June - August 2017
  • Day50

    Adventure in the Great Wide Somewhere

    August 17, 2017 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 18 °C

    On the eve of my next great adventure, I decided it was time to finally finish and close my 'American Adventure' blog which has also given me sufficient time to reflect on the highlights everyone has asked me for.

    First of all though, I've been accumulating some statistics about the trip which I feel summarise it quite neatly. Here goes:

    Steps Walked - 556,311
    Photographs Taken - 9152
    Miles Driven - 1900
    US States Visited - 17
    Air BnBs Stayed in - 9
    Number of different transport methods used - 9
    Timezones Visited - 4
    Towers Scaled - 4
    Endangered Species seen in the Wild - 2

    "So what was the highlight of the trip?" I can't answer that question with a straight answer I'm afraid. The entire trip was amazing. There were no low points or places I'd never wish to visit again. However, as I am running out of words I decided to let my favourite pictures show you the true highlights instead. These were the places and experiences that made me feel the most whether that be for happiness, natural wonders, friends or family.

    I've said it before and I'll say it again, I do not underestimate the luck and good fortune I have had in undertaking this incredible journey. Thank you for sharing it with me. The next adventure is just beginning.
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    Geoff Beard

    In April in Brixham the lady next door said that the family were off to Dartmoor to create memories. Well I wonder just how many you created on a trip of a lifetime?

    Joey Beard

    Too many to count DB xx

    Margaret Morse

    Dear Joey, I have so enjoyed following your adventure. You write so well. I do hope you keep a journal of your next adventure so that in a few years time, I am sure it will be a fascinating read. Lots of love A. Margaloo

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  • Day49

    There's No Place Like Home

    August 16, 2017 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 18 °C

    Being woken at 4.30 in the morning for breakfast made me feel a little nauseous but knowing I'd soon be reunited with Mum and Dad was a lovely feeling. They have been so supportive every step of the way and I couldn't wait to share my adventures with them in person.

    I waited with slight nervousness at the baggage carousel for Douglas and Petunia. This was the final test of luck. I had some doubt as to how Douglas would fair and had nightmares of him being torn open in the hold. However, there he was intact albeit separated from Petunia who was hanging out with other luggage of her pedigree. Poor Douglas.

    So many people asked me what it was like to be home and my most overwhelming feeling was one of thankfulness and relief. I was in amazement that I'd pulled off a trip of this scale with no drama. I still am in amazement. I'm not a religious person but I really do feel that someone was looking out for me the whole time. No one is that lucky. Perhaps I have become too cynical.

    Mum and Dad welcomed me at Heathrow in style and I couldnt be happier to see them. I was home safe without ever having seen a witch or a wizard - wicked or otherwise. But it wasn't a dream. It was a place. And you and you and you...and you were there. But you couldn't have been could you? Doesn't anybody believe me? But anyway, Toto, we're home! Home.
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    Jackie Beard

    It was so lovely to see you and have you safely home xx

  • Day48

    Fly Away Home

    August 15, 2017 in the United States ⋅ ☁️ 23 °C

    With a late evening flight I had another whole day to spend in Manhattan. My Air BnB host was kind enough to let me keep my luggage in her front room so I ventured back into the city to explore the wonder that is Intrepid - Air, Sea and Space Museum. With flying in the blood, this seemed the perfect way to spend my last day. My only sadness was that Dad wasn't with me to share the experience as he would have loved every part of it. Needless to say I sent him multiple photos and phoned home whilst eating my lunch under Concorde. It has to be said I don't think one day would have been enough for him here. I struggled with only 5 hours and was there until they shut.

    The BBC Weather app failed me massively today as it had not forecast any rain whatsoever yet it was torrential for hours. So much so I had to buy an umbrella to be able to get out on the main deck to see my beloved Blackbird. I have not ceased to be amazed by this aircraft and only wish I had been lucky enough to see it fly. My heart literally skipped a beat when I caught my first glimpse of her from the dockside. I was similarly in awe of the Space Shuttle Enterprise. Such a collection of amazing aircraft and history in one place. I would put it on a par if not better than the IWM Museum at Duxford.

    I ventured back towards Brooklyn via Grand Central Station. I'd never been and so it was another one crossed off the list. It was then the start of the journey home. I was ready now.

    Petunia, Douglas, Pluto and I took our last Uber to JFK. British Airways did me proud once again and flew me home in style. Fittingly I fell asleep watching Beauty and the Beast looking forward to being home when I woke up.
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  • Day47

    Retail Therapy

    August 14, 2017 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 26 °C

    I had set aside my last full day in the city for SHOPPING. Frivolous after the last 7 weeks I know but I figured having come this far - why the hell not?

    I started my day with a long awaited breakfast at Denny's. The diner franchise had been a popular favourite of Mum and Dad's in the 80s and they had taken me there in the 90s so it was nice to finally cross it off the list. Their pancakes were easily the best I'd had.

    After breakfast I ventured into Chinatown to find Mum her coveted Louis Vuitton fake but much to my dismay the fake handbag industry in Chinatown has either disappeared or gone seriously underground. No fake handbags to be seen anywhere. This was a huge disappointment!

    Next stop was Fifth avenue for the Lego Store and Saks followed by a return to Times Square for the big Disney Store. Whilst sitting for a quick breather by the Rockefeller Centre I was approached by an old man who insisted on taking my picture. I tried to resist but he was insistent. He took my phone and took multiple snaps and then returned the phone to me, shook my hand amd walked away. One of his results is below and needless to say I was really chuffed with his results and further encouraged by the kindess of strangers on my travels.

    My final stop was, of course, Target where I procured Douglas the Duffel along with many chocolate hugs and kisses. It has to be said that I knew Petunia woild not be impressed with Douglas but he was cheap, he was functional and quite frankly she could do worse!

    After a long day on my feet, I had a lovely chilled evening in my Air BnB slowly packing and eating Jack Daniels Honey Pulled Pork and Chocolate Chip Eggos!
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    Geoff Beard


    Geoff Beard

    Never seen such a posh one before.

  • Day46

    The Last Train

    August 13, 2017 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 26 °C

    Today I took my very last Amtrak train from Niagara to New York. I had splashed out on booking and paid the extra $30 to travel business class. I have to say I was disappointed that I bothered. It lacked the same sense of community and comfort as the standard class carriages. The furnishings were old and tired and whilst the seats were bigger they were less comfy. Quite frankly it was a bit lonely too. I was disappointed to learn there was no observation car on this train which is where Kate and I had made several friends before. There was plenty of American sass though. I'm not sure if I've talked about sass before but Kate and I had come to really appreciate it. For some reason we always seemed to get it the most from people in customer service positions. This only seems to add to the humour as in the UK you wouldn't dream of getting that kind of attitude from someone in the service industry. Still, sass aside, I did manage to persuade our conductor to give me a children's goody bag which kept me entertained for about 5 minutes!

    My newfound loneliness on the train lead me to do a lot of reflecting and soul searching. This was the start of my journey home. It had been one hell of an adventure and more significantly one rollercoaster of a year. Despite the heartbreak and trials at the start of the year, I was feeling very thankful for the positive experiences more recent months had brought me.

    After watching an amazing sunset along the Hudson River from the train we eventually pulled into NY Penn around 10pm. I'd messaged my Air BnB host about crossing the Subway at this time of night and she had been very encouraging. It would still be busy. Unfortunately the NY Subway is not like the London Underground for navigating. For some reason it is much harder with little information on closures and disruptions until you're already on the wrong train! That being said, I made it to Brooklyn safely. I was so relieved this would be my last cross city journey with Petunia and co. With tiredness and the heat, I was exhausted by the time I reached Brooklyn.

    My Air BnB could not have been a more welcome sight. It was a beautiful Victorian house with a wonderful big room which would be my home for my last two nights in the states.
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  • Day45

    Chasing Waterfalls

    August 12, 2017 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 22 °C

    Despite having visited Niagara when I was 14, on finalising my itinerary it seemed daft not to stop by this natural phenomenon on the way back to NY. I'd booked myself into the HI Hostel which was in a very sleepy part of town about 25 minutes walk from the falls but conveniently less than 5 minutes walk from the train station.

    Steve and Monica very kindly dropped me down to the station in downtown Toronto. I was really sad to leave their warm family home but was also starting to feel ready to return to my own family home back in Gloucestershire. I've been pretty good on the homesickness front to date. I've been far too busy to really have time to experience it. However I did experience my first bout of utter loneliness today. I'll get to that later.

    Niagara was a short train ride away and once I'd dropped my cases at the hostel, I set off along the river towards the falls.

    I still found their sheer size and power mesmerising and was glad I'd made the added stop to my trip. I'd resolved that I wouldn't be doing any of the tourist activities as I'd either done them previously or had heard bad reviews - 'Maid of the Mist' for instance is notorious for being an overcrowded soggy boat ride on which you cannot easily take photographs. As you can probably imagine that didn't really appeal to me. However, I was not expecting to discover two new attractions which did draw me in. One was a zipwire which ran down towards the horseshoe falls for about 2000 ft and looked appropriately frightening. Another was a big wheel which overlooked the falls from the Vegas style strip further back from the river. In a quandary, I sent Dad a text asking which I should do. His response was simple - 'BOTH!' As most people know I don't often go against my Daddy Beard's advice so both I did. The zipwire was phenomenal. It was actually my first zipwire ever so it was a little frightening on a number of counts but I felt exceedingly safe and was glad to have done it. Having done this in the late afternoon I opted to leave the big wheel until after dark.

    I was on one last mission before leaving Canada the following day, this was to finally experience the supposed Canadian delicacy which is 'Poutine'. It's essentially just chips, cheese and gravy and sadly I was a tad underwhelmed. However, at least it could be ticked off the list!

    Once the sun had finally set I stood and got hypnotized by the cascading torrents illuminated in the dark for a while and then ventured towards the wheel. This was when the loneliness hit me. Unusually there were very few English speaking tourists at Niagara so aside from the lovely family of 3 that I shared my zip wire experience with I'd barely conversed with anyone all day. The only other acquaintance I'd made was the gorgeous husky 'variant' called Grey Fire (GoT fans will appreciate that name more than I did). Not only did he let me make a big fuss he unusually (apparently) settled down next to me. His owners were much amused and told me I must have a likeable demeanour as he very rarely settles down with anyone. If I could, I'd have taken him home.

    It transpires being in a big wheel gondola on ones own is a step too far on the loneliness scale. Disneyland was fine. Big wheel felt a little sad. Still, I've no regrets as the views were breathtaking and the loneliness only lasted 5 minutes. I don't think it helped that I was wearing a pink anorak and my polka dot straw hat and so felt extra special.

    Having done both attractions and eaten my poutine I headed back to the hostel for bed. This would be my very last hostel on the trip. Thankfully I had very friendly australian company in my dorm of 4 and the hostel was very homely and helpful.

    The countdown to my journey home was upon me but there was still a fair distance to travel.
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    Geoff Beard

    Very brave but following sound advice 😊

    Geoff Beard

    Memories flood back.

    Jackie Beard

    Weeeeeeee!!!! Go Joey Go 🙈xx

  • Day44

    Family Time

    August 11, 2017 in Canada ⋅ ⛅ 24 °C

    Today was my last day in Toronto with my lovely Canadian cousins. I took advantage of the opportunity to have a super lazy day and repack all my things ready for Niagara tomorrow. When I finally surfaced downstairs Demetri and I spent a good hour or more tinkering on his very nice Yamaha piano. We were both marvelling at each other's skills. I was very envious of his gift to learn and play ragtime music by ear as well as his composition skills. He meanwhile was envious of my sight reading skills. I've always said that in music you are either naturally talented or 'musically educated'. Being the latter I've always been saddened by the fact that I can't simply approach a piano cold and sit down and play something. I need music in front of me and some time to practise. Still, I'm very grateful for my skills and enjoy playing nonetheless. Demetri on the other hand is naturally talented and I hope he continues to utilise that talent and share his music with others.

    I spent a fair amount of time with both my younger cousins that afternoon. Mostly we attempted to take the cat into liking me. We failed but the efforts by the boys were appreciated.

    Around mid-afternoon Monica, Steve and I wandered down to The Damforth which is the Greek area of the neighbourhood in which a large food festival was about to get underway. We indulged in multiple Greek delicacies - my favourite being funnel cake which was topped with ice cream, oreo crumbs and chocolate sauce (see picture). Needless to say I struggled to eat it all!

    Once our appetites were satisfied and we were not too full to still walk to the subway we took the train to the CN Tower.

    Having done the CN Tower in 2000, I hadn't originally intended to visit again. However on discussion with Steve and Monica one night it was agreed I couldn't come to Toronto and not go up it and so Steve kindly booked us all tickets. We arrived just before sunset so we could enjoy the views in both daylight and darkness. We were suddenly engulfed by a number of thunder storms which made the visit all the more exciting! I stood on the famous elephant glass once again and enjoyed watching the lightning strikes across the city.

    After scaling the CN Tower, we walked to City Hall where the illuminated Toronto sign proudly stands. Steve was very good in humouring my artsy photographic attempts (results below). From there we walked back to the subway via the Eaton Centre where a wonderful hanging sculpture of flying geese is suspended from the glass ceiling.

    On our return I shared some of my photos from the days in Toronto with the boys and headed up to bed ready for an earlier start the next day. I would be very sad to leave this warm family home.
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    Geoff Beard

    Inescapably two Rodds !!!

    Geoff Beard

    And a bear !!

  • Day43

    Roots in Canada

    August 10, 2017 in Canada ⋅ ⛅ 25 °C

    It seems either I'm still suffering minor jetlag or perhaps all this travelling is simply making me very drowsy but after another relatively lazy start Monica and I ventured downtown. We started in Yorkville which was a lovely quirky little shopping district with nice eateries and leafyness! Monica took me to a particular gift shop full of wierd and wonderful things. It was a struggle not to come put with too much! Who doesn't need a squirrel USB splitter or a cloud shaped container for keeping cotton buds?

    After a spot of lunch we progressed towards Chinatown meeting Steve at Toronto's answer to Times Square (Yonge-Dundas) en route. Chinatown was very typical of most cities and harboured lots of very cheap souvenir shops and food outlets. I had my first Tim Horton's iced hot chocolate and found it a strong competitor to the one Id grown to love at Dunkin Donuts. It was not far from here that we discovered the wonder of Graffiti Alley. We spent quite some time wandering down this brightly coloured alleyway where it seemed many photographers were using it as a location for the perfect shoot. One photographer was shooting pictures of her dog who seemed adept at modelling in different poses for her on command albeit with the help of some treats!

    From there we went on to Kensington Market which was a wonderfully bohemian part of town where it transpired Monica and Steve first met. We even tracked down the house Monica was living in at the time which was a lovely little piece of family history. Even they hadn't been back there in nearly 30 years. I was particularly charmed by a corner film cafe which was showing Charlie Chaplin's 'City Lights' on the back wall.

    With many steps on the clock we walked back to get Steve's car by the University and travelled home via the local Greek Restaurant. Greek food isn't something I've had much but I definitely enjoyed it. I had BBQ'd marinated pork with mediterranean vegetables and rice. It was delicious. For dessert, Steve took us to the mouth watering Serano Bakery which had glass cabinet upon glass cabinet of amazing looking treats.

    We enjoyed our pudding sat out on the decking at home whilst I willed the raccoons to show their cute little bandit faces. It seems I did not will hard enough nor was I willing to share my pudding with them! Raccoons or no raccoons, I was very much enjoying my family time and felt very at home here.
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    Jackie Beard

    Yummy xx

    Jane Clarke

    Oh my god...... One of each please!!!!

    Rachel Payne

    One of each?...... you mean 2 of each 😃

    Jackie Beard

    I saw them first !!!!! 😝

  • Day42

    Little Islanders

    August 9, 2017 in Canada ⋅ ⛅ 26 °C

    For some reason the steady time travel I've undergone over the past 5 days caught up with me this morning and whilst being wide awake around 6am for an hour I then fell asleep again and didn't wake up until 11.30. Thankfully our plans for the day were very flexible amd Monica was very accommodating of my newfound jetlag.

    I spent the first hour or so marvelling over Monica's file of family tree research. There was so much to look at from photographs to copies of death certificates and newspaper cuttings.

    Realising the day was slipping away from us we ventured out around 2pm for Toronto Island. I'd only recently come to terms with the fact that I was deemed an 'Islander'. It was a term I'd always reserved for those living on the Channel Islands or Isle of Wight but no - an islander I am. Anyway that has little to do with our visit to Toronto's little island other than it made me think of this newfound revelation.

    We caught a very busy ferry from downtown Toronto and enjoyed a wonderful view of the city skyline. We walked leisurely through the park and to the end of the pier on the other side of the island looking out over the vast Lake Ontario. We watched several flocks of migrating birds which we have yet to formally identify. They were almost cormorant like yet formated like geese.

    After a couple of hours meandering around the pretty and peaceful island we caught a ferry back to the mainland and arrived back in time for some lovely homemade burgers.

    A nice slow paced day was definitely what jet-lagged Joey needed! My only minor regret was not indulging in a 'Beaver Tail'. Sadly despite our search we would never see them again.
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    Geoff Beard

    No comment 🙈🙉🙊

  • Day41

    Don't just fly, SOAR

    August 8, 2017 in Canada ⋅ ☀️ 23 °C

    Following a very restful night's sleep and a surprisingly successful packing mission, Petunia (the pink suitcase) and I took our first Canadian uber to the airport. It was such a relief to see those little fly like cars moving about on the uber app again. I had missed my ubers! So quick, efficient, stress-free with no need to worry about cash or tipping (you do it all through the app).

    Putting Petunia on the scales I shut my eyes. I was sure she'd gained a few pounds since leaving the UK but us girls didn't like to talk about such things. When I opened them, she was on her way up the ramp. Atta girl Petunia.

    I breezed through security after being redirected to the 'trusted passengers' line. I swear it's the hat. I get through customs just as swiftly whereas Kate conversely gets interrogated about her intentions. Note to self - everyone trusts a girl with a straw hat with a polka dot ribbon.

    I was amused by the airport attendants at Calgary who all wore matching red and white waistcoats and stetsons. Sadly I was unable to get a picture but I downloaded one from Google images to share with you. Bless 'em. I believe they're all volunteers too.

    On boarding my 767 I was delighted to find we had in-flight entertainment. You can blame Air Canada for me being so far behind with my blog! Instead of catching more penguins I watched British film 'Their Finest' and indulged in some Tom Hiddleston by partly watching 3/4s of the latest Kong film whilst editing photos. I had meant to catch the former at the cinema a couple of months ago but was probably too busy flying or playing cafe! As I'd predicted it was an all over Joey film. It was set in WWII Blitz and follows a young female writer who is employed by the war office to write 'the slop' for some uplifting propaganda films. It had good period sets and costumes, strong female lead, romance and was about heartwarming filmmaking - what more could a Joey want in a film? As for Tom. Well he needs no review.

    On arrival at Toronto airport it suddenly struck me that I hadn't seen Monica in 17 years nor had I seen a picture. I was comforted by the fact I knew she was reading my blog and therefore must know what I looked like these days! I just realised I've jumped ahead for some people. I was about to reunite with Dad's cousin Monica (my 2nd cousin) who I met briefly on our visit to Toronto in 2000 but whom I had been exchanging emails with ever since I was a teenager. Whilst a similar age to Dad, Monica has such a young spirit and we have always spoken so openly to each other about everything. I'm pretty sure I used to confide in her all my teenage heartache as if she was one of my school friends. I like to think that the 'young at heart' gene runs in the family. I certainly think both Dad, Uncle Peter and my Great Aunty Ann have it. Anyway, it had been an ambition of mine for over a decade to one day get to visit Monica again and spend some proper time together. This was it. At last.

    As Petunia and I came out of the arrivals door an older lady was weaving to and fro in front of the waiting crowd of friends and family. I watched her and thought she bared some resemblance to Monica's mother Daphne but I wasn't convinced. This lady didn't have the same twinkle in her eye or beauty. Thankfully between this lady's weaving I spotted Monica in the back and recognised her instantly. When we'd been arranging my visit I'd assured Monica I could find my way to theirs by myself but she very kindly insisted on meeting me at the airport. After a number of buses and subway rides I was glad she did. I was feeling quite tired from both the coach and plane journeys and trying to decipher a new city's public transport system would probably have been beyond me. We did have a giggle when we nearly lost Petunia down the length of a subway carriage as I accidentally let go. Boy can she travel - sorry Petunia but some of that is down to your mass!

    We eventually arrived at the Kanellis family home in leafy Toronto suburbia. Despite only spending a few hours there in 2000 it was bizarrely familiar. I do wonder how or why my brain stores such memories of houses visited etc. I fear it takes up space that could probably be better utilised!

    I received a very warm welcome from the rest of family including a small meow from the family cat who it transpires has many names - two of them being Kitty Kanellis or Gata Sin Ombre (Greek for Cat with no name). I personally adopted the my own variation of KanelliCat.

    Monica and Steve were very keen to see more of my pictures from the adventure so far and so set up a screen on the patio and we had an impromptu slideshow following a lovely homemade stew. There was something very wonderful about being with family after such a long time away and I instantly felt at home.
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    Sean Simmons

    Great family pic. Your missing your camera😉