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April 22nd 2010
Published: April 24th 2010
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We spent 2 full days and 3 nights at Manhatten Beach in the 'Sea View Inn at The Beach' hotel.This hotel, though basic, had everything we needed, including easy internet access, which came as a huge relief after such recent variable experiences.
We were able to catch up with family on Skype and keep up to date with all the happenings via my Facebook page!
The hotel had bikes available for guests, and as the Board walk was 2 minutes walk away, we took full advantage of them and used them constantly during our short stay. We decided not to do the tourist things in LA, so no 'Walk of Fame or Universal Studios' this time.
Apparently getting around LA is not easy as the traffic is terrible and getting from A-B takes ages.
Instead we we enjoyed Manhatten Beach City witth all its cafes, bars, restaurants and shops (and aquariums which are very touchy feely places!) Rob's glasses fell into the big fish tank as he was trying to get up close and personal with an extremely odd looking sea creature!Luckily they were quickly recovered though not before giving the fish a big fright.
Manhatten Beach city seemed a very well cared for place and the beach was immaculately clean - beautiful white sand with the surf rolling in from afar - I never tire of it!
The Board walk runs all the way along the beach for miles, passing the many cities of this coast of California on its way.The Boardwalk has constant people traffic, all taking excercise of one kind or another: cycling, skateboarding, jogging, walking, power-walking, in-line skating, scootering, yummy mummies jogging with babies in strollers, and doggies of all shapes and sizes pulling their owners along on in-line skates, skateboards or bicycles.
The multi tasking was amazing to see. Frequently, we would pass someone cycling, using no hands, as his/her hands were texting or surfing the net, on a horizontal mobile phone, while either listening to music(headphones in) and speaking into a bluetooth device in their ear or a little mike attached to their headphones!!
We passed someone on a skateboard being pulled along by his dog while having a volatile argument with someone on his mobile phone! - All sooo Californian, and everyone enjoying the beautiful sunshine!
In Manhatten Beach there were many, many fitness studios, hair and beauty places,healthy eatng places(our favourite for breakfast was Sloopy's) and recycling everything facilities everywhere!
The people looked healthy and wealthy - no obesity problem here!
We got the feeling that it was a very affluent society and this was cnfirmed to us when we met a Greek man who spoke to us as we had stopped to admire (and scrutinise!) a beautiful contemporary house built on the beach. He informed us that the houses on the beach cost $8m (ie £4.5m). Every house is different, all architecturally designed, and almost all the houses which were built in the 50's and 60's have been sold for a fortune, demolished and a new house built on the plot.If you are interested in architecture it is a fascinating walk and we took lots of photos.
We cycled to 'Fry's' a very large, west coast electronics shop as we were checking out Satnav. We needed to buy one for our next road trip! We were picking up a car in Washington and driving down the East Coast (then back up again at the end of the trip) Alamo wanted to charge us $180 for 2 weeks (over and above the car hire) Sat nav's cost $150 for a basic one which we can bring home with us and download the extra Europe maps - We eventually got one for $129!!
We spent ages looking at all the fascinating gadgets in this store and the we cycled down the road to the Apple store, where we spent another hour playing with the new Ipad! Its brilliant - a must have- if you are in to that sort of thing, which I am, but not yet justifiable for me, Im afraid as I have an Apple Mac at home, an Ipod touch, which I love, and this little netbook, which is ideal for travelling! Pity, though, as it is a brilliant thing- maybe in the future!!
Everywhere we ate, the portions of food were so huge that we would order just one meal, and share it and that was more than enough for both of us! Its just as well we like to eat the same kind of food!
We would like to come back to Manhatten Beach and if for any reason we have to fly to LA again this is where we would stay!
We flew to Washington and thoroughly enjoyed our long weekend there, though it was far too short. We stayed in Arlington which is just outside but on the fast and inexpensive metro - (all day tickets $5 =£2.60 )
A big part of the first day there was taken up by a visit to Arlington Cemetry.- I know it sounds grim but in fact was interesting and very humbling. Initially, I think I went to see the famous graves and the very beautiful collonaded Arlington House, but for us both, the war graves were a sobering statement.
The remains of hundreds of thousands of young American boys and men from the 1600's until the present day who had made the ultimate sacrifice for their country, for wars, unjustified and justified (if war can ever be) were 'sheltered ' in the 630 acres of the cemetery. Many graves were marked 'An Unknown Soldier' for before and during the WW1, solders did not carry ID when they went into battle.
Rows upon rows of serried, uniform, state issue, marble headstones, standing in line, like soldiers, they 'marched' across the undulating ground of the vast cemetery, interspersed with beautiful spring- time trees and woodland.
We watched the'Changing of the Guard'. A ceremony which takes place every 30 minutes, 24 hours a day for 365 days a year.The large white marble tomb of the Unknown Soldier is guarded by a uniformed soldier with a rifle. He marches for 21 steps in front of the tomb and 21 steps back with military precision. After 21 minutes a more senior soldier with a guard marches on to the scene and an exchange happens after the new soldier is thoroughly inspected to make sure he is impeccably turned out! The 21 steps and minutes is symbolic of the 21 gun salute - Americas highest honour bestowed on a war hero.The whole ceremony takes 30 minutes precisely!
We witnessed another sad ceremony there too, where 3 young people (2 lads and a girl) recieved a wreath from a very important soldier (lots of medals!) Their father had recently died in the Afghanistan War.

Arlington Cemetery was a hugely moving place for Rob and I and reinforced for us (if it needed doing) the futility of war. We felt particularly upset by wars constant presence throughout the ages, up to and including the present day, and the sure certainty that humankind will never accept and learn its futility - all very sad and it leaves one with the feeling of total impotence.

The second day in Washington, we visited the wonderful Smithsonian Museum of American History then we walked around and took in lots of the sights including the Washington Memorial, the Reflecting Pool (remember Forest Gump?!!) the Capitol and the White House which struck me as being very beautiful, framed as it was with trees and blossom.
One thing I noticed about Washington and the Eastern Shore, which has been very pleasing to me are the beautiful trees everywhere. Of course, it is sping time and although we have just missed the daffodils and cherry blossom, the azaeleas, wisteria,and magnolias are magnificent and the trees are all that lovely, light green spring colour enhanced by the sunshine and temperatures of 72 degrees!
DC and VA are very 'treed' states and what a difference it makes to the townscapes and landscapes and here, unike Fiji, I am able to recognise and name most of them!!
We rented a car and began another road trip down the Eastern Shore crossing from Washington on to the Chesapeake peninsula. Our destination is Ocracoke island at the southernmost tip of the Outer banks where we have rented a house for a week and are meeting up with Catriona and Bob for the final part of our jouney! Cant wait to see them!
We stayed in Annapolis at the top of the Eastern Seaboard, a sailing town with lots of beautiful boats- also the town where the first Africans were brought to America as slaves. What a shocking thing that was and the struggle over 200 years that ensued for these people.
We travelled down through Maryland and into Virginia, staying in charming wee places carefully selected by Rob, mostly on the coast. our favourite so far has been Onancock pronounced Oh -NAN cock! We stayed in a beautiful tiny hotel and kayacked in the morning along the beautiful creeks and cycled for a couple of hours in the afternoon!
We were invited to a private view in the Art Gallery and then went to the Irish Bar across the road for some Bluegrass music. It turned out to be a great fun night! All the people we had met over the last couple of days in Onancock were there. the couple who have the Kayaks for rent, Mary and Bill, the couple we met when we were kayaking and again when we were cycling,Sue and Larry, the people we had met in the cafe at lunchtime,and some of the artists, and of course, Rob quickly became part of the Bluegrass band with his harmonicas! He also sung a couple of Irish songs which they all loved. Everyone in these parts are quick to tell us about their claim to either Irish or Scottish ancestry! Rob got a 'lovely' bright green Irish bar Tee shirt and 2 of the bands CD's. We loved Onancock - the people were so friendly and Virginia's Eastern Seashore is certainly a very well kept secret!
So now on to Ocracoke Island for the last two weeks of our trip before we come home to Edinburgh on 13th May although I know it will be only a few days after that, that we will be at Ashcliffe in Tighnabruaich -always beautiful in May - as well as the rest of the year!!

Additional photos below
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25th April 2010

Fantastic photographs. Your trip sounds fantastic! I'm a huge Gump fan but didn't know 'The Reflecting Pool' until I saw your pictures. Fanatastic! Enjoy the rest of your fabulous adventure. Look forward to meeting up when you (and we) return. Lots of love. Heather, John, Ben, Chris and Isla Dowdeswell x
25th April 2010

Rob's harmonica
... is like that gnome in the film Amelie - it's been photographed all round the world! Sounds like your trip is still going great. Josie and Matt xx

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