Florida to California

The result of almost 8 hours of planning. Getting things organized for our travel does take time and effort.

Our travels in our coach will take us south to Florida for three months and then over to California for two months. I’ve received feedback that in retirement, we should slow down and take our time. And that would be fine if we lived in the United States. We don’t and that limits how much time we have and where we choose to spend that time. Canadian snowbirds migrate south pretty quickly to escape the cold northern temperatures that hit in November and to maximize their time in the warmer climate areas.

We are going to take 11 days to cross from the Everglades Isle Motorcoach Resort in Florida to Desert Shores Resort in California. We will take in some beautiful resorts along the way including:

Bay Lake RV Resort

Carrabelle Beach RV Resort

Heritage Motorcoach Resort

Rayford Crossing RV Resort

Alsatian RV Resort

Maverick Ranch RV Park

Hacienda RV Resort

The Motorcoach Resort

Two of them are not confirmed yet: Bay Lake and Maverick. Depending on what we hear back from them, we may have to find alternate spots. We had some other choices on our list but they were already sold out for our dates. We are doing most of our planning 6-9 months out.

This will be our longest drive to date in the coach. The drive to Florida, by comparison, is a relatively quick 6-day trip. And we have two layovers where we are staying two nights. Basically, 4 hours of driving a day to get down to Florida.

Going across to California proved challenging in terms of logistics. Admittedly, we were a bit selective in terms of the layover spots. We aren’t planning to use Walmarts.

For ideas, we used a new thread on the IRV2 Newmar forum on Class A parks, Big Rigs Best Bets, and RV Park Reviews.

Booking is quite the process. Some parks have good online booking arrangements but they don’t provide discounts for FMCA or Good Sam unless you call them. Others will only take bookings through the phone. We found that we were often leaving messages for callbacks. Some of the resorts were only interested in longer term stays and not overnight bookings. Some of the resort websites were really well done, others, awful.

All in all, it took way longer than expected to plan out this leg of our trip.

Kingston to Florida. Check.

Florida to California. Check.

California to Kingston. Well, not yet. Another full day to plan that trip.

Toronto, Canada

We were back in Toronto after our Norwegian cruise. Not yet home, but getting pretty close. This will be the last post about our retirement cruise. And, rather than sharing images of Toronto with all of the new, glass-encased office towers, I thought I would share a few of my images from Toronto’s Graffiti Alley.

The alley is located near Spadina Avenue and sits in between Queen Street West and Richmond Street West. A bit of a walk from the main Toronto downtown office and condo towers.

It is an alley and you will find a fair amount of garbage. Toronto is generally a safe city to visit although I’m not sure I would go to this alley at night. Best to view the graffiti during the day.

There are some parking areas along the alley and the back of these buildings are also covered in graffiti. Except for the “Authorized Parking Only” signs.

Graffiti alley spans three city blocks. It is much longer than you might expect. The artwork is continuously refreshed and, in some cases, as in the picture above, dated. I’m not sure who decides when it is okay to paint over someone’s graffiti.

This was a tourist visiting Toronto from New York City. He wanted his photo taken for his Instagram and he asked us to use his smartphone. Lorraine took that shot for him. I took this shot using my own camera.

A bit of a different view of Toronto than what most tourists see.

And so, after an amazing two weeks travelling Europe, we finally boarded the train from Toronto to head home to Kingston.

New adventures will be starting soon as we begin a longer-term journey south in our coach.

Hamburg, Germany

We returned to Hamburg after we finished our Norwegian cruise. No video to share today. Just a few pictures.

Our hotel was in an area of Hamburg called HafenCity, one of the largest urban redevelopment projects in Europe. The architecture is modern and the buildings impressive.

The city is served well by transit systems and bike paths. Many of the light rail train routes are suspended, like the one pictured below.

There are generous public spaces to be found across Hamburg. Some of them pay homage to historical figures with swords.

I did not get close to the statue to determine the source for the statue. But you could see him from quite the distance.

I love the design of European buses particularly the front mirrors. It just seems like a great way to place them on a coach. Generally do not see this design in North America and I’m not sure why.

Many of the roads in Hamburg use pavers. It creates a unique feel to the city.

Most of the historic buildings have been converted to apartments or, like this one, office space.

Closer to city centre and the office buildings are contemporary and yet draw from the past.

We loved all of the open air cafes and the number of streets that had been converted to pedestrian use only.

Water levels in Hamburg were extremely low. It may be related to an unprecedented heat wave that hit much of Europe. It was hot and humid when we arrived in Hamburg. It was hot and humid when we left Hamburg.

An example of the new architecture in HafenCity.

The Elbphilharmonie is a concert hall in HafenCity, one of the largest concert halls in the world. and it can seat over 2,000 people. You can enter the building and take escalators up to the viewing deck which is located just where the brick meets the glass.

This photo is from the viewing deck although I shot the window which offered a reflection of the city, so it really is just a picture of part of a window on the viewing deck, depending on your perspective of course. The building used some very high quality glass!

Another perspective of the docks in HafenCity.

Walking through Hamburg you will find an extensive network of pedestrian footbridges and wide walkways. This part of the city was certainly designed with people in mind.

As evening descended in Hamburg, I took a few final golden hour shots and we made our way back to the hotel.

Waking up, we had only a couple of hours to take in the city before making the long trip back home.

Generally, I reverse the order, that is if I were a coffee drinker.

Flam, Norway

Flam was our final port of call on our Norwegian cruise.

I have to admit that I was feeling a bit sad that our time in Norway was quickly coming to an end. An amazing country with dramatic landscapes.

Here is a video with an overview of our day in Flam.

Flam is a small village with a population of roughly 350 people. It is located at the inner end of Aurlandsfjorden. Flam receives about half a million tourists a year and the local community has a decidedly mixed reaction to all of the cruise ships that call into Flam.

The main tourist attraction in Flam is the train. It runs 20-kilometres between Flam and Myrdal. It is one of the steepest railways in the world. There are some stunning views from the train.

As part of the train ride, we made a 5-minute station stop to take in the Kjosfossen waterfall.

A quiet and peaceful moment in Norway? Well, it was me and several hundred other tourists all jammed in shoulder to shoulder trying to get a shot. Looks like smartphones were the weapon of choice.

When we reached our station stop for a 1-hour layover before the return trip, clouds, rain and mist descended on us.

Although we walked around the area, there really wasn’t much to see except the train tracks.

We passed the time at the layover and then made our way back to Flam. The rain had stopped and the clouds and mist created a very unique scene.

We explored the village of Flam by foot and came across this farm not far from the port.

A couple of trees hanging out in Flam.

The view of our ship from one of the docks.

This would be the dock from which I shot the ship above.

And a parting view of our last day in Norway.

Alesund, Norway

Alesund, Norway.

We did not spend any time in Alesund. Our shore excursion was from 8am until 5pm. A full day of travel with the highlight being the Trolls’ Path pictured above.

Here is a video of our day touring Trollstigen, Valldal, Stigfossen Waterfall and Trollveggen, all in under three minutes.

This was our early morning introduction to the port of Alesund, Norway: decidedly moody.

Our bus made several stops. A quick five-minute dash to capture a few photos and then back on the road.

We had a bit of a longer stay at Stigfossen Waterfall. This was the closest encounter I had with a waterfall during my time in Norway. And I did not get wet.

A view of the valley of Valldal from Trollstigen, roughly 850 metres above sea level.

The skywalk afforded an opportunity for me to mess with your sense of perspective in this photo. Does that bus on the hairpin turn look like it is falling off the side of the mountain?

We had a break for lunch at an RV camp and tourist centre. The clouds and mist created an eerie scene.

From there we made our way to Trollveggen to see the Troll Wall. This was the only rain that we experienced in Norway and it made the photography challenging. Although the vertical space looks relatively short, the Troll Wall has the highest perpendicular rock face in Europe at over 1,000 metres.

This was our bus for the day. Made by Volvo, it might be a great candidate for a Class A motorhome.

This was our view of Alesund from the ship. We did not have any time to explore this port by foot.

On our way to our next port, Flam, Norway.

A few shots of the beautiful fjord as we left Alesund. Waters were very calm.