Joined August 2017
  • Day11

    New York and JFK Airport

    August 27, 2017 in the United States โ‹… โ›… 24 ยฐC

    Hi All,

    I didn't have chance to upload part of this blog entry at JFK Airport as I only got 30 minutes free wi-fi so apologies if this one is a bit long.

    So (now yesterday, Saturday) we met early in the hotel lobby and went for breakfast at the cafe over the road from our hotel, nice hearty way to start what would be a long travel day.

    We decided to head to Times Square to do some shopping and pick up some souvenirs, it was fairly quiet and nice to wander around with less people although there were still all of the ticket sellers etc. The time went quickly and we soon had to head back to the hotel to say bye to Courtney so she could catch a taxi and make her way to the airport for her flight home. Us final remaining 2 had a few hours before we had to check out so I packed and Face timed home.

    Once we checked out, we left our bags in a secure room at the hotel and got a taxi to Central Park, it seems to of become a tradition that on the last day in a place we sit in a park ๐Ÿ˜‚ While we walked to flag down the taxi we stumbled across some street markets, they were busy with people milling and eating.

    We got a taxi up to by the MET, the traffic was particularly bad, partly due to all the Saturday street markets. We popped into the Neue Galerie which is a small art gallery, its exhibition was of Richard Gerstl's work, this guy was like the Kim Kardashian of his time, 'selfie portraits', most of his paintings were of himself, especially nude portraits, he thought a lot of himself ๐Ÿ˜‚ Unfortunately he didn't have a happy ending, at age 25 he committed suicide after he'd been having an affair with a married woman who he was in love with and it had become public knowledge. Very sad.

    After the gallery we got some lunch from a street vendor before walking through Central Park and sitting by a pond people watching.
    Finally we got a taxi back to the hotel before picking up the hotels own car shuttle service to the airport. I said bye to Kiwi at departures as she was going through terminal 2 for domestic flight and I was going through terminal 4 for international.

    Due to our different flight times I was 5 hours early for my flight, which meant I was the first in the queue and even before Thomas Cook had set up, they only have 1 flight out of JFK on a Saturday and that was the 10pm to Manchester so there was no need for them to be earlier than 6.30pm. The flight was operated by Thomas Cook/Condor, on the way out to Boston it had been Thomas Cook/Air Tanker.

    When I finally checked in I asked for an aisle seat which they said they would request for me however she got distracted as she thought the baggage scales weren't working as my suitcase only weighed 14kg... it was right ๐Ÿ˜‚ Then she realised that the previous airline who had been using the desk before had left their baggage ticket strip in the machine, by the time she handed me my boarding card I checked if it was an aisle seat, no it was a window, she'd forgot. Luckily it was a 2-4-2 seating plan.

    The queue for security was long, there were queues for queues, they were also trying to keep the line moving due to the sniffer dogs who were also going through the queues.
    Once I finally got through security I walked around the shops, although I realised there is nothing here now that I can't really get at home, American chocolate, t-shirts and hoodies with New York on, and with the current exchange rate it's a lot cheaper at home. Instead I grabbed a sandwich, crisps and walked to the gate however when I got there I realised that there was no seating at our gate, of course!

    By the time I finally boarded my flight it was 9.30pm and I'll admit I was really tired, it had been a long day. I got on the plane to find a bottle of water, pillow and blanket waiting for me. I thought I'd lucked out as no one sat next to me however just as we were about to shut the doors x2 families of 12 people turned up, it was like an episode of My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, if they were to do it they would call it the 'aeroplane episode'!?! A youngish lad from their group sat next to me. Luckily as this was an A330 they had seat back entertainment, with a USB connector so I plugged in my headphones, put on the 'best of the 90's' and tried to drown out the noise of the screaming children surrounding me... ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

    One odd feature of this plane was that the toilets were downstairs, never experienced that before. Also it was quite a warm flight which I liked, I didn't need to put on my usual cosy socks or even use the blanket! I know a few who would probably heave hated ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Anyway I managed to get some sleep and was woken up to breakfast (not 2nd), the guy in front had got up to go to the toilet, when he came back he decided to drop himself back into his seat which sent everything on my tray table flying, I narrowly missed out on getting orange juice on another pair of jeans...

    One final blog entry to go...

    Love and hugs
    x
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  • Day11

    Home

    August 27, 2017 in the United Kingdom โ‹… โ˜€๏ธ 21 ยฐC

    Hi All,

    So this will be my last blog entry of this trip.

    It was so nice to land back into Manchester to see sun and not rain like usual! But even more important and special to see 2 smiling familiar faces as I came through arrivals... my parents ๐Ÿ’•

    I had a fantastic trip, I got to go to some fabulous places, see some amazing things and speak to some interesting people. I just want to thank everyone who has read my blog and has 'come on the journey' with me. Finally a massive thank you to my travel buddies who made the effort to meet up with me, it really was appreciated! ๐Ÿ’•

    I hope you have all enjoyed it as much as I have, until next time... happy travelling!

    Love and hugs
    x
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  • Day9

    New York City - Tour Day 2

    August 25, 2017 in the United States โ‹… โ›… 19 ยฐC

    Hi All,

    So today was our last full day in New York. Yesterday we did the downtown loop on the Hop On Hop Off bus during the day so today we started with the midtown loop, now I'm not sure if it's not as popular but we waited a lot longer for the bus at the Time Square stop. I appreciate that it was near rush hour traffic however more buses would help. Once we got on the tour guide told us how each building has to have at least 75% of their building covered in advertising, it's law. It would explain why it's so bright!!

    The heat and humidity since getting to New York has been milder than I was expecting for this time of year, all of the tour guides have mentioned how it's not normal weather for August. Now I'm not complaining as for a city break you don't want it so you feel you can't breath enough when walking round, which you tend to get with high humidity.

    The first place we decided to get off was Grand Central Station. Wow this building is beautiful, we had a good walk around. So many films have been shot here that it kind of felt like a movie set. We went downstairs to the food area and had ice cream, it really would of been rude not to. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I had peanut butter cookie and chocolate, yummy!

    Due to how long it had taken for the bus to come we decided to walk the 10 blocks between Grand Central Station and the Empire State Building. The Empire State Building is a beautiful building, it has 32,000 people visit it for either work or as a tourist per day. Now that is a lot! As normal it didn't fail to disappoint with its views of the city! Although on the 80th floor it did feel like the floor was moving, as if you were swaying on a boat...

    After all the queuing we went and got some lunch to re-fuel, it felt like the day was going quick but a lot of waiting around. We had another long wait for the Hop On Hop Off bus but were briefly entertained by the tour seller at the stop playing some music, off his phone I think.

    Between the initial jet lag and all the queuing etc I think it all caught up with me as once we got on the bus I nodded off!?! A 'Kaz nap!' I'm not sure how long I was asleep for but I woke up to the tour guide going 'well that's obviously enough talking from me'! ๐Ÿ˜‚ Oops.

    We then swapped buses from the midtown bus to the uptown bus (obviously not until after more queuing!) This loop included Harlem which is where our tour guide was from. It was very interesting however even that didn't save me from another cheeky nap ๐Ÿ˜‚

    Our final stop was at Central Park. I love Central Park, it amazes me that it's in the middle of the city that never sleeps with all its sirens and horn noise yet being sat in Central Park and it's so peaceful and quiet. There were so many people out jogging and cycling around it, I'm guessing that's how they decompress from living where they do. I love New York, I always have however I'm not sure I'd want to live in Manhattan and I certainly could not drive here, it's scary! ๐Ÿ™ˆ

    We had a lovely walk through until we found the boat house. This has been in so many films and programmes, including Sex and The City the series ๐Ÿ˜‰ We sat on a bench by the fountain and just watched the world go, people watched! We didn't want to be in the park when it was dark so we carried on walking through, there was a film being shown in part of the park, think it was The Godfather. When we came out of the park we flagged down a taxi and went back to the hotel, the cab driver driver was the most friendly we've had the whole time, he told us some interesting stories!!! We had tea in a bar next door to our hotel.

    It has been a long day so I'm off to get some zzz's as it'll be a long day tomorrow! Travelling home...

    Love & hugs
    x
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  • Day8

    New York City Tour Day

    August 24, 2017 in the United States โ‹… ๐ŸŒ™ 19 ยฐC

    Hi All,

    Today we dared to venture out in to the streets of New York and hit the tourist trail. We started our day picking up the Hop On Hop Off bus just off Times Square, it was really busy due to rush hour traffic and all those pesky tourists ๐Ÿ˜‰ Our tour guide was an interesting character, very enthusiastic. I've done a fair few of these types of buses in different cities and I can honestly say I've never experienced anything quite like it!?! ๐Ÿ˜‚ Although I've been to New York a few times the bus was a 1st for me and I loved it, you get to see so much more of the architecture (at my height level on the street you don't see a lot of that!) and hear so much overall information about the history of the city and the different areas. I was particularly excited as they pointed out land marks and areas where films and TV shows had been filmed. The New York public library and Bryant Park, both used in the first Sex and The City film. ๐Ÿ˜ฌ

    The first place we decided to get off was in the financial district and go and see the 9/11 Memorial where the fountains are, x2 built exactly where both towers stood. It was very emotional, there was such an air of quiet and respect, the last time I came to New York this area was very much still a building site. It really made you think, what happened to all those poor innocent people, unimaginable and the events that, although American history, changed all our lives forever. I think most people of a certain age remember where they were when it happened. I did read that the memorial places a single white rose on a name on the date when it would of been their Birthday, I saw at least one, it was very moving.

    While we were there we visited the new One World Observatory, it really was a very nice tribute to the city. After going through security it showed on a projected screen how many people from each different country in the world had visited within a month (they asked you where you were from when you got your ticket) keeping with the one world theme. As you walked through to the lifts there were videos by people who had built the tower, very moving and personal reasons they wanted to be involved, there was then information about the earth which the tower is built on, what type it was and that above our head was 4.5 million tonnes of steel!?! Going up in the lift they projected on to 3 walls the history of the New York skyline going through the years and it showed the floors, we got off at 102. You then went into a small room and things were projected onto a screen, which then lifted up to show out of the windows your first glimpse at the skyline, wow! We walked round the observation, it is all glass so did make it difficult to take photos etc due to the glare. Going back down in the lifts the 3 screens projected the outside of the building, my ears hurt and needed to pop due to the speed of the lift. Back outside we walked through the Oculus building before grabbing lunch in a market style cafeteria.

    After lunch we got on the Statue of Liberty Island ferry, we didn't get off on the island or Ellis island but it gave you great views of the Statue of Liberty and the New York skyline.

    We then got back on the Hop On Hop Off bus after waiting some time, unfortunately the air conditioning wasn't working downstairs so we could only fill upstairs, I ended up sitting next to the tour guide and he kept asking me where I was from and when I said UK, he kept saying 'I'm good thanks!' ๐Ÿ™ˆ The bus took us back to near the Rockefeller Center, we sat and had tea at a nice Italian themed restaurant, recharged our batteries.

    After tea we then queued in Times Square for the night time tour of the Hop On Hop Off bus. In the queue we got talking to x2 couples from New Zealand, nice and friendly, we had a good chat about travel etc. 1 of the couples has visited Chester!!! โค๏ธ The tour was such a unique experience and goes on for an hour and a half, you go over the Manhattan Bridge which feels very high up and you can hear the subway underneath. It gives you amazing views back of the Brooklyn Bridge and NY skyline. Although you do have to be careful, as you do on the day tour, as in places the traffic lights and trees are very very low! No selfie sticks... You cover so much area and even at night all the hooting, horn noise and general New York City atmosphere.

    A long day, sleep required. Night! Another full sightseeing day tomorrow!

    Love & hugs
    x
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  • Day8

    New York City Times Square

    August 24, 2017 in the United States โ‹… ๐ŸŒ™ 17 ยฐC

    Hi,

    So we arrived into New York City, the Big Apple! You immediately noticed the change in pace, even in the train station. Even though I've been here x3 times before it still took a bit of adjusting to initially.

    The taxi ride from the train station to the hotel which is just off Times Square was scary, I'd forgotten what it's like, taxi's coming at you from every direction with all the horns beeping and masses of people walking in front of you, how cars don't hit more people I'll never know!?! You could say it was 4.30pm an commuter traffic but that is just New York! ๐Ÿ˜€

    We checked in to the hotel, quickly dropped off our things and met in the hotel lobby to be greeted by a new familiar friendly face ๐Ÿ’• we are 3 again.

    We headed out into the craziness to get some food, walked passed some well known tourist attractions and ended up in TGI Fridays where we caught up and made some plans for the next few days. On the way back to the hotel we stopped at a pharmacy to pick up supplies of snacks and drinks etc.

    Back at the hotel we got some tickets from the hotel concierge for the Hop On Hop Off bus plus attractions, let the sightseeing properly begin tomorrow... ๐Ÿ—ฝ

    Love and hugs
    x
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  • Day7

    Boston to New York, train day!

    August 23, 2017 in the United States โ‹… โ˜€๏ธ 27 ยฐC

    Hi,

    As it was a travel day today and we left Boston to head to New York I just wanted to mention how laid back and pretty Boston city is, so much history. We were also very close to the airport, some people would especially love it, Mum and Dad ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Had a bit of a lie in today, got up and packed. Met in the hotel lobby and went to Starbucks in the hotel for breakfast, think the guy doing the drinks was so excited that someone had actually ordered an English breakfast tea that in his excitement he lifted the coffee cup up and spilt some of it on my hand, I was absolutely fine but he ran over to check on me, was probably worried I was going to sue him!?!

    I was appropriately dressed today for the train, full length jeans and hoodie, just in case with air conditioning. We spent an hour or so sat on a bench in the Boston public park which is close by the hotel just people watching and soaking up the atmosphere before checking out of the hotel and getting a taxi to the Amtrak train station at Back Bay, although none of the taxi's really wanted to take us as they all wanted the big $50 fares to the airport so we did get told no by 1 guy, rude. Anyway while we were sat waiting for the train we had a slight panic as a guy asked a girl waiting for the train if this track was the 1 where the New York train came in and she said no and gave him different directions, then the train to New York (final destination Washington, Acela Express 2165) turned up and he missed it!?! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ She felt awful as she thought only commuter trains went through that side. Luckily we hadn't listened to her. However it was odd, there were no announcements to say which train was coming or anything so it was confusing.

    We were sat in business class, ohh get us!!! The train had wi-fi but I was right, it was cold โ„๏ธ At times the train was also very bumpy and I was particularly concerned when I went to the toilet and thought the door might fling open at any moment as the latch certainly didn't appear secure. I did however see the back of a few Office Depots and Walmarts on the way out of Boston, beautiful views ๐Ÿ˜œ but as you went further out it was good to see outside of the big cities (although I love them) and see some of the countryside, New England really is beautiful. The houses are so pretty and quaint, all different looks and shapes but very 'white picket fence'. Picturesque lakes and rivers, things we wouldn't of got to see if we hadn't taken the train.

    I was really excited as the train stopped in Rhode Island and Connecticut which although I've done over 40 states of the USA are x2 states I've never been to before! ๐Ÿ˜€ So I could add them to my list, Rhode Island especially as it's the smallest state in the USA.

    I'll be honest I've never knowingly been on a train with 3 lanes being used before, where there is 1 going the same way as you and is next to you and 1 on other side going the opposite direction to you so when you look out of the windows on both sides you can just see trains ๐Ÿ˜‚ The train wasn't exactly Some Like It Hot and the snack cart wasn't exactly White Christmas but I really enjoyed the experience, although it did briefly break down for maybe 15 minutes, of course it's me, something to do with an overhead cable so they had to check it. However we still pulled into Penn Station, New York City within 4 hours.

    Part 2 to follow...

    Love & big hugs
    x
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  • Day7

    Boston Plaza

    August 23, 2017 in the United States โ‹… ๐ŸŒง 23 ยฐC

    Hi,

    So after we said bye to Elan and she headed off to the airport from the hotel in her taxi to catch her flight home, we went and had a meal and drink in the hotel in some nice air conditioning after the heat outside, yes you just saw me say I stayed in the air conditioning Team ๐Ÿ˜‰ We were just finishing up when the fire alarm went off, this involved a horn sound, blue lights flashing through the hotel and a mans voice coming over saying 'an emergency has been detected within the hotel, please stay where you are and the fire department are on their way' several times. We were sitting in the lobby and could see members of hotel staff in their high-vis jackets directing people away from the lifts however you could still see people complaining that they couldn't go to their room!?! I was especially disappointed to hear a member of airline cabin crew complaining loudly on how ridiculous she thought it was, surely she would of preferred to be safe!!! A lot of cabin crew appear to stay at this hotel. I could of got up and helped with my fire marshal sash and badge eh Team ๐Ÿ˜‰ Anyway the fire department turned up within minutes, at least x3 fire engines with their red lights going. I was hoping to see some cute fire fighters however I didn't see any in the hotel but I did see one laughing at me from his truck as he caught me taking a photo (of the truck, not specifically him!) ๐Ÿ˜‚ It was all over within maybe 15 minutes and another announcement came over saying 'The fire department have found the cause of the alarm and it is now safe'. Better to be safe.

    We had noticed that there was a new Starbucks open in our hotel but hadn't managed to find it so once it was safe we went and found it, good location to get a window table and watch the world go by. After that we went back to our rooms to relax and chill before we went out again, the heat and humidity really hits you when you step outside.

    So as it was our last night in Boston we decided to head to the restaurant Legal Seafoods, can't go to Boston and not go to a seafood place, which it turned out was very close to our hotel. We ordered cocktails, it had to be done, it tasted like a stronger, slightly more fruity pina colada ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿป My friends food turned up and I have never seen such a huge plate of seafood, they love to give you big food portions here, I guess it is value for money. I was glad it wasn't mine, I'd still of been eating it ๐Ÿ˜‚

    Right time for some zzzz's, along day tomorrow as we will be heading down to New York City on the train and picking up another for the 'Oz Reunion Tour 2017!'

    Love & hugs
    x
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  • Day6

    Boston Harvard University

    August 22, 2017 in the United States โ‹… โ›… 30 ยฐC

    Hi All,

    So today was a very hot day! Expecting 90' heat so I dressed appropriately, t-shirt and denim hot pants but taking a hoodie for the air conditioning parts. While getting ready I had the TV on in the background with the news, weather etc when an advert came on for... We Buy Ugly Houses. com!! ๐Ÿ˜‚ If I had to sell my house through that I wouldn't know whether to be relieved or offended!?! Really tickled me though...

    It was an early start but a leisurely breakfast in the hotel before getting on the Subway to Harvard University, no surprise surprise I'm not going there but it was really interesting to see. Now I had no idea how big Harvard is, it's like a city, it's got its own fire department, police, cathedral, shops, it is HUGE!!! We didn't go on a guided tour instead preferring to wonder round ourselves, however it was an extra unique experience as it was, I'll say Freshers Week as I'm not sure what they call it here. It was like being in a movie! They were all moving into their dorms with their parents and families with them and the tents were all up in the grounds for orientation etc. I loved it!

    After Harvard we jumped back on to the subway to see the Science Museum, I love a good science museum, however we thought it was holidays here but there were children everywhere!!! Now if you know me well or read my travel blog from Oz last year you'll know how I feel about children... in fairness it probably was more tailored for children but there were some really good bits like the Mental Health exhibition, the human body exhibit and current popular technical devises and how they have evolved, in this section there was even one of the original DeLorean cars from the film Back To The Future III!!! So cool, there were only 7 made. Yes Paula Griffiths and fam, I took a photo! There was also other memorabilia like hover boards and Doc Browns controller for the DeLorean.

    After the museum we got back on the subway to the Mary Baker Eddy Library and went to see the Mapparium, its a beautiful glass sphere a globe of the earth inside it which you go into and they give you a talk and presentation on it. We then went next door into the church, we only had a quick look round as we had to get back to the hotel so 1 of our party could get a taxi to the airport to fly home. And then there were 2!

    Part 2 of the day to follow...

    Love & hugs
    x
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  • Day5

    Salem

    August 21, 2017 in the United States โ‹… ๐ŸŒ™ 22 ยฐC

    The ferry over to Salem from Boston takes about an hour and it was a good crossing, leaving Boston Harbour gave us some beautiful views of the Boston skyline. The crossing wasn't too choppy but had taken travel sickness just incase.... once the speed kicked up it did get cold though, wind swept hair etc.

    Once we got to Salem we jumped on the Hop On, Hop Off trolley that takes you around the village, we had an hilarious driver and guide, they had some really good banter. The first place we got off was the House of The 7 Gables to do the guided tour. Now I've never read the book so didn't know a lot about it but it was very interesting. We had a tour of the house and Captain Hawthorne's house too.

    Now there has been a lot mentioned since I got here about an Eclipse happening today which just so happened to include Boston, a once a hundred years opportunity. Anyone who knows me well my will know I love anything to do with space etc. As a surprise my friend had previously provided us with the Eclipse glasses so we stood outside after the tour in the gardens by the waters edge and watched. Now because of where we were it wasn't a full eclipse and didn't go dark etc but it was still pretty cool.

    We got back on the Salem trolley tour and stayed on and did the full loop while they pointed out interesting things ,we didn't have the same driver/guide combo so not quite as good but informative, included the guy who invented Monopoly lived on Salem and Alexander Graham Bell made the first phone call from there to The Boston Globe newspaper! We got off and had food at a seafood restaurant overlooking the water, food was really good and all the staff had quirky t-shirts on, 'want to see my mussels?' We walked back to the ferry port via the ice cream shop, obviously it would of been rude not to, I had M&M and chocolate flavour, yum.

    While waiting for the ferry, the last one of the day at 7pm, we chatted to 2 Irish girls who were also visiting Boston from Dublin but had done a lot of travelling to. The ferry back we sat inside due to the cold winds but the doors were open, the sun was setting and I managed to get some gorgeous photos again of the Boston skyline as we came back into port.

    We walked back through the shopping/market area, it was quite busy with people eating and drinking, a good atmosphere, before we got a taxi back to the hotel. We had a sit in the drinks area, look around the gift shop before heading up to our rooms. Ironically I managed to catch an episode of Mom that I'd missed at home from the most recent series, it's a US comedy show, which was great. The ITV Hub at home really is rubbish!

    Anyway it's been a long day but lots seen, let's see what tomorrow brings...

    Love & hugs
    x
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  • Day5

    Downtown Boston

    August 21, 2017 in the United States โ‹… ๐ŸŒ™ 23 ยฐC

    Hi,

    So my Spanish neighbours appeared to of checked out, got a good night sleep. ๐Ÿ˜€

    Today was a day of 2 halves, Downtown Boston and Salem. The weather today was hot and sunny about 87' and high humidity. We started off the day by going passed the 'Cheers' bar which was cool, before following the Freedom trail looking for somewhere to eat breakfast (favourite meal of the day!) In the end we asked a bus tour guide for a recommendation, she suggested a place called Anthony's, she said 'its hot pink you won't miss', it's where all the locals go! She was right, it was great, good food , small but really reasonable, everyone was saying 'Hi Tony' felt like I was in Cheers!!!

    We spent an hour or so walking down by the harbour before getting the ferry to Salem...

    This is part 1 as I can only upload x6 photos per entry using this new app so this is going to be a 2 parter ๐Ÿ˜‚

    Love & hugs
    x
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