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mejapanlady

Cherry Blossom Festival!

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They don’t do Easter over here in San Francisco, I’m not sure if that applies to everyone or just the family I am staying with, having said that I haven’t seen Easter eggs for sale in the shops or any mention of it, hardly anywhere, I was so glad, I don’t like it back home, all that money spent on chocolate, what a waste, it is all so over the top now.  I had read in the week about the Japantown Cherry Blossom Festival which was being held all weekend and really wanted to go today as it was the final parade which goes from City Hall to Sutter Street in the heart of Japantown.  The Festival was in its 50th year and even though it is hosted in San Francisco, it is for the whole of Northern California!!

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The festival wasn’t starting till 1pm so Finbarr and the family took me on a trip over the Golden Gate Bridge to the Marin headlands which can be seen from San Francisco across the Bay, it is a large mountainous region which has Muir Woods and Mount Tamalpais as part of its landscape, this time we went to the old lighthouse which is at the end of a rocky outcrop on the headland and provides stunning views across the bay to San Francisco skyline.  We walked and took some pictures of the stunning views then made our way back to the city.  Finbarr showed me where he cycles every day after work, what a beautiful cycle that must be every day!

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They dropped me off in Japantown about 12.45 so I took a walk around all the food stalls, and decided to try the spam masubi, I remembered Finbarr told me his son liked them so I got one for little Finbarr to take home.  It was raining, unfortunately; apparently it was the first time it has rained since the year 2000, typical, I must have brought it with me.  I ate my lunch which was lovely; it is like a big sushi roll of rice covered in vine leaves with spam in the middle! Yes Spam, apparently it’s big in San Francisco, they have different flavours too! I had a Japanese beer to wash it down with and waited for the parade.

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I went to see some of the Japanese shops and visited the Bonsai Exhibit, as I have probably mentioned many times before, I love trees, in any shape or form, but the Bonsai are amazing, I spoke to the guys who grew them about how to care for them, it all sounds very interesting, maybe when I have a house again I might get one!

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The rain was very heavy during the parade but it didn’t dampen the spirits of those performing, they just covered themselves with plastic coveralls and carried on.  There is a Cherry Blossom Queen; The Grand Marshall Konishiki Yasokichi (three time Sumo champion) is in attendance along with the chief of police, heads of Japantown, and other famous Japanese elite.  The highlight of the parade is the Taru Mikoshi which is a portable Shinto shrine believed to hold a god or deity; it is made of barrels of sake with a phoenix on the top.  Two men dressed in Sumo wrestling garb stand atop the Mikoshi and blow whistles while dancing on the top, holding on to coloured ropes to ensure safety.  There is an opportunity for you to apply to help to carry the Mikoshi; a Facebook page is set up every year for volunteers to help carry it through the town on the parade.  It was quite a sight; I was too late but wished I had been in time to volunteer to carry it with the thronging crowd!

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The whole parade was very colourful with many people in traditional Japanese dress, it was very musical with lots of bands playing as they went down the street and it lasted for about an hour, there were many, many floats and lots of people walking with small children in school groups attending also.  There was also a huge computer gaming community, who I saw on the stage after, but I really didn’t have a clue what that was all about, seeing as I don’t play these games.  After the parade there was plenty of entertainment on the outside stage, singing and dancing, not just Japanese culture but also Japanese bands singing current stuff.  All in all, I’m so glad I went, it was a lovely day, it would have been better if the sun was shining though!!

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Watching the Sea lions at Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf!

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I had heard before I came that I should go to Pier 39 but I thought it was because of the fisherman who still land their catch near the pier but there is so much more to Pier 39 that the fishermen, to be honest it is a bit of a Blackpool type place in that is has amusements, shops, bars etc. on the pier which is huge but of course you are in San Francisco as opposed to dreary old Blackpool.

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It’s brightly painted with many shops selling everything from expensive chocolate to even a shop just for left handed people called the lefties shop.  I took a pic as two of my children are left handed so I thought they might like to see it, lol!!

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There are many bars and places to eat, selling mostly seafood, but I did see a fish and chip shop but it was $10 for fish and chips so I thought I will give that one a miss, I don’t need fish and chips that bad.  There was a luau bar which looked just like the South Pacific islands or even Hawaii with palms and grass skirt decor, I am going to try that one out next time I go.  This time I went to the sports bar which had lots of memorabilia from different American sports, adorning the walls and ceiling. Paris Roubaix was on the tv so I decided to have a cider and watch the race, I met some French people who watched some of the race with me, they were from Paris and I was telling them that until now Paris had been my favourite city but San Francisco might just change all that!!!!

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The best part about Pier 39 is the many Sea Lions who visit every day, they lie around on the pontoons and fight with each other, and it looks as if they are performing for the public.  There are viewing areas in this part of the pier where you can just sit and watch the sea lions perform, they have chosen to come here of their own accord.  After the Earthquake of 1989, the Sea Lions made an appearance in 1990 and the scientists can find no reason why they suddenly came and no reason why they stay, but they are there in their hundreds, not just a few.  It is lovely to just sit and watch them fight with each other and jump off and on the different pontoons or just bask in the sun.  I took lots of pictures and of course there were many seagulls also around the pontoons, you are not allowed to feed the sea lions so no one does, we all just watch, although some people feel the need to make the same noises as them, now I can understand when kids do it but grown up people, making sea lion sounds, just sounds stupid!!!

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By the time I came off the pier it was getting dark so I made my way over to Fisherman’s Wharf which is just further along the front and the tram was heading back to where I needed to catch my bus so I jumped on and took a trip through the city in the dark, it looks just as wonderful all lit up.  I got off at Montgommery then caught the Geary bus back to the place I am staying on 16th Avenue.  Everyone was in bed when I got in so I quietly made my way to my room! Another fabulous day!

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Millennium Coastal Path

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My name for my blog is adventure Nani, I chose this name because I was going on a huge adventure traveling the world looking for adventure but what I realised while traveling, was, I was always searching for adventure, and have always been an adventurer.   You can find it everywhere, you don’t need to travel the world, you just need to get out there in your own back yard, adventure is where you look for it.

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I believe adventure comes in many guises, it is not just about the extreme sporting type of adventure like jumping from planes, bungee jumping, downhill biking and the like, it is about searching for fun, enjoying your life, living in the moment, and that can be done anywhere, especially in your home town.

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I have been doing more cycling recently because I am at home enjoying time with my children before I leave for another big adventure in the big wide world and I have spent more time on the Millennium Coastal Path which has been such an adventure.

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I have cycled this path for many years but more as a means to an end and a way to get form a to b, apart from when I cycled it with the children when they were small, over the years different points of interest have appeared to me, while cycling with my children the main thing was the cycling and we would stop to throw stones in the sea and other times we walked the dog there along one of the beaches,  but mostly we just had fun.

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Over the years as my children grew up we took part as a family in charity bike rides where the emphasis was on getting to Sandy Water park from Burry Port to enjoy some refreshment in the Sandpiper and then to carry on up the path toward Tumble stopping at various hostelries along the way, raising lots of money for charity as we went, dressed in all kinds of wonderful fancy dress.

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My children no longer come cycling with me, sadly, as they are all busy with their adult lives so I have plenty of time on my hands and one of the things I noticed while traveling was my love of wildlife, which was always there, but has grown a lot.   I especially love birds and could watch them all day.  The good thing about the cycle path is the many places along its length where you can enjoy nature and watch the different species of birds from Swans with their young and Ducks in the many lakes to seagulls hovering in the wind on the seashore, watching them in their own habitat is far better than any sanctuary or zoo or wildlife park.

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Millennium Coastal path runs along the coast of the Burry Inlet from Pembrey  country Park to Llanelli Discovery centre and is 7 miles of green tranquillity with lakes and wildlife conservation areas along its length.  It is mostly easy cycling for all levels of cyclist on mostly flat tarmacked wide path.  The path is also for pedestrians so beware if you are cycling, of people straddling the path.

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From its entrance at Pembrey Country Park so many delights await.  Riding through the marshland at the park towards Pembrey beach especially at high tide is wonderful as the water laps right up to the wall, which was built along the beach to house the path.  When the tide is out you might sometimes see cows grazing out in the marshlands to the south of the path, but be very aware of the times of the tides if you dare to walk out to the sandbanks, only do it at low tide and make sure you are back in plenty of time to watch the tide come in and completely cover the whole area very quickly, it kind of sneaks up on you when you are not looking and if you are across the sandbanks when the water starts to swell in the channels which carry the deepest water then you can be cut off from the path.  You must know about tides and times before you venture off across the marshlands or you can come a cropper, which many people have in the past.

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Having been brought up in this wonderful area, I have grown up knowing the intensity of the tides and how they can catch you unawares so I feel obliged when writing about this wonderful place to warn of the dangers too, having said that, the beauty far outweighs the dangers and if you are aware then you are safe.

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After cycling along the marshlands and Pembrey beach, where you can also take the children to play in the huge sand dunes, so much fun can be had running up and down the massive dunes and playing hide and seek.  You could also stop and take a little walk north to watch the golfers play on the Ashburnham golf course, one of the finest Championship Links golf courses in Britain which runs at the north side of the path.

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While cycling past the golf club up on the hill to your left you will reach Pembrey old harbour where you can cycle down to the end of the jetty and admire the views of the Gower peninsula.  After which you will reach the holiday park where many static caravans are holiday homes to mostly people who are from the valleys and love to visit the seaside as often as they can and then a little further along you reach Burry Port harbour where you can sit awhile admiring the boats in the harbour, take a walk out to the wonderful lighthouse or sit and enjoy a coffee in the little café or enjoy a glass of wine in the Yacht club.  The harbour has something for everyone, on the walk out to the lighthouse there is also a lovely beach with rock pools to go exploring for crabs and tiny fish.

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There are bridges over the two harbours where it is advised to dismount in case of pedestrians, which takes you on to the next section of the path which runs past the lifeboat station and along the pretty Burry port beach where you can sit and watch the many people in the water either swimming, kite surfing, fishing, kayaking, paddle boarding or having fun on their jet skis, there is a slipway at both ends for you to launch your boat or jet ski but I’m sure you will need permission from the harbour master.

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From this area the path goes a little inland due to a section of the path being badly damaged a few years ago during a storm, it goes through much greenery with a lovely lake to watch the wildlife and take your dog for walk or you can use your remote control boats and have fun on the lake making sure not to disturb the wildlife.  There are smaller paths which lead down to the beach or up to the earth sculpture near Bay Bach in this section, peaceful trails where the only sounds are the sea and the birds.

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If you love skateboarding or having fun with your scooter there is a small skateboard park in this section, a safe place for the kids to have fun away from the main road.

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Following the winding path toward Bay Bach you come to a clearing just before the hill which most of the locals call Telly tubby hill because it looks similar to the hill in the popular children’s programme.  If you stop and look right just before the railway bridge you will see the earth sculpture that is Telly tubby hill which juts out into the sea, and is made from PFA (Pulverised Fuel Ash from the old industrial works which dominated this area many years ago and is used for remediation and ameliorating industrial landscapes in effect making them safe again and able to grow vegetation).  PFA has been used for the infrastructure of the paths, the community woodland and the bridges completely enhancing an area which was once ugly and industrial.  The earth sculpture called “Walking with the sea” is a winding wide path curling ever upward to the curved top and looks like a giant winding road, a great climb and fun for the dogs to run up and down.   Where the earth sculpture juts out into the sea a bay has been formed which is called Bay Bach and many locals go there to swim at high tide, kayak, and fish off the side of the mound.  It is also a pretty place to just go for a walk.

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On the opposite side of the path to the bay is another pretty lake surrounded by community woodland with biking trails going through and leading to more lakes where you can see swans and ducks swimming with their young as well as terns, gulls, waders and wildfowl.

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Although I love birds I am not totally familiar with all the different species but am learning more about them all the time, if you go for a walk along the beach just behind the earth sculpture you will see many swallows (I think they are a type of swallow) nests in the remnants of a jetty which has remained from the time of industry, if you sit on the beach and watch in the early evening, you will see many swallows fly in and out of the nests which are holes in the wall of sand built up around the remaining jetty supports.

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If you are cycling, this part of the path is the most arduous, there is a slight incline which takes you up over a grass covered railway bridge and down the other side into a wide expanse of green meadow abundant with wild flowers with a path that runs alongside the railway with crossings at intervals which enable you to cross the railway and sit at the water’s edge while watching the world go by.  Just past the meadow is another lake with much wildlife and surrounded by a small wooded area.

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At the top of the railway bridge part of the path there is another sculpture this time made of silver coloured steel, it is like a huge needle and stands about 10 feet tall, it contrasts well with the green of the grass, and the blue sky and red coloured path.

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After cycling through the meadow and past the lake you pass through a wooded area just before the large cricket field in Pwll where you can sit on one of the many benches during the summer months and watch a leisurely game of Cricket while eating a picnic or you can buy something to eat or drink at the Cricket Pavilion café while the children play in the wonderful new play area near the tennis courts.

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Once you have enjoyed the cricket, take the path which now runs alongside the Pwll lakes which were constructed for fishing purposes but because of the tidal nature of the water levels, it is now more of a conservation area where you can watch the wildlife while quietly sitting on one of the pontoons.

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Carry on cycling past the lakes and you will come to a long stretch which passes Festival Fields, the site that was reclaimed from the old steelworks and used for the National Eisteddfod which is a Welsh annual festival which moves around Wales to different locations every year, usually alternating between the North and South each year.  A fantastic display of Welsh talent, if you are a visitor to Wales you must visit an Eisteddfod, it’s a wonderful display of singing, poetry, dancing, art and much more, all done in our native language, Welsh.  There are translation facilities available free to anyone who needs it.  The times of year to visit the main Eisteddfods would be June for the Urdd Eisteddfod which is specifically for the young people of Wales and consists of many school children competing for the prestigious prizes available.   The main Eisteddfod which is open to all age groups is usually in August and the international Eisteddfod is always held in its home in Llangollen every July where people come from around the world to compete in the many competitions.

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Just before you come to Sandy Water park which is a huge lake and conservation area for many different wildlife species you will cross the dragon roundabout, named so because of the huge dragon sculpture in its centre, there you will see the giant rugby posts with a sospan at the top in honour of the greatest rugby team there ever was “The Scarlets” (whose song is “Sospan Fach” a song about a little sospan) who are Llanelli’s favourite sporting greats.  Under the posts there is a steel art installation in the shape of one of the All Black players trying to tackle Phil Bennett while he is on the way to scoring a try in the game that we all remember when we beat the All Blacks in 1973.

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As you pass by the tribute to the Scarlets you can either go up the hill which takes you along the beach front in Llanelli to the Discovery Centre or you can take a cycle around the lake to the Sandpiper and enjoy some light refreshment in the beer garden or you can watch the ducks, geese and swans on the lake and take some frozen peas to feed them (feeding them bread is being discouraged as it is not that good for them).

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The Discovery centre is a magnificent building designed in the shape of the top half of a ship and it houses a lovely café where you can enjoy a cup of tea and some home-made cake, there are toilet facilities there and a bike shop downstairs where they sell and hire bikes and help you fix any punctures while also selling spare parts for the bike, if they don’t have what you need they can get it from their other shop so you can always guarantee they can get what is needed.

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This is a very small section of Wales’s Coastal path, just a seven mile stretch of the 870 mile long path which runs around the whole of Wales’s Coast, we also have the Offa’s Dyke path which runs the length of the Wales/ England border which makes Wales one of very few countries to have a navigable path around it’s whole perimeter.

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The start of this section at Pembrey Country Park is home to one of the largest beaches in Wales, an eight mile stretch of golden sands on the edge of forested park with trails for horses, bikes, walkers, runners etc.  Many sports are played at the park where there is also a dry ski slope.

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Carmarthenshire is a wonderful place to visit for a holiday, it has so much to offer, you won’t want to go home and the piece I have talked about in this blog post is just a tiny section of such wonderful coastline and inland countryside.  You won’t be disappointed, bring the children to enjoy the time of their lives and give them a  holiday to remember, my children always remembered the fun they had in the outdoor places we went and in Carmarthenshire we have it all especially along the Millennium Coastal Path.

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Climbing Mount Untersberg!! With one crutch!! In the snow!!

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Climbing Mount Untersberg

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Whilst visiting Salzburg I had read online that the cable car ride up Mount Untersberg was a “must do” and it sounded pretty fab so I just had to go for it.

 

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In Salzburg they have a ticket for 25 Euros which gives you 24 hour passes to most of the wonderful sights, museums and public transport in Salzburg, (there is so much more to Salzburg than the “Sound of Music” tour which the locals don’t get anyway as it’s a British made film).

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I bought the 24 hour ticket on the day of arrival and kept the Untersberg visit for the following morning with a view to taking the cable car, looking at the views, taking some pics and then coming back down and making my way to the Hohensalzburg Fortress to finish my 24 hour period (unlike other cards in other cities, the Salzburg card is valid for 24 hours from the time of first use, others are valid only during the day of purchase).   I bought my ticket at about 1pm but as I said I saved my trip to Untersberg until the second day and left on the first available bus in the morning which would get me to the cable car at opening time of 9am.  The bus trip there took about 40 minutes and the views on route are pretty spectacular of snowy mountain scenery and wonderful green valleys with pretty little towns interspersed between the green valley landscapes.

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The Untersberg cable car is the last stop on the bus, there is a little walk to the cable car entrance and on the bus I met someone who, like me was looking for the cable car entrance, we chatted, his name was Brice and we enjoyed the cable car ride chatting about our travels and looking out at the disappearing valley floor and up at the magnificent mountain skyline, he was from America and studying in Germany with some time off for travel.

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The views from the cable car are pretty spectacular! Have I mentioned before how I love cable cars?  At the bottom of the mountain the weather was pretty warm for an early spring day, the sun was shining and I would say it was about 20 degrees but as we approached the top we could see huge changes in the weather, when we got off the cable car and headed toward the peak of the mountain, we were knee deep in snow and there was a snowy blizzard going down!!!  Good job I wore my snow boots (the only boots I had taken, in anticipation of loads of snow but actually only the second time to use them to their full capacity lol).

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Mount Untersberg is one of the most popular hiking destinations in and around Salzburg because of its spectacular views, as you step off the cable car you are faced with an incredible view of Salzburg city as well as a full 360 degree panoramic view of the Dachstein Massif and the awe inspiring Hoh Tauern mountain range.  While on a clear day you can see all the way out to the Salzkamergut lakes where the famous opening scene from “The Sound of Music” was filmed, Berchtesgadener Land in Germany and Lake Chiemsee in Bavaria.

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The cable car takes you as far as 1320 metres up but the peak can be seen in the distance at 1973 metres, there is a restaurant at the cable car station with toilets and a viewing platform and if you walk through the covered area it brings you out on to the path which leads toward the summit.  I love to climb mountains so with the blizzard swirling snow all around, I made my way toward the summit to see if there was a way through the snow where I could get to the top, Brice was also trying to do the same and further along the path we met Tommy from Norway and Eh from Estonia who had both met on the couchsurfing website in one of the hangouts and decided to climb the mountain together.  We all made our way through the deep snow, following a path used by some skiers which had steep downs and equally steep uphills, we could see the summit marked by a large wooden cross but the way up was very craggy and rocky but not all visible due to the snow, luckily after we had been walking for about an hour the blizzard stopped and the sky cleared to the most magnificent views.  I bought a panoramic information brochure back at the cable car station which gave you more of an idea about which mountain was which and how to orientate yourself at the top, needless to say we stopped and took many, many pictures, the sheer beauty of the snow-capped mountains and alpine landscape was just jaw dropping.

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We reached the summit after a very arduous climb with all the others going ahead of me, leading the way, I was still walking with one crutch after my leg breaking in Thailand so it was difficult for me, plus they were all much younger and faster than me, but to be fair, we worked as a team and they helped me every step of the way, especially when we were on the way back down and I realised my phone was not in my pocket!!! Shock horror, I knew that if it was lying in the snow that was it, all my photos would be gone along with all the information I use my phone for, I was in a very huge panic, close to tears, but they offered to go back and look for it and thankfully found it hanging by the charger lead, which had been in my pocket, from the top branches of a tree which we had had to use to help us slide down a particularly tough section.

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The views at the top were so beautiful we spent a long time just taking it all in, absorbing the scene before us in awe, looking out over the huge ranges ahead of us and behind us and at every turn, the purity of the snow covered peaks was just awesome, it was just so beautiful and unspoilt, we were at the highest point for miles, it was so serene and peaceful with just the birds for company and the four of us enthralled by what we were seeing.  The photos we took don’t really do justice to the actual amazing sight but it will remain in my memory forever.

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If I hadn’t met my new friends I would not have attempted the climb on my own while using a crutch, it just wouldn’t have happened, I was so grateful for meeting these people who shared this special memory with me.  Needless to say my original plan of just being up there for an hour tops, was completely scuppered and by the time we came back down to the cable car station it was lunch time and we were all hungry so we ate together in the restaurant, delicious local traditional fayre, while exchanging travel stories.  One of the most valuable experiences of traveling, for me, are the people you meet who share your passion and share the special moments with you.  The people you meet, mostly really enhance the experience.

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Wow what a morning, I didn’t make the Fortress as my time was up on my pass card so I decided to take a walk through the old town instead which was wonderful and full of traditional craft shops and pretty eateries while horse drawn carriages transported tourists through the cobbled streets.  One of these streets was also used in the filming of “The Sound of Music”.  My visit to Salzburg was far better than anticipated and a place I would love to come back to one day.

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Muir Woods

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Friday was a day off for Ingrid so she asked me if I wanted to go to Muir Woods with her,  Finny and her friend Claudia, I have heard much about Muir Woods and the Giant Redwoods that reside there that I just had to say yes.  Muir woods was definitely on my list of places to go in California, I love trees and a chance to see the oldest in the world was something that really excited me, the weather was lovely so we set off to pick Claudia up, who lives quite close to Ingrid, the traffic was very busy but we set off from Claudia’s and began our trip over the Golden Gate Bridge and into Marin County to the National Park that is Muir Woods.

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It took about an hour to get there in the car, passing through wonderful scenery, we also happened to go through Mount Tamalpais National Park on the way there which was very beautiful.

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On arrival at Muir Woods, the delights that await you are not immediately apparent; there is an entrance gate with car parking and a small café with a toilet block available.  The charge for entry is $10 but we were all allowed in free because we were with Claudia who has a pass.

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Once through the entrance gate the sheer enormity of the trees hits you, there are several just through the gate and as you walk along the designated pathway more and more Giant Redwoods loom over you.  The forest is made up of other trees and flora and fauna and is a protected area.

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Many of the Redwoods are over 600 years old, a few are 1,000 years old and cover most of the forest, as well as Bay Laurels and Big Leaf Maples and the large Douglas Firs which all compete with Redwoods on height.   The forest  also has a very diverse undergrowth, many trees have fallen over or have been uprooted due to bad weather over the years but the conservationists advise to leave them disintegrate over time on the forest floor, thereby providing habitat for various insect species and nourishment for the soil.

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Because of low light on the forest floor, many of the plants that cover the ground are shade loving plants, the sun does not reach these plants at any time during the day so the sword ferns, mosses and redwood sorrel thrive under the shade of the Giant Redwoods.

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While walking through the forest it’s not just the enormity of the Redwoods which catches the attention but also the ground cover of beautiful spring wild flowers such as trillium, clintonia and redwood violet.  The silence is captivating and the energy you feel from being in amongst such great trees is truly revitalising.  There is one area called Cathedral Grove where silence is encouraged in order not to disturb the flora and fauna and the peace you feel in this area adds to the huge sense of wellbeing you feel just being around such greatness!

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Ingrid and Claudia decided to go to the café for something to eat and a drink so Finbarr took me on one of the trails which takes you higher into the forest, where more and more Redwoods reside, some with such huge circumferences that you can stand inside part of the tree.  I am a bit of a tree hugger and once I found one thin enough to hug I just had to go for it.  I can feel the energy being absorbed into my body when I hug trees; well that’s what I believe anyway.

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In Japan they have scientifically proven that the practice of “forest bathing” can improve your health.  It is believed to lower heart rate and blood pressure, reduce stress hormone production, boost the immune system and improve overall feelings of wellbeing.  So what’s not to love about visiting forests especially one as special as this one?

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I have always wondered what it would be like if trees could tell stories, imagine how many they could tell, they have seen so many people pass beneath their branches, so many world changes while they just continue to grow majestically higher.

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Some facts about the Redwoods you might not know are; they are specific to the California Coast and have been growing there for hundreds of years.  There are two species in California, the Coast Redwood which can be found at Muir Woods and the Pacific Coast Highway from southern Oregon to Big Sur. Closely related is the Sequoia Dendron gigantem, which grows larger in bulk but is less tall than the Coast Redwood.  Giant Sequoias can be seen in Yosemite and Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.  I am going there on my road trip next week, so I really hope I get to see these giants!

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Redwoods thrive so well on California Coast because of the fog which provides enough moisture during dry spells.  Surprisingly they also benefit from fire, which gets rid of duff on the forest floor so redwood seeds can reach mineral soil.

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The information centre at the park has lots of information about the animals which frequent the forest including deer, raccoons, and many different types of bird and insect. They also have a little shop selling mementos of your day at Muir Woods.

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I had the most wonderful day, not only because I got to see the beauty of the Giant Redwoods but because I met a lovely new friend, Claudia and I got to spend the day with her and Finny and Ingrid, the places I have visited are always enhanced by the friends I make along the way.

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Cycling in Golden Gate Park

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Golden Gate Park is the largest park in San Francisco, a bit like Central Park in New York but not quite as big, there are many things to do there, many lakes, a golf course, museums, Chinese Garden, botanical garden amongst many other things.

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I haven’t ridden a bike since December 2014.  In 2015 I was struck down with a thyroid condition which led to me losing most of my muscle tone and contracting Rheumatoid Arthritis, which meant I had no strength and apart from that my joints were very swollen, especially my knees and fingers which meant no cycling! Toward the end of 2015 I started to get better and by 2016 my muscle tone was coming back, however during 2016 I lost my business due to my illness.  I later decided to make the best of a bad situation and do some traveling, I didn’t have any money so I sold all my personal belongings from a three bedroom bungalow and with the money I made from selling all my stuff I put together a plan, to try and do the things I might have if I had gone before I had my children, trying a little couchsurfing, helpxing etc etc, in order to write a book about my adventures and reasons for doing it.

pirate2The quite underneath the pirate statue reads :   I like to think this symbolises me at this moment in time, roaming the world in search of adventure!!

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My youngest boy was joining the army and to be honest with you I felt bereft, losing your children to adulthood is not easy to accept, anyway to get back to the cycling, because I was traveling I had no opportunity to cycle and then I broke my leg in Thailand in October 2016 which was definitely not conducive to cycling.  I had the opportunity a couple of times since, while in Europe but was a bit scared and nervous in case I fell off and because I was on my own.

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Well now I’m in San Francisco and Finbarr has kindly offered to lend me a bike, we talked about cycling over the Golden Gate Bridge but I was still nervous so today, Ingrid, Finbarr’s wife lent me her bike to go to the GG park.  I was a bit shaky when I got on, mainly because it is such a heavy bike and I was cycling on the right hand side of the road as opposed to the left which has become automatic living in the UK.

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It was a very special day, I realised how much I missed cycling, the park has cycle lanes and is easy to cycle around, there are special places of interest dotted all through the park, there are some parts where you have to cross the main road but I just used the crossings when I was a bit unsure.

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The sun came out this afternoon and it was lovely and warm, I wore my Bynea cycle gear to ride, it felt so good to be back in the saddle and also to be wearing my cycle gear again. I was still a bit nervous about coming off as my knee was clicking quite a lot and painful at times but on the whole I loved it, I just cycled round with a permanent smile on my face, taking it easy and stopping quite often to admire the flora and fauna.

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I stopped by the lily pond which was devoid of lilies but saw a crane, as I was about to take a photo he flew from one part of the lake to another and the photo caught him mid-flight, such a splendid sight, such a huge wingspan and such an elegant glide!  While there I met a lovely lady from San Francisco and we chatted about our lives, I love meeting new people!

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In other parts of the park I sat amongst the large dandelion like flowers, sat on the bench by the lake, watched the waterfalls, watched the other people in the park enjoying the beauty, again the trees are wonderful and many different species are housed in this park, willows, cedars, redwoods and many others.

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There are a couple of lakes where you can just sit and enjoy the peace, a golf course, a polo field, bowling green.  There were supposed to be lessons today at the bowling green but when I got there, there was no-one to be seen so I just carried on cycling.  It was a wonderful day and when I got home Ingrid had made a lush turkey chilli with corn bread!  It was just amazing, I also went shopping this morning to Trader Joe’s with Ingrid and another shop I forget the name of, we did the weekly shop before I picked up my laptop from the repair shop!  $95 just to fix the wire, less said about that the better!!!!!

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Ruin bars of Budapest

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On my journey of adventure I like to find unusual places, you have to do some of the touristy bits but it’s always good to find other stuff which you usually find by accident, by just walking through the back streets or just getting on a bus and getting off somewhere that looks interesting.  However if you are pushed for time and you want to see as much as possible, within two days, in any place, it is always good to use search engines.

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I usually Google “What to do free in Budapest” or whatever city I happen to be in.  I am traveling on the tightest budget imaginable but I have found that many of the best things to see are free anyway, like the parks, monuments, street art, rivers, waterfalls etc. etc.  i.e. “The best things in life are free”.  Well Budapest has a lot to offer for free!

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One of my favourite places in Budapest is the ruin bars.  One of the most famous is Szimpla Kert on 14 Kazinczy Street in the Jewish district of Budapest, amongst all the trendy night spots and outdoor party places of Budapest nightlife.

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Ruin bar was started in 2002 in another building but due to its immediate popularity they moved to its current address because there was so much more room, initially a factory with housing attached it had become dilapidated and set for demolition but the four owners saw the potential and opened the place as a community hub for anyone to go at any time just to hang out in comfortable arty surroundings.

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The Jewish district is not far from the centre of Budapest, I was staying in a hostel on Andrassy Ut which is quite close enough to walk, or you can use the tram cars,  buses or even underground, the public transport in Budapest is easy and fun to travel on.

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Even though I have spoken about this as one of the free highlights of Budapest, obviously if you would like a drink in the ruin bar you have to pay for it, it’s about the same price as at the other local hostelries but so much more interesting.

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The rooms have all been covered in graffiti style art; you can even add your own name to the wall.  When you enter downstairs there is a dance room toward the back and a beer garden with an old decorated car with lounge seats to relax with your drink, in between there is a quirky room with old computer monitors and strings of lights all looking very electrical art installation like!  There are pieces of bric a brac everywhere and I mean everywhere, old junk shop finds have been used as furniture, nothing matches, everything is just thrown together in an eclectic mish-mash of styles which all adds to the charm of this very chilled out space in the city.

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In the nights it is party central and you often have to queue to enter, not because they pick and choose their clientele but because everyone wants to go there to feel the vibe, young or old, all are welcome.  I went during the day, you get to see the place better and it is not so full, so you can walk from room to room marveling at all the different collections of junk in every nook and cranny, from old bikes to mannequins to light fixtures made from plastic glasses, it is an unpretentious artistic haven.

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It’s not all about drinking and parties either; they have special events throughout the year and encourage all ideas for festivals or fun times.  I went on a Sunday when they hold a farmers market in the downstairs central walkway area, with all local produce for sale from local cheeses to arts and crafts and traditional entertainers working the crowd.

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It is built over three floors with every inch of wall covered in street art and every inch of space adorned with eclectic memorabilia.  I just love it there, it had such fantastic relaxing atmosphere, and I could have stayed all day but needed to move on to see more of this fantastic city.  I will write about Budapest in another blog post but the ruin bars deserved their own post, so glad I found them!!

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After relaxing with my glass of Hungarian red wine which was quite nice and adding my name to the wall in one of the fab rooms I made my way back towards my hostel and found a quirky little diner selling traditional Hungarian Goulash which is made as a soup in the traditional manner, this I enjoyed with a Hungarian beer which was exceptional!  I definitely picked the right time of the year to come, not too many tourists overcrowding everywhere.  The diner was also tastefully decorated with music themed memorabilia, although it seemed a traditional Hungarian place there was a very distinct American diner theme with burger style meals on offer as well as the traditional fayre.

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It’s always worth exploring as much as you can on foot, this is when you come across these quaint little places, as a rule I hardly ever eat out, mainly because I am on a tight budget but also because I see eating out as a social thing and traveling solo I prefer to buy at supermarkets and eat in the local park or somewhere of interest.  I don’t mind having a drink in a bar on my own, there is always someone to talk to but in restaurants people tend to be in their own parties, so I avoid it mostly.

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Driving in LA to meet Fabian Cancellara!!!

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Driving in LA! OMG!

OMG I drove through LA, it was a mad experience but I loved it, by the time I got to LA I had been driving for a week in USA and worked out their driving habits and when to give way etc.  Most of the cities are built on a grid system which means at every junction there is a cross roads, they don’t do roundabouts much here; anyway at these crossroads there are pedestrian crossings on each corner.

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If there are no traffic lights you basically have to stop at every stop sign at every junction, not a rolling stop a dead stop, and if you don’t you will be fined, even if there is nothing coming the other way you still have to stop, which is probably why they drive automatics all that stopping and starting.  Basically the person who arrives at the junction first stops and then whoever comes next gives way to the person who was there before them and that’s how it works and it works very well once you have worked out what is going on.

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Obviously at traffic lights you stop on red and go on green BUT in USA you are allowed to turn right on a red provided no one is on the crossing or no other traffic is coming, so you might be sitting there waiting for the lights to go green while behind you someone is beeping you to move off.  The problem is if you wait for the light to turn green this invariably means the crossing on your right is in action and on the busy streets people are always crossing so you have to watch out for them while trying to turn.

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Anyway because all the cities are the same, once you have worked out the rules, then they apply in all cities.  The problem with LA is it is very busy but it has this special buzz about it, the same as San Francisco really, I suppose it was exciting for me because I had seen these places in the films and now here I was driving down Hollywood Boulevard looking at the stars on the pavements watching everyone get their pics taken with the Disney stars present.

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I then drove down Rodeo Drive which I had wanted to do since heading for LA, as I remember it from the film “Pretty Woman”.  I borrowed a dress from Ingrid in San Francisco which is identical to the dress Julia Roberts wore in the film so I wore it to drive through LA, Hollywood Boulevard, Rodeo Drive, Sunset Boulevard where you can spot the Hollywood sign in the mountains and Beverley Wilshire.  It was such fun driving through LA, I didn’t feel nervous at all, I felt at home driving in the US, it is very manic but it is also a huge buzz and the roads are huge with many lanes on some of the larger roads but as long as you apply the same rules you can’t go far wrong!! UNTIL YOU REACH THE FREEWAY!! OMG!!

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I left Virginia’s place in Long Beach at about 10 am with the aim of driving through LA then heading south to San Diego to meet with an old friend from Cycle club back home, who had since moved to San Diego to get married.

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I was supposed to leave LA about 1pm which would give me enough time to do what I needed and join the Highway number 5 heading south, BUT the traffic was manic and it took me four hours just to get out of LA, no time for stopping on the way down as I was supposed to meet Julius at 6pm at the place he works which was the Trek bike shop in San Diego as Fabian Cancellara was coming there to meet the cyclists.  Fabian Cancellara is a famous cyclist form Switzerland who raced in the Tour De France so I was pretty keen to get there and have a picture taken with Julius and Fabian with my Bynea kit on, flying the Dragon of the Welsh flag! Woop woop!! How amazing is that, me and Julius who is originally from Phillipines but grew up in Wales with our “small cycle club” BYNEA jerseys on meeting Fabian Cancellara from Switzerland, all in San Diego!! What a life!! LOL!!!  Living the dream!!

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After meeting Cancellara, Julius took me for a wonderful Vietnamese meal!! What a day!! WOW!!

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Summer of Love at the De Young Art Museum

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I spent the day at the De Young Museum of Art, it wasn’t my intention to stay there so long it was just so amazing, I always love art museums but there is always so much stuff that doesn’t really interest me but in this one I loved everything.  I had been given a free ticket by Ingrid but on arrival to see the Summer of Love exhibition I was told that it cost extra to see the two extra exhibitions so I paid another $15 to see both.  One was “The Summer of Love” a temporary installation showing  the fashion, music and art of the 1967 summer of love when everyone was “dropping acid” in the hip Haight and Ashbury district.

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The other was a temporary showing of Stuart Davies’s work, he is a bit like Kandinski and Picasso, abstract art, not sure why I have never heard of him before?  The other permanent art on show was Danny Lyon’s photography and Frank Stella’s prints along with African, American and modern art alongside Worldwide Tapestry traditions and a huge installation at the entrance by Leonardo Drew.

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This museum is special, it is in Golden Gate park surrounded by fantastic gardens and lakes, I cycled there from where I am staying with Finbarr and family which is very close by.  The building is very modern and designed for art.  The outside eating area at the back is surrounded by outside art installations and beautiful garden with a circular observatory which enables you to see the sky while sitting in the building through the large hole in the roof.

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I visited a photographic exhibition in Saltzburg by Robert Frank, the photographer on display here in the De Young was Danny Lyon and their pictures are very similar, Danny Lyon takes photos of real Americans, in the raw, sometimes the ones others might not be interested in, the people considered to be on the fringes of society, but he enjoyed his work so much that he moved to live among the people he photographed, he was a big biker and loved to take photos of his biking trips and whenever he had a new photographing project he became totally involved with the people, once he was photographing demolition derby cars and he bought his own and competed so he could really know what it felt like to be part of the scene.

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This is meant to depict the mountain range in the Marin headlands which is said to look like a supine Indian woman

 

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This exhibit was made from burnt pieces of wood which were part of a church burnt down by racists so the artist turned the ugliness of hatred into a thing of beauty!

 

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This is a huge installation at the entrance made with all sorts of debris! It looked very effective.

 

There is so much to write about the De young museum and all the art but I just need to say how fantastic the museum itself is, and the Summer of love Exhibition was an insight into how free and hip life was in the 60s and in particular the 1967 summer of love in San Francisco which involved drugs and parties and rock n roll!

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The day I met General Eisenhower (the tree that is)

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Today I met General Eisenhower (the tree that is)

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Today I was allowed to borrow the pick up from the family I am staying with, they are very kind people and they have allowed me to use the pick up to explore the area so I set off with a view to having a quick drive around and visiting Healdsburg, famous for its Plaza which is full of wine tasting rooms, fancy clothes shops, bag shops, shoe shops and jewellery shops, with a few art galleries thrown in for good measure, all very tastefully done.

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First I set off into the hills to try and drive to the top so I could look back down over the valley and revel in its splendour.  I kept going up and up and I eventually arrived at this carpark with a hotel looking building, which looked closed, but obviously in use because it was so well kept and outside in the carpark there was a sign in front of the biggest Redwood I have seen so far, it read “General of the Army, EISENHOWER TREE, dedicated 1972”.

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It was massive, my mouth just hung open in awe while I gawped at its enormity, it was so big it had a tunnel going through it; I went around it taking photos and found a way in.  The inside of the bark looked like it had been on fire at some point and the space created within its base could hold about 10 to 15 people quite comfortably.  I walked around and around it just saying wow, omg so many times, it was just amazing.  Needless to say I took loads of photos but they don’t do it justice, it was so big you just couldn’t get it all in the pictures.

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I took one photo with the pick-up at the base just to compare the sheer size, I tried hugging it but it was just too wide so I hugged a part of it.

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While I was nosing around a lady came out and asked me what I was doing, I told her I was visiting and looking for a place at the summit, she explained the only place I could reach the summit and see the valley below meant  going on a mile hike, which I tried to do, but there were no clear route markers and I didn’t want to get lost, there was no one else about so I gave it a miss this time, you just can’t climb them all, LOL.

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While I was talking to the lady she explained to me that General Eisenhower (the tree) had been struck by lightning many years ago which was what set it alight and the damage was pretty extensive but apparently the trees surrounding the general help to keep him alive.  You could literally have a party inside the tree! I just loved it, I could have moved in!! LOL!!

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After taking one last look at the general, I had to leave, I couldn’t just keep staring at him all day, lol so I went back into Healdsburg, parked up and went for a wander, there are loads of giant Redwoods growing in the middle of the town too, so I took some more pics.

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There are many wineries with tasting rooms attached within the town centre, with many advertising food and wine pairings, I have to say the only food and wine pairing that suits me is any type of food with any type of wine #Commonasmuck #heathen #noclue.  Anyway the same hangover you get no matter how long you discuss the flavour, bouquet etc. or how much you pay, compared to a cheap bottle of Woodman from Trader Joe’s so I declined the tasting rooms, plus I was driving!!

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I visited the Paul Madher gallery which is the largest in Healdsburg and also the largest in California, north of LA.  I also met the man himself, Paul Madher, we discussed his moss wall which was the largest moss wall in California (I’m sure it’s the only one too) and we discussed the homeless project he has on at the moment in the gallery, one of the artists displaying their art has made a movable pod possibly for a homeless person to sleep in and Paul told me it can be pulled along by a bicycle which gave me food for thought.  I have always wanted to cycle across the USA and towing my own little home would be ideal, put it on the backburner for another day!!!

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The art gallery is very big and very museum like with plenty of art on display from about 50 different artists, I nearly bought the oil painting of large roses, it was only $88,000.00 yes that’s 88 thousand dollars!!!!

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redwoodI left Paul watering his moss wall which he needs to do regularly apparently.  I’m sure he does very well in Healdsburg there seems to be a lot of people enjoying the ambience and the wine, but the moss wall is NOT for sale, shame!!!

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I took a drive after visiting the gallery,  along route 128 just to see some of the countryside, there are some spectacular views around here and magnificent mountains.  It reminds me very much of home at the moment with its green rolling hills and lovely trees everywhere but very soon the green will start to look parched as the sun beats down and dries up all the greenery.  Some of the hills were already looking beige rather than green and it’s only the start of the hot weather with eighty degree sunshine planned for the weekend, a mini heatwave, oh well, I don’t mind the hot weather even if all the farmers do, but apparently it’s good for the grapes too, makes them sweeter!!

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