Thursday, May 31, 2012

Day 25 - 31st May 2012

Photograph 1 - Somewhere along coastal Long Island Sound, Connecticut, near New Haven.
Photograph 2 - A typical Long Island house near Stamford, Connecticut.
Photograph 3 - Somewhere just south of New York City in New Jersey - copying our beloved coat hanger.
Photograph 4 - Skyline of Philadelphia, from our Amtrak coach.
Photograph 5 - Washington DC is full of diversity - a gay bar & restuarant in Arlington.--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------We now have finshed our North-Eastern USA leg of our holiday. We are now back in Washington DC after an eight hour train journey from Boston. We left this olde city at 8:15am and we were sad to see Boston in our wake. The journey south followed the coastal states of Connecticut, Rhode Island (why they called it an island baffles us), New York State, New Jersey, Pennslyvannia, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. So far we have visited 12 states, one district and one Canadian Dominion (Ontario). We loved Boston with Washington DC coming in second as our best visit. New York City was okay but just to be there and see the popular sites was all it's worth - we wouldn't live there. We arrived in DC at 4:15pm and caught a cab to Arlington on the other side of the Potomac River, near the Pentagon and only 1.5 miles away from our vehicle pick-up tomorrow. We ventured nearby and found a hive of local bars and restaurants, including specific joints for the gay & lesbian types. It's freedom and diversity here in DC!!! Must be that constitutional right that every person has a right to bear arms!!!! (a sick joke - sorry, I'll have another beer and retract those words). We had a huge dinner nearby and just a small order turns out to be a feed for an army - nothing is small in the US. On the same note, to buy a small Zero Coke in the US you would receive a "bucket" 550ml bottle! Tomorrow we pick-up our Ford Mustang and head off south to the Confederate states of the Carolinas and Georgia. It will be interesting being on our own now and no tour guide to lead and drive us around. It should be fun. So....until Portsmouth VA - our next night...see yah.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Day 24 - 30th May 2012

Photograph 1 - Our first exposure to the famous Niagara Falls, from the Canadian side.
Photograph 2 - Approaching the Horseshoe Falls on the Maid of the Mist, Niagara Falls.
Photograph 3 - The Horseshoe Falls from the Maid of the Mist, Niagara Falls.
Photograph 4 - The Skylon Tower, Niagara Falls, on the Canadian side.
Photograph 5 - View of the American side and the border crossing from the Skylon Tower, Niagara Falls.
Photograph 6 - Panorama view of Niagara Falls from the Skylon Tower.
It's us having lunch in the Skylon Tower's revolving restuarant, Niagra Falls, Canadian side.
Photograph 8 - One last picture of Horseshoe Falls from the Skylon Tower.----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- We left Toronto at 6:15am and it took 90 mins to reach the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. Toronto is a huge city however I don't think we would ever want to go back. It was okay however we have seen all there's to see from our perspective. Definitely the highlight was the CN Tower. Now about Niagara Falls - it is magnificent. We had a crystal clear sky and from the Skylon Tower we could see as far as Toronto and Buffalo - many many miles away. As we have seen Iguazu Falls in South America between Brazil and Argentina back in 2010 - that particular falls is somewhat larger and supports much more water than Niagara Falls - we felt that Niagara Falls is too comercialised. There are casinos, Sky Towers, fun parks and everything that concrete can support around its perimeter - both on the American and Canadian side. For Iguazu Falls it still is in its pristine environment and one can appreciate the splendour. Nevertheless Niagara Falls is amazing. When we arrived we visited an Imax cinema and watched a historical 30min show about the Falls and then we tried to beat the crowds (bloody Japanese tourists) and boarded the Maid of the Mist that sails under the Horseshoe Falls. If you were not wearing the supplied poncho you get wet. After the boat ride we ascended the Skylon Tower and had an excellent lunch at their revolving restuarant. All these tourists sites are on the Canadian side. Our guide "Joe" arranged all this and is commended how he managed to allude the big crowds. As one could imagine as you can see in the above post we took many photographs. Note the clear and sunny day we experienced. We left Niagara Falls about 1230pm cross over to the American side and headed directly to Boston arriving at 8pm. The entire day's journey was over 800 klms - wow! We settled in to our hotel on Tremont Street, had a meal at our favourite restuarant Max & Dylans (for Clam Chowder) and prepared for our train trip back to Washington DC tomorrow. We enjoyed Boston and highly recommend to any Ozzies who is going to the eastern side of the US to visit this excellent city. Cheers for now.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Day 23 - 29th May 2012

Photograph 1 - Looking through the "glass" down to ground level from the top of the CN Toronto Tower.
Photograph 2 - View of Toronto from the top of the CN Tower.
Photograph 3 - Panorama view of Toronto from the Lake Ontario boat cruise.
Photograph 4 - Another "normal" view of Toronto from Lake Ontario.
Photograph 5 - The "tour group" in front of the Old Town Hall Building, Toronto.
Photograph 6 - Casa Loma Castle, Toronto - owned by Sir Henry Mill Pellatt - who's he you may ask?------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Our second day of the tour and we picked the tourist bones out of Toronto. We can't say that Toronto is a great place - different - the Kanuks here do have that French influence and have different personalities compared to the Americans nearby. We climbed the worlds tallest tower - the CN tower and up on top there is a glass pathway to stand on with nothing but a five hundred plus metres drop to the ground. If one is afraid of heights, this is not the place to be. Commanding views of Toronto and Lake Ontario can be seen. Next was a boat ride around the islands of Toronto - quite pleasant just relaxing and enjoying the lakeside scene of Toronto. Next was a visit to the Old Toronto Town Hall Building. There was a pack of senior high school students who were dressed up in almost a tuxedo-style attire. It was obvious that they were wearing a selective school uniform that designates an upperclass institution. As we were taking photos of a magnificent chandelier from the entrance into the building these students were nearby, but one very assertive and weird teacher came to us and emphatically told us not to take a photo of her students - the impudence suggesting that if we wanted to take a photo of her flock was offensive needed no explanation. People around thought that this was a fine example of snobbery. It did spoil a good moment. After that we visited and toured Casa Loma Castle - a structure built by a Toronto famous Major-General Sir Henry Mills Pellatt. He was a hero back in the late 1800's and early 1900's. An instigator of the hydro-electric scheme of Niagara Falls and went broke during the Great Depression. A WW1 hero and his castle exceeds the opulence one would think from a retired Army General. For dinner we travelled to a suburb of Toronto called Pacific Fair. This shopping mall was a Chinese Outlet with a Chinese Food Court - again surprise surprise! Imagine coming all this way to enjoy Chinese food in Canada!! It was a good thing because Anne found an excellent ballroom dance shop with lots and lots of dance shoes - some almost fitting her - so she'd bought a pair for $70 CND and hopefully can be made to fit when back in Oz. Tomorrow is our Niagara Falls visit and a long drive back to Boston - a 10 hour drive. So until then - cheers.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Day 22 - 28th May 2012

Photograph 1 - Crossing over from the US into Canada - the bridge that spans the St Lawarence River,
Photograph 2 - One of the 1000+ Island homes on the St Lawrence River - near Lake Ontario, Canada.
Photograph 3 - The "Granny Flat" on Mr Boldt's island recluse , 1000 Island Ontario, Canada.
Photograph 4 - The main Boldt Mansion, 1000 Island Ontario, Canada.
Photograph 5 - Entering Toronto, Canada - a 14 lane expressway - something Sydney should have!!!!-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Just a short burst as we are - basically - on the road. We left Boston at 6:45am with our tour company, which happens to be a Chinese company. We have 9 other passengers, a Hong Kong couple, three Greek student males and four Philippino Americans. They are great people. Our driver is a PR of China born national and been in the US since he was 5yo. He is okay, never meet Ozzies before we are teaching the fine art of Oz lingo (she'll be right mate!!!) The journey today was about 800 klms crossing Massachusetts, New York state and onto the border with Canada at 1000 Island. We took a boat cruise for one hour sailing around the many opulent homes on individual islands - luxury ay? One island was owned by a Mt Boldt who was the founder of the Waldolf-Astoria chain and build this palace for his wife back in the early 1900's. She didn't see it as she died at age 41 from a heart attack. It devastated Boldt and he sold the island property when it finished. The above pictures show the beauty of this structure on a piece of island rock. From 1000 Island we travelled fast to Toronto arriving about 8pm - had a Chinese dinner - surprise, surprise!!! and made it to our accommodation at 9:30pm - after a very long day. Well, tomorrow we will be picking the tourist guts out of Toronto - the CN Tower comes to mind - and staying in Toronto for a second night. The following day will be Niagara Falls. On a final note, we have never seen anything like the expressways that enter Toronto - fast and efficient. Until next time cheers.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Day 21 - 27th May 2012

Photograph 1 - Boston State House - next to the Boston Common.
Photograph 2 - Sitting at the Boston bar where Good Will Hunting actors sat - Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.
Photograph 3 - Boston on a clear day - not far from where the Boston Tea Party happened.
Photograph 4 - Our Boston DUKW (Duck) vehicle - travels on land and in water - a great way to see Boston.
Photograph 5 - Trinity Church - one of Boston's most prized buildings.
Photograph 6 - Boston Downtown from the Public Botanical Gardens.
Photograph 7 - In front of Cheers - where's Sam Malone and Norm???------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ It was a good time to sleep in this morning and woke to a beautiful Boston morning. We arranged a light breakfast from a convenience store and sat in the Boston Common waiting for our 11am Movie and TV Tour of Boston. This tour took three hours and visited many sights of American TV locations we have not heard about. Only the TV series Cheers was recognised and two movies: Good Will Hunting and The Departed. There were others however we have or had never seen the shows or movies. The highlight was Cheers. The front entrance s actually what it is in the show....but...once inside there is no similarity to the bar that was in the show. In fact it was done with a live audience in LA! Not to miss out on additional income the hotel next door have their bar done out like the one in the TV series. We finished our tour at 2pm and taxied to our next experience - the Boston Duck tour. What a great way to see Boston - from land and water in an old WW2 amphibious machine. This took 90mins and well worth the dollars spent. We saw most of the historical areas and seen Boston from Charles River. What made it even special it was on a clear day and therefore memorable. Because it was such a warm and clear day (the sun sets at 8pm here in Boston at this time of the year) we walked back through the Botanical Gardens and Boston Common. In was in the later we saw over 35,000 small US flags in preparation for Memorial Day tomorrow. These flags represent the amount of Massachusetts servicepeople who died between the American Civil War and today. We had dinner at the same restuarant as last night - we can't beat the Clam Chowder and......lo and behold...... Anne did some shopping at Macy's. Tomorrow we start our three day bus tour of Niagara Falls and Toronto. This was arranged by a tour group and we may not have access to the Internet. If not we'll place all the niceties and stories on our return to Boston on 30 May. Until next time - cheers - still can't find Sam Malone in Boston!!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Day 20 - 26th May 2012

Photograph 1 - Our helicopter at Pier 6 Manhattan NYC - a clear perfect morning.
Photograph 2 - The Statue of Liberty from our helicopter.
Photograph 3 - Manhattan skyline from our helicopter - note the new tall WTC building on the left - soon to reach 1776 feet.
Photograph 4 - Washington Street Boston.
Photograph 5 - Boston Common, near our hotel.---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------We are now in Boston MA and a wonderful city it is. Also it is good to be on the hotel's WiFi network which works quickly and without annoying drop outs like we experienced back in Abingdon Guest House NYC. This morning we took the subway to the Heliport and thankfully it was a beautiful morning. Only the usual light smog. It was one of the best days NYC could offer. Anne rode co-pilot for our 25 minute ride whilst poor Neil rode shotgun in the centre with four other passengers. Well..Anne had the best view and snapped many pictures. The chopper flew over Brooklyn Bridge up and around Varrazano Narrows Bridge, Statue Of Liberty, Ellis Island and up the Hudson River to the new Yankee Stadium. Back down the Hudson with fine views of the USS Intrepid (there is a Concorde and a SR71 on its deck) and around Battery Park. As said Anne had the best views and her second ride in one of these machines has convinced her that is the way to go. After our ride was a subway back to the accommodation and deposit the keys. We taxied to Penn Street Amtrak Railway Station. The weather was great in fact quite warm. The train to Boston took 5.5 hours and passed the Long Island Sound through Connecticut and Rhode Island. The scenery was all coastal and the houses are designed like those New England houses you see on documentaries, movies etc. We arrived in Boston and found the city completely bussle free (not like frantic New York). The city is clean and has a unique character. We did have a problem with our hotel on arrival. Apparently there was no room for us. They had allowed the guest the night before to remain after check-out. We had booked this hotel back in February, paid for it on-line and even rang to confirm our arrival in NYC yesterday. They did offer us another accommodation 4 miles away which we vehently turned down. After 20 mins or so they did find us a room which was completely inferior to what we paid for. Apparently the hotel is booked out because of the Memorial holiday weekend and other events that's going on. Well....we asked for the manager and when he saw us he wholeheartedly apologised and gave us a great room with city views almost to the top of the building. In view of our frustrating time he gave us free WiFi!!! After we settled in we wandered around the streets ........ Anne bought some more clothes and we had a great dinner at Max & Dylans. It was the best Clam Chowder and seafood we've had in a long while. Tomorrow we are off on two Boston tours - one to show us around TV and Movie locations (not again!!!) and a city tour by DUCK (an amphibian WW2 vessel). Until then cheers.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Day 19 - 25th May 2012

Photograph 1 - Washington Monument. Location where they filmed I Am Legend.
Photograph 2 - Us at the front door where Will Smith departs in I Am Legend, Washington Monument NYC.
Photograph 3 - Us in front of the Ghostbusters (Tribeca) Fire Station door, NYC.
Photograph 4 - The TV Series "Friends" house in the West Village (a few blocks from our accommodation).
Photograph 5 - One of the many shots taken from the top of The Empire State Building NYC.
Photograph 6 - Panoramic shot from the ESB looking south towards downtown. Double click on the image to see a larger picture.
Photograph 7 - Yet another picture from the top of the Empire State Building.------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- We woke this morning to a better day. It is about 24 deg C here in NYC and this morning it is not raining. In fact the annoying clouds disappeared about noon. What did we do today - well we had a New York City Movie and TV tour, We caught the subway (we feel that we are expects in the art of navigating and catching NYC subways by now) to 50th Street and had a quick breakfast in Ellen's Diner. It is here that promising young singers wait on tables and sing at the same time. Most are performers at the local Broadway theatres nearby. It was an experience eating bagels and listerning to fine voices, but, tips are the go here. Just outside the Diner was our tour bus for our three and a half hour tour- oh yes, our guide Rosanna (a Pueto Rican decendant) is a singer and actor who caresed us with her good singing voice and narratives of movie/TV knowledge/trivia around NYC. She was great. There are so many locations where movies and TV were made around the city. To mention the important ones are: I Am legend, Breakfast At Tiffany's, An Affair To Remember, Sleepless In Seattle, When Sally Met Harry, Wall Street, Ghostbusters, Superman, Spiderman, Batman series, Men In Black, Crocodile Dundee and numerous amount of "chick flicks". For TV there is Seinfeld (we were given as a treat - a black and white cookie for nostagia), Friends and other American TV series that we can't remember back in Oz. We saw previews of the newly released MIB III with scenes that were shot. The tour was okay but how passionate was the tour guide? She knew everything about NYC locations - a form of Bill Collins in New York. The highlight of the tour was the location of the building where Freinds resided. Amazingly it is only a few blocks away from our accommodation. We also visited Tribeca. This is where the rich and famous live from show biz including Robert De Niro, Sarah Jessica Parker, Beyonce and David Swimmer Two passengers believed they saw David Swimmer in nearby Soho - the credibilty of the sighting is dubious. We were disembarked at 34th Street and treked to the Empire State Building at 2:30pm. To set the scene we had arranged and paid for Express/VIP front-of-the-line tickets to ascend the Empire State Building to use in our own time. Now remember the weather, yesterday it was pouring with rain and the this afternoon it cleared with promising good views. Well every man, women and dog wanted to climb the ESB during this excellent opportunity. The line at the entrance was atrocious. However, as we had great tickets we made it to the top within ten minutes to the angst of many people who were frustrated with their slow progress - it would have taken them at least two hours to reach the top. The moral of this story - buy prepaided VIP tickets and avoid the frustration - it was one of the best things we did before our holiday. The views from the 86th floor is fantastic. The attached photographs shows the commanding views of NYC top of the world. One cannot put in words the view from the top. Oh by the way we did not see Tom Hanks or Cary Grant - as in Sleepless In Seattle or An Affair To Remember - we only saw a few thousand visitors on that day. After spending aboutt 30 mins up in the sky we ascended and bypassed the other thousand or so trying to get down. After this visit we walked along 34th Street and had a couple of cocktails at a diner before returning to our accomodation. Tomorrow we hope the weather will be still clear for our helicopter ride. Cheers.

Day 18 - 24th May 2012

Photograph 1 - The famous or infamous NYSE (New York Stock Exchange) on Wall Street NYC.
Photograph 2 - South Tower Footprint, World Trade Centre Memorial Site NYC (not Ground Zero anymore).
Photograph 3 - North Tower Footprint, World Trade Centre Memorial, NYC.
Photograph 4 - Dakota Appartment entrance, next to Grand Central Park. This is the site where John Lennon was murdered.
Photograph 5 - The tall but not the tallest Rockafellow Building NYC. The first TV broadcast was televised here.
Photograph 6 - The famous Flatiron Building NYC. The city's first skyscraper back in c1902.
Photograph 7 - Yummy food at the South Street Pier food court Financial District NTC.
Photograp 8 - Brooklyn Bridge from our boat cruise NYC.
Photograph 9 - The Manhattan Skyline from boat cruise looking towards where the two World Trade Centre buidlings were.
Photograph 10 - Guess who?? With the famous lady.
Photograph 11 - The Manhattan Skyline taken from our boat cruise looking towards Battery Point.-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------This a belated narrative because our accommodation does have a WiFi but its ability to allow me to access the internet was woeful. I only had about ten minutes of exposure time then a wait of several hours before I had another ten minutes to access the systen. Now I'm writing this two days later from the Amtrak journey from NYC to Boston. What I remember was - The weather was terrible. It drizzled in the early hours followed by torrential rain through most of the day - we got wet!!! We took a chance and made it to the Manhattan Heliport on Pier 6 to see if our helicopter ride over Manhattan was feasible - not a chance - it was sooooo foggy and couldn't see the tops of most buildings including the short ones. We did arrange to postpone the ride for two days (Saturday) time. What did we do next - we walked along the financial district and saw the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on Wall Street and where George Washington was inaugurated (remember when he became the first President New York City was the capitol). From Wall Street (yes the infamous Wall Street) we walked to the site of the World Trade Centre. It is now called 9/11 Memorial Site (not Ground Zero) The Memeorial site is completely enclosed and visitors must obtain tickets from the temporary museum a few blocks away. These tickets are free. This is what we did and after going through a heavy security check (remove belts and all things metallic) we entered the site. What they have done is made two holes where the two buildings were and created a 30 foot waterfall pouring over each hole on all sides. In the centre of each footprint is another 30 foot hole to let the water go underground. Along the sides are all the names of victims. As one can imagine each "building" footprint is huge. It was so emotional one cannot stop and think how terrifying it was on the day. There is now a building where WTC 7 once stood and a new building has emerged. It will be 1776 feet tall - remember the date of the American Revolution? This building has now reached the highest building in NYC and surpasses the Empire State Building. We found out that there were ten buildings that collapsed on 9/11. We were deep in thought when the rain fell - sorry the sky opened up and we were drenched - even with our raincoats on. After a short period when the rain did abate we managed to catch the subway back to our accommodation for a change of clothes. From our accommodation we quickly grabbed a cab to 50th Street to commence our 5.5 hour city tour. We made it by 5 minutes. Our tour guide whose name is "Bronx" Jim is an actor, ventriloquist and basically a funny person. He kept us laughing the entire tour. He bags out New Jersey and loves NYC - he was born and bred here. We visited 5th Avenue, Rockefeller Building, Flatiron Buidling, Grand Central Park and amazingly the Dakota Apartments where John Lennon was murdered. The weather by this time had abated but did not give us much trouble. After going through midtown we bused it to Pier 23 to board a tour boat. This was the highlight of the tour - we sailed under the Brooklyn Bridge, circled around The Statue Of Liberty, passed the WTC site from the Hudson River. The weather gave has some clarity of the Manhattan skyline however the grey skies made some fabulous pictures. When we disembarked from the boat we continued on into Wall Street. Remember we were there this morning, this time our guide gave us some historical and interesting stories including a terrorist attack back in 1920. Apparently there was a bomb planted from a horse carriage that tried to destoy the Trump Building and many people - we felt sorry for the horse! The legacy of this building are deep holes on the outside of the building - amazing. From Wall and Broad Streets we ventured to the WTC site. This time we tried to see this from the outside. Basically nothing can be seen and we were glad we saw this earlier on. After the tour we were deposited back at 50th Street and caught the subway back to West Village (Christopher Steet Station on the A Line) We now believe we were experts in the art of using NYC's subways and navigating down the myriads of confusing streets. We had dinner at a West Village restuarant and Anne had a lucky escape in eating some soup. As some know she cannot have onions and after being explicitly told there were none in the soup she ordered she found plenty. Needless to say the busboy did not receive any tips. That's all I can remember and cheers to all.