and when a set designer comes in to choose items for a show or a movie, they tag the item they wish to use.




Here were a variety of collections of everything imaginable.




need a phone?




or a phone?  Better get the era right, because you know how those eagle eyed viewers spot every anachronism!




Next time we need a replica of the White House, we know where there’s a desk for hire – complete with stiletto heel bruises from Lady Gaga dancing on it in a music video.




Some items are of limited use.




Others could never be used again in quite the same way.




with one last short stop in the Batman vehicle collection, our tour was over.  It was at least a couple of hours since we’d set out and actually, all four of us were a little overwhelmed.




So when we were dropped off at the area where we could see the process of making a movie, from script to screen, we wished that we had started here instead.  This was a really fascinating area and not really one to rush through.




I really enjoyed seeing the storyboards




the original drawings




and the awards won by some of the people who work here.




Some of the film stars were here too, including my favourite Emmet Brickowski.  Leaving through the gift shop, wishing we’d had longer but knowing we’d also had long enough, we were headed for “the real thing”.




City of Stars… next stop, Hollywood Boulevard! 




Just time for a quick, pre-theatre bite to eat.




Though we are all too familiar with the marvellous Shake Shack, it’s pretty new here and causing quite a stir.




Diana snagged us a table and before long, our little buzzer was flashing and buzzing and jumping around the table to tell us our order was ready.




We made it in good time for her to collect tickets for tonight’s hot show, The King and I.




The Pantages Theatre is something to behold!  Even the foyer is spectacular, though the interior is altogether in a different time and age.  This is most certainly the Hollywood we imagine.




Diana, a season ticket holder here, had managed to get us four great seats in the auditorium and for almost three hours, we sat and enjoyed spectacular singing and dancing in this most lavish setting.


There could be no better way to close the first part of our adventure here in the city of stars.  This morning, we are packed and our luggage is ready to be transported to the next stage of our journey.




We’ll see you there!


Along the Freeway




Before we hit the road this morning, I thought I’d share last night’s TV viewing: The Great American Baking Show   (apparently someone else owns the right to the “bake off” name).  Right from the start, it was uncannily familiar and yet, not the same at all.  The title sequence with the raspberries was almost but not quite identical and the set was very familiar indeed.  My Hero decided to google it, to find out if they’d cloned the tent and all the trimmings but discovered that it had been filmed in the same location as the original British show.  It made for interesting viewing and led us to think that Love Productions are indeed making a fortune from that show.  Nevertheless, it really was nothing without Mel and Sue, even though Mary Berry was doing her best to keep it together.




Still on the topic of TV, we always enjoy the huge billboards around LA and along the perimeter of Fox studios, adjacent to our hotel there’s a series including this one, definitely new to me!




We were heading out to meet Mary at her new apartment before going out for breakfast.  The 405 freeway was pretty busy at this time of the day so we lost no time in getting across four or five lanes of traffic to reach the HOV lane.




European friends will love this facility as much as we do – if there are just 2 or more people in the vehicle, then you’re allowed to sweep past all the traffic by driving in the dedicated lane.  What’s more shocking: the fact that this lane is almost empty or the fact that all those lanes of slow moving vehicles contain only one person each?!  Anyway, we were soon past the Getty Museum high on the rocky outcrop and in no time at all, were turning into the San Fernando Valley and Mary’s parking garage.




Her new place is simply lovely but delighted as we were to take a look around, we were ravenous.  Thankfully it’s only a step to one of the best breakfast cafes in the area: The Blu Jam cafe whose speciality is my favourite breakfast, french toast!  Yes, it was as delicious as it appears – and the portion size was as huge.  So, could I manage all of that?  You bet!




Suitably fortified, we jumped in our car and headed along Ventura, making a couple of short stops before driving towards our destination for today.




The Richard Nixon Presidential Museum and Library.

Regular blog readers will know that we love to visit such places. Politics aside, we find we learn an immense amount of American history, get an inside view of events of which we have only the sketchiest knowledge and of course, learn a little about the man himself.  Previous Presidential Libraries have been variable in quality: the best have offered an objective view, warts and all.   The least successful was superficial and lacked rigour and objectivity.  How would we feel about this one, we wondered?




There’s a striking image in the foyer; that familiar portrait and an absolutely enormous Presidential seal set in the floor.  We went straight inside and watched the video presentation as an introduction, being plunged straight away into the Watergate scandal – this was going to pull no punches, it seemed.




The docent who had barked at us to “use our swivel heads” was there in the replica Oval Office, inviting us to sit at the desk and have photographs taken.  Declining politely (I always feel that an Englishwoman has no place in that seat!) I nevertheless appreciated a view of the contents of the President’s desk drawer, contrasting it with that of another Oval Office desks I’d seen recently.  This was definitely that of a more serious, thoughtful man.




The reason we’d been told to “swivel our heads” was that there was a helicopter in the next display, telling the story of Vietnam.  It took over where we’d left off on our visit to LBJ’s library and was well explained and the information was effectively presented.




The interpretation seemed fair to me, a foreigner with no underpinning knowledge of the circumstances.  I found the detail interesting, especially the piles and piles of letters sent to the President following his invitation to “the silent majority”.




I recalled the hundreds of index cards on which Ronald Reagan had written notes when viewing the hundreds of yellow lined notepads on which Richard Nixon scribbled his thoughts.  Being a scribbler of thoughts myself, I found these intriguing if somewhat illegible.




I also found it interesting that the President’s meeting with Elvis was given a fairly prominent place in the story when, according to the daily record of activity, the meeting lasted no more than 30 minutes at the most.




And of course, the section on Nixon in China was fascinating.




But of course, there had been an elephant in the room all along.  The story we’d all heard of and yet about which I knew very little.




I think the details were well displayed – a timeline on one side, with accurate records of what happened when and actual artefacts and photographs opposite.  The “missing five minutes” of tape recording was an important part of the story and seeing two telephones with an invitation to listen into “those missing minutes”, Mary and I picked up the receivers and put them to our ears.  What did we hear?  Well not much at all, of course!  How silly we were…what did we think we’d hear?!  Actually, there were nine clicks and pops, each one registered and heavily investigated – but otherwise, no secrets to hear.




Reaching the end of the Watergate story, we seemed to be at the end of the President’s story too, but actually it went a little further.  A couple more rooms gave details of his childhood and of his romance with his wife, Pat.  Another outlined the challenges he faced having stepped down from the Presidency.




Sorry, a bit blurry, but “no reason to live, no cause to fight for” sums it up well.  What does a man who had spent almost his entire adult life in public office do?  Well, it appears to have not been easy at all for the Nixons and it took a decade or more for him to begin to find his niche again.




A display of popular culture prompted Mary to recall how she’d enjoyed the movie Elvis and Nixon and my hero to remember that he had enjoyed Frost and Nixon as well.  We made mental notes to seek them out and watch once again, with the added knowledge gained from our visit here.




We ended our visit with a quick look at Richard Nixon’s boyhood home.  A small, simple wooden house which still stands  in the original location in the garden of the library.




Just to the side of the small house are the graves of the former President and his wife who died within a year of one another.  It seemed a good place to finish our visit.




As we left, we walked through the well tended gardens, one of which was planted with winter cabbages.  Each one had a single drop of water in the centre, glistening like a diamond in the sunshine. 

Of course, we each had our own opinions on what we’d learned and we shared them as we walked.  How different those times were, though, with cassette tapes and a paper trail of notes to follow.  It all seemed so unsophisticated and at times, rather amateurish.  Surely it couldn’t happen again today with more effective security controls in place?