Archive for November, 2008

30 Nov 2008

I love Staten Island

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The view across to Manhattan from Staten Island

We have been staying in a nice old Victorian home B&B on Staten Island and catching the ferry across to Manhattan every day this week.

The ride back is relaxing. We get to wave goodbye to Manhattan every evening – the honking horns, police sirens and fire engines, and the crowds – and retreat to our huge and very quiet room.

The days have been mainly clear, but cold and we have spent them shivering one moment, then shedding layer upon layer as we enter superheated stores and cafes. It is difficult to describe NYC – the skyline is amazing and there is always something happening. It exudes energy and at the same time it also sapped all our energy. There are queues for most things: the Met, MOMA, the Guggenheim, Ellis Island and the Empire State Building – but they are all wonderful and even overwhelming.

Thursday was Thanksgiving. We headed downtown to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade and along with what seemed like a million other people we watched the giant floats making their way through the streets of NYC. In our bid to escape the crowds, we took a detour through Times Square and found ourselves amongst even larger crowds.

Welcome to the Big Apple

Kermit larger than life

Uncle Sam stops in for a snack


Able to leap tall buildings with a wooden leg

But the best things about New York were the simpler things:

  1. The evening when we parked ourselves up at the Rise Bar on the top floor of the Ritz Carlton for cocktails with Lou, watching the sunset over the Statue of Liberty.

    Lou and Gill on the 102nd floor of the Empire State Building

  2. The walks through central park, a beautiful place – people watching, the street musicians.

    Paul, out for a stroll

  3. Finding a good coffee in NYC, which has proved to be a challenge … but we found one on 20th and 9th Ave. (thanks Lou)
  4. The absolute loons you meet and try not to make eye-contact with on the subway and the ferry.
  5. Having one of those unplanned nights on Staten Island propped up at a bar chatting away with the locals and the band and being made to feel right at home.

But what would I know, I am just an alpaca!

A rare moment on the subway

My arm’s getting sore.

25 Nov 2008

Chicago by degrees

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Millennium Park, Chicago

Well, we had heard rumours that this was a great city so we should have been prepared – but it was GREAT! Best of all the weather was a chilly maximum of 2 degrees (that’s not including the refreshing breeze that whisks off Lake Michigan and must lower it dramatically). I found it all very bracing and reminding me of the gale force wind that whips through the Colca Canyon in winter but Gill and Paul were wimps, as usual, muttering constantly about the cold and Paul even went back to the hotel to put on his thermal top. They were much happier however about the quality of the coffee they found… so at least they stopped whingeing about that!

Gill x 2

Anyway, Chicago is full of stunning sculptures and beautiful architecture – old office blocks, new shining skyscrapers and a Frank Gehry bridge. We all went ice skating in the free rink (I felt much safer with Paul who was a lot steadier on his feet), ate delicious Thai and had the pleasure of cocktails from the 96th floor (beat that Sheina!) of the John Hancock building. Then we had to run the magnificent mile in super speedy time to get the opening curtain of the Jersey boys, a great musical about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons (Gill and I had never heard of Frank but Paul is clearly a great fan). It was a good show and rounded off an excellent 36 hours in the windy city.

Paul and I take to the ice
25 Nov 2008

Let me tell you about Amtrak

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Amtrak Express!

Well we can’t say we weren’t warned. Train travel is so romantic; a nice gentle way to see the country, with none of the stresses that go with driving or waiting in airport departure lounges. None of the delayed flights or getting off on the wrong highway exit … and then there is Amtrak. Our overnight 18-hour journey from Denver to Chicago is soon (or later) 21.5 hours, and we spend long periods stationary.

The Nebraskan prairies

In America, the main Amtrak train lines are shared with the freight lines, and the freight trains have priority, which means every time a 3-mile long freight train passes, we must stop and wait.
But it is not all bad. We have a sleeper cabin on which we can sleep on rock-hard mattresses in private cabins and the staff is very funny. The cafe guy, who refers to himself over the PA as the “Cafe Guy” thinks he is Elvis, and is very witty, telling us he is off to Graceland when he goes on break. It is worth spending 21.5 hours in a confined space just to catch his announcements.

And then there is the food… We order “breakfast sandwiches” which come in a small cardboard box. Let’s just say the cardboard box looks appealing.

But it could be worse, we could have travelled Greyhound.

25 Nov 2008

Well the McCain/Palin signs have come down…

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>The US flags still fly high, and there are plenty of Obama/Biden posters still hanging in windows … and our favourite bumper sticker is

25 Nov 2008

Vernal/Flaming Gorge, Dinosaur National Park – Utah

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Flaming Gorge at sunrise

Green River, Dinosaur National Park

Aspen near Flaming Gorge National Park

Steinaker Lake, Vernal