Thursday, 30 May 2013

Honeymoon Part 3 - Las Vegas

Ah, Las Vegas. City of Sin. I guess some people would raise an eyebrow at our choice of honeymoon destination, but no amount of leaflets advertising prostitution being shoved in our faces could spoil our enjoyment of this incredibly vibrant city!

Sights of the Las Vegas Strip (clockwise from top left):
The Venetian, Paris Las Vegas, Excalibur, The Bellagio Fountains, New York New York
Luxor, Stratosphere tower, Caesar's Palace

The first thing that struck me about Las Vegas when we got off the plane was the heat. Las Vegas is, as I'm sure you know, in the middle of the desert, which means average May temperatures of 20°C higher than we get here. It's a dry heat too, which is very strange when you are used to a more humid climate. The second thing that struck me as we walked through the airport was the array of slot machines in the terminal! We were definitely in the Gambling Capital of the World.

The Strip is massively overscaled. Every building is enormous. Ridiculously so. It took us two hours to walk the length of the strip, from our hotel (Harrah's) down to Mandalay Bay. You can't gauge distance accurately, as the hotels look the same size whether you are right next to them or half an hours walk away. Some of the hotels took our breath away, other's left us disappointed. The Bellagio fountains and Mirage volcano were breathtaking, the Sirens of Treasure Island was supremely tacky yet impressive for it's technical display. New York New York was my favourite, for its atmosphere, its attractions and for how well it sticks to its theme. Excalibur was disappointing to say the least. Of all the themes, Medieval England was likely to be the one they got the most wrong!

We did so much while we were in Vegas, besides wandering the strip and exploring the various hotels and casinos. So much, in fact, that I failed to sit and relax by our hotel pool even once!

I wish I could share photos of the Cirque du Soleil performance we went to see. I have wanted to see one for years, and we did in in style! Unfortunately, Ka was sold out, so we decided to go see Zarkana instead. We got front row seats! It was incredible. Seriously, check out the preview video on their website. The girl juggling the seven balls made a mistake in her performance, and one of the balls bounced off the stage straight into Jamie's hands. They didn't miss a beat, and one of the harlequins came to reclaim it from him and she carried on as if nothing had happened.

I also wish my photos of the Grand Canyon would do it justice. It is vast. Simply unbelievably vast. We did a fantastic day long tour, which involved driving out to Boulder City by coach, before taking a small passenger plane out to the West Rim, via Hoover Dam and Lake Mead.

Once at the West Rim, we boarded a helicopter which flew us down 4,000ft to the base of the canyon, beside the Colorado River.

From there, we walked down a sandy trail to a small dock, where we boarded a riverboat and went on a trip down the river.

It was incredible. It was so hot at the Canyon, hotter than it was in the city. The only fresh air we got was while we were sailing on the river, which was refreshingly cold and clear. Once done with the river, we boarded another helicopter which flew us back to the top of the canyon. From there, we drove in a coach to Guano Point, where we enjoyed breathtaking views of the West Rim of the Canyon.

Unbelievably, you can walk right up to the edge and stare death in the face. A sheer, 4,000ft drop. While I was building up the courage to have a closer look, I saw a young woman fearlessly walk to the edge and sit down, with her legs dangling over oblivion. It terrified me. I'm glad we chose not to go on the Skywalk! We stayed at Guano Point for about an hour, which included a free lunch. But the heat got to us after a while, I was starting to burn, so we returned to the airstrip and chilled out in the shade until it was time to get the plane back to Boulder City.

We filled most of our time in the City itself with wandering and exploring hotels and shops. We did venture to the top of the Stratosphere tower, and ride the X-Scream rollercoaster. That was unnerving. 900ft in the air, out over the side of the tower in a rollercoaster car, being thrown towards the edge at what seemed a ridiculous speed. Exhilarating! Unfortunately the tower's other two thrill rides were closed due to high winds. We also had a ride on the Manhattan Express, my first go on a proper American rollercoaster. It was awesome.

We did have a go at gambling in our hotel's casino - after all, if you're going to Vegas, you might as well! We decided to give the slot machines a miss, as they no longer take quarters, or need you to pull a lever to make them spin, or chuck out bucketfuls of coins when you win. Now, you feed in dollar bills, and print out a ticket with your winnings that you cash on a special machine or with the cashiers. We knew enough to avoid the card tables and roulette wheels, so stuck instead to craps. We won over $500 on the first night! It was crazy. We'd intended only one night of gambling, but flushed with our success, the free drinks you get and how much fun it was, we ended up playing craps every night bar one. We came out up, overall, so we didn't do too badly. Now to resist the lure of the new casino that has opened up in town!

We were sad to come home, but our flight was mercifully broken up into two, a four hour flight from Las Vegas to Washington, then a seven hour flight back to Heathrow. We had enough time inbetween flights to chill and get something to eat as well. We got home on Saturday mid-morning, and the rest of the day was spent in a daze. Again, we failed at staying up to beat jetlag, as we both fell asleep on the sofa after we'd been up for 24 hours straight. We managed to snooze only for a couple of hours though, so were still able to go to bed at the right time and sleep properly.

Am still glad we had the Bank Holiday Monday to add to our recovery before going back to work though!

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Honeymoon Part 2 - Imagiknit

As I mentioned yesterday, we (by which I mean I) made sure to include a trip to at least one yarn store on our travels to America. I did some research online before I left, and decided I would do it in San Fransisco, rather than in Vegas (although I am sure I could have done it in Vegas, as the existence of Nat's Las Vegas socks proves you can buy yarn in Vegas). Despite Renee's urgings to visit Artfibers, who can be found on Sutter Street (the same street as our hotel, but down the other end of it to where we were), I didn't make it there, but I did force Jamie to walk halfway across town from Haight-Ashbury through Castro, to find Imagiknit.

So. Much. Yarn.

I have to say, I struggled with all that choice. I love how the shop is laid out though, one room for animal fibre and another for plant and man-made, with everything arranged by weight going around the room.

I didn't have much specific in mind, I only knew I wanted to get yarn that it would be more difficult to get here, and not waste money on European yarns that would be more expensive over there than they are here. However, that said, I did mostly buy yarn that you can get in the UK relatively easily!

The only thing I knew I wanted to see before I bought it was Cascade 220. I've been meaning to knit $5 in Paris for ages (it's the only project on my Year of Projects list that I didn't have yarn in my stash for already), and wanted Cascade 220 for it, but only if I liked it in the flesh, as it were, when I saw it. I didn't want to trust others, and just buy it online blind. It was also very handy to have Jamie there to help me with colour decisions, as there is so much choice in this yarn! We went for two different shades of blue, and I am now only left hoping I have bought enough. I researched thoroughly through the finished projects on Ravelry, and two skeins of each colour seems to be the usual requirement. I should be alright, even if I end up with short sleeves instead of long!

My decision on the sweater made, I then wandered the shop until skeins caught my eye. I was careful to consider what I would do with it once I'd bought it, and not buy anything I wouldn't use.

Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light was the first to catch my eye, in this gorgeous blend of blues, purples and greens.

As it's fingering weight, I suspect it will become a shawl of some kind. I haven't decided what yet. There are a lot of shawl projects in this yarn on Ravelry; I will peruse them endlessly for inspiration!

My final purchase was this skein of Cascade Ultra Pima Paints cotton.

I just couldn't resist the colours!

As it's DK weight, I think this will become a hat, or gloves of some kind. Again, more research on Ravelry required before I settle on a pattern!

Our trip to Imagiknit wasn't my only brush with the fibre arts while I was away. I unexpectedly ran into some crochet while on Alcatraz Island:

This cell was done up to represent some of the ways the prisoners spent their time on creative pursuits. On the table you can see a crocheted blanket! Apparently, one of the inmates had been taught how to crochet by his grandmother, and spent some time teaching the other inmates how to crochet. They would all sit and spend their leisure time crocheting blankets! Such a random thing to find in a high security prison.

I did take some knitting with me for relieving boredom on the plane, but didn't actually get much done. My Obnoxious Socks have progressed, but not as much as I'd hoped. I was too bored to knit! Sounds crazy doesn't it, but on the way out to America I just couldn't drum up the enthusiasm to knit more than a few rows on one sock. I got more done on the way home, but they're still a long way from done. I don't have a recent pic to show you, but I'm halfway up the ankles. I'll try and get a picture this evening.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Honeymoon Part 1 - San Fransisco

We are back from America! We had an amazing time, in both cities we visited. We crammed so much into the nine days we had that I am finding it difficult to remember it all properly! As previously promised, here are some of the highlights of our trip. First up, San Fransisco.

We left for the airport on a rather dull and grey Wednesday morning. Getting up early and the prospect of a long and boring flight did not inspire me to any great excitement, until we were at Heathrow and about to get on the plane. I'd never flown such a long distance before, and was a little apprehensive. We tried to get an upgrade, but unfortunately there wasn't space in the posh seats for us. The best we got was moved to a row where we didn't have to share with anyone, so we had three seats between the two of us.

Arctic ice breaking up off the coast of Greenland
After a few hours of excited looking out of the window, watching first England, then Scotland, Iceland and Greenland passing below, I got bored and fell asleep. We flew over Canada, which was mostly empty Arctic tundra, before crossing the Rockies and heading down the West coast of America. By the time the plane landed we were very fed up, but by the time we'd checked into our hotel it was only 2.30 in the afternoon, so we had to force ourselves to stay awake and enjoy the afternoon! We failed miserably, and snoozed, and went to bed properly at 8pm. It took me days to get over the time difference.

We did a lot in San Fransisco. Our hotel (the Hotel Carlton) was on Sutter Street, so on the first night we took a walk up Nob Hill to Grace Cathedral. We didn't go inside, but marvelled at it from the outside. It is built in the image of the classic Gothic cathedrals of Europe, but this being America, is actually poured concrete over a steel frame. It's really weird, to see something we're so familiar with but built in a completely different way, and surrounded by buildings that just don't match.

The first full day we were in San Fransisco was also my 30th Birthday. We spent the day exploring the city by open top double decker bus. There are multiple companies running these tours, and their representatives enjoy very spirited arguments with each other at the shared stops, trying to convince tourists to use their bus and not any other. We used this one, as it was recommended by our tour rep and went around the city anticlockwise, which meant we saw things in the right order for our planned itinerary for the day.

The highlight of the tour is of course traversing the Golden Gate Bridge, one of San Fransisco's most famous landmarks. Unfortunately for us, on the day we chose to see it, we also got to experience on of San Fransisco's other famous features - the Fog!

This was our view of this most famous sight!

It was cold, windy and foggy, and we were sat on the top deck of an open topped bus. I won't lie, it wasn't the Golden Gate Bridge experience I had anticipated, but it was certainly a lot of fun! The cables reared up into nothingness as we drove across, but on the other side the fog was thin enough to afford us this view:

Part of me doesn't understand why the Bridge is so famous, I mean it's not the biggest or most impressive suspension bridge I've seen or crossed (I mean, it's not as big as the Humber Bridge here in England!). It was fun to cross, and fun to look at from across the Bay on later days when the weather was clearer, but I felt no desire to go back and have a closer look when the fog had gone.

The rest of the first afternoon was spent in Golden Gate Park, where we explored the California Academy of Sciences and wandered to the top of Strawberry Hill. If we'd had the time or more money, we'd have done the Segway tour of the Park, as that looked like a lot of fun! But it was $70 each and took two and a half hours.

The second day in San Fransisco was given over to Fisherman's Wharf. We rode the cable car from our hotel up to the Wharf, and spent the morning on the historic pier, exploring the World War II submarine USS Pampanito. We found a museum dedicated to historical sideshow machines, which amused us for an hour or so as we joyfully dropped quarters into machines that moved and danced when you paid them. My favourite was a mechanical horse, that galloped when you put your money in, little springs and hinges all working smoothly to replicate a horse in motion.

One of the advantages of visiting San Fransisco was that it gave us the opportunity to meet up and have lunch with Renee, whose blog I have been reading for some time now. Renee and her gorgeous Little Man treated us to lunch at Boudin's, where Jamie got to fulfil his wish of having clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl, and I surprised him (and myself) by having the crab and corn bisque (I don't eat shellfish). We then wandered down Pier 39 to show Renee's son the sealions, and ride on a giant carousel (for proof of me on the carousel, check out Renee's blog!).

The afternoon was reserved for our trip to Alcatraz. We hadn't been sure about going, but our tour rep insisted we should go and booked us on to a tour when we arrived in the city.

There's a thing on the back that looks like a monster...
but no, it's ALCATRAZ

I am so glad we did this! The ferry ride over was lots of fun, the tour of the prison was very interesting and very well done (an audio tour featuring ex-guards and ex-inmates). The ferry ride back to the mainland was even more fun than the ride out, as we stood right at the front of the boat and got a faceful of sea spray!

Proof I rode a cable car!
As you can see from the pics, we were pretty well wrapped up while out and about in San Fransisco - their climate is very similar to ours here in Britain, so it was quite windy, even when the sun shone. I did manage to get sunburn on the day we went to Fisherman's Wharf, though, so the sun was fairly strong even if we didn't feel the full effects of it's heat.

The last day of our trip was spent shopping. I purposefully bought something in Bloomingdales, just to get a Little Brown Bag of my own!

Then we rode the bus over to Haight-Ashbury and went shopping in the hippy district. I bought a new summer dress, and we enjoyed some very refreshing punch in a Victorian Punch House. We then walked through Castro (the gay district) to find Imagiknit, but I will tell you all about that in another post, as this one has gone on for too long already! I'll save Las Vegas for another post as well.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Me and Mr Jones

After months of stress and planning and the nightmare of having to move house with only a month to go, our wedding day finally arrived on Saturday! I promised you photos, and here is a taster.

These were all taken by my wonderful friend Iain Sewell, otherwise known as Vollsanger. I'll share more when we get the official snaps back!

We fly out to San Fransisco on Wednesday, so it will be quite around here until we get back. I promise lots of photos of the honeymoon too!

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Year of Projects Update May 5th

It's been an absolute age since I last did an update for the Year of Projects! Pretty much because I haven't been doing any knitting or crochet since before we moved house several weeks ago, and even when I have, my current WIPs haven't been from my list of stash yarn.

However, I have made something this week which qualifies! As I said earlier in the week I needed simple projects to get me back in the groove.

Meet the newest addition to my 'nest'. This storage box has been haunting my house for years, always shoved in a corner, filled with useless crap. I've emptied it out, and crocheted a cover for it to match the sofa bed afghan I made last year.

I pretty much just winged it after I got to the last row of the afghan motif. I added an extra row of black, then switched back to purple for the sides. The last two rows and the chain that holds it in place I did in brown.

As I said, I was kind of making it up as I went, so the attaching it to the lid part was a bit sloppy, but I figure nobody will see that part really.

I'm not sure what I'm going to use it for, so for now I have put it next to my sofa. I might store my needles in it. Or just fill it full of yarn. Secret yarn...

In other news, we have finally started letting Fidget out without his harness and lead. He's been very good, and although he's been off over the fence exploring the neighbouring gardens, he's not stayed out too long and has come back when called every time. He's getting used to coming and going through the window and not the door, and seems an awful lot happier for it. As it's a long weekend this weekend, I'm taking advantage of the fact that I'm home all day today and tomorrow to leave the window open and just let him come and go when he pleases, as I want him to be completed comfortable before we swan off to get married on Saturday and abandon him for two weeks while we fly to America.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

New house means new things.

We're still super busy sorting out the last few things in the house, and doing all the last minute preparation for the wedding. Ten days to go! Eeek! I am starting to get very excited about it now. We went up to Northampton last weekend to collect my dress from the shop, and to visit my lovely friend who is making our wedding cupcakes. On the way back, we took advantage and nipped into Ikea in Milton Keynes to buy lots of furniture for the house, as we have so much more space here than we did in the last place.

I finally have an Expedit bookcase!
Jamie needed more space to store all his modelling stuff, so we've now got a small Expedit unit on the end of the computer desk where he will be doing his painting.

Also, how cool is this laptop table? In theory, you put your laptop in the table and close it up when you're not using it. Unfortunately, my laptop only just fits and doesn't leave any room for the charging cable! My laptop's battery life isn't great, so I have mostly been keeping it closed and putting the laptop on top! This does leave me a handy shelf to put things like scissors and knitting needles in though.

Speaking of which, I have picked up my yarn again in the last couple of days. I've had time to relax now that most of the wedding is sorted. I've halted work on my obnoxious knee high socks as I think they will make for excellent plane knitting in two weeks time. I did pull out Mrs Tumnus yesterday but only managed one row before I lost concentration. I realised I needed something a bit more simple, and decided to start on the projects I've been considering ever since we moved in.

We've had this box/stool thing for years. It always seems to just get stuck in a corner somewhere, full of useless stuff we don't need anymore but we can't throw away yet. I have plans to empty it out and use it to store my crafty things next to my sofa. But it's a bit dull.

Time for a makeover! I've replicated the granny square colour scheme from the sofa bed afghan so that they will match should I ever put them in the same room. I reckon one more round and then I'll stop increasing to do the sides. I'm kind of making this up as I go along, so hopefully it will turn out alright!

I also treated myself to a moving in present - six gorgeous balls of Lily Sugar'n Cream. I'm going to knit up some new dishcloths to go with our lovely new kitchen. I think the browns and greens will go really nicely with the decor in there. Plus, dishcloths will be nice simple knitting too, which is what I need right now!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...