Category Archives: USA 2014
Sailing the ocean blue, well sort of, back to NY
After leaving Nassau we headed back north to NY. The way back though was further east out in the Atlantic than the more coastal route we took down to Cape Canaveral. At one point we passed over a quite deep part of the Atlantic, some 8000 feet. Starting the trip back seemed to change the weather for the better and had a sunny day. A bit of cloud and still chilly. The sun was welcomed by the masses who emerged onto the upper decks from the bowels of the ship to make their noise. The water slides, basket ball court, rock climbing and the rope walks all opened. The fit and trim were in their element, the less nimble lounged in the deck chairs and hot tubs…………we gave the hot tubs a miss.
Not a lot to report on this section of the trip. One sits around, eats and has a few light drinks to while away the time. Maybe listen to some musician in the bar. We partook (is that a word, past tense of ‘partake’ ?) of the Brazilian restaurant. This was a grilled meat feed. First a salad, then 2 types of sausages, followed by a chicken leg, a couple of spare ribs, lamb chop, filet mignon piece, garlic marinated steak, slice of sirloin steak, couple of slices of grilled pineapple rolled in cinnamon (this pineapple helps us digest the meat, or so we were told). It was great meal, thought by some to be the best so far.
The following day was a bit like the first, although the sun rose later and set earlier and as we approached NY it got colder. To warm us up we went to the Tina Turner tribute show that night. And warm us up they did, what a racket. The noise! But then again this is what Tina did in her hey day, a real rock and roller. Unlike Perry Como there was more rock than roll.
The Imlays departed early from the theatre. Allthego and Homealone saw it out and needed something to sooth the soul afterwards.
After dinner it was off to bed and finish packing for disembarkation the following morning. This all went well and we set off by cab to the airport to catch the plane to Houston and a couple of weeks with Mitchell and the gang before flying home. The Imlays were lining up for Thanksgiving week in NY before heading home.
News from Nassau
After leaving the delights of Cape Canaveral we set off south to the Bahamas. The immediate objective was Great Styrup Cay. This is the Norwegian Lines private island where they dump you for a day to enjoy various nautical pursuits. Paragliding, snorkelling, kayaks, glass bottom boats, floats etc etc. On land you can rent clam shells and cabana to lie around in and consume drinks, food etc. This would all be great if it wasn’t windy, rainy and cold! Which it was. It was such a no go that the Captain cancelled the stop because the tenders couldn’t get us ashore. Instead we just drifted around for the rest of the day and made for Nassau.
We got to Nassau around 6pm and tied up at the dock. Original plot was to have arrived the next morning. This meant we were able to get an early start the next morning for a stroll around this old town rich in early British colonial history.
Major objective was to get to Fort Fincastle, built in 1793, which is atop the highest point on the island. It gives great views of the port area. Now the weather wasn’t great. What’s unusual. It was quite humid and cloudy and we got the occasional shower of rain. But patches of blue sky and sunshine materialised for us when we got to the Fort, followed by a heavy shower of rain of course.
We were due to meet the Imlays at 1pm at Oh Andros for lunch. And I don’t like to be late. So we headed off at a brisk pace along the waterfront to the Fish Fry area. There are loads of what in Australia we would call fish and chip shops here. The shops back onto the water and the fish come direct from the boat to the kitchen. Oh Andros gets a great write-up on Trip Advisor. It was not really up to my expectations.
We all had a fish platter of fried bits and pieces……shrimp, lobster and grouper. But there was not much of it………plenty of rice though. We preceded this with some fried conch fritters, supposed to be a specialty and island icon. It didn’t really grab us! Another experience though.
After lunch we headed off to meet up with the Segway trip people. Now this was new for Allthego and Homealone, the Imlays though had done it once before in San Francisco. This was a bit of a hoot, after getting the hang of it. Steering is a bit like snow skiing, bend zee knees and keep the weight forward. We had a couple of hours at this zipping along the waterfront taking in a few sites. Only had one casualty. A rock jumped up and took the unsuspecting Segwayer by surprise. No damage to the Segway. What happens in Nassau stays in Nassau.
As we headed back for the ship it started to rain again and put a bit of a dampener on the end of our stay in Nassau. It had been a pretty full day of activities ashore and a cool drink was called for.
The ship left that night for the run back to NY.
All New York has decided to go to the Bahamas on this ship!
We are now in Houston after our few days at sea. Internet is back, so here is a recap on the trip. It may take a couple of posts to get through it.
We set off from NY aboard the Norwegian Breakaway. This is a pretty big tub, 3 times the size of the Titanic and currently the 10th largest cruise ship afloat. 4000 odd people aboard, 1500 staff. It’s about 16 stories above the waterline. All of New York seemed to have come aboard along with tourists from all parts. We had Americans of all shapes and sizes, English-speaking, Spanish-speaking, Italian speaking…..Then there were Australians, English, Irish, Spaniards, Italians, French, several Russians. The crew came from all over the place. The Assistant Cruise director was an Australian. Then there were the activities………rock wall climbing, Basketball court, water slides, pools, high ropes walks, fitness centres, health spas. 27 eating places, Brazilian, Irish pub, Italian, French, sea food, burger bar, hot dog carts, 2 buffets and 2 general restaurants. Musicians in every bar. All this created NOISE, there was lots of it! Hard to find a quiet place apart from the cabins which were great. The food was also great, excellent variety. After a bit we identified the quieter restaurants and frequented them.
Not sure that we would travel on one of these big ships again. Advertised as a party ship and it sure is! Notwithstanding all the noise we did have a good time on board, put it down to an experience as well.
Setting out from NY it was cold and not many of the 4000 souls aboard braved the top deck for the trip down the harbour past the Liberty Statue. We did. It was a quite a sight, also the city skyline.
We had a day at sea as we cruised down for our first stop at Cape Canaveral. It was pretty cold, windy and unpleasant on the way down to the Cape. The grey Atlantic lived up to its name. The seas were quite high, 3 metres or so and the ship was sailing right into it and the wind as well. One of the highlights of the trip was dinner that night while we watched a small-scale Cirque type show with Jungle characters hoping around with acrobats, jugglers etc. It was very well done!
The next day we were an hour late, getting into Cape Canaveral around lunchtime.
The Imlays were off to the Kennedy Space Centre. We headed for an air boat trip on a Florida wet land area followed up by a visit to an old style private zoo come theme park, full of alligators and other creepies.
We set off in some mist and light rain but as the day progressed it cleared up somewhat for our spin around the swamp and wander around the zoo. The zoo was a bit ragged but good fun was had by all, nursing alligators and other things such as tarantulas.
Back to the ship at about 6pm and we headed off south towards the Bahamas………….
Liberty and old bones
Thursday saw us head off downtown to catch the ferry out to the great symbol of America and Freedom, The Statue of Liberty. It was a bit nippy as we set off, but quite sunny. It was a promising start to the day’s adventures downtown.
The Statue is big, no doubt, and dominates the skyline as we approach it in the ferry. Along with 300 or 400 others. And these ferries go across to the Island every 30 minutes or so. It’s lucky that the people already there get back on the ferry and continue on to Ellis Island. Ellis Island was the entry point for emigrants to the US from 1892 up until 1954 and has now been turned into a museum complex that retells the stories of these people, all 12 million of them. Quite an interesting spot. The emigrants came by ship from Europe. Ellis Island seems to have been the sort of place where they did all they could to let the emigrants in, except if they had a disease or were mentally deficient. Total contrast to Christmas Island and our boat people, where we do our best to keep them out!
Prior to getting on the ferry we had visited the 9/11 Memorial and the World Trade Centre construction site. The first Tower is up and claims to be the tallest building in the western hemisphere. The second Tower is due for completion next year. The 9/11 Memorial is a magnificent piece of work and despite its size is really quite understated, truly a place for reflection on freedom and sacrifice.
Arriving back at the dock from Ellis Island we headed back uptown through the financial district. The NY Stock Exchange is now totally cordoned off, preventing tourists dropping in! Or others on symbolic endeavours, peaceful or otherwise. All the workers seem to have to go through checkpoints and identification checks. Quite a security operation.
After a late lunch we headed back to the hotel to rendezvous with the Imlays who had arrived from Richmond on the train. Some soup in our room was followed by some red in the bar with them to recap the last few days and plan the following day.
Yesterday it was off early to see old bones at the American Museum of Natural History. They have the largest collection of dinosaur and vertebrate fossils from all parts of the world. There were the usual suspects on display, including T Rex, Tricerotops, Stegasaurus and other big bony guys. Even a Diprodoton from Australia. A Diprodoton is the largest marsupial known and died out circa 20,000 years ago. It is thought that Aboriginals in hunting them may have played a part in their demise. Not sure about this theory! Why chase one of these guys down, there would have been smaller and easier prey around. Many of the displays were actual fossils and not casts. Some were near complete finds. Fascinating place. We only had time to do the top 4th floor. You could easily spend a couple of days in this place going from top to bottom.
Lunchtime called and we headed off downtown to Greenwich Village and lunch at what is marketed as a cross between a Parisian steakhouse and a classic New York City tavern. Minetta Tavern. Not sure about the Parisian bit. But the signature burgers we had were pretty good and the potato fries were curly, crunchy, moorish things. Best fries that I think we have had on the trip. The place was packed when we arrived but thinned out around 2pm, some workers no doubt scurrying back to the office.
After lunch we had a short wander around the area, particularly Washington Square and lower 5th Avenue. The chess players in the Park Square were hardy types. It had dropped a few degrees and was quite chilly, so after a warming tea and coffee we headed back uptown for the hotel.
Today was Homealone’s birthday. Something special was required so in the morning we headed off for a short walk around our area in mid town. More buildings! But then we were off to Jersey Boys. Great show! Then dinner with the Imlays at Tony Napoilis. Big Italian feed this was. Much noise and crowdy but the food was great. Ambled back to bed.
We leave tomorrow for the cruise down to the Bahamas. It will be warmer one hopes!
The blog will be off the air for a week or so while we are at sea, we will report back in from Houston.
Art and Up
Yesterday was a day for culture. Took the Tube uptown to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This also involved a short wander through Central Park. Colours hadn’t changed much. It was Veteran’s Day and there were lots more people out and about. This is a remembrance day, like ANZAC Day in Australia, but takes place on the internationally recognised Remembrance Day, 11 November. There is a big march up 5th Avenue and much wreath laying. The weather was good for the celebrations.
Once inside the Museum we initially wandered through the ancient section of Greek and Roman stuff. I refer to this as stuff because we have seen so much of it in recent times that it takes on a certain familiarity . Despite that it is quite remarkable how much of it has been ‘collected’ outside of places like Greece, Italy and Asia Minor. The Rockefeller’s certainly accumulated their share, much of which has ended up in public collections.
What was a bit awe-inspiring though was the Temple of Dendur from Egypt. Built by the Romans around 15 BC. This was originally going to be submerged by the Aswan Dam and the USA made a considerable gift to Egypt to ‘save’ it and numerous other objects and antiquities from the same fate. The Egyptians in gratitude gave the Temple of Dendur to the American people and it has ended up here in the Met. Quite a spectacular object and magnificently displayed.
Also wandered around the American painter’s section. Quite an array of monumental works. You could spend days in this place strolling around. We walked back downtown to the hotel along 5th Avenue and took in the action around Times Square and the shopping district.
Today we largely went up.
In the morning it was the Rockefeller Centre, 67 floors up looking up and down Manhattan. But for the fog! We were up early at 10.30 and but for a brief time we were fogged in for 2 hours at the top. Waiting for it to clear. On 2 occasions we sort of started to leave but held back, someone said it would clear around 1pm. And so it did! Sun came out, but from time to time there was still some low-level cloud below us. A great view though with some interesting photos of the gloom and then the opening up of the skies.
We finally headed off at about 1.30pm downtown to Greenwich Village for a few hours and a late lunch. Found a little Italian eatery just near the Tube exit in West Village and enjoyed a couple of simply great wood fired pizzas.
Someone then suggested we should head back uptown and do the Empire State Building. Arrived there and after doing all the getting into the place things ……..tickets, security, a modest queue for the lifts ……..arrived at the top ………86 stories ……….the sun had set, the lights had come on. Simply stunning night-time views in all directions. No fog here!
This was a great way to finish the day and we somewhat wearily headed back along 5th Avenue to our hotel.
Brooklyn Bridge to Central Park
Our first two days in the Big Apple were big. First we were off to walk across Brooklyn Bridge. It is a bit over a mile long and we took the Tube into Brooklyn and then found our way back across. The first half of the walk was quite pleasant, not many people around. Able to take some good photos off the Bridge overlooking the NY financial district and further uptown to the Empire State Building. As you can see the walkway is only about 4 meters or so wide, with wooden slats to walk on and small gaps to see the water below. Homealone was not overly keen on looking down!
Then just as we passed half way a mass of people came the other way on a fundraising walk for Kidney research. At the half way point they turned around and went back, melding in with the line still coming. What a mess and to make matters worse the local constabulary parked one of their funny little bridge vans in one of the ‘lanes’ further compounding the ‘people jam’. Eventually we got back through it all and rounded off the day by looking at some of the notable buildings in the Seaport area.
Monday saw us take off a bit late for Central Park. The weather had stabilised overnight and it was a bright sunny day. First port of call was the Cathedral of St John Divine up town via the Tube at 110th Street . It is the world’s largest cathedral and was commenced in 1892 and building works are still going on, as well as the ongoing maintenance these sort of buildings need. Very impressive construction surrounded by some great gardens. At about 12.30 we set off for Central Park and the walk back down to Mid Town. We got as far as 72 nd Street. Not bad, took us the best part of 4 hours as we wended our way from side to side through the Park.
The Fall colours here are still really good and the grass is so very green. The whole Park is well maintained and there is hardly a leaf out-of-place.
We were pretty worn out by the time we got to 72 nd Street and had only had a small hot dog to eat. The Tube was tempting and after doing 38 blocks (full length is 50 blocks) we boarded and headed for the lodgings and dinner at the Irish Pub around the corner.
Arrival in the Big Apple
A brief note to advise that we have now arrived in the Big Apple. Allthego and Homealone travelled down from Boston on the train and arrived at Penn St Station , 6 blocks from our lodgings at the Staybridge Suites on 40th Street. Just a short stroll with the bags.
The train trip took about 4 hours and was very relaxing, rolling through the countryside and along the coast into New Haven and then the built up areas into New York. The Imlays had caught the plane from Boston to go to Richmond for a few days, before rejoining us in New York later this week. They will be staying at the Distrikt Hotel right next door to us on 40th Street.
The Distrik seems to be undergoing some extensive refurbishments, but I’m sure that will not greatly inconvenience their guests. Sunshine is promised for the next couple of days so the walking shoes are out!
Arrived in Boston from Salem and made straight for our lodgings on the Green Turtle. This is a houseboat. What a great spot it is looking across the bay to the Boston skyline. It only takes about 10 minutes to get to the city on the Met after a short drive to the railway station. The breakfasts were also excellent, provided by the owners who live on board a ketch further down the marina. A really good little Italian café was our dinner location. Quite small BYO with super food and it gets crowded, full of Italians which is always a good sign!
Our first day here was cold and drizzly. We set off on the hop on hop off bus for Harvard University to see its Natural History museum. One of the prize displays here is that of a Kronosaur fossil. This is the most complete one found of this sea creature measuring some 42 ft long. It was found near the North West Queensland town of Richmond in the 1930s and ‘transported’ to Harvard with the consent, it seems, of the then Queensland government/ bureaucrats. A bit like the British pinching Greek artifacts. Maybe we should start a campaign to have it returned to its homeland ASAP. We stopped by Richmond on a van trip a couple of years back and saw a replica there at Kronosaurus Corner. Harvard sprawls all over the place. Great big old buildings set amongst grassy quadrangles with trees scattered around.
The next day we returned to the hop on hop op off bus. Weather a lot better, still overcast and chilly but no rain. We got off at the old naval ship yards and had a look at the USS Constitution which is over 200 years old and saw service in the 1812 war with Britain. It is still a commissioned ship and ventures out once a year on Boston Harbour. It is now a freedom symbol for the US Navy and the United States in general. One senses that there is no way they will let this ship go. Then followed a plunge into the harbour in one of those ‘Duck’ vehicles, truck turns into a boat and goes ‘swimming’ around taking in the sights from the water. It was a bit of fun. Never done one before. A first time for everything!
Our hop on hop off driver was Ron. A Vietnam War vet and musician, recording artist actually. He said he was driving the bus between other assignments for a charitable cause. Well he was just a talking encyclopedia. Some of it was about Boston but a lot of it was about his music buddies, TV shows, chart toppers, trips o’seas etc. Had the bus singing along with him. Some old blues song ‘ I love that dirty River’, about the Charles River that runs through Boston. He was entertaining and convincing, I will leave it at that!
In the afternoon we were off for a stroll on the Freedom Trail around Boston’s historical sites involving the Revolutionary War and Independence. Paul Revere, Washington and all the others. We got about half way through before the sun started slipping over the horizon and we had to return to the Green Turtle.
This is the end of our loop around New England. It feels like only a few days ago that we landed in Boston and set off for Plymouth! Next stop is New York for a week. The Imlays depart for Richmond and will meet up with us later in the week for the cruise to the Bahamas.
Till New York…………
Witch town? Here we are in Salem
On the trip down to Boston from Portland we dropped off into Salem for a couple of hours. Salem is that town in which the witch trials took place in the 1690s. Some of us at school in the 70s would have studied ‘The Crucible’ by Arthur Miller. This play dramatized the Salem story. Those who recall the play will remember the trumped-up witch accusations and the subsequent hangings of numerous citizens of the town. There is a commemorative area to the various people who were hanged, some of the names came back to me ……John Proctor, Martha Corey and Sarah Good all hanged and Giles Corey who was ‘pressed’ to death.
The weather was kind so we had a short wander around the town and historic waterfront area looking at some of the ‘witch’ memorabilia and other landmarks, even Elizabeth Montgomery who played Samantha in the TV series Bewitched gets a memorial statue for her efforts. She was a good witch.
One interesting piece of trivia Allthego spotted was the street name ‘Kosciuszko’, a stuffed witch was leaning nearby the street pole. See picture below. Some of my readers are students of this sort of stuff but you will all be delighted to know that this street is named after the very same chap whose name is attached to Australia’s highest mountain . Yes Mt Kosciuszko is also named after General Tadeusz Kosciuszko a Polish National hero and a hero of the American Revolutionary war against the British. Small world. Interesting value judgement as well, backstreet in Salem versus highest mountain in Australia!
After Salem we scooted off down to Boston. I’m running a couple of days behind and will catch up with where we now are in the next post!
We have had a couple of interesting days here in Portland. After arriving in the snow and wind from Bar Harbor we awoke the next morning to bright sunshine, it was still cool though. After breakfast we set off on a morning walk around the city streets. Passed through some old residential areas, the fall colours were still out in some areas. But on the wane. Portland is the birth place of John Ford, the movie director. He did a lot of those John Wayne western epics in Monument Valley. He has a small statue dedicated to his work.
The famous 19 century poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow also lived in Portland, who cannot forget ‘The Wreck of the Hesperus’ and ‘Paul Revere’s Ride’. His old home is a museum dedicated to his work.
Allthego dropped into the ‘International Cryptozoology Museum. This is one of its kind in the world. It is dedicated to presenting the evidence for ‘hidden or unknown animals’. These are usually larger zoological species that , to date, remain unverified by science eg Big Foot, Yetis, lake monsters, Bunyips, etc. It also encompasses the study of animals of recent discovery eg the Coelacanth and the giant panda. It was all very interesting, lots of evidence and they also highlighted so-called evidence that had been fabricated. In leaving Allthego had his photo taken with a Big Foot replica, the guide indicated that the model was probably a bit bigger than a real Big Foot and the facial features would be more ape like than human. The model was based on Harry from the movie ‘Harry and the Hendersons’!
After lunch we wandered around the old port district and then retired for dinner at an Irish pub. Allthego managed to collect another beer glass for his collection.
Today the weather was overcast and dry. we took off for Cape Elizabeth to see the Portland Head Light, the oldest of Maine’s 52 operating lighthouses. It was commissioned by George Washington in 1791 and was manned up until 1989, when it was mechanised.
Back in town we went for lunch to the ‘The Great Lost Bear’ dining and drinking venue. There was a great array of craft beers on tap here and enormous lunches of burgers and other delicacies to tempt discerning eaters. Back in town we had a lazy afternoon before heading out to see a movie, ‘My Old Lady’. This is one of those understated and laid back British/French collaborations which at times was poignant and at others funny. No plot give-aways here, but the movie has a top cast in Maggie Smith (as the old lady), Kevin Klein and Kristen Scott-Thomas. One not to be missed!
Tomorrow we are off on the last leg of the road trip down to Boston.