Tag Archives: usa

USA 2019 – 02 Strolling around Downtown and Chinatown in Washington DC (2019-10-25) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 05 MAY 2020

To be clear, most people probably wouldn’t enjoy going on holiday with me. I don’t want to go somewhere to relax – my life is relaxed enough – so instead I go somewhere to see as many new things as what I possibly can. Case in point, after arriving at the Hampton Inn and stowing my bags, I immediately changed into my comfortable walking shoes and headed straight out the door onto the streets of Washington D.C. (Jet Lag? To be honest, to this day I still don’t actually know what that is.)

Now I don’t have any real experience with cities. I have never lived nor worked in a city, so a visit to a proper city is always a big visual treat for me. (For reference, my nearest city is Cape Town, which beauty aside, is not a particularly big one – i.e. it counts, but it also doesn’t really count). Of course, I also don’t plan anything ever anyway, so my first Washington D.C. mission was a simple one. Get a visual idea of where I am, take a photo of the street name so I should be able to make my way back to it, and then just head off in a general direction until I get tired.

The general style of downtown Washington D.C. is in a word stately – so many amazing, massive government linked buildings clad in this amazingly solemn stone, standing upright and staring down upon you. The city is seemingly lined with trees and littered with small parks, almost all of which feature at least one stone or bronze statue celebrating some historically once relevant citizen like Edmond Burke or Samuel Gompers for example.

My initial foray into Washington D.C. started in the Chinatown district with its decidedly Asian-influenced twist on primarily Western architecture, before opening up into the more classical buildings of the Mt. Vernon Square area, as I slowly picked my way down the big avenues towards Lafayette Square, The White House and the National Mall area in general.

Honestly, I was a little in heaven. The scale of the buildings, the historical nature of most of the things around me, and the fact that on weekends the city itself grows quiet – literally the perfect place for me to be meandering through on foot. So, so many interesting buildings and statues to stop and take photos of, so so many things to go back and look up on the Internet once I eventually made it back to my hotel room following the setting of the sun and thus end of my walking adventure.

These are the photos grabbed at the start and the end of this great big circular walk that took me all the way to the White House, Albert Einstein, the Washington Monument and back again! (The rest are still to follow in blog posts all of their own…)

USA 2019 – 01 Journey from Cape Town to the Hampton Inn in Washington DC (2019-10-24) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 01 MAR 2020

When I left for Washington DC the handy direct flight from Cape Town hadn’t yet launched, so as per usual, it was first the time wasting hop of having to head up to Johannesburg before I could finally leave South Africa’s sunny borders behind.

My Touchwork-organized SA336 South African Airways flight departed from Cape Town International just after two on a Thursday afternoon, meaning that logistically it was pretty easy given that the kids were at school, there was no traffic to battle, and thus no reason then why Chantelle couldn’t dutifully ferry her extremely overexcited and bubbly husband to the airport.

With our farewells said over a cup of Wimpy coffee, Chantelle gave a few forlorn waves as I disappeared through the security checkpoint. (After all, you must remember that I was now resigning her to two weeks of looking after the kids all by herself!)

The flight to OR Tambo International in Johannesburg aboard the Airbus A330-200 flitted by without incident (if I remember correctly, they were playing the inspiring Red White Black & Blue Odyssey documentary about the ICEF Rugby Program that helps struggling kids from disadvantaged neighbourhoods through rugby for entertainment purposes), but once there I still had to find a way to kill 2.5 hours before my journey to the United States would finally begin.

Luckily I travel light, so with my commandeered big sports bag (thanks Ryan!) already checked through back in Cape Town and only my small laptop backpack on my back, I set about following the small signs in the massive OR Tambo airport to try and find the tucked away aircraft viewing deck. As it turns out, this was an excellent idea because a) it is rather hidden away and thus not busy at all, b) it is spacious and gives an excellent view of the airport operations below, and c) it killed a whole lot of time for me.

Having watched all the planes, read all the info boards on SAA’s history and the legacy of OR Tambo the activist, and completed a phone call with the girls back home, I finally made it back down to ground level, headed through security and hunkered down next to a chatty young Ghanaian actress who was heading back home following an ad shoot that she had just completed here in Johannesburg.

At this point our SA209 flight had however been announced as delayed, primarily because there weren’t enough people flying to warrant using the big Airbus A340-300 that we were meant to be making the long haul aboard, so she and I dutifully watched a love triangle play out between the pigeons outside while I was taught all about Ghana and Geisha soap.

So not a bad but not an entirely smooth beginning to the epic 18 hour journey from Johannesburg to Washington D.C. then.

Of course we did eventually board a plane, and because it was half empty the flight was particularly comfortable (just very very long). The in-flight entertainment was great, the food perfectly fine, the halfway stop in Accra (in the middle of the night) uneventful, and I comfortably passed the time flitting between sleeping, eating, listening to music and discovering new movies.

We touched down at Dulles International Airport outside Washington D.C. (it is technically in Virginia) around 06:30 in the morning, just in time to watch a beautiful sunrise break over the airport. After catching one of their strange little 80’s sci-fi inspired shuttles to get from plane to terminal, I successfully navigated my way through customs (no issues whatsoever), collected my bags and strolled through the doors into the land of the free – only to immediately turn around and head back inside because I urgently needed their Wi-Fi in order to sort out my SuperShuttle shared ride to the hotel. (The delay had meant that I had missed my pre-booked pickup).

Anyway, the friendly onsite SuperShuttle staff sorted me out, I jumped into the shared van when it eventually rocked up, and then drove in awe all the way to Washington D.C. making sure to take in the sights, sounds, and gorgeous flame coloured trees around us.

Of course, this is Washington D.C. so I was a little kid with excitement when the first views of all the famous monuments started shifting into sight and by the time we pulled up at the front door of the hotel, I was probably a bit of a bubbling idiot. What can I say, cityscapes excite me!

Talking about the hotel, Rory had picked up a pretty good one location-wise for my first ever trip to Washington D.C., placing me right in the middle of Downtown/Chinatown area, with easy access to all the main tourist hotspots.

Despite its clunky moniker, the Hampton Inn Washington-Downtown-Convention Center, a member of the Hilton hotel group, was comfortable enough, had good amenities, and served a nice breakfast. If anything, it does suffer a bit from a lot of siren noise (especially at night), but seeing as I sleep like a log, this wasn’t something that bothered me in the slightest. All in all a good stay and also a perfect base from which to explore the city of Washington D.C. on foot!

USA 2019: Capitol, Coast, and Desert My Life 24 OCT 2019

I’ve only ever left our continent twice before. In 2014 I was fortunate in joining my brother for an indescribably enjoyable trip to Japan, and in 2016 Touchwork sent me over to the USA on the most wonderful business/sightseeing trip that saw me spend time in both Anaheim and San Diego. Excitingly, in a few hours time, I’ll be embarking on my third ever overseas trip – it’s USA round 2!

I have mentioned before that a large portion of Touchwork’s business is in the United States, in particular in the higher education institution auxiliary services realm. To that extent, our US team tends to exhibit at related expos all year round, and as such, for this particular upcoming expo, I was asked if I wanted to join the team and then also deliver some Kinetica system training while I’m at it. Naturally, I JUMPED at the opportunity!

The event in question is the NACAS C3X 2019 Conference and Expo, which is being held in Phoenix Arizona. Before that though, I get to spend some time to do training and sightseeing with the guys in San Diego, and right at the start of it all, I’ve been gifted with a handful of days to play tourist in Washington D.C. – Lincoln Memorial, here I come!

I am of course beyond excited. 3 days in Washington D.C., 5 days in San Diego, and 3 days in Phoenix! I am away from home for about 14 days in total (sorry Chantelle), leaving on the 24th of October and only returning at midnight on the 7th of November, i.e. the date of my 10 year wedding anniversary (again, sorry my love!). Also, if you do the maths, then you’ll realize that I’m in transit for about 3 days. Can’t say I’m looking forward to ALL 52 hours or so that I’m going to be up in the air!

On the travel front I am flying out from Cape Town to Johannesburg and then from Johannesburg to Washington D.C. on SAA. From Washington D.C. I jump to San Diego on Southwest (with a plane change in Atlanta), and from San Diego to Phoenix also via Southwest. Then from Phoenix it is a hop back to Washington D.C. (with a change at Chicago) on United, before I finally depart from Washington back to Johannesburg and then on to Cape Town via SAA.

At this rate I’m starting to feel like a seasoned traveller! My camera phone is charged, I’m chomping at the bit, and as per usual, the best place to follow my travels will be via Instagram (at @craiglotter). Looking forward to what should be an amazing experience! :D

USA 2016 – 29 Travelling Home to Cape Town from Los Angeles via Dubai (2016-07-20) Photo Gallery 15 AUG 2018

And then it was time to go home. A Los Angeles departure via the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX, a seemingly endless long flight aboard the comfortable Airbus of Emirates, an overnight stay in the hotel at Dubai International Airport, another long flight down to Cape Town, and being welcomed home by Chantelle and the girls.

Honestly, I have no idea why I put off sorting through and posting all the content from my USA work trip for over two years now, but I think that I was simply overwhelmed by just how much content I had managed to generate over the course of ten short days. This was after all a work trip, but somehow ended up being the most fantastic tourist adventure as well (which I can only thank my two US colleagues Johann and Carl ever so much for).

Anaheim, Disneyland, NACUFS ’16, Angel Stadium, The Queen Mary, Venice Beach, Disney California Adventure Park, San Diego, Sabre Springs, La Jolla, The Torrey Pines Gliderport, Del Mar, Cabrillo National Monument, USS Midway, Embarcadero, Shogun Kobe, Old Town Trolley Tours, Old Town San Diego, Hotel Del Coronado, Balboa Park, San Diego Zoo – I mean, what more could one ask for?

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All in all USA #2016 was an absolute personal delight, and I hope that maybe some of all this personal record keeping might just be a spark of travel inspiration for you in the future. Happy travels.

Related Link: Los Angeles International Airport | Dubai International Airport | Cape Town International Airport#USA2016

USA 2016 – 28 Exploring the iconic San Diego Zoo (2016-07-19) Nature and Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 12 AUG 2018

The San Diego Zoo is an iconic, award-winning, world famous zoo. Established in 1916, situated in the mesmerizing Balboa Park and home to over 3,700 animals of more than 650 species and subspecies, the zoo is also known for having one of the largest zoological membership associations in the world – almost a half million people! It was also the primary pioneer in the concept of open-air, cageless zoo exhibits (that simulate natural animal habitats) – much like you would find in our very own National Zoological Gardens of South Africa, aka Pretoria Zoo.

Having originally grown out of the abandoned exotic animal exhibitions of the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, these days the San Diego Zoo sprawls across an area covering 40 hectares (about half of Pretoria Zoo’s size) of Balboa Park, and is jam packed with the  most remarkable, carefully crafted and maintained enclosures, exhibits, walkways and gardens.

As an addition to exploring the park on foot, the zoo also offers a pretty neat, open air guided bus tour that traverses about 75% of the park, as well the Skyfari – an overhead gondola lift that gives you an aerial view of the park down below.

The exhibits are all designed around particular habitats, which then groups together animals that tend to be found side-by-side in the wild, usually alongside with that habitat’s native plant life. For example, there were the gorillas in an African rain forest, polar bears in the Arctic taiga and tundra, and elephants and giraffes on dusty African plains.

Massive free-flight aviaries are littered about, and on top of all that, the zoo also maintains its grounds as an arboretum, with a botanical collection that includes more than 700,000 exotic plants!

The animals, the crafted environment, all of it just comes together to form an absolutely breathtaking zoo experience, a place where you can happily spend pretty much an entire day (which essentially I did) moving through the various habitats and exploring all the nooks and crannies of this wondrous zoo.

So a quick rundown of the current exhibits then: Monkey Trails and Forest Tales (monkeys and other animals from the rainforests of Asia and Africa), Owens Aviary and Scripps Aviary (tropical and local birdlife), Panda Canyon (pandas, takins and snow leopards from China), Urban Jungle (giraffes, gazelles, cheetahs and Indian rhinos), Polar Bear Plunge (polar bears, reindeer and foxes of the Arctic), Discovery Output (lizards, snakes, turtles and frogs), Ituri Forest (okapi, duikers and hippos from the rainforests of central Africa), Elephant Odyssey (elephants, lions and jaguars), Gorilla Tropics (gorillas!), Absolutely Apes (orangutans and siamangs), Sun Bear Forest (Bornean sun bears, macaques and silvery lutung monkeys), Tiger Rivers (tigers and gharials of Malaysia), Outback (koalas, wombats and tasmanian devils), and the newly opened African Rocks – which unfortunately was still being built when I was there but which is a massive new addition to the zoo, featuring a variety of distinct African biospheres and the animals that they contain.

While not a massive fan of zoos or aviaries in general, I do understand the need for zoos and enjoy zoos which are really well put together – and in that regard the well financed San Diego definitely does not disappoint. Everything is colourful, the grounds are immaculate, the animals are all well looked after, and as a bonus, I saw loads of creatures that I would almost assuredly never encounter back here in South Africa.

A thoroughly enjoyable visit then, and just as it had been with my visit to Disneyland, I kind of really wished that I had my girls with me in order to show them around this remarkable space!

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(Remember how I said that my phone was charging hence the distinct lack of photos of Balboa Park in general? Yeah well, I took a LOT of photos in the zoo!)

Related Link: San Diego Zoo | Wikipedia | Balboa Park | San Diego | #USA2016

USA 2016 – 27 Balboa Park in San Diego (2016-07-19) Historic Attractions | Photo Gallery 09 AUG 2018

San Diego’s Balboa Park is just an absolutely amazing attraction. Honestly, even if you had a month dedicated to exploring every nook and cranny of this world of wonder, it still wouldn’t be enough. Home to 16 museums, 17 recognized gardens, a host of theaters and other attractions, and of course 1 world famous zoo, Balboa Park stands tall as something that any other city in the world would proudly lay claim to.

Spanning a massive 1,200 acres of land, the rectangular-shaped Balboa Park was established in 1868 (then sized at 1,400 acres and known as “City Park”), marking San Diego as having been the second city in the United States to dedicate such a large park for public use (following New York City’s 1858 establishment of Central Park).

Originally a scrub-filled mesa, Balboa Park sat for 20 years without any formal landscaping or development taking place – it was only once botanist, horticulturalist and landscape architect Kate Sessions became involved that the park’s real beautification started.

This was accelerated in 1903 and once a city tax was levied in 1905, water systems, paths, and roads started to make their appearance, and in 1910 (with the prestigious 1915 Panama-California Exposition looming large for surprise host city San Diego) City Park was renamed to the more memorable Balboa Park – chosen in honour of Spanish-born Vasco Nunez de Balboa, the first European to cross Central America and see the Pacific Ocean.

The 1915-16 exposition itself (which commemorated the opening of the Panama Canal), as well as the later 1935-36 California Pacific International Exposition, provided a major impetus for the creation of the Park as it appears today. Many of the cultural institutions as well as stunning Spanish-Renaissance style architecture were introduced as part of these expos.

In terms of museums, Balboa Park simply can’t be beat, housing the likes of the Mingei International Museum, Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego Air & Space Museum, San Diego Art Institute, San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego Museum of Man, San Diego Natural History Museum, Timken Museum of Art, and keeping with San Diego’s strong ties to the U.S. Navy, the Veterans Museum and Memorial Center.

Then there is an as ridiculously long list of named gardens also to be found in Balboa Park, like the Alcazar Garden, Australian Garden, Botanical Building, Casa del Rey Moro Garden, Florida Canyon Native Plant Preserve, Marston House Garden, Lily Pond, Palm Canyon, Trees for Health Garden, Veterans Memorial Garden, Zoro Garden, and the Japanese Friendship Garden.

As if that is already not enough natural beauty, history and culture to take in, Balboa Park further ups the ante with attractions like the vintage Balboa Park Carousel, Balboa Park Miniature Railroad, Balboa Stadium, Casa del Prado (home of San Diego Youth Symphony), House of Pacific Relations International Cottages, Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater, Old Globe Theatre, San Diego Junior Theatre, San Diego Mineral and Gem Society, Spanish Village Art Center, Spreckels Organ Pavilion, Starlight Bowl, and the WorldBeat Cultural Center.

Then there is of course the world famous San Diego Zoo. (Which I naturally spent WAY too much time wandering about in!)

Johann and I started and ended our tour of San Diego aboard the excellent Old Town Trolley Tours bus in Balboa Park, but due entirely to time constraints, I sadly only got the smallest of tastes of this remarkable wonderland. Also, my phone was busy charging, meaning that instead of the usual gigantic image gallery that I should be posting here, this is all I have in my photos folder:

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As I mentioned at the start of the post – you probably need at least a month to do this amazing creation justice in terms of exploring all of the cultural and historic riches on offer, and that said, honestly, it really isn’t that hard to understand just why Balboa Park is by far San Diego’s largest tourist attraction.

Related Link: Balboa Park | Wikipedia | San Diego | #USA2016

USA 2016 – 26 The Historic Hotel Del Coronado (2016-07-19) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 06 AUG 2018

Continuing the day’s San Diego exploration aboard the Old Town Trolley Tours buses, we next crossed over the magnificent San Diego-Coronado Bridge and headed into the small resort city of Coronado, literally a stone’s throw across the bay from San Diego. Our goal? To catch a glimpse of the iconic Hotel del Coronado!

Opened in 1888, the Hotel del Coronado (otherwise known as The Del or Hotel Del) is one of the few surviving examples of an American architectural genre: the wooden Victorian beach resort. When it originally opened it was the largest resort hotel in the world, and is in fact still the second largest wooden structure in the United States.

The hotel has received many awards and sparking ratings over its lifetime, and as such has hosted presidents, royalty, and celebrities, not to mention feature in numerous movies and books.

(Interestingly enough, it also introduced the world’s first electrically lit, outdoor living Christmas tree in 1904, having been one of the earliest buildings in the San Diego area to adopt the newly introduced technology of electricity).

The hotel is then very much as what you would expect it to be – very grand indeed. There is beautiful intricate woodwork everywhere, the place is awash with visitors and tourists alike, there is indoor shopping to be had, lawn and gardens to enjoy, the brilliant white sandy beach right out in front, and of course a sense of history that completely permeates the venue.

As such, given the hot weather, Johann and I naturally opted to grab a refreshingly cold beer from the sun deck, catch our breath and people watch.

Honestly, it is pretty easy to see just why this getaway is as popular as what it is.

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Hopping back on the bus, we got to learn a bit more about Coronado itself thanks to our knowledgeable guide, before heading back over the bridge and on towards our final stop, San Diego’s brilliant Balboa Park.

Related Link: Hotel Del Coronado | Wikipedia | Coronado | #USA2016

USA 2016 – 25 A Tourist in Old Town San Diego (2016-07-19) Historic Attractions | Photo Gallery 03 AUG 2018

Historically home to the Kumeyaay people, then visited by Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo in 1542 (and claimed for Spain), then settled in 1821 through the establishment of the Presidio and Mission San Diego de Alcalá (1769), then incorporated into Mexico (1821), and then finally part of the United States (1848) – basically put, San Diego has a fair bit of history behind it.

Our first hop off from the entertaining Old Town Trolley Tours Bus was in Old Town itself, or more specifically, in the Old Town San Diego Historic Park – a state protected historical park that commemorates the early days of the town of San Diego. Established in 1969 (and as of 2006 the most visited state park in California), Old Town San Diego State Historic Park is home to many historic buildings that date back to a period between 1820 and 1870.

(In case you are wondering, up until the 1860s, the Old Town area was the heart of San Diego, before it was all but abandoned in favour of concentrating activities at the site of present-day Downtown San Diego, primarily to be closer to the water and thus trade routes.)

The park preserves and recreates Old Town as it existed during the Mexican and early American periods, with five original adobes forming the heart of the complex – one of which being the Casa de Estudillo, which built in 1827 is one of the oldest surviving examples of Spanish architecture in California. It is also considered one of the finest houses in Mexican California.

Other historic buildings include a schoolhouse, a blacksmith shop, San Diego’s first newspaper office, a cigar and pipe store, houses and gardens, and a stable with a carriage collection.

In addition to all the period dress and demonstrations taking place, the park is filled with all manner of restaurants, shops and museums, with many skilled artisans setting up shop and applying their trade here.

In other words, the perfect tourist attraction.

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Johann and I spent a fair bit of time popping our heads in most of the museums on offer, before hopping back on the bus as it headed up through Downtown San Diego on its way over to the impressive Coronado Bridge…

Related Link: Old Town San Diego State Historic Park | Old Town | San Diego | #USA2016

USA 2016 – 24 Exploring San Diego on an Old Town Trolley Tours Bus (2016-07-19) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 31 JUL 2018

San Diego is a magnificent city. The history, the weather, the landscape – it is impossible to visit and not come back loving it. It is the second largest city in California, the eighth largest in the United States of America, and boasts a population of over 4,9 million people. The city is know for its mild year-round climate, natural deep-water harbour, multitude of beaches, long association with the United States Navy (the deep water harbour, remember), and these days, its role as somewhat of a healthcare and biotechnology development center.

Oh, and it happens to also host the world’s best Comic-con too.

One of the best ways of getting an overall look at the city, its history and layout is to jump on one of the many distinctive green and orange Old Town Trolley Tours’ hop on hop off busses, which is exactly what Johann and I did for my third day in the city.

The San Diego branch of Old Town Trolley Tours launched in 1989, and its (rather large) fleet of busses continuously operate on a 40 km loop that moves through 10 neighbourhoods with 10 destination stops.

We caught our first bus in the gorgeous Balboa Park, with our tour operator/driver being a an extremely enjoyable and amicable ex-policeman with a lot of great local stories to blend in with all the San Diego information being fed to us as we drove through Little Italy, headed towards the Old Town Market.

After a hop off and a bit of exploration there, we jumped back on a bus, this time heading down to the Embarcadero Marina, then Seaport Village and the Marriott Marquis and Marina. On to the Horton Plaza Park, through the revived Gaslamp Quarter, past the East Convention Center, Petco Park and Hilton Bayfront, and then over the bridge into Coronado.

After a nice refreshing drink and a bit of an exploration of the iconic Hotel del Coronado, we stepped back on a bus and rode it all the way up to our starting point back at Balboa Park.

Honestly, the entire experience was lovely. The entertaining guides were great with their local knowledge and the trip itself turned out to be a great way to see a large swathe of the city which I might not have otherwise had the chance to.

It genuinely is a pretty good way to get introduced to San Diego, and as such is a pretty easy recommendation for anyone visiting the “America’s finest City”.

As for the rest of the day? Well I was going to spend it at the zoo of course!

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(Oh, and if your teenage years were in the 90’s like me, then it is worth knowing that San Diego was also responsible for delivering to us both Tony Hawk and blink-182. An all important factoid if ever there was one!)

Related Link: Old Town Trolley Tours | San Diego | #USA2016