Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Winter 2017 to April 2018

Winter 2017 to April 2018
Arrived at On Top Of World condo on November 2 after a Halloween stop in Virginia. Had new kitchen installed in November.
Katie and Davis visited for a week at the end of November and Tom and family met us in Orlando for fun at Seaworld and Disney and then a few days at Clearwater Beach.
Peter and Marianne Raps from Haarlem, The Netherlands visited for a few days in December.
Don and I volunteered at the Canadian Junior Golf Association Tournament at Innisbrook Golf Course in Palm Harbour in December.

Mirek and Dianne Sip joined us for 2 weeks in January. Enjoyed local sightseeing and especially seeing the many manatees floating around the Apollo Power Station south of Tampa enjoying warm waters.  

From February 13 to 20th, Mary visited Tom Brudnicki, Bruce and Barb Bellchambers and Barb’s sister Mary in Casa Grande, Arizona. Barb, Bruce, the 2 Marys and friend Bill Redtke spent 2 nights at a Wyndam Timeshare Resort in Sedona, Arizona enjoying the fantastic scenery there. On the way to Sedona, north of Phoenix, we stopped at Montezuma’s Castle. Southern Sinagua farmers built this 5 storey 20 room dwelling sometime between 1100 and 1300. It occupies a cliff recess 100 feet above the valley. Our next stop was the Chapel of the Holy Cross. Built to a twin pinnacled spur, about 250 feet high, jutting out a thousand foot rock wall, “solid as the rock of Peter” the building of the Chapel was completed in April 1956. The chapel was inspired and commissioned by local rancher and sculptor Marguerite Brunswig Staude, who had been inspired in 1932 by the newly constructed Empire State Building to build such a church. After an attempt to do so in Budapest, Hungary (with the help of Lloyd Wright, son of architect Frank Lloyd Wright) was aborted due to the outbreak of World War II, she decided to build the church in her native region. Built as a Roman Catholic Chapel, it is open to all.
As part of the deal at the Wynham Resort, on the morning of the second day we had a 90 minute tour around Sedona which included a scenic stop at the Sedona Airport.  Bruce and Barbara did a 90 minute Wynham timeshare presentation and Bill and I went on a hike close to the resort in a creek valley – only got a little lost and were rescued by a friendly Hispanic landscaper in his truck.
In the afternoon we ventured out of Sedona to the little artistic town of Jerome. Jerome, Arizona is a ghost town alive and well. From wickedly wild to wildly artistic. Located high atop Cleopatra Hill between Sedona and Prescott, this historic copper and gold mining town founded in 1876. When gold was discovered in Jerome, miners, gamblers and bad boys of the old west flocked here. Saloons and bawdy houses were the entertainment after a hard days work. At one time, Jerome was the fourth largest town in the Arizona Territory with a rowdy population that reached over 15,000.
We enjoyed touring the Douglas Museum – former home of a mining baron and the home became a museum and state park in 1965. We visited the Nellie Bly Kaleidoscope Shop and other artistic shops and then drove straight up to the Jerome Grand Hotel and Asylum Restaurant – Arizona’s Mile High Historic Landmark for afternoon tea /dessert.
On Day 3 we toured downton Sedona and spent time at the Sedona Heritage Museum. The Sedona Heritage Museum was once a homestead for the Jordan Family (who had a large apple orchard business) and is now, along with the Sedona Historical Society, working with the community to preserve the ever-growing history of Sedona. After our picnic lunch we headed south to Phoenix and stopped at the V Bar V Ranch to view the Petroglyphs carved into rock by the Southern Sinagua Indians.
Back in Casa Grande to enjoy time with our host Tom and dog Dotty. Saw the annual O’Odham Tash (Cowboy/Indian) Parade, hiked on a trail of Picacho Peak State Park with
Bill, dropped in on a quilt show at a huge RV Resort and toured St Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery out in the desert land by Florence Arizona with Barb and Bill.
During the Arizona time, we watched 3 current movies – “The Shape of Water”, “Wonder” and the remake of “Murder on the Orient Express” thanks to son Tom’s Air Video connection.

Mary flew back to Don in Clearwater. Our good friend Sina from Zwolle, The Netherlands arrived the next day and we spent many happy hours touring around on our bicycles, working out at the OTOW exercise classes, and relaxing with good wine and food.
Sina and Mary spent a lovely day with Brian and Thery
King touring the Henry B. Plant Museum in the old Tampa Hotel, which is now part of the University of Tampa. The Henry B. Plant Museum is housed in the 1891 Tampa Bay Hotel, the Victorian railroad resort that defined the elegant frontier, now a National Historic Landmark. Unlike most museums dedicated to lifestyles of the past, it contains the actual furnishings enjoyed by the first guests to visit here. The Museum accurately reflects the opulence of turn-of-the-century America and the vision of American transportation pioneer, Henry B. Plant. Followed by lunch at the Oxford Exchange nearby.
Mary flew back to Ontario for 2 weeks in March to be with Katie and family to assist during a sudden illness and returned to pack up at the end of March to start the journey north.
Easter Sunday was the start of a 3 day Wynham Resort getaway in North Myrtle Beach which they shared with Diana, Jacob, Hannah and Benjamin as the kiddies were on Easter school break.
Travelling north to Chesapeake Virginia, Oma and Opa spent 4 days looking after the 3 kiddies as Diana and Tom escaped to Cancun for some much deserved R&R.

Back to Ontario on April 11 but the weather didn’t realize it was spring so we still had an April snow/ice storm to endure.
COME ON SUMMER!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Trip to LA and 10 day Cruise around the French Polynesian Islands

September 23/17 to October 12/17
Sunday, September 23/17   Lakefield to Beamsville –  Sunny 28 degrees - Left Lakefield at 9:30 Am. Had a lovely lunch with Grampa Ken Marsden at Canterbury Place in Toronto, tea with Larry and Annette Marsden in Mississauga, supper with Katie, Davis and Dave Whitehead in Winona and stayed the night with Dorothy and Ed Holdenmeyer at their “Comfort Inn” in Beamsville. 'Lunch with KTM and @[688141204:2048:Mary Marsden]'
Monday, September 24/17 Beamsville to Buffalo - Sunny 28 degrees -  Crossed over the border into the USA and checked into the Days Inn Buffalo Airport. Spent time shopping at the Walden Galleria Mall – finding deals at JC Penney and looking for Sip’s Luzianne Southern Iced Tea. Roast chicken and salad from Kroger for picnic dinner at the hotel.
Tuesday, September 25/17 Buffalo – Chicago- Los Angeles, California – Sunny 28 degrees – Shuttle to Buffalo Airport after breakfast –our  van to stay at hotel till we return Oct 12. Southwest Flight Buffalo to Chicago Midway 12:30 to 1:05 PM. Volunteered ourselves to be bumped to a 4 hour later flight to LA to earn $405 each in SW credits – good for one year. Flatbread pizza dinner then 4 hour flight to arrive after 9 PM (Pacific time) and shuttle to Hyatt Regency LAX Airport Hotel. Snack from Regency Room on 3rd floor, then bed.
Wednesday, September 26/17 – LA to Papeete Tahiti – Sunny 28 degrees C– Shuttle to airport after breakfast – 10 AM for 1 PM flight to Tahiti. Had to walk to the last gate in lower level,  ride on a bus to get to the Air Tahiti Nui airbus. Pilot spoke in French and then English with a quiet voice – announcing an hour delay due to problem with the aircraft. We did meet 2 couples from California going through security etc. – Buck (retired vet born in Nebraska) and Mary Anne (real estate broker) Brillhart from Santa Barbara; and Larry (photographer now but jack of all trades) and Clare (property consultant in local government) Fletcher from Orange County – both couples celebrating their 25th wedding anniversaries on our cruise and we became friends while on the cruise. Took off at 5 PM for the 7.5 hour flight – 2 meals, 2 movies and a little nap before arrival at Fa’a’a International Airport. Processed through customs and then a bus to the Le Meridien Hotel – after midnight. Nice room – pretty resort. C:\Users\Mary Marsden\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\INetCache\Content.Word\DSC09162.jpghttp://get-to-bora-bora.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/bora-bora-map.png
Thursday, September 27/ 17 – Papeete Tahiti – Sunny 28 degrees – Lovely breakfast in hotel dining area, explored hotel grounds and Don did a little snorkeling. Left hotel at 1 PM on bus to go to Wind Spirit sailing yacht at Fingers Pier to start our cruise. Assigned to Room 133 on First Floor – ship had 4 floors. Room is small but very functional and has many storage areas and 2 portholes.  Had lunch on board. Had drill at 5:15 PM and then a talk from the Captain Krasmir Ivanov. Bad news from the Captain – weather report for the next 10 days is high winds and rough seas so itinerary changed to decrease our time in rough seas and seek shelter on the lee side of islands as possible. So we would not be setting sail for the Taumotu and Rangiroa Islands as planned and instead spend the days around the Society Islands.
This ship does 10 knots/hr under power and 12knots/hr if the winds were favourable. Don visited the bridge many times to talk with the crew – the third mate was from Brampton, Ontario.
Picked up our snorkel gear from the Marine Deck.
Sailed away at 6 PM with 4 sails up just for show – play special songs as each sail unfolds. Rocky night due to high seas – Mary missed dinner at Candles due to queasiness even with seasick patch applied – Just went to bed and was better the next day.  Don pounded back the filet mignon no problem.
NOTE: Tahiti is legendary for seducing sailors and is the capital of French Polynesia. Both Captain Cook, and later Captain Bligh, dealt with sailors who longed to stay in this tropical paradise. We watched “Mutiny on the Bounty” with Marlon Brando and “The Bounty” with Anthony Hopkins and Russell Crowe before we went on this trip. I also read “The signature of All Things” by Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Love, Pray author) because it had chapters dealing with Tahiti. Awaiting to discover what Breadfruit looks like.
Friday, September 28/17 – Raiatea – Windy 28 degrees -  Rough night but docked at 7 AM. Light from 6  AM to sunset at 6 PM. Had Breakfast in the Veranda Dining Room and then Yoga and Stretch Class on the upper back deck with Susan from the Spa. Then we walked into the town of Uturoa to explore.  Visited their shops and market. Back for lunch.
Note: Raiatea which means “faraway heaven” is the 2nd largest island of the Society Islands next to Tahiti. It is off the beaten path when it comes to tourism mostly due to its lack of beaches – but beautiful with it’s dramatic steep slopes of the mountains. The island is considered to be sacred and was the spiritual centre of the Polynesian Triangle. Chiefs came from as far as New Zealand for ceremonies here. It was the centre of a fierce resistance to the French takeover of Tahiti in 1842. It was not until 1888 when the French made a real attempt to take the island. The rebellion was finally quashed by French troops in 1897.
Raiatea is home to one of the world’s rarest and loveliest  flowers, the tiare apetahi (forbidden to pick them.) The tiare apetahi is a member of the tropical “campanulaceae” family, the tiare apetahi only grows on one island on the planet, the French Polynesian Leeward Island of Raiatea, and only grows there in one place Temehini Plateau, on the extinct volcano, Mount Temehani.
After lunch, attended the Black Pearl Seminar given by the Gift Shop Manager Martina from Croatia.
Very informative -  Tahiti Cultured Pearls are commonly known around the world as Black Pearls. Polynesian Legend has it that ORO, the god of peace and fertility, would use his rainbows to visit the earth. He offered to the oysters’ mother of pearl its iridescence and thus, gave Tahitian pearls their amazing spectrum of colors.
The fragile Pinctada Marganitifera cumingi is commonly known as the black lipped oyster. In the 19th century, its shell was in great demand by the European button industry. In those days of shell harvesting, one would have to open more than 15,000 oysters before finding a natural pearl. These rare gems would then only be seen in the realms of Pashas and Royalties. Soon the pearl of Tahiti became known as “Pearl of Queens” or “Queen of Pearls.”
The first trials of Tahitian Pearls culturing began in 1961 in the lagoon of Bora Bora, where Japanese grafting techniques were applied to the Pinctada Marganitifera oyster. The first successful harvest of 1963 proved that a pearl culturing industry was possible in the region.
The Tahiti Cultured Pearls are best known for their diversity of size, shape, surface quality and endless shades of natural colours, ranging from pale grey to anthracite black. The pearl is made of thousands thin layers of nacre containing organic substances and calcium carbonate (aragonite). Luster is the most important – metallic is good and darker. The peacock color in rare in the round pearl. There is a 50 % rejection rate of the nucleus and the oyster has only 2 chances to produce. There are many pearl farms now with some having 2 million oysters. There were tours of Black Pearl Oyster Farms available but we did not go on them but we did purchase a Black Pearl necklace on Bora Bora. Image result for tiare apetahiImage result for black pearl farmingC:\Users\Mary Marsden\Pictures\Tahiti trip\DSC09178.JPG
Quiet relaxing afternoon on board the ship and we attended the “Captain’s Champagne Welcome Reception” before dinner. Lovely dinner in the AmphorA Restaurant. Bed after.
Saturday, September 30/17 – Raiatea – Windier 28 degrees – occasional short shower – After breakfast Mary took the “Kayak the Faaroa River” tour with 12 other guests – (some of the 5 Canadian couples from Newmarket). Raiatea is the only island that has a river on it. We were picked up in a van from the pier and had a 15 minute drive to the mouth of the river. It was a difficult paddle from where we set out to the mouth of the river due to the wind and the current but conditions improved greatly when we were on the sheltered river. These were sit on top double kayaks and the guide’s helper for the day was a large Tahitian called Christian and he was a powerhouse so my paddling was much easier. Back to the ship for lunch.
The tropical foliage on the trip was lovely – flowering ginger, bananas, breadfruit. The guide was a young man – born in France but brought to Raiatea by his mother since she was a teacher. He married a Tahitian girl and they had 2 children. He was a landscaper and botanist now but did these tours as well. He mentioned the Breadfruit tree – tradition was when a Tahitian child is born, the placenta is taken and buried with a breadfruit tree so that child would always have enough to eat in their life. Image result for breadfruit tree
Don spent his morning in the town and found an Internet CafĂ© and paid $5 US for 30 minutes. We did not have internet on the ship – very expensive and intermittent.
After lunch we spent a quiet afternoon outside on the back deck of the ship reading – hiding in the smoker’s alcove – out of the wind and the sun. (Read the Shell Seekers and passed it on to the Spa girls when I was done). At 4 PM there was some local entertainment – dancers, singers and musicians from Raiatea and a Lei Making Demonstration. At 4:30 Mary had a lovely Spa Body Massage, Facial and Head Massage – Don won a $100 gift certificate on our first day from the Spa and gave it to me because I put his name in the draw. So it only cost me $33US more for the hour long treatment.  At 5:45 we sat in the ship’s lounge and listened to local story tellers Heimau and Tihoti. Heimau was 80 years old and had never been off the island – he had everything he needed – food and shelter – apparently he lived in a hut on a large property with no electricity. His nephew Tihoti was covered in Tattoos -  traditional patterns that told much about the profession, history and position of a person.
After this we enjoyed a BBQ on the back deck of the ship – included lobster tails. It did start to rain a little at the end but we were done and off to bed.
Sunday, October 1/17 – Bora Bora – Sunny and Windy 28 degrees – Left Raiatea at 6 AM and arrived in Bora Bora at noon. It was a rocky start to the day with the wind and high seas. Mary did yoga and stretch class in the Lounge with Susan from the Spa – too rocky on the outside deck. Had breakfast and then attended the 10 AM lecture on “A World of Islands” by Dr. Teri Sowell – professor from University of California who specializes in the art and culture of the Polynesian Islands. Things I learned from this lecture: Polynesians came originally from Taiwan. The Population of the islands dropped by 90% with European immigration. Navigation is an oral skill. Polynesian Voyaging Society – back to wayfinding. 1951 – Magellan discovered the islands on his way to Asia. 1768-1780 – Captain Cook did more exploring of the islands and made maps.
After this lecture I attended another one at 11 AM on the expensive Spa facial products – no purchase made. Lunch then quiet afternoon on the ship. Marina deck was open at the back of the ship on the 2nd floor but it was too choppy to swim, kayak or snorkel where we were anchored in the Bora Bora Lagoon – a Paul Gauguin cruise ship was there as well in the same lagoon. Supper in Candles.
Note: The main island of Bora Bora is surrounded by a lagoon and a barrier reef. In the center of the island are the remnants of an extinct volcano rising in two peaks. Produce of the island is mainly limited to what can be obtained from the sea and the plentiful coconut trees. There are many aqua-centric resorts –  overwater bungalows. The present name actually comes from a mistake in pronunciation by James Cook as the “b” sound does not exist in Tahitian so the actual name is Pora Pora which mean “first born”.
Bora Bora is surrounded by a number of tiny islets called “Motu” – small pristine, secluded paradises that offer privacy, beauty and relaxing ambiance.
The attack on Pearl Harbour transformed Bora Bora into an important strategic position and supply base but despite this, the island never saw any action during the WWII South Pacific Campaign. At its height, approximately 6000 men were stationed here. The most significant legacy of its military history if the runway that was left behind, enabling tourism to thrive. Image result for map of bora bora island
Monday, October 2/17 – Bora Bora - Sunny and Windy 29 degrees – Took Tender to Town of Viatape after breakfast to take the “Island Discovery Tour of Bora Bora” on an open air bus. Highlights were feeding the crabs hibiscus flowers, tie dyed wraps made (bought one - $10 US - as blue as the seas there), and stop at Bloody Mary’s bar for a drink and internet access. Back on ship for lunch. Then tender to Motu Tapu  - a tiny motu rented for the day by our ship only – price of $10,000 / day - for snorkeling and paddleboarding. Back to ship to change and return for “Celebration Festival” via catamarran. Dinner, Dancers and Fire Dancers entertained. (Fire Dancing has long been embedded in the Polynesian culture as a way to send messages to the gods.  Back to ship after 8 PM. Saw rainbow there at sunset time.  
(News from USA – Concert shooting in Las Vegas – 59 died and over 500 injured.)
Tuesday, October 3/17 - Bora Bora - Sunny and Windy 29 degrees – Yoga and Stretch class on open deck and then breakfast. Lecture at 10 AM – “Polynesian Encounters”. Notes I took at this lecture:
History of the 16th to 18th century. The “Noble Savage”  - European view of Polynesians – primitive, connected to nature. European visitors were welcomed, sexual permissiveness – wanted lighter skinned children, simple life – no bastard children – all were accepted.
Captain James Cook had 3 voyages from 1768 to 1780. He collected information on culture and language. There were scientists, naturalists and botanists on board. Omai – native man from Tahiti was taken back to Europe – was the interpreter for Captain Cook. But then diseases came – VD, Smallpox – reduced islands populations by 90%. Noble Savage changed to “Brute” Savage after death of Captain Cook in Hawaii – then less exploration. Then missionaries came bringing Christianity in the 19th century. Spiritual darkness – destroyed the pagan idol – natives to be tamed – 1900 – colonial control. 20th century – tourism with airplanes.
Did TT for Susan in Spa – interested in energy work. Quick lunch and then tender into town. Many Black Pearl shops – even Robert Wan – very plush. Purchased single black baroque pearl necklace in Baldini shop – 40% off – had free internet and sofa in shop too. Don traded apparel at local Firehall. Back to ship for a lazy afternoon.  Dinner with Buck and Mary Anne from California.  
Wednesday, October 4/17  Motu Mahaea (Taha’a)  - Sunny/ cloudy and Windy 29 degrees – Sailed from Bora Bora at 4 AM to here – a private island with swaying palm trees and white-sand beaches. Had breakfast and then zodiac ride over to motu. Did yoga on the beach with Spa Susan. Tried paddleboarding again but failed – current? Wind? Did not due snorkeling due to current. Had lunch on motu and then back to ship before a little rain storm. Lazy afternoon and dinner with Claire and Larry Fletcher.
Note: Taha’a is known as “The Vanilla Island” and produces 70 to 80% of all French Polynesia’s vanilla which is of very high quality. The island always has a fragrance of both vanilla and hibiscus. Taha’a and Raiatea are encircles by the same reef and it is believed that they were once a single island. They are believed to be the first islands to be settled in French Polynesia by people most likely from Samoa.
Thursday, October 5/17 – Huahine – Partly cloudy and Windy 27 degrees – Sailed from Motu Mahaeu at 6 AM and arrived to Huahine at 12 PM. Did Pilates and Stretch class in the Lounge because we were sailing on the sea again. Attended lecture on “Tattoos from Paradise” and learned : tattoos were first done by priests – it was spiritual with specific protocols – done on adults – used bone combs with sharp teeth – some tapped – done on hands making dots. Marquesians had tattoos all over but later were prohibited by Christians. Samoans – never lost doing tattoos – may be hand tapped – had to feel the process to merge with ancestors. Males had tattoos like a protective armour and you would know of their status and family. For women there were lacey, spacier designs and maybe private – like stockings on legs – pride of family. Maori of New Zealand had more chiseled designs on face and men with designs on thighs and buttocks and women would have less.
Hongi – was the nose pressing greeting – signifying the exchange of breath (seen in Mutiny of the Bounty movie).
Had lunch and took tender to pier. Rented a bicycle from ship for $15US for the afternoon to explore the island. Made my way to the town of “Fare” with only one wrong turn. Roundtrip of 20 miles? But Fare was not a pretty town and there was quite a bit of up and down on rolling landscape but the exercise was good. Don walked around the pier area and when back to the ship. Supper with our California friends.
Note: Huahine is located 119 miles northwest of Tahiti. It is made up of Huahine Nui and Huahine Iti which are joined at low tide by a sandbar. The island is lush and tropical but not very developed. Blue eyed eels can be found here and crops of vanilla, melons and bananas.
The Europeans arrived in 1769 – James Cook. They were referred to as popaa which refers to the many layers of clothing they wore. 1808 saw the arrival of the London Missionary Society. Like Raiatea, Huahine resisted the French presence in the islands and numerous clashes took place from 1846 to 1888 when France finally prevailed.
Friday, October 6/17 – Hauhine – Partly cloudy and less wind 28 degrees – Yoga and Stretch class on outside deck and then breakfast. Then watersports off Marine Deck – Kayaked, swam and Don waterskied – after a 20 year sabbatical from this sport! That was a big effort! Had lunch and a quiet afternoon. Set sail for Moorea at 3 PM. Attended 4 PM Cooking Class with 2 other ladies – delicious risotto and shrimp. Learned from the head chef that the ship gets all its supplies from The Netherlands – in container loads picked up in Tahiti.
Dinner with California friends to celebrate Mary Anne’s 70th birthday.
Saturday, October 7/17 Moorea - Partly cloudy and less wind 28 degrees – Had breakfast, the tender to pier to pick up ebike tour with Buck and another couple from Alaska. Had guide and biked 27 miles – half way was the climb up to Mt Belvedere to lookout over this beautiful island. Saw pineapple fields along the way. Don did walk of the little town. Back for lunch and then swam off back deck and kayaked. Quietest water we had been in for the whole cruise. Attended final lecture on “Births, Weddings and Funerals”. Learned that Polynesian Chiefs were treated as gods – had much power – spiritual. Human sacrifice was rare. Captain Cook was treated like a god too.
Did sail around yacht for pictures since it had it’s sails up. Sail away at 5 PM. Dinner and then packing.
Note: Moorea means “yellow lizard” in Tahitian and is known as one of the most beautiful of the Polynesian Islands. It is only 11 miles to the northwest of Tahiti. It’s heart shape and two nearly symmetrical bays (Cook’s Bay and Opunohu Bay) give it a very distinctive coastline.
Disease, alcohol and new weaponry were all introduced to the island which had disastrous effects on what was once a densely populated area. Copra (the dried white meat of the coconut) and vanilla were once very important for Moorea but it is now the pineapple growing centre of French Polynesia.
Sunday, October 8/17 – Papeete, Tahiti – Sunny and 29 degrees – Arrived in port at 8 PM last night. Had breakfast and left ship at 8:30 AM for morning tour of Papeete. Saw Papeete Sunday market,  Government houses, stopped at park with lighthouse and statue to Mutiny on the Bounty descendants. Dropped off at noon to Le Meridien Hotel for day use – assigned room. Went snorkeling. Left for airport at 7 PM via bus for overnight flight back to LA. Sat at back of plane beside a stretcher – ill woman headed for Paris? – had 3 nurses in attendance. Lousy meals on Air Tahiti Nui.
Monday, October 9/17 - Los Angeles California – Sunny and 29 degrees – Arrived at 10 AM and caught hotel shuttle to Hyatt Regency for early check-in. Spent quiet day. Spent time at hotel pool. Getting caught up on emails.
Tuesday, October 10/17 – Los Angeles California – Sunny and 29 degrees – Mary went on “A Day in LA Tour”. Don stayed at hotel and walked around the area – finding the walking route into LAX.
Mary was picked up at the hotel in the green, yellow and red mini bus and taken to Santa Monica picking up other passengers along the way. Changed buses to start tour – visiting Venice Beach and walked around there – saw the skateboarders in the cement bowls. On to Rodeo Drive to walk around there – shops were empty but the street was full of people just walking. Visited the Beverly Wilshire Hotel (President Obama’s favourite stop in LA and the Pretty Woman Film location) for a washroom stop. On to Beverly Hills – which actually developed because of a hunter shooting squirrels and oil was discovered – still has 2 oil wells under it. Had lunch break at the Original Farmer’s Market and The Grove – fancy shopping area. Back on the bus to travel up to the Griffith Observatory situated in the Santa Monica hills – and you can see the Hollywood Sign from there and views of LA and the Pacific Ocean. Note: The Hollywood sign originally said Hollywoodland to advertise a housing development. By the late 1970’s, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce determined that the Sign required a complete rebuilding – carrying a price tag of a quarter million dollars. Thankfully, some of showbiz’s biggest names came to the rescue. In ’77, Fleetwood Mac pledged a charity concert, but local residents prevented it. The next year, however, Hugh Hefner hosted a gala fundraiser at the Playboy Mansion, where individual Sign letters were ceremonially ‘auctioned’ off at $27,700 per letter. The effort to preserve the Sign brought together an odd mix of celebrity sponsors: Glam-rocker Alice Cooper ‘bought’ an “O” (in honor of Groucho Marx), while singing cowboy Gene Autry sponsored an “L” and Andy Williams sponsored the “W.” The H for Hefner. Thanks to the help of these and other donors, the Sign was poised for its overhaul. The old Sign was scrapped in August ’78, and yes, for three lonely months Hollywood had no Sign. 194 tons of concrete, enamel and steel later, the Sign was re-born, poised and polished for a new millennium.
Note: The Griffith observatory and planetarium was featured in two major sequences of the James Dean film Rebel Without a Cause (1955), which helped to make it an international emblem of Los Angeles. A bust of Dean was subsequently placed at the west side of the grounds.
During World War II the planetarium was used to train pilots in celestial navigation. The planetarium was again used for this purpose in the 1960s to train Apollo program astronauts for the first lunar missions.
Admission has been free since the observatory's opening in 1935, in accordance with the will of Griffith J. Griffith, the benefactor after whom the observatory is named.
The tunnel entrance to the Observatory on Mount Hollywood Drive is the entrance to Toon Town in the movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988). Our guide said this tunnel is also filmed as the entrance to the Batcave in Batman.
Our last stop was Hollywood Boulevard and a Walk on “The Walk of Fame”. We say the Chinese Theatre and the street was booked off for the Film Premiere of “Thor”.
We did drive by different studios but not by movie star homes – apparently buses are not allowed in those subdivisions. We learned that local LA’ers do not call their interstate highways – I-10 or I-405, they are “the 10” or “the 405”.
Met nice lady from India – Anja Godbole who was travelling on her own too and another couple from Calgary who did press releases for mining companies. The bus took me back to the hotel via Marina Del Rey and arrived after 6 PM.
Wednesday, October 11/17  LA to Buffalo (via Midway airport in Chicago) -  Left LA via Southwest flight to Chicago at 2:15 PM and arrived at 8:15 PM. Changing planes we left at 10:20 PM and arrived in Buffalo at 12:45 AM and quickly got the shuttle to the Days Hotel for the rest of the night. Don Note: The southwest 737’s are much roomier and comfortable than those damn airbuses.

Thursday, October 12/17  Buffalo to Lakefield – Ate breakfast at the hotel and took off for the border by way of Walmart – to buy Sip’s tea and a van  gas fill-up. Over the border and stopped at Costco in St Catherines and then Katie’s for lunch and visit. Took 407 over TO and made it home to Lakefield around 4 PM.