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On Being Boring

I moved from London to Brussels with my husband nearly 10 years ago. When I told people we were moving, the news was greeted with bemusement: why did we want to move to a city that was possibly the most boring place on earth? Ten years later and I can honestly say that I've had more fun here than I ever did living in London. It might not be the most exciting city in the world but it is a fantastic place to live. It is full of hidden treasures that you probably never get to see as a tourist: wonderful shops, amazing food, great museums and galleries, beautiful architecture, a forest (yes, a whole forest), and so much more... And if that doesn't convince you, well, get on a train and you could be in Paris, Amsterdam, Cologne or, yes, London in no more than a couple of hours... Which other city can you say that about?

America 2012 – Part 3 (California Coast and Bakersfield)

Pretty much all of the drives we did on this journey had one or two breath-taking views along the way. But I think this one, from Monterey to Bakersfield, along the California coast, elicited more “if we ever win the lottery, we’ll buy a house here” comments than any other. And if only my pictures came close to capturing the hugeness of it all… It’s seriously WOW.And as if that weren’t enough, you get a little state park along the way:Amélie was a real little explorer, carrying water and food for us all in her backpack, map-reading (she is her father’s daughter), charging ahead despite the steep slopes and hot sun, spotting birds and bugs and excitedly collecting stones.I, on the other hand, continued my “inappropriate footwear” tradition. What? Little pointy flats aren’t the right thing for a trek through a state park? Tsk, I say! I was comfy. Certainly more comfy than I was when I arrived in New York in freezing weather with nothing but flip-flops to wear… Also, have you seen this cool bark?And then we were off again, for more “ohmygodwillyoulookatthat!” and “Han! Han! Stop the car! I wanna take a picture!”.And then, five hours into our drive (a drive along one long windy road without ANY turn-offs), we came to a road block. It was three in the afternoon and we had a hotel to get to, still many hours away. By some fluke, though, Mr Chips (the man from the Highway Patrol), informed us that the road was going to be opened, for one hour, at 4pm to let one convoy of cars through. See, if we’d arrived a bit later, we would probably have had to turn round, go all the way back to Monterey, and then found another road to Bakersfield. It would not have been fun. And if we’d arrived earlier, we could have been faced with waiting several hours in a car with two young children. That wouldn’t have been much fun either. As it was, we had just one hour to kill and both of my little beasts behaved wonderfully.And – praise the lords of punctuality – a 4pm on the dot, we started moving (if this had been Belgium, we’d have been lucky to see movement before, what? Six?). Hanno was really rather excited to be driving in convoy. I was rather excited that we weren’t going to be sleeping in the car. Also, there was this to greet us on the other side:Whaaaaaat?! How freaking beautiful is that? And it just went on and on and on… And not a single house or human construction in site. Seriously awe-inspiring. Again, a paltry picture just doesn’t do it justice. It’s the kind of landscape that you wouldn’t believe existed until you actually saw it with your own eyes. That day was just full of amazing vistas. All the way to Bakersfield (with the possible exception of the petrol station/McDonalds we had to stop at for supper).Bakersfield was hotel no. 4 – and possibly one of my favorite hotels of the whole trip (in terms of decor). But before we get to that, let me just show you the view from the window. See if you can spot the ghost:No? Ok, neither did I when I took the picture, but as I was editing these today, I saw it and it is FREAKING me out. Look at the picture on the left. Now look in the top right corner. Do you see a slightly misty bit over the darkness of the sky? Now do you see the two white eyes, the dark nostril and the open mouth, bearing teeth? If you can see it: PLEASE TELL ME WHAT IT IS! I don’t think it’s my reflection because I was holding the camera up in front of my face. Plus, I DON’T LOOK LIKE A GHOUL! Luckily, as I said, I didn’t notice it at the time and so I didn’t start screaming. Charlie was therefore able to continue his deep sleep while we waited for his bed to be brought to the room. See him on the bed there? Fast asleep. Completely unaware of the fact that the hotel was haunted. He had been asleep in the car and we managed to unclip him from his seat, lift him out, unpack the car, check in, go up to the room and put him down on the bed, get him undressed, change his nappy and get him into his pajamas, all without waking him up. Never before and probably never again. Poor boo was completely conked. But it did mean he woke up very perky the next morning (photo on the right).This is the wallpaper outside our bedroom. I thought it was cool so I took a picture of it. Yes, I’m strange, I know.And this is the reception area. It’s the Padre hotel, just in case you’re interested. And it had fancy yellow headboards. Oh! And a yummy coffee shop. The bathroom was really cool too. Yes, really. I wish I’d had a little more time to grab a few more snaps. But I didn’t. Because we had to set off again. This time to Vegas baby! But that will be for next time…

7 May 2012 - 5:13 AM Ingrid - Thank you thank you thank you..You have taken the trip I've been dying to take with my family. While we can't right now I've been so enjoying it through the beauty of your photographs. They are just so beautiful ..and amazing..and Amelie & Charlie..well I can't say enough. I love coming here to read though I've not had time to post lately. Just know I'm reading and enjoying your new blog very much so. xoxoo

7 May 2012 - 8:31 AM Cass - Thank YOU Ingrid. And when you do eventually manage to squeeze in this trip, you are going to be blown away! My photos are nothing compared to the actual thing.

7 May 2012 - 9:23 AM amanda - You crack me up. I did see the ghost, scary stuff :) I think the rolling hills landscapes needs to be printed and on your wall. Love last bottom right pic oooh. x

7 May 2012 - 11:19 AM Cass - You see it Amanda? So what is it? I'm fully prepared to believe it isn't a ghost but I need a good alternative explanation. I took the picture from a window at the end of a straight, empty corridor. There was nothing else that could have caused that reflection except for me. And I'm not that scary. I hope.

7 May 2012 - 5:49 PM Caroline - Cass these are so wonderful!! (I was looking with Clara, here are her comments: "Oh mais elle est plus si petite la petite Amélie! Elle ressemble plus a qu'est-ce que je pensais. Tu crois qu'elle me connait? Moi aussi j'aime bien grimper dans la forêt! Oh et son petit frère je croyais que c'était un bébé mais c'est un garçon en fait?" clearly, we need to see each other soon!!

7 May 2012 - 8:07 PM Cass - Bonjour Caroline et Clara! Oui, elle a beaucoup grandi Amélie. Ca me surprend même à moi! Et Charlie aussi... Des fois, je cherche mes bébés et je ne les trouve plus... Mais, à leur place, il y a toujours un petit garcon et une grande fille... Ils sont très gentils alors je leur pardonne quand même d'avoir caché mes bébés ;-b Il me tarde beaucoup de vous voire toutes les deux. Clara, tu as aussi beaucoup grandi. Mais on te reconnait toujours et on te trouve très belle.

7 May 2012 - 7:56 PM katie - THIS, THESE were SOOOOO FANTASTIC!!!!! STUNNING!

7 May 2012 - 8:20 PM Cass - Thank you Katie my sweet - it's kinda hard to take a bad picture of these places. The real question though is: did you see the ghost? (am I having too much fun with this?)

8 May 2012 - 4:11 AM ralph - Cass, dear, I just can't get over how gorgeous these are. I felt like I was in the car with you all, which I wish I was. LOVE the landscape shots,the gorgeous hotels, your beyond beautiful kids. ALL OF IT. The Ghost. I see it, and WOW. Wow that's scary with it's dead eyes and open mouth - with TEETH. Not to mention the "chase" "chase" words beneath him for added drama. Ha. So wild. On the other hand, let's say that maybe it is a reflection. Not your own, you're too close to the glass - but most likely a light on the wall behind you, or even a reflection of a reflection from a mirror in the room. It just can't be a ghost - because any ghost following you would HAVE TO BE NICE. So there. You're amazing.

8 May 2012 - 4:14 AM ralph - p.s. Or maybe -- just maybe -- it's the reflections off the headboard - the shiny bits (you can see it in the pic just below the ghost pics). Hmmmmm

8 May 2012 - 11:21 AM Cass - Thank you lovely Ralph. I know really it can't be a ghost but I just love that (despite my scientific "everything can be explained" brain) I can't figure out what it is. I actually took these pictures outside our room. They were taken from a window at the end of the corridor that our room was on. We were on the top floor, there was no-one else about (it was late) and the hall was long, straight and mirrorless. And just for the fun of it, it turns out that there actually is a rumor about the place being haunted (which I only found out about yesterday) - there are youtube videos and everything. I LOVE IT! Also, no joke, these two pictures have started flickering on my screen. Just these two. Brilliant.

8 May 2012 - 12:47 PM ralph - Ohhhhh, I see, I see. I will watch the videos and check out the story tonight I was just taking some wild guesses, but I kinda like thinking it was a ghost too. :) You stayed in a haunted hotel!

9 May 2012 - 6:59 PM Angie - Totally amazing photos AGAIN - so, so good! The California tourist board should be paying you - I've already started investigating the logistics and finances for a trip there myself. (I ain't scared of no ghosts)!

9 May 2012 - 7:15 PM Cass - Thank you Angie! I thought you might like the ones of the coast. Yes, start saving now: you would love it (and you would take just the most amazing pictures ever).

14 May 2012 - 10:46 PM Amélie - I made a point not to look for the ghost as it is nearly bedtime here and I want to have happy dreams. I loved your landscape photos. You really found amazing spots ! My favorite is the green hills, I'd love to see this unspoilt place.

15 May 2012 - 8:13 AM Cass - Amélie: I think the green hills were one of my favorite views too. I didn't manage to get a good picture of it, but you should know that the road we were driving along when I took that picture was lined with golden California poppies - as if the view needed to be made any more beautiful!

7 June 2012 - 8:51 PM Marie - it's funny but the coastal pictures remind me of the ones near my parents house near cherbourg, although, these cliffs are probably a lot higher, it's great to see your hols in pictures as it is a bit difficult to retell a two week holiday over skype with children around!

7 June 2012 - 9:23 PM Cass - I love coasts - all coasts. And I still love the memory of walking along the beach with you on the morning of your wedding. If I every win the lottery, a house by the sea will definitely be in order.

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