Mike and Rosie Smith retired in 2008. They managed to spend a large amount of their kids' inheritance on a 2009 trip to Australia and New Zealand, via Dubai to check up on brother Dave's progress building the metro.

May 2010 - house swap with David and Claudia to Mill Valley, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Side trips: 1. Yosemite National Park 2. Las Vegas, Grand Canyon and Zion National Park. 3. Down the coast to Santa Barbara and back to San Francisco via the Monterey Peninsula and Big Sur.

October 2011 - house swap with Tom and Nancy to Charlestown, Boston, Massachusetts. A few days in New York, a trip to New Hampshire and Vermont, south to Rhode Island and Cape Cod. Final few days in Washington, D.C.

"We rush slowly here". The friendly taxi driver reassured us that he had no deadline. Neither had we. St Kitts is on island time. Even in the slow moving traffic in the middle of Basseterre, the island's capital, there was no sign of impatience. The Victorian clock tower stands in the middle of the Circus, the roundabout which marks the town centre. A good proportion of the vehicles creeping past the coconut milk seller under a tree are SUV or minibus taxis, ferrying tourists from hotel or villa to town or beach. All of the drivers are laid back, affable and helpful, showing none of the usual impatience of the European city driver. "Take your time, man." There is no deadline because the clock tower shows 12.16. Permanently. img= read more

Europe » Italy » Lazio » Rome April 27th 2012

Rome is for serious tourists. Which means a fair amount of queuing, particularly if you're competing with half of the world's Catholics and a good number of other assorted members of our species for a space by the ticket office window. Serious tourism involves alarm clocks, early breakfasts and brisk walking in the drizzle. And waiting in the rain for the Vatican Museums to open. Good fun, nonetheless as we refuse an offer we can't accept - several times. 'Skip the line - beat the queues - pay me.' Amusement as we realise the lies these guys tell about the price we'll be paying and the saving we could make. Small scale con-artists trying to make a euro or two. The wait was worth it. The vast series of Vatican Museums swallow up the queuing thousands ... read more
Via del Teatro Pace
Foro Romano
Queue as the Romans Queque

North America » United States » Massachusetts » Boston October 12th 2011

We’ve been here in Boston a week now. Time to put a few thoughts together. This is a great city. Like all places, it’s even better when you have great weather. With blue skies every day and record temperatures (it hit 87F in the city) over the Columbus Day holiday weekend, we’ve been so lucky. It may all end in tears in a day or two, as the rain which flooded parts of Florida last weekend moves up the east coast. Part of the attraction of New England in the fall is the ‘riot of colour’ as the trees change. The word on the street (and in the Boston Globe) is that this is not the best year for foliage viewing. Yet. The fall and the colour gradually moves south during October but ... read more
Opening night at the Garden

North America » United States » Massachusetts » Boston October 8th 2011

We’re here in Charlestown, in Tom and Nancy’s wonderful 1820 house overlooking the John Harvard Mall. Charlestown is less than 30 minutes' walk to the centre of Boston, across the Charles River, which also separates the city centre from Cambridge, home of Harvard and MIT. Can’t quite believe how lucky we are to be exchanging homes with Tom and Nancy. Nor can we believe the things we have in common. Both our lives have been in education, both our houses are stacked with books, we both live in places with stacks of connections with our respective national heritage and we both live with the honour of sporting a resident’s parking permit on our car. Before long, we’ll both have a memory of forgetting where it was parked the night before. If our ... read more
John Harvard Mall
Charlestown Navy Yard
Bunker Hill Monument

North America » United States » New York » New York » Manhattan October 4th 2011

New York isn’t a cheap place to sleep. If you want a room where cats can be swung, you have to pay extra. The Colonial House Inn on W 22nd St has rooms where cats can be swung , but they thud into the air-con unit on the follow-through if you’re not careful. The place had free coffee and snacks 24/7 in a really friendly atmosphere, with an occasional discernible homo-erotic charge in the lobby/breakfast area. The Colonial is in a good spot, with all-night delis on the corner of 8th Avenue at the end of the tree-lined road and is only a few blocks walk to Penn Station and the Midtown area of Manhattan. It was almost impossible to walk the 100 metres from the hotel to ... read more
Len's Plaque at Chelsea Hotel
Tributes for 9/11 Rescue Teams
Ready to Occupy Wall St

North America » United States » Nevada » Las Vegas May 22nd 2010

Going to Vegas is a bit like going to school or to the toilet. In school you find out what interests you or bores you; you go to the toilet because of a natural urge and to rid yourself of unnecessary waste. Enough of analogy. So here we are in Las Vegas, courtesy of a Sunday morning flight from San Francisco with Southwest Airlines, the Ryanair of California. This is unfair, because Southwest Airlines were efficient and clean, as well as cheap. They managed to fly us through the cloud around San Francisco and over the Sierra Nevada to give us a crystal sharp view of the desert and mountains surrounding Las Vegas. Couldn’t see much sign of life below. Bit of a shock when we landed and walked through the terminal, a substantial part of ... read more
Learn French in Vegas

What a ride. Peter and Julia live in a magical spot in the hills above Oakland, with a view across the bay. Julia, sister of one of Rosie's ex work colleagues, had invited us over for an early evening meal on their panoramic terrace. We'd stopped off on the way to wander around the university campus at Berkeley - all seemed fairly quiet. There was no sign of the National Guard, anti-Vietnam protests or draft card burning. It was a regular Saturday afternoon, with al fresco hanging out being the main observable activity. The pot-holed freeway past Oakland seemed a world away from the idyllic parkland of the Berkeley campus and we climbed the wooded hills above downtown Oakland to find Peter and Julia's magnificent eyrie. A few hours of great food and conversation later, Peter ... read more
Hanging out at Berkeley
Peter the Pilot
Alcatraz from dipped wings

30 April - 2 May 2010 Mill Valley, Marin County, California We made it to San Francisco on Friday. Not a sign of volcanic ash at Heathrow or even when we skirted Iceland on our way. Greenland was somewhere over there and Canada somewhere down there, and in the case of Canada, below us for bloody hours. Overrated country. Canada didn't look very interesting. Mainly clouds. But California - now you're talking. Pilot finally (after 10 hours) had good sense to fly a bit lower so we could see. Sunshine on Sierra Nevada and northern California. Got to the house in Mill Valley about 5 pm. Airport bus across Golden Gate and taxi for the last 3 miles or so. Taxi driver gave new take on immigration. "You know what? This area's being ruined by too ... read more
Mount Tam above Mill Valley
SF from Mount Tam

Asia March 31st 2009

March 28-31 - Singapore Safely though Brisbane airport leaving the outsize baggage guy with a hernia. Jeez, man, watcha got in here? - A few golf clubs and the odd shoe..., say I. As Emirates were keen to get us on an earlier (and less crowded) flight, the extra weight of piles of souvenir reading matter were loaded on, presumably leaving the Brisbane hernia unit with a busy day ahead. An hour or two of sleep over the tropical seas, and it was time to hit the northern hemisphere again. Only just, as Singapore is only 1 degree away from the equator. Most efficient airport arrival on record. Escorted by uniformed taxi organiser into plush cab. "This way, sir. The driver will take care of your bags. He loves hernias." Our taxi driver set the tone ... read more
View from Traders
Cool street
Nibbling Fish While-u-Wait

Oceania » Australia » Queensland » Brisbane March 27th 2009

March 25-27 Montville, Noosa & Brisbane Final day trip from the wonderful Spotted Chook B & B in Montville. On host Leroy's advice we made for Noosa via the Big Pineapple and the massive market in Eumundi. R managed the full retail tour of the hundreds of stalls whilst I spent most of the time with a coffee listening to a very competent father and son guitarist duo deservedly selling their country rock CDs to all and sundry. Sundry bought at least three. Noosa is a lovely place. Upmarket main street, well cared for boardwalk through park and wild turkeys - and acres of sand. Warm enough to sunbathe and dip in the stinger-free surf. Early evening walk around the headland that is the National Park. Advertised koalas invisible. Watched the after work surfers first running ... read more
The Oz Icon

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