Category Archives: Travel stories

Our California Adventure Has Begun (Sans quake)

As today marks the day that we leave Orlando and begin our long journey back down under, we thought it would be great to call in on some old favourites. So, as it’s on the way we’ve decided to drop into Los Angeles for a few days to break the trip, more specifically Disneyland Park and California Adventure. This US holiday has all been about the kids (and the big kids at heart) so we planned it to be full of kid fun and kid excitement.

LA holds plenty of memories for me. I’ve been here about 6 or 7 times over the years and done all of the touristy things you can imagine. My first ever visit to LA in 1994 was marred with an event that I hope I never experience again. On our first night, we’d arrived from Vancouver and settled into a long overdue night of sleep. Suddenly we were rocked from our beds as an earthquake of 6.7 magnitude hit in the dead of night. It was the longest forty seconds of my life. I held onto the bed as it bounced and moved across our 9th floor room. I was totally convinced that I was going to be smashed through the window as the building fell over, and down onto the car park below. I even had time to decide that I would grip the mattress during the fall to cushion the impact. Well, lucky for me the hotel didn’t fall over, and I didn’t land in the car park clinging to my mattress. To an LA local this reaction probably seems lame, but for a young lad from another part of the world who had only ever seen earthquakes in movies it was exactly what ran through my mind.

Wow … welcome to LA. It was an experience that was both terrifying and amazing. I remember thinking that if I was going to choose anywhere to be in an earthquake, it would have to be LA, where buildings are built to withstand them. If the same thing happened in some other part of the world, then maybe it would have been a whole different story. But even LA suffered huge damage that night. I remember sitting there in complete shock and watching the live news on TV (which had bounced from one end of the bench to the other and almost fallen onto the water on the floor that had splashed out of the toilet and was seeping into the room from the bathroom). They crossed to the freeways and buildings that had collapsed and showed vision of fires and cars running off the broken freeways. I think that there were about 60+ fatalities, which confirmed just how big a disaster it was. It was no minor quake. That day in 1994 is a point in my life that I use to measure things – before quake and after quake.

My family and friends back home in Australia were frantic as they watched the disaster unfold on TV and tried (unsuccessfully) to contact me for almost 12 hours. It’s a day that I’ll never forget and one that reminds me that life is short and can change in an instant. Ironically, over the following week, our stay was full of aftershocks, but when we went to Universal Studios the Earthquake section of the Studio Tour was closed due to earthquake damage.

This video of live news from that day is quite long, but click your way through it to get some insight on what was happening. Once daylight arrived the true extent of the damage became apparent.

 

Anyway, I trust that this visit to LA will be fun and won’t involve another earthquake, as I’d have to be pretty unlucky to drop in for two of them in a lifetime. Here are a couple of vids showing some things that we’ll be getting up to in the final stages of this memory making holiday.

 


While you’re here, please check out my edge-of-your-seat time-travel adventure books by clicking the pic below.

4 books

 

Life’s Short – Live It – Let’s go to Orlando

The past year has been a roller-coaster ride for us. Since our daughter’s cancer diagnosis we’ve been through many highs and lows. We’ve met wonderful people who care for sick children and support their families, and we’ve met some great families who are on the same journey.

One thing that we have all learnt is ‘Life’s short – Live it’.

You never know what’s around the corner, fate will cast its spell and your life can change in an instant. We’ve always tried to build memories for our kids, and this past year has taught us that we need to continue to do so. Today we are in Orlando, Florida. A place that’s full of magical adventures and is an icon of family fun. It’s a long way from where we live in Australia, but it’s a place that my wife and I visited 15 years ago, before kids. We decided that our kids needed an adventure to outrank all previous adventures, and to hopefully help symbolise a new beginning and getting through the ordeal of the past year’s cancer journey.

These weeks in the land of fun will give us all amazing memories that we can relive for ever. As I said before, life is short and you never know what’s around the corner. We’d hate to be in a position to say ‘I wish we had done that while we had the chance.’

Here are some glimpses of what we’ll see and do while we are here.

 

This next part of our adventure is going to be an absolute highlight of this trip for me. I’m lost for words after watching these.


While you’re here, please check out my edge-of-your-seat time-travel adventure books by clicking the pic below.

4 books

A Salute to New York City

Well, now that this post has gone live it means that I’m currently trying to sleep or eat in the belly of a shiny flying machine. I’m on my way to one of my favourite places in the world, New York City.

Getting there is no taxi ride for us. We practically live on the opposite side of the globe, as far away from NYC that’s possible without being from space. It’ll take 3 flights and over 24 hours of continuous travelling before we arrive in the big apple. Then it’ll be straight out of our hotel into the lights of Times Square.

Another cool fact is that to get there, we actually need to go back in time. That means that when I left home today it was yesterday in New York, and when I get to New York today it will be tomorrow back home. I guess it’s the closest I’ll come to time travel (except for my books).

It’s been a while since we visited, 15 years in fact, and a lot has happened in NYC since then, so it will be great to catch those famous sites again, along with some new ones. The Statue of Liberty (missed out last visit), the Empire State Building, Times Square, Broadway, Central Park, and the 9/11 Memorial is on top of our list. It will be a time to reflect on an event that shook everyone around the world.

I know there have been many songs about New York over the years, and I thought it was the perfect time to share some of my favourites. So, please grab a coffee, sit back, relax and enjoy. And if anyone reading this will be in NYC this weekend, I’ll look out for you :)

Paloma Faith – New York

This is one of my all-time favourite tunes by an amazing artist.

Alecia Keys/Jay Z – Empire State of Mind

Another great tune that’s become a modern classic.

 Frank Sinatra – New York, New York

This is the most famous of all!

 See you all in NYC!

iPhone 5 ♦ Panorama Photos ♦ Gold Coast, Australia.

Like many others around the world I upgraded to the iPhone 5 when it was released late last year. One of the new features that it provided was the ability to take panorama photos. On my recent holiday to Queensland I gave it a bit of a whirl to see what the photos would turn out like. Here are some iPhone 5 panorama shots that I took.

The day that we checked in to our 28th floor apartment was the perfect opportunity to test out the power of the panorama feature. I think you’d have to agree, it was an awesome view.

IMG_0855

A couple of days after the panorama photo was taken a superstorm (ex Cyclone Oswald) roared into town and hung around for a few days.

Although I tried, I couldn’t get out onto the balcony long enough to take a panorama of the storm due to the constant torrential rain and high wind.

Here is a quick shot I managed showing the huge seas and missing beach.

Then, on the morning after the storm finally left us, this was the wonderful view with the sun rising above a still rough, but much calmer ocean. I like how the panorama feature doesn’t distort the horizon.

At Seaworld we entered the Antarctica penguin exhibit. This panorama tries to show the amazing ice environment, but bands of pink have spoilt the shot. I’m not sure what caused the bands, perhaps it was the type of lighting.

This is the wonderful lagoon used for the dolphin show at Seaworld on the Gold Coast. A very natural looking environment has been created. The panorama feature gives you the ability to capture a wider area.

The pool area where we stayed was amazing. It was surrounded by palms and grassed areas. There was even real beach sand on the its shores. This panorama shows only half of the pool. There is another similar section beyond the bridge.

We decided to head down to the beach after dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe. This panorama is looking back towards the high-rise buildings. The beach is bathed in huge spotlights, making it feel like daytime. Due to the heat and the soaked ground from the storm the air was filled with an amazing mist.

Down on the beach looking out to the ocean. Erosion from the storm was clear, as was the long wobbling lines of foam created during the storm by the wild ocean swell. Some of the roads along the beach were filled to curb level with the sand that had blown and washed up from the beach.

So, what’s my opinion of the iPhone Panorama pics? ……… great !!! It’s so easy to use and the photos give you a richer and more amazing memory.

MARINA BAY SANDS HOTEL ♦ Singapore ♦ Part 2

One of the things that we just had to do while in Singapore was to visit the amazing Marina Bay Sands Hotel.   We even went one step further and decided to stay there. This hotel has only opened in the past couple of years and is an amazing building.  It consists of three towers of 55 floors which have the most extraordinary SkyPark across the top of them.  My rough calculations equate the length of this SkyPark to be about the same as the height of the Eiffel Tower – so imagine the Eiffel Tower laying across three buildings.

Marina Bay - Postcard

The three towers could best be described as a deck of cards. Imagine two cards leaning against each other and there you have a tower – repeat this three times and you have the Marina Bay Sands Hotel.  The inside of these towers is like an empty void as you look up.  The doors to the rooms line the walkways that look down into the void from above.

Marina Bay Sands

Marina Bay Sands - Our View
Marina Bay Sands – Our View

For an average family this is quite a pricey hotel but we found that’s normal in Singapore, so if you want to reduce the cost by booking cheaper rooms you can go for the lower floors (ie. Level 19 or lower).

Something great to note is that if you are staying there the hotel provides free bus transfers to/from the airport.

The hotel also has easy access to the SMRT underground transport and is linked to a Casino and huge shopping mall that has a wide range of shopping choices.

Marina Bay Sands - Our View
Marina Bay Sands – Our View

At night the towers become part of a spectacular show of colored lighting, lasers, music and movies projected on fountains and fans of water in the bay.  Our room was on the 43rd floor and on the bay side, so we had a great view of the people watching the free light show each night.

As mentioned in a previous post we also saw a flashmob in the hotel foyer one day which was a fun thing to experience.

Aside from the amazing design of this hotel, one of the most fantabulous reasons to stay here is the SkyPark.

Marina Bay Sands - Observation Deck - Bay side
Marina Bay Sands – Observation Deck – Bay side

This looks like a huge aircraft wing that sits across the three towers.  In addition to the pool, garden areas and a selection of restaurants there is a fantastic observation deck at one end of the the SkyPark that offers spectacular views –  This deck costs $$ for visitors but if you are a hotel guest it’s free.

Marina Bay Sands - SkyPark Pool
Marina Bay Sands – SkyPark Pool

Besides the magnificent view, the most breathtaking part of the SkyPark would have to be the pool.  It is probably over 100 metres long and has an invisible edge that gives you the feeling of swimming in the sky.  The pool is lined with lounges and waiters and is only available for hotel guests.  We swam in it at night as it was quieter than the day but it also meant that when the nightly laser light show started, we were right in the middle of it.  Swimming up to the pool’s edge we could look down at the flashing cameras around the bay as the lasers were bursting from the palm trees around us up into the sky.  This would have to be the most amazing pool I have ever been in.  It truly was like swimming in the sky.

Overall we were pleased with the hotel, we did have a bit of a problem when checking in (they gave us a room with only 2 twin beds – not ideal for a family of 4 that had pre-booked more suitable bedding) but that was ironed out the following day.  Even if you don’t stay ay Marina Bay Sands it’s worth a visit.