Friday, 7 August 2009

The new blog.... here....

This blog will remain online as I hope it will prove useful to future BATUS residents...

Monday, 20 July 2009

(Almost) ready to go!

Less than 24 hours left in our little house on the prairie and we are almost ready for the off. Macy has tried out her air kennel for size (see left) and Blackie..? She is settling in well with her new family, my replacement Dave and his wife Karyn. I moved her over on Friday, and they let her out for the first time today and she returned to her new home (and not ours!) without a hitch.

After weeks of agonising over her fate, I knew as soon as I took her on the 2 minute drive to her house, that her very temporary bewilderment was better than the stress that 48 hours traveling would have been for her.

Dave & Karyn are likely to live in Ralston for four or five years, so she won't be going anywhere now for a while.

In the meantime, I know that Cyprus has a huge amount of cats needing permanent or foster homes, so I'm sure one of those will be keeping Macy company soon.

I am still undecided over the name of the new blog, but details will follow I promise.... in the meantime there are cupboards to clean, bags to pack and food to redistribute. We fly from Medicine Hat to Calgary tomorrow, onto the UK on Wednesday and arrive in Cyprus on Monday August 3rd.... Hope you will join us on our next adventure!

Monday, 13 July 2009

Last weekend away

Our last few weeks are slipping by frighteningly quickly and I can't believe that we've just come back from our last weekend in the Rockies, but what a great place to have spent it...

Despite the daunting 10 hour round trip, we decided to head back to Nipika near Radium Hot Springs for one last weekend. We rented the cabin with our friend MaryAnne, her daughter Ophelia and a friend of theirs who was visiting for the UK.

We first went to Nipika in October when the weather was quite chilly, we meant to come back when the snow was on the ground (quite a large window of opportunity!) and failed, but did at least manage to see it in the summer, and the were really lucky with the weather, it was warm enough to have a dip in the lake and sunbathe on the floating platform.

As ever, our dog Macy and MaryAnne's dog Reggie had a fantastic time. Let off the lead from the moment they arrived to run free in the meadow chasing gophers and paddling in the lake with the two resident dogs Rufus and Murphy. They were both exhausted by the evening, which was handy when it came to getting them clean! (see above right!)

Despite driving through the heart of the Rockies and staying in the middle of a forest, we still failed to see any bears, which was sadly my last opportunity to do so! Two years searching for them and despite my best efforts the closest I got was a sanctuary in Oregon. We did however see a moose, which are far less common!

On our 5 hour journey home, we broke up the trip by stopping at Lake Louise and the Banff Gondola.

I had never managed to visit either in the summer when the colour is so fantastic, so it was another last minute tick in the box. However, both were absolutely heaving with tourists, so we nipped in, took photos and nipped out again - not quite the same as the tranquil isolated Nipika!

So back to Ralston and lots of packing and paperwork awaits us. I will try to update this blog one last time before we leave Canada in just over a week and then we will be moving on to Cyprus and a new blog, details of that to come!

In the meantime, more photos of our last weekend away here

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Counting down

The last week since we returned from our holiday has flown by. It was actually quite odd to be back in some respects. We had after all had everything shipped just before we left, so I think mentally we felt we'd gone for good!

The weather has been a little crazy since we got back. More thunderstorms than in the whole of the two years since we arrived! One morning we woke up to a really warm day and huge hail stones outside and we even had a tornado warning last night! Still as you can see, the prairie looks very good on all the rain! (left)

This week we have begun selling off our possessions in earnest, so much, from cars to electricals must go and I feel terribly sentimental about parting with things. We came here two weeks after we got married and bought all of this for our first home and now, as we always knew they would, circumstances mean we must move on. I keep telling myself that its all just "stuff", but its still very sad.

This morning we had our "pre-march out". This incredibly military sounding event is an early visit from the housing officer, where it is determined whether your quarter is in a suitable state to be handed back. The rules at some bases are stricter than others. In Germany there were even limits to the number of picture hooks you could have in a room and when I left they wanted the drains cleaned and the patio pressure washed! Here they aren't fussed about holes in the wall and just want things wiped down.... Good news!

As we count down, next week Jim and I have our "mug out", another militarism! It is basically a post-work drinks held in the mess for our peers to have a drink in our honour... Jim and I are unique in BATUS being the only couple (I think) who are both mess members in their own right, but it doesn't mean we get special treatment!

And we're off for good two weeks today. We fly from Medicine Hat to Calgary on Tuesday 21st, overnight in Calgary (I might FINALLY get up the tower!) and fly on to the UK on Wednesday 22nd. Ten days break in the UK and on to Cyprus arriving in the hottest month of the year... h'mmm....

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Road Trip : Los Angeles

So our final stop on the road trip was Los Angeles. We drove into town 24 hours after the news of Michael Jackson's death was made public, and Hollywood which is crazy at the best of times, was on a whole other level. The day before I had joked to Jim that we would "probably arrive at about the point they started selling the the commemorative t-shirts" - I was wrong, they made them overnight and they were on sale several hours before we rolled into town.

We stayed just off Hollywood Boulevard and from the moment we arrived there were people in Michael Jackson t-shirts, playing his music in their cars and talking about him on the street... weird, really weird.

The funny thing is that I had actually been quite a big Michael Jackson fan about 20 years ago, which coincidentally was also when I was last in LA.

We walked past the crowds at the makeshift shrine on the Walk Of Fame a couple of times, and on our last day when the queue was shorter, decided we really should spend 5 minutes waiting to see it, just because we were there. (see above left)

Away from the craziness of Hollywood our 36 hour stopover gave us a chance to visit somewhere else I hadn't been for two decades... Universal Studios.

For anyone else who also last visited it in the 80s, I'm afraid I have to disappoint you by saying that they have dismantled the Back To The Future set! However, they still have the San Francisco earthquake with the collapsing ceiling and flood, and they've added one of the sets from War Of The Worlds, Desperate Housewives (above) and a brilliant 4D Shrek movie...

So, with our pockets significantly lighter, we are safely back in Ralston. It's quite strange to be honest, because after having our shipping sent a few days before our holiday, I think we both felt that we had left for good, but 3 weeks today we'll be flying out of Medicine Hat and on to the UK. I think I have finally made a decision about the future of Blackie the cat, but I'll reveal that in a few weeks..

Oh and to answer another question I have been asked a lot... the blog will be continuing in Cyprus, but I'm not quite sure what it will be called!

Friday, 26 June 2009

Road Trip : San Francisco

Onwards to California and despite driving through temperatures that topped 100F, disappointingly it was high 60s for our couple of days in San Francisco. It was the first visit for both of us and I must say I was surprised at how much small town charm it has. We stayed very close to Fisherman's Wharf in the nautically themed Argonaut Hotel.

During our 2 days, we walked a few of the ludicrously steep hills, tracked down the house they used for the film Pacific Heights (long story!) both walked and drove down Lombard Street (the crookedest street in the world) photographed the Victorian houses known as the Painted Ladies (see left) walked among the enormous redwood trees in Muir Wood and of course did the Alcatraz tour.

The boat trip to the island and audio tour of Alcatraz (on personal mp3 players) was pretty fascinating, but I was a little disappointed by the huge crowds of people. It seems to be a problem with anything touristy in America!

So it's day 14 and Jim has driven for about 22 hours since we picked up the Mustang in Seattle on Monday, I have dozed through most of it, so shouldn't really complain, but our packed itinerary is exhausting and we are both quite looking forward to being able to wash our clothes, eat home cooking and rest a bit! California & Oregon deserve a fortnight to themselves and a much slower drive up the coast, maybe we'll have a chance to come back and do that one day...

Tonight we have arrived at our last port of call, Los Angeles, which is crazy at the best of times, but after Michael Jackson's death yesterday it is on a whole other level, people selling RIP t-shirts on every street corner and news helicopters hovering over our hotel, but more on that in a few days...

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Road Trip : Seattle & Oregon

We had a flying visit to Seattle after Vancouver Island. We traveled by train, which would have been a fantastic experience, were it not for the fact that 30 minutes short of our destination we were stopped in our tracks (literally) by a fatality on the line ahead of us. In the end we got in to our hotel about 3 hours later than scheduled at 1am.

Hotel 1000 however was worth the wait... a really fantastic hotel in a great location. We hadn't had particularly high expectations of Seattle as it was merely a stop en route from Canada to San Francisco, but we actually loved it.

We had Sunday brunch in the rotating restaurant at the top of the space needle (see photo above) which was a bizarre but rather brilliant experience. After that we spent the rest of the day at the Experience Music Project and the Sci-Fi museum next to it. Jim got a military discount and I got a student one (thanks to my OU photography course) so a good day all round!

In Seattle we picked up our hire car to drive the west coast to Los Angeles. Jim had been fantasising about getting a Mustang since we booked it, but they were very reluctant to let one out on a one way hire, so gave us a Chrysler Seabring instead.... However, when we got it back to the hotel we realised the convertible mechanism was broken, and to cut a VERY long story short, 12 hours later we were driving out of Seattle in a brand new (6 miles on the clock!) red Mustang with a free satnav - Jim hasn't stopped grinning yet!

Seven hours south, we overnighted at another great B&B, the Rogue Forest. A wonderful cabin in the woods with an open fire, and a river rushing past. It was a great shame we were only there for a night, but maybe we'll have a chance to come back one day.

From Grants Pass, we had a brief stop at the Wildlife Images sanctuary where I at last got to see a bear (!!) as well as cougar, bob cats and raccoons!

From there it was another six hours drive through the beautiful Oregon countryside (with the temperature steadily increasing) to California and San Francisco.... we are staying here in the Argonaut Hotel for three nights and then its on to LA on Friday.