Saturday, 31 August 2013


Boston day two was a busy one again even though we had arrived back late from the baseball. We started out on the trolley bus with a fantastic tour guide named Crackerjack. What he doesn't know about Boston just isn't worth knowing we decided. 
We had intended hopping off early and grabbing breakfast but he was just too good so we waited until Quincey Market which was a great place to wander through. 
Boston has so much history and we are totally immersed in Paul Revere now and his 16 children produced in 22 years. No, the first one Sarah,  didn't wear out. Poor thing caught smallpox three months after the birth of their eighth child and died. In the custom of the time he mourned extensively and remarried six months later and went on to have eight more children. Apparently he would have been neglecting his children if he had not married again quickly. A busy man who needed to work at a number of jobs including casting bells, a dentist and a number of other occupations to support his growing family. He also championed the cause of American Independence from the British. We really loved hearing Crackerjack explain all the intricacies of the ride leading up to the war and saw where the Declaration of Independence was read from for the first time and where it is reenacted each year on the Fourth of July. 
We visited the cemeteries within the area where so many early members of the Boston founding fathers are buried. In one cemetery there are estimated to be 5000 burials but maybe as many as 7000 as families were buried one on top of each other and the gravestones didn't necessarily say who was in each plot. It was also common for pennies to be put over the eyes of the deceased and not uncommon for grave robbers to come at night and remove them.
The day was the coolest we had had and despite Crackerjack telling us that it would lift it didn't. In fact it went downhill and was raining in the afternoon so we decided on a harbour cruise, where incredibly the heaters were on. Just like home, four seasons in one day.
The cruise was very interesting and we saw Boston from a totally different perspective. We had decided to go back early as we were feeling the need for an early night so found a great Thai restaurant, and then off to bed.

Friday, 30 August 2013


Lucky I did a blog for the first part of yesterday because last night was a whole blog on its own. We have been watching the baseball at home for some time and had decided we would like to see some live sport on this trip whether it was hockey, football, basketball or baseball. Because of the seasons, baseball was it and where better than Boston? So we had been practicing being Red Sox fans in readiness for what we thought would be really fun.
Ian booked tickets at home, picking out what we thought looked pretty good tickets for what we wanted to spend so we were all prepared. We walked quite a way to the subway and being cool about subways now got on the train to Fenway Park. When we arrived at the station it was really easy to find Fenway Park. Just follow the sea of Red Sox fans!
We arrived at the ground before 5pm, although the game didn't start until 7.10pm. We found the location of our gate D and stood watching the street performers until Ian realised we had purchased priority seating which entitled us to go in early! 
After we found our seats which were really great and gave us great views of "Our" team's dugout and close by home plate, we had to have a real American hotdog and it was good! The game was underway at 7.10 after a very moving opening with the National Anthem sung by a Stage 4 cancer survivor. We have noticed everywhere we have gone patriotism is very important and given enormous respect. This month the Red Sox are concentrating their fundraising events around the cancer charity they support and everyone is very supportive. In fact philanthropy  is very evident both large and small here and even right back to the Statue of Liberty which was was a gift from France, all installation costs were met by the public.
Anyway, back to the game. It was the most fantastic sporting event we have ever been to and we we able to follow what was happening and had a full view of the game. And the Red Socks won which was even better, 4 - 3 after we scored a home run in the bottom of the 8th innings. Then a big push to the subway with thousands of others for a squashy return trip. By the time we got back to the hotel we were stuffed!
In face we had such a great time we may well go again before we leave!

Thursday, 29 August 2013


Our first full day in Boston is going to be a two part blog because it really is a big day! We left the hotel after breakfast and braved the subway. Once we worked out, with help from poor hapless commuters who really wanted to get to work and leave us to our own devices, how to purchase tickets from the auto machines, we were on our way to Lowell for the New England Quilt Museum. 
It took two trains and 45 minutes, but it was a lovely step away from the city and out where houses are houses and not multi storey apartments.
When we arrived in Lovell we took the advice of the people in the fabric shop and caught a cab. The cab driver was the first cab driver who actually engaged in conversation and took us through Lovell, telling us briefly along the way the history of the cotton mills in the area which were extensive. The tall brick buildings are still there and some have been converted into apartments. Some of the streets still have the original bluestone pavers, are very uneven and totally charming. The shops are lovely and original and the whole area is just picturesque.
The New England Quilt Museum was just fantastic. All the quilts which were on display, both in the special cheddar exhibition and the gallery displays were beautifully displayed. and I will have enough photos to make an album on its own. I was in awe of the precision minuscule hand quilting on all the quilts. Something to aim for and I can't believe these quilts were worked in poor light and without all the modern trappings we have now. I guess some of them were worked in the evening under candle light after daily chores too. 
We returned with only limited purchases, I'm hanging out for a visit to the shop again.
Tonight .......... The Red Socks Ball game can't wait!!! 


We arrived in Boston after a lovely train trip from New York and found a taxi to take us to the hotel which is right opposite the hospital, but very quiet. One thing we are very impressed with is that we can open a window and have fresh air! So far the tour organiser is doing just fine and thinks he is pretty marvellous - I do too.
When we arrived there were two parcels awaiting us. Bet the Girgarre quilters are going to be happy when we come home! We're rearranging our luggage as one of them weighs 22lbs and would cost a fortune to post so we may post home some of our luggage so we can fit it in our cases.We went to the post office and checked on the web and it seems the best solution. 
On our way back from the Post Office we stumbled upon a fabric shop which is officially heaven. Fabrics for $4.00 a yard, all just what I love and I was able to buy 1/4 yard cuts.
The couple who own the shop were so lovely and Ian chatted to the man for ages as he cut my fabrics, quite a few and I may have to go back. 
Whilst we were there we were told of a quilt museum which is featuring a "cheddar quilt" exhibition. We went back to our room, me very happy with my little bag of fabrics, contemplating more and how to get back there, with my sense of direction, Ian knows I won't go by myself!
Lovely dinner at the hotel, we've learnt to order to share as much as possible for lunch and only have one course for dinner. As before the meals are huge and it is amusing to see how many people "bag" their leftovers. Not sure how well they travel or if the dogs just live well. By the way there were plenty of dogs and big ones in both Washington and New York, even with apartment living, big dogs are very popular.
Busy day planned for our first full day.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Last day New York

For our last day in New York we started our day as usual with the bacon and egg at McDonald's right next door to the hotel. Maccas are nearly as frequent here as Starbucks, one on every corner is the phrase!
Sustained, we started off with the Uptown bus (notice how familiar we are with terms now)! Billy Joel wasn't there but we heard all about all the famous people who live around there and saw where John Lennon sadly met his end and where Yoko still lives. apparently, as our tour guide informed us, anyone who has met her says she is a lovely lady. Glenn Close and a whole host of other celebrities live there and it is hardly surprising. It is a beautiful part of the city and the buildings are amazing. So beautiful, and so well maintained. 
We left the bus and walked through a small part of Central Park which was just so lovely. We had heard about how large the park was and how diverse it is in the design, and no wonder it is huge. It must have been amazing as it was being built and there were hundreds of men working on site. The irony was that when it was finished there was no way that the families of the men who worked on site for six days and only went home for one day, could come and enjoy the park. It was initially built for the rich who lived close by. Later transportation was established and now it is a park for everyone with various areas designed with different needs in mind. We could have stayed there all day, except of course I would have been lost if Ian had walked away!
Then for a contrast, it was off for the Harlem Tour which was certainly a contrast. This city is so diverse and colourful and yet in some areas the poverty is extreme. Public housing  is very highly sought after and 220,000 are on the waiting list. We learnt how important it is to be in a property where the rent is fixed and can only rise by a small percentage each year and long fixed leases are very highly sought after.
As  areas become more popular and properties are bought up the landlords sometimes try to buy out tenants leases, renovate the properties and treble the rents. Great if you can afford the rent but it only puts more pressure on the other rental options. 
Another interesting thing is that very few people have cars here, although from the traffic you wouldn't know. Most of the number plates are from out of town though. It costs as much as apartment rent to find a garage for a car and the waiting list, unless you have a fistful of cash is ten years. There is really no permanent street parking and in many streets cars just seem to double park, for how long we didn't know! The bus seems to charge down past the cars with abandon and we just hold our breath.
Overall a fascinating time again in New York. And of to Boston tomorrow.

New York

In the city that never sleeps, we don't much either. In an effort to make the best of our time here, day three saw us up and out early. First stop was our bus to the Statue of Liberty via Battery park which was spectacular and Flat Norah was in awe of the size of the Lady Liberty.
Back on the bus and on to the Rockafeller Centre and the FDNY and Gap shops for some retail therapy. Our bus tickets have been invaluable in enabling us to see parts of New York we couldn't possibly reach other than in taxis as there is a limit as to how far we can walk, and as many will know my geography is so lousy. I have at least mostly mastered which way to turn as I come out of our room to go to the lift, no really it's true!
We went out after dinner which we bought at the local grocery store for the night tour of Manhattan and Brooklyn and surrounds and we had a fabulous look at the sights from a totally different perspective. 
Back to the hotel and Times Square is even more fantastic late at night. We could have had photos taken with any number of performers. I was a bit surprised Ian didn't want to line up with the ladies clad only in expertly applied body paint, but he withstood the temptation! It would have made Flat Norah blush!

Monday, 26 August 2013

New York 2nd day

We only had half a day on Friday after our train from Washington but it was great to have the opportunity to see Phantom so early in our visit.
On the first morning we were off with our New York bus tickets to explore. The Empire State Building was our first stop and the views were spectacular all the way around the tower. It is amazing to think that way back in the 1930's this building went up in 13 months. We were told that to build a building like this at that time the expectation was the loss of one life for each floor but the whole building of 102 storeys plus only saw the loss of 5 lives. One worker opened the lift door and looked to see how far away the lift was and found out.
In order to minimise the time workers wasted going down for breaks, a cafeteria was erected every 20 floors, smart move, the workers were happy and the construction went very quickly. The steel for each floor had to be delivered immediately it was required as there was no where on the site to have materials stored. The building finished 6 inches shorter than expected due to the weight of the building.
Then it was off to see my one and only wish (well for New York at least), a visit to the City Quilter store where Flat Norah had her photo taken. sadly it was not what I had expected and Ian is somewhat relieved. I'm still going to look everywhere we go, I've been seriously constrained for a year at home in anticipation of quilt heaven, so we will continue!
Back on the bus and some more successful retailing at the Century 21 store. 
We next visited St. Marks Church which became one of the very important places the first responders and construction workers went to during the 9/11 disaster. It is an amazing place and was certainly a very important focal point for a long time and became a refuge for the workers to rest and when you look at the pews many show the scars of the workers resting fully clothed and exhausted, still with the equipment belts on which marked the wood. Then on to the 9/11 temporary museum and the 9/11 memorial which is an amazing and very emotional tribute to that event which has changed America for ever. It is so real to see the wall in the museum with photos and details of family members missing and then confirmed as lost at the memorial and to know that it happened not long after our previous visit to New York. We have often talked of the "random acts of kindness" we experienced. on the subway last time and of the generosity of the gentleman who gave us free tickets to Annie Get Your Gun and wondered if they worked in the towers. A trip back on the bus, dinner and that was the day done.

Washington to New York

We left our lovely little hotel in Washington and decided to catch a bus to the station to begin our training adventure. We decided when we were planning this trip to try to take trains instead of flying as looking out at clouds doesn't really achieve very much except transport us from one place to the next and it also involves a lot of sitting around, waiting, waiting.
For a dollar each we hopped on the bus for the station and had breakfast after being issued with our tickets which we have pre booked before we left home. The train trip was great and we saw a lot of interesting sights along the way to New York. Then we decided to take a cab to the hotel which is right in the middle of Times Square. Taxis are a unique way to travel, I'm sure everyone agrees and New York taxi drivers are very special. It was a speedy and somewhat eventful trip. I did remark to the receptionist when we arrived at the hotel that I had started the trip with dark hair, although my passport shows me for the fibber I am! It was swift anyway and surprisingly cheap, although when you factor in  the therapy we may need on our return, maybe not! If you don't have a horn in your car you wouldn't be able to drive around here!
Anyway we arrived and unpacked and went straight out to Times Square which was full on with the evening excitement in the city that never sleeps. Our hotel room doesn't get dark unless we draw all the drapes as the illuminated signs light up as if it is daylight. Also fairly constant are the sirens as the emergency vehicles try to negotiate the traffic for the many calls they have. It really is a mad town but after just a day you get used to it and it becomes fun.
We had decided to try and see a show whilst we were here and as the last minute ticket office is directly opposite our hotel we went to have a look and decided to jump in and see Phantom of the Opera which we had seen before and is one Ian really enjoys so that was our first night in New York. Off and running, there is so much to see and we are learning we can't sit around, 'cos times a wastin'.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Washington - last day.

Our last day in Washington began early as we wanted to cram in as much as we could. Our first stop off the bus was Arlington National Cemetery which we had visited last time but deserved another look. We were really lucky to arrive on the day that the Secretary of Defence was also visiting so there were some extra ceremonies in his honour which we were able to see.
Firstly, we walked up a the steep hill past hundreds and hundreds of uniform white individual
headstones which in themselves are a very solemn reminder of the number of servicemen and women who are interred at the cemetery. We went to the eternal flame at JFK 's burial site where members of his family also now rest.
Then it was on to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier for the changing of the guard, but before that, for the benefit of the distinguished guest there were three magnificent cannons set up and as we arrived they issued a ninteen gun salute. I can assure you that we were truly astounded at the noise and you could feel it as well. We both said how terrifying this must have been to the soldiers, especially as there were so many young soldiers to hear the cannons going off in anger as well as other artillery. 
The ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is very moving and complex in the precision with which it is delivered. The soldiers who are the guards there have to pass a very stringent set of criteria to achieve this honour and it is very highly sought after. We were told by a tour guide that the ceremony takes place in the same manner all day and night every day of the year and is never varied except for the frequency of the change during the summer.
Dring the terrorist strike on September 11 it continued and even during the earthquake and typhoon when the men were ordered to stand down. They refused this order and had to tie themselves down to remain safe. They are very dedicated to their job and perform it with great dignity. 
We also visited the memorial to the astronauts who died and the men who died trying to rescue the hostages in Iran. It certainly is an amazing place and as we left we saw a ceremonial horse being led for a funeral of which there are 30-40 each day.
Back on our bus and on to the Holocaust Museum where we intended to spend a couple of hours. We arrived at 1pm  in time for a 30 minute guided tour and then went on to the rest of the Museum ourselves. Before we knew it it was 5pm and we were too physically and mentally exhausted to do any more than get on to the bus and return to the hotel. I really can't describe the Museum except to say it was an experience we both shall never forget and one not to be missed. One of the most incredible history lessons we have ever had.

Thursday, 22 August 2013


Another great but long day in Washington. Making full use of our hop on hop off tickets again we went to the Crime and Punishment  Museum which was fascinating. Some of the methods of punishment were almost too descriptive but its very hard not to read to the end and then be very grateful for not being born in the era of hung drawn and quartered!
The museum described crime and punishment from the earliest to the most recent and we were impressed with all the meticulous displays. There was even a section on the art and craft some long term prisoners undertake to pass their time. As Maxwell Smart would say " if only they had used their skills for good not evil!"
The museum is also the set from which the Americas Most Wanted is filmed and the statistics of the crimes they have assisted in solving are staggering.
After two hours at the museum we went on to Madame Toussards  and could have very easily mistaken many of the figures for real people. It is really somewhat disconcerting how real they are and we decided it was time for Flat Norah to sit with some really distinguished company so we chose Rosa Parks who said " When that bus driver ..... Ordered us up and out of our seats , I felt a determination cover my body like a quilt on a winters night".  December 1st  1955. So began the Montgomery Bus Boycott after her arrest, which catapulted Martin Luther King into the Civil Rights movement. It's also appropriate as we discovered this afternoon that the reason Washington is beginning to look like a barricaded town is that this weekend marks the 50th anniversary of the " I have a dream" speech. It will be a huge weekend here.
Ian had his photo taken with a display to commemorate September 11 firefighters which we will see much more of when we visit New York in a couple of days. 
After lunch we took a river cruise and saw Washington from a different perspective which was lovely. Cooler too as it has been warm here again today.
One more full day tomorrow with a trip to Arlington and the Holocaust Museum which we are expecting to be really worthwhile.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013


We arrived in Washington last night after two flights from Las Vegas. We started our day at 4am,catching our first flight to Los Angeles then a quick (45minutes) change over to our flight to Washington.  We came in to Washington Dulles airport which is quite a way out but considerably less expensive. Ian (hereafter referred to as an excellent travel agent!) had organised the transport via a bus which delivered us to our hotel which is just gorgeous. We arrived at 7pm, tired but really pleased we had started the day early as the traffic is pretty chaotic in the evening.
For my quilting friends, think William Morris and that is what it is. Tudor style and William Morris decorating and we love it. I'm looking at the drapes in the room and wondering if they would miss just one of the because I couldn't fit all of them in the case!
Anyway enough of the hotel! We were up and out at 10 this morning after a lovely breakfast in the dining room and hopped on the bus for which we have a two day ticket. We spent a good part of the day on the bus taking in the sights and changing bus routes to make the most of our hop on hop off opportunities. We finished the day with a visit to the American History Museum which was very interesting. One of the exhibits was about the First Lady's  and had a number of their inauguration gowns. Michelle Obama's gown was absolutely breathtaking. There were also some really interesting displays of American culinary history and a replica of Julia Childs kitchen and details of her influence.
Of course a horse drawn hand operated fire pump caught Ian's eye and there was also a lot of details of the Civil war which we found fascinating. Oh by the way a quilt started for a first son in 1920 and finished 20 years later as a full size quilt. Good to know there are others who take a long time to finish quilts!
Tomorrow we will be out earlier with a long list of places we marked out today.   We think Flat Norah has recovered sufficiently for an outing after we bought sticky tape for some minor repairs today so who knows where she will pop up!

Monday, 19 August 2013

Day Two Grand Canyon

Today was a very exciting day which started with us leaving the hotel at 6am in a stretch limo for the helicopter station at the airport. At 7am after briefing us on the days activities we left for the Grand Canyon via Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam both of which were incredible. The flight in was amazing as we watched the change in the country. There is no doubt in our minds that a helicopter is the way to see the Grand Canyon and we seemed to hover in the air for periods of time but we were really on the move constantly. 
The country appears parched, desolate and yet there is all this evidence of water running through, truly incredible. The Hoover Dam is enormous and spectacular in its construction and was constructed in one continuous concrete pour 24 hours a day for almost 18 months.
After the trip out we went right down onto the canyon for a trip along the river which enabled us to see it from a different perspective. Back into the chopper for a ride back to the top and opportunity to get up close to the rim at a couple of spots. Quite scary as they have no fencing at all, unlike Aust. where everything has to be fenced these days. Very big on everyone's rights here, and they probably have a right to fall if they choose. We looked over a number of interesting examples of American Indians housing, and had a magnificent lunch right at the edge with the most enormous crows watching on. The last bit was the trip back to Vegas and a run right down the strip for a birds eye view of all of the major casino/hotels. All in all a wonderful day at one of the marvels of the world.
Here is where I should present a photo --- wish I could but still can't seem to get a photo from my photo stream on the I pad to go on to the page in a decent size. Any help much appreciated .... Please? In the meantime I will put one on Facebook. Suffice to say Flat Norah is having a great time and now has a Certificate to prove she has been to the Grand Canyon.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Las Vegas

Hot, hot and hotter! Today is our first full day in Vegas and the weather is extremely hot. We had purchased tickets for the hop on and hop off bus so we set off at 10am and went on a tour of the sights of the strip and surrounds and saw how totally huge everything is here. As soon as one building is finished and is declared the biggest, it seems someone builds another, bigger and better although with the more challenging economic recent times the construction seems to have been somewhat quiet lately with a number of sites waiting for better times. 
We stopped off at the Premium outlet complex to purchase some shorts and a t shirt for Ian as jeans are way too hot for here and he now feels much happier.
Tomorrow is our big day here with a six am start for our Grand Canyon Helicopter tour which will be fantastic. As the weather forecast is for hot again we will no doubt be pleased to return here in the early afternoon.
It seems that we are in the minority here as we haven't spent any money on gambling yet, which puts us in the 5 % of visitors. Some facts we gleaned on our tour included the reason why the carpets are so awful (allegedly) in the casinos is so you look up from the floor all the time and then look at the gambling tables and slot machines!  There are no clocks so you can be assured of losing track of the time. The same reasoning applies for windows - can't see how late it is! Also something we hadn't noticed until it was pointed out - the exit signs are very small, guess if you can't find your way out you stay and spend! 
We met a lady in the elevator today who was returning to the poker table after going to her room to refresh after playing all night! Maybe she is spending our share!