Friday, 7 December 2007

Melissa Grace Ferrie

Melissa Grace Ferrie
We're not sure if anyone has been checking our blog and we haven't updated it since we got back from our trip, but we felt that the arrival of little Melissa Grace Ferrie deserved a mention.

Melissa was born at 5:20am on Monday the 3rd of December, weighing 6lbs 4. Pamela and Melissa are doing really well and we're looking forward to our first Christmas together.

Melissa has been home for about five days now and we are all gradually getting into a routine! We would like to thank everyone who has given us gifts; we have received loads of beautiful presents and Melissa will be wearing a new outfit everyday, for months to come!

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Vancouver, Seattle and LA

Sorry for the delay in getting the blog updated but because our camera and photos had gone walkabout we thought we might have to miss out the Vancouver and Seattle leg of the trip. After contacting the lost property at the stadium about ten times and checking with the local police station, we assumed the camera and a bunch of our photos were lost forever.

In a strange turn of events, we came home one night to discover a message on the answering machine from some bloke saying he had found a camera at the LA Galaxy game, with a ticket stub in the case! The ticket stub had Tim's name on it and our seat numbers. The guy tried to find us at our seats, but we had moved to better seats, so he had kept the camera and managed to find Tim's phone number online! We drove to the guy's work and got our camera back with all our photos. Yeah!

So, for your 'skiving from work' pleasure here are the photos and stories from Vancouver to LA-

We arrived in downtown Vancouver and found that our hostel was quite nice, but happened to be directly above a night club. From 10pm to 3am the music was so loud we could hear every lyric and the room shook in time with the bass. We didn't get much sleep and bought ear plugs the next day! We are officially old people.

Vancouver is apparently amongst the top three most livable cities in the world and we had five days of wandering around to find out why.

The city from Stanley Park

Most of the big cities we have visited have all had really nice parks and Vancouver's Stanley Park is one of the nicest we have seen. We stepped from the city into the park and were immediately surrounded by some amazing wildlife, including these little guys:

Some cheeky racoons

We spent some time in Gastown, which is a quaint area with cobblestone streets and some of the city's oldest buildings. The most famous landmark here is a steam powered clock:

Gastown steam clock

After the obligatory Starbucks in Gastown we spent an afternoon walking around the market stalls and shops on Granville Island-the Canadian version of the Barras(a market in Glasgow). It has a farmer's market and little arts and crafts stalls. It was a nice way to spend a few hours.

Granville Market

After a few days in Vancouver we decided to escape the multi-storey bass drum that was our hostel, and spend a day and night in Whistler. Whistler is a beautiful ski village about two hours north of Vancouver where you can get pretty decent snow as late as June. The hostel at Whistler has to win the prize for best location- set on the side of a lake with snow capped mountains all around. The scenery just about compensated for the ancient decor and dangerously close train tracks.

Apparently snow muffles train whistles

After walking over train tracks and successfully avoiding the oncoming train, we got to the hostel and admired the amazing view-

Not bad eh?

Whistler was really nice and we will definitely be back here on a snowboarding trip at some point. The village is full of great restaurants, bars and cool shops. We had some nice food here and we took a ride up the mountain on the gondola. We were really surprised by how many folk were skiing and snowboarding at this time of the year.

Pamela- chuffed to find HP on offer

After Whistler we headed back to Vancouver for a night and then got ready to head to Seattle the next day.

We took a greyhound bus over the border and into Seattle. We stayed at the only hostel in Seattle- The Green Tortoise. It was a really nice hostel, right next to Seattle’s Pike Place Market. This place is very famous and is featured in loads of films including Sleepless in Seattle.

The corner of Pike Place Market(from the hostel window)

The market entrance

It has cobblestone streets and loads of stalls selling fresh fish, fruit and veg, arts and crafts stuff and just about anything else you can imagine. The two most famous occupants of the market have to be the fish shop at the entrance where they throw fish around while singing and shouting and of course, the very first Starbucks.

Pike Place Fish

Where the Starbucks empire began

A hula hooping, guitar balancing, busker- writing a catchy chorus is no longer enough...

The market's lucky pig

The whole market is constantly packed and it has a great atmosphere. We spent a number of days wandering around the stalls just watching people!

One of the most striking things about Seattle is the sheer volume of homeless people. I think we were in a particularly bad spot for it, but you could not walk ten yards without being asked for change. We were impressed by one guy's sign that read:

‘My father was killed by Ninjas, need money for karate lessons.’

We reckon this guy will get way more than the folk who have signs about being a war veteran or just needing enough money for the bus home!

Seattle is famous for Microsoft, Starbucks and indie guitar bands. This makes the city the recipient of about 90% of my income. I can play Championship Manager while listening to Death Cab For Cutie with a Toffee Nut Latte in my hand, all thanks to Seattle.

The city’s landmarks are the market place, some nice museums, The Experience Music Project(EMP) and The Space Needle. The EMP is a shrine to rock ‘n’ roll, or a large storage room for a very rich guy’s stuff! It is owned by Bill Gates’ partner, the bloke known internationally as ‘the other Microsoft guy’.

The EMP has endless musical artifacts and loads of information about famous Seattle musicians including Jimi Hendrix and Nirvana. There is a very cool guitar room that has some of the first Gibsons and Fenders ever made.

Towering above the EMP is the Space Needle. We added it to the growing list of tall buildings and structures that we have visited on our trip.

Ye Olde Curiosity Shop in Seattle is home to loads of 'believe it or not' nonsense. Stuffed two headed dogs and shrunken human heads sit beside this guy who was found perfectly preserved, in the middle of the desert apparently:

Looks a bit like my old history teacher!

Due to Seattle’s rock ‘n’ roll heritage we thought it would be cool to try and go to a gig while we there. Upon checking Ticketmaster we discovered that Ben Gibbard, the front man from Death Cab For Cutie and The Postal Service(my current favourite bands) was doing a solo gig in his home town of Seattle! We asked at the hostel reception where the Showbox venue was and he said “ eh… if you go outside, take and left and go into the building next door, you’re there.” The gig was on our last night and we managed to get tickets from people outside the venue. The gig was great. No, it was better than great. It was easily one of my all time top three gigs!

When Pamela lived in France she went to church with folk who used to live in Seattle. We went along to their old church and to Pamela's surprise she met a guy who she thought now lived in London. Rain and his wife Grace invited us back for lunch and we had a lovely afternoon with them and their cute little boy Josiah.


We loved Seattle but as usual our time drifted away and we eventually had to move on. The original plan was to drive from Seattle to LA and take in San Francisco and a few other places along the way, but we opted to catch a cheap flight from Seattle straight to LA instead. This saved us a lot of travel time and we were eager to get to LA in time for Anna’s birthday sleepover!

We’ve been in LA for nearly four weeks now and it has been great. We’ve had an amazing time hanging out with the Vermilions. We have done loads and it’s pretty difficult to condense it all into a few paragraphs.

Some of the highlights have been:

Going to see LA Galaxy v Glasgow Rangers. It was rather weird hearing loads of Scottish accents again and there was almost as many Celtic tops in the crowd as there were Rangers. Upon getting our camera back I should take this chance to apologise for earlier insinuating that a Rangers fan had stolen it. It was silly of me to assume that a Rangers fan could work a digital camera.

The Galaxy fans were hilarious with songs such as ‘You’re just a suburb of England’, ‘Why don’t you speak English’, ‘You’re always second to Celtic’, and chants such as ‘Ferguson, you suck!’ The songs sounded kind of strange in American accents but they made for a decent atmosphere considering the crowd was pretty small. This was all change as soon as Mr. Beckham and his wife arrive in town. The hotdogs and Coke didn’t quite match pie and Bovril but it was still cool to see soccer American style. There was no extra time multi-ball though!

We have been shopping a few times and Pamela is rather miffed that I have so far bought more clothes than her! I’m sure she will catch up in New York. We’ve been to the cinema a couple of times, eaten out loads and I’ve even managed to get some golf played. To even things up, Pamela and Angela went to the spa for a massage.

We have had a great time seeing Megan and Anna and we’ve been able to go along to see them at a graduation ceremony, a gymnastic display and a ballet class. Megan’s ballet skills are outstanding. We spent a day at Disneyland and it was really nice to see the girls getting all excited when the parade was coming along.

No comment needed!

We have been able to go along to church with Tim and Angela. They go to Calvary Chapel South Bay, which is as big as a small village! It has around 10,000 members and has more staff members than most Scottish congregations.

We’ve had a bunch of BBQs and it has been really nice to meet loads of friendly people out here,

I love you and I will miss you

to you from anna

(I left the room for a few minutes and Anna added the last section, I thought it would be rude to delete it!)

We went to a baseball game at Dodgers stadium. Before the real game, there was a Hollywood allstar match. Dawson from Dawson's creek, one of the blokes from CSI and loads of other TV actors were playing. The Dodgers v Bluejays game wasn't great (0-1) but the hotdogs and peanuts were awesome! The American experience was complete as we sang 'Take me out to the ball game' during the 7th inning stretch.

Let's go Dodgers, let's go!

We went to an amazing Japanese restaurant called Benihana's. The chef cooks your dinner for you on a grill at your table. Our chef was very funny. As soon as we arrived he turned to Ryan and said "Hi sir, it was nice to see you last week, how is Stephanie?" - Very good. He cooked and sang and juggled and threw shrimp around the restaurant. It was great.


We spent a day in Hollywood where we walked along looking at the stars names on the street. Had we been there an hour earlier we would have seen some stars in person as we had just missed George Cloonie, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon's hand print ceremony. We also had to leave about an hour before the stars arrived again for that evening's premiere of Ocean's 13. Bad timing indeed, but it was still cool to see all the lights and red carpet getting set up.

The Kodak Theatre

Mr Spielberg's star

We spent a day shopping in beautiful Santa Monica. We were in the Apple store checking our emails and noticed that a Swithcfoot video was playing on a big screen at the back of the store. We thought this was pretty cool and then on closer inspection we discovered a huge sign that anounced the free Switchfoot gig in-store that night! Good timing indeed. We went for some dinner and came back to enjoy a free gig that lasted for about 45 mins. Switchfoot were great and to see them for free with a tiny crowd in Santa Monica was very cool indeed.

Santa Monica Pier

The American Dream

Switchfoot in action

As we write we are getting packed to leave for New York. We can't wait to see Time Square and all the other sights, but our energy levels are running low. Maybe it's because we know we're heading home soon or maybe it's because we've been doing loads, but we are more than ready to return to the Shire.

We are sad to leave LA and the Vermilion family but, as Uncle Jonny and his mate Luke arrived last night, we know the girls will have plenty to keep them occupied. These last few pics are of Megan and Anna. They never ceased to make us smile...

Thursday, 31 May 2007

A hobbit surprise...

"Hobbits really are amazing creatures. You can learn all that there is to know about them in a month, and yet after a hundred years, they can still surprise you."
GANDALF, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
It is with great joy and some surprise that we announce: two hobbits left the shire and three will be returning. Pamela is pregnant! The baby's due at the end of November and we are delighted.
At the moment we are staying with Pamela's sister's family- Tim, Angela, Anna and Megan in Torrance, California. It's been really nice to catch up with them and spend time with our ridiculously cute nieces. Between Anna's birthday sleepover and Megan's constant mischief, it's like attending an intense parenthood bootcamp! Help!
You will notice the absence of photos in this post due to our camera being stolen while Ryan and Tim went to watch the LA Galaxy v Rangers. We're not sure if it was a Rangers fan who lifted the camera from the hotdog stand but they also took our photos of Seattle and Whistler. We'll find some similiar photos on Flickr or Google images and write the Canada and Seattle post soon.
Hope everyone is doing good and we hope that everyone who was sitting exams got on well.
Take care. x

Saturday, 12 May 2007

Aloha and mahalo...

Transported through time and space our particles arrived safely in Honolulu about ten minutes after we left New Zealand! We had decided to split our time in Hawaii between Maui and O'ahu and had booked a cheap internal flight straight to Maui for a few hours after we landed in Honolulu. This saved us from doubling up the cost of transfers to and from the airport. We caught our flight to Maui and ended up sitting next to a very nice guy called Ron. Ron was from Hawaii and he gave us some great advice on where to go and what to see while we were in Hawaii. At the end of the flight Ron gave us his card and told us that he owned a restaurant on Maui and O'ahu and he insisted we go along and have dinner as his guests. More on this later...

We had done lots of reading on Australia and New Zealand and we knew all about the hostel set up there but we were a bit unsure about Hawaii and decided to book hotel accommodation just to be on the safe side. After spending five weeks sleeping in a van we fancied a bit of luxury so we decided to push the boat out and booked five nights at the Royal Lahaina resort on the west coast of Maui.

The Royal Lahaina, Maui

Lamps were lit as part of a Hawaiian ceremony every night

At the reception we decided to chance our luck and ask if there were any nicer rooms available than the basic room we had booked. The very friendly manager obviously fell for our cheeky hobbit charm and they moved us to a room in the newly renovated tower overlooking the ocean, the mountains and a golf course! We don't want Ming to feel bad but this room was so nice we spent ten minutes giggling, ten minutes jumping on the bed, ten minutes exchanging high fives and then we thanked the guy standing in the corner for bringing up our bags!

Ryan sports a dashing housecoat and admires the view

The view from the balcony was spectacular. We could see the other islands, the ridiculously blue ocean, the mountains and the golf course. Maui is a beautiful island and it easily exceeded our expectations of what Hawaii would look like. The beautiful room obviously helped but Maui may just have made it to the top of our 'let's come back' list.

Our view

The garden cottages and golf course

Maui, luxury hotel room, big flat screen TV, chimp in a sombrero. Does life get any better?

Real men drink cocktails

A Hawaiian dance is performed at sunset as we enjoy our dinner

We spent most of our time in Maui lazing by the pool or going for walks along the beautiful beach. There are other things to do on the island like snorkelling or cycling down a volcano but after Australia and New Zealand we were genuinely exhausted. Travelling is hard work! Maui was really the first time we spent more than a few days relaxing in the one place, so we didn't get up to much and loved every minute of it!

The beaches on the west coast were lovely and the water is the bluest we have seen on our trip so far

Ryan in the sea

One of the nice things about this hotel was that the pool was about 50ft from the sea, so you could go a for a dip in the sea if you fancied it or just lie by the pool. Other than lying around sunbathing we caught the bus one day into Lahaina where we walked along the front and wandered into the shops. We went to a traditional Hawaiian Luau held in the hotel grounds. It was good, the food was nice and the entertainment was impressive but they had really squeezed the punters in. There must have been about 300 people in a spot suitable for about 100- goodness knows how they would have dealt with a fire-not an unlikely event considering the shows finale!

The laua host

Kids on the stage singing. Adults in the audience waiting for dinner.

A Hawaiin tradition- bury a pig in an underground oven, let it slowly cook and then unearth it and eat it. The fact that burying livestock is usually a solution for Mad Cow Disease didn't hamper our willingness to dig in during the buffet.

The Laua involved lots of Hawaiin singing and dancing and the finale involved some bloke spinning torches while trying to avoid lighting his grass skirt.

More fire antics

After a relaxing week in Maui we spent our last night walking along the beach. Ryan went in the sea for a quick dip and then we sat on the beach and watched the sunset.

From Maui we went back to Honolulu, O'ahu. This time we made it out of the airport and made our way to our hotel. It's a bit of a shock going from Maui to Honolulu. Maui had a few hotels and miles of empty beaches, where as Hononlulu is probably best described as America's Majorca. Honolulu is a cool place and definitely worth a visit but not if you are looking for a quiet Hawaiian paradise.

Not quite the same view as Maui!

Honolulu is a big city to get around but the bus network is really good and we quickly found our way around. Our hotel was next to some really good malls and it was only a short bus ride away from the famous Waikiki Beach. Waikiki was so crowded you had to spend five minutes trying to find a spot to sit down.

We only spent one day on the beach in Honolulu and we spent the rest of the time walking around the shops or visiting some of the tourist attractions.

On the Sunday we went along to a service at a Calvary called Horizon Honolulu( the service was nice and the people were extremely friendly. Ryan got chatting with Pastor Francis who kindly offered to take him golfing during the week. The course was and proudly claimed to be the hardest course in America. The views were amazing and they more than made up for the questionable golf! The course was really tough with tight fairways and jungle for rough! The mountains in the background are straight out of Lost and I was scared to look for balls incase 'the others' got me. It was a really nice day and the best part had to be when four mongoose climbed onto the cart while we were putting and stole the Pastor's lunch! Pamela also had a great day at the mall.

The modest club house

The par 4 18th

This was just the practice area!

Pastor Francis mid-swing

We spent a day visiting Pearl Harbour. There is an interesting museum and a short movie explaining the events that led to the attack on Pearl Harbour. The main feature is the memorial to the USS Arizona, a warship that sank during the attack losing over 1000 of its crew. The memorial is a kind of bridge that has been built over the remains of the ship that still holds the bodies of those killed in the attack. We also found out that survivors who have since passed away have been interred there also. Some of the stories around this event were really interesting and seeing the names of the victims on the memorial wall was a bit emotional. It was also a bit strange to see loads of Japanese tourists walking around taking photos.

The first Japanese plane was seen in the sky at roughly the top right hand corner of this photo

USS Arizona

The buoy marks the bow of the ship

The Arizona's anchor

This place was Bowfin!

Two nights before we were due to leave we took a walk along Waikiki Beach and we noticed the bloke from the plane's restauraunt. It was called LuLu's and it looked really nice, with a view from the front looking out over the ocean. We hadn't contacted Ron when we were in Maui but we thought we'd pop in to see what the place was like. It was really nice, we couldn't see Ron around but we were hungry so we ordered food anyway and it was pretty tasty. Before we left we spotted Ron and he insisted that we come back the next night and have a meal on him. Not ones to turn down such a generous offer, we went back the following night and were treated to some great service and an excellent meal all on the house! It clearly pays to be nice to people when you are on a plane and if you are ever in Honolulu go to LuLu's restaurant(across from the zoo) and order the coconut shrimp. It was a delicious meal and a great way to end our time in Hawaii.

Our view from LuLu's restaurant

Waikiki Beach

We had a really relaxing time in Hawaii and would definitely go back there. The people were really friendly and helpful and the islands were stunning. It's onto Vancouver and then down to Seattle next...