A Hike comes before a Fall at the Grand Prismatic Spring

The lovely couple we met over breakfast in Gardiner gave us some good advice. They said they had been coming here for 20 years but only just found the hike above the Grand Prismatic Spring, and they said that was even more stunning than walking up to it on the boardwalk. They were right!

Grand Prismatic Spring view

The Grand Prismatic Spring is a stunningly beautiful multicoloured spring in Yellowstone National Park. the lovely colours are caused by a combination of minerals and thermophilic bacteria (bacteria that like heat) so at different temperatures attract different types of bacteria.

We “hiked” (aka. walked) up from the Fairy Falls trailhead to the hill at the back of the Grand Prismatic Spring. It wasn’t the easiest of hikes; at one point the people in front started walking back towards us, and we realised a bison was on the path coming towards us! Continue reading


The Briddish are coming… Road Trip to New Orleans

Our drive to New Orleans, along the majestic Mississippi, was nothing if not interesting.

Mississippi River 1We stopped at a Taco Bell outside New Orleans and the lady was really friendly and said she loved our accents, and she had friends in Europe. For a bit of fun, I asked her to guess where our accent was from. Continue reading

Salt Lake City: Don’t Poo in the Pool!

When you say Salt Lake City, you think Mormon. So how can I start with anything else? Salt Lake City is the centre of the Mormon Church (the Church of Latterday Saints) and the city centre really revolves around this. We found Temple square interesting and went to a Tabernacle organ recital which was beautiful.

Mormon Temple, SLCWe saw the Jesus statue and looked around the exterior of the main church there. It was all interesting to look around, and there’s no mistaking where you are. Continue reading

Monument Valley : Are we there yet?!

Before we went on this trip, my BF’s boss was asking me about our plans. “Will you see Monument Valley at dawn?” he asked. “Oh yes” I said confidently “we surely will!”.  Did we? Hell no! Reality intervened – we struggle to get up for check-out, let alone dawn. Humph. However we did get there, which is the main thing, right?!

On the road going into Monument Valley we passed a few large natural sculptures of red rock. We kept stopping the car for photos; the conversation reflecting our natural intelligence…

“So is this Monument Valley or just some rocks?”

” I dunno. We better take a photo just in case”.

Red rock sculpturesWe needn’t have worried – we knew Monument Valley when we saw it. Continue reading

Disorientation 101 : London Bridge in Arizona?!

Our aim was to drive from Las Vegas to Flagstaff, which would give great access to the Grand Canyon. However, after we saw a place on the map called “London Bridge”, who wouldn’t stop?! Well, maybe someone who wanted to get to Flagstaff before midnight, but we were not that person.

London Bridge, in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, was one of the most bizarre places we’ve ever been. Obviously we’ve been to the “proper” London Bridge – the one that’s in London. Who knew that there was another real London Bridge in the middle of the desert in Arizona?

London Bridge, Arizona!Apparently London used to have a smaller London Bridge, but when cars were invented and what not, they wanted a bigger bridge, so, they, um, built one. Meanwhile, some Americans bought the old bridge, took it to America (not in one piece – I imagine it wouldn’t fit on the plane) and re-built it. Continue reading

Kagoshima: My first live Volcano!!

Normally in a hotel you would find evacuation advice in the event of a fire. Here there was advice in the event of a volcanic eruption! I can’t say I wasn’t worried! But I took comfort in the fact that they have technology to monitor the volcano, and procedures in place for what to do if it erupts. Preparedness (or “oonagi”, as Friends would say!) is probably the key. There were also trenches down the side of the volcano to filter the magma away from houses and towards the sea. The biggest safety-net is probably that the volcano is located on an island, so the sea would presumably act as a buffer between the volcano and the town. Nevertheless, an ash cloud could easily cover a town – that’s right – I paid attention in Geography! 🙂

In fact, Geography was one of my favourite subjects at school, so I was fascinated by the volcano despite my fear of it! We took a boat from Kagoshima (the town) over to the island where the volcano (Mount Sakurajima) was located. Continue reading

Kyoto : The Kindest Place on Earth?

I have to be honest – I did not easily take to Kyoto. It rained, was freezing cold, and it took several hours of wandering around in the rain to find a hotel that could (or would) give us a bed for the night. In a bout of home sickness I ordered pasta with blue cheese… which turned out to be a plate of plain pasta with about 2 crumbs of blue cheese. Sadly, I am not exaggerating! I mean, fair enough you don’t go to Japan to eat pasta, but I was expecting something a bit more impressive than that! At least it was cooked…

Apart from traipsing around the many shopping arcades and seeing the sights that Kyoto had to offer (a lady carving fruit among the more memorable sights!), we saw several beautiful and ornate temples.

We went into the dark underbelly of one of the temples, and were given a card beforehand explaining that it would be dark and we would be going “into the womb of a goddess”. I was having a concentration lapse at that point so even though I ran my eyes over this twice I didn’t take in what it said. So my version of this enriching experience was to stumble around in the dark for 5 minutes while gripping the back on my BF’s T-shirt like a chimp. Needless to say, I would recommend you read the card! Continue reading

Tokyo: Sumo baby!!

One of the funniest things I have seen in my life was my (English) boyfriend trying to ask some Japanese shopkeepers about Sumo… in Japanese. Bless his heart. They didn’t understand. (Something about the pronunciation – in English we would say “Sumo” – pronounced “Soo-mo”. The Japanese pronunciation is more like “Soo-moh” I think…?) So to explain what he meant, he had to turn to our default communication system – Mime. Which meant acting out sumo in the middle of a Japanese shop. If only I had a video camera. Anyway, thanks to his perseverance, and visiting three different shops to buy tickets (cue a repeat performance of the Sumo act!) we got tickets for the Sumo!!

We arrived bright and early, and immensely excited. Well, I say “bright and early”… it was bright and early for us but we were running a tad late – as per usual. We were worried we would miss the start etc… and then we got there and found the entire place empty. We had purchased the second-to-cheapest seats, but we were able to walk right to the front and see it close-up. (As the day progressed, more people turned up and claimed their seats and by the evening every seat was full!)

The man in the beautiful gown is the referee. Continue reading

Tokyo: Welcome to Japan!

My conscientious boyfriend had been learning Japanese all the way around New Zealand. We struck a deal – I would drive and he would learn Japanese. Sounds fair! On the plane to Japan we were strangely calm… which is really very strange looking back, as we had not booked any accommodation and we couldn’t speak the language. I attempted to learn my usual repertoire of words (Yes, No, Thank you, Please, Sorry). My boyfriend on the other hand had a fairly good grasp of basic phrases, (do you have a non-smoking table please? please could we have a room for one night? do you speak English? etc). He practised his Japanese language on the air-steward on the plane, who informed us that Japanese people do not say “No” as it is considered rude. This threw us a bit, as “No” was one of the words we had learnt!

On the train on the way into Tokyo we felt scruffy – everyone was very well dressed. In our previous travels we had felt like the rich westerners – now we felt like people were going to give us money as donations for food. 😉

We arrived in Tokyo late at night and went to a nearby hotel. My boyfriend asked for a room in his best Japanese. The hotel man (who was standing about a metre from him) pointed at him and laughed loudly. To this day I have no idea why – whether he said “penis” by mistake or his accent was funny… who knows! Obviously I found it very rude at the time and felt sorry for poor boyfriend who had taken a great deal of time and effort to learn the language. But looking back it is pretty hilarious! I have resolved to point and laugh at my boyfriend more often, for my amusement. If he asks why, I’ll say I’m being cultural. Continue reading

Cairns: Can a lizard walk on a ceiling?

A wildlife fan I am not. I have healthy respect for wildlife and would never harm it – Live and let live. But also, live and let it stay away from me. So our stay in Cairns got off to a tricky start – first our bags became infested with tiny spiders, having left them in our hostel room. We checked out of said hostel pronto, and into a much nicer hotel. We did not regret that, although interestingly the hotel had the odd lizard crawling on the ceiling. I was too afraid to walk underneath it, and my boyfriend told me not to be silly and reassured me that the lizard clearly is able to walk on the ceiling. At which point, the lizard promptly fell off the ceiling and landed with a splat on the floor. The lizard had great comic timing. It was unhurt, but it did not inspire me with confidence and I avoided walking underneath lizards for the rest of the holiday. Which is probably a good life-rule too.

Over the next few days we chilled out – it was too hot and humid to do much else! We went in the swimming lagoon on the esplanade, which is free. Continue reading