Friday, September 30, 2011

New York

We've had one day to discover New York so we started early by hopping on the 'hop on/hop off' bus and got off at the Empire State Building.  We wanted to see NY from the best vantage point and this was it.  We endured a sensurround Imax movie of a helicopter flight over the city.  I was hoping that whoever was sitting behind me didn't throw up over my shoulder as there was lots of swooping and swerving as we saw the city from above.  Then it was up to the 86th floor for the view - it was smoggy so not a good viewing day but at least we could say we had done it.  Then back on the bus till we hopped off at Central Park - another of the places we wanted to see before we crossed the road to FAO Swartz Toy Store - mind blowing shop the likes of which I've not seen.  Very child friendly and toys which we just don't see in Oz.  We had to say we'd walked through Central Park so headed down a track for a short distance before making our way to the bus again to get back to our hotel and drop off our purchases.  The last on our checklist was to visit Grand Central Station so we caught a cab which got us there quicker than the bus. The Vanderbilts weren't holding back on finances when they built this.  It's awesome!  Took heaps of photos which are still on the camera because we had a setback when we returned to the hotel and Paddy discovered that her passport and money which we had with us when we  paid the cab had disappeared by the time we got to the hotel room.  Whether she left it in the cab or someone pinched it from her backpack/purse we're not sure, but we've done all we can at present and tomorrow will be a busy day as we've got to go to the Aussie Embassy, then the police then back to the embassy where they will hopefully issue her with another passport so we can board the ship for our cruise.  Put a damper on what had been a good day.  

See how close we are to Times Square - this is from the outside of our hotel. 
The Empire State Building is swathed in cloud it's so high up there.
We were like a couple of school girls when we saw the view from our hotel room on the 15th floor.
The traffic consists mainly of Yellow Cabs as only 30% of New Yorkers own cars

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Washington DC to New York

Busy couple of days.  Enjoyed Washington immensely as there was just so much to see and it was hard enough to know where to start.  Had a guided tour in the morning visiting all the well known spots - the White House from a distance, The Lincoln Memorial, Arlington Cemetery and the list goes on.  Took heaps of photos and at the end of the tour we were dropped at the Smithsonian Institute which is really a mall about 2km long where all the Museums under the wing of the Smithsonian are located.  We walked for what seemed like miles and were pretty footsore at the end of looking through the museums, but what a great afternoon.  After dinner we took another guided tour to see the city by night and even did a drive by (in this country you need to be careful when you say a 'drive by') the Pentagon and while we could hardly see the building, our guide pointed out where the plane hit on 9/11.

Arlington Cemetery was very moving.  The grounds are beautiful 
The memorial built to commemorate the soldiers of the  Korean War
The Capitol Building where the Congressmen and Senators make the important decisions for this country
We found the lunar landing machine in the Aeronautical and Space Museum in the Smithsonian
Left this morning headed for the Big Apple via Philadelphia where we had another guided tour.  My mind is now full of lots of trivia from the info we've had thrown at us during these tours - anyone for Trivial Pursuit?  Then it took about 2 hours till we hit the traffic into the city.  It was pretty exciting to see the skyline as we approached and we were dropped at our hotel in Times Square.  It's like you see on movies but the streets are not as wide as they appear so it's easy enough to cross and you just have to push through everybody as it seems to be wall to wall people.  We're on the 15th floor of our hotel and look over the street where you buy cheap tickets to see the Broadway shows so there's heaps of billboards and bright lights everywhere.  So far it's good fun, we'll see what tomorrow brings.  Haven't downloaded my New York photos yet so will include a few next time I'm online.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Lancaster, Philadelphia to Washington DC

Well tonight we're sleeping just down the street from Barak and Michelle though I don't think we'll be doing coffee in the morning with them.  It's been an interesting and educational day as we've spent a good portion travelling within the Amish country which is extremely pretty farmland.  We visited two farms whose Amish owners have opened up to tourists and had lunch in (wait for it) the town of Intercourse.  I've never heard of this town but apparently it's quite famous around the world (don't know whether they mean the town or the act).  The Amish community are very different but the people we met were quite open about their lives and the community so we enjoyed the education.  Their children are only educated up till Grade 8 and then work with their families until they are baptised when they decide whether they want to stay with this life they know, and their life has very definite male and female roles.  Their families are quite large as they don't really practice contraception and some families have up to 13 or more children (gasp!)  We were asked to respect the fact that they are camera shy and don't like to have cameras in their face, but were able to take photos of their farms and homes.  Just a couple of photos follow.  Tomorrow we tour Washington.  That's it for tonight.  
This fellow is hitching up the trailer load of hay and the horses will pull it back to the barn - no tractors here
A picture just doesn't do the scene justice - it was just so pretty
Don't waste anything - another use for old shoes.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Eastern Canada - Niagara Falls to Lancaster Pa.

Yesterday we travelled from Ottawa through Niagara on the Lake (beautiful spot), then took a helicopter flight over Niagara Falls which was a buzz, before ending the day in the honeymoon capital Niagara Falls.  Niagara on the Lake was extremely pretty and very historic with little boutiques throughout the main street, lovely gardens and a lovely old hotel - The Prince of Wales which was built in the late 1890's and retains the elegance of those times with beautiful decor and furnishings and we spent some time just taking in the ambience while we enjoyed a cappucino and biscotti.
The elegant Prince of Wales Hotel
Paddy takes coffee in the elegant setting of the Prince of Wales Hotel
The unique door handles of this elegant hotel
Lovely gardens were all along the main street of this pretty town
Then it was onto our helicopter ride over the falls - 6 people per chopper and only a ten minute flight but it was really the best way to see the falls which are awesome.

Looking straight down at Horseshoe Falls
We finished the day by taking a trip on the Maid of the Mist right to the base of the falls and very wet.  We were all decked out in blue ponchos and packed onto the boat like sardines all pushing to get the best vantage point for photos.  Silly really since the mist is so heavy you wouldn't bring your camera out anyhow and we've had a few dead cameras today.  We were on the 23rd floor of our hotel with a view of the falls with only the Casino the mar the view.  Awesome!
No description really needed.
You can see the mist in the distance which felt like rain.

Today we faced a 600km drive with only a couple of toilet stops and a late lunch - not much to comment on just some pretty cottages and a Honda Goldwing which had been converted to a trike after it's owner broke his hip.  We've entered Amish Country and tomorrow we'll find out more about these unusual people which should be interesting.

One of the pretty cottages along the way 
See Geoff, we can have a Goldwing trike like this when we get old and decrepit - but not yet.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Eastern Canada etc Day 8 & 9 Ottawa to Toronto

To break up the long trip to Toronto we took the leisurely Rockport 1000 Island cruise, to see where Canadians who can afford it buy an island and build what appeared to be mainly holiday homes.  Some were no bigger than a garage while others were quite large, depending how big your bank account is and  there was even a castle.   Not much else to see enroute, but as we drove into Toronto we  were on the world's largest freeway system - some 20 lanes wide which we were told becomes a parking lot as folk try to leave the city for the weekend. 
This is all part of one and the same castle built by an American.  Can't quite figure the obsession with building castles 
A more realistic size property

This morning we visited the CN Tower (now the world's second tallest building) at 625mtr high with a spectacular 360 degree view of the city and Lake Ontario.  We went down a flight of stairs to the level below with a glass floor and it was interesting to see the reactions when confronted with this.  Eventually most stepped onto the clear floor, though not all were able to look down which proves the mind plays some funny tricks on us!  

Yep! We're standing on the glass panels - don't look down.

The weather turned feral and heavy rain started falling, so Paddy and I took a cab to the Bata Shoe Museum.  We spent an enjoyable couple of hours learning the history of shoes dating back to when we stopped walking on all fours.  Must be a girl thing because we mentioned to some couples and the guys just couldn't wait to go and check it out.   

These were quite petite shoes.

I think Lady Gaga's stylist has copied some of the others we saw. 

 This is what you do when your shoes are old and worn out - turn them into an artwork.  Pretty clever don't you think?  Geoff take note, those old work boots of yours could make us a fortune.  

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Eastern Canada etc Day 7

We explored the Canadian capital Ottawa today firstly by bus, then on foot.  Our bus took us along the Rideau Canal which stretches some 120km.  These waters freeze over during the Winter and the locals can skate along them to work or to their studies at the University.  Next we stopped at the War Memorial where they have built a tomb to their unknown soldier and which has been designed so that the sun strikes a headstone mounted on the wall at the exact moment when we observe one minute's silence to remember the war dead - the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.  It was quite sobering.  Next we were off to the Natural History Museum featuring a walk through a presentation of the founding of Canada from it's early discovery through the centuries to present times.  We had far too little time to take it all in, but everything we do is just giving us a taste of what this country has to offer.  We tried to tour the Houses of Parliament which are next door to our hotel but just missed the last tour with an English speaking guide.  Took lots of photos instead of its' spectacular Gothic architecture instead.   Tomorrow we head for Toronto

At 11.00am on 11 November this ray of sunlight will strike the headstone on the wall to commemorate Canada's war dead
The Houses of Parliament 
Getting ready for Halloween
The Ottawa River flows from here in Ottawa to the St Lawrence River

Eastern Canada etc Day 6

Another day on the bus today on the road from Quebec to the Canadian capital Ottawa.  Not a lot to see enroute, but this afternoon we visited Parc Omega, a wildlife park.  We weren't sure what to expect but they loaded us into American style school buses which were perfect for what we were doing as we could drop the windows down and take photos.  Then they loaded us up with carrots, told us to break them into smaller pieces so that we could feed the animals.  We still weren't sure what to expect, but about 2 minutes into the park we spotted our first animals which caused a riot as we all tried to get good photos.  There were bits of carrot flying out of the windows, and the deer were taking pieces straight from our hands ever so gently (obviously well behaved).  We saw a beaver dam and even a couple of swirls in the water which they said were beaver but you could say anything and we'd be none the wiser.  Next it was raccoons and moose and bison and arctic foxes, but the 'piece de resistance' were the black bears.  They were delightful and as our driver cast pieces of bread to them they would sit up or stand up like a dog to get the treats.  What a buzz and the photos aren't too bad - what do you think?

These guys were just so cute, and they had a little one as well.
There's always someone who wants to hog the camera!
 'Well I'm sitting up, where's my treat?'
Three black bears all in a row
With antlers like these, who needs a Hills Hoist?
What a handsome fellow, what self respecting female bison could resist his good looks?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Eastern Canada etc Days 4 & 5

Yesterday was spent mostly on the bus travelling from Montreal to Quebec where we arrived mid-afternoon.  It's quite an arty area with lots of galleries and boutiques, and our hotel is perched high on a hill overlooking the St Lawrence River, sadly no river view - more a garden view where the chef grows his herbs and his chooks fertilise as they peck around.  They have 5 hens who lay an egg a day, which is a bit lean for their requirements for 6000 meals per day.  The Fairmont hotels were built for passengers on the Canadian Pacific Railways - very stately style with lots of timber walls and subdued lighting, and dog friendly. We cruised the St Lawrence River this morning, then got our history lesson for the day with a tour of the hotel (believe it or not), and capped it off with a nice late lunch/early dinner and a walk through the old part of the city.  Tomorrow we head for Ottawa.
One of the gateways into the walled part of Quebec City

Interesting art works are everywhere 

 Wonderful murals are painted on the walls of some of the buildings similar to  
European towns

 Lots of buskers such as this silver gem and musicians and singers
entertain the hoards of tourists.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Eastern Canada etc Days 2 & 3

Didn't get much sleep that first night, nor the second for that matter, but tonight's gotta be the night.  Since we had a day to ourselves yesterday we went exploring on foot, making our way to the old part of town, then decided to take a horse and carriage ride with a lovely old horse named Charlie and his chatty driver.  Charlie took his 'right of way' doing a U turn in front of the traffic and proceeded to show us the sights.  When we finished being ladies, we boarded a bus to find the underground mall everybody had told us.  I found out that  Paddy is a master at charades and she was trying to explain to our bus driver where we wanted to go complete with lots of hand action, when he answered us in English.  We both cracked up and that kept us laughing for the rest of the day.  To finish off the afternoon we felt we should investigate the Catholic church we overlook from our hotel window since it was on our way back to the hotel, and it was just beautiful.

Today we've recovered some of the same ground but our visit to the Cathedral of Notre Dame was the best  part of today's tour.  Now it's time for a granny nap and tomorrow we head for Quebec where we might get to try out our few French phrases - particularly 'Do you speak English?'

Charlie likes having his photo taken

Our room has a pretty good view of the city by night, and when you can't sleep you take photos don't you?
 We even found some tall ships, but we were too cheap to pay to go over them

The inside of Notre Dame Cathedral is spectacular

Friday, September 16, 2011

Eastern Canada, US & New England Cruise - Day 1

Well we're here after a really, really, really long 36 or so hours without much sleep, delayed flights both in Brisbane and Los Angeles, but we got here in the end and it's great to have a shower, have something other than airport/airline food, and a soft comfy bed to sleep in.  It wasn't all problems though, and our hostess on the plane thought we looked like a couple of alcoholics when we ordered a scotch for lunch and brought us 2 each.  Then as we were leaving the plane she gave us each a bottle of Champagne to take with us and so now we're going to have to force ourselves to sit down and drink it - I tell you it's tough this travelling.  Then the piece de resistance was our transfer from the airport in Montreal.  Our driver left us to wait while he picked up the car from the carpark and told us to look out for a stretch limo.  That was the icing on the cake when he pulled up with the disco lights blinking inside the car, we carried on like a couple of kids jumping around and trying the seats - but what a way to arrive at our hotel.  Yes, we're really here!!!!

 Disco divas ain't got nothing on us.  We were pink and blue depending which light was blinking

  What shall we order from room service?

  We hadn't spread out yet!