Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Farewell Hamburg, NY

Saturday 27 October

We get up at 7am and enjoy the beautiful autumn colours for the last time:

I quickly (well, quick is not quite the word…) go downstairs again to get all the bed linen and towels washed and dried, so we can make the bed before we leave.

Shower, toilets and part of the kitchen still need to be cleaned, so I try and take care of that, while Frank gives the polished floor a special treatment.  After that we can start packing, which takes some time on my part, but I finally get there, and before we know it’s is time to leave for the airport.

The house spic-and-span for the owners to return to...

Frank puts the luggage in the car, only to discover that he’s left one of the windows slightly wound down and it has rained (make that ‘poured’) during the night, so the car is quite wet on one site.  We could so have done without that…..

Anyway, the harm is done now, no turning back.  We drive to Kelly’s home (their daughter) who will drop us off at Buffalo airport and will take care of the car until her parents return the next day.  She informs us of the hurricane that is looming before the east coast and which may cause real problems, because it seems to have the possibility to turn into a super storm.  Today the rain is coming down quite heavily, so we are not surprised, but glad we are getting out in time.

At the airport we check in and book wheelchair assistance, which is offered all the way to Brisbane airport.  What a great service.  I would have never made it without, because we have to change planes twice and in particular Dallas airport (the biggest in the USA) would have been hard to manage without, because there we have to switch from the domestic to the international terminals.

In transfer at Dallas airport
This last snapshot is not the best as my SD card had a problem
We have lunch at Buffalo airport and from then on it is plain sailing again.  Not the problems we had on our way to the States, when our flights had to be re-scheduled and we had to wait a long fourteen hours in Los Angeles.

The first plane is a small one (three seats across), the next one is bigger and the last one is a Boeing with the usual ten seats across.  We will spend all of fifteen long hours on board, but the bulk of the flight is in darkness and we manage to sleep on an off, so it doesn’t seem so long.

We arrive in Brisbane at 5am on Monday morning (where has the Sunday gone???) and get offered a wheelchair ride off the plane, since we are sitting in the tail end and the walk is a long one!  Qantas’ service is excellent as usual, with all the crew friendly and courteous.  Customs is no problem and we have never been through so fast.  Next it’s a matter of ringing the shuttle bus and pick up the car and we are home in no time.  

The next few days we will surely be getting over our jetlag, only to have to do it all over again in three weeks time when we travel to France.

Till then!

The end is near…

Friday 26 October

Our last full day in Hamburg.  I have a feeling that the weather is making it easy for us to say goodbye, because it is overcast most of the day.  What we don’t know is that hurricane Sandy is looming in the distance, because we don’t receive the daily newspaper any more and we hardly watch TV.  Anyway, probably just as well.  We don’t need any more stress right now. Not being able to move around, or at the most, not moving around quickly, is really getting to me.  So much to do and all that needs to be done is cast upon Frank’s shoulders.  He vacuums and dusts the house, while I carefully hobble down the stairs into the basement to put loads into the washing machine and dryer from time to time.  Then, after a good rest I venture into the kitchen to do the cleaning there, and by the time most of the basic cleaning is done it is lunch time.  

After lunch it’s time to do our last shopping, but not being able to walk this poses a real problem, until Frank remembers that he’s seen a wheelchair somewhere down in the basement.  He goes down to investigate, and yes, he’s found it.  That, at least, solves the problem of the shopping.  It’s not my favourite way to move between the isles, but hey, who else gets to try out a wheelchair before they are ‘real’ old….. J  We don’t have much time, so again it’s only the basics that we get and at the in-store pharmacy we ask for advice as what to do with this leg of mine.  They can't help, but instead send us to a medical pharmacy at the other end of town.  Just what we need…

However, we do get there before closing time and the advice is to either get a knee brace or a pressure bandage.  Seeing that we will be on the plane for a long time and my leg might still swell I go for the bandage, because it can be adjusted if necessary.  I’m also advised to take anti-inflammatory tablets, but since they tend to mask the pain I am not going to take too many of them.  Pain is not my biggest problem right now!

At home we have an easy meal, left-overs from the freezer, so dinner has been taken care of.  After dinner I go downstairs again to do the ironing and have everything ready for packing the next day. For the rest of the evening I take it easy and read till it is bed time.  

Friday, 26 October 2012

Geocaching can be dangerous

Thursday 25 October

Every time I open the Geocache app on my mobile I am shown a warning that: Geocaching can be dangerous, and ain’t that the truth!

Today is indeed another Indian Summer.  The sun is out and it is actually quite warm.  Well, 23 degrees IS warm for a late autumn day….  We’re happy that we can spend our last day out and about, so we get ready and leave early.  With ten caches on the list and two finds of the first two listed we are in a good mood.  I forgot to tell you, caches have names like Well guarded or Raphael, and the next one is called: Off the beaten track.  Well, off the beaten track it is!  In most cases the name is already the actual hint and in this case we park the car in the seldom used parking lot of a military base. We notice a dirt track going into the direction pointed out by our compass and follow it till we reach the coordinates.  The cache should be near and Frank steps over two fallen trees to get to the correct spot.  Alas, when I want to do the same to follow him I slip on the wet leaves and have a nasty fall.  One of my legs is jammed between the two trees and my own weight bends my knee in the wrong direction.  I was so glad not to be by myself, because I would have never been able to lift myself, since the pain was excruciating.  Frank helped me up and I insisted he kept searching for the cache.  We both had a fair idea where it would be, so it didn’t take a minute.  At least we can log it as found and I had something to show for my pain. J  It took me a while to get over the first nauseating pain, but when that subsided we carefully walked to the car and decided to call it a day.  I have no idea how much damage I have done to my leg, so it is better to give it a good rest in case something needs healing.  I don’t want to go to a doctor here.  If my knee still gives me problems next week I rather go and see a doctor at home.  

So, although I did heed the warning, it sometimes doesn’t take much to have a fall, but it is not going to keep me from having fun….

Frank took the following pictures this morning near the army base (or whatever it was...)

The pictures have greyish smudges on the right side.  I am trying to convince Frank that he needs a new camera, but I think I need to work on that a bit more..... ;-)

On the bright side: plenty of time to play Wordfeud :-)
As tomorrow is our last full day here in Hamburg and one spent doing the laundry and cleaning the house, I don't think it will make interesting reading, so my very last update will probably be on Monday, when we have arrived home.  We're leaving here on Saturday afternoon and will be flying from Buffalo to Chicago.  There we hop onto another plane to Dallas and from there we fly to Brisbane with Qantas Airways.

See you back at the other side of the globe...

Quiet days and 'geocaching' explained

Tuesday 23 and Wednesday 24 October

As the weather does not tempt us to go out we spend the day quietly at home on Tuesday.  It’s raining and it is not letting up!  So, we finally get our pencil drawing gear out and the books on this particular subject that we have bought here and keep ourselves pleasantly occupied for a few hours. Of course, a game or so of Wordfeud doesn’t go astray and I do some (miniature) knitting.  Only four rows at the time, because of the stress on my eyes with this fine work.  

A christening gown being knitted in 12th scale
After dinner we skype with friend Leonie and with Kevin and are up to date again with what is going on at home.  As Frank has finished an interesting book I want to read it too, so I go to bed early to do some quiet reading.

When I wake up the next morning the weather has only marginally improved, so I read some more before I get up.  Just in case it will clear up some more I search for some more geocaches in the area before lunch time.  After lunch it is quite pleasant outside.  It is a foggy autumn afternoon, but not cold at all, so we decide to get some exercise and pick up some geocaches and groceries while we’re at it.

Now, I have discovered that not everyone knows what I am talking about when I mention geocaching.  Let me try and explain it briefly.  For extensive information you can google it.  Geocaching is a kind of outdoor game/activity for which you use a GPS (Global Positioning System).  People (geocachers) all over the world hide waterproof containers (caches) of different sizes and list them on a dedicated website with the coordinates.  Others, like us, take the coordinates from the listing and go out to try and find a cache with the use of a navigating system.  The listing has a brief description and sometimes a hint. When you find a cache you write your (user)name in a log and return the cache correctly to its original hiding place.  Your 'found', or ‘did not find’ is then logged on the members’ website.  There is a whole lot more to it, but that’s for you to find out if you are interested. ;-)  As I said before, it’s good fun, and it gets you to places where you otherwise wouldn’t go.  For more information go to: and choose your own language down near the bottom of the page.

So, back to Wednesday afternoon.  I have listed seven caches and we’re going to do them in some kind of order so that we don’t have to drive all over the place.  We’re off to a bad start, because we can’t find number one. After having thoroughly combed the place we call the search off and head for the next one.  From then on it’s plain sailing.  We find all of them without too much difficulty.  One of them is near a coffee shop, Tim Horton’s, and since I have free wi-fi at Tim Horton’s and we are (over)due for a cuppa, we decide to have a moment’s rest.  While sipping a delicious Pumpkin Spice Latte Supreme (!) I quickly look up the coordinates for one of the caches that I know is nearby, but forgot to download the coordinates of.  That done, and our drinks finished we set off to do the few last ones and head home for dinner.  We meet our next-door-neighbour and he tells us that tomorrow it’s going to be a warm sunny day, so in preparation for the occasion I download a few more coordinates, and we log the finds for the day, after which I take my book to bed and finish it before I fall asleep.

Near one of the hiding places

The Geocache app and the map for back-up

A small size cache found

Another small one

The log inside

Frank signing the log of yet another one

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

We are slowing down

Saturday 21 October

When we get up at about 8am it is raining again and by the looks of it it is not going to let up soon.  Well, breakfast first, the weather might just change for the better in the meantime…

Cor and Alice too put on a splendid breakfast.  Oh oh, my poor waistline…  There is again so much to choose from: muffins, toast, bacon and eggs, porridge with nuts, raisins and brown sugar, fresh fruit, juice and coffee…  I was going to only have porridge, but I didn’t want to disappoint our hosts too much and had toast with bacon and eggs as well.  Oh well, add some fresh fruit, the pineapple looks so good…  Yes, and juice, and coffee….  But that is really all!

We talk and talk and are still talking after breakfast, but it is finally time to go.  We don’t want to overstay our welcome.  We leave in the rain and, although we are driving back to Niagara Falls, we don’t think it will be a day for more sightseeing.  When we arrive it is dry, so we park the car at Dufferin Islands and walk to Table Rock Welcome Centre, where we need to buy more souvenirs, as we had forgotten to do so earlier on.  The sole reason for us to go back…  After a quick cup of coffee we are on our way to the car again, with a last look onto the Falls.  Pictures too, as with the change in the weather the colours are quite different again:

Dark clouds are gathering over the falls

We walk back to the car in light rain, but take a detour through the beautiful park of Dufferin Islands to look at all the fallen leaves and enjoy the smell of autumn in the air.  The way back is via Fort Erie this time and the wait to get through customs is a long one this time, so we arrive home late in the afternoon.  Since we don’t feel like going to the shops for groceries we find a meal in the freezer and have a quiet night afterwards.

Sunday 21 and Monday 22 October

The next two days are not of much interest, but I can’t say we are not enjoying ourselves.  It’s just a bit quieter after all the travelling we have done.  Both days we take it easy and do our shopping when necessary.  I send some thank-you cards to our hosts of the past days and since the weather is fine again we spend some time geocaching on both days.  It’s cold outside, but the sun is out and it’s a pleasure.  We have more luck finding our caches than before.  I think we are learning!  Yesterday we found one after we searched the place for the 3rd time and today we found all three that were on our list.  It’s a different hobby, but one that’s quite enjoyable if you want to explore more of your surroundings.  You get to places that you otherwise would pass by without noticing.  

One cache was hidden near an old railway station where we discovered these old locs

And we passed this adorable old car
I’d better go and log my finds…  See you later.

Monday, 22 October 2012


Friday 19 October

We’re up early and again enjoy a splendid breakfast, although I have told Janet that I would be happy with cereal only. Even Frank, who always has a healthy appetite, is cutting back…

After breakfast Bruce allows me to check my email messages and just as well, because our next hosts ask if we want to go out for dinner with them that night.

Then it’s time to say goodbye again, but we’re not leaving without having taken pictures first.  

Today we want to catch up on a few other places on our list, and the first one is Niagara-on-the-lake, which is actually on Lake Ontario where the Niagara River enters the lake.  It’s an easy ride and after a night of rain the sun is coming out.

After our arrival we quickly find a parking spot and walk the full length of this pretty town, all the way to the lake where this time we don’t see Toronto, because its skyline is hidden by lingering dark clouds.

When we need a rest we order a cup of coffee with biscotti in the lounge of the Prince of Wales Hotel and watch the increasing number of tourists passing by as well as the horse-and-carriages.  It’s a pleasant little corner to enjoy some peace and quiet.

Next we are going to follow the river all the way back to the falls and stop off at places of interest along the route.  First is the Floral Clock.  It’s a gorgeous warm autumn day and it really feels like an Indian Summer.  How lucky we are today, because we can enjoy nature in all its glory with the sun bringing out the vibrant colours even more.

The Floral Clock

At the scenic lookout over the Niagara River

After stopping off at the Floral Clock we stop at a scenic lookout and later at the hydro plants (one on the Canadian side, and one on the American side).

at the hydro electric plants

Next stop is the Whirlpool where one can cross the river in an aero car.  The last stop of the day is at the White Water Walk for which we have a pass, so we spend some time at this beautiful spot.

At the Whirlpool

The Whirlpool got its name, because it is at a sharp bend in the river where the water has churned out a deep pool and where one can see the water swirling.  At this point it is still going quite fast at 9m/s.

At the White Water Walk the flow is still a lot faster at 48m/s, which creates class 6 rapids for those who are familiar with white water rafting.  We did it in New Zealand, but you wouldn’t see me doing this one!  Anyway, traversing a class 6 would be suicidal.  These rapids are beautiful to watch though.  One realises the power and beauty of Mother Nature.

At the White Water Walk

All too soon it’s after four in the afternoon and we have to get to Smithville where we are staying the night.  It’s an adventure again, with only basic instructions, but this time we can drive while it is still light, which makes it a whole lot easier.

We arrive at Cor and Alice’s at 5.15pm and are welcomed in by two kind people.  We’re shown our room, have a chat and after that we all hop into their car for the drive to Grimsby, where they know a good restaurant.  Well ‘good’ appears to be an understatement!  It’s fantastic.  Not only the food, but we are waited upon by a most pleasant girl with a fantastic sense of humour.

When we have to order Frank goes for trout, what else in Canada? ;-)  I on the other hand notice something on the menu that I haven’t had in years………  Liver and onions!  Yes, I can almost hear you: liver and onions???  Is she out of her mind?  Well, I can tell you, I haven’t had such a fantastic meal in a long, long time.  Not even the melt-in-the-mouth steak a day or so ago can surpass this meal.  The liver, I was told, is to be ordered the way you like your steak, so in my case that’s medium to rare.  And indeed, it was done to perfection.  The liver and onions came with bacon, mashed potato, carrots, beans and…. Brussels sprouts!  Boy, if I could I would go back again before leaving for home!  And imagine, we all had what they call a seniors meal. This is cheaper than the regular meals and comes with delicious dessert as well, plus bottomless coffee. And those Canadians know how to make a proper cup of coffee too.  Suffices to say that we had a great time, hence our happy faces at the table:

Afterwards we went back home with our hosts, but in the meantime we were all speaking Dutch!  It appeared that they both are of Dutch origin and have lived in Canada since they where children.  Cor arrived in Canada in 1948 and still speaks Dutch like a native.  Needless to say we had a lot of common ground to cover and Alice showed me her handiwork.  She makes hooked rugs in a manner that I haven’t seen before.  It’s done with thin strips of fabric and looks very much like it is stitched.  Beautiful work which, like most crafts, requires lots of patience.  If you want to find out more about this technique look it up under rug hooking.

Again, 12am came far too soon and off to bed we went.