Thursday 18 January 2018

Change of blog address

It appears that a number of people who used to follow me have still not realised that the blog is still going but under a new name.  

Please note this blog has moved to

I also have the blog

The old blog was was slowing down so much that it was taking me hours to do what should have taken minutes. A new blog seemed to be the only answer.

The church Saint-Maixent (eleventh and 12th centuries). Vitrac Saint Vincent.

Hope to see you back very soon. Post updated 06/08/2020

Wednesday 8 March 2017

Part 13 of our holiday - an afternoon in Las Vegas

Please note this blog has moved to

Firstly, I would like to say thank you for all the comments on the last post which I have not answered!  We were away for the whole of February  having fun in South Africa and Botswana, and although I did read all the comments, I did not have time (with limited satellite coverage) to answer all of them.   After this post we will return to France for a few posts; this blog is after all supposed to be about my life in the Charente! .

We stayed overnight in a hotel off the "Strip" (Las Vegas Boulevard) so as to catch a 6 a.m. flight the next day, but arrived early to spend a few hours seeing what LV has to offer! With outside temperatures at a body-melting 46 degrees C, and not being gamblers, a few hours was enough for us!!

The famous Roman-themed Caesars Palace hotel (now with about 3,350 bedrooms) and casino is now 50 years old, but they've been adding to it ever since! Elton John, Mariah Carey, Rod Stewart and Celine Dion have all appeared here. Note the replica London bus at the right of the photo.

This jolly Disney-style castle encloses, I believe, the Mandalay Bay monorail train station. The Las Vegas Boulevard is served by an elevated monorail system 3.9 mile  (6.3km) long, on which you can invest $12 for an unlimited daily pass, a mere drop in the ocean compared with what everything else costs here!

David Copperfield the illusionist, resident at the MGM Grand hotel and casino. The MGM Grand is the largest single hotel in the world, with over 5,100 rooms! Some penthouse suites are 110 square metres (the size of a small house!) in area with one king size bed, all for about $750 per night!

A typical slot machine area. Plush carpets and the incessant sounds of payout bells ringing in the ears! Outside it's scorching, but in here it feels over 25 degrees cooler! A sweater perhaps?

One of a huge number of magnificent ladies loos (or "rest rooms" as the Amercans euphemistically call them) in a casino! All marble and granite; and where else did you see so many basins in a row?

The stylised but still impressive Sphinx at the Luxor hotel and casino. It did cast a welcome bit of shade as we passed by!

The Pharaoh in the entrance lobby of the Luxor complex, which was opened in 1993. It has over 4,400 rooms in the almost full-size replica of the Cheops pyramid and in two additional towers added in 2001. You can judge the size of the statue from the height of the people at the bottom of the photo!

An extension of the Luxor theme, this obelisk is presumably modelled from similar features in Paris, London and New York.

This Statue of Liberty at the New York-New York hotel and casino is a half size replica of the original in New York harbour. When the US Post Office issued a stamp commemorating the Statue, they used a photo of this replica and not of the original! One of those "Oh ****" moments!

Am amazing re-creation of a Venice canal scene. It's hard to believe, but this is INDOORS!! They even have singing gondoliers poling around, taking tourists on little trips.

Another view. Yes, it's real water - you can't forge that!

And another. There are shops absolutely everywhere, selling almost anything you can imagine. It's very easy to get lost, too!

And to finish, I thought it appropriate to show the American version of France! This half-scale Eiffel Tower is outside the Paris hotel and casino. The original plan was for a full scale Tower, but it was said that would have interfered with planes at the nearby McCullan airport. Pity! If you're a Barry Manilow fan, the Paris is (was?) the place to see him perform.

Inside the building, this is the lavish-looking Napoleon's Piano Bar. I don't know who painted all the skies, but they look pretty good!

All in all, a great experience of this OTT city and a tick, perhaps, on your personal bucket list! If you do intend to visit, check the ambient temperatures before planning your travel date and consider staying at hotels a block or so off the "Strip". We found them really amazing value in return for just a little extra walking.

Also see my daily diary HERE

and My Life Before Charente (updated  25 September 2016) I will get back to this eventually! 


Friday 20 January 2017

Part 12 of our holiday - Visiting Bryce and Zion Canyons

Michael and Mary collected us from the Grand Canyon Lodge at 10 am on 3 July 2016 and we said thanks and farewell to Gaelyn, who was busily back into work mode. It is a 4.5 hour drive to Bryce from the Grand Canyon, so we arrived in the early afternoon. Bryce Canyon is a national park in southwestern Utah and is famous for its unique geology, consisting of a series of horseshoe-shaped amphitheatres, carved from the eastern edge of the Paunsaugunt Plateau. There was plenty of time to have a look around the various named features, and to see the sunset across the canyon. Erosion by  weather has shaped the colourful limestone rock strata into bizarre shapes, including slot canyons, windows, fins, and spires called "hoodoos." Bryce Canyon has the largest collection of them in the world!
Just before arriving at Bryce, we drove through this natural red arch.

Arriving at the Canyon National Park entrance.

Our first sighting of hoodoos! Their colour seems to change with the light conditions.

Yet another natural arch with hoodoos over the top.

As you can see, elevation 8,627 feet  (2,630 metres). It's not quite oxygen territory but impressive enough!

A panarama shot across the canyon just before sunset.

Sunset across the amphitheatre at Sunset Point.

On the opposite side of the Lodge complex, we went on the following morning to Sunrise Point. More hoodoos in a very dramatic landscape!
An unending variety of hoodoos.

We left Bryce  after viewing the sunrise and having a good breakfast at Ruby's Inn, just outside the park, and then we headed off to drive through Zion National Park.  We were heading home to Mesquite, but a drive through Zion in South West Utah on the way was a "must see". A  completely different landscape from Bryce, it has steep red cliffs, but as you can see above, there are also some natural caves and arches..

The scenic drive passes right through the primary area of the park and, being the 4th July holiday weekend and a lovely day, there was heavy traffic congestion!  This photo above is of the short tunnel on the scenic drive,  but there is also a long tunnel, completed in 1930, which is  1.8 km (1.1 miles) long and the longest of this type in the U.S.A!

Views taken of Zion landscape from the car..

The view as below without us in the way! How did those rectangular patterns in the rock get there? Odd but spectacular!

A quick stop, so we could take a photo proving that we had actually been there!

Another view of Zion Canyon before heading back to Mesquite....

and another amazing sunset back in the desert landscape there.

There is one more part of this holiday which is our last afternoon in Las Vegas before flying home, but this will now have to be postponed, as it is now less than a week before we leave for Southern Africa.  I will be back in March (I hope) with the final USA blog, followed by some very different African subjects. Not forgetting, of course, our visits, in December to Le Mans (more to it than just a motor racing centre!) and Rouen (with its amazing medieval old town)  still waiting for a write up!  One day I might just catch up!!!

Also see my daily diary HERE

and My Life Before Charente (updated  25 September 2016) I will get back to this eventually!  

Sunday 8 January 2017

Part 11 of our holiday- North Rim Grand Canyon and surrounds - a week of wows!!

Michael and Mary, our friends from Mesquite, very kindly offered to drive us the 3 hours by car to the North Rim (and collect us afterwards!) as otherwise we would have had to hire one specially - so spoilt we were!
Just after we passed into the GC National Park, we were delighted to see a small grazing herd of bison/hybrids with a couple of calves.  We kept our distance, but thanks to the telephoto lens, managed a reasonable few shots.  So many people do not have respect for wild, often dangerous, animals and these especially, females with calves at foot.

Arrival at the Grand Canyon Lodge. The Lodge was rebuilt in the 1930s, the original from 1928 burned down due to a kitchen fire. The top of the canyon is 8,000 feet (over 2,400 metres) above sea level and so it is closed to the public in winter due to severe weather and snowfall! This was where Gaelyn, a Park Ranger, met us. Gaelyn and I have been following each other's blogs from the time I first started blogging, so I felt that I had seen so much of the canyon through her eyes, long before we arrived there.   If you are not following her already, I highly recommend her GeoGypsy blog which you will find HERE.  

So many of the physical features along the North Rim have names, but the chances of me getting them right are slim, so just enjoy the magnificent views!! The South rim of the canyon is on the horizon , at anything up to 18 miles away, under this swirly atmospheric sky.
The colours of the rocks seem to change with every different light, as the sun moves across the sky and clouds pass in front of it. This is just a side canyon and the Colorado river is in the main canyon behind the peaks at the top of the photo. The landscape is  breathtaking!!

The Colorado River can be seen at the base of the  canyon, which is 6,000 feet deep in places. There is a walking trail for the fit and adventurous, down one side and up the other, if you have 3 days to spare!

On our first evening there, I rushed out in the middle of dinner, just to get these shots of the setting sun!

As above. You can see what I mean about how much the light changes the colour of the landscape!

A monsoon on the South Rim, perhaps 25 miles away. At this altitude, storms are not for the faint-hearted, with plenty of impressive thunder and lightning!  Try as I might I could not get the lightning on camera!

and after the monsoon had passed. Look closely to see the rainbow on the left of this photo....

The Wedding Site at the North Rim; can you just imagine these views as a background to your wedding photos. Don't be tempted to stand mother-in-law too close to the edge!

Gaelyn taking  more photos; her camera never seems to leave her side and the results she achieves are generally pretty amazing!

Angel's Window; look closely and you can see the Colorado river way down below! Visitors are allowed to walk to the end on the promontory - see the safety railing!

Information about the feature. There are loads of useful signs like this dotted around by the Park Service for the benefit of the hundreds of thousands of visitors to the canyon every summer.

Bill, Gaelyn's partner, was most generous of his time and we spent a day upstream from the Grand Canyon, being chauffeured through the  Vermilion Cliffs countryside; our experience and enjoyment was compounded by Bill's  extensive local knowledge and commentary. Thanks to them, we saw places that we would never have had the opportunity of going to, if we had  been travelling independently.  
This photo above is of the two Navajo bridges crossing the Colorado river as it  runs through Marble Canyon. The left hand bridge is the one referred to in the sign below. The right hand one was built for $15 million and opened in  1995 to cope with modern traffic weights and flows. You can still stroll across the original bridge and soak up the history!! The  California Condor, now hopefully rescued from extinction but still rare, has a 10 feet wingspan and pairs have been known to roost under Navajo Bridge and nest in the area; unfortunately, they did not appear while we were there!

Further information on the original bridge. Back in those days, this was another US engineering achievement, built nearly 500 feet above the river. A worker sadly slipped and fell to his death during construction. Supervisors rejected the idea of rope safety nets, as they said there was too great a risk of red-hot rivets setting fire to them. If only..........

A breathtaking spectacular panorama of the Vermilion Cliffs near Lee's Ferry (Northern Arizona) - one of the most impressive sights in the whole US of A! The rock is a type of sandstone and the pink colour is caused by red iron oxide and other minerals.

Gaelyn and I on Colorado River near the confluence of the Paria (a tributary of the Colorado) near Lee's Ferry, which, due to its unique geography is the only place in hundreds of miles from which one can easily access the Colorado River. Early explorers and later, settlers, were able to cross the river here in the mid 19th century, looking for routes to the west coast. John Wesley Powell, from an English Methodist family,was a pioneer of the exploration of the Colorado river and its dangerous rapids. The books about his life are fascinating!

One of the still surviving buildings at Lonely Dell, the settlement established by John D. Lee at Lee's Ferry in 1870 and for whom Lee's Ferry is now named! A baking hot day when we visited, with temperatures over 40 degrees!

Gaelyn and Bill framed by the window in one of the surviving buildings.

I have many more photos of the Canyon, surrounding area, flora and fauna as well, so at some stage, I will try to do another blog on this amazing area. However, I feel under some pressure to prioritise the completion my accounts of the remainder of this holiday before we leave for southern Africa at the end of this month! (tough job, but someone's etc etc!)