Sunday, 25 July 2010

Summer swimming lessons

Lucy has been in swimming lessons for the past two weeks. Every day at 9am we've arrived at UNCW's pool for a one hour lesson. I was worried before we started. Not that Lucy is scared of the water (she did lessons at 6 months old) but that she doesn't like new situations. And I had heard that the teachers are tough and throw kids off the diving board!

The teachers are tough but in a good way. Lucy cried and screamed for the whole first lesson. It was truly awful watching her from the stands. Thankfully after that she had a much better experience and by the end she was laughing and jumping in from the block by herself. She was very sad to finish the lessons and wanted to keep going. In fact she can swim short distances without any kind of assistance, putting her face in the water and kicking her legs and moving her arms. She can float too. She loves using the kickboards. She likes to jump in but mostly does belly flops.

Good job Lucy Lu! On the way home we stopped in at Dunkin' Donuts. Yes we are now fully immersed in American culture.

video

Friday, 23 July 2010

Finale

And thus ends the blogging of our trip to the SouthWest. Now I need to get the photobooks finished. There's no time for scrapbooking so I'm going digital all the way! I may put together a video of the photos and movies we took but it will be a few weeks away before that happens and I'll post it up when it's done. There is so much to reflect on and enjoy.

Now I'm going to sit back a little while from blogging and enjoy the summer before we need to get back into the regular routine.

In the meantime send me an email to say hi. I haven't had many comments lately - has anyone been following along?

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Albuquerque













We had just one day in Albuquerque so we made the most of those hours. Although Santa Fe is the capital it does not have a large airport so all major traffic goes through ALB a one hour drive to the SW. We made the journey via the scenic Turquoise Trail.

Of course one of our first stops was the National Nuclear Museum (see the photo of Henry sitting on Fat Man). It was a very interesting museum showing lots of both scientific exhibits as well as popular culture that was spawned from the nuclear age.

We rode historic Route 66 through downtown ALB. In the historic plaza we bought souvenirs and ate ice creams whilst watching a wedding taking place in the gazebo.










We spent a number of hours at the BioPark. We visited the Aquarium, Botanic Gardens and Zoo (which was frankly disappointing compared to Houston).

We finished our time in ALB (and in fact our time in New Mexico) with a visit to the Sandia Peak tramway, the world's longest aerial tramway. I have to admit the ride was so long and so high it was a little scary espeically bumping over each of the pylons. Henry had a ball looking out the windows and entertaining the other passengers. At the top we walked around and got some great photos. As we left the sun was setting and I captured with the camera the shadow of our cable car on the mountain.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

State 23 - Colorado










Upon arrival in Santa Fe we visited the visitors centre (primarily to do some geocaching). However in examining a map it was determined that we were extremely close to Colorado. In fact with a 4 hour drive we could get to the crossroads of 4 states - Arizona, Utah, Colorado and NM. At that point we could stand be in all 4 states at one time. As enticing as that sounded, another 8 hours of driving just to make a point didn't seem so fun (esp. as we had already been to Arizona and obviously NM)

The more pleasant option was to drive 2 hours north to Chama NM and take the scenic train ride to Osier Colorado. The drive from SF to Chama was indeed a beautiful one and we passed right through a Georgia O'Keeffee landscape.












So we boarded the Cumbres & Toltec scenic railroad, America's longest and highest narrow gauge railroad. We rose about 3000 feet to Cumbres Pass at 10,015 feet above sea level and arrived at Osier for lunch before returning home. In fact we were so high in the mountains that we saw snow!

Once we passed the Colorado state line we entered rolling green hill country. The views were amazing. Lucy loved being on the steam engine and got quite a shock when the engine released steam and the wind blew it up and over the train which made us very wet. The viewing carriage allowed us to travel outside and enjoy being on a train.

And that is the story of how we made it to our 23rd state. And yes there is SO much more to Colorado. Maybe one day we'll be lucky enough to get back there.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Santa Fe













Santa Fe was one of our favourite places on this trip. In fact I think it was THE favourite. It is a very fun place to be - full of artists, good restaurants and a fabulous climate.

It also has a Trader Joes. We stayed in a rented house so on our first night in SF we went crazy stocking up on ice cream, Valhrona chocolate and fruit. Of course we bought too much which allowed Lucy to have ice blocks for breakfast on the last day.

The climate was amazing. Although it was 100+ degrees during the day the humidity was only 4% so it was still possible to do a lot of walking. At night the temperature dropped to around 50 degrees which allowed us to open up all the windows in the house and let the cool air in. The additional bonus is that there are no bugs so we could just leave the doors and windows open without flyscreens. Believe me this was so nice! In NC we can't go out to get the mail without getting bitten by no-see-ems or mosquitos.

We did a lot of walking to see the sites. Around the plaza we visited the New Mexico History Museum and the Palace of the Governors,as well as the Spanish Market and the Cathedral. We saw the State Capitol and the USA's oldest house. Fiona visited the Georgia O'Keeffee museum displaying some abstract work whilst the others went geocaching. Lucy and Andrew visited the chapel with the 'mysterious staircase'.

One day we wandered around Canyon Road visiting art galleries. We couldn't afford the hot price tags but we do have one piece of outdoor art in mind that we are going to order over the internet so stay tuned!

Lucy spent an afternoon at the local children's museum. It had some unique aspects including a huge bubble maker, a gluing station (Lucy spent an hour here) and a magnet table.

We visited a few of the museums on museum hill.










Food:
  • Lunch at Clafoutis. A small French cafe located a reasonable walk away from the center. Fabulous authentic food though the service was reasonably friendly. We enjoyed quiches, pastries and coffees. If we hadn't splurged at Trader Joes we would have been back for breakfast in a flash.
  • Dinner at La Boca. We arrived early in order to get a table so were in the middle of tapas. We ordered some really fun dishes which we shared together and enjoyed a glass of wine as we people-watched from our window table.
  • Lunch at the Teahouse. A healthy lunch spot along Canyon Road allowed us to relax outside under the shade of some trees which eating salads.
  • Dinner at La Choza. We were expecting greatness but this Mexican restaurant was not as spectacular as chowhound made us believe. It was good but not greater than any of the other Mexican we had enjoyed during our stay in NM.
  • Hot Chocolates at Kakawa. Now this place is something else. Not a traditional coffeeshop this place is a true hot chocolate shop. Most of the drinks on offer are not sweet and many are spicy. These chocolate beverages were almost meals in themselves and we certainly left energised to continue our explorations on foot.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Truth or Consequences










The town of Truth or Consequences was originally called Hot Springs but changed its name for a gimic after the American TV show. Whatever this tiny town is called it still contains natural hot springs. At one of the spring sites we hired a private pool (in order to contain the runaway Henry who was not bathing) and enjoyed a 1 hour soak whilst watching the rushing river. At first Lucy thought the water was too hot and refused to go in. After 15 minutes we forced her to sit in the water to try it and guess what? In 30 seconds she decided that it was very nice indeed. She, along with the rest of us, enjoyed eating olives and relaxing. And despite the outdoor heat of 100+ it was a still a very enjoyable experience to get into some very hot water. We then enjoyed a slow lunch at the local health food cafe Little Sprout before continuing our journey northwards along the spectacular I25.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

City of Rocks (and Silver City)










A couple of hours drive west of Las Cruces lies the City of Rocks. After we crossed a ridge we looked down and saw a large circle of rocks rising from the middle of the desert.

Although we had a map we ended up just wandering around the structures and exploring. Henry got his hands into every crevice and Lucy climbed every rock for another photo. There were plenty of jack rabbits around but thankfully we didn't see any snakes.

This national park is well set up for both campers and picnicers and I would recommend bringing a packed lunch and enjoying the view.













After rock climbing we headed north to Silver City. We had an excellent organic lunch at the Kumquat, cooled off with gelato at Alotta Gelato and then wandered along the main street looking at art galleries.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

White Sands National Monument











There are two can't-miss sights in NM we planned to visit. The first was Carlsbad Caverns and the second is this place, White Sands National Monument. It is the world's largest area of gypsum. The sand is pure white and surprisingly it is not hot to walk on.














At the visitors centre we hired a sled and then headed out to the dunes. We had tried to watch the short documentary but a certain 11 month old wouldn't sit still.

Lucy enjoyed the sledding (she was the only one of us light enough to get a really good slide going) but she complained and moaned about climbing back up again.

Henry alternated his time between waddling around and eating gypsum.











I've avoided using cliches so far but truly the following apply: endless blue skies, pure white sand, photos don't do it justice, you just had to be there and so on.


We are only sorry that we weren't there for a full moon picnic!

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Las Cruces










We had a few wonderful days in Las Cruces of eating, sleeping and just hanging out together.

Food highlights:
  • Double Eagle restaurant in Old Mesilla. It was here that we enjoyed 28 day aged steaks for dinner. It was here that we enjoyed a champagne brunch. Lucy loved dipping strawberries in the chocolate fondue and then eyed off the desserts until she was allowed to have cake. It was a truly resplendent spread and at midday the champagne corks were popped.
  • La Posta, also in Old MEsilla. Three words: fajitas, margaritas and empanadas. We enjoyed some good authentic Mexican food (I assume it was authentic as there were lots of Mexicans eating there which I take to be a good sign) This is the restaurant famous for its tropical birds in the entryway.
  • International Delights. A middle eastern cafe where we enjoyed lamb for lunch. The cafe was PACKED and the food was fantastic. We especially enjoyed wandering through the attached supermarket and picked up some turkish delight and tandoori paste. Look at Henry's face below showing his reaction to the lamb.
  • Caliches. This place was a highlight for Lucy because she was allowed to have ice cream for lunch. Just ice cream. She had a strawberry shortcake concoction complete with whipped cream.









Apart from eating we wandered around the Old Mesilla Farmers Market looking at the locally produced art and jewellery and every day we spent some time swimming in the hotel pool and spa (a big thanks to the kind family who loaned Lucy a swimming vest for the duration of our stay).

We visited the New Mexico Farm and Ranch museum. Because we got there at opening time in a somewhat feeble attempt to beat the heat we were the only ones there for a while. We saw a cow being milked and then had a private golf cart tour around the property to see all of the animals. Being incredibly kid friendly there were lots of different areas for the kids to play in, both indoor and outdoor. There were a lot of exhibits and we could have spent all day here (except that we wanted to eat again)

During our drives we enjoyed the view of the Organ Mountains. Living in a flat city we greatly appreciated the changing views and the various sunsets.