Sunday, February 27, 2011

Hawking movie

Billy's learning about his favourite scientist Stephen Hawking as part of his Cub's Science badge, so we just watched the movie "Hawking" tonight.

It covers the years 1963 - 65 when Stephen is at Cambridge University; when he's initially diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease and first formulates his theory of singularity.  While a lot of the physics obviously went over Billy's head (and mine, to be honest!), it sparked some good discussions and hopefully some of it stuck.

It's rated PG so quite suitable for kids with an interest in Hawking.


We're back but suffering from jetlag so I haven't posted.  The flight was uneventful - just very looooong.

I feel very disconnected from everything at the moment - America seems like it was a dream, yet I'm not quite ready to step back into 'my real life' (as Billy puts it).  Unfortunately I don't have much of a choice - Billy is raring to get back into his activities so we'll be jumping in boots and all starting tomorrow.  So back into normal activities, plus I also have 2 committee meetings (one of which includes a weekend away in Sydney), and Billy's scout group has a swim night as well.  Oh, and a back log of paid work...  Nothing like easing back into things :)

I'm also trying to get back into my exercise routine - I did a couple of yoga workouts while we were away, but other than lots of walking around theme parks, I didn't do anything regularly.  And eating out 2 meals / day (mostly fatty, salty & sugary) has led to my weight being far heavier than it should be :(

I'm busy making lists and schedules - most of which will probably be thrown away in the first week, but its my brain's way of trying to get back into control!

On the whole though, we had a fantastic trip but its good to be home..

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Last day at Disneyland and Knotts Berry Farm

Yesterday we spent our last day at Disneyland.  Unfortunately it was Presidents Day holiday (or something like that), and the place was jam-packed.  It was really quite unpleasant.  We arrived after lunch intending to redo a few rides, but with wait times well over an hour for most things, we stuck with the less popular things we'd missed.  We took a ride on the monorail and train, went to the Enchanted Tiki room, and at Billy's insistence, we did redo 'It's a small world' (arrrgghhh! lol).  After that, we went for an early dinner in Downtown Disney, then went back in to watch the night shows.  'Laserman' in the Tron area was very cool, as was the 'World of Color' - even if we could only see it from the back having missed out on the prime seating tickets.  The fireworks erupted as we were walking to the bus, so that was our final farewell to Disneyland.

Today was Knotts Berry Farm - I spent much of the day minding the bag :)

First up was the Ghostrider - a 118ft high wooden rollercoaster.  Yes, Billy did this.  And loved it!

Followed by Bigfoot Rapids - I would've done this, but didn't want to get wet.  Someone had to hold the bag :)

Then Pony Express - another roller-coaster.  There's me still holding the bag...

Then we lowered the pace a bit with the dodgem-cars,

the log ride (hey, I finally went on a ride!!),

and various rides in Camp Snoopy designed for the younger set.

We also watched a Wild West stunt show which was corny but quite well done.

And that brings our USA trip to a close...  Tomorrow we'll be checking out and catching the plane back to the land down under..

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Universal Studios

Despite it being a cold and rainy day, we had a good time at Universal Studios.  We paid extra for Front of Line passes which meant we got quicker access to rides and better seating at shows.  Crowds were down anyway because of the weather, but I still think it probably saved at least an hour of standing in lines.  And it meant we got to finish all of the rides before the rain came in.

Speaking of rides, they weren't the highlight for me but I did enjoy the Jurassic Park ride (a wet ride through dinosaur country).  I went on the Revenge of the Mummy ride and swore never again - but Billy & Pete went back on it for a second time!  I also piked on the Simpsons ride (I mean, I decided to make the sacrifice to hold the bags!) while they went on it - twice!  The Shrek 4D ride was good but I chose a stationary seat so I didn't get the full impact.

We started off with the studio backlot tour which was fun.  We survived a flash flood, King Kong in 3D, Norman Bates chasing us off with a knife, collapsing bridges and dropped in on a few well known houses..

We did most of the rides before a late lunch and then finished the day off by taking in the shows.  Both the Special Effects show and the Terminator 2 show were excellent.  We didn't get to do the Water World show due to the rain, and we weren't that interested in the animal show.

The most fun thing about Universal Studios, I think, is the characters roaming the park.  Some are there to meet and greet, some are there to sneak up behind and scare the crap out of you :)  Lots of fun though!

We left the park about 4:30pm and spent the next couple of hours having dinner in a nearby (warm, dry) steakhouse before we went back outside and waited for our bus.  A bus that was unfortunately an hour late...  We did eventually get back to the motel though!

Friday, February 18, 2011


We came, we saw, we kicked its butt :)

We've spent 2 days at Disneyland so far and have given it a pretty fair work over. 

We seem to have a bit of a dare-devil on our hands - he's tackled Space Mountain (roller-coaster - in the dark), Big Thunder Mountain Railway (roller-coaster), Indiana Jones Adventure (a thrill ride), Grizzly River Run (white water rafting ride - we got absolutely soaked on this!) and the Matterhorn Bobsleds (another roller-coaster).  (I, on the other hand, did not do Space Mountain but braved the rest - go me!  - I'm not a fan of roller-coasters..)

We also found time to kick it back a notch with Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, Mt Toad's Wild Road, Autopia, some bumper cars in the California Adventure section, and of course, no trip would be complete without "it's a small world".. :)

Innoventions was a pretty cool place as well - no rides, but a smart house with lots of future technology stuff.  We watched an amazing show with "Asimo the world's most advanced humanoid robot".

We had a couple of rest days in between our Disneyland adventures.  Billy came down with a touch of something so we took it easy - stayed in the hotel and only went out to do some shopping and eat.  He seems to be on the mend now other than a persistent cough that gets worse at night.

We've still got one more day to spend at Disneyland - we'll probably go on Sunday afternoon, redo a few rides and hang around to watch the fireworks and show.

In the meantime though - Universal Studios tomorrow!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Grand Canyon

I was exhausted after our trip yesterday - we left the hotel at 8am and got back about 12 hours later.  We had an amazing time though - I highly recommend the Detours AZ company if anyone is looking to do a tour!  We had only 5 people on the tour - the buses can take up to 10 - so it was a friendly, relaxed trip with a very knowledgeable guide.

I'll try to be a bit restrained with photos and not show the 100-odd photos I took :)

Our first major stop was at Sedona - a little town surrounded by amazing red-rock formations.  We had about 30 mins to stop, have a look around and visit the shops.

After we left Sedona, we drove through the Oak Creek Canyon.  My thoughts of Arizona were the 'wild west' landscape - desert and cactus - so it was a huge surprise to go through a canyon and up a mountain covered in pine trees - and snow!!

After some more driving, we finally came to the Grand Canyon.  Wow!  I'd seen it before from a different viewpoint but I think the side we saw it from this time was much better.  Plus there were very few people there - it was like we had the whole place to ourselves.  We stopped at about 6 places around the South Rim for photos (all very relaxed and not rushed at all) - we had lunch at the first stop looking out over the canyon.  Awe-inspiring!

Hurry up Mum, it's cold standing here!

And to top it all off - there was snow at the Canyon too.  This was Billy's first experience with snow, so he was just as excited about the snow as the Grand Canyon.  In fact, probably more so - he is 8 after all :)

Its a place that really stretches the mind.  Its so huge that its hard to get any perspective on how big it actually is. 

Speaking of stretching the mind - we spent today getting to LA and settling in at our hotel in Anaheim :)  Yes, Disneyland is coming up very soon!!  We'll spend tomorrow sleeping in and working out what we want to do around here - we're here for the next 10 days so we can afford to take some time to rest up!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Phoenix, Arizona

We arrived in Phoenix yesterday.  Even though the flight was under 2 hrs, the travel took up much of the day - getting to the airport, getting through security, flying, getting from the airport to the hotel..  We had a very strange taxi driver from Phoenix Airport, who on asking where we wanted to go, and me replying with the name of the hotel, said "please...  You forgot to say please..."!!!  I was slightly gob-smacked :)  Maybe he has grand-children he is trying to train to be polite?!

Anyway from that start, Phoenix has proven to be largely under-whelming so far.  The hotel we are staying at (due to Pete's conference) is in a rather affluent part of town - the shopping centre across the road has Macys & Saks!  Don't think I'll be popping across for some shopping :)  It is quite pretty in a dry, desolate way - we can see Camelback Mountain from our hotel.  The hotel itself is quite spectacular inside.

We caught a taxi into downtown Phoenix today to go to the Arizona Science Centre - but frankly, we were rather under-whelmed with that too after seeing so many great and unique ones in San Francisco.  It did have a few cool exhibits, but on the whole, not much that we hadn't already played with.  The fact we were dodging hordes of school children on excursions probably didn't help the enjoyment levels :)  Fortunately it thinned out when they all went off to have their lunch.

We have a Grand Canyon trip tomorrow which I'm really looking forward to.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

More San Francisco

We spent the day riding the cable car, going to the cable car museum (really interesting!) and wandering around Pier 39 eating ice-cream in the sun.  It's a hard life :)

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Muir Woods and Alcatraz

Billy & I went on a day trip today.

First stop was Muir Woods to see one of the last old-growth coastal Redwood forests.  We only had an hour to spend or the bus would leave us behind, so went on a short walk through the forest.  It was gorgeous, if a wee bit nippy in the shade!  We've been absolutely spoiled by the warm weather we've been having up until now and had to stop at the gift shop to buy a pair of gloves for Billy!

We had a quick stop over at Sausalito for lunch.  Again, only quick, or the bus would leave us behind!

Then the bus dropped us at the Pier in San Francisco where we caught the ferry out to Alcatraz - the former island prison.  We watched a short movie, and did a 45 min audio tour of the prison.  I'd been before, but I think it was even better this time.  Billy loved it!

One more day in San Francisco before we fly out to Phoenix.