July 9th 2010 – Wedding day in Latvia
Ok, so today marks ten years of Olga and I being married and despite a hiccup and a split a few years ago, we are stronger than ever. Blessed with two beautiful daughters, a peaceful home and always have itchy feet, I am sure there is going to be many more crazy adventures in our household in the future. We got married on a very hot summers day in Riga, Latvia….but let’s not talk about that (everyone got drunk of course!), this is a travel blog. So let’s have a look-back at the honeymoon we did to the United States of America (USA) and Canada. A four week road trip and our first visit to ‘that’ side of the pond.
August 22nd 2010 – Over the pond and off to the USA
The United States hasn’t always been on top of my dream destination list but that was the next stop for me and my wife Olga. For some reason we chose the States for our honeymoon as we got married five weeks previous. A side trip into Canada was also on the plan for our four week trip, so when the day arrived, we were very eager to board our first transatlantic flight. “Trans-Atlantic baby! Yeah!” shouts out Del Boy to Rodney on a Virgin Atlantic plane as they make their first trip across the pond, which was shown on a British television comedy called ‘Only Fools and Horses’ back in the early ’90s. I just had to repeat those exact same words when we boarded flight number VS011 from London’s Heathrow to Boston’s Logan airport, which I thought was fitting as our first point of interest, as the city and surrounding areas have a lot of interesting places and history to be explored.
After arriving at Boston Airport we picked up the car from a car rental garage nearby to which they offered an upgrade to which I refused. The big Afro-Caribbean lady (wearing a pink blouse and had long black curly hair which looks like a wig sliding from side to side of her head) behind the desk asked me if I was really sure I wanted to take a compact car? I said yes because I am European and I love driving and parking into small spaces would be easier with a compact. She just laughed and we completed the transaction and walked outside to collect any car we like, I noticed that all the compact cars are the size of Ford Mondeo’s back home! There wasn’t a car the size of a Vauxhall Corsa or Fiat 500! I have never driven a car this size before. We got into the car and I took a few moments to get familiar with the vehicle we choose and I have to admit it was daunting to drive an automatic. What the hell did ‘L’ and ‘D’ mean on the gear-stick? Well, I soon got to know how to drive the car by doing a couple of laps around the car park with a few people looking at us in bemusement. When I drove out of the compound and onto the interstate 93, my feet kept going for the clutch and my left hand kept going for the gear stick to which I was hitting the door handles! Automatic cars! The good thing was by the time I drove all the way to Brockton (35km south of Logan airport) where we would be based for the next week, I was pretty used to the car.
August 23rd 2010 – a day in the state of Connecticut, USA
We both had a lot of trouble sleeping during the first night and somehow woke up at 5am after a full nine hours sleep! We really got used to this huge time difference as we never experienced it before. After having a buffet breakfast our plan was to catch a train and make the short trip north to the city of Boston and do a walking tour, but this was impossible at the moment due to a strong weather system sitting on top of us bringing down the rain and strong winds blowing objects everywhere. On the news, a village near us had an old oak tree blown down and crashed into someone’s roof and damaged the restroom which an elderly person just managed to get out of there in time! So stuff that idea and we changed our plan to go shopping around the nearby Walmart store for a GPS system, a few clothes and other bits and bobs. I decided to check out the weather in surrounding states to see if it was worth driving there and checking out the area without getting blown away or wet. Connecticut, less than a two hour drive away from Brockton and the weather is cloudy. That was it, in the car we went, testing out the GPS system (of course) and away we went. After a while driving on the interstate, me, Olga and Mandy were really bored. Now let me introduce Mandy. We called our GPS system ‘Mandy’ because for one she had a female voice but secondary, Mandy is a person who has confidence, so at this moment in time, Mandy has more confidence on where to go around this part of the world than me. Back to the boredom and I was just sitting there, not moving the steering wheel, looking at the very straight roads whilst Olga was just sitting there in the passenger seat, looking straight ahead with only trees on the side of the road to look at whilst the rain lashed down over us. Mandy, she didn’t have much to say. No turnings, no advanced warnings, no telling us to slow down, I am sure Mandy isn’t enjoying this drive.
We drove through the state of Rhode Island, through the state capital Providence, and then before we knew it, we were driving into the state of Connecticut and we were at our destination in the coastal town of Mystic. I did a bit of research before the trip, and to be honest, there isn’t much to do in Connecticut. It’s a small state, and I couldn’t be arsed to go to the state capital of Hartford, but I did find a huge outdoor museum by the sea, full of boats and lighthouses in the town of Mystic. So Mystic Seaport had to be done. The rain had stopped for now and the wind had dropped, so the timing of doing this trip may have proved to be a sound decision.
$48! What a rip off. $24 each! This better be worth it (thinking out loud whilst walking into the outdoor museum) and the first thing we came across was a huge old fashioned boat with all the masks etc, but our guide leaflet which was given to me at the entrance, had no information on the boat, or even the fact that the boat existed. Oh well, we left the boat and continue to explore this vast outdoor museum, so we strolled further down the shoreline (the museum is built on the banks of the river Mystic, just a few miles away from the North Atlantic Ocean), and came across the ‘Thomas Oyster House’ which had equipment which was used when the oyster industry in New England was at its highest. There was another sail boat called the ‘Emma C. Berry’ which was just another boat to me, and then we went into this wooden building and saw the skeleton of the schooner Australia. At the end of the bit of land which was shaped as a spur was the lighthouse which looked very nice with the river in the background and a hill full of trees which are at their greenest.
Then in other parts of the museum we saw how rope was made (which is made from Cannabis, something I didn’t know. Did the sailors know they were using drugs to make ropes? Did they know they could get high from rope?). There was also an old pharmacy which had loads of pills on display, an old shop selling food to which there was a nice guy called Bill whom told us a few facts about knives and a comic book! Elsewhere, there are two tall ships docked in a museum, one called Joseph Conrad and the other L.A Dunton, which you could go down below into the hull and see how sailors used to live whilst out on sea, to see the conditions, the size of their beds etc. For me it was nice to walk around on both boats especially the decks to which were one of the highlights of the museum.
After some lunch, we decided to head into the planetarium which was located within the museum grounds. An elderly gentleman named Bruce with the help of his son runs the Mystic Space Operations. A small charge had to be paid but I thought why not, it started to rain now, let’s keep dry and since I haven’t been inside an planetarium since my trip to Tampere in Finland over four years ago, I thought a sit down would be nice. The show was about what the night sky over New England is like on a clear night, and Bruce would do a speech about the sky, the stars, what planets we can see with the naked eye and all the groups of stars like Orion, the Big Dipper etc. There was a Q&A at the end of the show, and I had some questions to ask as well, but I didn’t want to bore the children sitting down, already restless and wanting to go to the adventure playground outside the main doors. My question was regarding the North Star, which sailors and mariners used to navigate through the seas. Well, my question was (as I have been to Svalbard during the midnight sun) what did sailors use when it was the midnight sun whilst in the Arctic? He gave me a complex answer and I was quite lost with the answer, so I asked another question. What about if you were near the South Pole and of course you can’t see the North Star, so what did sailors use? He did give me an answer, and I have now kind of forgotten it as I can be quite forgetful sometimes. Still, it was great to chat to someone who knew their stuff about the night skies and got on really well with Bruce.
We then made our way to the main entrance of the museum when on the river there was a small boat with a man and a family on it. The captain shouted us over and wanted to know if we wanted a free ride down the river to the northern part of the museum. Sure, why not? We enjoyed looking at the tall ships from the river and the lighthouse but a ride on the river is what the doctor ordered. We got speaking to the captain, told him where we were from and why we were here, and he was partly interested when I said Olga is from Latvia. He started going on about a Latvian poet who Olga knew about as he also said he was a poet. He knew his stuff and Olga was enjoying listening to this. At the same time, the regular ducks (as the captain called them) came up to him for feeding time. They knew where to come. He got out a local map of a nearby village called Stonington Village. He said it is a very beautiful village next to the sea in New England, and that loads of New Yorkers have brought property up here. We must go, he said, and we did.
A few minutes later we were back in the car and drove into Stonington Village, parked up in the docks and walked down the main high street to the southern tip where the Lighthouse museum was. Here we are supposed to get great views from Stonington Point looking out to the Atlantic Ocean. Well, despite the rain and the wind, I wasn’t all too impressed. Grey clouds and heavy rain lashing down on us. At the moment this was just another village next to the sea for me and I was thinking ‘I can’t understand why the rich New Yorkers would come out here and live to be honest’. The whole place reminded me of Clacton-on-Sea at home without the elderly people, the fun fair rides, the bars, in fact, it was just a lighthouse, a few houses and a few shops by the sea with no sign of life. Oh well.
On the way back to the hotel in Brockton, Mandy was playing up. Sometimes she wouldn’t speak to us; sometimes she displayed the wrong figures on the screen, but Olga gave her some tender loving care (by switching her on and off) and she was alright afterwards. For a very late dinner, we had to try a McDonald’s in America which was located nearby, and to be honest, it was the same as the McDonald’s back home in Europe, just slightly cheaper than England. There were none of this super sizing burgers and fries; it was only the drinks which were bigger. In fact, people were ordering buckets of coke, how can people drink this, I just didn’t understand and this would probably be one of the questions which would bug me on this trip, just how can people eat and drink like this, to get overweight and be happy.
August 24th 2010 – a day in the state of Rhode Island, USA
The rain just did not stop. It has rained non-stop since we arrived two days ago and it was pissing me off. So instead of going into Boston or driving down to Cape Cod and doing something outdoors, we decided to go south again, this time to the state capital of Rhode Island, Providence, which took us about forty minutes to drive. We arrived at lunchtime as we wanted to have a longer sleep the previous night and this would help our body clocks to be back on track. In Providence we took to a quick walk around, where we saw the State House on Constitution Hill which overlooks the city, and down to the river basin nearby where we saw the skyline which is featured on the hit U.S comedy cartoon sitcom, Family Guy.
The rain kept lashing down so we couldn’t be bothered to walk around in the cold and the rain, so we headed into a huge shopping mall nearby which is a lot bigger than the ones we have back home in England. Olga did a bit of shopping and walked around department stores like Macy’s and Nordstorm then we decided to go into a ‘Movie Theatre!’ and do the American film experience. We decided to watch Inception starring Leonardo di Caprio and some other guys dreaming their way around life. Not a bad film, got me thinking otherwise I would have lost the plot and can’t keep up with the storyline but the best thing was it kept us out of the rain for over two hours. Then we had some pasta and salmon in a nearby steakhouse, where we got top notch customer service and very filling food. The time we spent in the city was short as by the time we watched the film, done some shopping and had a meal it was time to head back over the State line to our hotel in Brockton.
We had some problems driving the car on the way back. First Mandy was depressed and didn’t want to start or show us the way back, so I had to guide us out of the city back on the interstate by using signs! Oh my god, the signs are placed on the junctions! No advanced planning and I just had to hope I was in the right lane at junctions. Before we hit the state line, Mandy decided to wake up and guide us home. Then I had a problem at a gas station at Waterbridge, MA. I didn’t even know how to get gas from the pump into my tank. Nothing was happening. So I had to go inside and the sales clerk was ever so helpful and explained I can pre paid with cash, as for some reason, if I used my credit card, I need to give a U.S zip code. Anyway, I didn’t know how much gas I was going to put in, so I gave her a $50 note, and filled up my tank empty. I was shocked! 9.54 gallons for $25! (and lucky they did give me back the change). Now, hopefully the rain will go and we can get on with sightseeing around New England.
August 25th 2010 – BOSTON, USA
I looked out of the window and saw the rain, it just kept coming down! Is there no end to the rain? It was starting to put a dampener on our honeymoon but we had to get to Boston today as we were meeting a friend from New Hampshire, Bastian whom I met online recently and was willing to meet up. So we arranged to meet at the South Station at 10:30 but due to problems with flooding on the roads and rails, we managed to meet up at around 11:15. We chose to walk to South Station from Boston Common (as that is where we manage to park the car) and this proved to be a disaster with all the water on the paths and roads, with the wind getting stronger and even more rain lashing down. With no way to contact Bastian due to some cellphone problems, we managed to meet up at the train station. Straight away we greeted each other and got in his car and drove to the national aquarium center where next to it is the whale watching tours from Boston Harbour. Due to the high winds, the whale watching tours have been cancelled in the Atlantic, so we decided to get out of the rain and head into the Aquarium. Loads of fishes, sharks, turtles and penguins on offer and Olga enjoyed herself as she loves wildlife.
Afterwards we went into a restaurant in the food area and spent a few hours there having a pizza and a few drinks and chatting about travelling and given each other some tips. Then it was time to make tracks and said goodbye to Bastian who dropped us off at Boston Common (and hopefully meet again in New Hampshire in a few days or weeks time), and then we drove off in the rain, back to Brockton.
August 26th 2010 – SOUTHERN SHORES OF MAINE, USA
I couldn’t believe it! I pulled back the curtains in the hotel room and there it was, no cloud in sight. Pure sunshine and blue skies. This perk me and Olga up, so after breakfast we got into the car and drove north to check out state number four, Maine. We are staying in the northern parts of Maine in a few weeks time, so we decided to check out the southern area and what is area is known for as well as Moose, it is lighthouses.
The journey north was so boring. Hitting the traffic in Boston during the morning rush hour, then the long straight roads for miles on end nearly put me to sleep. All I saw was concrete rolling over the hills, pine trees lining up the interstate from each side and loads of stupid truck drivers who like to stick in the middle lane! Pulling off the interstate 95, we landed up slightly south of York Beach to an area known as Cape Neddick and the lighthouse called Nubble Light. Just checked out the local area and took photos on the rocks with the lighthouse in the background while the waves were coming in heavy, crashing the waves over the rocks.
The island which the lighthouse is one is only connected from the mainland (which we were on) via a non-electric cable car. So we couldn’t go up close to see it. We then wanted to go up Cape Elizabeth to see some other lighthouses afterwards, but due to high parking fees and actually no parking whatsoever, we headed slightly north to Portland Head Light.
So we landed up slightly north of Cape Elizabeth and landed up at Portland Head Light, just south of Portland. Commissioned by George Washington the president many moons ago, it is now the oldest lighthouse in the state of Maine and also probably one of the most photographic in the world. I was quite impressed with it, perched on the rocks overlooking the North Atlantic Ocean with waves crashing up against it. We spent a few minutes here before heading north into Portland for a late lunch.
Portland, the biggest town/city in Maine with over 65,000 people living here, but it’s not the state capital (that goes to Augusta). Still as we were nearby, we thought we would kill a bit of time in the late afternoon before the long drive back to Brockton, MA. First of all we checked out a Wendy’s restaurant in South Portland for the first time, and I thought it was a restaurant but turns out to be a fast food joint. Still we checked it out and before we knew it, we decided their burgers and other stuff was a lot better than McDonald’s. Still, I don’t think I could eat this all the time. After parking up on the seafront, we just walked eastwards and took in the sea air and looked at the boats in the strong heat. After three days of non stop rain, I was now complaining about the heat! Typically English for me.
A walk around downtown was in order, and reminded me of Tromso in northern Norway for some unknown reason, The buildings, the lobster restaurants, the cold ice look on the sea and all the boats. The town was OK and very quiet and before we knew it, it was late afternoon and with a long drive back, we headed back in the car. What I did notice was, with the people in Wendy’s, the lighthouses, the gift shops, the gas station clerk, we all got a warm welcome and want to know what the hell are we doing on honeymoon here? We are loving it so far, no negative feel from the Americans! Sometimes I wish Europe was like this……but we can’t have everything.
August 26th 2010 – CAPE COD, USA
We managed to got around to it this week, whale watching, one of the highlights of things to do we wanted to do and see whilst in this area of New England. After the short drive to Plymouth, MA we managed to find a car parking space straight away, booked our tickets and within ten minutes after arriving in downtown Plymouth, we boarded onto the boat (which was run by Capt. John Boats) and embarked on another adventure.
The journey to the whales feeding grounds in the Gloucester Basin (in the North Atlantic Ocean, just off the coast of Boston, north of Provincetown, Cape Cod) was a long journey on this glorious sunny day. It was perfect conditions for a ride out on the ocean, no wind, currents weren’t too strong and overall, the sea was calm. On the way there (and back) we met this really nice couple from Rhode Island who gave us a few tips on the United States, and we gave them a few tips back on Euroland as they have never been before. I forgot to ask them for their names. Still, I love talking to the locals around here, and everyone still seems to be very nice and helpful since we arrived here last Sunday.
The boat slowed down. Olga and I were standing on the lower deck looking out at sea trying to spot a whale. I had a thought and walked through the cabin to the other side of the lower deck to see if I could see anything on that side of the boat, and there it was, a huge tail going back under the water, right next to the boat! It was so close, my first ever whale I have seen in my life! I quickly ran back through the cabin and grabbed Olga’s arm. I didn’t even say a word! Back on the other side, we saw more whales, some spraying their water into the air, one of them had their head above the water to say hello and there was another one, in the far distance flapping it’s fins against the water, as if he was trying to do an impression of a swimmer doing the backstroke in the Olympics.
We bobbled up and down on the water in the whales feeding area for about thirty minutes. It would be thirty minutes I won’t forget in a hurry. Being so close to wildlife in other parts of the world is amazing. But to see a whale for the first time is a great experience and I would recommend a whale watching trip to anyone. Whilst out on the water, we saw at least one Humpback Whale, a few Fin Whales, a couple of Minke Whales and loads of Northern White Whales. The girl who was doing the tour speaking said that today was the best day so far for whale watching this season. We were thrilled. She also said that there are some Atlantic White-Sided Dolphins, but I couldn’t spot them. Dam! Overall, it was a great afternoon for whale watching and won’t forget it in a hurry.
Before we left the small harbour port of Plymouth, we took a quick stroll slightly south to see some of it’s famous sights. We stopped off at Ziggy’s Ice Cream parlor to try out an American ice cream. $3.50 for one scoop! A bit expensive but we still tried it! Wow, one scoop, you sure? It was huge. More like three. Money well spent and my face is now covered in Chocolate, again!
Mayflower II is a tall ship which is docked in the harbour and stays there. The ship transported the English Separatists, also known as ‘the Pilgrims’ from Plymouth in southern England, to Plymouth in Massachusetts in 1620. On the boat were 102 passengers and a crew of around 25. Anyway, on it’s 66 day voyage across the Atlantic, which was meant to be heading towards present day New York City, two people died as there were loads of diseases on board. Anyway, after docking off Cape Cod and making Plymouth their home, a load of pilgrims also died during the first winter due to diseases and not being prepared.
A few meters away from the Mayflower II, is the Plymouth Rock. This is the traditional place where the crew and pilgrims disembarked from the Mayflower II and stepped onto this rock. There is some debate whether the pilgrims actually docked in Plymouth or did they docked at Provincetown first on the Cape Cod. Who knows. There is no reference about the rock in the journals of William Bradford. The first written references came around 120 years after the landing, but not sure where it was written. Anyway, a bit of history, and as it was late afternoon, we thought we would take the short drive through Cape Cod to Provincetown.
It’s just a rock…………………. or is it a pebble?
A short drive? Yeah right, nearly two hours later we arrived at the tip of Cape Cod, Provincetown around 7pm. We wanted to go up the Pilgrims Monument, a huge tower which overlooks the town and the surrounding area. It had just closed. Dam. So we walked down to the beach and took in the sea area and saw the sun starting to set.
A walk along the high street to see what the town was like, and it was buzzing. Buzzing so much there was lots of gay people and not many lesbians walking down the street holding hands and cuddling each other. A few drag queens were posing for photos for the tourists. One drag queen was walking down the street with two toy machine guns pointing out from her bra. It turned out to be a drag queen festival whilst we were here.
Everyone were having a great time, but I didn’t want to stay here long as we couldn’t even get into a restaurant as the place was busy. One man shouted out (who was handing out leaflets), welcome to Provincetown, the gay capital of America! Is it? After a while, we got back in the car, and stopped off somewhere near Dennis on the upper cape to grab something to eat!
August 28th 2010 – BOSTON, USA
Eventually, great weather to explore Boston, so after a short trip to Walmart in Brockton (where I nearly had a head on collision with an R-V on a set of crossroads!) it was time to make the short drive north to the state capital.
We booked a tour on the Freedom Trail and started off at Boston Common where a young tour girl dressed in traditional costume took a group of us on the major historical sights of the tour and explain about each different site in great detail and details on the war between the British and Americans (this was such a great tour, that it even made me feel guilty being British, as we caused a lot of problems back then!) 😛 We walked past the state house with the great big golden dome, and it has 5ft long wooden cod inside, which back in the 1920’s a Harvard university student stole it to which the government closed down for three days because they were looking for the cod. The student eventually owned up! I laughed so much at this story….only in America. (Reminds me of a scene of the cartoon ‘Futurama’ where students stole the pig mascot of another university which declared war!)
After walking pass the Park Church next to the common we walked into a graveyard, where the guide was explaining who was buried here, like the leader of the war, Paul Revere and John Carver. Some great stories here, too long to go into detail and I don’t want to blow everything on the tour as it is well worth taking a walk around. The last grave we saw was Samuel Adams, who invented a beer named after himself. The best thing was that there is a bar across the street from the grave (called Beantown) and Samuel Adams sells it. So it’s basically the only bar in the world where you can sit down for a Samuel Adams beer and look across at his grave. Nice! Another quick brilliant story that the guide told us was that the graves are high above the ground where you have to lift the lid up and walk down a set of stairs to get to the body, you know the ones I am talking about. Well, during a minor earthquake in Boston back in the early 1990’s (I think), the shock lifted up one of the grave lids. This got historians all excited so they went down to explore this grave. Walking down into the ground, all in darkness, they came across a body on the staircase leading down! Hang on, body on the staircase, strange, shouldn’t be on the stairs, should be somewhere nicer in the tomb. After further examination, they found a pair of Levis jeans around his leg bones! After looking at dental records, it was found that the body owed a lot of money to Italian mobsters in Boston and was killed and thrown into the grave! Nice!
Then we walked past the old city hall, the meeting house etc, and some more slagging off for the British it was time to part company with our tour guide after two hours. Such a brilliant tour. But the Freedom Trail didn’t finish there, so we carried on walking through Little Italy and the North End of Boston, past Paul Revere’s house and the Copp’s Hill burying ground, before walking over Charlestown Bridge to the navy yard where we found a tall ship before heading up the overlooking hill to see the Battle of Bunker Hill monument, to which we walked up 294 steps to the top to get some good views of Boston and Charlestown.
Then it was a long walk back into Boston and drive back to Brockton before we headed out for a steak meal in Bugaboo Creek Steakhouse to end a great first week in New England. Tomorrow, the long drive west to Niagara Falls in Canada. Hope we can get into the country!
August 29th 2010 – DRIVE ACROSS NY, USA
Right, maybe this was the longest drive of my life, but according to Mandy the TomTom, it was time to drive 779km west to Niagara Falls. What a bloody long journey….a couple of stops, lovely views with lakes, rivers, hills and forests and a couple of tolls to pay but there was one bit of drama earlier on before I reached Albany in New York State. I nearly hit a TURTLE on the Interstate!!!!!! And it was huge!!! Olga was asleep (typical) and I was in shock, but still managed to drive 65mph and managed to get us down the road. Oh, also saw an RV have a complete blow out, the car’s tyre blew up and went across the road hitting the barrier in the middle while the RV managed to stop safely in the hard shoulder.
Then the only time I was completely p~~~~~~~ off with America this week was on the Rainbow Bridge, before entering Canada customs, they charge you $3.50 to cross the bridge which is about 250 meters long before you can enter Canada! Money Grabbers! Anyway, we got through the border within ten minutes, and a few questions from the nice guy (which I still had trouble understanding the English from his accent), we were in Canada!
August 29th & 30th 2010 – NIAGARA FALLS, Canada
We quickly arrived at our hotel on Victoria Avenue from the customs and border control and after checking in we wandered down towards the resort of Niagara Falls. I knew what to expect, Olga didn’t really but it was true! Niagara Falls is one of the biggest tourist traps this side of the pond! We walked past Skylon Tower, which anyone can go up for a price and take a view of the area and grab dinner at the same time. We looked around Clifton Hills, with all it’s amusement arcades, stupid museum’s, and fast food joints, and gift shops which totally rip off tourists. After grabbing a light snack and taking in the falls from above, and as it was slightly late, Olga wanted to go up the skywheel to take a good look at the falls from above, while they were lite up in all sorts of different colours, which was ok. Shame the wheel was some distance from the falls, but still seeable.
The next morning we woke up early and headed down into the centre when most people on the resort are still asleep or shoving loads of doughnuts down their necks for breakfast. We managed to get on the first boat on the ‘Maid of the Mist’ tour which was excellent for the tourist trap. The boat took us up close to American Falls before heading right into the heart of Horseshoe Falls, where me and Olga got completely wet from the mist of the water crashing down at the bottom. Lovely! Then we took the short bus ride north to the ‘White Water Walk’ which is basically some rapids in the water and waves crashing around the place. Then we took to Niagara’s Fury where we saw the history of how the falls were formed while getting wet and then last off all, a ‘journey behind the falls’ where we went behind the falls and got some excellent views of the falls crashing down and it was bloody loud as well.
Despite the really hot heat (which the town of Niagara and the nearby city of Toronto issued heat warnings which is really unusual this time of year), we enjoyed our time here. But in some ways I am glad to get to Toronto tomorrow (despite the heat) as I want to get out of this rip off, tourist trap resort, but I am still glad we got to see one of the wonderful waterfalls in the world. An amazing sight!
August 31st 2010 – TORONTO, Canada
The short trip to Ontario’s state capital, Toronto was in order today, so the short trip up the interstate through an industrial wasteland and nothing to see, and getting stuck in traffic jams in the extreme heat, we eventually landed up in the city and found parking quite easy. We took a walk across downtown and landed up at the CN Tower, which is still the world’s free-standing tallest tower (that one in Dubai didn’t get the record as it is classed as a building!). A quick trip up the elevator and we were getting great views of the city and across out to the harbour despite the haze. Then we brought an extra ticket to take a ride up the skypod, which is another 33 storeys high on top of the 44 (I think) we had already done! The views were brilliant. A little bit scary for Olga, but it was ok! And the wind wasn’t strong up there, so the heat was still to be felt. Back to the middle level, and we sat on the glass floor which you can look all the way down to the ground! I was fine but it was a little bit hard for Olga to sit down on the glass at first, but managed to get her down. Afterwards there was children jumping up and down on the glass, this made me wonder if the glass ever gets weakened and needs replacing now and again.
After the trip to the CN Tower we took a ride out on the harbour with a boat tour and got great views of planes landing on the city’s airport on an island in the lake (which you need a boat to get across to the airport for a flight), a tall ship setting sail and some islands with loads of boats and wildlife. But most of all, it was a great place to get the city skyline photography. With the heat still rising, this was a great relief to be by the water. After exploring the city, it was time to make the short drive north to a town called Scarborough for our bed and breakfast to which on route, we got stuck in another traffic jam! Tomorrow, it’s off to the capital, Ottawa!
September 01st 2010 – OTTAWA, Canada
Today got off to a slow start as we were having a great chat over breakfast with the owner from the ‘Turtle Inn’ so by the time we left it was around 10am. Then the long slog up to Ottawa awaited us which took nearly four hours in total including stops. The first part of the journey was kind of busy, trucks, cars, r.v’s everywhere but by the time we reached Kingston on the northern end of Lake Ontario the traffic thinned out and there was basically just our car and a few others on the roads. The roads were long and straight, thick lines of trees lined up the interstate and I just hope a moose wouldn’t come out walking in front of our moving car.
We found our destination quite easy, staying at TB’s Stacey’s and Stuart’s place which is a very kind offer from them to which we accepted. This was a great chance to sort out our laundry and just chill out for a few hours instead of walking around the city in the extreme heat. After a cooked beef dinner which was nicely done, mouth watering and a change from the American junk food or Italian’s pizza and pasta which we have been feeding on, all of us took the short drive downtown to look at ‘Parliament Hill’ which are three amazing buildings built in Gothic European style. The buildings overlook the main river which runs through the city and Stacey told us the other side is the state of Quebec. Cool. We will be in that state in a few days time.
After a bit of shopping we returned to Parliament Hill as there was a light and music show being projected onto the main parliament building with the clock. The show is called ‘MosAika Sound & Light Show On Parliament Hill’ to which MosAika means ‘Our Story’. So the show was ‘our story of Canada’. The free bilingual show was spectacular and totally loved it. I learnt more on Canada’s history in the thirty minute show than I have in my whole entire life. It was so good in fact, that me and Olga are hoping to come back the next night (as it is running for a few more nights yet) and capture the moment once again. It is such a great show!
Ottawa is such a small capital city and very open with loads of green spaces, rivers flowing through it and is worth a short trip to explore the place. Now as we have an extra day tomorrow in this area, what can we do? Time to do a bit of research and hopefully go out into the wild tomorrow.
September 2nd 2010 – PARC OMEGA, Canada
A day away from the cities are in order. With the weather still sticky but overcast today, we decided to head slightly east into the state of Quebec and head for Montebello. Just north of the village is a wildlife park called ‘Parc Omega’. For some reason leaving Ottawa, Mandy our GPS system decided to take us on a tour of the city which took in the sights of downtown with Parliament Hill, the long river through the city and Chinatown before crossing the river and we landed straight into Quebec state. It’s a different world as soon as we cross the bridge. There are no bilingual signs in English and French, all the cars have gone from Ontario number plates to Quebec number plates and the people look more French. That’s it, back in France I thought.
The drive took forty five minutes and found the park with great ease. After paying up, we took in the main welcome centre where Olga could buy carrots to feed the animals around the park, but I noticed straight away in a pen that there was a baby moose. I was so happy. I had never seen a moose in my life, so I was thrilled. We took in a hike which took us through woodland, which we came across deers (to which some wanted carrots, so did not), a lake with Rainbow Trout in it (we didn’t see them) and loads of chipmunks and squirrels. Then we took in a bird show which was done in French and English and saw four different types of bird of prey. The first one was an owl, then two types of hawk before the bald headed eagle made an appearance. Then another short hike into the woods where we came across two black bears and some wolves who didn’t give a care in the world.
After lunch we took the car for a drive in the park to which deers kept coming up to us for carrots, and one got so close he decided to give the side windows a good licking over with his dirty mouth. There were loads of wild boars everywhere, sniffing for insects, and we came across some wapiti, black bears, arctic wolves, buffalo, and caribou but we didn’t see any beavers next to the lakes.
It was a great day and a day in the wild was needed. Now it’s time to get back on the road to Montreal and we are now keeping an eye on the hurricane Earl which is now planned to head up the east coast of the USA and Canada, and very strong winds are now expected in Quebec City as well as New Brunswick and Nova Scotia! Great!
September 3rd 2010 – MONTREAL, Canada
It was time to head into the heart of the Quebec region and discover it’s second city, Montreal. After a long drive of doing 200km of clear open road, then hitting a traffic jam for the last 20km which took over an hour to drive, we arrived in the city, staying in a hotel on the eastern suburbs. It was already late afternoon so we decided to take the metro to the old town and find a restaurant to which we did.
On route, the metro felt like I was back in Paris. Same style trains being used with rubber tyres rubbing against the rails. No English was present and the locals all spoke the Quebec-style of French. It seemed a bit odd as I also notice the appearance of the local people is different to those of the Ontario region. They all looked French or European. Walking around the old town of Montreal reminded me that I was back in the old towns of central Europe, with grey brick built buildings with wooden framework all around the place. Busker’s were performing in the street singing old English songs with guitars and bongos. We were looking at the menu’s outside the restaurant’s and I kept looking at the prices thinking they were all quoted in Euros and not in dollars as I thought I was in Europe!
The restaurant we found was a pizzeria called Jacques Cartier which was on the north end of Place Jacques Cartier, right in the heart of the old town. We both had pasta and two drinks each which we thought was going to be a reasonable price as we saw on the menu. We know about how taxes are added after the final price is sorted out (which is strange and I hope this is the only country in the world which has a tax system on goods like this) and then got a staggering 13% tax added on the bill. I went to pay by credit card and was then forced to pay an 15% tip! So of the final price of $68 (£42), 28% of that was tips and taxes! In the other towns in Canada which we have explored already, the taxes have been around 5% and we don’t get forced to give tips (even though I have been giving tips all the way).
So after that we decided to eat a bit cheaper in the remaining two days in Quebec state and have a good meal in America when we return there on Monday! We walked around the old town for a little while and down at the river front, to which we were both tired and thought of getting an early night before the short trek up to Quebec city. Also the hurricane is still coming, but doesn’t really seem to affect Quebec City or Montreal. We will see.
September 4th 2010 – QUEBEC REGION & CITY, Canada
Today we decided to go to the region’s capital, Quebec City and explore the four hundred year old city, but as it is a 250km drive from Montreal, we decided to stop off at a small town called Cap-de-la-Madeleine, which is north of a huge industrial town called Trois-Rivières on the river Saint-Lawrence. The reason we stopped off there is because I found a great looking church which I never have come across before. The basilica is called ‘Basilique Notre-Dame du Cap’ which is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and receives thousands of pilgrims and visitors every year. We may not be pilgrims, but we were certainly visitors and were amazed about the circular-squared shape building overlooking the river, despite the heavy rain which was starting to pour over us.
The only other thing I found out about Cap-de-la-Madeleine was that the town was founded in 1651 by an Abbot of some small town in France. After a short time at the Basilica, it was time to head north towards the city of Quebec.
Before we explore the city of Quebec, we decided to go to a waterfall a few kilometers north. The ‘Parc de la Chute-Montmorency’ is an eighty three meter high waterfall which is 30 meters higher than Niagara Falls. It was a very nice area to explore and got very wet. We spent about two hours here before heading into Quebec ville for the afternoon.
We made it to the region’s capital, Quebec City, and feeling tired after walking up and down staircase at the waterfall, we only decided to walk around the old town, which had a castle which was not really a castle but instead an hotel and a citadel on the outskirts. Street performers were everywhere and the shopping streets were bustling in the late afternoon. On the drive on the way back to Montreal, the winds were picking up from the tropical storm which is starting to hit the eastern side of Canada which was Hurricane Earl but managed to get back safely in time, despite at some points being blown across the road whilst trying to watch out for moose walking across the road!
September 5th 2010 – RETURN TO MONTREAL, Canada
Our last day in Canada before heading back into the United States, so it was time to see more of Montreal. Our first stop was at the Olympic Park to see the Montreal Tower which is 175 meters high and is the world’s tallest inclined tower, which arches over the Olympic stadium in a graceful sweep. I noticed a cable car which went up the side of the tower but we decided to give this a miss, as the area was busy due to the city’s marathon taking place.
Then we took the long metro journey to the west of the city and took in the sights of Oratoire Saint-Joseph on the outskirts of Parc Mont-Royal. A lot of pilgrims make the journey and climb the three hundred steps to the entrance of this enormous church. Brother Andre (1845-1937) would be very pleased with so many pilgrims to visit this shrine to the husband of the Virgin Mary, as he first built the place as a hillside chapel in his spare time and soon rapidly became a huge shine. The church’s octagon copper dome is one of the biggest in the world and when we explore inside the building, the interior is starkly modern. After a while (when Sunday morning service finished), it was time to make a move as the place got very crowded.
After checking out Parc-Mont Royal we headed across to the island of Île Sainte-Hélène where we checked out the Biosphere, which was built for the expo in 1967 and has displays on Canadian river systems and checked out a few sculptures which were dotted around the island. There was also great views to be had of Montreal’s modern skyline. There was a music festival taken place on the island with loud dance music beating over the air. That was the end of our day and it was now time to chill out. It’s been a long day as we were woken up by a false fire alarm at 8am after being kept up all night with the strong winds from the hurricane which was hitting the Canada east coast, only a few hours drive away.
That is it for Canada on this visit. We will come back one day to the world’s second largest country as there is so much to explore, but on this trip, I am glad that we covered most of the cities in the area. It was different, but nothing stood out for me. Niagara Falls is a great natural sight but a shame there is a ‘Las Vegas’ type of city overlooking. Toronto is very modern, very multicultural and very pleasant to walk around. Without the CN Tower and boat tours on the lake, would tourists still come here? Ottawa is a beautiful city, very open, and the parliament buildings are very European. Over the river and into Quebec state, Canada changes. It’s not the Canada I thought it would be. I felt I had traveled to three countries on this trip, the United States, Canada and a French speaking European country. At one point walking around the old streets of Quebec City, I was reading menus of the restaurants and the figures shown, I thought it was in Euros and not Dollar’s! All the signs were in French and not a word of English to be found. Then the French they spoke was slightly different to the French I know and hard to understand. Also the driving in Quebec region, well, same as France! Very aggressive, no respect for the speed limits and sometimes, no respect for the red light on the weird looking traffic light systems! Montreal for me is a very modern, vibrant city, but after a while, it also reminded me of a city back in Europe and got bored very quickly. Also Canada is very expensive with a tax system which is hard to work out at first, but these are first impressions of mine in Canada, and I have only trekked (or driven) a very tiny part in this vast country. We will return, but now, it’s time to go back into the United States and into the state of Vermont.
September 6th 2010 – VERMONT, USA
Early start, and an early get away to get out of Montreal and back into the United States. Did I notice the difference when we returned to the States? Away from some of the Quebec snobby I was getting as I started to speak English in their region instead of trying to understand their sluggish French and receiving lots of great customer service and big welcomes. How I missed that in the week I was away from the states. Forty minutes driving through beautiful scenery of mountains, lakes and forests, we arrived at our first point of call on today’s road trip, Waterbury.
Waterbury was a small village twenty years ago known for it’s farms and slow way of life, but now there is the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream production factory based here. Since then, the company has grown huge and there are now six production factories all over the world, with two in America. We paid a small sum of $3 each for the tour, to which it lasted thirty minutes. We watched a short video on how the company started, then saw the production factory (which was shut today as it was Labor day) and had some samples of ice cream. That was it, but we brought an ice cream and a shake for the drive down to the southern part of Vermont.
After an hour and a bit after leaving Waterbury, we arrived in Pittsford. Pittsford? Why Pittsford? Well, I knew Vermont had some strange looking bridges which were probably worth checking out (bridges…sad you might say, but I like unusual building architecture!) and with some advice from TB’s X-Drive about where they are, I set up Mandy (our GPS system) and check out three out of four bridges in the Pittsford area.
After seeing the bridges, we drove the long distance across southern Vermont and then into New Hampshire where we stopped off on the northern outskirts of Concord to go into a UNO’s restaurant for a grilled salmon steak meal and then another long drive to Scarborough in Maine to see a chocolate moose. We missed out as the shop was close five minutes after we arrived there, so we will pop in there later in the week, and then we had another 100km drive north into Augusta where we checked into our hotel for the next three nights. After 500km today, I am bloody tired and glad of a lie in tomorrow morning for a special day ahead (I hope!)
September 7th 2010 – NORTHERN MAINE, USA
It didn’t all go to plan today. A lie in was needed and it was nearly lunchtime before we made the 233km drive north of Millinocket in the heart of moose-lands, to go on a moose watching trip. The drive was long and boring but it was even strange, that after I passed Bangor, there was nothing on the interstate. I didn’t see a car for miles. It was a long piece of tarmac with forests lining up both sides of the road. Still, I had to watch out for crazy moose and deer to jump out in front of the car, but it wasn’t to be. Instead I counted the number of dead raccoons and skunks on the tarmac to keep me awake as Olga was already asleep in the passenger seat. Why raccoons and skunks? In England it would be rabbits and cats. Oh, I nearly ran over a red squirrel today as well! Not used to this wildlife, last week a turtle, today nearly a red squirrel, tomorrow who knows…..moose, bald headed eagle, deer, a huge dragonfly? Maybe a polar bear who has wondered down south from the Arctic. Crazy world we live in!
We arrived in Millinocket and grabbed some lunch/dinner at a diner in the centre of downtown. I don’t think this town get many visitors unless they are here for moose watching at the nearby lakes or hiking in the mountains. The young waitress was a little surprised to hear me with an British accent (whatever that is) and happily served us our food which was great. She was even shocked that I gave a $5 tip! Don’t they get tips around these parts?
It was time to move right into the forests and we found the moose tours starting at some campsite in the middle of nowhere. Can you remember the cartoon from the 1980’s (especially if you are from the UK) called ‘The Raccoons’? With Bert, Melissa and Ralph and that horrible pink looking creature with a bent nose as the bad boy? Well, can you remember all the scenes where in forests, mountains and lakes. The whole area was covered in pine trees. Well this area was how it was. The area was beautiful and I have never seen anywhere like this before. There was no noise. It was heaven. I could happily relax and chill out by the lake, but before I could get too comfortable, Rob our tour guide was taking us and six others onto a boat and before we knew it, we were out crossing the lake.
More pine trees, some islands in the lakes were covered in trees, and the water was perfectly still. At two points during the three hour boat ride, the boat hit two rocks and we were grounded, but lucky after a few minutes we were moving again. It was late afternoon and this was supposed to be the best time to see moose as they came down to the lake to drink loads of water. Well, we looked, we looked, and we looked so closely at the shores, and did loads of miles on the boat looking at the shores but not one moose to be found. We were the unlucky ones as moose is usually spotted every day. So for me, a huge fan of the moose, I still haven’t seen one in the wild. Oh well…..one day!
September 8th 2010 – MAINE, USA
Our last day in Maine, and before we setted off to go towards the Rangeley Lakes Region (as it was raining, we cancelled our trip to Bar Harbour) we went to the post office in town and noticed the state house of Maine, so we took a few shots. So here they are……
A bit of a chill out, drive out day today due to the weather so we headed to the western part of Maine to the Rangeley Lakes Region. First stop was Farmington where we found the MOOSE Superstore, called Mooseville. It is such a great shop and if I had loads of money and unlimited weight limit on the flight home next week I might get a little bit crazy, but I only brought two moose’s. Oh well. Then we headed up to Rangeley, and found a rest area off the main road known as Small Falls, and actually found a small waterfall there in the woodland.
The area around is known for its moose’s and all day when we were driving around the lakes, no moose’s were to be found. So disappointed. It was raining hard at times which also dampened our spirits, but we did go into the Rangeley Lakes State Park where nothing was going on but managed to stroll around the lake taking in the peace and stillness of the water.
On the way back it rained, so we got back to Augusta and did a bit of shopping in Walmart and Sears (whoopee!) and had some dinner as well. What an exciting day, roll on Vermont and New Hampshire for the next two days. Wish we had more time in Maine (and the weather and moose), as it is very beautiful. In fact, one of the most peaceful and stunning places I have ever visited.
September 9th 2010 – NEW HAMPSHIRE, USA
We checked out of our hotel in Augusta, and planned to do a day’s driving. First stop would be over the state line east of Maine into New Hampshire to do the Mountain Washington Auto Route, then back into Maine and the town of Scarborough for something special regarding moose, then down to Nashua to a restaurant which I wanted to check out before doing the long drive north into Vermont and the ski resort town of Killington to check into our hotel up in the mountains.
The drive through the lakes and mountains to Mount Washington took longer than I thought as there were loads of road works. I was of course still on the lookout for moose, which I still haven’t found one on the trip yet, but at one point I thought I did. I was driving around 50mph along the main road when I thought I saw an animal in the bushes on the side of the road. I pushed down on the brakes so hard that smoke could be seen from the tyres. I went back to check it out and found out it was a plastic deer! Grrrr.
After paying a short trip into the town of Gorham, we arrived at the start of the Auto Road which goes up to the summit of Mountain Washington. After paying $31 we were making our way up, with not many viewpoints on the first part of the mountain due to so much trees and leafs in the way, but the second part of the mountain, the trees went and was mainly rocks to be seen. Still no viewpoints as we were up in the clouds and nothing could be seen.
As we parked up the car at the top, we had to wrap up warm! Strong winds, loads of rain and freezing temperatures. I had trouble with my breathing after a while, I am not sure why. This mountain wasn’t so high but I haven’t been up a mountain for a while (over a year), so this came as a shock to me. After a while I felt fine. Olga was fine. We chilled out in the building for a while hoping the weather would pass. We had some soup and a cup of tea, and sent a couple of postcards from the post office up here. After a while, and the weather here to stay, we decided to get some photos of the summit sign on top of some rocks. It was bloody difficult to climb the few rocks due to the strong winds but we did it. When we climbed down there was an elderly person who was hiking (I shall call him Lenny), who stopped me for attention. He said he climbed the mountain this morning but he asked for a lift back down to the bottom or Gorham. I could see he was struggling and he said he had no body fat on him. I said sure, (I wasn’t going to let him freeze to death and he said it was a rip off to be charged $45 one way on the railway!). I managed to warm up the car for everyone, Olga managed to change her clothes in the toilets as she was soaked and we somehow managed to get to Gorham without going over the side of the mountain as some parts of the road was just mud and not concrete.
After dropping Lenny off at Gorham (and had some great stories from him about Alaska and some hiking routes in the area) we headed east over the state line back into Maine and arrived in Scarborough. Our second chance to see something special in the chocolate shop, Lenny the Moose, which is made out of chocolate. Made 13 years ago, it has brought in loads of customers and Lenny seems to be here to stay. I asked a few questions about him to the shop assistant and she said the bears next to him and the pond that they were standing on were all made out of chocolate, and the bears were made for Lenny’s 10th birthday. (awwwwww).
They can still be eaten and I also asked how much it would cost to buy Lenny. She worked out the weight in pounds and how much the shop would charge by the weight, and it would cost $37,500 to buy Lenny! But the shop would never sell. Oh well, I tried to buy him but I don’t think Olga would be too thrilled about it, and I don’t think Virgin Atlantic would have a seat or two for him on the way home next week! Time to head into Nashua in New Hampshire now for dinner.
September 10th 2010 – RETURN TO VERMONT, USA
After a lie in this morning we wanted to chill out today after all the travelling and driving yesterday. So we walked around and down the mountain to explore the ski resort of Killington, near Rutland. It is such a lovely area, but we didn’t really want to go up the mountain in case we have bad weather on the summits like we did yesterday up Mount. Washington.
There were these huge figures on the side of the road made out of hay. A local old guy came up to us and explained it was part of the annual hay festival in Killington and there were around 35 figures being popped up and painted on around the resort. (Some were still being made). So we drove around in the end (as some of the figures were fast away) and think we finished around 32 of the figures. Then we drove on to Quechee, twenty miles east of Killington.
September 11th 2010 – NEW YORK CITY, USA
An early start today and drove the five hours from Killington arriving at our hotel in East Orange, New Jersey in the early afternoon. After settling in we hop onto a train (part of the New Jersey Transit system) and headed to Penn Street station in downtown New York City and then after figuring out the subway system, we landed up at the site of Ground Zero, the site where the twin towers (World Trade Centre) was destroyed on 9th September 2001. Nine years on, and our first day in New York City it was fitting that we paid our respects to those who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks that day. Nothing can describe my feelings whilst walking around the site for at least an hour and we also popped into the fire station at the site where loads of the New York Fire Department lost their lives as well. There was a wall where people could leave messages to show their respects and feelings. The only thing I could write which summed up my feelings was –
“We shall never forget, God Bless America”
There were also protests about building a mosque nearby and some church pastors who wanted to burn a Koran as well down in Florida, it was all kicking off. What a bunch of stupid idiots, and I am talking about both sides! Today we show our respects to those who have lost their loved ones etc, and we got idiots from both sides who want to bring politics into play! Bunch of twats I say! Moving on, we checked out Times Square and loved the huge big screens and it was there we went to T.G.I Fridays for a meal (which was a bit overpriced, but I don’t care, we eat in Times Square!). It’s now late at night and I need to catch up on some sleep for hopefully another long day checking out this fantastic city.
September 12th 2010 – WASHINGTON DC, USA
With the weather pretty bad with strong winds and strong rains in the New York area and everything we wanted to do was outdoors, I checked the weather for Washington D.C. which was a lot better, so we got up early and took the four hour drive to the capital. As soon as I got away from the towns of Orange, Elizabeth and Newark, the drive down on the interstate was smooth apart from the rain lashing down on us. Into Delaware, they charged me $4 to cross the memorial bridge and enter the state. Fine. I heard there is nothing to do in Delaware state and heard it was quite boring, but I will find out one day. Within twenty minutes I was at another toll booth and was charged $3 to leave the state of Delaware. Is this the only way they can make money in this state? Does anybody really want to come to Delaware or drive through it? Into Maryland, and Mandy our GPS system got a little bit confused around Baltimore, but after getting lost and back on track we finally arrived into the District of Columbia. Driving around the capital city was fine, not much traffic and we found the underground parking with ease. By this point the rain has stop, still a bit of cloud but we wouldn’t let this dampen our day.
We moved away from squirrel-land and went to the World War Two memorial which is huge with reefs against a slab of concrete with the state’s name and territories around a huge water fountain. Then there is the famous reflecting pool which is commonly used in movie’s such as Independence Day, and at the other end is Lincoln’s Memorial. There were people praying to him, about what to do in life, and then there were tourists like me and Olga who just wanted a photo with old Abe.
Back past the reflecting pool, the memorial came across the tall tower known as Washington Memorial (In the cartoon series Futurama, it’s known as Clinton’s memorial!) which we couldn’t get a tour up today as we didn’t have tickets and were unable to purchase them. So we walked the other length of the huge common and came across the Capital State Building where today there was a protest about money and taxes with the upcoming state elections coming up. A lot of people thought me and Olga were part of the protest and kept saying things to us like ‘thank you for coming’ and ‘what’s our views?’ We left quite suddenly.
After walking around about it was time to head off. Before anyone asks, why didn’t we go into museums? We only do museums what interest us. I know Washington D.C. has loads and loads of museums, mainly on American history etc, but it doesn’t interest us I am afraid. I like taking photographs of landmarks, nature and meeting new people and learning new cultures and languages through the local people. So that’s your answer before you ask me this question (as I already had a few already!) Back to New York City and in the rain we go…….
September 13th – 16th – NEW YORK CITY, USA
Our second day exploring the ‘Big Apple’. First stop a journey to the southern point of Manhattan to Battery Park to get ferry tickets for Liberty and Ellis islands. We wanted to get tickets for the crown and the climb up inside the statue of Liberty, but these were sold out for the next four months. So we just got the ferry tickets for a bargain of $12 each. Within an hour, we were cruising over the harbour and the Statue of Liberty was getting nearer and nearer. I was full of excitement like the rest of the tourists on-board the ferry. Now I know how the immigrants felt when they were arriving from Europe back in the 1920’s, and when the statue came into view. The Statue of Liberty was donated to America from France, can’t remember why, something to celebrate independence day I can imagine (just couldn’t really hear the guide on the boat over the engine noises!).
She was a lot smaller than I thought, but still, she is a symbol of hope and glory. She looks great for over 100 years old. She is powerful and one day she might just walk across the water like she did in the 1980’s film Ghostbusters II. We stayed on the island for about an hour, just looking at her head looking out to the sea. Hasn’t she got arm ache from lifting that touch for all this time yet?
We got back on the boat and headed to Ellis Island where the immigration museum is and had a wander around that before heading back to Manhattan and had a walk around Battery Park. We came across the Sphere statue which was originally located between the twin towers at the World Trade Centre before the terrorist attacks nine years ago. It somehow stayed in one piece and was moved to Battery Park (which is close to the World Trade Centre) and is now a temporary memorial with an eternal flame next to it.
The subway next and we landed up at Grand Central Terminal (Train Station) and had a look around the grand marble floors and ceiling. The place looked spotless. But most of all, the place is huge. I couldn’t believe it. Compared to the train station I work back in London, I work in a cattle shed!!! Down a few blocks and it was time to go up the Empire State Building. Up to the 86th floor and got wonderful views of Manhattan and other parts of New York City. It was late afternoon now, and with the thunderstorms coming in we decided to head back to New Jersey to our hotel, feeling a bit tired especially after the trip to Washington D.C. yesterday, so an early night was in order. We would have got back a little early, but there were track problems at Penn St station so we were delayed for about forty five minutes. Oh well……
Another beautiful day over New York City and after having a lazy start to the day, we actually left our hotel about 11.40 after watching some crazy cat program on Animal Planet. The train into NYC from Brick Church was a disaster today! Our train broke down but eventually got moving again. So a twenty minute journey took an hour! First stop today was Wall Street and Trinity Church in Manhattan. We didn’t stay here long but at least we saw them. It was lunch time by now, so all the guys in suits and the girls in black professional dresses or ladies suits were now on their way to grab a quick lunch. We then made the short journey to Brooklyn Bridge, one of New York’s famous landmarks. We walked across the bridge, having a great view of the statue of liberty, the Manhattan skyline and the Manhattan bridge next to us. The Brooklyn Bridge could do with a paint job as it is a bit dull and the previous paint job is now peeling off.
Back into Manhattan and the next stop was the United Nations headquarters. I thought whilst we were here, it’s probably worth having a quick look at as it is the only one in the world. The actual building itself is having some work done to it, so instead we went flag spotting and tried to guess which countries were actually in the United Nations. (We found the UK straight away, far away from all the other big countries. lol, and Latvia’s flag just didn’t want to blow!). We had a little time to kill, so we checked out the Daily News building on 42nd East street and then the Chrysler Building before heading to Times Square where we did a little bit of shopping, saw the Cookie Monster from a certain US Children’s program and got hassled by guys who wanted to sell us Comedy tickets for that evening! Then we had a mini meet up with Yolanda from TravBuddy (a backpacking website which no longer exists) at Hard Rock Cafe where we spent about three hours chatting which was great. It was also great to get a few drinks in as I have been driving on this trip, so that was refreshing. Then basically after Yolanda leaving us (and hope to see her again one day, she was great, if you get the chance to meet, do!), we made our way quickly to Penn St station for the train back, no hiccups on the way and managed to get from Hard Rock Cafe to our hotel door in thirty minutes! That was quick!
Our last full day in New York city and its was time to do one of the last few remaining things we wanted to see, Central Park and the American Museum of Natural History. We had a lie in so we didn’t get to Central Park until around 10am after a short but rubbish train journey through New Jersey seeing the sights of warehouses and roads full of cars. We got off somewhere half way down at Central Park where the lake is and walked right through the heart of it. It was amazing to see a piece of green land in the middle of this cosmopolitan city, and what was strange was seeing all the office blocks overlooking the trees from where I was standing. Not even London has a park this close to buildings. It was a great sight, nature and city life combined. Me and Olga walked around the area for a while looking at all the other museums and looking at the dodgy street sellers selling postcards and paintings, but we made our way over to the American Museum of Natural History which is on the western side of Central Park.
It cost me and Olga quite a few dollars to get in as we wanted to see the special exhibitions. Walking through the museum pass a huge elephant, we entered the theatre where a thirty minute show on space was about to start, and it was basically the history of space transposition by Nasa over the years. All I remember was that the short film was called ‘Journey to the Stars’ and was voiced over by American actress Whoopi Goldberg. It was ok, learnt a few things like you usually do but it was time to go and grab some lunch at the cafe bar, which was slightly expensive but well worth eating.
The second exhibition was another space film, in some sort of planetarium where it was all about the big bang (I think) and how the universe was formed. It was ok, but we left the last exhibition till last (well, for me it was at least), Sir Ernest Shackleton’s 1914 voyage to the Antarctic. Who would get to southern Iceland’s first? The British or the Norwegians? There were so many displays on offer, information to read and television clips to see, we spent most of our time in here and before we knew it, the museum was closing up! We had a very quick wander around the dinosaur section and brought loads of books from the gift shop on explorer’s and manage to find a Lonely Planet guide book on Antarctica (which I thought was a great find!) If we were back in NYC, then a return trip to this museum might be in order!
It was time to get our train back from Penn St. Well, we were walking over ground and did a bit of shopping in the area, but we had a problem. We just could not find Penn St Station. It wasn’t even signposted. We saw subway numbers but that was all. In the end we just had to ask a policeman who was looking lazy and acted lazy but told us the right information (thank god, as our train was shortly to depart). Well, no need to rush as the train was disrupted, locals were getting cheesed off as were the local baseball team supporters who needed to get across town for the game. When the service did eventually get going, we were back in Brick Church in twenty minutes, and then it was the worst part of the honeymoon. No, not leaving, but packing! The amount of items, clothes we had to get into four bags was going to be a mission but I think we were going to be fine! So after two hours packing (including watching some rubbish cat and dog programme on the television) we were asleep in our nice comfortable bed.
FINAL DAY – DRIVE BACK TO BOSTON
Well, here it was, the last day and it was time to drive from our hotel in New Jersey to the airport in Boston. Another rubbish breakfast of waffles and lucky charms cereal, and we were off. Checked out, the staff seemed shocked that I was all polite and saying ‘Tally-ho’ to them. In the car, which has stood still for the last three days, we got onto the local interstate and somehow Mandy, our GPS system told us to head in the direction of New York City. It was early morning rush hour traffic. It was crazy! It took us over an hour to do about 12 miles! We even landed up paying a stupid toll on the George Washington Bridge. It was hell to drive in this area, but before I knew it, my Olga was asleep in the passenger seat and I was driving through the green forests of Connecticut.
Four hours later (with a stop off near Worcester on the interstate) I was back driving through the Big Dig underneath downtown Boston and we arrived at Boston Logan’s Airport. Dumped the car off which the attendant got a print out of our reading, and we did 4,990 miles over the trip! Checked in at the airport, went through these huge body scanners, had a quick tea and before we knew it we were sitting on the plane for our overnight flight back to London Heathrow.
The flight home was good as the outbound journey, no problems with the staff, seating, entertainment, food, Virgin were excellent to us on our honeymoon and I think I will be using them again in the near future! On the flight back which I tried to get some sleep on, but was lured in by the fact Family Guy was on the system, I was looking back on the trip, and what a trip. A journey which me and Olga won’t forget in a hurry. This has to be one of the best trips we have done together, no arguments, being loved up as you would usually be on honeymoon. Why America and Canada for honeymoon? I still keep getting this question till this day, but we wanted something different, and we wouldn’t have changed our decision for any other destination. The lure of North America caught us, sucked us in, gave us everything on offer in that part of the world and spat us out, all happy and merry. From the start from the politeness of the local people in New England, every shop, every restaurant, every toll booth, every hotel staff, it was amazing. You made us very welcome and settled and we thank you for that. We never experience such hospitality like this in Europe and we were shocked to get this treatment. So thank you. The food, maybe not the best, but sometimes was the best. If that makes any sense? The shops wow, Olga is already planning another trip back, and I am not joking. The sights, looking at Lady Liberty was amazing and I really did feel European when I looked up at her and thinking, please let me in to stay and work. Downtown Boston, amazing, Niagara Falls (apart from the tourist trap town next to it) amazing, the mountains in New Hampshire and the forests of Vermont, Amazing, the light show on parliament building in Ottawa, amazing, the waterfalls near Quebec city, amazing, the music festival on the island in Montreal, amazing, feeding the wildlife in Parc Omega, amazing, the beautiful seaside landscapes of the Maine coast, amazing, the whales off Cape Cod, amazing, the historical buildings around Washington, amazing, New York City in general, bloody amazing!
But it wasn’t always the hospitality, food and sights which made the trip great. It was also making and seeing new friends, Yolanda in New York City, Stacey in Ottawa, Bastian in New Hampshire, all amazing people and we are really happy to meet them and thank them for our hospitality.
Also to my wife, Olga, with whom I will treasure these memories of our fantastic honeymoon to death do us part. Ya tebya lublu Olya.