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Entries about friends

Celebrating the Fourth of July with friends

written by Birgit, pictures mostly by Sam

sunny 22 °C
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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)

What a pleasant rendezvous

Picton, Cable Bay

sunny 25 °C
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It was late afternoon when we arrived in Picton. As the weather was simply perfect, we directly headed to one of the beautiful viewpoints above town in the Victoria Domain. The blue waters of the Marlborough Sounds were directly below us – sparkling in the sun. It was a simply great view. The view got even better once the Bluebridge ferry entered the scenes. The white contrasted nicely with the blue waters.

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Even better though was the knowledge that our Swiss friends were on the ferry, ready to meet us at the Picton Top 10 Holiday Park. And soon enough, we were all there, embracing each other and telling the stories of what we’ve done and seen in the six weeks when we last met in Busselton. And Emia and Max headed off to the playground and trampoline like long lost friends.
There was so much to catch up about and we could have talked without stopping for ages. But eventually it got late and we got hungry. While Guido and Lucia pitched their tent, Sam and I prepared dinner for us all. Over dinner and beyond, our talks continued. After all, we had recommendations on what to do and see on the South Island. And in return we had lots of questions about the destinations in Asia that our Swiss friends had been to already and where we still wanted to go to. Not surprisingly, it was pretty late by the time we all got into bed…

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The next day, there were rather other topics taking over. As all of us had left home in April of last year and were planning to be back in summer, we have much in common that we were able to talk about: learnings on the road, things we want to do when back home, thoughts about how the return to ‘normal’ life will be after so much traveling, next plans. Being so long on the road, we certainly started realizing how important relationships and friends are. And being so far away from most, it has an enormous value to meet some of them again.
It was a beautiful day again and at some point in the afternoon, everyone was ready for some activity. We hiked up the Tirohanga Track to a view point along the ridge behind our campground. The weather was picture perfect and the blue color of the sounds perfectly contrasted the green forested hills. The viewpoint was certainly worth the effort of the climb and we sat there for quite a while to enjoy.

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On our way down, we met a 82-year-old Austrian (he’s actually from Hartberg in Styria) with dog Henry. As Emia and Max had reached him first, they got chatting already by the time we got there. Both got lots of compliments on how well they speak English despite the fact that they did not learn it in school.

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Back at the campground, the kids raced around before we had dinner – once again all of us together. Not only the food was excellent, we also had a really nice wine from the region to go with it. And once the kids were gone playing, we had the time to continue our discussions. After all, we have so much in common: just like us our friends have been traveling since April 2016 and will be back at home sometime that summer. Check out weckerlos.ch to see what they’ve been up to in their travels.
The next morning it was already time to say good bye again. Given our plans from there on, the earliest chance to meet our friends again, would probably be back in Germany or Switzerland. All the best in the meantime, Guido, Lucia and Emia!
Eventually we headed to Karaka Point - a small peninsula reaching out into the sounds. The way the peninsula is formed, it was easily defendable in former times and consequently served the Maori as a fort – a so called pa site. We were able to still see remains of the fortifications. But it was also a nice place to see the ferries pass by through the sound. I guess we have been spoiled by the sunshine and lack of wind in the last days: it being overcast and windy today, made such a difference. The view was nice, but not spectacular.
That also helped our decision making. We had two more days to spend until we wanted to be in Nelson. We had considered multiple variants of what to do for these two days, including venturing out into the sounds to French Pass. Given the weather, we decided that it was definitively not worth it to do such a long and windy drive. Alternatively, we went to Cable Bay. The road was windy as well, but we would have needed to take it anyhow on our way to Nelson.
It was a good decision to only go to Cable Bay. Already after the two hours of windy roads to get there, we were happy to leave the car. None of us would have been keen on prolonging that distance any further. And Cable Bay was indeed a very nice spot to stay. A bit reminiscent of Cable Beach in Australia, we once again ended up at a place where the first overseas telegraph cable connected the country to the outside world. The beach was nice, it was wild and basically the beach end of a large boulder bank. While it was beautiful indeed, it does not live up to the standard Cable Beach in Australia has set.
The campground was small and cozy, the beach just maybe two hundred meters away and that’s also where a nice hike starts. As the weather was not too pleasant, we enjoyed the pleasures of being able to spend some time in the comfy kitchen area. Max immediately realized that rain meant playing lego and too all of his parts onto the kitchen table to play extensively.

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The next morning, Sam wanted to get some exercise and took off to hike the Cable Bay Walk. The 8km were excellent interval training with steep ascents followed by equally steep descents – offering sweeping views of the coastline, the Cable Bay lagoon and eventually also towards Nelson.

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Eventually Max and I headed off as well. The sun was out and at we wanted to hike up a tiny bit to get a view of the beach from above. Eventually we hiked up all the way up through the grazing flocks of sheep. The hilltop was hidden from our view and substantially higher than originally anticipated. Still, we made it - but I really had to convince Max hard that we would for sure see Sam once we'd be up there.

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And in fact, I was lucky: from our lookout we were able to spot Sam just emerging from the forest on the other hill. We hiked towards him and surprised him with our presence. We made our descent back to the campground together where we enjoyed a nice late lunch.
As we sat in the camp kitchen, we realized that there were more Austrians in the campground than all Austrians we had met on our journey so far. While that sounds like a lot, they were seven in total, not counting Sam.
As much as we liked the campground at Cable Bay, we had good reasons to drive to Nelson the next morning. After all, we had another rendezvous arranged already for quite a while that we definitively did not want to miss.

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 18:17 Archived in New Zealand Tagged beach sheep friends cable hike sunny ferry sound swiss trampoline Comments (0)

Closing the circle - reunited with friends and family

a bit delayed - the blogging frequency reflects that we've been quite busy since our return :-) Allerheiligen im Mürztal, Kirchanschöring

sunny 24 °C
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In the arrivals hall of Vienna Airport, we were welcomed by Sam’s parents. They were holding a large banner for us and had even brought wreaths for us to wear. We were delighted about the special welcome, but what counted more was seeing each other again after such a long time.
Once we had loaded all of our stuff into the car and were on the way home, we were chatting away like always, just as if we had never left. That’s just how it feels being back home and with people we dearly love and know inside out. And that’s how from a minute to the other, mentally our world travel was over even though we have not reached our own house.

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We had intentionally planned to stay in Austria for 10 days. After all, there were many people we wanted to meet and see again after such a long time. And there were many things we planned to do.
Already on our first day we were greeted with one of our favorite foods that we did not have for a very long time: Bavarian ‘Weißwürste’ with sweet Händlmaier mustard. But also the next couple of days held lots of delicious foods in store for us. Despite several tours to stop at ‘Tödtling’s Icecream Parlor’ we are still not able to tell which of his many flavors we like best. We had Polenta, Buchteln, several variations of casseroles and used the nice weather for barbecues.

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And even though we thought this covered already most of our cravings, those ‘normal’ days were topped by the birthday parties. We celebrated Sam’s birthday with a huge pan of paella and enjoyed Sam’s favorite cakes. And upon Max’ request we celebrated a delayed birthday party for him as well.
We also got to see many members of Sam’s extended family who were invited at our welcome party and for Sam’s birthday. Max spent lots of time with his uncles and seeing how they played together, it felt like they had just seen each other the week before. We visited friends and got to catch up on what happened during the last year.

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And to our great delight we also managed to meet one of our new friends. As agreed with Davina already seven weeks earlier in Nepal, we tackled the 2277m Hochschwab, Sam’s ‘home mountain’ and a favorite hiking destination in the region. It took us over four hours to make it to the top via the ‘G’hacktes’ – a small section of via ferrata through the steepest part of the hike.

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After a lunch break at the top, we got to see several chamois, marmots and a group of twelve sizable alpine ibex on our hike down. At Häuselalm we deserved a break and enjoyed Kaspressknödel- and Strudel-soup before heading down the remaining altitude difference to the Bodenbauer, where our car was parked.

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While Davina, Irmi, Sam and I were hiking, Max was out with his great-grandmother. They had a great outing taking the train and bus into Bruck an der Mur. Not surprisingly, his highlight was the visit in a toy shop where he was allowed to pick a toy to take home.
From Otmar and Davina we also got back our belongings that we had asked them to take home for us from New Zealand and Nepal respectively. It was surprising to see what we had given them and indeed there’s hardly anything we had missed in the meantime. And we also found some dear items we had left in Austria before heading off: Sam was happy to see his trial bike and the trailer. Unfortunately, my car is not around anymore. Some guy had totalled it while trying to park (or was it drift?!?) his own car. While it’s good to know that his insurance company paid for the time value, we would have certainly preferred to get the car back instead of the money.
We also got to do some things we had not done for a while: Sam and Max had fun chopping wood, all of us went biking, Sam went trial biking, we walked down to the Mürz to skip and throw stones in the water, read the local newspaper, spent time relaxing in the hanging chair, etc.
We also headed to the mountains once more – this time together with Max and Otmar. After making it to the Fölz at 1472m, we treated ourselves to Fritattensuppe and Schweinsbraten at the Herzer Hütte. And on the way down, Max and Sam had to build a small dam in the river – after all, that’s what they did in almost all countries we visited.

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We truly enjoyed our time in Austria. It was already a very different rhythm vs. the time we spent on the road. In other words: We mastered already phase one of the process of re-entry into our ‘normal’ life. Still, we consider ourselves lucky to have eight more weeks until we’ll start working again. That should hopefully be sufficient to be fully immersed in our home culture and lifestyle again.
After ten days in Austria, we headed off towards Bavaria to my family. Irmi took us all the way to Stein an der Enns, where we spent some time with friends. It was a hot day and the kids had fun playing in the pool and on the water slide.

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That's also where my parents picked us up and took us to Kirchanschöring. And that’s where we closed our circle. It had been 412 days ago (on April 27, 2016) when we had left Kirchanschöring for Munich and now we were back.
Not much had changed in the mean-time. Well, at 25 °C it was considerably warmer than the snowy days back in April. But Max and his cousins started playing with each other as if they had just seen each other the week before. It surely helped that we had talked in regular intervals via Skype or WhatsApp and that we exchanged lots of pictures. Contrary to the adults which seemed to be exactly like a year ago with their usual peculiarities and characteristics, at least the kids had clearly grown. The smaller the kid, the more pronounced the development they made in the past year. What a relief: at least there’s something that has changed.
We did not spend every day in Kirchanschöring though. It was such nice weather that we spent most of our time at lakes (Höglwörther See, Seehauser See, Waginger See), in the mountains (Harbach Alm, Teisenberg) or in the garden.

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Most of our time we spent with my immediate family, but we also made sure to say hello to my grandma and uncles and aunts. And I even got to catch up with one of my best friends from high school days.
There were lots of small and big things that make home ‘home’. There’s the food, the house, the view, the local customs, the card games and the peculiarities of everyone including ourselves. What a luxury being able to come back home after having seen so many other parts of the world.

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Posted by dreiumdiewelt 10:30 Archived in Austria Tagged food home mountain lake friends family party bike Comments (0)

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