Thursday, October 31, 2013

Awe :(

So, the news you've all no doubt been wondering about is here: We went back to the unit on Monday evening and signed the offer to purchase. Yesterday we found out that they didn't accept our offer. I was pretty bummed at first, yesterday morning when The Trucker messaged me. But the more I think about it, the more annoyed I get. I thought this would be a tough one to let go, turns out not so much. Shew.

We had to message the Estate Agent yesterday to ask what the status was. She said she had "just" received and email from them saying the offer was too low so they were not accepting. I think it is unlikely we were that timeous.

Last night, when we were both home, we discussed it. I had felt out offer was too low in the first place ... 100K lower than what they were asking. And they'd already dropped it 200K from the first time they posted it on Private Property (as a private, no-agent sale). But, I also felt, them declining and not coming back with a "can you go up x amount and then we can accept" and just leaving it open is a bit too much of a fishing game on their part.

On one hand, they do seem to need a very specific amount (or have one in mind) and on the other they are quite happy to let it stand empty indefinitely. I gather we are only the 2nd offer ... in the 2 months the agent has had it and they've declined both as too low.

Then we managed to get our hands on a report on the property and what other houses in the area and complex had sold for. I had already calculated that what their (in my view exorbitant) asking price is listed as is R1000 more per square meter than I paid for mine 2 years ago. And there was a unit of the exact same size as theirs, in the same complex, sold in Feb this year, for only 20K less than we were offering.

So now, I really don't feel that our "low" offer was that far off the realistic mark at all. Especially with all the extra money we'd need to spend doing it up.

If they came back and said they'd sign for maybe up to 40K more, I reckon we'd probably do it. But this whole "guess the magic number" game is no fun.

We already had another look thru Private Property and have a few more, to go look at. PS. Private Property, I hate your new website. And more than anything (like that I have to select an area and you don't offer "inside the highway"), I hate that one of the things you were most useful for (seeing where on the map the places were) seems to no be loaded for 90% of the properties we've looked at. I have a very specific area in mind and now we have to keep phoning and saying "which road is that in?". Tedious.

What else has happened this week ... well I guess pretty much everything has been overshadowed by the house debacle. I went to SCM on Tuesday.

Also, I made it to Boot Camp on Monday in the rain, but I haven't managed to get back there this week yet. On Tuesday after work, instead, I went to buy all the goodies for the Dog and Cat Xmas Boxes I'm putting together. Found out about Santa Cause for Paws on Monday and after doing Santa's Shoebox last week (and for the last few years), this felt like an obvious addition. Reminded so much of how different my Gypsy Cat's life could've been ... and am so looking forward to the little Schnauzer puppy we're planning on getting (well, in the new house, when we find one!). Anyway, they're still looking for quite a few contributions ... I promise, it makes you feel all warm & fuzzy inside :)

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

28 September: Bermuda

We were up well into the early hours of the morning and slept in till about 11am. I was terribly hung-over ... after distributing the majority of what I had drunk over the bathroom o_0 Not one of my finest moments.

The weather was grey and rainy and encouraged our lazy day. The High Life went into work till 3pm again while The Trucker and I just lolled about. Good to have a proper day of nothing on holiday ;) On the plus side, after some breakfast and a shower I was felling back to normal.

In the late afternoon, The High Life took us to see The Crystal and Fantasy Caves. Both were quite spectacular, but I preferred the Crystal Cave because you got to walk down a pontoon walkway in the middle of the underground lake. But it was somewhat more damaged as they'd chopped thru some of the stalactites so you didn't bump your head.

There were many mentions as we walked thru of Vietnam's Surprise Cave. But this was quite a bit smaller ;)

In the evening, after more lazing and napping on our part and work by The High Life, we went for dinner at Rustico in Flatts.

It was superb! We were quite early so shared a pizza bread to start with a drink. OMG I had a Savanna! In Bermuda. Haha.

When The High Life arrived, we moved to our table and shared a calamari starter (amazing) and some beef carpaccio. I had a fantastic prawn pasta for mains. And I got to taste The High Life's Veal Ravioli with Truffle Sauce. OMG, it was sooo good!

We all shared a bottle of Soffocone to drink (apparently it means Blow Job in Italian o_0). We ended with a cannoli and some amazing chocolate mousse and pecan nut cake.

Starting dinner at 9pm means we had another late night. We ended up sitting around at home playing music and watching You Tube videos. And The High Life introduced us to the genius of Tim Minchin!

Got to bed around 1:30am ...

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

27 September: Bermuda

We flew overnight, on Jet Blue from San Francisco to Bermuda with a brief airport stop at JFK.

Luckily we could check our bags all the way thru. We had to change planes, which was simple enough since we arrived and departed from the same terminal. We didn't actually even get stamped out of the States (in fact, we didn't get stamped out on the way home either o_0 How annoying for my passport-stamp-collecting needs ...).

We slept from San Fran to NY, grabbed a bagel-breakfast in JFK this morning and watched the sun rise. And then we headed to Bermuda. We arrived at 10:30am, 4hrs ahead of San Fran.

The Trucker's best friend, The High Life, met us at the little airport and took us back to his house on St David's and then he headed in to work till 3pm. We had a swim right off the jetty in front of his doorstep and then slept till he got back.

When he got back, the boys went to rent us a scooter and then the 3 of us headed to St George's. We went up to Achilles Bay Beach and had lunch at the Beach House. I tried the Fish (called Wahoo) & Chips on The High Life's recommendation, which was absolutely delish.

We took a look at a few of the nearby forts before heading back. It's very handy that The High Life knows so much history of the island (for his job). It is really lush here and quite beautiful. All the houses have solid, white limestone roofs and each house is painted different bright colours.

When The High Life headed back to work for the evening at 6pm, we decided to join him. Mostly just to check the place out and watch the sunset.

We enjoyed the views of the pink beach, which doesn't really look pink, except up close. Apparently it's some red organism's shell mixed in with the sand.

[Aside: I dunno why that photo on the right keeps uploading like that. it is much darker if I open it normally, but as soon as I upload it, it gets lightened. Pfft. Does Blogger automatically adjust photos for some random reason? This is the first time I've seen it happen.]

We ended up staying for dinner. After a few (4?) cocktails looking out over the beach eating some snacks they provided, we headed inside to a table and I accidentally ended up drinking a very nice bottle of 2009 Napa Valley Cab Sav (I ordered a glass and they just kept filling it up!). For dinner I had an amazing cold seafood platter (the lobster & prawns were my favourite, but I ate the clams, mussels and oysters as well ;) ). We were definitely spoilt!

And then came dessert. We had the crème brûlée and the profiteroles. There was a couple having their wedding dinner on the beach and they'd arranged a fireworks display which we also got to enjoy :) Quite a spectacular evening! Completely spoilt, and completely comped for us by The High Life.

But it didn't end there. When The High Life finished work, we went back to the house and got changed before heading out. We took a taxi to Elbow Beach for a drink. And then he took us into Hamilton to Red and Cafe Cairo.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Fingers Tightly Crossed

Wow, another weekend flew past!

We got to have dinner with Mom, at ORT while she was stopped over on her way to the Serengeti for a week! I am jealous ... I am sure she is gonna have an amazing time :) So, yes, not many options for dinner there, but we went to The Keg. The food wasn't that spectacular. Mom's burger looked the best. My nacho's we're tasty, but they use that weird "samoosa type" pastry to make the nacho's, I think .. .well that's what it looked and tasted like. So it probably would've been a good dish if they'd actually used nacho chips. Plus the chicken was a little dry. But otherwise, you can't go too wrong with nacho's, really. The boy's both had the chicken schnitzels and I think were disappointed at how tiny they were ... the ones we buy at Woolies are bigger!

But yeah, lovely to see them and catch up for a bit. We left after dinner, but they had quite a wait for their plane onto Kenya. It was supposed to leave Joburg at 00:40 but was delayed an hour. Luckily they didn't miss their connecting flight from Kenya tho. But I do hope they got their luggage safely. Apparently the Travel Agents have been warning all the passengers to take *two* changes of clothes these days because since the fire, all the baggage handling has been done manually, not by conveyor belt anymore (?) and  things have been getting lost or misplaced. Having had that experience in Zanzibar, I know it is no fun to only have what you were wearing on the plane with you, so it seems like good advice, but what a schlep!

On Saturday we had breakfast at Doppio and then headed out to test drive a few more cars. After careful discussion we decided to look at more realistic options in the New Car Department. So went to test drive a few Polo's (the 1.4 Comfortline vs. the Vivo). Apparently they keep their resale value really well.

We were going to try a Ford Figo TDi as well, but it had already sold. And then we drove the Hyundai i20 and a 2008 Mercedes A-Class. Busy morning.

I'd definitely pick the Polo Comfortline over the Vivo, although the drive in both is fine, I prefer the features in the Comfortline (obviously). The Vivo interior reminded me a little too much of my sparse little Citi Golf. I did not like the Hyundai. While the drive was fine, the interior was awful ... reminded me of when I tried the Yaris. I dunno why they add the silver plastic-y bit on the dashboard, it makes it *look* plastic, whereas if they just kept it all black, it'd feel more consistent and less noticeably plastic. I think it's clear,  hate silver dashes.

I adored the A-Class. It has a much bigger boot than I expected too. But the worry with that would be the maintenance costs. I don't really like the look of the Ford, but The Trucker wanted me to try driving it. Doubt we'll bother with that.

Next on the list is to try the automatic Hyundai i20 (from the pictures, it didn't have the horrid silver) and a Polo 1.2 TDi. The Trucker thinks that's a great little car but that it won't have enough power, but I'm already in a 1.4 and drive mostly in traffic ... I'm not convinced that it'd be a bad trade-off for the amazing consumption those cars apparently get. So yes, quite exciting, folks.

Although, I was thinking this morning about how much I've loved my little car ... its still great. But getting expensive to maintain and being a 2 door is wearing thin.

We relaxed the rest of the afternoon and then headed to a friend's 40th. It was quite a fun evening and we got home after midnight.

On Sunday morning, we tried a new spot for breakfast. I'm finding Doppio is getting a bit tedious. The food is often more than I want. I do adore their new Scrambled Divine breakfast, but even so, it's still a bit much food. So we are on a hunt for somewhere new for Weekend Breakfasts. Unfortunately all Northgate provides in Mugg & Bean (which I don't like for breakfast), Wimpy (which is fine occasionally) and Nino's (which I wasn't blown away by when we tried it last time).

Urgh, why is Salvation Cafe so far away?! I saw Jenty had mentioned Chocolate et Gateaux on her blog a while back and I'd spotted it when we were driving around on Saturday, so thought we could try there. I'd added it to my list of places to try, but more as an afternoon tea sot of spot.

I think we may try it again for some pastries, but I doubt we'd go back for breakfast. Their menu is tiny, which makes sense as it is a pretty tiny little place, and it's not really their focus. I wish I had been in the mood for something sweet, because that looks like their forte. I had ordered the Croque Monsieur, but they had no ham. So I switched to a Chicken Mayo. I wasn't thrilled as they used smoked chicken, but it was alright. The Trucker had a Bacon & Egg baguette, which I think was more bread than he was hoping for so while he said it tasted nice enough, I don't think it was exactly what he had in mind.

We did order a cream cheese and salami croissant to share as well, and I think that was my favourite :) I'd have that again.

That done, we got the grocery shopping out the way and then The Trucker headed off to cricket. I went to look at bunnies at a pet shop in Bryanston ... awe. I so want to get Lily a friend, but The Trucker says not yet. I know, logically, this makes sense, but I just want to fill my garden with animals!

So I headed to Lifestyle to oooh and aaah over their bunnies and try their Gourmet Market. I was in some dire need of some sort of retail therapy, but I couldn't pin point any specific need. Luckily, I found some very nice things there which sated me :)

I *finally* found somewhere that sells Buffalo Mozzarella! And then I found Elbows Up and bought a fortune's worth of stuff (well, not quite, but close!). See, they made me taste the combination flavours in a little spoon and they were sooo good. I ended up buying myself one of their little 3-in-a-pack gift packs (with some kind of Peri-Peri, Pomegranate Dressing and Ginger Balsamic), which is perfect because I don't need the massive bottles, we don't use enough of the stuff! And then there was their corriander mousse. Yum! Gonna use that on some chicken breasts tonight :) And then, I found a little bottle of White Truffle oil (they have Black as well) and bought that ... The High Life had used it in Bermuda and it seemed like a very smart addition to our kitchen!

Then I went to look at a new development nearby. We'd cut out a few places to look at from the Property newspaper, but realised, as with the car, we need to be somewhat more realistic. There is no point in stretching for a big house when we may end up in Cape Town in the next year or five.

I adored the new development, but after doing the math, it was just out of our reach. But, it a weird twist of fate, we found and went to look at a 3 bedroom place in my old complex ...

I think we might put an offer in on it today ... we're going quite a lot under what they're asking, because we'd pretty much need to re-do a lot! But we've worked it out and it should still come in on budget for us. We're trying to keep paying what we pay in rental now, including the levies, and it looks possible. Even with taking out a bigger bond to cover the renovations! And we would end up with exactly what we wanted. It feels right.

I was very happy in my little house, and although the garage problem is not 100% solved, the new one is right next to visitor parking (the old one had nothing nearby, which caused a problem when we were living there together) ... honestly, that is probably the only problem. OMG. Wouldn't that be the best thing ever?

It's not massive, by any stretch, but it would suit us for now and be easily rentable if we moved or scaled up after we had kiddies (it'd definitely still work with just one). We would need to get rid of some more stuff, things that are currently being stored in the outside room in the current place, but that's the plan anyway! And the rooms are smaller than where we are now, but it'd be ours. And we could make it exactly what we wanted!

For dinner we had already bought Woolies Cheese Tortelloni and some Roasted Red Pepper Pesto, which I made a decadent green salad to go with. Shew, I am loving the buffalo mozzarella and these new dressings. It was superb. Yum.

*Trying not to get too excited right now* But it feels like a good Monday :)

Friday, October 25, 2013

Service Fatigue

Trying to remember this week. It feels like it was busy. And sometimes cramming too many things in means you forget how the week started. Haha.

I think Monday was pretty average. Oh yes, it was that beautiful rainy soaking day. I thought I'd get out of my first day back at Boot Camp because of that one. But the weather cleared. However, it did not clear nearly fast enough for the traffic to sort itself back out again and instead of heading out to Boot Camp at the required time, I was only just arriving home (considering I usually arrive 15 - 20mins before this on a regular, read sunny, day). So yeah, I reveled in skipping it. Sometimes it feels easier to skip the first day ...

But, I did get myself there successfully on Tuesday. And then I headed to SCM, where we had a good dinner and a spectacular dessert!

The Trucker spent the night bottling the new batch of beer ... now we have a Porter (?) and a Bone Crusher settling before we can start drinking them in about 2 weeks. And yes, he's already bought the next batch! And he found a place that sells bottles at only R3 (instead of R5) so he bought a bunch of those. Just as well since he needed them before he could bottle this lot ... although we have worked our way thru a fair lot of the previous batch. He's also bought some 10L containers to try his hand at cider :)

On Wednesday I had to take my car in for a service. I hate this every time. Seriously. Why do people not offer amazing service in this country, it would require so few small changes. I take my car to Citroen Woodmead. Mostly thru lack of options. And it's had quite a few interim trips there since it's last service.

Anyway, back to how they can better themselves. They only open at 7am. Now I drive around Joburg between 6 & 6:30 in the mornings on my way to work, there are plenty of other people out and about at this time, trying to beat the traffic. But sure, why would you want to accommodate people, right? So I sat in their parking lot reading my book for half an hour.

Then you can pull your car into their garage and move your waiting into their sparse waiting area. Luckily I've learnt: they don't bother to offer their clients a wifi service, to minimise their impact on a work day. Such a simple thing. I haul out my laptop and tether it to my phone's data. I can work and not miss out my require billable hours. Because, not only am I gonna get into the office late, I'm gonna have to leave even earlier than usual to come and collect my car in time too :P

Usually I'd get a lift to the office, which only leaves at 8am. Because, you know, Sandton Traffic. People, wtf are you thinking? You aren't. And then you take the most circuitous route, usually dropping every one else off first. Of course.

And then there is the fact that they'll happily take you to your office, but they won't fetch you. Um, nothing has changed, you still have my car, I still can't get around. So now, not only should I end my work day earlier than usual to collect my car, but some other poor sap in my office has to take me there and then head all the way back to the office. Smart. So fucking smart. I hate having my car serviced.

Luckily this time I didn't need to use their lift service. I got collected by a colleague because a group of us were on our way to Tembisa to visit The Love Trust's school, Nokuphila. We're hoping to be able to help them with a Code 4 Purpose project. It was a very enlightening morning, so worth the visit.

I got my car back in the afternoon, only to discover, once I was home, that they hadn't freaking stamped the service book o_0 *eye-roll* And here's another thing I hate. If you make the mistake, why don't you make every effort to fix it instead of re-inconveniencing me. Yes, because although I was working from home yesterday, I had to go back to Citroen (and then continuing to the office just made more sense) .

Anyway, I'm over that now. Hopefully I will not own this car by the time it's next service rolls around! We went to test drive another Hyundai ix35 yesterday. OMG. It is an amazing car. But even with the trade-in they were offering me, with me taking some money out of the bond as a deposit and with The Trucker and I splitting the repayments, it is still just too expensive for us. So sad :( And this one was red! I loved it.

Anyway, I dunno what exactly our plan will be now. I need a new car so we'll probably get something in the interim, something smaller, but with 4 doors this time. Something realistically priced ;) Remind me I've always said I'm not a car girl.

And then on Wednesday evening I had dinner with @brownyngale at Doppio. So good to catch up :)

Yesterday, the added bonus of having to go into work half-way thru the day was that I wrapped and packed my Santa's Shoebox. Love it :)

Last night I managed to get back to Boot Camp. Yay me :) And then had a quite evening at home. The Trucker made a delish dinner! But I still feel we have hardly seen each other this week cause after dinner he was busy with fixing a client's computer and setting up his next batch of beer ...

Oh, but with dinner we did try the new Flying Fish beer (I saw the billboards so bought us some). I was a little skeptical since it is "flavoured beer" and I got the lemon and orange. But we actually really liked it. It's lighter than other beer and doesn't taste overwhelmingly of either flavour. I prefered the Orange and The Trucker liked the Lemon :)

Today I am working from home again. The perks of having no meetings and being solidly booked on a specific project. Yep, still loving this one :) And we have a busy weekend planned!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

26 September: San Francisco to Bermuda

We had a slow morning with nothing specific planned for our day.

Although it didn't start well at all. I have some weird red rash on my left calf. It's not itchy or anything, although it does feel warm.

No idea what caused it, I was wearing my jeans all day yesterday so who knows when it started. We debated going to a travel-clinic, but I figured since it was our last day here and it wasn't bothering me, I'd leave it and see if it went away on it's own.

It didn't change much over the course of the day. I'm still barely aware of it ... well, if I didn't know it was there. You know how you become hyper sensitive once you are aware of it? Yeah, that. Suddenly I'm itchy all over! But no other rashes. If I didn't know better (jeans all day yesterday and sitting in a car the day before) and it wasn't such a bizarre shape, I would think it was sunburn, plain and simple.

We walked the downhill to the Fisherman's Wharf. The Trucker wanted a real breakfast and we ended up at another Boudin's.

They do a very yummy bacon and pepper scrambled egg, also in a sour dough bowl (this time toasted). While we ate, we discussed what to do on our last day in San Fran. We considered going to the Academy of Sciences, which The Trucker had been to on a previous trip.

I didn't want to be in a mad touristy rush (wait, what?) and entry is expensive here and public transport is tedious. So we decided to rather spend our money on a 24hr pass for the hop-on-hop-off bus.

We just sat on it for the whole tour from the first stop to the last. We enjoyed the view and the story. It was a great and relaxing way to spend our day. Who knew there were a bunch of old ships buried under San Francisco's financial district? And they don't go past the Painted Ladies anymore ...

When we got off the bus, we wandered Pier 39 again. I got a shrimp roll for lunch (they were everywhere) and The Trucker had, you guessed it, an In n Out Burger. It'll be his last for a while ;) I just ended up eating the filling out of my roll ... haha.

We stopped at Ben & Jerry's again to try another 2 flavours. And then we intended to catch the cable-car back to the apartment. Har har. The queues at both the nearby turn-arounds were insane!! There were like 5 sitting empty, waiting. And super long queues. Being "public transport", the cable-cars only leave at designated times. Regardless of how many cars are ready and waiting to go or how many people are waiting either ... Exasperating.

And that folks, was San Francisco. We collected our bags and caught a cab to the BART station. We caught the BART to SFO to catch our flight to Bermuda :)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

25 September: San Francisco

We were up and out to drop the car off by 9am. Awe. If the parking in San Francisco weren't so expensive, I'd be more sad to see the car go, but we had a great time and certainly made the most of it yesterday at least :)

I'd already booked us tickets on the 10:30am cruise to Alcatraz, so we caught the F-line down to Pier 33 and had a quick breakfast before we got on the boat (mode of transport: sea *check*).

Funny how I'm fascinated by Alcatraz, but I've never been to Robben Island. I really should go sometime.

The boat rides there and back were nice. We did the Audio tour in the cell block when we got to the island. It's very well done. Even tho I don't know much about all their "famous" prisoners ...

I guess the fascination is with the escapes and because of all the movies and TV shows.

I thoroughly enjoyed the visit. It was also interesting to learn about the Indian Occupation, which I knew nothing about.

When we got back we headed down to Pier 39 and Fisherman's Wharf. I had been planning on having Clam Chowder in San Fran, apparently it's a thing. And Boudin's Bakery was the place. So we stopped for lunch as soon as we saw one. Clam Chowder in a sour dough bowl!

The Trucker just watched, horrified. The boy can't stand seafood. So after I'd eaten, we continued in search of some lunch for him. The chowder was quite nice actually (generally I'd avoid clams). And the sour dough bowl was quite fun. But I dunno how you eat the actual bowl-part ... the lid-part was perfect for dunking. Yum yum. Guess I need more practice with bunnies - haha.

We stopped to see the Pier 39 sea-lions. No idea what or if there is a difference between a sea-lion and a seal ... they look the same to me! After looking online, it seems there IS a difference ... who knew?

Naturally, The Trucker gravitated straight to the nearest In n Out ... hahaha! We got take-out and walked a bit further to sit at the beach at the San Francisco Maritime National Park.

After his lunch, we stopped for some Ben and Jerry's and headed to The Exploratorium for the rest of the afternoon.

We got kicked out when it closed, an hour and a half later. We didn't get to do everything there, but played like absolute kids while we were there :) Absolutely loved it! Highly recommend this place to everyone, with or without kids.

And then we took a wander around The America's Cup Pavillion. Apparently USA won the cup 9-8 against New Zealand today in the final race. We were headed to the Concert area, to wait for The Lumineers.

OMG. It's really hard to get used to paying 10 USD for a drink. I got some short-rib tacos for dinner which were pretty yummy. They seem to have a select bunch of stalls which are repeated every so often around the place, hopefully, I assume, alleviating the queues. Which only worked in our favour because we were there so early, the queues got crazy as it got later and more people arrived.

Before going into the concert area, we got super nervous because I'd bought 2 little taster bottles of California wine at Pier 39. And yup, you guessed it, since we hadn't been home, we had them in our bag. And they didn't even bat an eyelid at them when they searched our bag on entry ... and they definitely saw them, they took them out to search the bag thoroughly. Amaze-balls.

And let me tell you, with the R100 beer, those two bottles came in super handy when we drank them there later ;)

There were 2 supporting acts, Nathaniel Rateliff and Dr Dog. Neither of which impressed us very much ... even tho we'd tried listening to some of their music before we'd even left for the trip.

It was absolutely freezing up on the bleachers waiting for The Lumineers. Luckily Ghirardelli was selling hot chocolate :)

And then The Lumineers came on stage. And they were *amazing*. I liked their music beforehand, but I dunno that I would've gone to the concert if The Trucker wasn't such a fan. But now I think they are fantastic!

They were so great on stage, such fun. And they even stepped off the stage and came and played a song or two right in the middle of the crowd. Brilliant. And that female cellist / vocalist of theirs (Neyla Pekarek) ... un-be-lievable.

Getting home left us completely drained after that high tho. The public transport here is nothing like New York. And the queue was jam-packed after the concert. I, personally, find their variety of busses, trams and cable-cars and their combination of routes and times tricky to plot a route without the help of Google. And my phone battery had died :(

So we caught a cab home instead. Cheaper than 2 tickets on the cable-car Google suggested before dying o_0

Yawn. Shattered. Another long day, filled to the brim!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

24 September: Los Angeles to San Francisco

We set our alarm for 6:30. We wanted to make one last visit to the Pier, in daylight, to put our toes in the Pacific before we started the day's drive to San Francisco.

Thankfully, our accommodation included breakfast (surprise, the only included breakfast we had this entire trip!) so we had a very yummy toasted bagel with Philly cheese again (didn't have to share this time. Haha). I should really hunt down a good bagel in Joburg now, I kinda liked this snack :)

Then we had a bit of a run-around trying to find cheaper parking for The Pier. The first place we tried was a shocking 12 USD (for the day) but it had a very friendly attendant who directed us to some hourly-metered parking for 1 USD an hour. Much more suited to our needs!

Again, everything was closed, but in the sunlight we could enjoy a walk in the sand, feel the cold water and enjoy the experience a little more.

And then we got back on the road and took the Pacific Coast Highway :) We took a much longer route today than we could've. But it was absolutely amazing!

The Trucker had to pump gas ;) We stopped, for a laugh, at Zuma Beach when we saw the sign. I know it's not remotely related to our Zuma, but it amused us none the less.

The Trucker lucked out at lunch as we spotted another In n Out Burger driving thru Santa Monica. So, of course we stopped! Haha, He did say he wanted to eat it at least 4 times this trip!

This time I tried the Double-Double since last time there wasn't enough patty or cheese to offset the other flavours. We also ordered the fries "Animal Style" this time :) This was a much better experience! Yum, yum.

When we stopped for gas in San Louis Obispo, I also managed to find the only Chicken and Waffle Lays chips we saw on the whole trip. Hahaha! I know, it sounds completely bizarre, but since they went around on Facebook a few months ago, I had to try them!

Oh, and on the drive to LA, we also tried the Chile Limón Lays. You know me an my must-try-weird-flavours obsession :)

We stuck with the coast all the way up Highway 1, even tho Google was very unhelpful and refused almost the entire way to offer this as an alternate route ... I think because it occasionally closes. But if you're interested, you can get the up-to-date info on the California Department of Transportation's website.

We drove past a place called Harmony that has a whopping population of 18. Eighteen! Wish I'd got a photo of that sign!

The drive was AMAZING. Such variety and such gorgeous cliffs. Often felt like the longest Chapman's Peak ever ...

We stopped at the Elephant Seal Vista Point. I couldn't really tell how they were different to our seals, but there were certainly some big guys! They were mostly lying in the beach sand, flapping sand on themselves. Not as noisy as the ones at Cape Cross.

It took us ages, but this drive was completely worth it and I'd highly recommend it. But we were exhausted by the time we finally got to San Francisco (around 7pm). And then we had to try and navigate to our AirBnb host's apartment. Finding the road was easy enough, but I reckon we easily spent half an hour driving in circles looking for parking.

We found a 24hr Parking Garage nearby enough and left the car there overnight (25 USD!), till we have to return it in the morning. We've both had enough driving for one day.

After we let ourselves into the apartment, we found a late night Laundromat for some much needed clean clothes!

We were limited for our dinner options, the place we were eyeing between the apartment and the laundromat had unfortunately closed by the time we were done there.

So, we decided to share the most expensive margarita pizza of my life, from the fancy looking Italian restaurant below our apartment because it was still open and involved no additional random wandering. Exhaustion will do that to you.

It was a tasty dinner, at least :) We met our host when we headed back upstairs and then we went to bed.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Spur of the Moment

Morning folks. Wet and soggy here in Jozi summer. Seriously tho, it has barely stopped raining for 2 minutes in the last 24hours. And although I absolutely pretty much adore it, most especially when I can spend it in bed reading and watching / listening to the rain, less so on those days when you have to still wake up early and go to work! And the poor animals don't get to go outside for any run-around time. Grumpy Lil :)

But the weekend was pretty good ... okay so it didn't start out that spectacularly. Well, it did but then it crashed. But it totally recovered :)

So on Friday afternoon, still in the office, we watched the car-crash of the Woolworths Hummingbird Debacle. I find it scary to watch. All of us who blog are prone to rant at some point. And I'm sure when she wrote all of that in her head she was very indignant and feeling quite in the right about things. But it is incredible how that little snowball got bigger and bigger and spread, quite literally, like wild-fire within, I'd say, half an hour to and hour at absolute most, right across everyone's Facebook and Twitter timelines (or White Twitter, as a girl in my office referred to it as, since she hadn't see a word in her timeline - haha).

And that, my friends, is how things go viral. There is very little planning or intention or control. It just happens, and you can't take it back. Woolworths seems to have a very savvy social media team and they were on it almost immediately. And this is what we were watching. The public frenzy and the way it was being handled. Not too long after, Woolworths had come back with the "facts" (I say that because I believe there are probably elements of truth on both sides of this story).

I did chuckle when, while at the check-out counter of our own nearby Woolies on Sunday morning, I spotted the cushion (or a similar one since it was longer and had 2 hummingbirds) and commented on that being The Cushion to The Trucker. The cashier asked me if I was also going to boycott Woolies now? Haha. Thumbs up to her. I think it's good to have your people on the ground able to talk to these things. Nope, obviously we're not boycotting Woolworths, since there we were, shopping.

Then I stayed at work for a very interesting presentation and a drink. And then headed home.

The Trucker had been out for a drink with a friend and then changed the plan into dinner ... which I only found out after I was home. So I did go and join them for some sushi, but it ended up being a bit of a fight between us.

But by Saturday morning things were back to normal and we had a whole weekend ahead of us with no plans ... we had a very lazy morning, he slept late and then made us some scrambled egg for breakfast.

And then we headed out. In a surprise move, we decided to go test drive some cars. We've been discussing the likelyhood that I'll need a new car at some point. I don't really drive a kiddie-friendly car at the moment ... and my car is getting old. I kinda figured we'd look sometime closer to actually needing a new one. It's been a bit of debate tho, do we get the future "family" car now or do we get an interim car till we actually are closer to the "family" bit?

The problem is, I kinda have my eye on the Hyundai ix35, but it is far out of my price range (even 2nd hand, which we are looking at ... I can't justify spending very much each month on a car). But somehow The Trucker convinced me we should go test drive one ... and I agreed, because, you know, it might rule it out as an option for me completely. That's what happened when I bought a car last time. I thought for sure I'd end up with a little Clio. Until I test drove one.

So we tried a Hyundai ix35. He has said it's gotta be a diesel. And so we ended up in probably the most highly specced car ... double sun roof, automatic (yay!) and 4x4. And it was such a pleasure. OMG. It did nothing to unconvince me. What it did was start discussions on how we can possibly do this ...

We also tried a Honda CR-V. It was also a very easy-to-drive car, but it found the gear lever placement odd and the hand-brake even stranger. It'd definitely take some getting used to!

There are a few others on our list, but seriously ... Dear Hyundai. If you are looking for someone to donate an ix35 to, please put me on top of that list. #wishfulthinking

After that, we tried to pop past the Beer Shop, The Trucker needs more bottles before he can bottle the next batch. But it was closed, so we headed to the Foundry for some lunch.

OMG. I can NOT get enough of their Pumpkin Fritters. The are amaze-balls. Yumyum. We drank some beer (Pumpkin Ale for me!) and ordered a chorizo pizza to share. It was a very good lunch :)

I ordered some take-away fritters as well. This I wouldn't recommend. While I adore these things, they are not nearly as good a few hours later after they've cooled. So order and eat as many as you can while you're still there :) Haha.

After that, we stopped at Filo for some of their delish Frozen Yogurt. Still upset I missed the Watermelon flavour they apparently had a while back ... they are too far away and not en route anywhere for us to have them too often. But we got a yummy mix of caramel and chocolate hazelnut this time and it was eaten all up pretty much by the time we were sitting back in the car!

The rest of our afternoon and evening was spent quietly at home. We watched Love and Other Drugs. The Trucker had already seen it, but I hadn't. And I really liked it. Aah, Jake Gyllenhaal :) Also, very entertaining to see a way less cool Harvey Specter! Hahaha.

On Sunday we woke up to the beautiful rain (which is pelting down on our roof as I type) ... and had a very lazy morning, reading in bed, watching the rain. Expecting (correctly) that The Trucker's 1:30pm game of cricket would be cancelled.

We headed out to do our grocery shopping. And then did another very sort-of spur of the moment thing and went to look at a few show houses.

I know, right? The Trucker still isn't happy with where we are living at the moment. The intention is to possibly buy somewhere together. Although what the bank will let us buy (on top of my 2 rental properties and his piece of land waiting to be built on) is another story!

We did see one place that I really quite liked ... but, for now, that is as close as it gets. Shew. One step at a time people ;) (And no ma, I have no idea what buying in Joburg does for our future potential move to Cape Town ;) )

And that was our weekend ... I didn't write or work on a single Holiday Blog Post. I am supposed to be starting Boot Camp again today. But looking at this weather, I think that's unlikely ;) I have more to say, but this is already pretty long ... so I'll save it for another post.

Friday, October 18, 2013

23 September: Las Vegas to Los Angeles

We started our day with a 2.4 mile (3.8km) walk to the Dollar Rent-a-Car place. To be honest, I hadn't really considered how little public transport there is in Vegas. There was a bus we could've used for part of  the walk, but it was quite expensive (valid for 2hrs of travel) for the one little stretch we'd actually use it. Plus, we probably needed the walk with all this food we've been eating! Haha.

It went faster than we thought and after a little bit of a queue we were handed the keys to the convertible Mustang that'd be ours for the next 2 days. Yeah, baby!

We headed back to the Excalibur to collect our bags and then we headed to a nearby IHOP for breakfast (for another tick on my list of long-heard-about-but-never-tried food chains to visit while in America)

And on our way we accidentally stumbled onto the famous Vegas sign. And there were only like 2 other groups there ... apparently it can get kinda crazy there. But we lucked out and got a quick photo quickly before continuing our drive.

Super glad I tried IHOP, once. I had 2 of their pumpkin pancakes and 2 Chocolate Chocolate Chip ones (generally they serve 4 in a portion, but how could I choose just one flavour to try ?! Haha). Pancakes! Nope, I could not finish it all. And, of course, I had to give their peanut butter syrup a taste as well :) The Trucker stuck with a (fairly) normal breakfast (eggs and the like. But hello, House of Pancakes, ridiculous, right?!)

We rolled out of there and dropped the top on the Mustang and hit the road to Los Angeles. It wasn't a very eventful journey but I loved driving in a convertible. I think it was actually my first time! Also, I do love watching the scenery. It's so nice to travel in such a variety of ways on holiday :)

We saw a Solar Farm, which The Trucker made us stop for. Haha. And a little later, we drove past a road called Zzyxx. I mean hello? Really ... how on earth does one even pronounce that?! Go home Road Sign, you are drunk.

We saw loads of signs along the way for Peggy Sue's 50's Diner so when we reached it, we decided we had to stop. We were still full although the food looked delish so we just sat at the counter and I had a Root Beer Float and The Trucker had a milkshake. Perfect :)

Compared to New York and Vegas, Los Angeles felt sprawling. I guess in New York, it feels smaller because we stuck to Manhattan (mostly) and there is so much public transport. And Vegas was basically just one road.

Our first stop in LA was the La Brea Tar Pits, which have been on my list for as long as I've had a list! And it was pretty damn amazing. I didn't know that much about it, really ... other than the whole tar-trapping-fossils part. It was truly mind-blowing to find out the scale and quantity of the fossils they've found so far.

It reminded me of how I felt seeing the Terracotta Warriors. If they've been digging up the Warriors for 30yrs and found so much but uncovered so little of the area, it boggles my mind as to how much more there must be! And it is the same here, with all these fossils. In fact, I gather they have stopped digging up more from the pits and are just sorting thru masses of buckets from a construction site (Project 23).

I loved seeing the fossils. They had a Dire Wolf skull wall (a mere 400 of the 1600 found so far) which reminded me of the skull wall at The Mutter :) Haha. Even The Trucker was fascinated!

After wandering thru the museum (where they also have a Fishbowl Lab, much like the Artefact lab at the Penn Museum), we took a wander past the tar pits themselves. Yes, that famous one where they have the fake mammoths stuck in the tar. But also up to Pit 91 (which is currently paused mid-dig) and Project 23. Unbelievable.

With that item ticked off the list, we headed up to Hollywood Boulevard (since it was in the opposite direction to where we were staying tonight, we figured we'd go visit it before checking in and while there was still daylight), so I could be proper-touristy and see The Stars.

But, before we could park (or rather, pay for our parking), I had a good shout at Standard Bank. Before I left South Africa, I dutifully called them to let them know I was going overseas and would be using my card to draw cash. They asked if I would be reachable while traveling, I said no (since we'd planned to get a US sim on arrival, how on earth could I have known the number to give to them anyway?!). And then, when the time came to actually draw cash, I got a transaction declined message (up till now we'd been using the cash we'd taken).

Turns out it was declined because I didn't answer my SA cellphone number when they'd called o_0 Which I had told them I would not be able to do! How freaking stupid are our banks?! Regardless of what you notify them of before you go away, there is a magic random little transaction flagger that will stop your transaction till they contact you and get confirmation. Awesome. Thanks alot, Standard Bank!! I mean why ask if it doesn't make a jolly bit of difference?

Anyway, I eventually managed to successfully draw some cash and then we took a stroll down (some of) Hollywood Boulevard.

OMG. It is long and there are a billion people you've never heard of. I wish I'd thought of who I'd particularly like to see and looked up where their star was beforehand!

I picked 2 people I would have my photo taken with if we came across them ... Robert Downey Jnr and Tim Curry. I didn't see either of them. When I got back to the car, I found out Robert Downey's star is outside the Chinese Theatre, but loads of that area was covered because that section of the road was closed for a Paul McCartney concert. And apparently Tim Curry doesn't even have a star. WTF? I shoulda had my pic taken with Drew Barrymore's, we saw hers :)

When we got to the closed section of the road, we had no idea what was potting, it was chaos. But somehow we timed it just right to see Jimmy Kimmel bringing Paul McCartney out onto the roof of the opposite building for a wave at the crowd because he was doing a free concert there, in the road, later in the evening.

Generally I am not a fan, but he *was* a Beatle! It was definitely surreal seeing it on the news at breakfast the next day and knowing we'd actually been there (although not for the concert).

After that we headed down Sunset Boulevard, as the sun was setting to the Santa Monica Travelodge to check-in.

Things in LA seem very far apart. It feels a little like Joburg, actually. So we checked in, had a shower before heading out for dinner. At In n Out Burger. This place was The Trucker's entire reason for wanting to add the West Coast onto our trip here!

I just got a (single) cheeseburger. Their standard Double-Double seemed too daunting. I don't think I've ever had a double-patty burger in my life before.

This experience was fairly disappointing. We forgot to order the fries "Animal Style" ... so far I wasn't sold on this as The Best Burger in America. Shake Shack still has my vote :)

After eating, we took a drive to the Santa Monica Pier, paid an exorbitant 9 USD for the short time we parked and took a walk.

I was disappointed. It wasn't the hustle and bustle I was expecting. Turns out I may have been thinking of Venice Beach instead. But by 9pm on a Monday night, just about everything was closed.

And it was cold. I thought a hot chocolate might improve my evening so we got one from Bubba Gump's (the only thing still open!). Which mostly just tasted like hot water :(

This was not a great evening and I wasn't feeling very mad about LA. And we'd spent so much on parking at the different places we'd been (for < 2hrs each time)

Meh, home to bed!

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