18 June 2007

Get your cup of tea & TimTam...

.... this is going to be an Epic as it's been sooo long since I wrote! Number One thing to take on holidays from now on is a laptop as I have found it very difficult to access computers at the places we have stayed without having to pay Big Bucks. And, of course, I've not been able to put any photos on either :o(
So, we are now back in Australia but I need to fill you all in on the last week of our adventures! I think I need to start with our Wonderful Williams Family Picnic last Sunday in a park in Lawrence, Kansas. It was so great! We had the most delicious food prepared by my brother's friend Toots, who is a chef. Honestly, of all the food we've had in America, Toots' was the Very Best. The tomatoes were completely mind-bogglingly delicious. We had a salad with those big heirloom tomatoes - d'you know the ones I mean? They tasted So Good! And we also had our first taste of blue corn chips & scrumptious salsa. Hugh also introduced me to dry roasted sunflower seeds (yum). The kids all had hours of fun playing while we adults sat around & caught up on lost time, though the photo session proved to be slightly traumatic - trying to get everyone looking the right way at the right time. The entire family time in Lawrence has been really special & I've loved every minute. Steve really enjoyed meeting all my relatives & I think they all loved him too. We are going to go back to the US in 2009 for Uncle Terry's 80th birthday so I'd better start saving!
We then flew from Kansas City back to San Francisco - Ben Harper & his band were on our flight as there had been a big music festival just outside Lawrence over the weekend we were there. I was quite excited about seeing him, even though I have no idea what his music is like, but Steve said he stank & needed a good bath. That'd be the case after 3 days of partying I guess...
In San Francisco we stayed at the Westin St Francis for one night, as a special treat. It had been my dad's favourite hotel & I have to say it was Very Posh. The service was incredible! Of course, no service goes without a tip though... We did a wee bit more shopping as we felt out suitcases were far too light (!) & I bought the Best Ever pair of Converse sneakers with little ladybirds & daisies on them! The shoes here in the USA are so reasonably priced. It's quite incredible how much less expensive they are than in Australia. Why is that? The other thing that we are still incredulous about is the variety of stuff available. There is So Much Choice! We also visited Nordstrom http://shop.nordstrom.com/C/2375500/0~2375500 where I bought a gorgeous pair of red shoes that were on sale & again, received the Most Incredible service from a lovely young man with a very high pitched voice called Christopher. Do you tip in dept stores? I wasn't sure... One of our other favourite stores was a place called Williams & Sonoma http://www.williams-sonoma.com/ which had the most fabulous collection of cooking paraphenalia. I think we could all learn a few things about barbecueing from the Americans you know. And you should have seen the tablecloths! You know I have a thing about the lack of decent napery here in Australia. Ohhh, so many gorgeous tablecloths in America! Note to self: must take BIG suitcases x 3 in 2009 for shoes, tablecloths & books!
The following morning my good friend Jenny from Austin, Texas flew in, picked up a Monster Truck (more on that) & bravely drove into the city to collect us from the front door of the hotel. I knew she'd arranged a rental car that was rather big but, neither of us were prepared for the massive Cadillac SUV that pulled up! Even Jen, with all those big trucks in Texas, was a bit overwhelmed by it. It was so great to see her again! We had a "NeverLost" navigation system in the car & I volunteered to help with directions but this only resulted in my gaining the nickname "EverLost". So? My sense of direction is all upside down in the northern hemisphere! It's my only excuse. It only took about an hour to drive to the Napa Valley & to our hotel, The Silverado Resort, which was a surprise to us all in its grandness. It's a huge golfing & residential resort with the most immaculately kept gardens, which were full of bright, cheery flowers & magnolia trees with huge blossoms.
The Napa Valley is really gorgeous. It seemed more Mediterranean than the Australian wine growing regions I've been to with hills of vines & olive groves. The absolute highlight of our Napa visit however was the bike tour of wineries that we did with Jen. It was her idea & we'd been quite unsure about it but it was Absolutely one of the Very Best Things we've ever done! Yes readers, your blimp-like, couch-potato buddies Steve & Jen rode 30 kilometres in 38 degree heat last Wednesday on bicycles (with no engines)! We were so proud of ourselves when we'd finished!! It really was fantastic! Okay, so I hadn't been on a bike for about 20 years & was rather wobbly to start, needing a few practice runs. And yes, it was bloody hot & there were a couple of little-ish hills & we did feel that we were half dead when we got to our first winery BUT the scenery was so beautiful that you kind of forgot about the agony, do you know what I mean? And even though there were some teeny hills that required extra energy, the hill coming down was so much fun that we didn't seem to mind it so much. We also had the most delicious packed lunch after the first 14 mile leg which came along exactly at the right time because I was feeling a bit wobbly. Needless to say, we didn't do much wine tasting that day because all I wanted to drink was water by the gallon. And to top it all off folks, steel yourselves... the next morning Jen & I went for a R.U.N on the golf course, me wearing my new running shoes & my Texas running cap that Jen gave me & looking "the goods" (sort of). Jen is an athletic trainer so was able to give me a few tips. I felt Totally Inspired - not only to cycle & run but to take up golf too! It was so peaceful & lovely to run around on the cart track. It's really the way to go because those kind golf course people supply little cups & water along the way & there are even toilets! How civilised! We really enjoyed Napa though it is very, very hot there. It was a much drier, searing heat than we have in Brisbane. We also ate out at some lovely places & drank some wonderful wines, including a delicious Zinfandel from a winery called........ (will get back to you on that) & also visited several other wineries including Duckhorn, Cakebread....... (to be completed after checking my facts).
Are you all asleep yet? This is a major saga isn't it? I have lots & lots of photos to attach also but will do that this evening. I'd better sign of for now but will probably write more later, when I attach the photos. Cheerio!

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