Friday 11 November 2011 - Wednesday 7 December 2011 28 °C
Twenty-seven hours. That’s a long travel day no matter how you slice it. Fortunately we were flying on another amazing airline (Qatar) with service that includes free bevies and on-demand movies. So, with relatively little suffering, we left the warmth of the emerging summer in Cape Town behind, traveling back to the northern hemisphere and into the late autumn of London.
Our stay in London could not have been more fantastic. First and foremost, were our stupendous hosts. A university friend of Warren’s (Kelly) is in the middle of a 2 year posting in London, and he and his lovely wife Biz invited us to stay with them in their beautiful flat in Sloan Square (yup – Diana’s old stomping ground with the Sloan Rangers). After hostelling/hoteling our way around the world, to spend a few days with friends and their family (Kelly’s parents were also visiting) was as refreshing as it was grounding. We are immensely grateful to them for opening their home to us. While there, we also went to visit another home. Some years ago, Warren obtained his father’s birth certificate that included the address where he was born in Kings Cross in London. While we found the address, we suspect that the building itself was built post-war. Nonetheless, it was a rewarding experience for Warren to walk the neighborhood of his family’s past. Equally rewarding (and emotional) was being invited to the Canadian Ceremony of Remembrance in Green Park next to the Canada Gate. It was a beautifully solemn occasion, standing in the golden fall sunlight with Buckingham Palace in the background, remembering those that sacrificed everything for the freedom that we all too often take for granted.
The beautiful fall weather stayed with us. London was just getting decked out in its Christmas glory and we spent hours wandering the streets, checking out the ridiculously expensive stores on Bond Street, ducking into a pub every now and then (more “now” than “then”), getting the boot from the bar at The Savoy (apparently our 10 month old traveling shoes were a little too “casual” for their liking), hitting the theatre (to see “Wicked” – what a treat!) and of course enjoying some wonderful dinners with our hosts. It wasn’t our first time to London, but sharing it with friends made it a very special visit for us. Thanks Kelly and Biz!!
Although the tour clock was ticking down, we still had time for a couple more adventures. We hopped across the Atlantic to Miami where we parked our butts in South Beach for a day to adjust to the time zone (and warm up after out time in London). Then we rented a car, turned up the Jimmy Buffett music and headed south for the Florida Keys.
Our time in the Keys was a mix of absolute chill on Key Largo – sitting on the edge of Florida Bay under the coconut palms, sipping cold beer, nibbling on conch fritters and watching the gentle ebb and flow of the tide - and…well…quite the opposite on Key West.
In Key West, we spent our time doing the infamous “Duval Crawl”… basically bar-hopping through the many bars and pubs lining Duval Street, hitting many of the institutions made famous by Buffett in his songs and stories (Lee-Ann sat on Clint Eastwood’s bar stool in Captain Tony’s). We even managed to see a couple of museums – the Hemingway House Museum (with its 6 toed cats) and the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum (complete with a floor dedicated to pirates) – in between conch fritters, Landshark beers and invitations from drag queens to come to their shows. While not quite as “culturally enriching” as many of the places we have visited over the past year, Key West was riotously good fun! In addition, the Keys proved to be a great stepping stone to our next destination… The Bahamas. We figured since we were in the neighbourhood, we should take the opportunity to fulfill another of our dreams – sailing in the Bahamas.
We chartered a sailboat out of Marsh Harbour on Great Abaco Island, and spent a week sailing the Sea of Abaco, exploring quiet anchorages and visiting the colourful villages on the beautiful islands. Our navigation skills were put to the test as the shoals and sandbars of the shallow waters can ruin your day if you’re not careful (we heard more than one call on the radio of a sailboat run aground), but Poseidon was favouring us and we had no misadventures other than losing a seat cushion in a strong gust of wind. Although the $95 bill for the cushion stung, seeing sailboats up on rocks and powerboats sunk in harbours – remnants of hurricane Irene’s recent visit – reminded us how expensive things can get in the islands. It was a wonderful week of exquisite turquoise seas, steady winds, warm sunshine and beautifully cays. Back onshore, we headed up-island to Treasure Cay to soak up a final dose of Vitamin D before we turn north towards home.
We spent our mornings on Treasure Cay walking the 3-1/2 mile snow white, powder-soft sandy beach, with the rest of the day spent reading, listening to music and hanging at Coco’s on the beach - all the while reflecting our journey over the past year. We also made new friends. The first was a dolphin that came into the marina in front of our room and swam alongside Lee-Ann as she walked down the entire length of the marina boardwalk. The second was the family aboard “Keeper”, a 65’ ketch from Portland, Oregon. A brief hello led to more than one afternoon of Goombay Smashes aboard their boat, sharing stories of adventures past and future ones on the horizon. We came to love the out-islands of the Bahamas for their incredible laid back attitude where no one is any particular hurry to get through the day. From Treasure Cay, we jumped on a 30 minute flight south to Nassau to check out Paradise Island.
Maybe it’s easiest to describe Paradise Island by what it isn’t - the real Bahamas. It is manicured, fabricated, orchestrated….in other words, generally not our kind of place. However, we knew what we were getting into and had decided that a little playtime at the waterparks of Atlantis was worth a quick stopover on the way home. The waterparks/pools at Atlantis are what Disneyland would be if you filled it with water…and added a casino and booze. We had a ton of fun (as we knew we would), remarking on how far we had come from the very first day of our tour, spent exploring the markets of Kowloon across the harbour from Hong Kong.
Tomorrow we’ll be on a plane to Toronto to visit some friends and family for a few days, then onward to Vancouver. We expect to make one more posting sometime after we arrive home, probably after the holidays and have had some time to discuss and digest all that we have experienced over the past year.
It’s been a life altering adventure. We will never look upon the world the same way again. Thank you for joining us via our blog and for all the wonderful comments of support we have received along the way. We wish you all the best and encourage everyone out there to follow your dreams – with some hard work, commitment and a little bit of trust, they just might come true.