Day 37 – Seattle

Got up very early (4:30am) to catch the Amtrak from Pacific Union station to Seattle, Washington. As this journey was taking us back over the border into America, it was passports at the ready again as we were fingerprinted and stamped at customs. It always feels a little strange, having your passport checked and your baggage x-rayed before getting on a train, but there you go…

The train journey was going fine until we came to the border – the train stopped just as we crossed the Peace Arch separating USA and Canada, and we were boarded by immigration officers – yes, they actually came on board and checked everyone’s passports…a very friendly & smiley bunch as usual (NOT)!! Of course we were fine, but Seio decided that it was a good time to go to the toilet and left his seat – arousing suspicion from one of the female immigration officers…Seio!! When Seio returned to his seat she asked him ‘Where have you been? Why did you leave your seat?’ and told one of her colleagues…’Hey, this guy was just walked off somewhere…you might want to check his bags!’…Seio!!! So, we had to have our bags checked and hold everyone up…luckily we weren’t the only ones, a Chinese woman with limited English sitting in front of us also held matters up as she hadn’t filled in her customs form properly….Never mind, we were soon on our way again (^^)v

The journey from Vancouver to Seattle took about 4 1/2 hours, which wasn’t so bad. The Amtrak train was clean and comfortable and the driver was giving us a little tour guide of landmarks along the way. After arriving at King Street Station, we decided to take one of the free buses to our hotel, and a nice ‘homeless veteran’ took it upon himself to take us to the bus station – of course he wanted money…and he was giving us the spiel about being in Iraq and his ‘buddies’ getting killed etc…It’s one of those sensitive subjects that you don’t know if someone’s telling the truth or not, but at the same time you don’t want to sound rude…we gave him a couple of dollars just to get rid of him, but there’s nothing worse than being taken for a ride on a lie that involves people who are actually risking their lives for others! He wasn’t much help anyway, as we still didn’t know which bus we were meant to catch – typical!! I started asking some people for directions, but as we seemed to be in the middle of Chinatown…the people I asked either didn’t speak English or didn’t have a clue about our hotel location!! Oh dear… (^^)>

In the end, we lugged our suitcases all the way back down the hill to the station and grabbed a taxi – that was much quicker and simpler, and we wished we had done that from the very beginning…!!

We arrived at our hotel, which is very nice, and unpacked a few things. Our room is very spacious and comes with fridge, microwave and cable TV, so we should be fine here for the next 4 nights. The hotel also has laundry facilities, which we are very happy about, and we plan to do a big wash…or 3 this evening!!

We look forward to seeing Seattle from tomorrow morning…

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Day 32 – Vancouver

After yesterday’s shenanigans, we were hoping for something of a smoother ‘travel’ day today.

Got up early and caught the ‘free’ ride to LAX to catch the Alaskan Airlines flight to Vancouver. We had a smooth check-in and smooth-flight and it was nice to be back on track again…no pun intended!

It was about midday when we arrived and so we headed straight for our hotel. Vancouver is hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics and has therefore made improvements to its transport system – on improvement involves an extra train line from the Airport to Downtown via the Olympic Village. We took this ‘Canada’ line to Yaletown/Roundhouse and walked about 6 blocks to our hotel…we would have been here quicker except I turned right instead of left on Howe Street!! Never mind – nothing can be as bad as yesterday’s journey (^^)>

PublicMarketGranvilleIslandOur hotel is in a great location – pretty much slap bang in the middle of downtown. We have a bridge to Granville Island on one side and a couple of blocks down is where all the main shops and restaurants are. There aren’t so many fast food places here – instead there are  a lot more ‘healthier eating’ establishments and also a ton of Japanese restaurants!! I hadn’t had much to eat since yesterday morning and so felt absolutely starving when we arrived. As soon as we arrived at the hotel, I dragged Seio straight back out to get some food. We found a great-value Japanese place and Seio and I had a Teriyaki-chicken rice bowl with gyoza dumplings and some miso soup….tasted wonderful! You would think we hadn’t eaten for days!!!

GranvilleMarketWe both felt so much better after having had something to eat – and so we decided to head off to Granville island and check out the market produce there. We had to cross a huge bridge to get there – it was a very high bridge as well!!

Granville market is a lovely place – there is a collection of boutiques, art galleries, design studios and also an indoor fruit, veg and local produce market. We could have walked around there for ages, but it was raining and cold and so we decided to walk back home and warm up.

MapleCarpetVancouverWe did manage to grab some fruit and other goodies on the way back to the hotel though!!

The hotel had the fire on in the lobby which was lovely and welcoming when you came in from the cold, and after a hot bath and something to eat we were quite happy again (^^)v

It’s funny to think that yesterday it was ‘summer’ in LA and today it was ‘winter’ in Vancouver…. Hope tomorrow is a tad warmer!

31日目 San Diego 〜 Los Angels / Amtrak!!!

10月24日(土)晴れ Clear

二日間の San Diego 滞在を終えて再び Los Angels へ戻る。

Santa Fe station来た時と同じくスーツケースを引きずってSanta Fe Stationまで歩く。Santa Fe station 2どこからでも乗車させてくれれば良さそうなものだが、一応ご丁寧に乗車するための列コーナーを設けてあるので、駅の端から端までスーツケースを転がして並ぶ。Los Angelsから少々遅れ気味に到着した電車の復路便に、列に並んだ乗客が順に乗り込む。車両へと進んでいく際、ダボダボのジーンズにTシャツ姿の、近所からただ今駆けつけて来ました風のおじさんが汗をかきながら2階建ての列車によじ上って点検をしている姿と、制服を着た乗務員たちが涼しげに談笑する姿が対照的で、何故か目に焼き付く。この時点では、列に並んだ乗客、乗務員の誰もが、これから始まる旅がどんなものになるのかなど、知る由もなかった...。

10時35分に出発した電車は、Los Angelsから来た時と全く逆の方向へと進んで行く。時折、海岸やビーチの景色を眺めながらも読書に熱中。AliはiPodで音楽を聴きながら目を閉じてくつろいでいる。途中、電車がスローダウンしている所もあったようだが、それでも進んでいるのでさして気にも留めなかった。2時間近く進んだ所で電車が完全に停車。駅があるわけでもなく、完全に線路の途中である。どうも故障らしい。「点検のため少し止まります」というアナウンスの後、しばらく何も起きないので乗客も不安になる。その後、「車輪の故障のようなので、もうしばらく時間がかかると思います」とのアナウンスの後、1時間の時が流れる。乗客の中には電車を降りて歩き出したり、知人に電話をかけて迎えに来てもらう人も出てきだす。残りの乗客の間にも、はじめは「今降りた所で電車がまた動き出せばすぐに追い越されるはめになってしまうのに...もう少し待てばきっと・・・」という感じで降りていった客を冷めた目で眺める雰囲気が強かったのが、更にもう1時間何の進展もないと、どうなっているんだという心配の方が強くなってくる。

この時点で一度、自分たちの車両の乗客は後ろに移動するよう命令される。指示に従いスーツケースを抱えて後ろの車両へ移るも、その後1時間、また1時間と時が過ぎてゆく。はじめは1時間に一度はアナウンスがあったのが、2時間も何の連絡もないと、乗客の間からもさすがに不満が口をついて出て来る。客の多くは辛抱強く、「故障が起きるのは仕方がない」と理解のある人が多いものの、その他の点で次々と不満が募ってくる。乗務員はたまに車両内を前に後ろに歩いているとはいえ、愛想がなく、特に何の説明もない。「分からないなら分からないなりにアナウンスで報告をしてくれれば良いのに、何の報告もない」「乗務員は乗客に対して何もできず、危機管理体制が全くなってない」「電車が動かないのであればバスを手配するなりできるはず」「飲み物の一つでも差し入れてほしい」など言い出せばきりがない。

電車が止まって数時間後に技師がやって来たらしく、しばらく経ってゆっくりと進む。が、次の説明でなされたのは、「基本的に線路は単線なので複数車線になった所で停車し、他の列車をやり過ごす」というもの。「こっちの方が朝から出発しているのに!」という気持ちは乗客の誰もが持つが、車両の故障であれば仕方ないのか、という感じで諦めて更に待つ。その後、少し進んでは後退するという奇妙な動きを繰り返した後、再び駅と全く関係のない場所で完全に止まってしまう。その後のアナウンスで「他の電車を回してくるので、そちらに乗り換えてもらう」との説明がなされる。それから再び説明がなく待たされるうちに、乗客の間から「逃亡者」がますます増えてくる。乗客の中には、「午後の飛行機の便に完全に間に合わない。どうしてくれんの!」と憤慨する女性や「フットボールを観に行く予定が、これではもう試合に間に合わない」とあきらめ顔の親子など色んな人がそれぞれ話を繰り広げている。電車内の売店でビールを買ってきて酒宴を繰り広げ酔っぱらって歩き回る若者や、LAにいる子供に電話をして迎えに来てもらう中年夫婦など様々である。

自分たちが移動した先の車両は冷房が強烈に効いており、かなり寒い。通る人が「ここは異常に寒いね」と口を揃えて過ぎてゆく。自分も寒い寒いと震えながら、10数年ぶりに読み直した井上靖の小説「蒼き狼」を読み終えてしまう。止まった電車の中に閉じ込められた自分と、モンゴルの大地を縦横無尽に走り回り、闘争を繰り返しながら次々と勢力圏を拡大していく鉄木真(テムジン)=成吉思汗(チンギスカン)の姿が対照的かつ皮肉的であったが、小説は面白かった。

電車がやって来る度に乗客から喚声が広がり、通り過ぎると共に失意のブーイングに変わる。3台ほど電車をやり過ごした後、ようやく代車に移り乗る。

しかし、この電車もノロノロとしか進まず、たまに止まった駅で逆方向に後退する。いつになったら到着するやら、否、本当にLAに辿り着くのかという疑問も湧きながら、やっとのことでAnaheimへ到着。ここでも動かない。太陽も西の空に沈み、辺りは一気に暗くなってゆく。アナウンスで伝えられたのは「乗務員が12時間働いているため、労働規則に基き交代させる必要がある」とのこと。「乗客も9時間以上電車の中で待たされ続けていますが」と誰もがつぶやきながらいつ出発するかも分からぬまま更に待つ。1時間以上待った所で「今、交代の乗務員がこちらへ向かっていますのであと10分程度で到着する予定です」とのこと。「前の乗務員を帰らす時点で交代要員を手配してないんかい!」と突っ込みどころ満載のAmtrakである。本日後半のアナウンスでよく目(耳?)についたのは「虚偽の報告」である。「あと何分したら〜します。」と言っておきながら、その3倍、否5倍10倍以上の時間何も起きないことが続いた。「乗務員が10分で到着」のアナウンスもその後1時間は優に到着しなかったようだ。午後9時過ぎにようやくAnaheimを出発。ノロノロ運転で遂に、ついに Los Angels に到着したのは午後10時20分。実に11時間45分=約12時間の旅である。San Diego〜Los Angelsと言えば約130km。車で行っても2時間程度の距離である。飛行機であれば日本に帰れるほどのこの時間。恐らくこの路線の運行時間最高(最悪)新記録ではないだろうか。

It must have been “the best” (and the worst) record to travel between San Diego and Los Angels on Amtrak Rail. It was meant to be only 130km and only 2 hours by car. It took us 12 hours!! Even runners were overtaking us on the way!! We could have flown back to England or Japan in the same amount of time!!!  Oh, well…

到着した時点で八割以上の乗客は既に途中で電車を降りた模様。重たいスーツケースを抱え、土地勘のない我々は最後まで乗車を続けた。Anaheimまで来た頃には、早く解放されたい反面、いつLAに着くのかきちんと見届けたい気持ちが芽生えていたのも事実である。ついに電車からUnion Stationのプラットホームに降りる際には我慢比べ大会を勝ち抜いたような、疲れと解放感と達成感の入り混じった妙な気分だった。駅から空港までは直行バスに乗り、そこからタクシーに乗り継いでようやくホテルに到着。Union station

「今日は早くホテルに着いてゆっくりしよう」などと San Diego 出発時に話していたが、なんのこっちゃ。ホテル到着は午後11時半。それも疲れて。あとは寝るだけやがな!

Our plan to check-in the hotel quite early and relax was completely destroyed. We arrived at the hotel at 11:30pm. All we could do was Just Sleep!!!

長時間の移動はどんな交通手段でもきついけれど、いつ進みいつ着くのか分からぬ電車の旅はとりわけくたびれまする。身を以て経験しました。

Day 31 – The Longest Day!!! Los Angeles

What a day we had today!! We got up fairly early but still managed to have to rush to get to the train station – today we were heading back to Los Angeles for one night before flying out to Vancouver the next day.

Our Amtrak ‘Pacific Surfliner’ train was due to leave the station at 10:35am but even when we rushed to get to the station – the lady at the information counter said that there had been ‘some problem’ further up the tracks and that our train hadn’t even arrived yet, so there was no rush….

Having said that, the train did actually arrive on time in the end. We hopped aboard and sat back to relax the 2hr 40mins journey along the coast back to LA. Well, we were about 2 hours into our journey when the train slowed to a grinding halt….we waited about 10 minutes for an announcement which said that there was ‘a technical difficulty’ and that they had called the engineers to fix the problem. 30 minutes later we had another announcement saying that the engineers ‘were on their way’ and that as soon as they fixed the problem we would be up and running again!! an hour later people were starting to get ‘jokey’ about the situation and after about 2 hours, some people started actually getting off the train with their luggage and walking to the next town!! Well we waited and waited and eventually we were told that the train’s wheels had broken and ArrogantAlethat we could neither go backwards nor forwards!! A lot of people on the train were frustrated because they had been on their way to football games, gigs and concerts, and a lot of them resorted to buying beers to pass the time!! Interesting choice of beers at that – Arrogant Bastard Ale?? (Note: the photo is blurred not me…I wasn’t drinking!!)

Some marines on board were fed up because they had finally been given leave only to be stuck on this train!!

We waited and waited for another announcement…’We have been given the OK to progress very very slowly to the next siding where we will be able to transfer you to another train….’ ‘It will take a couple of minutes to do so.’ No joke, about 1hr later the train finally started to move very very very slowly to underneath a motorway bridge where it once again came to a stop. The train would stay there for another 2 hours before anything started to happen. Of course we were stuck on a single stratch of track so none of the other north- or southbound trains could go past us either.  Everyone was being held up!! More and more people were getting off the train as the frustration with the poor communication got worse and worse.

We were told that there was a train about 10 minutes behind us that would pull up alongside and we could transfer over…then we were told that we would be letting this train go by and another one would be coming which we could transfer to…then they told us that we would be letting 2 southbound trains go past before our northbound train could pull up….and the untruths kept coming and coming! I don’t know what kind of a watch Amtrak was using, but it wasn’t the same as anyone else on board. They kept telling us ‘in 2 or 3 minutes…’ which was more like 30 to 40 minutes…Their ‘in 10 minutes’ turned out to be 2 1/2 hours later!!

We eventually got ‘rescued’ after about 5 or 6 other trains had passed us! Then at the next station we were told that we would be pulling out and then pulling back in to hook up to a train behind us – the first ‘positive’ idea of the day!! Anyway we pulled forward, hooked up and pulled back into Anaheim Station only to sit still for another 30 or so minutes.What was going on?? Finally, an announcement was made  telling us that according to FAA regulations the current crew had worked their full hours limit and that we had to wait for a relief crew to come and take over…they were apparently ‘coming from a place 4 stations away’. Once again, a number of passengers got so fed up that they left the train and shared taxis into LA and other common destinations. We sat there and waited for the next communication…apparently the relief crew was now ’10 minutes’ away’…Well we all now knew how long 10 minutes can take!! About 30 minutes later the crew was now ‘3 minutes away’….Yeah right!! About an hour or so later the crew finally turned up and we were on our way to LA….we were still about 30 minutes or so outside LA at this point. When we finally arrived at LA Union Station it was just before 10:30pm!! The train ride had taken 12 hours!!! It was only meant to take 3 at the most!! How ridiculous…have they not heard of Business Continuity????

We were still not at our destination though – we needed to take a bus from Union Station to LAX Airport and catch a bus to the hotel. The bus journey took about 30 minutes which was fine – all we had to do now was catch the ‘free’ shuttle bus from the airport to our ‘airport’ hotel. Unfortunately our ‘free’ ride had stopped at 10pm and so we had no choice but to take a cab. Never mind, it was an ‘airport’ hotel so it wouldn’t be far or expensive either…WRONG!! The hotel wasn’t too far away, but the taxi cab flat rate for in and around the airport is $15 plus a $2.50 ‘processing’ fee. The perfect end to a perfect day – a 5 minute $17:50 cab ride….I was expecting a red carpet to greet me at the hotel, but…..no such luck!! Not today anyway (^^)v

30日目 San Diego / SeaWorld

10月23日(金)快晴 Clear Sky

レースのカーテン越しにお日様が昇ってきた所で自然と目が覚める。ホテルの部屋からの眺めは気持ちが良い。本日も快晴なり。朝食を済ませ、出発の支度を済ませる。

SeaWorld towerSanta Fe駅周辺を散策した後、時間節約のためタクシーで移動。15分ほどで SeaWorld へ到着。懐かしい景色が眼前に広がる。というのも、ここSan Diegoには約10年前に4週間ほど滞在したことがあるのだ。その際、中国からやって来たパンダのニュースで連日賑わう動物園には行かなかったものの、SeaWorldには遊びに来て楽しんだ記憶が残っている。AliもFloridaのSeaWorldには昔訪れたことがあるとは言え、San Diegoは初めてなので非常に楽しみ。

Universal Studioで買った2park pass のおかげで入場券を買う手間が省け、すんなりと入園。Sea Lion Thriller danceちょうど、Sea LionとOtterのショーが始まっており、10分近く遅れて入場。スタジアムは満席。強い日差しのもと、訓練されたアシカとカワウソ(たぶん?)が調教師と一緒に楽しいショーを繰り広げている。ハロウィンに因み、Michael Jacksonの”Thriller”の音楽に合わせて、派手な化粧をしたスタッフと一緒に踊りを繰り広げる姿は面白い。

すぐ近くにあるShark Encounter、Manatee Rescueと見学。マナティは体を回転させながら気持ちよく泳いでいる。Belugaここのマナティはいずれも船のプロペラなどで傷ついた者達を集めているため、体に傷の痕が残っているのが痛々しい。続いてPenguin Encounterへ。入り口付近、天日の下でペンギンがひなたぼっこをしている姿は珍しいが、建物内では南極さながらの涼しげな環境の下、ペンギンの一団が歩き回っている。お隣のWild Arcticでは北極観測所内の施設の複製とともに、シロクマやBeluga (White whale / シロイルカ)が見られる。Belugaは頭が丸く、大きな口をした愛嬌のある顔で優雅に泳いでいる。それにしてもこの施設はかなり寒い。

Rollercoaster外に出た所ですぐ近くにローラーコースタが大きな水しぶきをあげながら落ちてくるのが嫌でも目に入る。こういう乗り物は得意ではないとはいえ、時間があることと待たなくて良さそうという消極的な理由から、ついつい並んでしまう。全体の距離は大してないものの、最初に訪れる滝の垂直落下は水しぶきと合わせて迫力がある。終えた後に大したことはなかったなどと言いつつも、落下時に撮られた写真では自分だけが前のめりになっていた。Typical!

向かいにあるPets Stadiumのショーを鑑賞。Universal Studiosで見た動物ショーと同じような趣で、子供向けの楽しい内容。Horse - Chris犬や猫、豚、アヒル、など特にSea Worldの「海」とは関係ない動物が主に繰り広げる舞台である。

ショーが終わり、近くのClydesdale Hamletという厩舎へ。馬たちは美しく、かっこいい。何でもSeaWorldはBudweiserで有名なAnheuser-Busch社が所有しており、これらの馬はその宣伝に登場しているらしい。宣伝の一つは以下の通り。

There is a stable called “Clydesdale Hamlet”. SeaWorld is owned by Anheuser-Busch – the producer of Budweiser, and they use Clydesdale horses for their TV commercial. Below is one of them.

厩舎内で、DJとChrisという名の馬をしばらく眺める。Chrisは自分の方を向いてじっと目を離さなかった。

Shamu ShowそしてSea World 一番の目玉、Shamu Show “Believe”。 その力強さと雄大さは何度見ても素晴らしい。一日に一度のショーとあって、来場者もこれを目当てにやって来る人が多い。約10年前に来た時は、イルカのショーもシャムーと一緒に行われていたような気もするが、今はシャムーだけのショーが行われている。因みにイルカショーの舞台は現在、別途建設中で、2010年5月29日にオープンの予定。

本日一番の大きなショーの余韻に浸りながら歩いていくと、もう一つの乗り物に遭遇。Shipwreck Rapidと呼ばれるこの遊具は、簡単に言うと、「かなり濡れる急流下り」とでも表せばよいものだろうか。乗り終えて出て来る客は皆一様に濡れている。但し、ローラーコースタとは違い、小さな子供でも乗っていることから激しくはない様子。Soaked AliAliと顔を見合わせ、「別にわざわざ濡れなくてもねぇ」などと言いつつ、足は乗り場へ向かっていた。ここから90分という看板があることから、繁忙期はそれ以上並ぶのだろう。もちろん、我々がそれだけも待つわけはなく、5分ほど待って順番を迎える。ローラーコースタでも濡れはしたものの、大した濡れ方ではなかったが、今度ばかりはずぶ濡れに。円形のボートの座った場所と運にもよるが、上から滝が流れ落ちる所があるため、確実に濡れるようにできているのだ。Aliは初めの段階から濡れてしまい、自分もカーブで壁に激突した際に大きな波をかぶり十分に濡れてしまう。Rideを終えて外に出ると、太陽が雲に隠れているため、かなり寒い。二人で震えながら足早に周囲を歩いて回る。フラミンゴ、エイ、イルカなど見て回るがやっぱり寒い。温かい飲み物を飲んだ後、ぐるっと回ってShipwreck Reef Cafeの入り口にバーベキュー用の火があるのを発見。しばし暖まる。

最後にSea Turtlesを観察してSea Worldを後にする。出入り口付近で San Diego Zoo の面白いポスターを発見。写真におさめる。

On our way to leave SeaWorld, we found posters of San Diego Zoo near exit. They were very amusing.

San Diego Zoo advert

帰りもタクシーを利用。運転手はアフガニスタン出身の気さくなおじさんで、奥さんがおやつに作った”Pashmak”というアフガニスタンの食べ物を味見させてくれる。彼がホテルを勘違いしてはじめ違う場所に到着したものの、その後無事に帰り着く。

Carouselいまだに濡れた服と靴とを着替え、夜のダウンタウンの散策へ出かける。海に面した Seaport Village へと歩く。桟橋が海に沿って敷かれており、散歩しやすいように作られている。夜9時を迎えたため閉じた店が多いが、きれいでお洒落な地域である。歴史のある回転木馬も明かりが灯ってはいるものの、運転の時間は終えたらしい。海の向こう岸には船が霞んで見え、三日月が空の低い位置に美しく輝いている。

Gaslump Quarter昨日、ホテルの付近でスーパーなどのお店を探したがなかなか見つからず、Aliと二人でこの町の店はどこにあるのだろうと訝しがった。どうも宿の側はビジネス街で、高層ビルのホテルやマンションは多いものの商業地域ではないらしい。地図を頼りにGaslamp Quarterまで行ってようやく色んなお店を発見。レストランやパブ、クラブなどが軒を連ね、ネオンが明るく、若者が多く出回っている。以前来た際に、Horton Plazaというモールに行った覚えがあるので行ってみる。かなり大きなモールで、色んな店が集まっている。相変わらずきれいだったが、ほとんどの店は既に閉まっており、そのまま通過。スーパーで買い物をして宿に帰る。

ダウンタウンの通りは概ね清潔で、広々としている。一方、ホームレスは多く目にするが、温かいせいもあるのか、寒い地域の人たちよりものんびり快適に(?)過ごせているように見える。

サンディエゴでは海岸沿いに広々とした長いビーチが続き、北の方にLa Jolla(ラ・ホヤ)という美しい町がある。La Jollaは昔通ったこともあるが、本当にいい所なので是非また訪れに来たいものである。

San Diego has beautiful beaches along the seaside. There is a beautiful town called La Jolla in north of San Diego. I went there about 10 years ago and really liked it. We didn’t have much time to visit there on this trip, but would like to visit there some day.

Day 30 Pt2 – San Diego

cruiseshipTonight we went out to explore the ‘nightlife’ of San Diego. Our hotel was situated on the edge of the financial district and so it is quite a quiet neighbourhood. We walked along the coast past the cruiseships moored in the dock to a place called Seaport Village. Seaport Village is a small collection of artsy boutique shops and (mainly seafood) restaurants. It is warmly lit with fairylight-style light strips and there is even an old style working Carousel. Unfortuantely we must have arrived late as the place was shutting down for the night and so the carousel had stopped and the shops were closing their shutters. You could tell the place would have a nice relaxed atmosphere during the daytime as well.

From Seaport Village we carried on for a couple more blocks until we came to the Gaslamp Quarter. This is where the ‘real’ nightlife is – so many bars and clubs…too many to count! There were a lot of people looking as though they were just about to start their night!!

HortonMallWe took a look around the nearby ‘Horton Mall’ and popped into ‘Ralphs’ ( a 24-hr supermarket) to buy some food supplies, before heading back home to the hotel.

Day 30 – San Diego

Another beautiful sunny day in San Diego – this really is a lovely place. Our downtown hotel is 5 minutes away from the station and another 5 minutes away from the coast. The atmosphere here is very relaxed, and it is a much cleaner and safer-feeling place than LA and San Francisco.

SeaWorldManateeToday we got up around 7am and after some breakfast we headed out for Sea World. We decided to take a taxi as it was quicker and easier – it would have taken us an hour with 2 transfers if we had gone by trolley and bus…

When we were at Universal Studios H’Wood, we bought a 2-park ticket, so we were able to walk on through the ticket gate without waiting in line…not that there was much of a line – it is off-season so there weren’t that many people at the park compared to the summer months.

SeaLionShowFirst off we picked up a park map so we could find out what time the major shows were taking place – we were just in time to see the Sea Lion & Otter Show – The infamous Clyde & Seamore were performing their ‘Halloween’ spooky act which included some dancing and tricks done to the tune of Thriller by Michael Jackson. They really are very clever animals – and the Otter was a pretty good actor too – he was the villain of the show!

After the sea lion act, we went off to see the sharks and the rescued manatees. The manatees were really playful, and although they are fairly big they are still quite cute. The manatees at the park have all been rescued and were all injured by boat outboards, propellers and the like. They seemed to enjoy their new home and were eating away quite happily when we saw them.

PenguinPenguinsNext we headed off to see the penguins and the beluga whales. I think Beluga whales are my favourite – they have such smiley faces!

MorePenguins

Now, after seeing the whales we still had load of time before the major attraction – the Shamu ‘Believe’ extravaganza. So what did Seio and I do?…Yes, we went and got wet!! We must need our heads examined – we both aren’t that keen on roller coasters GettingWetAgainor rides, but for some reason we thought ‘Oh why not…’ Silly us – this was another ‘frightening’ experience on a Mach3 sheer drop waterfall log flume death-wish ride – What is wrong with us??? We did see the photo they take afterwards though – Seio was leaning right the way forward in his seat, and I was pushed right back in mine – both of us had our eyes closed tight and were holding on for dear life!! We soon dried off though thanks to the strong San Diego sunshine!

PetsRuleSHowWhile we were waiting, we thought we would go and take in the ‘Pets Rule’ show to relax – this was a fun show for the children mainly and it involved cats, dogs, ducks, and a pig called Lester doing tricks in a special arena.

ShamuBelieveShowAfter the pet show we headed straight over to the killer whale arena and took a look at the whales swimming in one of their pools before the big show. These creatures really are amazing to watch – they are so big and powerful yet so graceful at the same time. Before long the crowds had gathered to see the main event of the day – The Shamu ShamuTrainer‘Believe’ show. Seio and I found a seat and sat down to enjoy the performance. We have both seen a similar kind of show before, but this type of thing never ceases to amaze you – the huge jumps, the synchronized splashing, and the trust shared between the whales and their trainers.

ShamuJump

It was a great show that didn’t disappoint!

After the killer whale show had finished we came across another ‘ride’ – a white water rapids ride. No  we didn’t walk in the opposite direction, we decided to have a go….and guess what we ended up getting wet again – this time though we got really soaked. I felt as if I had been swimming – I had wet hair, my shorts were drenched and my T-shirt was stuck to my back!! Needless to say I had a wet bum for the rest of the afternoon – even the Californian sun couldn’t dry me off I was so wet!!

SeaTurtlesBefore leaving we took a quick look at the sea turtles – unfortunately most of them were either swimming under water or were on land but fast asleep. I don’t blame them in this heat though (^^)v

We took another taxi home – our driver was a really friendly guy who was originally from Afghanistan. He let us try some ‘Pashmak’ which is a kind of fairy floss type sweet. It was very nice and although he took us to the wrong hotel at first, we eventually made it home safely – albeit still a bit on the soggy side!