Friday, 27 December 2013

It's Bah Humbug time again!!

Sunday 8th December to Friday 27th December 2013

OK, so it has been a while since I have sat down and put fingers to keyboard.

Life in a regular house and neighbourhood does not provide the same diversity as one in a boat (even one not moving).

There are more usual things that need to be done each week and work does not have the same feel as it does when on the boat.

Actually going into work once a week is a bit of variety, only in terms of the travel – trains and commuting in general -  but don’t get me wrong – I certainly do not want to go back to doing it every day or even every week.

What has happened then in the last 3 weeks?

Not very much.

Mitch and Sara have flown off to the USA – to Dallas in particular for a holiday/Xmas/family wedding and in the process catching up with plenty of football over there.

They are having a good time and beginning the process of setting up their lives for the future and we say good luck to them both – they have a plan and are pursuing it – and we support them 110%.

I have ventured off by train to see my aunt in Warrnambool and mighty happy to see Brenda again – it has been about 20 months since we were together and she remains the favourite aunt.

Brenda - not about to face the camera - just like the teenage
brigade - far too interested in the phone.

Buddy (Brenda's dog) - he has turned out to be a really good dog

We went off to Port Fairy to visit another aunt and uncle – Heather and Ron – who do at times follow the blog – so if they are reading this – hello to you both.

Ron - obviously concentrating on something else

Cousin Fiona - cheesey grin and all

...and the delightful Kitty Rose - only 3 but clearly is much older
by the way that she speaks
For the past 29 years we have really enjoyed the kids visiting Santa for the obligatory photo - we did give the stipulation a few years ago that whilst they live at home then this was a requirement. It pleases us a great deal to say that they do not need any reminding to go and get it done - in fact we think that they may just enjoy it.
Certainly it seems that Mitch likes the tradition - this year apparently he got all of the photos out from previous years to show Sara - there is now about 32-33 of them (some years like this there are two photos as they are in different places).

Sara and Mitch

... and Sam too (American style)

The weather, for this time of the year, has been rather coolish with plenty of colder winds and conditions – but it hasn’t been completely so – Thursday last week (19th) – reached up to 40C – mighty glad it didn’t stay that way.

It will not be an especially joyous week to come – this will be the first Xmas that Diane and I have been apart, but for us it simply is another day and we will have the usual fayre when I return to the boat in January – in the  meantime I will be working right through every day. Time off will come later.

I am very thankful to the guy still staying with us – Speedie – he is one of Mitch’s mates who lives here and he is such a nice guy and pleasant that it makes a great deal of difference. With Mitch, Sam and Diane not here it would have been less than enjoyable to be without all of them – Speedie has helped quite a lot.

Speedie - in his natural habitat - and this was on a good day too
I am looking forward to the next week – at least the holidays and weekends will mean that there will not be the usual hour-to-hour rush requirements from customers – it will still be busy – but by the end of it all, 2013 will be at an end and then it will be just over 2 weeks to go.

The effort that has been put in to bring the house back up to scratch has had its effect; the list of things that I needed to source for bringing back with me has been almost completed; the sorting out of paperwork for the last 20 months has been done.

One more highlight of the week – perhaps the best – Dorothy turns another year older – that is Diane’s mum – I cannot disclose her age but it is more than 60 and less than 100 – so the phone call went through and she is very well and ready for a special lunch – Happy Birthday!!

Given the situation this year – with Diane still being on the boat in Stone and me here in Melbourne – I was mighty happy to spend it on my own and not have to endure people commiserating with the two of us not being together.

Boxing Day was the same, but I have occupied myself by being able to work and then take the days in January.

So here I am, Friday night and have just spoken with the favourite in-laws – well I did manage to get a few words in edge-wise – at least after I had spoke loudly. Millie (Dot) does like to sometimes take a breath whilst talking – but only sometimes. Never-the-less they are both well and as I have said before doing very well with the computer based stuff – and continuing to learn all of the time.

Nothing much coming up in the next week – apart from work – so as I started off this blog – life at the moment is just a bit different to being on a boat.

This fellow was hanging around waiting for his photo to be taken

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Man Heaven

Saturday 30th November to Saturday 7th December 2013

After a week of hot weather, although fortunately the humidity wasn’t too high, what do we get on Saturday – when I am due to fly out – lashings of rain.

The drive down to the airport was wet and then more wet, but we got there without incident.

After a relaxing coffee, I said goodbye to Dot and Terry – it was a week worthwhile – next time when we are both back in Australia it will be even better, but it was good to see them both in reasonable health.

So now off to Melbourne and stepping off the plane after a very uneventful flight, there were Mitchell and the lovely Sara to meet me.

He has done well, the boy has; Sara is such a delightful bubbly girl and such a fun person to be around – she has coped well with a new country and has taken in the essence of Australia and retained all of the nice things we associate with American culture.

This is Sara - the boy has done
well for himself

and then there is Mitch - here is he in in his natural
habitat - on the couch
The house was still standing when we got home; the general impression was that it was all fine and no problems – later the situation of 4 under 30’s living together appeared, but I have to say I am pleased with the way everything was.

As cold and wet as Brisbane was on my departure, Melbourne was hot and dry and if I had any doubts about returning to Australia in summer they were reinforced – I DON’T LIKE THE HEAT.

It doesn’t take long to fall back into life in familiar surroundings and quickly it was thus again.

This time is revolved around work and also my own fussiness about how I like things to be – so I am slowly doing some neatness work and more cleaning to how I like it.

Melbourne has always been a delightful city to live in – if only for the changability of the weather and it didn’t take long to live up to it’s reputation – from 34C on the weekend and early on in the week to 16.8C on Wednesday with rain that night – the coldest December day since Christmas Day 2006 which was just 14.5C.

More rain followed and then the cycle continued with the temperature increasing for the weekend.

As with Brisbane, I have a list of things to be looked at, sourced, checked out and bought – this list being from she who must be obeyed and who seems to be frequenting the pubs and searching for mulled wine.

It is never easy being away from the one whom you love so much and the present is just that, but as she has a countdown on her facebook page each day is one day closer.

For the moment it is about work, new computer, some training, cleaning and seeing the kids and friends.

Our dear friend Helen, from across the way, informed me that she had been diagnosed with cancer – this time breast cancer but appears to be beating it, so we hope for the best outcome.

In my adventures as far as finding things that we need, I stumbled upon the new extra-large Bunnings hardware store – the old one, which was plenty large enough has been supersized with a new one just 300m up the road.

This one is massive – occupying easily 3 acres and with a full sized upper floor – that’s right two floors – so let’s say 6 acres – and as well as that there is a huge area outside for gardening – plants etc etc.

And not only that but there is a well stocked café, so here is almost the ultimate man heaven – easily able to wander around here all day plus be able to get sustenance as well – just need to get a liquor licence and we are well set.
Diane sent this one through to me of a lovely sunset at the marina

Saturday, 7 December 2013

The flying is the easy part - just try the training

Thursday 21st November to Friday 29th November 2013

Having made the trip numerous times and with both of us doing a fair amount of travel this year, the staff at Emirates check in Birmingham provided a breath of fresh air – so simple to go through the whole process – less than 5 minutes in total – and all done with a smile and friendliness that we had seen lacking with our October trip.

Landing in Dubai and clearing through to the transit area – which is really the whole terminal, I had a chance to have a shower and refresh and then off for a coffee, I managed to glimpse some of the action in the first test – having seen the first day score of Australia 8/273 it was very satisfying to find that England were 7/91.

Not long after we were off on the second leg of 13 hours albeit with a delay of 90 minutes.

Arrived in Brisbane – no not to see the cricket – off into the city to sort out a sim card for the phone and other things, and then to take the train up to see Diane’s parents.

What should have been a 90 minute trip turned into a 4 ½ hour exercise in frustration.

The initial delay was cause by an unfortunate fatality – no details known, but sad situation whatever the reasons. What followed was out of some comedy.

The driver informed us of the situation and that the train would be terminating; then it wasn’t and we moved to the next station where it would; then it wasn’t – next station and it did – we were all off and had to wait for buses – after a 45 minute delay, one of the other passengers rang to find that no-one even knew we were there; then another half hour and buses were coming – three duly arrived, but full of passengers from other stations – no room at the inn.

Then we were back on the train to the end of the line for that train – I still had a bit of a way to go – but as well as many others the story given to us was that we had a 60 minute wait for another train (from platform 1) – 5 minutes before it was due the platform was changed to number 2 and along with a number of others with luggage following international flights we had to negotiate the railway bridge.

Special thanks to Queensland Rail for their “kind” (of) consideration for their paying customers – if I don’t need to use their services again then I certainly won’t be doing so.

Dot and Terry were both there to meet me and bundled me back to the new house – smaller than the last one but still very nice – at their age they needed something more manageable.

Like any newer house there are things that need changing and after 3 days the garden is essentially finished and looking pretty good – the muscles and bones of this poor old fellow have been well exercised.

Just be careful - the wand is in her right hand behind her back
and she can quickly turn you into a newt

Forgot to say that luggage wise, I was spot on the 30kg limit; the carry on was a little over and yet I seem to have little clothing available to me – a single pair of boots; a spare pair of jeans; a pair of shorts as well as a few shirts and smalls.

Why so little you may ask? There was an extraordinary amount of things that needed to come back to Melbourne and had to go now – I didn’t get much of say about it – Sam would need her stuff in January and Diane had things that needed to go.

So it is day-to-day wear for a little while.

There are times when you think it is safe to go back into the water – I thought that I had finished the work listed out for me for a while, but I had forgotten the power of the mother-in-law – I had a list awaiting for me – aaarrrrggghhh!

The back garden is a bit smaller than the previous one, but
needed a bit of work to bring it up to scratch...

...and a bit more work to bring it up to mother-in-law satisfaction.
But job done and both are pleased with the outcome
But now as the week draws to a close this list has been done; and I have had a very good week with the favourite in-laws.

They have joined the rest of the world – we have passed on Diane’s laptop for them to use and they have been connected to the world-wide web, so emailing and google searches have rapidly become part of their language now.

They are doing very well and being in their late 70’s you indeed have to admire their desire to learn something new and so foreign – Good on ‘em.

So it will soon be off to Melbourne to see Mitch and to at last meet Sara

Cruising – Nil

Flying – 20,000 km (approx)

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

The list has disappeared

Friday 8th November to Thursday 21st November 2013

She was busy – I could see it – the sweat on her brow -  thinking and more thinking – what else could she add to the growing list of jobs that I needed to get done and out of the way before I had to leave.

In the end it wasn’t that long really and none of the jobs were particularly difficult – well they usually aren’t all that difficult – it only gets hard when you actually start trying to achieve the desired result.

But they are all finally done – except for one last item – and that is what I am doing now – updating the blog.

There is nothing nearly as satisfying as having a list and being able to draw a line through each item as it gets done – that ain’t gonna appear again, you say to yourself, and then cross your fingers that you have done it correctly.

There were even a number of things that I added myself – whilst I am in the mood for some creative/non-destructive adventure, why not get a few more things achieved and also a bit of transferring of skills and knowledge.

Diane now knows how to bleed the radiators; she knows how to check the batteries; the Xmas cards are done (for Australia).

There will be no more discussions about which is the best type of toilet – we have one of each – after deciding to drag out the cassette toilet which has been in storage beneath the dinette seat for over 2 years. Not so much a his/hers but more a hers/hers – since she will be the one using and emptying it – she has decided that it is definitely easier to lug a cassette to the Elsan point than to take the boat for a pumpout and then try to get it back on the mooring – on her own.

We had to learn together about how to use it; how to get it apart and then I left it to her to learn how to empty it.

The small hole in the cratch cover where a bridge jumped out in front of the boat (albeit whilst the lady of the boat was in charge) has now been fixed.

The wiring and switch for the fan above the diesel heater has been properly installed – I am most pleased with the outcome of this – almost looks professionally done.

Probably the least pleasant job was to clean out the drain pipe from the kitchen sink – normally in a landbased house, there would be some kind of caustic drain cleaner that would rip the skin off your arms at 10 paces, that you would shove down there and then flush it out after the designated time – usually after the smoke and fumes clear.

You can’t do that on a boat – so it was a relatively simple matter to take the pipes out; separate them and clean out the individual sections and put them back together.

Note to self – do it more frequently than every 2 years.

Whilst there was a bit of a smell (read as nasty), the job was quite simple and pleasing to know that was not much really in there at all. I have to say that it was decidedly better smelling after the job than before.

We have in this same period been wining and dining and drinking quite frequently with a number of friends – seemingly early Xmas festivities and best wishes for my trip; numerous offers for Diane and Xmas.

Lynn and Phil; Phil and Mandy; Dot and Gordon and especially Elaine and Paul – we thank you for your wonderful company during this last 2 weeks and I wish you a great Xmas and New Year.

I shall miss the snow, the ice, the cold, the rain and everything associated with winter in England – I shall of course not appreciate the heat, the flies, the humidity, the sweat of an Australian summer – but as we say in France – c’est la vie.

I may get around to penning a few short notes of what I am up to back home and post them but don’t rely on that too often; there will be many things that will take up my time back home – things that need to be sorted out; so for now it is au revoir and as Douglas MacArthur said “I shall return”.

And now the list is completed !!

No travel.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

It was here one minute and then it was gone

Saturday 2nd November to Thursday 7th November 2013

Yet again another week seems to have completely vanished before our eyes and what exactly have we been doing to see it disappear.

Well really not that much.

Friday afternoon and it was down to The Swan for a quiet drink or three - we decided to meet about 3:30 to avoid the crowd which seems to descend on the pub about 5. It was a nice quiet drink - not so sure that the guy on the next table knew what to make of us - he was on his phone - yes actually using it as a phone - but at the same time getting requests from us to take some pictures of the group using our phones - I suppose he had a bit of a laugh at us later on.
the Friday Crew - Diane, Paul, Gordon, Joan, Ray, Elaine, Jim and Dot
If you look closely you will see that
Diane's Mum is never far away -
that's her behind

There had been a planned get together on Saturday late afternoon – it had been planned to converge on Ewn Ha Cul but a last minute change of venue meant that we were all on Caxton (well almost all – no Dot and Gordon – Dot had taken ill with a bad leg and needed to rest up – Gordon was there to make sure that she did – we missed you both).

After that it was off to see the bonfire and fireworks display – Elaine and Paul, Joan and Jim, Sue and Andy (Festine Lente) and ourselves.

from left - Jim, Joan, Sue, Andy, Elaine, Paul and Diane

We thought that the ₤5 per person charge was a bit steep, but in hindsight it was not so bad after all.

The fireworks display was very good and for all of the pyromaniacs in the crowd, the bonfire burnt fiercely and flames were leaping 20 metres into the air. I think that it is well beyond time that we convert the heathens to metric – after all there are only 4 countries in the world that still use miles – UK, USA, Burma and Liberia.

It took Australia 2 years to fully implement the changes in the mid-70’s – we have seen Britain convulse over this change for 20 years and they are just marginally closer than the early 1990’s.

Sunday was a pleasant day which hinted at a chance of rain and a chance of a bit of a breeze.

We were having some problems with the batteries holding charge so we thought it wise to make a dash for the marina and hook up to shore-power.

The batteries will get checked out in time.

We made it back and despite a bit of breeze we managed to reverse into our spot, tie up, hook up, put the hood up just minutes before the rains came down – we were snug and warm inside.

Monday was a trip to Stoke to pick up the new glasses – we managed to get a late start and therefore a late finish, so that accounted for that. Diane did well with the amount of walking that we did – she was suffering from a bad back and was in a bit of pain, but she got through.

Tuesday was a less than brilliant day – weather-wise – and we had a day of dog-sitting – Bombo and Sam were coming – so that Elaine and Paul could take their time doing what they needed to do without having to worry about the dogs – and they were very well behaved (the dogs that is – I am sure that Paul wouldn’t have been so good – he just a little bit mischievous).

Diane was confined to bed for the day with her back – she didn’t have her bell to beckon the first footman, cook, bottle washer and dog walker – but somehow she was able to get my attention when needed.

Wednesday and the patient was still in a bit of pain, but able to at least get up out of bed for a bit – she is gradually getting better but ever so slowly – and typically for medical people, she is less than the ideal patient – thinking that she is better than she really is.

Finally Thursday was here and we managed to get a few things checked off the list of things to do before I head off – Diane continued on restricted duties and finally managed to remember that there was tennis of the TV – that kept her firmly fastened to the chair.

And that was the week that came and went.

1 mile , 2 locks

Totals: 2211 miles, 1653 Locks, 74 Tunnels, 32 Lift Bridges, 145 Swing Bridges

Friday, 1 November 2013

Katz’n’ice, early drinking and lots of friends

Tuesday 29th October to Friday 1st November 2013

The highlight for Tuesday would be the theatre-outing for a production of Cats, but we had planned on a dinner out before the show and La Bella Napoli was the chosen destination – their pre-Theatre dinner was very good indeed and with plenty in the restaurant you would almost be forgiven for thinking it was a Saturday night – not Tuesday.

The show was very well staged and presented; the cast very good and the performance was therefore of a high standard.

The walk back to the boat was fortunately downhill but the air was very cold – colder than we had felt for quite a while.

In the morning, the air from the night before was even colder and for the first time in quite a while there was some ice on the roof of the boat – a sign that we are not that far away from winter.

At least the day was clear and we had the task of cruising down to Barlaston ahead of us; and so we were off relatively early and without the need for a water tank top up we were moored up before lunch and just short of a little bit of rain (good timing again).

Diane wanted another trip up to Wedgwood – for another look around, which we did together. Returning after a visit to the café we sort of settled down for the rest of the day and didn’t do too much at all – I should have also said that it was a day off for me – I had worked too many hours for the fortnight so the easy way was to do nothing – which I did.

As with many things whilst we are out on short cruises like this, there is a reason for moving and a schedule of sorts to be met – sometimes I know about it and sometimes I don’t – this time I did – we were back into Stone to prepare for the Fireworks on the weekend.

We have been having a little trouble with the engine actually starting – we are almost convinced that it is switch related and not battery – a few mornings have seen the engine just fail to turn over but after checking the circuitry behind the panel it seems to spring into life when next tried. Another job for Clive Penny when we get back to the marina.

Coming into Stone we texted Lynn and Phil to let them know we would be up to see them; just after that we had a call from Dot and Gordon – they would be in Stone in the afternoon and then we passed Joan and Jim (Two Jays) and let them know that we would walk back up to see them, just as soon as we found a mooring spot closer to The Star and didn’t need to restart the engine again.

The afternoon was a longer than expected enjoyment. First we caught up with Joan and Jim aboard their boat – tea and a lovely slice of freshly cooked cake – Jim, you can hire her out anytime!

Whilst there, Lynn walked past with Freedie, and she did get a bit of a shock with me peering through the window of a different boat – let her know that we were on our way to see her and Phil.

After saying goodbye to J and J we walked on a bit further to see L and P to see how they both were – some more tea and treats; sorted out dates for lunch and then Phil drove us back into town – so nice he is to do that and so very much appreciated.

Diane noticed that we had a couple of messages from Dot – they were just down from the Star Lock – so off we went. In the darkness that had already descended, now that summer time was long gone we found Ewn Ha Cul and the two inhabitants whom we had not seen for so long.

Time in some ways stands still for boaters – especially when you see one another after a long break – was it really that long since we last met.

Over a cuppa we talked of what we had done and what we are planning to do.

Dot brought the results of her labour – two beautiful bedside lamps that we had commissioned and whilst we had seen photos of them previously, they do look quite magnificent (pictures coming soon)

But it wasn’t long before we needed to get back for Banjo – 7 hours is bit longer than the original plan of no more than 4 and he would be in need of a tree or two and his dinner.

So we walked back by torchlight to the boat – the gang is starting to re-assemble!

It was even early by the GLW’s standards but there she was at 7:45am searching the wine rack for a fresh bottle of white wine; just barely out of bed and the bottle was duly passed across for yours truly to open it for her.

Well alright, I will own up she was just using it for cooking – getting an early start on a slow cooked stew that she had decided for today’s fayre (Friday).

Diane, Dot and Gordon along with Banjo walked down to the marina to accompany Elaine and Paul (Caxton) back up to Stone for some general get-togethering (i.e. visiting the pub).

9 Miles, 7 Locks

Totals: 2210 Miles, 1651 Locks, 74 Tunnels, 32 Lift Bridges, 145 Swing Bridges

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Cruising in the sun - not the rain

Friday 25th October to Monday 28th October 2013

Our passage into Stoke had been governed by the weather predictions and knowing that we would therefore be in Stoke by Thursday we had arranged for appointments at Specsavers to have our eyes tested and undoubtedly purchase new glasses for each of us.
And so it came to pass that this is exactly what happened – 2 new pairs for me and only 1 for Diane (of course she is much younger than me and only needs a slight change of prescription).

We had earlier in the day – on our walk into the town centre – seen that The Regent Theatre would soon have a short season (1 week) of the musical Cats.
As neither of us had seen this we decided to enquire about both prices and available seats. We have tickets for the Tuesday evening performance.

Our 48 hours at the junction was up on Saturday morning, so after a pumpout and topping up the water tank we were off, but not very far at all. We moored up just before the marina -  Diane had rung Howard (aka Malcolm) and we were in luck, he was on the boat in the marina so we took the chance to pop in for a cuppa and catch up with him (very sorry that Janet was in London for the day, but we will see her next time).
He has made a number of changes inside the boat and all looks very good – got rid of the storage of stuff not needed and opened up the saloon a bit.
As is usual we discussed next years cruising schedule and Howard was able to give us some of his vast knowledge about where we are heading – and at the same time giving Diane a bit of a scare about the “dangers” to be encountered – all light hearted fun.
It also appears that our paths will cross so that will be a win for the proposed schedule.

After that it was off to the lake (Westport Lake) for a couple of days; we past by it, headed towards Harecastle tunnel and winded before coming back and mooring up.

Again the weather has us waiting to see when we will be able to head off back into “central” Stoke for the theatre and for a visit to the Wedgwood factory outlet.

We made the bit of a dash during a sunny period and moored up outside the Toby Carvery – not long after we were safely inside the rain came again – so so lucky in our reading of the weather.

8 Miles

Totals: 2201 Miles, 1644 Locks, 74 Tunnels, 32 Lift Bridges, 145 Swing Bridges

Thursday, 24 October 2013


Thursday 17th October to Thursday 24th October 2013

Remarkably we felt very good after only a short time – not much in the jetlag area and we set about the usual things of shopping and getting the boat back to normal.

After that we starting thinking a bit about a last chance to have a cruise, before the closures start and inevitably we have to give thought to the trip back to Australia.

A check on the weather reports and a look to where we could escape.

And then of course being able to actually make that escape; we needed to fill with diesel – the tank was down to about the last 20 litres; Diane wanted to top up the heater tank as well – certainly our biggest fill ever – 157 litres in total – but only 10 litres for the heater and 47 hours use – works out to 210 ml per hour – not bad at all.

Best of all was the exit from the marina and then going past the entrance and onto the lock – we only made it as far as Stone where we holed up for a few days to replenish the heavy things for the pantry and of course the obligatory visit to The Swan – on 3 consecutive days – the open fires are back and it was quite cosy in there – and of course we were joined by Paul and Elaine for a drink or two, to hear how their plans were progressing and where they were tending towards – it all sounds very good for them – it appears to be coming together and we could not be happier for them.

Our plan formulated out to cruising up to Stoke for a few days, which could very well extend to almost a week, but we really like Stoke.

We will also fit in appointments for eye tests – it had been more than the usual 2 years since our last checkups and at our age we need to get them done.

So we are now here in Stoke at the junction; about to sit out the weather predicted for tomorrow and then probably a couple of days up at the lake – also a chance to visit a couple of the outlets for Xmas presents back home.

Anyway it is good to have this last cruise after not being out for a few weeks.

9 Miles, 5 Locks

Totals: 2193 Miles, 1644 Locks, 74 Tunnels, 32 Lift Bridges, 145 Swing Bridges

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

The US - Part 2 - New York

Wednesday 3rd October to Wednesday 16th  October 2013

Part 2 – New York

We had decided after last year, that this year we would visit New York; Washington was wonderful, but we wanted something bigger.

We were able to rent an apartment in New York for the 5 days that we were there – 3 double bedrooms, kitchen, bathroom, dining room and lounge.

The location was not the 5-star one that you would always want – West Harlem – but the experience was simply great.

The people that we met in passing were friendly; there were no problems at all; the transport was excellent – the subway into central Manhattan was just 15-20 minutes; everything was at hand.

As we have done before, we sought out a tour bus operator so that we could use the hop-on-hop-off arrangements to see more of the city – both from the top of the bus and on the ground.

The one that we chose also included trips to Brooklyn and up to the Bronx.

Halloween is a-coming

The tour guides are all very good with their knowledge of the city and many many things that you simply wouldn’t know about if not for them.

The Empire State Building by day...

...and by night
Especially good was the guy on the Brooklyn tour – he was from Brooklyn (not from New York) and with a real Brooklyn accent. He also told us about a ticket place there that had cut-price tickets for the Broadway shows on sale each day long before the Times Square office was even open – so we went there (2nd morning in NY) and managed to get 4 good seats to Phantom of the Opera (for Saturday night) – 30% off – and an excellent view.

We did the Staten Island Ferry (free) which passes right by The Statue of Liberty (which had been closed due to the government shutdown); uptown, we went to Yankee Stadium; we did a bigger tour of Harlem itself; we did the east River – we went everywhere – all on the bus ticket.

Lower Manhattan from the Staten Island Ferry

When we needed to use the subway we had our MTA cards – which at $2.50 a trip were good value.

at the 9/11 memorial
One surprising highlight was the HighLine – this is an old el-train track which was built and used for freight trains – now long since mothballed – but part of it has been refurbished into a walking track above the streets, where they have planted trees, shrubs and flowers; the old tracks are still there but it is now a walkway; places to sit down and relax; you can get something to eat and drink and just a great place for New Yorkers and tourists alike to take it a bit easier.

Taking the high life on the HighLine
The weekend we were there was the Columbus Day weekend – Sunday has the Hispanic community celebrating their culture and links with Spain/Mexico/Puerto Rico in a huge parade; Monday and it is the turn of the Italian community to do the same.

The Hispanic Parade for Columbus Day
Walking through Central Park is quite an experience – we went through different parts of the park – saw the John Lennon “imagine” tribute; watched people playing softball; saw people with remote-controlled sailboats on the lake; and people just generally relaxing and enjoying the good weather.

Central Park from the top of he Rockefellar Centre

Central Park and the sail boat lake
At no time did we feel any problems at all – the city felt safe and we enjoyed it all.

Celebrating 100 years - Grand Central Station

Under the clock at Grand Central Station

what must Teddy Roosevelt think about the company
(Museum of Natural History)
No doubt there are the usual problems that any big city has, but for it’s size and the sheer number of people there, it was such a wonderful place to visit and be part of – would we go back again – yes we would, but we have other places that we will visit first.

What can I say - I think they were looking for a discount!

Monday, 21 October 2013

Off to the US - Part 1 Orlando

Wednesday 3rd October to Wednesday 16th October 2013

This is the second year that we have gone to Florida and we had plans to see a few different things this year – well we had plans, but the government shutdown sort of curtailed some things.

We did however manage to make it to Epcot and Magic Kingdom as well as Downtown Disney and then to Universal Studios.

We arrived on the Thursday – very late – about 9pm (local time) after leaving Manchester at 10am (UK time); so it was pretty late to bed and then we needed to be up early the next morning so that we could met Rebecca at Orlando airport – she arrived at 5:30am – we got there on time, trouble was the plane got there early, but the bags still had to get off the plane – so that made us on time again.

The view of the rest of the resort from our apartment
Sam managed to do her thing and get time off work as well as arrange for 2-day passes to Disney for all of us – one of the perks of the job – she did have to work one of the days, but only until 2pm.

Sam hard at work - just for a short while
When those two girls get together and coupled with Diane (the other big kid) then I had absolutely no hope of controlling them.
Before the 3 of them started to get up to no good

Fortunately this year we had decided to hire a car, so getting around was a whole lot easier than relying on buses as we did last year. There were no problems with driving on the other side – well, at least not from the drivers side – there were a couple of times when the passengers forgot that we needed to be on the right hand side of the road and panicked a bit.

Butterbeer moustaches - just a bit too early for Movember

With Hogwart's in the background

Like I said - up to no good - this one above and the one below

The resort was fabulous – even better than the one last year – the apartment had heaps of space and we mad use of the in-room spa.
Lunchtime at Magic Kingdom - Sam had arranged for a booking at one of the restaurants - which was soon to be invaded by some of the characters that she has had to be a "bodyguard" for (er I mean character escort) - they seemed to recognise her as we ate lunch - they made a beeline for her (and us)

The weather was excellent, if just a tad too humid – but overall we really couldn’t complain – even a nice day with a bit of rain to clear the air a bit and relax with a good book.

The time seemed not to go too fast but the week did have to end and we had to move onto our next destination.