Welcome to another change of calendar, as it is now the year 2014. Hope y’all had a safe and happy silly season. I am now back to the Blog and ready to write again…
Several years after our first successful
trip overseas i.e to South East Asia in 2000 and having talked about a trip to the UK and possibly Europe many times, dad started looking at
doing one by himself. This was late 2004 and I had, by this time, bought a place of my own, a mortgage and was working full-time but was less than impressed with it all. I couldn't let him go by himself could I? Not when I wanted desperately
to go too... besides, it was basically my idea and there he was stealing it!! Despite the fact that mum couldn't go and probably wouldn't have wanted to, she wanted us to go and do what we wanted to do. She felt that dad deserved to travel as she
had been sick for a long time. We made sure she was well stocked with supplies and she had friends and neighbours checking in on her. This trip was to be a fair bit longer than the trip to Southeast Asia.
Of course, there
was still the question of 'what was I going to do about my finances?' I mean, i had a mortgage and not much savings, certainly not enough to fund this trip. Luckily my unit was in a growth area and its value had risen in the relatively short time
that i had had it. I decided to take unpaid leave from my job and sell my unit, using part of the money i made to fund my trip. The reason for the unpaid leave was that i was looking at trying to live and work in the UK for a bit when our
touring ended. It took us a while to get everything together but we got there.
This was 2005 and my dad and i were once again heading overseas. I even bought a Canon digital video camera for the trip and felt that this
would be a better way to capture the memories rather than a bunch of bad photos. This was both a blessing and a curse while travelling overseas as I didn’t have proper power converter just converter plugs so the batteries always seemed to drain
quicker than expected. I had enough mini-DV tapes but the battery usage was my main issue. I also got a new travel diary so that I could record our movements and possibly keep track of the video footage. Of course, some of the entries are pretty
mundane and were usually written at the end of a long day back in the various hotel rooms when I just wanted to go to sleep.
We had decided on one of those round-the-world air tickets with only a few stops so we made the most of
it. Our first stop was San Francisco, California in the good ol United States of America. Neither of us had been to America before and we had chosen an older style hotel
called the ‘Renoir’, we picked it as it seemed cheaper than the ones in the glossy travel brochures at the travel agency. The hotel turned out to be in what seemed like the bad end of the 'civic centre'. Not that we had issues with
that, it was just different to what we expected. Dad, who is known for his bluntness at times, said to me when we were there early one morning waiting for the tour bus to Yosemite National Park, “feels like they let all the inmates out of
the asylum this morning?!” I could tell this was not a great area of the city as the hotel was virtually across the road from a XXX theatre, the blaring neon sign was a bit of a giveaway.
We ducked into the nearby
Taco Bell for an early breakfast and as soon as we entered I noticed there was not another white face in the restaurant. However, nobody looked twice at us and we sat in a booth and ate our food. I do remember this rather loud individual coming
in to the restaurant and hollering something about “some bleep bleep needs to move their bleep bleep car!”, he even had the rap moves i had only seen in the movies and in music videos. He then promptly sat down with said 'bleep bleep' and
they started a great old conversation, looked like they were old friends. To which i just put my head down further, scoffed my food and said 'Gee, is that the bus?'
Yosemite National Park was beautiful and it was the first time in my life i had seen fallen snow. I am still yet to see ‘falling snow’
but have since seen it on the ground several times. This was a long bus tour starting early and finishing late but was well worth it for the waterfalls, rock formations and rapids. Upon arrival in the city of San Francisco the previous day we were
booked on the Deluxe City half-day tour which included views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Botanical Gardens and we saw Alcatraz from a distance. It was an interesting experience but our next stop surely be more so... a little scary to think we were
going to the 'Big Apple' New York City.
At San Francisco airport we were in a line and discussing where to meet after going through
baggage check. This had become an issue as dad had previously had a knee replacement and always seemed to set off the metal detectors so he was prepared for the usual questions. I, on the other hand usually walked through with no problems and so
had told him I would meet him at the book shop I could see across the way. One of the security officers was going through the queue and highlighting tickets with different colours, unbeknownst to me this meant random searches. To my surprise this
meant I had been selected for random baggage search and dad this time pretty much walked straight through. You just never can tell… We got use to baggage checks through the American leg of our trip, it not only happened at airports but all major
tourist attractions. The requirements are random and various, sometimes you have to take your shoes off, sometimes it’s your belt and more often than not there were bomb and drug residue swipes of any bags.
I lost my sunglasses
getting off the plane in New York, luckily they weren’t expensive, I went back to the seat after realising but no luck. The airport shuttle ride to our hotel was interesting, our driver was a big fellow
with dreadlocks, initially he was a little abrupt and his driving style was certainly aggressive. However we were with a family of four and the wife turned out to be an airline hostess, she quickly got us all chatting and the driver told us that you
have to drive like that in NYC or otherwise you don’t get anywhere. He had obviously had a bad morning but he soon cooled down with the conversation flowing. America, being the land of ‘tipping’ we gave him a reasonably good tip
at the end of the drive to the hotel. It was something we would have to become accustomed to in the States as we are Australians and are not used to tipping unless there is exceptional service. We still don’t agree to the amount of tipping
that is sometimes demanded but do understand it is because the wages are so low that the hospitality workers rely on tips just to get by.
First time in New York was a little overwhelming, so many things to see and do and we had given ourselves
too little time to see and do much. This was several years after 9/11 and ground zero was just a gaping hole in the ground. We did a Manhattan Comprehensive day tour of the city and we took in some of the sights such as Statue of Liberty but we
didn’t go to the top instead we spent more time in the Ellis Island reception centre museum but I regretted not stepping foot in Central Park during that tour. Something I would do in a subsequent trip. When we got back to the hotel I decided to
find a place to use the internet to write an email or two. I ended up at Fed-Ex/Kinkos which worked out quite expensive but it was the only place I could find in a short distance.
From NYC we were booked on a 7-day tour of Niagara Falls and Washington DC with Cosmos.
During this tour we got to fly over the Falls in a helicopter, my second flight in a helicopter. They weren’t running the ‘Maid of the Mist boat cruise as there was still ice along the falls. The falls were pretty damn spectacular but
the town of Niagara across the Canadian border was more like a cheap amusement park with its small wax museums and fun rides. I did take in the ‘Criminals Hall of Fame’ wax museum, dedicated to the various criminals, either fictional or non-fictional.
There were figures of Ted Bundy alongside Freddy Krueger, it was interesting but a bit silly. To get to the best viewing point of the falls we crossed the Canadian border and so we could also say that we had been to Canada. That night we attended
the ‘Oh, Canada Eh!’ Dinner show which was quite fun and from memory the food and service was good.
The tour bus then
took us to Philadelphia where we stayed overnight before moving on through Annapolis to Washington DC. Sometimes at our hotel stays I would use the hotel’s business centre to check
my emails and update people back home to our movements. In Annapolis, I finally found a replacement pair of sunglasses that I liked. We had also heard of a place that did Clam Chowder, we tried to get it but they had run out so we ended up with Seafood
Chowder, not quite the same but still served in a bread bowl. In Washington we were there to see the various memorials and Arlington Cemetery. We also went past the infamous Watergate, toured through the Kennedy Centre and stood at the fence
to the White House. Most nights we drank Budweiser and chatted to other group members at the various hotel bars.
The tour ended back in NYC, by then we had swapped details with a few people and had a group photo. Though
the group was so large and I was in the back of the pack, I can not be seen in the official photo but I am there somewhere. In fact, I was too busy talking with a couple of ladies from Middlesborough in the UK who would later invite me to come check
out the 'borough' when we get to the UK. An offer I did take up, more on this in my next post... We met a bunch of people on this tour, most of them were from the UK, there were a few Aussies and New Zealanders. This
was the first of 3 tours with Cosmos we would do on this trip and each one was different though everything was organized but you still had some time to see and do what you wanted to. The tours usually had early starts, with bags out of rooms by a certain
time followed by breakfast and then on the bus. We’d always have a drink or two after the days touring and of course some dinners were included. It was a good opportunity to chat to others from the tour bus. It was a rather large tour bus and it was
full so there were plenty of people to talk to.
While we were back in NYC, we went for a walk through Macy’s, the well
known department store and Penn Station. We went to the Empire State Building and were intending to go up to the top for the great view of New York but the lineup at that time stretched out of the building and around the block so we decided to give that
a miss. This was something else I would do on a subsequent trip to New York in 2009. Of course, I didn’t know that at the time and was a little disappointed that we couldn’t take the famous elevator.
we were organizing this trip we had decided we might as well take a quick trip to Boston, what we were going to see there we weren’t quite sure but it seemed like something to do. So, after the tour finished back in NYC, we took a return train
trip to the city of Boston, Massacheussettes. I was not feeling so great after getting a bit of a cold and that it decided to rain for the whole time we were there, not that this was long as the train there was delayed. However, we did see an old
church and the outside of a ‘Cheers’ Bar. That is about all my memories of Boston… sorry about that. We caught the train back to NYC, collected our bags from the Hotel and caught a cab to JFK airport for the flight to Heathrow.
stop London…. Stay tuned…