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.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Lost week

Wednesday 25th September to Tuesday 1st  October 2013

Exactly where does a whole week disappear to ?

Well there is the usual stuff that needs to get done – washing, cleaning, shopping; then there are the appointments – Banjo to the vet and Diane to the doctor

Other than that – mmm let me think.

It is very easy to lose most of the day when you intend to go out for an hour and then meet friends along the way, as happened before we went into Stone.

Lynn and Phil pulled into the marina with nb Valentine to fuel up and before we new it we had a lift into Stone; Diane had done her flu jab  thing at the surgery; we were all off for lunch and then a bit of shopping; said our goodbyes after 4 hours; walking back along the towpath we came across Julie and Tony (nb DamperVan) – looking decidedly red – the boat, not Julie and Tony. Tony had completely repainted the boat since we had last seen them in early July – the result was fantastic.

So there was a bit more time well spent.

Further along we came across Sue (nb Cockney Sparra) with her two grand-daughters on their way up to see Julie and Tony, so a bit more time chatting.

Before we knew it we were back at the boat but it was late afternoon, we had not so much lost a day as thoroughly enjoyed it after planning to be gone only for a routine flu jab.

Apart from that, work has impinged upon most of the week for me (Diane is a saint in putting up with my long hours when I need to get something done); whenever we are about to go away for a holiday, there always seems to be a last minute rush from others to get a shed load of work finished – this time was no different – it fully took up 4 days and having it all done is quite a relief.

We can now go away and enjoy ourselves and not have to worry about too much for the next fortnight.

So from the land of the almighty dollar we will enjoy the theme parks and Times Square and we will return with plenty of photos to share.