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Celebrating the Fourth of July with friends

written by Birgit, pictures mostly by Sam

sunny 22 °C
View Around the world 2016/17 on dreiumdiewelt's travel map.

The next stop on our journey was Thousand Oaks, just north of Malibu in the Santa Monica hills. This is not necessarily a typical tourist destination and only made it on our travel map, as this is where my friends Susan and John are living.
I had pre-warned them already when we met last year in September, that we might want to meet when we’re coming to their area. And luckily enough they were around and not traveling themselves!
We arrived at their house and welcomed with more food than all of us together could possibly eat: there were blue corn chips (yummy!) with John’s homemade guacamole and salsa. And then there was a big barbecue feast with bison burgers, German brats, rolls, sauerkraut, pickles, tomato, various sauces, corn on the cob and much more… Max was delighted and ate much more than what he usually eats, but also we had clearly more than needed – specifically when the apple pie and fruit came into play!

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What Sam and I had not realized so far is that we had really longed for good conversations. After all John and Susan were the first friends we had seen for two months now. And even though we’ve met lots of other people in the meantime, conversations with strangers are just different and much more superficial. So we kept John and Susan up longer than what they are used to and went to bed with the nice feeling you have after such great conversations.
The next morning John and Susan introduced us to one of their favourite breakfast places – the Side Street Café. What a great menu! Really nice!

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But the next highlight of our day was not far away: we went to the Ronald Reagan Library. John easily navigated us to the best parking position despite the hundreds of cars lining the access and the ushers advising us to use the overflow parking down the hill. There was quite a program at the Library for the Fourth of July: we met the flag maker Betsy Ross, had a chat with President Lincoln, Max bounced in the bouncing castle, we walked through Ronald Reagan’s Air Force One, had an excellent snack featuring Jelly Beans and saw the Oval Office how it looked in Reagan’s times.

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But there was more to come: in the early evening we went to Janss’ Marketplace, got our bracelets entitling us to join the firework viewing on the upper deck of the parking. Max immediately entered the bouncing castle just there before doing his balancing tricks in the playground.

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John and Susan treated us to excellent dinner at the Sunset Terrace and the timing was just perfect to arrive on the upper deck of parking to enjoy the Eagles Revival Band. Even though we seemed not as well prepared as many others who were carrying loads of stuff up there, John organized us seats and we placed them in the best position just in front of the band. We had to smile when the band played ‘Hotel California’, we got to think of the dark desert highways on the Baja and had a look at the picture we took of the ‘Hotel California’ in Todos Santos. At 9pm we just had to turn around our seats to enjoy the fireworks – all of us love fireworks!

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The next morning it was time to say good bye to Susan and John. All of us had really enjoyed the stay with them, but Max was very outspoken about the fact that he did not want to leave.
Eventually we headed off towards Hollywood. Our first stop was Mulholland Drive which treated us to a nice view not only of the infamous Hollywood Sign, but also of some very exquisite mansions in the Hollywood Hills. Given that we had not spent the 200$ to go on a Hollywood Tour, it was up to us to speculate which of them could belong to the various celebrities living in the area.

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Next on our list of places we wanted to see was the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It was fun to spot stars of all kinds of celebrities, such as Jodie Foster, Steven Spielberg, Aretha Franklin, Mickey Mouse, Michael Jackson, Anthony Hopkins etc… Along the way we also passed the Dolby Theater - location of the annual Oscars and Graumans Chinese Theater where various stars have left the imprints of their hands and feet.

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I really enjoyed that stroll along the Walk of Fame. The only bad news was that we had gotten an expensive parking ticket (73$) as we had missed to read that along that side of the street, street cleaning was on Tuesdays noon – 3pm and not like on the other side of the street on Mondays. Next time we’ll look more closely before parking!
We took the scenic route via Sunset Boulevard, Rodeo Drive, Wilshire Boulevard and Santa Monica Boulevard to the beach. I’m not sure how often I had watched ‘Pretty Woman’ as a teenager, but even though that’s quite a while ago, all these sites reminded me so much of the movie.

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In Venice Beach we once again went for street parking – this time checking the signs better than earlier. We checked out Muscle Beach, saw the beach basketball courts that were featured in ‘White Men Can’t Jump’ and had lunch on the beach. With the life guard stations all along the beach, we were a bit reminded of ‘Baywatch’. Pamela Anderson was nowhere to be seen, but there were enough other people to watch.

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Max enjoyed the playground and was disappointed that he could not use the skatepark with his bike – after all it was crowded with adults who were practicing their tricks in front of a big crowd of spectators. On our way back to the car, we were lucky to catch a show of the Calypso Tumblers, featuring breakdance, acrobatics and funny commentary – fun!

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But best of all, was just e whole atmosphere and specifically the people there.

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Leaving LA around rush hour was less fun, but otherwise we would have missed a trademark of the area. Having the feeling on a 7-lane highway that there are at least 3 lanes missing is something that would have never occurred to me if I hadn’t seen it.
Even though we could have spent lots more time in LA and surroundings, all of us were happy with what we had seen and were ready to head on towards new adventures.

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 09:41 Archived in USA Tagged venice beach breakfast friends castle lincoln library hollywood fourth bouncing Comments (0)

Rain and snow – hey, that was not the plan!

written by Birgit, pictures mostly by Sam

rain 5 °C
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That last night at Jasper NP we did get awfully cold. Lucky us that our van has a heating system, but as we somehow don’t want it running all night, it did eventually get just too chilly for my taste. Hadn’t we planned our tour route such that we’d be skipping winter this year?
After warming up a bit over breakfast with hot tea and hot chocolate, we headed off towards the Edith Cavell mountain and its Angel glacier. Due to recent rock fall resulting in a sudden flood and mudslide we were not allowed to get close to the lake, so we had to content ourselves with the view from the distance. It was pretty cold up at the glacier and as it had snowed in the night before, we did get to see quite a couple of small avalanches.

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As we were heading south along the Icefields Parkway, which is often dubbed to be one of the most beautiful mountain roads in the world, the Athabasca Falls were our next destination. We were lucky to stay dry during our stop there. Despite the lack of sunlight, it was surprising how intense the colors looked.

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And in regards to the scenery, we were impressed by the beautiful mountains on both sides of the huge glacier valley we were driving through. Most likely (certainly) the views would have been even more impressive if there would have been a bit more sunshine. We consoled ourselves with the fact that the nice white snowcaps of the mountains around us were a very pretty sight as well which we would have missed in warmer or nicer weather.

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As we reached the Columbia Icefield, we briefly stopped at the local visitor center, only in order to realize that it is extremely catered to everyone being willing to spend lots of money on commercial tours driving onto the Athabasca glacier and spending a couple of minutes there such they can justify buying T-Shirts and other paraphernalia saying ‘I stood on a glacier’. We skipped the questionable pleasure of doing so and rather hiked to the toe of the glacier in the next morning.

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It was actually a quite scary experience even just to drive down to the parking lot from the visitor center. Every couple of hundred meters there were signs with the year when the glacier’s toe was at that location. Quite frankly, I had not realized that the glacier had started retreating already massively since 1885 when it still reached all the way up to where today the visitor center is located.
But even more impressive was the hike up towards the glacier realizing how much the retreat of the glacier speed up in the more recent past. It was quite a hike from the 1985 sign up to the actual glacier. We hiked over large slabs of stone engraved by the glacial ice. And due to the severe winds and cold rain, I must admit that Max and I did not even complete all of the hike, but headed down again once we had reached an intermediate overlook. Sam continued and was lucky enough to catch a quick episode of sunshine on the bright glacial ice.

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As we moved on the weather got a bit more pleasant again. At least it stopped raining and we got to see a bit of the landscape around us.

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Also at the trail to the Mistaya Canyon we were lucky to have no rain. The canyon reminded us much of the Antelope Canyon in the sense that we saw how the forces of water formed a slot canyon just like there. But other than in Arizona, as long as there are glaciers around in the Canadian mountains, there’s no likelihood that in the near future anyone will be able to wander into these slot canyons without being washed away by the forces of the Athabasca River – one of the three river systems starting in the Columbia Icefield and ending in the Arctic, Pacific and Atlantic Ocean.

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Next on our list of destinations was a hike to Peyto Lake, that Ralf had praised already back in Zion when we talked about the Canadian National Parks. Unfortunately, when we got there it was pouring rain and there was no view whatsoever. That was quite a pity and we once again realized at that stage how lucky we had been with the weather so far during our trip. With hardly any days of rain and lots of sunshine, we had been blessed with picture perfect photo opportunities so far. And being spoiled as such, it was a bit hard to accept that we’d simply not get to see one of the highlights of the Icefields Parkway. We did get a look at bow lake though, which was pretty nice as well!

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Luckily enough, our night at Mosquito Creek Campground was absolutely free of mosquitoes. In pouring rain at temperatures just above freezing, they would have had a hard life. We did have it a bit warmer in our van, but we would not have complained about a couple of degrees more.
The next day, we realize how low the snowline had come down during the night. A pretty, but also very cold sight!

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A bit later we did get to see a very still Lake Herbert before heading to Lake Louise.

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Our guidebook claims that Lake Louise is the most visited mountain lake worldwide. Even though I’m doubting the truth of the statement, we were simply amazed about the masses of people we saw there. The massive ‘The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise’ did not help either to restore a sense of romance of being at a very beautiful glacial lake. Neither did the weather: it started snowing lightly out of very low hanging clouds.
After a brief look at the lake, we gave up all sightseeing activities and headed to Banff in search of a nice and warm café. We were very happy with that choice. Being in a pleasant place having a hot tea felt much more heart-warming than continuing to be out in the cold.
But our luck was soon to turn: after grocery shopping in Canmore and checking out one of the local skate parks, we headed to our place for the night. We were invited at Carola, Uwe and Aiyana’s who we had met a week earlier in Lake Country.

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We had pizza for dinner, lots of pleasant conversations and Max enjoyed playing with Aiyana until late in the night. It was simply great. And all of us were so happy to spend the night inside in a warm and comfy bed vs. staying outside in temperatures below freezing.
Life is beautiful! Thanks, Uwe, Carola and Aiyana!

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 13:56 Archived in Canada Tagged snow rain canyon lake glacier castle icefields freezing Comments (1)

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