Friday, 2 December 2011

The Open Road

It's now four weeks since we left the UK, and it's been every bit as brilliant as we'd hoped. It's been quite interesting comparing our trip to Ivanka's, which in turn is a bit like the trip we took in 2003-04. While those trips allow(ed) plenty of room for serendipity and adventure, ours is a bit more regimented. Such is life when travelling with small children, especially one with a few minor health issues - knowing well in advance where we'll be staying each night allows us to find things the kids'll like to do, and ensure they get a good night's sleep, making it a more fun and relaxing trip for everyone. And I'd like to think I've learned a lesson or two from The Griswald Family.

That said, we've still had some lovely surprises while we've been en route. Broadly speaking, our trip has had three legs (links are to maps, names for kids in brackets):
The highlight from the first leg was definitely New Orleans. The rest of the Deep South was lovely - the people were friendly and the food was *amazing*, especially in The Brick Pit - but New Orleans itself is something special. We love the music and the mood, so nicely epitomised in David Simon's Treme, and it's something that can't really be captured in photos. The closest we got was when we discovered and joined a Second Line en route from the French Quarter to Frenchmen Street. It was to celebrate a Jewish wedding - hopefully this snap will give you an idea of how vibrant and exciting this can be:

Second Line

The other highlight of Louisiana was the food. Oh my God, the food! We had plenty of good nosh in New Orleans, but the best meal of all was in a town called Breaux Bridge, a few hours West of New Orleans in Cajun Country. There, we discovered the delights of Crawfish Étouffée, which is making me drool just thinking about it...

Crawfish Etoufee

Add New Orleans to your bucket list now, if you haven't already!

As for the second leg, it was all about National Parks. We managed to hit six of these in the space of 11 days (Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, Grand Canyon), plus not-National-Parks Monument Valley and Antelope Canyon for good measure.

They were all incredible, but we were surprised to find that Grand Canyon was probably the least engaging of the six - once you've got over the initial wow factor of that view (and to fair, it is a blockbuster view), you find that it's very similar from all the viewpoints, as are the viewpoints from the trails along and inside the rim, and there are way more people there than at the other parks.

Lookout

Definitely still worth a visit, though.

In contrast, the other parks have a huge amount of variety, both within each park and compared to each other. Zion Canyon is stunning, Bryce Canyon simply bizarre, Canyonlands epic and Arches novel. The National Park Service does a terrific job looking after these treasures, and the Junior Park Ranger programmes they run helped us look after ours. Here's a snap of Zion:

Zion Valley

And Mesa Arch in Canyonlands was another highlight:

Mesa Arch

Anyway, where was I? I was talking about surprises, wasn't I? Well, Route 66 (at least, the 100 mile section we rode on) served up an interesting treat or two. A few stops along the way were littered with Americana (and I'm a fan of Americana), but what made it special was listening to KZKE en route - brilliant!

And now here we are in Hawaii. I knew it was famous for Turtles, but I honestly didn't expect them to pose for me...!

Basking

And as for the sunsets...

Anyway, the end of our trip is in sight (arriving in Sydney on 10th December), so our thoughts are turning to the long list of administration awaiting our arrival - not least of which is finding a job. And go on a diet. Maybe after Christmas?

I'm glad to say we've found somewhere to live in Sydney for the first six months (in Cammeray), but we don't move in there until 19th December - we'll bridge the gap in a campervan, first staying at a campsite in the city, and then in one an hour North of the city. It'll be nice to finally empty our bags...! :-)

In the meantime, a full set of photos and few little videos can be found in this Flickr collection.

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