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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 7 (Zion)

I think it’s during this part of our journey (the drive from the Grand Canyon to Zion) that I got camera-eye: a condition caused by spending far too much time with your right eye up against a view-finder, and characterized by a dull, persistent pain behind the eyeball and a stubborn headache. In short, it sucks. The views, however, were worth it. Do you see that little hut with “open” painted on the side? Any guesses as to what it is? Apart from open. A fruit stall? Nope. Souvenir stand? Nope. Brothel, insurance vendor, surgery, attorneys at law? All possible. Who knows.Now ain’t that a lorra space?Oh yes! This! This was incredible! In fact, this is what I thought the Grand Canyon was going to be: just a humungous tear in the Earth’s surface. Yet again, my pictures do not do the geology justice. You could have dropped London into this crack. This was a properly American super-sized fissure. This was awe-inspiring. Like so many of the other things we saw on our trip. You could get amazement-fatigue doing this kind of drive. Except that, of course, you don’t. Thankfully. Can you imagine being bored by this?It’s called Marble Canyon by the way, just in case you want to take a closer look at it for yourself.I think this is one of my favorite “taken from a moving car” pictures. Not sure why. Maybe it’s the pastel colors and the pops of yellow. Or maybe I’m just odd.Ah yes! Yet another McDonalds stop. Here’s something you need to know about me: I don’t like fast-food restaurants. Not at all. But when you’re driving across America and finding a nice restaurant might mean several hundred miles of detour (because there is nothing much for hundreds of miles except rocks, more rocks and the occasional gas station/fast-food combo), when your children (by which I mean me) are dying to get out of the car, stretch their legs and find somewhere to pee that doesn’t come with a scorpion warning, then you tend to make compromises. The compromise we made is that I would stop moaning about my children eating nothing but fries, Hanno would gorge on chocolate milkshakes and I would enjoy the luxury of having a restroom at my disposal for half an hour. And you know what? My children survived the experience, Hanno was very happy, and I lost weight (all since regained now I am back to my “healthy” diet of actually eating).Also, whether it was a McDonalds, a Wendy’s or (shiver) a Pizza Hut, the staff were always very friendly, the service was always impeccable and the loos were always clean. Which beats some of the fancier places I have been in London and Brussels. Also, Charlie didn’t actually eat any straws.This is apparently Glen Canyon. We drove past it at a distance. It was pretty. And full of boats.I have no idea where this is. But it must have come somewhere between Glen Canyon and Zion National Park, based on its place in my sequence of images.These are some rocks. Big ones too… And then we were there. Zion National Park and hotel no. 7: the Cliff Rose Lodge. OK. I could happily have spent several weeks at this hotel. The location was amazing. This, by the way, was the view from our terrace (pictures below). Yep, our rooms opened out onto the garden, which led down to a beautiful stream, and then… well just look:I really do wish we’d had more time. More time just to sit. To breath. More time to enjoy the pool, overlooked by the rocks. Time enough to build a bonfire by the stream and toast some marshmallows. And time to do more walks in this most amazing of places.My intrepid explorer. She was so good. Loved it so much. And she earned her second Junior Ranger badge here. Now Han has plans to get her the full set (although that may just be an excuse to get me to agree to several more trips).That picture on the right was actually taken as we were driving into the Park on the fist night but I love how the colors match: rocks the color of a sunset.We did two big walks that day. With a break in the middle, picnicking on the lawn in front of the Zion lodge (with possibly the best sarnies in the world ever, from Café Soleil – specially packed for hiking).  Charlie was carried on Han’s back for a lot of the trekking so he had plenty of energy for running around like a crazy monkey while we relaxed in the shade.That was my last shot from our second walk. After this I packed my camera away and just enjoyed the scenery. It looks a bit blurry because it’s a very long exposure and hand-held. I did bring my tripod with me to the US but couldn’t be bothered to lug it along with me on walks. I know, I know… I fail as a photographer.Back at the hotel, relaxing and admiring the view before we set off for supper. And then waiting for the Zion shuttle to take us to the restaurant, at possibly the most scenic bus stop ever. We were heading off to Oscar’s Café for some highly recommended Mexican food. And it was delicious. My mouth is watering just thinking of it. There is one little person, though, who kind of gave up before the food arrived.They served him a cup of milk while we waited (by the way, this was something I loved about the States: everywhere we went, they would happily serve milk to children. Not milkshakes. Just plain milk – I can’t tell you how many times that saved our lives with Charlie). So, anyway, he had his milk and, next think we knew, he was fast asleep (you can tell in the second picture that he didn’t even finish the milk – unheard of for the Boo). He didn’t even make it to the starter. He then proceeded to snore through the entire meal – causing a fair amount of amusement (and “awwww”ing) from neighboring tables and much (I’m sure unnecessary) whispering from our lovely waiter. He was dead to the world. Completely and utterly gone. And so he missed this:The sunset and the deer. Because we were trying to get children to bed on time and often driving as the sun went down, I didn’t get to do much light chasing. Most of my pictures from this trip are taken in the middle of the day, with the worst, harshest light. So this shot was a bit of luck. We just happened to leave the restaurant at the right time. By the time we got back to the hotel, the light had gone. Mind you, it did take us a while to get back because the grumpy shuttle driver completely ignored our stop (and our request for it) and drove us straight to the terminus (luckily, just one stop further). She was the only person in the whole of our journey who was even vaguely unpleasant to us. But she made up for it by being a very sour puss indeed. However, even that didn’t spoil our evening because, as we trudged back up the hill to our hotel, we saw these beautiful creatures. If it hadn’t been for grumpy-witch-face, we’d not have seen them. So thank you grumpy-witch-face, for the perfect end to a perfect evening.Oh Zion! How we miss you! Luckily, we still had Portland and our lovely friends Matt and Tara to look forward to…

13 June 2012 - 9:36 PM Ingrid - You have been my "passport" to so many stops I'd like to make along the way. These are lovely...your children are beautiful..and the sites are amazing. Ah..and then there are the photographs..stunning. Like you!

13 June 2012 - 10:22 PM tara leigh - STUNNING!!!!! also excited to see what you post next... since you took no photos of me. thank goodness.

14 June 2012 - 4:08 AM ralph - Oh, sweet Csss. These are glorious. I love LOVE the wide open spaces, the colors, your adorable captions, your children! Gah. I don't know why but when I see you post shots from this trip I imagine A & C twenty years from now, flipping through these and reminiscing together. Priceless. And wow you're so damn good.

14 June 2012 - 10:59 AM amanda - ooh the colours!!! Love the shuttle stop pic, charlie sleeping pic, and your intredid explorer. All totally and utterly adorable.

14 June 2012 - 7:19 PM Laura - Stunning pictures from beginning to end! Just wow. And I have to say there's an amazing amount of stars in that last picture.

14 June 2012 - 8:09 PM Cass - Ingrid: I hope one day you'll get to see these sights for yourself. You live in such an amazing country. I'm very glad my husband fought my hermit instincts to get me out there! /// Tara: what do you mean, no photos of you? There's at least one! But you're right, not many. My trigger finger was pretty much on strike, I think, by the time we got to you. Plus, I just wanted to be with you and enjoy your company. Pointing my camera in your face every few seconds to capture "the moment" may have ruined that. Also, I love you. /// Ralph: YOU are glorious.I really wish I was that damn good. It would honestly be hard to take a bad picture of this place. And I also imagine A & C looking though these in years to come... I hope it will give them the travel bug. There is so much to be seen in this wonderful world of ours. /// Amanda: oh thank you my sweet. The colors are amazing aren't they? Really really can't wait to see you. Not long now. /// Laura: thank you! Yes! The stars! What I didn't notice at the time - but you can see in the picture - is all the different colors... like jewels in the sky! This was my first attempt at a long exposure night shot. I think it was 15 seconds or something. If you look closely, you can see that the stars aren't actually dots but tiny little lines. Ha. Also: do you reckon that faint diagonal line was a shooting star or something else?

14 June 2012 - 9:38 PM Hanno - Thank you Cass for having taken so many amazing pictures of our holiday. I love being able to sit back and re-live the whole trip. We had a gret time and I can't wait to go back. Love you. XXX

14 August 2012 - 4:52 PM diyosa - considering zion for my birthday.. had to come by and look at your photos. again.

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