We thought it would be kind of nice to venture out on to the Pacific Ocean, rather than just look at it from the shore, so we investigated our options. The Channel Islands seemed like a pretty manageable trip, even with a one-year-old, so we booked a boat and hoped for fine weather. The Channel Islands National Park encompasses five islands and the ocean around them, just off the coast of California. Like many islands, they have some pretty incredible biodiversity, with many unique plants and animals. It would have been great to stop off and see it close up, but actually staying on the island entails taking everything you might want with you. With a toddler this always seems to involve everything bar the kitchen sink (actually, that could be handy too), so we decided to stick to the wildlife tour boat.
|Dolphins and birds following the boat|
|The rock of Anacapa Island is liberally coated in guano|
|Sea arch and pillar behind, on Anacapa Island|
Graham enjoyed the scenery somewhat more than I, as, despite calm seas, I rapidly discovered that I get seasick! I spent most of the three hour trip staring fixedly at the horizon and trying to persuade Toby that butting his head into my tummy wasn't the best thing to do right now. He didn't seem affected by the motion, fortunately, and enjoyed splashing through the waves. All that sea air tired him out, though!
|Tired baby and mother|
So that was the little boat. The big boat really was at the other end of the scale! For our final two nights in California we had got a good deal to stay on the Queen Mary, a 1930s cruise ship now permanently docked in Long Beach. I have to say we were beginning to wonder about the wisdom of it - it would be our fourth lodging that holiday and offered none of the conveniences of your average cheapo Best Western. No fridge, free breakfast, free wi-fi or free parking, and a suggestion that the room would be tiny. Would we survive?
|No, that's not a giant sun behind the Queen Mary, it's a dome which used to house the Spruce Goose flying boat.|
|On British territory (or at least British-built!)|
|OK, so we had the car park view, but still - a porthole!|
Best of all, we had free rein to roam about all of the ship's public areas. We happily explored from the heights of the bridge to the depths of the engine room, walking the long corridors which felt like being inside a hall of mirrors, pressing buttons in the walnut-paneled elevators, and imagining ourselves relaxing on the sun deck with no land in sight. After my seasickness, though, you can imagine I was glad to remain firmly moored to terra firma!
|One of the grand reception rooms|
|Long Beach lights from the Queen Mary|
|In the engine room. Graham said it was a lot more complicated than a modern aero engine, because it was so many separate systems.|